, , , , ,

Super PACs Spending Big On Wisconsin’s US Senate Race

Wisconsin Billionaire Provides Most Funding For Group Running Thousands Of TV Ads

Morry Gash/AP Photo

There’s no shortage of money going into Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.

The campaigns of Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold are investing heavily in TV ads and efforts to get out the vote.

So, too, are outside groups, including a super PAC funded by one of the wealthiest people in Wisconsin.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

It’s called Reform America Fund, and nearly all of its funding comes from Diane Hendricks, co-founder and board chair of ABC Supply, a wholesale roofing supply company based in Beloit.

“She is a major Republican player,” said Michael Beckel, a political reporter with the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., who’s been tracking the political money moving through Wisconsin. “She has been a major backer of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; she supported his failed presidential campaign. Here in the general election phase, she is a member of Donald Trump’s Economic Policy Council; she is helping fundraise for Donald Trump’s campaign, and recently she contributed more than $200,000 to a joint fundraising committee that benefits both Trump’s campaign and the national GOP and state GOP parties in several states.”

In this campaign, Hendricks has given nearly $5.5 million to Reform America Fund, about 93 percent of its entire funding.

Much of that money has been used for attack ads against two Democrats in Wisconsin: presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Feingold.

“In the presidential race, her super PAC accounts for roughly 55 percent of all the presidential-focused TV ads in Wisconsin,” Beckel said. “It is playing a major role right now.”

Feingold and other Democrats have criticized Johnson for getting support from these groups – but according to Beckel, there’s plenty of money coming in to support his campaign as well.

“The Democrats have a big super PAC called the Senate Majority PAC, that’s funded by people such as Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner and hedge fund manager Donald Sussman,” Beckel said. “It’s been spending millions of dollars on ads in Wisconsin, in part because it wants to help flip that seat from Republican to Democrat.”

In the last week, amid signs of a tightening Senate race, pro-Democratic and pro-Republican groups have each made last minute ad buys worth millions of dollars.

“Democrats and Republicans want to leave it all on the field,” Beckel said. “They want to go and spend every last dollar they can, and contentious races often draw the most amount of money. Being able to go in and try to make that last minute difference is what both sides are thinking about right now.”