Corporate Contributions to State Parties, Legislative Committees Topped $1M in 2017


March 20, 2018

By party, Republicans accepted about $900,375 and Democrats accepted $133,750 – a near $7 to $1 difference.Two Wisconsin Indian tribes and real estate and beer interests led the special interests that made more than $1 million in corporate campaign contributions in 2017 to four legislative campaign committees and the state Democratic and Republican parties.

The parties, committees and the amount of corporate contributions they accepted last year were:

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $383,000

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $362,225

Republican Party of Wisconsin, about $155,125

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $64,400

State Senate Democratic Committee, $62,650

Democratic Party of Wisconsin, $6,700

The corporate contributions came from 125 businesses, trade groups, unions and tribes. The businesses and trade groups spanned a wide array of special interests, including business, manufacturing, tourism, real estate, transportation, and insurance, among others. Topping the list of corporate contributors was:

Ho-Chunk Nation doled out a total of $53,000, including $12,000 each to the four Democratic and GOP legislative campaign committees and $5,000 to the state Democratic Party. The tribe, which operates a half-dozen casinos in Wisconsin, gave the same amount to the same groups in 2016;

Forest County Potawatomi Community, which operates a casino in Milwaukee, contributed $42,000, including $34,000 to the state Republican Party and two GOP committees and $8,000 to the two Democratic legislative campaign committees;

Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance, which sponsors electioneering activities for its affiliate, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, contributed a total of $40,500, including $36,000 to the state GOP and the two Republican legislative campaign committees and $4,500 to the Democratic campaign committees;

Other corporate contributors of note include:

Kwik Trip, which was awarded up to $21 million in income tax credits late last year by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which is the state’s economic development agency;

Tesla Motors, which was the impetus behind a GOP bill introduced late last year to exempt electric auto manufacturers from state laws that bar auto and truck makers from selling their product directly to consumers or servicing their own product;

Timberland Investment Resources, which owns a subsidiary called Meteor Timber that received some help last month from the GOP-controlled Assembly for a sand-processing plant it wants to build in northwestern Wisconsin.  The company contributed $12,000 to the state Republican Party.

New state campaign finance laws approved in late 2015 by the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker allow corporate contributions of up to $12,000 a year to each party and legislative campaign committee if they create a segregated fund for the money. For more than 100 years prior to this, such corporate contributions were illegal. The 2015 law prohibits corporate contributions from being used by those groups for direct contributions to candidates or for express advocacy electioneering activities in political campaigns, but the money can be used for salaries of those who say which candidates should be supported.

Corporate contributions in 2016, the first year they were allowed under the new laws, were about $215,000 higher than 2017. Campaign fundraising and spending is generally higher in even-numbered election years than in odd-numbered, nonelection years.

The following table shows corporate contributions that totaled $10,000 or more to the legislative campaign committees and two state parties.

Top 2017 Corporate Contributions
to the State Parties and Legislative Campaign Committees

Ho-Chunk National Tribal Operations Account $53,000
Forest County Potawatomi Community $42,000
Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance $40,500
MillerCoors $39,127
WBD Corporate - Wisconsin Beer Distributors Assn $36,000
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance $35,000
Kwik Trip $31,500
Charter Communications $31,000
Altria Client Services $26,000
Tesla Motors $25,000
Alliance of Health Insurers UA $24,000
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce $24,000
WEC Energy Group $24,000
Wiskota Capital Inc $24,000
ABC of Wisconsin - Associated Builders & Contractors $21,250
Anthem $20,000
Tavern League of Wisconsin $17,000
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin $16,000
Advance America $15,500
DraftKings Inc $15,000
Insurance Auto Auctions $15,000
Union Pacific Railroad $15,000
American Transmission Co $12,000
Kohler Co $12,000
Walgreens $12,000
Timberland Investment Resources LLC $12,000
MacLean Fogg Co $12,000
Spancrete $12,000
Standard Process $12,000
Truck Country $12,000
Westbrook Management $12,000
MIG Commercial Real Estate $12,000
Wisconsin Utilities Association $11,500
McKinstry $10,000
RAI Services - Reynolds American Inc $10,000
Sunovion Pharmaceuticals $10,000
EnDeCo Engineers $10,000