• WisPolitics

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

 8:38 AM 

Clinton, Trump campaigns see less money coming from big Wisconsin donors

Wisconsin's big donors to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from the summer of 2012 are donating significantly less to the presidential campaigns this cycle, according to a WisPolitics.com check of federal campaign finance records.

The check suggests many donors are putting their money into other races, such as the state's U.S. Senate matchup or competitive congressional contests across the country. And the trend is more apparent on the GOP side, keeping with national reports that donors such as Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson have opted to pump money into congressional races over Donald Trump's campaign.

Take, for example, Gerald Couri, the president of Waukesha's Couri Insurance. He's given $20,000 to the Let America Work super PAC that's backing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's re-election bid, as well as $4,500 toward Mike Gallagher's run for the 8th CD. And he gave money to Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as each sought to become the GOP nominee.

But he hasn't given money to Trump, though some of the $33,400 he gave to the Republican National Committee this year could make its way back to the campaign.

Couri is among the dozens of top campaign donors from the summer of 2012 that WisPolitics.com reviewed to check where they're putting their money this time around. WisPolitics.com began its review with June, as both cycles' presidential nominees had secured their nominations then. The review went until August, the latest data available from the 2016 campaigns.

Campaigns are required to itemize receipts from donors who have given $200 or more during each election. The primary and general count as separate elections, and donors are limited to giving $2,700 in each.

Among those Wisconsin donors who've given $200 or more, Clinton raised about $761,000 during the three-month period, while Trump raised about $589,000.

That's much lower than the roughly $1.2 million that Obama and Romney each brought in from Wisconsin donors over the same three-month period. In August, for example, Obama and Romney raised more than $700,000 each from donors who gave $200 or more, while Clinton raised $323,000 and Trump raised nearly $273,000.

To be sure, direct campaign contributions aren't the only way donors can influence the presidential race, as they can put money into affiliated super PACs and other outside groups or the joint fundraising operations that campaigns develop with their parties.

In fact, many of the largest donors are choosing to put their money into those joint fundraising committees, which can then transfer up to $2,700 per donor to the presidential campaigns.

The WisPolitics.com review includes both donations directly to the campaigns and any money transferred to the campaigns from the Hillary Victory Fund, Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Committee.

Unlike the campaigns, which report monthly, those committees report their fundraising and expenditures quarterly. The next round of reports from them are due Oct. 15, when it'll become more clear how much those groups are pulling from Wisconsin donors. Right now, the only way to tell is from the last round of reports and whether donors' contributions have been transferred to the campaigns.

As of the end of June, the latest data available, the Hillary Victory Fund was far outpacing Trump's two joint fundraising committees.

Between April and June, the Hillary Victory Fund raised nearly $641,000 from Wisconsin. Trump Victory didn't have any Wisconsin donors that quarter, though its more recent transfers to the campaign indicate the group has picked up its activity since. And the Trump Make America Great Committee raised $29,151 from Wisconsin that quarter.

The direct campaign donations -- and the transfers from the committees -- show that Clinton's had more success bringing on board Obama's top donors from the summer of 2012.

Only two of the top 14 donors to Romney's campaign during those three months have given money to Trump. The 15th biggest donor, retired physician William McDevitt, shares the name of a retiree in Florida who gave $40 to Trump, though it's unclear whether that's the same person.

Clinton, meanwhile, lists contributions from eight of the 15 top Obama donors that summer.

Among them is the prominent lawyer David Gruber, who gave Clinton $2,700 last month and has also given money to the state Dem Party and to Russ Feingold as he looks to recapture his Senate seat. The frequent Dem donor also gave $500 to U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, last year.

Joan Abdoo, the wife of former Wisconsin Energy Corporation CEO Richard Abdoo, gave Clinton $2,700 last year and has also donated to Feingold.

And Terry Kelly, a former TV meteorologist and founder of two companies that were acquired by The Weather Channel, has given $2,700 to Clinton this year. That's on top of the $5,400 he put toward Feingold last year, $25,000 to the DSCC and $1,000 toward U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who's running for re-election in Colorado.

Some Obama donors had given money to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Dem primary but haven't contributed to Clinton. That includes Jeremy Strandberg, a software trainer at the Verona health IT firm Epic Systems who gave $2,700 to Sanders.

Also on that list is Elizabeth Adelman, a retired municipal attorney from Mukwonago who says she'll vote for Clinton but hasn't donated to her yet. Adelman's given money to Feingold, who she said has been her friend for years, and gave $450 to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders as he battled Clinton for the Dem nomination.

But she said it didn't take long for her to support Clinton.

"Obviously, I preferred Bernie Sanders, but you can't always have everything you want, so Hillary's the next best thing," she said.

Other Obama donors who haven't donated to Clinton include:

*Former Gehl Foods CEO Katherine Gehl, whose only federal contribution since 2015 has been $2,700 to an independent U.S. Senate in Alaska, Margaret Stock. Gehl, who was previously a big Dem donor, has recently gotten involved with the No Labels group.

*and Weyco Group President John Florsheim, who's given $500 to Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson, the Dem running for the 8th CD.

Trump, meanwhile, was able to get two of those top 14 Romney donors to contribute to him.

One was former Milwaukee County Judge Ralph Gorenstein, who gave $1,000 to Johnson's campaign and who's given $800 to Trump. Gorenstein was suspended by the state Supreme Court in 1988 for a "pattern of expressing insensitivity and disrespect toward litigants, witnesses, prosecutors and other courts."

The other was the millionaire former magazine publisher Roy Reiman, who founded a major Greendale publishing company that was acquired by Reader's Digest. Reiman has given Trump $2,700.

But major Romney donors who haven't donated to Trump yet include:

*David Baum, the CEO of Janesville-based SSI Technologies, who gave $25,000 to the RNC in February and has also given to Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

*Stephen Mosling, a retired Oshkosh Corp. exec whose donations include $5,000 to the Club for Growth Action super PAC. Mosling, who now lives in Florida, donated to Walker, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina during the primaries. And he's given money to Johnson, the NRSC, Ryan and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy.

*Sargento Foods CEO Louie Gentine, who's given to Walker, Johnson, Grothman and the state GOP.

*and Kohler Co. Chairman Herbert Kohler, who's donated to the GOP Senate candidates in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. He also donated to Jeb Bush, the Right to Rise super PAC affiliated with him and Chris Christie.

Another is Fred Martin of Hudson, the president of Disciplined Growth Investors. Martin, who gave money to Johnson last year, says among the "blizzard of regulations" from the Obama administration is a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that limits political contributions from investment advisers.

Martin says he's there's no way he'd vote for Clinton because the Clintons are "crooked" and she'd "pack the court with meddling judges." But he doesn't like Trump's "penchant for shooting off his mouth," so he's still not sure whether he'll vote for Trump or Libertarian Gary Johnson.

"I haven't made up my mind, but I don't have to," Martin said. "This is one of those times when I'll decide Nov. 8 in the morning."

-- By Polo Rocha

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