Liz and Dick Uihlein are influential Republican donors. They rank fourth on the list of people who've donated the most to political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle. They've spent slightly more than $65.5 million on Republican candidates and causes in 2020. Yet, they aren't as well-known as Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg or the Koch brothers. Who are they and how'd they get rich enough to spend nearly $60 million on politics? Also, what are their politics??
Dick Uihlein's father Edgar was one of the founders of the General Binding Corporation. Dick worked for his father until 1980. Dick's great-grandfather August Uihlein was the founder of Schlitz beer.
Using a loan from his father, Dick and his wife Liz founded their own company in 1980. In a nod to their last name, they named the company "Uline". Perhaps you've heard of it? The shipping and business supply company is one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. today.
Liz serves as the company's president. All four of their children are executives at the company.
Based in Wisconsin, Uline has about 7,000 employees. In 2010, they built a 279,000 square foot campus in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. In 2017, they added another 300,000 square foot office on the same site. State and local tax incentives helped them make the move from Illinois to Wisconsin.
The Uihleins prefer candidates outside of the party establishment. They are hard-right conservatives advancing their message from coast to coast. Dick Uihlein tends to back candidates who are pro-access to assault weapons and he is very much against rights for gay and transgender people. He backed Roy Moore's race in Alabama even after allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls surfaced. They back candidates who often distort the truth including a candidate for governor of Illinois who ran a television commercial with a deep-voiced transgender caricature. The Uihleins had been backing the incumbent Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. Then Rauner announced his intention to back a bill that would allow people to change the gender on their birth certificate. This didn't sit well with the Uihleins so they threw their money and considerable influence behind Rauner's opponent.
Dick Uihlein has focused much of his energy opposing gay and transgender rights. He bankrolled a school board candidate in one Illinois school district who was fighting allowing transgender students in girls' locker rooms. J.B. Pritzker, the current governor of Illinois, has a transgender aunt and has been a vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights. The Uihleins also support defunding Planned Parenthood.
People who get in the way of the Uihleins are "CAVERS," which stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. They reinforce their message by supporting broadsheets and websites that appear to be legitimate news outlets but are really political messaging designed to make one-sided attacks against their opponents.
Liz and Dick Uihlein were recruited by then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to close ranks behind Trump. Liz Uihlein is a major fund-raiser for Trump and has been since 2016. They donated $22 million in the 2016 election. They contributed to the pro-Trump Great America PAC and gave $500,000 towards Trump's inauguration.
During the 2018 election cycle, the couple increased their political donations to $37.7 million. As we stated earlier, during the 2020 election cycle to date, the Uihleins have contributed $59.1 million to Republican candidates. That makes them the fourth-largest political donors in the US behind tech billionaire Thomas Steyer ($68 million), Michael Bloomberg ($107 million) and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson ($183 million).