Wisconsin contributors gave a record $1.34 million in the first half of 2010 to special interest groups that secretly raise and spend unlimited amounts to smear state and federal candidates with negative advertising and mailings at election time, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign report found.
The contributions are 128 percent more than the $587,458 the so-called 527 groups got from Wisconsin individuals, businesses, unions and trade groups in the first half of 2006 – the last comparable non-presidential election year when Wisconsin had a race for governor – and 215 percent more than the $424,370 the groups got from the Badger State in 2002.
The sharp escalation of state contributions to these unregulated attack groups likely stems from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that now lets unions, corporations and other special interests spend unlimited amounts on elections.
527 groups are named for the section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code that governs them, but the IRS does not regulate where they get their contributions or how much they can accept and spend. These groups include the more popularly known Democratic Governors Association, Republican Governors Association, Progressive Majority and Club for Growth.