March 24, 2015
Billionaire hardware store chain owner John Menard Jr., who reportedly funneled $1.5 million to a secretive, dark money group that spent undisclosed millions to help Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP senators win a wave of recall elections, also contributed $30,000 since the beginning of 2009 to Walker and his running mate.
Unnamed sources told Yahoo News that Menard, who is worth an estimated $9 billion, contributed $1.5 million more than three years ago to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative ideological group that was later among the dark money groups under investigation in a John Doe probe for campaign finance law violations. The fate of the John Doe investigation will be decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the coming months.
“This is a grotesque example of the corrupting influence of money in Wisconsin politics,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “A good investment for John Menard, a terrible investment for democracy in Wisconsin and a terrible investment for clean government in Wisconsin. This is part of the total wave of dark money that is leaving a stain all over the Capitol in Madison.”
Menard’s $1.5 million in contributions to the club in 2011 and 2012 helped fund an estimated $9 million in spending by the group to support nine GOP senators and candidates in the 2011 recall elections and another $100,000 in spending to help Walker win his 2012 recall election. Like other Democratic and Republican issue ad groups, the club is not required to disclose its fundraising sources or how much it spends on electioneering activities.
In addition to the secret contributions to the club, Menard contributed a total of $12,000 to Walker in 2010 and 2014, and a total of $18,000 to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Contributions raised by Kleefisch and other lieutenant governors are used to help elect the governor because the pair run as a ticket.