Justice Dan Kelly’s big guns and deaf ear

A gun-themed fundraiser after Milwaukee's mass shooting adds to Kelly's arsenal of campaign cash

Gun control demonstrator holds sign showing assault rifle with words American Idol
A demonstrator holds a sign depicting an assault rifle at a protest against President Trump's visit to El Paso after the mass shooting there. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is tone deaf when it comes to gun violence in Wisconsin.

Just a day after a gunman killed five people and himself at the Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee, Kelly held a fundraiser at a Brookfield shooting range.

Justice Daniel Kelly (Wisconsin Court System)
Justice Daniel Kelly (Wisconsin Court System)

The Feb. 27 fundraiser offered participants three levels of giving – $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000. The $5,000 level was named after the Browning .50 caliber machine gun. The $2,500 level was named after the .25 Automatic Colt Pistol. And the $1,000 level was named after the 10mm semi-automatic pistol cartridge.

Kelly, a conservative with Republican backing, was appointed in 2016 to fill a vacancy on the high court by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Kelly faces Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky, who is backed by Democrats, in the April 7 spring elections.

Kelly was endorsed in mid-February by the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest pro-gun group. So far, the NRA has not contributed to Kelly’s campaign or sponsored electioneering activities in the race.

Between January 1998 and December 2019, the NRA spent more than $5.5 million on outside electioneering activities to support GOP and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. In addition to outside electioneering activities, NRA political action committees have directly contributed $121,950 to all legislative and statewide candidates between January 1998 and December 2019.

Kelly authored a Supreme Court decision in 2017 that prohibited the city of Madison from banning guns on city busses under a state’s concealed carry law.

Kelly has gotten support from two other far-right groups.

In December, the Koch group Americans for Prosperity IE Committee reported spending over $13,000 on his behalf.

And at the beginning of March, Wisconsin Family Action filed paperwork with the state showing it spent $17,500 to support him.

To date, the only outside expenditure group supporting Karofsky is the SEIU Wisconsin State Council, which has reported spending $113,000 against Kelly. 

As far as Kelly’s individual contributors, here are his 10 biggest guns between July 2018 and Feb. 3, 2020: 

• Fred and Sandra Young Jr., Racine, retired owners of Young Radiator, $30,000,

• William and Suzanne Barry, Brookfield, owners of Speed Systems, $22,500,

• Diane Hendricks, Beloit, owner of ABC Supply, $20,000,

• Thomas and Connie Schuette, Wausau, retired owners of Wausau Homes, $20,000,

• Timothy Michels, Hartland, vice president of Michels Corp., and his wife, Barbara, $20,000,

• Kim Hendricks, Janesville, a retired ABC Supply executive, $20,000,

• Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, Lake Forest, Ill., owners of Uline Corp., $20,000,

• Kathryn Burke, Milwaukee, owner of Burke Properties, $20,000,

• Donald Zietlow, Onalaska, owner of Kwik Trip, $20,000,

• Craig Leipold, Racine, owner of the Minnesota Wild hockey team, $11,000.

As of February 3, Kelly had outraised Karofsky $989,000 to $349,000. And Kelly had much more cash on hand: $463,000 to Karofsky’s $181,000.