Research Hub

Wisconsin

Active Republican Outside Money Groups in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform

The Wisconsin Alliance for Reform is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.[1] The group is run by “key Republican staffers.”[2]

While the group claims that it is engaging in issue advocacy rather than advocating for or against a candidate, the intent of its messaging is clear. In November 2015, the group attacked Russ Feingold, who is running for Senate in Wisconsin. The group claims that Feingold promotes a “failed liberal agenda.”[3]

In 2015, the group ran two ads against Feingold.[4][5] In January 2016, it debuted a new ad that falsely claimed that Feingold had been aware of problems at a Wisconsin VA center.[6] The Madison Capitol Times called on Feingold’s opponent, Sen. Ron Johnson, to denounce the ad.[7]

[1]GOP staffers head to new nonprofit in advance of 2016 elections.” Mark Sommerhauser, Wisconsin State Journal, 10/07/15

[2]GOP staffers head to new nonprofit in advance of 2016 elections.” Mark Sommerhauser, Wisconsin State Journal, 10/07/15

[3]FeingoldFacts.com.” Accessed 11/16/15

[4]Conservative group launches Feingold attack.” Andrea Drusch, National Journal, 11/03/15

[5]New ad portrays Feingold as hypnotist.” Patrick Marley, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/17/15

[6]Conservative group launches ad against Russ Feingold.” Bill Glauber, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 01/25/16

[7]Ron Johnson should reject false attack on Russ Feingold.” The Madison Capitol Times, 01/27/16

Let America Work

Let America Work is a Super PAC devoted to supporting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). The group is run by Mark Stephens, Johnson’s former chief strategist and the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[1] Gail Gitcho, previously of Louisiana  Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Super PAC and the Mitt Romney campaign, is also working for the Super PAC.[2] Per Politico, “Republicans say they expect the group… to be the central super PAC backing Johnson.”[3]

As of March 2016, the group reported that it had raised $974,000 and had $571,592 in cash on hand.[4] Though the group is active in Wisconsin, it is based in Arlington, Virginia.[5]

In April 2016, the group spent $400,000 on an ad attacking former Sen. Russ Feingold for saying that President Obama would “be a very important president in our history.”[6]

[1]Pro-Ron Johnson Super PAC launched by former chief strategist.” Alex Isenstadt, Politico, 12/02/15

[2]Pro-Ron Johnson Super PAC launched by former chief strategist.” Alex Isenstadt, Politico, 12/02/15

[3]Pro-Ron Johnson Super PAC launched by former chief strategist.” Alex Isenstadt, Politico, 12/02/15

[4]Let America Work FEC Form 3X.” Federal Election Commission, 03/31/16, p. 2

[5]Let America Work FEC Form 3X.” Federal Election Commission, 03/31/16, p. 1

[6]Pro-Ron Johnson Super PAC ad targets Russ Feingold on national security.” Bill Glauber, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 04/10/16

Wisconsin Club for Growth

Wisconsin Club for Growth is a state-level affiliate of the national Club for Growth. The group has recently been mired in legal controversy. During Gov. Scott Walker’s recall in 2011, Walker directly solicited donors to give to the Club due to its independent expenditures on his behalf – seemingly in violation of campaign coordination rules.[1] As detailed by the Center for Media and Democracy, “Some secret donors later received special treatment from the Walker administration, such as the mining company CEO that donated $700,000 and saw Walker prioritize a mining bill, and the chain hardware store owner who gave $1.5 million and received $1.8 million in tax credits from Walker’s jobs agency.”[2] A Politico article suggested that the scandal might be “Scott Walker’s Whitewater”.[3]

Ironically, Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC asserted that “The appearance of influence or access… will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy. By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”[4] Nonetheless, in July 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-2 to throw out the case and to effectively void the Wisconsin law prohibiting coordination between independent expenditure groups and candidates.[5] The four judges voting with the Club received $1.77 million in independent expenditures on their behalf from the Club during their previous electoral victories, as well as millions more from other closely associated groups.[6]

[1]Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and the End of Campaign Finance Law.” Lincoln Caplan, The New Yorker, 07/21/15

[2]Five Things to Know About the Scott Walker John Doe Ruling.” Brendan Fischer, The Center for Media and Democracy PRWatch, 07/16/15

[3]Scott Walker’s Whitewater?” J.R. Ross, Politico, 02/26/15

[4] Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, 2010 at 44, 01/21/10

[5] State of Wisconsin ex rel. Schmitz v. Peterson, 2015 WI 85, 2013AP296-OA & 2014AP417-W through 2014AP421-W & 2013AP2504-W through 2013AP2508-W, 07/16/15

[6]John Doe prosecutor asks one or more Justice to step aside.” Patrick Marley, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 02/13/15

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