With public funding for stadium secured, Brewers executives sent maximum donations to Vos

Five executives with the Milwaukee Brewers made campaign donations at the maximum level allowed by state law to Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, two weeks after the Legislature approved $366 million in public funds to renovate the baseball club's stadium.

The Badger Project

March 14, 2024 • Southeast Region

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A tower constructed of metal, concrete and brick, with a clock on one face showing 12:50 p.m. and the logo of American Family Field on another face stands in front of a metal and glass wall of a baseball stadium with an arched retractable roof.

A clock tower at American Family Field is seen on Sept. 19, 2023, in Milwaukee. Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the most powerful politician in the state Legislature, received the maximum campaign donation allowed by law from five top executives of the Milwaukee Brewers after the legislature passed a huge public funding bill to renovate the stadium. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

Badger Project

By Peter Cameron, The Badger Project

The Wisconsin State Legislature is sending nearly $366 million of public funds to renovate and update American Family Field, where the Milwaukee Brewers play.

The Brewers sent a little back to Speaker Robin Vos, the most powerful politician in the state Legislature and the top Republican in Wisconsin.

At least five top executives from the ballclub sent Vos the maximum donation allowable by law — $1,000 — in November after sealing the deal.

According to campaign finance records filed with the state, Milwaukee Brewers President Rick Schlesinger and four other top executives each made the top donation to Vos on or around November 28, two weeks after the stadium funding bill passed both Republican-controlled houses of the Legislature.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed the bill into law a week later in December.

The other four executives who made the top donation are:

  • Marti Wronski, COO
  • Daniel Fumai, CFO
  • Tyler Barnes, senior vice president of communications and affiliate operations
  • Steve Ethier, senior vice president of stadium operations

The executives did not donate to any other Wisconsin politicians in 2023, nor have they ever given to any candidate or politician in the state, according to campaign finance records.

Neither the ball club nor Vos responded to messages seeking comment.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign was the first to break the story.

The Brewers also reported spending more than $1.5 million in the past nine years, and nearly $900,000 in 2023, to lobby the Legislature on the funding issue.

The stadium’s majority owner is the public, though the Brewers still have a large piece. The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, a public entity created by the Legislature, owns nearly 64% of the stadium. The Brewers own the remaining 36%.

The Brewers are owned by Mark Attanasio, whose net worth is estimated to be around $700 million.

Vos might need every dollar he can get. He is facing a possible recall election, though that is a longshot. But Vos could also face another primary challenge this year. He narrowly defeated a primary challenger in 2022.

Vos is the longest-serving Assembly speaker in state history, holding the position since 2013.

In exchange for the public funding, the Brewers agreed to extend their lease and stay in Milwaukee through the 2050 season.

The Brewers say the 22-year-old stadium needs major renovations. The building’s outfield doors, seats and concourses need replacing, its scoreboard and suites need upgrades and its retractable roof, parking lots, elevators and escalators need updates too, the ball club says.

Milwaukee is the smallest market of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs, but regularly punches well above its weight in attendance, usually finishing in the middle of the league.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

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