By Kirsten Adshead and M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Someone, it appears, thinks Terry Moulton might lose, or at least is willing to commit $227,000 toward making that happen.
The buzz for a while has been that Democrats’ best chance of winning one of the four Senate seats up for recall on June 5 is in Senate District 21, where Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, is trying to fend off a challenge from his Democratic predecessor, John Lehman.
“Obviously if a group jumps into a race, they must think they can make a difference, and they must think a race is close enough for them perhaps to become a deciding factor,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, or WDC, a group with union ties that tracks political spending.
Democrats need to pick up one of the four Senate seats up for grabs in the recall election to regain a majority in the state Senate, which could, at least for the time being, stymie the policy hopes of Republicans, who still will control the Assembly.
Up until Thursday, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund has spent about $1.27 million in the current round of recalls — all on TV ads critical of Gov. Scott Walker, according to the WDC.
That’s unusual for Greater Wisconsin, McCabe said, which has focused on legislative races in the past.
On Thursday, the Fund, an independent political organization known as a 527, returned to form — dropping $226,918, mostly on ad buys, in opposition to Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls.
The Greater Wisconsin Fund also committed $25,065 on anti-Wanggaard radio ads, and another $250,000 on TV and online advertising critical of Walker, who faces his own recall election against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Between April 26 and May 9, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $369,100, mostly on TV and online advertising, opposing her.
The RSLC is a national organization that supports the election of state-level Republicans.
In total, the Greater Wisconsin Fund spent $502,000 on the three recalls Thursday — the same day it received more than $1.5 million, including a $900,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors Association.
So, just who is the Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund?
And why is it spending money on a race others have ignored, or have begun to write off?
According to the WDC, the Fund is a corporation started in 2010 that is part of the broader group, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a tax-exempt, 501(c)(4) organization that works to influence legislation and public opinion.
The Fund can spend money to support, or oppose a candidate, but cannot consult, coordinate or cooperate with candidates and must report any spending within 24 hours, according to the WDC.
And why the Fund is buying ads, now, to oppose Moulton?
But the Wanggaard-Lehman race was the closest in mid-April, according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal Daily Kos blog.
That poll, of 761 likely voters, indicated:
- Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was leading his Democratic opponent Lori Compas, 54-40.
- Rep. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, stepping in for former Sen. Pam Galloway, was leading Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, 51-37, with 12 percent undecided.
- Wanggaard was leading Lehman 48-46.
- Moulton had a 10-point lead over Dexter, 51-41, with 8 percent undecided.