Incumbent War Chests Bulge to $4.4 Million

Sykora puts in $100,00 of own money

February 10, 1998

Madison - Who says members of the legislature weren’t busy last fall? Incumbent office holders raised almost $2 million in the last six months of 1997. Those dollars pushed war chests to a whopping $4.4 million mark heading into the fall elections.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reviewed reports filed at the state Elections Board last week. The WDC found that a total of $1,890,785 poured into the campaign coffers of Wisconsin’s elected officials. Constitutional officers raised a total of $1,030,019 while members of the legislature raised $860,766.

Wisconsin’s five constitutional officers had war chests totaling $2,532,439 at the end of 1997. The 132 legislative incumbents had $1,873,407 in their campaign accounts. (Table 1)

Representative Thomas Sykora (R-Chippewa Falls) infused more than $100,000 into his campaign committee in late December. "He sent a shot across the bow of any would-be challengers almost a full year before the election," said Gail Shea, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Only two candidates for the State Assembly spent more than $100,000 in the 1996 elections. "Using personal resources to scare off challengers does not serve the voters’ interest in competitive elections and vigorous debates on the important issues in a campaign," said Shea.

Sykora’s cash balance at the end of 1997 was $104,674. Senator Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) upped his cash on hand to more than $125,000. Governor Tommy Thompson claimed a war chest of $1.9 million. (Table 3)

The WDC found that Gov. Thompson raised a total of $851,854 - almost as much as was raised by all 132 legislators combined. Senator Kimberly Plache (D-Racine) led all state senators in fund raising. Thomas Sykora raised more than any other state representative.

"No wonder the public is so cynical," said Shea. "While campaign finance reform gets plenty of lip-service in the Capitol, incumbents are tracking down big money for 1998."

Shea said it is time to put an end to the political arms race in Wisconsin. "We need spending limits and a recharged system of public grants. Campaign finance reform that is based on those two ideas will level the playing field and free incumbents from constantly seeking special interest money. Voters will have more choices at the ballot box. Legislators will go to Madison without dividing their loyalties between cash constituents and voting constituents."

Table 1
Top Fund Raisers
July 1, 1997 - December 31, 1997

Constitutional OfficersState SenatorsState Representatives
Governor Tommy Thompson (R) $851,854 Kimberly Plache (D) Racine $24,839 Thomas Sykora (R) Chippewa Falls $104,955
Lt. Governor
Scott McCallum (R)
$62,427 Rodney Moen (D) Whitehall $21,768 Scott Jensen (R)Waukesha $70,715
Attorney General James Doyle (D) $115,717 Peggy Rosenzweig (R) Wauwatosa $19,625 Mary Lazich (R) New Berlin $50,035
Secy. of State Doug La Follette (D) $23 Chuck Chvala (D) Madison $19,251 Sheldon Wasserman (D) Milwaukee $25,002
State Treasurer Jack Voight (R) $0 Scott Fitzgerald (R) Juneau $13,795 Timothy Hoven (R) Port Washinton $20,622

Table 2
Money Raised by Leadership Committees (LCCs)
July 1, 1997 - December 31, 1997

Legislative Campaign Committee From
Individuals
From
PACs
Other
Income
Total
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $88,298 $46,085 $949 $135,332
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $17,802 $64,810 $1,374 $83,986
State Senate Democratic Committee $25,724 $45,000 $1,632 $72,356
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $31,857 $39,350 $26 $71,233

Table 3
Top War Chests as of December 31, 1997

Constitutional OfficersState SenatorsState Representatives
Governor Tommy Thompson (R) $1,903,672 Michael Ellis
(R) Neenah
$125,342 Thomas Sykora
(R) Chippewa Falls
$104,674
Lt. Governor Scott McCallum (R) $377,182 Brian Burke
(D) Milwaukee
$88,857 Spencer Black
(D) Madison
$90,926
Attorney General James Doyle (D) $241,712 Rodney Moen
(D) Whitehall
$51,399 Mary Lazich
(R) New Berlin
$50,035
Secy. of State Doug La Follette (D) $9,378 Kimberly Plache
(D) Racine
$47,664 Scott Jensen
(R) Waukesha
$43,850
State Treasurer Jack Voight (R) $495 Margaret Farrow
(R) Elm Grove
$45,222 Bonnie Ladwig
(R) Racine
$34,980