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Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce

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Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
Founded 1975
Headquarters Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) is an association of manufacturers, service businesses and chambers of commerce located in Madison, Wisconsin. WMC was formed from what was the Wisconsin State Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association and the Wisconsin Council of Safety in 1975. WMC engages in earned media, advocacy and business development. WMC came under fire in 1996 for an issue ad aimed at Democrats in the state. Initially, the ad was forced off the air but WMC sued to have the ad reinstated, citing free speech rights. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel referred to WMC as "the state's most influential business lobbying group".[1]

History and composition[edit]

Building in Madison

The Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, which merged with two other Wisconsin business organizations in 1975 to form Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, was founded in 1911.[2] Paul Hassett was the first president of the newly formed organization, which had approximately 2,500 charter members.[3] Since its inception, WMC has lobbied for the passage of business-friendly legislation in the Wisconsin Legislature.[4] As of 2008, WMC claims over 4,000 charter members among the business community in Wisconsin. It publishes two annual directories: one of state manufacturers and the other a directory of service companies. It also claims to represent 500 000 employees.[5]

1996 election[edit]

During the 1996 election, WMC sponsored a series of 'issue ads' against state democrats. The Wisconsin State Election Board blocked the ads, arguing that WMC violated state and federal election laws by running an election ad as group whose donor base was not divulged to the FEC and state election boards.[6] WMC sued, citing free speech concerns. After two appellate court rulings against WMC, the State Supreme Court ruled narrowly in WMC's favor.[7][8] State political leaders cited this supreme court case when preparing legislation in later years.[9]

2008 election[edit]

For the main article on this subject, see Wisconsin State Elections, 2008.

WMC spent more than 1.2 million dollars in support of Michael Gableman's campaign for State Supreme Court Justice, successfully ousting sitting Justice Louis Butler.[10] Justice Louis Butler subsequently asserted that three cases in particular caused WMC to target him. One favored the families of three men killed when a giant crane collapsed during construction of Miller Park; another struck down the cap on medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering, and the third expanded the liability of paint manufacturers in cases of lead poisoning.[11] This spending and subsequent advertisement were criticized by members of the Madison press, the state bar and the Brennan Center, a non-partisan policy center at New York University.[12][13][14]

Activities and membership[edit]

WMC does not disclose their issue advocacy donors list to the public.[15] WMC lobbies on behalf of its members "whenever the state legislature is in session"[5] According to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, WMC was responsible for 1.1 million dollars in lobbying efforts during the 2007-2009 session of the state legislature.[16] WMC also publishes ratings of Wisconsin legislators on a scale of 0 to 100.[17] In 1989, WMC helped block passage of Wisconsin's family leave act on behalf of their members.[18] In August 2008 the outgoing Chancellor of UW-Madison John Wiley has described the WMC as being "hijacked by highly partisan ideologically driven staff" and stating "WMC routinely opposes most measures favored by labor unions, and most measures aimed at improving the lot of entry-level and low-income workers who are essential to our economy. But this opposition is not a business or an economic position; it is a political position based on an era and an economy that no longer exist."[19]

Beyond lobbying efforts, WMC commissions annual surveys of business owners, directories and information, and—through their non-profit Wisconsin Council of Safety—workplace safety compliance information.[20] WMC works with the state Department of Workforce Development to secure federal grants to train workers in Wisconsin.[21]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Roesslein (1999-01-22). "First Amendment no defense". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-06-18. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Frank Sensenbrenner - Paper Industry Hall of Fame Inductee". Paper Industry Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-06-18. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Joanis. Stevens officials of merged group". Steven's Point Daily Journal. 1976-01-16. Retrieved 2009-06-18.  (login required)
  4. ^ Shultze, Steve (1993-03-14). "Spending spree shapes up in capital". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  5. ^ a b "About Us". Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. 2006. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  6. ^ "WMC History". WMCwatch. Institute for One Wisconsin. Retrieved 2008-06-19. [dead link]
  7. ^ Wis. Mfrs. & Commerce v. State of Wis. Elecs. Bd., 978 F.Supp. 1200 (W.D. Wis., 1997)
  8. ^ Price, Jenny (1999-07-08). "Ruling: WMC Didn't Break Campaign Finance Laws". St. Paul Pioneer Press. pp. 1B. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  9. ^ Jones, Richard (2001-01-13). "Senate passes bill regulating issue ads". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  10. ^ "Report shows special interests dominate Wis. Supreme Court race". Wausau Daily Herald. 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-19. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Butler gets to break code of silence". Green Bay Press Gazette. August 10, 2008. 
  12. ^ Garvey, Ed (2008-01-29). "Curtail WMC's Influence Before it owns Court." (PDF). Capital Times. Retrieved 2008-06-19. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Special Interests Dominate Wisconsin Airways in High Court Race" (PDF) (Press release). Brennan Center for Justice. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  14. ^ Basting, Thomas J. (May 2008). "President's Message: Gutter Politics and the Wisconsin Supreme Court". Wisconsin Lawyer (Madison, Wisconsin: 81 (5). Retrieved 2008-06-19. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Business Group's Donor List Remains Secret". St. Paul Pioneer Press. 1998-01-07. pp. 3B. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  16. ^ "Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce: Lobbying by Organization". Government Accountability Board. Retrieved 2008-06-19. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Ratings". Project Votesmart. 2006 (Date of Survey). Retrieved 2008-06-19.  Check date values in: |date= (help)[dead link]
  18. ^ Wisensale, Steven K.; Allison, Michael D. (April 1989). "Family Leave Legislation: State and Federal Initiatives". Family Relations (National Council on Family Relations) 38 (2): 185. doi:10.2307/583673. 
  19. ^[dead link]
  20. ^ "WMC Products and Services". 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-18. [dead link]
  21. ^ Klein, Mike (2003-12-15). "WTN Interview: Roberta Gassman". WTN News. Wisconsin Technology Network. Retrieved 2014-02-03.