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Report: Special Interests generously bankrolling negative ads

A new report documents more than $3-million has been spent on attack ads by special interest groups in Wisconsin's election campaigns.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe calls these 527 groups "shadowy players". His report documents contributions from five big spenders who funneled money into an array of front groups for both major parties. Democratic groups spent far more money than Republican ones. The top Democratic group, Greater Wisconsin Committee, spent almost $900,000.

McCabe says this year is unique in that more money than ever went into state legislative races.

"These groups are active in about two dozen state legislative races, and I think it's pretty clear that these party front groups and special interest groups are going to outspend the candidates in at least 15 of those races."

The largest contributor to these groups is Lynde Uihlein, an heiress of the Schlitz Brewing company. All her money went to Democratic groups.

McCabe says the donors listed in his report are only the tip of the iceberg. He was able to track down their contributions by using IRS records. None are tracked by state or federal campaign regulators.

"Who's paying the bills is a well-kept secret from the people of Wisconsin," warns McCabe. "And the public deserves to know who's behind these campaigns and who's really writing the checks."

But McCabe says change may be coming soon. The state government accountability board is expected to approve new transparency rules for state elections at its November meeting.