THE PROGRESSIVE: Sen. Olson hypocritical in his critique of big campaign donations

July 15, 2011
Elizabeth DiNovella

Wisconsin State Senator Luther Olsen is one of the six Republicans facing a recall election this summer. After Tuesday’s Democratic primary, he will now face Representative Fred Clark in the August 9 general election.

Republicans ran “protest” candidates in the primaries in order to drag out the electoral process. All six “fake Democrats” lost.

Delaying the general election allowed the incumbents more time to campaign—and to get more campaign contributions. Millions of dollars are pouring into Wisconsin, some coming from groups outside the state.

Olsen told the Baraboo News Republic that he’s concerned about the impact. “There’s going to be a lot of money in it, third party money, that will dwarf anything I can spend,” Olsen said. “Unfortunately, outside money will have a big influence on this election. Is the goal to buy this election?”

Did Olsen voice this same concern in 2010, when outside spending played a key role in the GOP takeover of the legislature? After all, the special interest group from outside the state that spent the most money was the Republican State Leadership Committee.

The Republican State Leadership Committee is a 527 group based in Virginia, heavily backed by big business. In 2010 legislative races in Wisconsin, this group spent nearly $1 million, including almost $500,000 to target Majority leader Russ Decker, who lost his seat. It was the first time the Republican State Leadership Committee spent money in Wisconsin.

So has Olsen received any out of state funding? According to his campaign filings, he did indeed.

Olsen, the Senate Education Committee Chair, received out of state money from Richard Sharp of Richmond, Virginia. According to, Sharp has given more than $100,000 to rightwing candidates across the country in 2010 alone.

Sharp’s focus is on dismantling education. He’s the chairman of Children First America, one of those anti-public school groups with a nice sounding name.

A look at Olsen’s campaign contributions reveals donations from Altria, Eli Lilly PAC, and KochPAC, to name a few.

Olsen is correct—outside groups are having a big influence on this election. We’ll have to wait until August to see who wins, but we can already see which pols are bought and paid for.