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Hendricks, Uihlein give $1 million to state GOP and Democratic parties

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By Jason Stein And Kevin Crowe/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, October 31, 2014

MADISON—Conservative billionaire Diane Hendricks of Beloit gave $1 million in September to the state GOP, and that same month liberal Milwaukee donor Lynde Uihlein contributed $1 million to the Democratic Party for the same period, according to filings with state election officials.

With their ties to key Wisconsin companies, both women are longtime contributors to causes on the right and left, respectively.

Projections released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated that total spending in the governor's race will top $50 million this year, up dramatically from the estimated $37 million spent in 2010 but well short of the $81 million price tag of the 2012 recall election for governor.

Also Tuesday, Burke's campaign had to revise down its fundraising total released Monday by $900,000, or about 10 percent, for the most recent period. And a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis showed that Walker is leading Burke in ad spending, though the figures do not include outside groups on both sides.

The $1 million donations show what many had predicted: A recent ruling by a federal judge has opened a new era in giving to political campaigns in Wisconsin, one in which unheard of sums are flowing into state politics, often from outside Wisconsin. But this new shift also strengthens political parties over shadowy outside groups and, since parties have strict disclosure rules, provides more transparency about the mega-donors who are seeking to shift election outcomes here.

Republicans are benefiting more so far from the ruling, with the party also receiving in recent months $650,000 from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; $200,000 from Houston businessman Robert Rasmus; and a half-dozen $100,000 donations from wealthy supporters.

But Democrats weren't left out. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele contributed $160,000 to the party; philanthropist Grant Abert of Hillpoint contributed $120,000; and Burke's mother, Elaine, and brother John—both major owners of the family company, Trek Bicycle Corp.—each contributed $40,000. John Burke is also the firm's president.

Parties can use that money to donate to candidates, run ads and turn out voters.

Key ruling

For decades, candidates were limited on how much they could accept from other candidates and political action committees, which are typically controlled by special interests and grass-roots groups. But U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in September ruled that limit was likely unconstitutional and blocked the state from enforcing it.

Randa's ruling also allowed individuals to give unlimited amounts to political parties. The parties can, in turn, give as much as they want to candidates, creating an easy way around the $10,000 limit individuals can give to candidates.

To put a $1 million donation in perspective, it's about twice as much as then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle raised from all donors in the first six months of 2007 after his successful re-election run in 2006.

Major donations

Uihlein, the Democratic donor, belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Milwaukee's history, with ties to both the Allen-Bradley Co. and the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. She is the force behind the Brico Fund, which contributes to liberal causes such as women's rights, the environment and social equality.

Hendricks, the GOP donor, co-founded ABC Supply, a roofing wholesaler and siding distributor in Beloit. She has given more than $500,000 in the past to support Walker and made headlines when a video was released of her and Walker discussing legislation to limit unions' power in 2011. She also gave $10,000 on Sept. 22 to the committee that supports GOP Assembly candidates.

The Republican Party also received:

■ $200,000 in total from Richard and Helen DeVos, co-founders of marketing firm Amway, major Walker donors and backers of the school voucher movement. The governor and Republican lawmakers have expanded that program statewide here.

■$100,000 each from Jere C. Fabick of Oconomowoc, a major GOP donor and head of Fabco Equipment; Stanley Herzog, head of Missouri-based Herzog Contracting Corp.; Rex Sinquefield, co-founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors in Westphalia, Mo.; and $100,000 from Mike Shannon, managing director of private investment firm KSL Capital Partners. Shannon and his wife, Mary, have also given $120,000 to Walker's campaign and $2 million to the Republican Governors Association, which has spent more than twice that trying to help Walker win a second term.

Burke reported raising $9.3 million between July 29 and Oct. 20, with $4.6 million of that total coming from her personal wealth. That was $900,000 less than Burke's campaign spokesman had announced to reporters Monday.

The $10.2 million that was incorrectly announced by Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki was the total raised by Burke from outside sources throughout the campaign, Zepecki said Tuesday, saying he had made the error himself. Burke has given her campaign an additional $5 million in total.

For all of 2014 to date, Walker has outspent Burke on television advertising, $10.1 million to $7.7 million, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis. Walker has outspent Burke on online ads, $1.3 million to $537,000. And Walker has outspent Burke on radio, $489,000 to $20,000.

Those figures do not include what outside groups have spent on either side.

After a campaign stop in Wausau, Walker said he hoped voters wouldn't be influenced by the $5 million of her own money that Burke has put into her campaign, saying he couldn't put that kind of money into his campaign himself.

Asked if he thought the new campaign finance rules in place for PACs and parties were good, Walker said he wouldn't know until after the election.

On Monday, Burke said she needed to use her money to compete.

“What it shows is basically that's what was needed to get my message out,” she said.



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