In a competitive election year expected to be filled with huge levels of campaign spending, about a dozen of the country’s wealthiest megadonors have contributed almost $100 million to various campaigns already. Over $25 million of that has come from one Wisconsin businessman.
Richard Uihlein, an Illinoisan who runs a Wisconsin-based shipping company, has quickly become one of the most influential contributors in the country, and this cycle he has his eye on incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
Uihlein has almost single-handedly funded two of the race’s most active Super PACs in support of Republican Kevin Nicholson, on top of dropping $3.5 million to another PAC in Nicholson’s corner.
Nicholson faces an extremely contentious primary against state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, though Nicholson’s backers are largely expected to support the winner of the primary regardless.
According to Matthew Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Uihlein and his wife have donated more money than any other individuals to Wisconsin political campaigns over the last 10 years, thanks to the “nearly unlimited” spending allowed under federal law.
Uihlein hasn’t isolated his spending to Wisconsin either; he is also the largest contributor to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Republican primary challenger, Jeanne Ives, who is running a fervently anti-establishment campaign.
He wrote checks amounting to $2.5 million to Ives in a single week, who used the funds to run an ad in which a transgender woman thanks Rauner for “making all Illinois families pay for my abortions.”
“The obscenity of being able to donate millions of dollars to a campaign is anti-democratic,” Rothschild said. “Hopefully the [spending levels in 2018] fuel a Wisconsin state movement for campaign finance reform.”