Investigations

The Top Donors to Wisconsin Political Parties in 2022

Billionaires and millionaires, most supporting Democrats, continue to dump huge sums into Wisconsin politics through a loophole left open by state Republicans.

Clockwise from top left: Karla Jurvetson, Liz Uihlein, Diane Hendricks, Steven Spielberg, Mike Bloomberg and George Soros.

By Peter Cameron, The Badger Project

The ex-wife of a Silicon Valley super-investor. The billionaire founders of ULINE. Tim Michels and his brothers. Mike Bloomberg. The governor of Illinois. Stephen Spielberg.

In what has become a regular occurrence, millionaires and billionaires from inside and outside the state dumped cash into Wisconsin elections in 2022 through loopholes in campaign finance law. The bulk of the money went to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by The Badger Project.

If a person wants to write a check to a political candidate in Wisconsin, that donor is limited in how much they can give by maximums set by state and federal law.

But loopholes in Wisconsin campaign finance law allow individuals to make unlimited donations to political parties. The loopholes also allow political parties to make unlimited donations to candidates.

Those gaps opened when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the McCutcheon v. FEC case that collective limits on political donations were an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. Wisconsin previously had an annual cap of $10,000 per person on all their political donations.

That collective limit had served as a hard ceiling on donating to political parties in Wisconsin, but its removal opened the door to a free-for-all. Unlimited cash now flows to parties, which can then distribute unlimited amounts to any political candidate in the state, circumventing legal limits.

Democrats, gerrymandered into a weak minority in the state legislature, have offered bills that would close the loopholes and place limits to and from political parties, but Republicans in the majority have ignored them.

They may be regretting their opposition. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised about $22 million in the 2022 election cycle, compared to about $16 million for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, according to FollowTheMoney.org, an organization that collects and organizes campaign finance records. The state Democratic Party also outraised its counterpart in the 2020 election, $27 million to $16 million. In 2018, the state Republican Party won the fundraising battle, $17 million to $8 million.

Notable names who fell outside the top 50 donors to political parties in the state include Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw Spielberg, best known for her starring role in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which her husband directed. Both gave $50,000 to the Wisconsin Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2022. The couple also each gave the legal maximum $20,000 to Wisconsin Democrats Gov. Tony Evers and Secretary of State Doug La Follette, both of whom won their races narrowly. Steven Spielberg gave the legal maximum $20,000 to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won as well.

Below is a list of the top 50 people who donated to political parties in Wisconsin in the 2022 election cycle, according to FollowtheMoney.org.

1. Karla Jurvetson

$3 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A California-based physician, philanthropist, and political activist from Silicon Valley, Jurvetson is divorced from super-successful tech investor Steve Jurvetson. She has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific donors. Jurvetson gave $2.8 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2020.


2. Tony Evers Campaign Committee

Nearly $2.8 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin governor raised about $42 million in his successful 2022 reelection campaign.

3. Liz Uihlein

$1.7 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

With her husband Dick Uihlein, an heir to the Schlitz beer fortune, the Chicago-area couple founded the shipping materials giant ULINE in 1980. The billionaires have become major donors to conservative candidates and Super PACs in recent years, especially in Wisconsin, where they reside part-time in Manitowish Waters. Liz Uihlein also gave $900,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election. The Uihleins also donated millions in the 2022 election cycle to Super PACs, which can spend unlimited amounts on advertising attacking and promoting candidates.

4. Diane Hendricks

$1.5 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

America’s richest self-made woman, according to Forbes, Hendricks is worth about $12.5 billion. With her now-deceased husband Ken Hendricks, the Beloit native launched ABC Supply, one of the nation’s largest distributors of siding, windows and roofing. She has given tens of millions to a variety of candidates and political committees in the last two decades, the majority being Republican, according to campaign finance records. She gave $2.4 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election. Hendricks also donated millions in the 2022 election cycle to Super PACs, which can spend unlimited amounts on advertising attacking and promoting candidates.

5. Sage Weil

$1.5 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

This Madison-area software engineer and entrepreneur has been building and selling startups since high school, according to Yahoo Finance. He gave more than $500,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

6. Michels for Governor (campaign committee)

$1.3 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels lost his 2022 bid to be governor. His campaign raised about $25 million, about $18 million of which came from Michels.

7. George Soros

$1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

One of Wall Street’s most successful investors, Soros’ wealth is estimated at $6.7 billion by Forbes. He has been donating millions to left-wing candidates and pro-democracy causes for decades. He also gave nearly $500,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

8. Patrick Michels of Brownsville, Wisconsin

$1 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

A brother of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, Patrick Michels is an executive for the Michels Corporation, the family’s international energy and infrastructure contractor.

9. Reid Garrett Hoffman

$1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A LinkedIn co-founder and Microsoft board member, Hoffman’s wealth is estimated at about $1.8 billion by Forbes. This “charitable investor” has put an additional $1.5 billion into social and environmental investments, according to Forbes. He gave $750,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

10. Dick Uihlein

$975,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

The billionaire is an heir to the Schlitz beer fortune and co-founded ULINE with his wife Liz Uihlein. The couple donates millions to elect Republican candidates in Wisconsin and across the country.

11. Mike Bloomberg

$500,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

CEO of his media company, the former mayor of New York City, and a brief Democratic presidential candidate, Bloomberg is worth about $77 billion, Forbes estimates.

12. Kevin Michels of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

$500,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

Another brother of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels and an executive for the family’s international business the Michels Corporation.

13. Kenneth James Duda

$455,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Duda is a software engineer from Menlo Park, California.

14. Lisa Ann Mennet of Seattle, Washington

$455,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Founder of the Perigee Fund, which supports early childhood care, Lisa Ann Mennet also gave $115,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election. She resides in Seattle.

