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Report: Following the Money in WI Politics Leads to Surprises

November 3, 2008

Madison - Following the money in this year's election cycle could be harder than ever for Wisconsin voters. That's the finding of a new report from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign that tallies contributions to "527" groups - organizations that use donations for mostly negative and sometimes misleading campaigning.

Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says they found more than $3 million in contributions to "527" campaigns coming from just a few hundred donors in Wisconsin.

"(The "527" groups) are bankrolling millions of dollars worth of political attack ads and smear campaigning to try to determine who controls the state capitol."

McCabe says the problem is that "527" groups can take practically any amount of money from anyone with hardly any of the regulation and reporting that candidates' campaigns are subject to. The "527" groups say their ad campaigns are all about informing the electorate on important issues, but McCabe counters they often deal with those issues in a misleading or untruthful way.

"The plain aim of this advertising is to get candidates elected who these groups like, or get candidates defeated who these groups don't care for. This is electioneering, pure and simple."

McCabe says it isn't even worth trying to wade through many of the campaign ads from "527" groups to try and find the truth.

"My best advice is to simply ignore those TV ads, ignore the junk mail in your mailbox. Just ignore the smear campaigns altogether."

He says the groups are involved in about two dozen state legislative races - the most ever - and could outspend the actual candidates in at least 15 races. McCabe says it's important to note that the "527" groups come from all sides of the political and partisan spectrum.

More information on "527" groups in Wisconsin is available at wisdc.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - WI