State legislative races draw outside spending

The Brillion News

Spending totaled about $3.1 million and was "dead even" as of Friday morning, October 9, between Democratic and GOP outside electioneering groups in this fall’s legislative races, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.



Spending by express advocacy groups in the legislative races has ranged from about $300 to about $563,200.


Outside spending has occurred in 96 of the 115 state Senate and Assembly races on the ballot.


Express advocacy groups sponsor broadcast and online advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities that use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.

The top-spending express advocacy groups were:

  • A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, which supports Democratic candidates, $555,281

  • Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing Koch-backed group, about $462,329

  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent about $344,999 using two electioneering arms, supporting Democratic Party candidates

  • Jobs First Coalition, which supports Republican candidates, about $317,935

  • Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which supports Democrats, $216,845

The legislative races that were besieged by the highest outside spending were:

The 30th Senate District, an open seat in Green Bay, $563,219. Four groups backing Republican candidate Eric Wimberger have spent $220,759 and six groups backing Democrat Jonathon Hansen have doled out $342,460;

The 10th Senate District in northwestern Wisconsin, $336,938. Four groups backing Republican candidate Rob Stafsholt have spent $317,551 and four groups backing incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, have spent $19,387;

The 32nd Senate District, an open seat in the La Crosse area, $300,373. Six groups supporting Democrat Brad Pfaff have spent $243,547 and one group supporting Republican Dan Kapanke has spent $56,826.

Express advocacy groups spent $6.7 million on electioneering activities in the 2018 fall legislative races.

The WDC review of outside spending does not include unreported spending by phony issue ad groups, which smear or praise candidates without explicitly telling viewers who to vote for or against.

An issue ad group run by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization, has sponsored a mailing and a television ad in the 32nd Senate and 85th Assembly races to back Republican candidates.

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