15. Lisa Minsky-Primus

$400,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A physician and philanthropist from New York City.

16. Quinn Delaney of Oakland, California

$400,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Delaney is a philanthropist, fundraiser, and major donor to Democratic politicians. With her husband, real estate mogul Wayne Jordan, she founded the Akonadi Foundation, a racial justice organization focused in Oakland.

17. Edward Snowdon Jr.

$390,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Snowdon Jr. is a New York City-based theater producer.

18. Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer

$350,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Sontheim Meyer’s great-grandfather founded the global food corporation Cargill. The California-based heiress inherited an estimated 8% share in it, according to Forbes, which estimates her net worth at $4.6 billion.

19. John Shaffer

$328,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

Shaffer of Burlington, Wisconsin, is the chairman and founder of Chicago’s HSA Commercial Real Estate. The retired real estate agent has a history of donating to Republican politicians. He gave about $200,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

20. Joshua Kaul Campaign Committee

$320,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The attorney general of Wisconsin, Kaul was first elected in 2018 and reelected in 2022. His reelection campaign raised more than $4.8 million.

21. Lynde Uihlein

$300,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A cousin of Dick Uihlein, Lynde Uihlein has donated millions to Democrats in Wisconsin, according to campaign finance reports. Uihlein is a Milwaukee-based philanthropist and heiress to the Schlitz Brewing Company. She gave nearly $200,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

22. Deborah Kern

$285,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Kern, from the Milwaukee area, sits on the board of her family’s Kern Family Foundation, Wisconsin’s second-largest foundation, according to Influencewatch. The grant-making organization generally supports conservative issues like school choice and Christian schools and programs. She gave nearly $200,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

23. J.B. Pritzker

$250,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The Democratic governor of Illinois and potential presidential candidate has donated more than $250 million to mostly Democratic causes over the past two decades, according to campaign finance records. The Pritzker family founded and developed the Hyatt Hotel chain, making J.B. — whose net worth Forbes estimates at $3.6 billion — one of the heirs to the fortune. Pritzker gave $2.5 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

24. Stacy Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma

$240,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Schusterman is the chair of the Samson Energy Company, a private oil and gas company, as well as chair of the family’s foundation. She also gave $40,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

25. Lynn Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma

$240,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The mother of Stacy Schusterman and widow of Charles Schusterman, the family made millions in the oil and energy industry.

26. Taxpayers for Marklein (campaign committee)

$205,830 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

State Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) has represented a legislative district in southwestern Wisconsin since 2010. He easily won reelection in 2022.

27. Friends & Neighbors of Robin Vos (campaign committee)

$204,830 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

State Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly. He barely won a primary challenge in 2022, then faced no Democratic challenger in the general election.

28. Devin LeMahieu Campaign Committee

$200,819 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

State Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) is the Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate.

29. Ronald Wanek

$200,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

Wanek is the chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries, headquartered in Arcadia, Wisconsin. Forbes estimates his net worth at $4.8 billion. He gave $50,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

30. John Pritzker of San Francisco

$200,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A cousin of the Illinois governor, John Pritzker is also an heir to the Hyatt Hotel chain. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.5 billion.

31. Fred J. Eychaner

$150,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The Chicago-based billionaire founded Newsweb, which publishes a variety of newspapers.

32. Ron Conway

$145,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The San Francisco-based angel investor and philanthropist also gave $65,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

33. Roger Roth Campaign Committee

$140,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

The former state senator ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels in 2022.

34. Citizens for Rob Hutton

$131,924 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

A former state representative, Hutton won a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate in 2022.

35. Nancy Skinner Nordhoff

$130,250 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

An environmentalist and supporter of women in the arts, Nancy Skinner Nordhoff resides in the Seattle area.

36. William Hamilton Harris Sr. of Lexington, Massachusetts

$130,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

37. Robert Price

$130,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The San Diego native is the chairman of PriceSmart, a Central American warehouse-retail company. He is also the chairman of Price Philanthropies. He also gave $280,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

38. Robert E. Rubin

$130,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Rubin was U.S. Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration. He is a retired lawyer and banking executive. He gave $125,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

39. John W. Miller Jr.

$125,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The founder and head of Arenberg Holdings, a Milwaukee-based venture capital fund, he also gave $50,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

40. Julie Flessas of Mequon

$125,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Flessas is a personal injury attorney from Mequon, Wisconsin.

41. Herb Kohl

$115,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The former Democratic U.S. senator and former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks made his fortune with the Kohl’s department stores. The billionaire gave $60,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

42. Friends of Van Wanggaard (campaign committee)

$106,500 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) has represented a district in southeastern Wisconsin since 2010.

43. Gloria Page of Los Altos, California

$106,500 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

44. Bart Burstein of Palo Alto, California

$105,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

45. Donald Zietlow

$102,500 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

The retiring CEO and owner of Kwik Trip is a frequent donor to Wisconsin Republicans. The La Crosse-area native gave more than $100,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the 2020 election.

46. Amy Goldman Fowler of Rhinebeck, New York

$100,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The real estate heiress, clinical psychologist and heirloom gardener is from Rhinebeck, New York. Forbes estimates her net worth at $2 billion.

47. Bradford L. Smith of Bellevue, Washington

$100,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The Microsoft president and vice chair is an attorney from Bellevue, Washington.

48. Deborah J. Simon

$100,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

The daughter of a commercial real estate magnate, Simon, of Carmel, Indiana, has donated millions of dollars to Democratic candidates across the U.S.

49. Yaron Minsky

$100,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

An executive with the proprietary trading firm Jane Street, Minsky resides in New York City.

50. Ralph C. Staley Of Naples, Florida

$100,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

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