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“Billionaires from out of state are driving a truck through it,” says Badger Project’s Cameron on loophole allowing political donations in Wisconsin

Rick Solem

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The 2020 election in Wisconsin saw a lot of outside money poured into campaigns.

The state has a nice loophole that allows outside money to make unlimited contributions to political parties.

Three donors each sent over $2.4 million to political parties — the top two to the Democrats.

“If you donate directly to a candidate in Wisconsin there’s a limit,” Peter Cameron, editor of The Badger Project said Tuesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “But, there’s currently a loophole, a big loophole.

Cameron

“There’s no limit on what you can donate to a political party and no limit on what the political party can turn around and donate to a candidate. And billionaires from out of state are just driving a truck through it.”

It was often brought up during debates for Assembly and Senate in the La Crosse area — Republicans noting the “doctor from California” and the “governor from Illinois,” sending money to the Democrats. It is noteworthy, however, that Republicans, who have had control of the state Legislature, are the ones allowing this to happen.

Karla Jurvetson is that “doctor from California.” According to The Badger Project’s Top 50 list of Wisconsin political donors in 2020, the physician gave $2.8 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker sent $2.5 million the Democrat’s way.

Third on that Top 50 list is Diane Hendricks — the country’s richest self-made woman, according to Forbes — who sent $2.4 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“In Wisconsin, in donating to political parties, right-wing donors were very engaged and they were doing most of the donating in 2018,” Cameron said. “(In) 2020, it’s the opposite. It’s been a lot of left-wing donors — both in and out of state — both millionaires, billionaires, super-rich. So the left was very engaged to donate this time.”

Hendricks was the was the top donors on the 2018 list, where Republicans dominated, having 17 of the Top 22 on the list, including Nos. 1-4.

The Democratic Party donors dominate the 2020 list. Just three of the Top 21 donors spent on the Republican Party. No. 22 on that list is Kwik Trip founder and owner, Don Zietlow, who sent $111,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

All in all, just 10 of the Top 50 donors sent money to the Republican Party — five of those come in on the Bottom 15 of that list.

“Perhaps Republicans thought that loosened campaign finance rules would benefit them,” Cameron said. “That was not the case in Wisconsin 2020. Left-wing money was much greater in Wisconsin than right-wing money was. “It didn’t really result in much. Maybe it resulted in a Biden victory, but it didn’t result in many wins in the legislature, which they were hoping for.”

Could be a number of reasons why the swing in donations from one party to the other, including something done once a decade.

“Wisconsin has, arguably, one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country — that’s for Congress and that’s for state Senate and state Assembly,” Cameron said. “And, whoever has control of the legislature draws maps.

“That’s the next fight, that’s coming up in 2021. So, I think that might have motivated people to really be dumping money into Wisconsin.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse