The new conservative organization the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform will pour more than $400,000 worth of ads into running ads in the days leading up to the state Supreme Court primary election, according to FCC filings made this week.
The spots are filed as non-candidate issue ads related to the 2016 state Supreme Court race. While no candidate is named in the filings, it's likely the ads will benefit newly appointed Justice Rebecca Bradley, heralded as the conservative favorite among the three candidates in the race.
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform launched last fall, snapping up Luke Fuller, previously chief of staff to Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, as executive director, and former Republican Party of Wisconsin communications director Chris Martin as the group's communications director.
The group has said it plans to primarily engage in issue advocacy — that is, ads that don't specifically encourage the election or defeat of a candidate but may discuss a candidate's record. So far, the majority of its activity has been dedicated to advertisements and digital efforts attacking Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold's record. Feingold is challenging Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.
According to calculations provided by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, the group plans to spend on broadcast: about $100,000 in the Madison market, about $75,000 in the Milwaukee market, about $60,000 in the Green Bay market, about $55,000 in the Wausau market and about $30,000 in the La Crosse market.
On cable, the group plans to spend $4,000 each in Madison and Milwaukee, $22,000 in Green Bay, $10,000 in La Crosse and $7,000 in Wausau.
Those ads are set to run Feb. 2-8, leaving time for more spots to hit the airwaves before the Feb. 16 primary.
According to FCC records, the purchase was made by an agent from Nonbox, the Hales Corners advertising firm that has handled ad buys for Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
“Rebecca Bradley owes her entire judicial career to Gov. Scott Walker with an unprecedented three judicial appointments in three years. Now Walker's money machine is propping up Rebecca Bradley with huge money because they know the public thinks she cannot be trusted to be an independent voice on the court," said OWN executive director Scot Ross in a statement.
A spokesman for the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment.