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Here’s who donated to the only competitive Congressional district in Wisconsin

By Peter Cameron
The Badger Project

Another election year, and another easy victory for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, right?

Not quite. It was pretty tight this time, as campaign cash flooded Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, which hugs the Mississippi River and was won by President Donald Trump with about 52% of the vote.

Kind triumphed in the district he has held for nearly a quarter-century with 51 percent of the vote. He received a total of nearly 200,000 votes, while Republican challenger Derrick Van Orden got nearly 190,000.

The moderate Democrat has regularly won by 10 percentage points or more, and his fundraising has always dwarfed opponents.

Until last year, when he faced his best-funded opponent ever. Kind raised and spent nearly $3 million. Van Orden nearly $2 million.

“Simply put, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and her allies bought Ron Kind’s congressional seat by sending him millions,” Van Orden said in an email response to The Badger Project.

Kind did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District looks like a profile of Popeye leaning against the Mississippi and flexing a bicep that bends from La Crosse to Stevens Point more than 100 miles away.

When Wisconsin Republicans drew the districts in 2011 to their heavy favor for the coming decade, they snipped the liberal college town of Stevens Point out of the 7th Congressional District in northern Wisconsin, making that district solidly Republican, and plopped Stevens Point into the 3rd Congressional District to the west. The effect of GOP gerrymandering actually meant the 3rd was made a safer Democratic seat, said Joe Heim, a political science professor emeritus at UW-La Crosse.

When Republicans redrew the Congressional districts in 2011, they made the 7th in northern Wisconsin a safe seat by pushing liberal Stevens Point into the 3rd district to the west, making it a little more left-leaning.
Wisconsin’s 3rd is one of the few congressional districts in the country that a Democrat held but Trump won. And it was the only congressional race in Wisconsin that was close. The other seven districts were decided by 18 points or more.

Heim credited Kind’s reputation as a moderate for helping him hold the district. Kind voted against Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker in 2019, but for her in January of this year. He also had a “huge warchest” of campaign cash and “spent it liberally,” Heim added.

Van Orden was “all in with Trump, and that may have helped in some areas, but hurt in others,” Heim said, noting that Kind cruised to decisive victories in the district’s urban areas.

Van Orden kept open the possibility of running again in 2022.

“Nothing is off the table,” he wrote.

Citizens United’s effect felt

The well-known 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case allowed for the creation of dark money Super PACs. Federal law prohibits these organizations from coordinating with political campaigns, but they can spend unlimited amounts attacking or promoting a candidate on the airwaves or in print. And they often are able to keep their donors confidential. Super PACs and similar organizations spent heavily in the 3rd District in the flight to flip it red.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned Super PAC, dropped more than $1.6 million to defeat Kind, according to The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks campaign finance.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and prolific Republican donor who died last month, gave tens of millions to that Super PAC.

The Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC and the American Hospital Association spent nearly $600,000 and $300,000, respectively, supporting Kind.

Much of that cash goes to purchasing TV attack ads.

As nearly all Democrats in national politics, Kind has been supportive of more disclosure requirements in campaign finance, voting in favor of the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, which passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2010, but then was filibustered and killed by Republicans in the Senate.

Kind voted again in support of the DISCLOSE Act in 2019 after it was rolled into a large government reform and voter access bill called H.R. 1. Its future in the Senate is uncertain.

Republicans have voted almost unanimously against The DISCLOSE Act, but Van Orden signaled an openness to at least some disclosure reform.

“I believe we need stronger transparency in our campaign funding,” he wrote.

Direct donations to the candidates

While Kind’s 2020 campaign haul of nearly $3 million sounds astounding, it fell far short of cracking the top 100 fundraising totals for House candidates last year.

Under federal law, the most an individual can give to a candidate is $2,800 per election. Political Action Committees can give $5,000 per election. So with a primary and a general, individuals and PACs can double that limit.

A handful of individuals gave Kind the maximum of $5,600. That includes Judith Faulkner, CEO of health software behemoth Epic Systems in the Madison area, and her husband Gordon. The check was Judith Faulkner’s only donation to a politician last year. Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences in Madison, also gave Kind the maximum $5,600.

In the House, Kind is one of 43 members who sit on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax-writing. His corporate supporters are a who’s who of big business.

He received the maximum of $10,000 from the political action committees for AT&T, Boeing, Caterpillar, GE, Home Depot, Met Life, Prudential, Xcel Energy, Vanguard Group, Toyota, and many others.

Of Van Orden’s nearly $2 million in campaign donations, many individuals gave him the maximum $5,600, including the usual big spenders on the Wisconsin right: Diane Hendricks, the billionaire owner of ABC Building Supply, who lives in the Beloit area, and Dick and Liz Uihlein, owners of ULINE Shipping Supplies, who each gave the max.

The Supporting Electing American Leaders (SEAL) PAC, which backs conservative military veterans for office, gave Van Orden, himself a former Navy SEAL, the maximum $10,000. The Eye of the Tiger PAC, which supports Republican candidates and is funded by big business, gave him $7,500.

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

TOP 100 DONORS TO KIND IN 2020

DONOR TOTAL DONATION
American Bankers Association $10,000
ABBOTT LABORATORIES $10,000
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY $10,000
AMERICAN COUNCIL OF LIFE INSURERS $10,000
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS / AFT $10,000
AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION $10,000
AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION $10,000
AMERICAN PHYSICAL THERAPY ASSOCIATION $10,000
AMERIPAC / THE FUND FOR A GREATER AMERICA $10,000
AMERISOURCEBERGEN CORP $10,000
AT&T $10,000
BOEING CO $10,000
CATERPILLAR $10,000
COLLEGE OF AMERICAN PATHOLOGISTS $10,000
DELOITTE TOUCHE TOHMATSU $10,000
ENTERGY CORP $10,000
ERNST & YOUNG $10,000
GENERAL ELECTRIC CO $10,000
HOME DEPOT $10,000
INTERNATIONAL PAPER $10,000
MASS MUTUAL $10,000
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE $10,000
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS $10,000
NATIONAL THOROUGHBRED RACING ASSOCIATION $10,000
NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY $10,000
NORTHROP GRUMMAN $10,000
PRINCIPAL FINANCIAL GROUP $10,000
PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL $10,000
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION / SEIU $10,000
THRIVENT FINANCIAL FOR LUTHERANS $10,000
UNITEDHEALTH GROUP $10,000
UNITED PARCEL SERVICES / UPS $10,000
USAA $10,000
WINE & SPIRITS WHOLESALERS OF AMERICA $10,000
XCEL ENERGY $10,000
PACIFC LIFE INSURANCE $10,000
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ORAL & MAXILLOFACIAL SURGEONS $10,000
GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE $10,000
NATIONAL BEER WHOLESALERS ASSOCIATION $10,000
NATIONAL RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION $10,000
VANGUARD GROUP $10,000
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF NURSE ANESTHETISTS $10,000
NEW DEMOCRAT COALITION $10,000
TOYOTA MOTORS NORTH AMERICA $10,000
CREDIT UNION LEGISLATIVE ACTION COUNCIL / CULAC $10,000
NATIONAL VENTURE CAPITAL ASSOCIATION $10,000
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEONS $10,000
TEACHERS INSURANCE & ANNUITY ASSOCIATION $10,000
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TRUCK STOP OPERATORS $10,000
NATIONAL AUTOMOBILE DEALERS ASSOCIATION $10,000
UBS AMERICAS $10,000
ECOLAB INC $10,000
AMERICAN CHIROPRACTIC ASSOCIATION $10,000
INVESTMENT COMPANY INSTITUTE $10,000
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF RHEUMATOLOGY $10,000
NATIONAL MULTIFAMILY HOUSING COUNCIL $10,000
SENTRY INSURANCE $10,000
INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY BANKERS OF AMERICA $10,000
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY ASSOCIATION $10,000
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ENROLLED AGENTS $10,000
INSURED RETIREMENT INSTITUTE $10,000
EQUIPMENT LEASING & FINANCE ASSOCIATION $10,000
AMGEN $10,000
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY $9,000
NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE $9,500
HEWLETT PACKARD $9,000
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL $9,000
NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION $9,000
NATIONAL ROOFING CONTRACTORS $9,000
AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION $9,000
TRANSAMERIA CORP $9,000
COMCAST CORPORATION & NBC UNIVERSAL $8,500
WALMART $8,500
AMERICAN COUNCIL OF ENGINEERING COMPANIES $8,500
NOVO NORDISK $7,737
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE $7,500
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS $7,500
AMERICAS HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS $7,500
BASF $7,500
CIGNA $7,500
LIBERTY MUTUAL CO $7,500
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS $7,500
PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS $7,500
FEDERAL EXPRESS / FEDEX $7,500
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS $7,500
ANTHEM INC $7,500
OPERATING ENGINEERS LOCAL 139 $7,500
LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA / LIUNA $7,500
NATIONAL PORK PRODUCERS COUNCIL $7,500
CHS INC $7,500
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS $7,500
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF NEUROLOGY PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION $7,500
HEALTHCARE DISTRIBUTION ALLIANCE $7,500
NATL TELECOMMUNICATIONS COOP ASSOC $7,500
FIDELITY FMR LLC $7,500
SHAKOPEE MDEWAKANTON SIOUX COMMUNITY $7,050
AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION $7,000
AMAZON.COM SERVICES $7,000

PEOPLE WHO GAVE KIND THE LEGAL MAX IN 2020

CONTRIBUTOR TOTAL PLACE OF RESIDENCE
BEKENSTEIN, ANITA S $5,600 Wayland, MA
BEKENSTEIN, JOSHUA (JOSH) $5,600 Wayland, MA
CONROY, KEVIN T $5,600 Madison, WI
DOANE, RUSSELL $5,600 Menomonie, WI
FAULKNER, GORDON T $5,600 Mount Horeb, WI
FAULKNER, JUDITH $5,600 Mount Horeb, WI
FISHER, ROBERT J (BOB) $5,600 San Francisco, CA
GRAY, JONATHAN D (JON) $5,600 New York, NY
GRAY, MINDY D $5,600 New York, NY
GRAYER, JONATHAN $5,600 Harrison, NY
KLARMAN, SETH ANDREW $5,600 Boston, MA
LAUX, JOSEPH $5,600 La Crosse, WI
PARKER, ALEXANDRA LENAS $5,600 Palo Alto, CA
PARKER, SEAN $5,600 Palo Alto, CA
ROTH, HOWARD $5,600 Wauzeka, WI
SCHNICK, ROSALIE A $5,600 La Crosse, WI
SIMONS, NATHANIEL HENRY (NAT) $5,600 Berkeley, CA
WANEK, RON $5,600 Arcadia, WI

TOP 100 DONORS TO VAN ORDEN IN 2020

CONTRIBUTOR TOTAL TYPE CITY OF RESIDENCE STATE
VAN ORDEN FOR WI-03 $34,501 Non-Individual BETHESDA MD
CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY CMTE $10,000 Non-Individual BAKERSFIELD CA
SEAL PAC SUPPORTING ELECTING AMERICAN LEADERS $10,000 Non-Individual WASHINGTON DC
SCHUH, KONYA D $8,400 Individual JANESVILLE WI
EYE OF THE TIGER PAC $7,500 Non-Individual ARLINGTON VA
SMITH JR, HAROLD BYRON $5,600 Individual PALM BEACH FL
HILLMAN, TATNALL LEA $5,600 Individual ASPEN CO
KRESS, DONALD F $5,600 Individual GREEN BAY WI
DHEIN, JERE E $5,600 Individual GREEN BAY WI
WEGNER, KENNETH $5,600 Individual ELMHURST IL
HENDRICKS, KIMBERLEE K (KIM) $5,600 Individual JANESVILLE WI
NELSON, GRANT E $5,600 Individual PRESCOTT WI
MICHELS, TIMOTHY J (TIM) $5,600 Individual HARTLAND WI
MICHELS, BARBARA A $5,600 Individual HARTLAND WI
UIHLEIN, RICHARD ELLIS (DICK) $5,600 Individual LAKE FOREST IL
JOHNSON SR, MARK O $5,600 Individual RICE LAKE WI
NELSON, CAROL J $5,600 Individual PRESCOTT WI
WEBER, DONALD J (DON) $5,600 Individual LA CROSSE WI
HARTUNG, DANIEL J $5,600 Individual MADISON WI
MICHELS, PATRICK D $5,600 Individual BROWNSVILLE WI
HENDRICKS, DIANE M $5,600 Individual AFTON WI
TOLL, NANCY A $5,600 Individual FRANKLIN WI
ZORE, DIANE $5,600 Individual RIVER HILLS WI
PREGONT, JOSEPH T $5,600 Individual JANESVILLE WI
MICHELS, MARYSUE C $5,600 Individual BROWNSVILLE WI
LUDINGTON, PATRICIA A $5,600 Individual ONALASKA WI
LOMMEN, RICK $5,600 Individual ONALASKA WI
HILLMAN, ROBERTA W (BOBBIE) $5,600 Individual ASPEN CO
SCHLOEMER, JAMES H $5,600 Individual MENOMONEE FALLS WI
MACDONALD JR, WILLIAM F $5,600 Individual AMBLER PA
WEEKLEY, RICHARD WELDON (DICK) $5,600 Individual HOUSTON TX
WHITELOCK, VIRGINIA E $5,600 Individual SAN DIEGO CA
UIHLEIN, ELIZABETH A (LIZ) $5,600 Individual LAKE FOREST IL
BURKE, KATHRYN M $5,600 Individual FOX POINT WI
MICHELS, KEVIN P $5,600 Individual FOND DU LAC WI
MICHELS, CONNIE L $5,600 Individual FOND DU LAC WI
MULLINS, LUKE $5,600 Individual JUNCTION CITY WI
LUDINGTON, DAVID $5,600 Individual ONALASKA WI
JOHNSON, BARBARA B $5,600 Individual RICE LAKE WI
BOYCE, RICHARD W (DICK) $5,600 Individual WOODSIDE CA
CARNEY, THOMAS $5,600 Individual DARIEN WI
FOX, BRENT A $5,600 Individual JANESVILLE WI
FRANKE, JAY $5,600 Individual MIAMI BEACH FL
MCKENNA, MIKE $5,600 Individual MILTON WI
MCKENNA, DIAMOND $5,600 Individual MILTON WI
HERRO, DAVID $5,600 Individual MIAMI BEACH FL
MLEJNEK, CHRIS $5,600 Individual RICE LAKE WI
EVANS, CAROL A $5,600 Individual SAN DIEGO CA
GELATT, PHILIP M $5,600 Individual LA CROSSE WI
LETOURNEAU, EDWARD J $5,600 Individual DODGEVILLE WI
LEY, FRED $5,600 Individual BOZEMAN MT
WIESER, MARK A $5,600 Individual WISCONSIN DELLS WI
IRVING, CRAIG $5,600 Individual SAN DIEGO CA
HEIDT, GERALD $5,600 Individual SAN DIEGO CA
SCHARLAU, CHRISTINA C $5,600 Individual ELK MOUND WI
ARNOLD, SARA $5,300 Individual ELM GROVE WI
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CMTE $5,000 Non-Individual WASHINGTON DC
MIKE HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN CMTE $5,000 Non-Individual LITTLE ROCK AR
DICKMAN, CRAIG $5,000 Individual GREEN BAY WI
BUSCH III, AUGUST ANHEUSER $5,000 Individual SAINT PETERS MO
LEDWELL, STEVEN $5,000 Individual TEXARKANA TX
RICHARDSON JR, DR JOHN B $5,000 Individual VESTAVIA AL
RICHARDSON, SONJA H $5,000 Individual VESTAVIA AL
GUARDIAN FUND $5,000 Non-Individual PITTSBORO NC
3RD DISTRICT REPUBLICAN PARTY OF WISCONSIN $5,000 Non-Individual LA CROSSE WI
KOLBER, VINCENT A $4,800 Individual CHICAGO IL
FETTIG, ROBERT P (BOB) $4,800 Individual LAKE GENEVA WI
PEDERSON, TIMOTHY G (TIM) $4,800 Individual HARTLAND WI
WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN PARTY $4,500 Non-Individual MADISON WI
BLAINE LUETKEMEYER CAMPAIGN CMTE $4,500 Non-Individual ST ELIZABETH MO
ELECTING MAJORITY MAKING EFFECTIVE REPUBLICANS $4,500 Non-Individual ANOKA MN
KABARA, BETTY Z $4,500 Individual GALENA IL
HERZOG, SHAWN $4,300 Individual PLOVER WI
STEPHEN J (STEVE) SCALISE CAMPAIGN CMTE $4,000 Non-Individual NEW ORLEANS LA
SORRELL, STEVEN A $4,000 Individual INDIANAPOLIS IN
HANSEN, MICHAEL L $3,800 Individual FORT LAUDERDALE FL
LESAR, NICK $3,800 Individual WHITEWATER WI
MOORE, NOEL $3,800 Individual CHICAGO IL
BECK, ELAINE E $3,800 Individual ORO VALLEY AZ
SCOTT, JOHN D $3,500 Individual LAKE DELTON WI
HAUMSCHILD, JOHN $3,400 Individual OCONOMOWOC WI
SCHARLAU, JOHN $3,300 Individual ELK MOUND WI
HOLLFELDER, THOMAS A $3,300 Individual ELKHART LAKE WI
PAPENFUSS, JERRY $3,300 Individual WINONA MN
ASCHER, GARY $3,250 Individual SPARTA WI
GOUGE, DANIEL $3,250 Individual BROOKFIELD WI
AYLWARD, RICHARD J $3,000 Individual NEENAH WI
RUSCH, JACK C $3,000 Individual ONALASKA WI
MARTIN, JOSEPH C $3,000 Individual APPLETON WI
CAMPBELL, ROBERT ROY $3,000 Individual LA CROSSE WI
US ISRAEL PAC USI $3,000 Non-Individual HOLLYWOOD FL
FOSTER, GREGG $3,000 Individual JACKSON WY
SCHUETTE, CONNIE $2,825 Individual WAUSAU WI
MILLER, DONALD K $2,800 Individual PALM BEACH FL
ASNESS, CLIFF $2,800 Individual NEW YORK NY
DAVID, JACK $2,800 Individual NEW HARTFORD CT
HANNA, DAVID W $2,800 Individual IRVINE CA
GRIMES, WINDI $2,800 Individual HOUSTON TX
PEROT JR, H ROSS $2,800 Individual DALLAS TX
HANNA, VIRGINIA L $2,800 Individual IRVINE CA
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