By James Wigderson for Media Trackers
It’s against the bylaws of the state’s firefighter union for a member to enrich himself at his union brothers’ expense, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice uncovered just how running has benefitted Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mahlon Mitchell financially and politically.
Now campaign finance reports reveal more about how much Mitchell’s candidacy is being borne on the backs of his fellow firefighters.
As a firefighter in Madison as well as the head of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin (PFFW), Mitchell earned $199,837, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Mitchell’s salary with the union jumped 66 percent between 2011 and 2016.
The newspaper also revealed how Mitchell’s union is funding the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, and liberal activist groups aligned with the Democratic Party. Under Mitchell, the firefighter union’s spending has grown by more than 75 percent, with 98 percent of the donations to candidates going to Democrats.
Now it’s Mitchell’s turn to benefit from firefighter union contributions.
According to the latest campaign finance report, the PFFW PAC has contributed $25,000 and Mitchell’s campaign received $15,444 from the PFFW conduit. A campaign conduit is when contributions are collected by an organization like the PFFW and then passed on to the candidate.
In addition to his own union, Mitchell’s campaign received $152,189 from firefighter union PACS and conduits. Only $37,648 of the $395,809.38 Mitchell’s campaign has raised so far came from individuals (non-conduit), and even then, 42 percent of the individuals listed “firefighter” as their occupation.
Mitchell’s campaign spokesman Lis Smith did not respond to a message left for the campaign.
These firefighter donations are ironic since Mitchell has made opposition to Act 10 a major focal point of his gubernatorial campaign and his campaign for Lt. Governor during the 2012 recall election. When Act 10 passed in 2011, Republicans exempted police and firefighters from the law that ended collective bargaining for public employees for benefits.