Election 2020 Democratic Convention Milwaukee

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, center, hoists a celebratory beer flanked by Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, left, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, far right, following the official announcement that Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention at the city's new Fiserv Forum.

In the first half of this year Democratic electioneering groups have netted from Wisconsin donors five times the amount raised by pro-Republican groups, according to a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign spending.

Three dozen special-interest groups — identified as 527 groups by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service — received close to $3.2 million from state contributors in the first six months of 2019, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Those groups often use funds to sponsor negative broadcast ads, mailings, robocalls and other electioneering activities.

Of the $3.2 million in contributions, the margin — $2.7 million, or 84%, went to Democratic-leaning groups and the remaining $497,600 went to Republican groups — was notable, said WDC executive director Matthew Rothschild.

“That’s a much bigger margin than we’ve seen certainly in the last five years,” Rothschild said in an email.

Contributions this year came from nearly 300 individuals, businesses, unions, trade groups and tribes representing interests such as health care, manufacturing and transportation, as well as liberal and conservative ideological groups.

Five 527 groups received at least $100,000 in donations:

  • Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, which supports Democratic candidates, received about $1.3 million.
  • Democratic Governors Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports Democratic governor candidates nationwide, received just over $570,000.
  • LGBTQ Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group that strives for more openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender public officials nationwide, received a little over $516,000.
  • Republican State Leadership Committee, a Virginia-based group that supports Republican candidates, received more than $181,000.
  • Forest County Potawatomi Action Fund, funded and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Crandon, received $100,000.

Contributions in the first six months of this year mark the most in Wisconsin for a non-election year.

The biggest year for 527 group contributions came in the first half of 2018, when $3.6 million was raised. Republican-leaning groups led efforts in that span with 63% of funds raised.

While Wisconsin’s Democratic groups are leading in electioneering fundraising so far this year, WDC last week reported that Republican lawmakers had raised double that of their Democratic counterparts in the same span.

Republicans, who control the Assembly 63-36 and the Senate 19-14, raised $1.47 million from individuals and political action committees between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to WDC. Democrats raised about $726,200 in the same period.

In addition, Republican legislative committees raised $17,720 per legislator — about 27% more than the nearly $14,000 per capita raised by Democratic legislative committees.

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