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Unions exert sway in Wisconsin Supreme Court election

Labor unions in Wisconsin appeared to have exerted their political power when their endorsed candidate, Janet Protasiewicz, defeated her opponent for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race became the most-expensive state court election in U.S. history, with total spending at around $45 million, nearly three times the amount spent in the previous state judicial race.

Protasiewicz’s campaign and her supporters spent at least $24 million on the non-partisan judicial election, compared to her opponent, Dan Kelly, whose campaign and supporters spent $19 million.

The reason behind the large fundraising gap may be the influence of labor unions, like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

A news report noted that labor unions inside and outside of Wisconsin spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to back Protasiewicz.

“A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, a coalition of labor unions and progressive social advocacy groups, has spent more than $5 million on ad buys,” the report said, “… Major national unions like American Federation of Teachers have contributed $500,000, while the International Union of Operating Engineers PAC has forked over $300,000 to A Better Wisconsin Together.”

Labor unions allegedly circumvented the state’s $18,000 direct contributions limit to Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates by pooling funds together as a coalition.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court election is an example of how labor unions spend millions on politics each year, while members struggle to keep up with an economy rife with inflation and other real-life issues.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.