WMC Spent $414,979 on Phony 'Issue Ads'

On Eve of Historic Court Case, WDC Gets Partial Disclosure

January 6, 1999

Madison - The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce spent $414,979 to influence the 1998 elections through its so-called “issue ad” campaign, according to figures obtained today by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

On November 10, 1998, in a letter to WMC President James Haney, Gail Shea of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign wrote: “Until the WMC Issues Mobilization Council discloses how much it spent, where it was spent, and on what types of activities, the voters of this state remain cheated.”

That disclosure finally came today, on the eve of an historic case involving WMC being argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. WMC, however, refused to disclose how much money they spent on each race and how they spent it. “Instead of disclosing these figures, WMC suggested that the average citizen go on a scavenger hunt across the state to unearth its election spending,” Shea said.

“The amount WMC spent on their stealth campaign last fall is an affront to the voters and the candidates themselves,” Shea said. ”For the first time ever, special interests outspent candidates. This kind of spending reduces voters and candidates to bit players. We finally know how much was spent. Now WMC should play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Overall, special interest groups spent $1,129,712 on independent expenditures in the 1998 election cycle. This does not include the $414,979 spent by WMC, which makes them the second biggest special-interest spender. “With WEAC, we can follow the money, but WMC continues to hide information every voter has a right to know.”

DistrictIndependent Expenditures
by all Groups,
including WEAC-PAC
Issue Ads
Independent Expenditures
27th State Senate District $494,529 unknown $361,900
9th State Senate District $275,646 unknown $212,546
15th State Senate District $104,631 unknown $0
All Other Races $254,906 unknown $20,530
Total $1,129,712 $414,979 $594,976

On Thursday, the State of Wisconsin and WMC will appear before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to argue whether or not WMC is required by existing state law to disclose its sources of funding, making our Supreme Court the highest state court in the nation to ever consider the constitutionality of issue ads.

Letter to WMC

November 10, 1998

Mr. James Haney, President
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
501 East Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53703

Dear Mr. Haney,

To demonstrate your belief in Wisconsin’s historical commitment to open and accountable government, I call on you to fully and publicly disclose the amount the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Issues Mobilization Council spent on activity specifically mentioning candidates during this fall’s elections.

We know how much was spent by groups who registered to make independent expenditures during the 1998 election. We have an accounting of how much the political parties were raising and spending. We can track candidate fund raising and spending. The only spending on 1998 elections that has not been disclosed is that by organizations making so-called ”issue ad” expenditures.

Until the WMC Issues Mobilization Council discloses how much it spent, where it was spent, and on what types of activities, the voters of this state remain cheated. They were flooded with television and radio advertisements, political mail and newspaper ads without knowing how much was spent or the true source of the money. This is an assault on the rights of voters.

Specifically, the WDC requests that you disclose the amount of money spent, the specific types of voter contact that money purchased, and the specific candidates mentioned. You provided a similar summary after the elections in 1996. We will post this information on our web site to complete the picture of election activities for the citizens of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce was an acknowledged player this year. Please provide the voters with the very least they deserve: disclosure.


Gail Shea