Hendricks, Uihleins, Gentines of Sargento Foods, and Don Zietlow of Kwik Trip all have made large donations to the campaign.
By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT
In his race to return to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, former Justice Daniel Kelly has struggled to keep up with the fundraising juggernaut of the campaign of his opponent, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.
She has raised more than $13 million to his less than $2.5 million this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state.
Kelly is, however, winning slightly in the independent spending category, by a margin of about $12.3 million to about $10.2 million. This kind of political spending comes from groups like Super PACs, which are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but can raise and spend unlimited amounts, most of it on advertisements promoting their preferred candidates and attacking opponents. This is the preferred method of political spending for billionaire, right-wing donor Dick Uihlein, who injects millions into Wisconsin elections trying to get his preferred candidates, such as Kelly, elected.
But Uihlein and his wife Liz have both also given Kelly $20,000 — the maximum donation allowed by state law to a Supreme Court candidate — as have both Diane Hendricks and her daughter Kim Hendricks, the Beloit-area billionaire family who owns and runs ABC Supply, both Rite-Hite CEO Michael White and his wife Cathy, and both Lou and Michelle Gentine, co-owners of Sargento Foods, as well as current Sargento CEO Louie Gentine. John Schlifske, CEO of Northwestern Mutual, and his wife Kim, each gave Kelly the maximum too, as did Leonard A. Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society.
Don Zietlow, former CEO of Kwik Trip, has given Kelly’s campaign $10,000.
Liz Uihlein also donated $500,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and Lou Gentine donated $100,000, cash that likely made its way to Kelly’s campaign.
Due to a loophole in state campaign finance law, political parties can accept donations without limit, while donations directly to a candidate are capped. Those same political parties are also allowed to donate unlimited amounts to candidates. State Democrats have introduced legislation to close the loophole, but Republicans who control the legislature have ignored the bills. Donors to both parties use the loophole, but the Democratic Party is now using it to its greater advantage, as many wealthy, left-wing donors are using the loophole to route huge sums of money to their preferred candidates.
A list of Kelly’s top donors, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state, is below.
|FOX, BRENT A||JANESVILLE||WI||MANAGER||$20,000|
|GENTINE, LOU||ELKHART LAKE||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|GENTINE, MICHELE||ELKHART LAKE||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|HENDRICKS, DIANE M||BELOIT||WI||CHAIRMAN||$20,000|
|HENDRICKS, KIMBERLEE K (KIM)||JANESVILLE||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|KIEFFER, LYNN R||PRINCETON||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|KIEFFER, STEPHEN G||PRINCETON||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|MINAHAN, DANIEL J||FOX POINT||WI||CEO||$20,000|
|MINAHAN, SUSAN||FOX POINT||WI||HOMEMAKER||$20,000|
|NELSON, AMY||OCONOMOWOC||WI||BUSINESS OWNER||$20,000|
|SCHLIFKE, JOHN||ELM GROVE||WI||EXECUTIVE||$20,000|
|SCHLIFKE, KIM||ELM GROVE||WI||HOMEMAKER||$20,000|
|SCHLOEMER, JAMES H.||MENOMONEE FALLS||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|SHAFFER, JOHN||CHICAGO||IL||LUDINGTON, DAVID P||$20,000|
|UIHLEIN, ELIZABETH A (LIZ)||LAKE BLUFF||IL||CEO||$20,000|
|UIHLEIN, RICHARD ELLIS (DICK)||LAKE FOREST||IL||CHAIRMAN||$20,000|
|WHITE, CATHY||RIVER HILLS||WI||HOMEMAKER||$20,000|
|WHITE, MICHAEL||RIVER HILLS||WI||$20,000|
|WILSON, DONALD S.||MIDDLETON||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|YOUNG , SANDRA||RACINE||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|YOUNG JR, FRED M||RACINE||WI||RETIRED||$20,000|
|WALL, TERRENCE R||MIDDLETON||WI||PRESIDENT||$11,075|
|DHEIN, JERE E||GREEN BAY||WI||RETIRED||$10,000|
|ENGLISH, PATRICK J||WAUWATOSA||WI||INVESTOR||$10,000|
|FLECKENSTEIN, JOHN||PEWAUKEE||WI||SYSTEMS ENGINEER||$10,000|
|HUBBARD, STANLEY S||SAINT PAUL||MN||BUSINESS OWNER||$10,000|
|LEE, MATTHEW B||PEWAUKEE||WI||PHYSICIAN||$10,000|
|MAYER, SCOTT A||FRANKLIN||WI||PRESIDENT||$10,000|
|MORGENSON, DAVID W||DELAFIELD||WI||REALTOR||$10,000|
|SILSETH, JOHN M||BROOKFIELD||WI||CEO||$10,000|
|ZIETLOW, DON||LA CROSSE||WI||RETIRED||$10,000|
|ATWELL, SALLY J||STURGEON BAY||WI||HOMEMAKER||$5,000|
|AYLWARD, RICHARD J||NEENAH||WI||RETIRED||$5,000|
|CUCCO, RICHARD||NAPLES||FL||BUSINESS OWNER||$5,000|
|DAVIS, DWIGHT E||SISTER BAY||WI||CHAIRMAN||$5,000|
|FOULKES, DUANE E||BEAVER DAM||WI||BUSINESS OWNER||$5,000|
|GILBERTSON, MICHAEL O||JANESVILLE||WI||RETIRED||$5,000|
|HOWLETT, THOMAS M||DE PERE||WI||RETIRED||$5,000|
|JENSEN, JAY S||MADISON||WI||PRESIDENT||$5,000|
|LUDINGTON, DAVD P||ONALASKA||WI||RETIRED||$5,000|
|MILLIS, DON||SUN PRAIRIE||WI||ATTORNEY||$5,000|
|POPA, SAMUEL||SOUTH BELOIT||IL||BUSINESS OWNER||$5,000|
|REED, VERNE R||OCONOMOWOC||WI||DENTIST||$5,000|
|SCHAFFER, JOHN E||CHICAGO||IL||RETIRED||$5,000|
|FRYE, GERALD||PEWAUKEE||WI||VP OF ANALYTICS||$3,544|
|BOLDT, THOMAS J||APPLETON||WI||CEO||$2,500|
|GRABER, RICHARD W||FOX POINT||WI||ATTORNEY||$2,500|
|NIKOLAI, EMILY A||WAUPACA||WI||BUSINESS OWNER||$2,500|
|TAYLOR, CAROL G||WAUKESHA||WI||HOMEMAKER||$2,500|
|ANDERSON, JOHN R||ROCKFORD||IL||BUSINESS OWNER||$2,000|
|BRYANT, ANDREA B||WAUKESHA||WI||RETIRED||$2,000|
|HOVDE, ERIC D||MADISON||WI||CEO||$2,000|
|JANKOWSKI, SCOTT||HARTLAND||WI||BUSINESS OWNER||$2,000|
|TOONEN, ROBERT||GREEN BAY||WI||BUSINESS OWNER||$2,000|
Jessica Sonkin and Hina Suzuki contributed to this report.
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.