Wisconsin organizations donated a total of approximately $279,000 over the past three years to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which promoted the Jan. 6 Capitol riots that resulted in the deaths of five people.
RAGA is a 527 Republican electioneering group that raises unlimited money from special interest groups to support GOP state attorney general candidates across the nation.
The Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), an organizational arm of RAGA, asked Americans to “Stop the Steal” in a robocall the day before a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington D.C. ... we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections,” the robocall said.
The RLDF also appeared on the “March To Save America” website that mobilized people to storm the Capitol over baseless election fraud claims. Other groups listed on the website included Stop The Steal, Tea Party Patriots and Turning Point Action.
In January, the nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported about two dozen Wisconsin organizations that made contributions to RAGA between January 2018 and late November 2020.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association and Michael Best Strategies, both based in Madison, donated $50,000 and $15,875, respectively. In Milwaukee, MillerCoors — now Molson Coors — and Foley & Lardner donated $75,000 and $60,950, respectively.
Other top contributors included Kwik Trip of La Crosse ($25,000), Klondike Properties in Monroe ($20,000), the Dairy Business Association of Green Bay ($10,000) and the Forest County Potawatomi Community of Crandon ($10,000).
Donation data after November 2020 is not yet available, and it is unclear which organizations have decreased or stopped their donations since the Capitol riots if they have not issued formal statements.
While RAGA’s donations are identifiable, the RLDF is a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization and is not required to reveal its donors.
However, a 2017 report from MapLight was able to identify that more than 40 percent of the RLDF’s funding from 2014-15 came from dark money organizations, including the Koch Brothers-backed Freedom Partners.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA) issued a comment on their donations to RAGA that was first reported by Urban Milwaukee.
“In 2018, RAGA was actively engaged in supporting attorney general candidates, like Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, whom the WRA had endorsed due to his excellent record on issues important to the real estate industry,” the WRA said. “WRA’s contribution was not in any way related to any activities that took place before or after the 2018 election cycle, including the protests in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.”
The Daily Cardinal was able to reach out to the organizations listed above except for Klondike Properties and Molson Coors. The Dairy Business Association (DBA) was the only organization that could immediately respond.
“The Dairy Business Association’s donation was made in connection to a fundraiser for then- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel in the summer of 2018,” the DBA wrote in an email. “DBA’s primary mission is advocating for dairy farmers and allied businesses in our state, and we were supporting Mr. Schimel, a Republican, in his re-election bid. RAGA supports the election of Republican attorneys general. Our donation had nothing to do with the 2020 election or any of the events that occurred afterward.”
RAGA spent $28 million against Democratic nominee Josh Kaul, who defeated incumbent Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel in 2018.
In late September of 2018, RAGA sponsored a television ad accusing Kaul of “never putting a criminal behind bars” in Wisconsin. While the ad was technically correct, it ignored Kaul’s history of prosecuting murderers and drug traffickers while working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore and his time working on voting rights and other election-related litigation.
Despite encouraging the storming of the Capitol, the RLDF ran a campaign called “Lawless Liberals'' in the months leading up to the November elections. The campaign launched in opposition to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd, which a report from nonprofit Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found were overwhelimgly peaceful.
Many national businesses and interest groups have also made contributions to RAGA. A report compiled by the watchdog group Documented listed donation amounts in the first three quarters of 2020, the largest of which was $375,000 from prominent conservative donor Koch Industries.
Other prominent RAGA donors include Comcast, Wal-Mart, Amazon, TikTok, Google, Facebook, Uber and the National Rifle Association. Some corporations suspended their contributions to RAGA in response to the events on Jan. 6.
In the aftermath of the Capitol riots, RAGA Executive Director Adam Piper resigned from his position. In a statement, Piper referred to his time at RAGA as “the honor of a lifetime.”
Piper’s resignation came after the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) called for GOP state attorneys to leave RAGA over their role in inciting the violent mob that stormed the Capitol.