Legislative Republicans outraised their Dem counterparts more than 4-to-1 in 2017 through accounts that can accept corporate contributions, a WisPolitics.com review shows.
Those corporate contributions helped fuel the $1.2 million advantage the GOP caucuses had for cash on hand at the end of 2017.
The financial gap was particularly pronounced on the Senate side, where the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate had $1 million in the bank between its two accounts heading into the election year compared to just $236,888 for Dems.
A GOP overhaul of state campaign finance laws included a provision that allowed political parties to create a segregated fund that can accept up to $12,000 per calendar year from a single PAC, corporation, association, tribe or union. Before the change, which took effect in 2016, direct corporate contributions were banned in Wisconsin.
The segregated funds also can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and party committees. But they cannot use those funds for express advocacy.
The Ho-Chunk Nation gave the max $12,000 contribution to all four caucuses’ corporate accounts, the only group to do so.
Here’s a breakdown of the fundraising efforts culled from the latest fundraising reports reviewed by WisPolitics.com:
The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate
CERS pulled in $388,025 in 2017 through its fund that can accept corporate accounts, finishing the year with $358,899 in that fund.
During the last six months of the year, the biggest contributions the group collected through the fund included: $12,000 from the Ho-Chunk Nation; $10,000 from Altria Client Services; $10,000 from RAI Services; and $10,000 from Anthem.
The group raised $577,651 for the year through its traditional account, which cannot accept corporate contributions, and had $665,427 in the bank to end 2017 in that fund.
During the last six months of 2017, the biggest contribution the group received was $90,000 from former GOP state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, of River Falls, on Nov. 7, three days before Gov. Scott Walker formally announced her appointment as DATCP secretary.
State Senate Democratic Campaign
Senate Dems collected $79,653 through its account that can accept corporate contributions and finished the year with $74,240 in that account. The biggest donation during the final six months of 2017 was $12,000 from the Ho-Chunk Nation along with $6,000 contributions each from WEC Energy and Wisconsin Beer Distributors.
The SSDC raised $381,875 through its other account, which had $162,648 in the bank to end the year. Its biggest individual donations during the last six months of 2017 included: $25,000 from Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele; $2,500 from Exact Sciences CEO and President Kevin Conroy; and $2,500 from Mark Thomsen, chair of the state Elections Commission. It also collected a $6,000 contribution from Wisconsin Carpenters PAC and $5,000 from Emily’s List.
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee
RACC raised $391,445 through its corporate account last year, finishing 2017 with $228,562 in that fund. Its biggest donations included $12,000 from the Ho-Chunk Nation and $10,000 from Anthem.
RACC also used that account to pay $73,000 to Public Opinion Strategies for polling in December and another $11,545 to Cygnal in Alabama for surveys.
The group raised $547,474 for the year through its other account, which finished 2017 with $517,358 in the bank. RACC sent $85,700 to GOP members Dec. 28, helping pump up their fundraising for the year. That included: $18,700 to Jessie Rodriguez, of Oak Creek; $17,200 to Scott Krug, of Nekoosa; $15,300 to Nancy Vandermeer, of Tomah; $14,500 to Todd Novak, of Dodgeville; $8,000 to Rob Summerfield, of Bloomer; $7,200 to Treig Pronschinske, of Mondovi; and $4,800 to Pat Snyder, of Schofield. All of them are possible Dem targets this fall.
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee
The ADCC raised $108,400 through its corporate account in 2017, finishing the year with $17,913 in that fund. That total included $20,000 ADCC transferred from its other account and a $12,000 donation from the Ho-Chunk.
The caucus raised $328,777 in 2017 through its traditional account, finishing the year with $285,962 in that fund.
Mark Bakken, a Madison businessman who considered running for guv, gave the caucus $5,000, while it also received $6,000 from the Wisconsin Carpenters PAC.
The group said it raised more in 2017 than in any previous off years and noted it finished 2017 with twice as much in the bank as it did two years earlier.