Fascinating reporting by Pro Publica on the Uihlein family of Wisconsin, the biggest funder of Republican causes, enemies of all things left and an occasional player in Arkansas politics, though that angle isn’t mentioned in this report.
Their fortune has been inflated by the boom in the need for cardboard boxes, which are among the shipping products the family company, Uline, makes. Pro Publica says Dick and Liz Uihlein have spent at least $121 million on state and federal politics in the last two years alone, fighting taxes, unions, abortion rights and marijuana legalization.
We reported earlier this year about some evidence linking the Uihleins to dark money spending in opposition to a candidate for Pulaski prosecuting attorney, Alicia Walton, who was supported by independent spending by a group funded by liberal George Soros. Will Jones defeated Walton.
Uihlein has also been a major contributor to a committee formed to defeat Issue 4, the Arkansas marijuana legalization amendment.
Uihlein also put $2 million into the Republican Senate campaign of Jake Bequette, defeated in his challenge of John Boozman.
He’s also put millions in the Club for Growth, an organization once bankrolled by Jackson T. Stephens Jr., an heir to the Stephens fortune in Arkansas, and which got some attention when it attacked presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for his pro-tax record as Arkansas governor. The “Club for Greed” Huckabee called them then.
Anyone who finds John Boozman too liberal is obviously far on the political right (though that fringe seems increasingly mainstream Trumplicanism). It’s not surprising for someone who named his huge foundation, which pours money into right-wing causes, after his father, a John Bircher and foe of civil rights.
Lots of good stuff in the Pro Publica article, including the Uihleins’ dipping into local school board races. They spend money attacking “transgender ideology,” abortion and the teaching of “critical race theory.”
The family likes total control, which makes Donald Trump a good fit. Example:
For all the Uihleins’ dismay at the disorder they see consuming the country, there is one domain where they can exert near total control. Former employees of Uline told ProPublica the couple’s traditionalist politics govern the smallest details of how the company is run.
For new staffers, it begins with the dress code in the employee handbook: Women are not permitted to wear pants except as part of a pantsuit or on Fridays; hose or stockings must be worn except during the warmer months; dresses “that are too short” and corduroy of any kind are strictly prohibited.
“DRESS CODE VIOLATIONS ARE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AND MAY RESULT IN DISCIPLINARY ACTION UP TO AND INCLUDING TERMINATION,” the handbook warns.
The handbook defines “tardy” as one minute past an employee’s scheduled start time. Just four personal items are allowed on employees’ desks, with maximum dimensions of 5 inches by 7 inches. One former staffer at Uline’s headquarters recalled a coworker who was forced to remove several drawings done by his young child. “Liz would walk up and down the aisles, and if your desk looked off, you’d be written up,” he recalled.
The Uihleins are 77, but apparently their kids are following in the parents’ footsteps politically. And the family has set up a dynasty trust, similar to what billionaires in Arkansas have used to avoid estate taxes and to ensure family wealth will be protected in the family business for perhaps hundreds of years.
We can hope their interest in Arkansas remains only occasional.