Candidate Fundraising Reports Reveal Paper-Thin Public Support

Despite Claims of ‘Grassroots’ Backing, Most Money Comes From a Few Big Checkbooks

March 5, 2002

Madison - Candidates for statewide office who boast they have broad statewide support because small campaign donors make the greatest number of contributions to their campaigns are misleading voters about the true origin of most of their support, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

In truth, these candidates are trying to disguise the real foundation on which their campaign war chests are built - wealthy special interests who contribute $9 of every $10 the candidates accept (Table 1).

In addition, a generous estimate of their total number of contributors in 2001 indicates the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general receive support from only a fraction of a percent of the state’s voting age population (Table 2).

Governor Scott McCallum’s campaign accepted $2.58 million from 20,000 contributors by their account last year. His fundraising operation proclaimed "79% of our donations were less than $100. Team McCallum is the only true grassroots campaign."

But a more telling indicator about who McCallum may be more beholden to down the road shows he received 88 percent, or $2.26 million, from contributions of $100 or more. Only $319,864 - 12 percent - came from contributions of under $100. The governor’s 20,000 contributors represent only one-half of 1 percent of the state’s voting age population.

The four Democratic candidates for governor raised between 90 percent and 95 percent of their contributions in 2001 from contributions of $100 or more.

The leading fundraiser, James Doyle, received $952,889, or 91 percent of his $1.04 million, from large individual donors. His campaign said "This record of fundraising is a concrete expression of the strong support Jim enjoys all over the state and the strength of his campaign." But even if it is assumed that each of Doyle’s 11,000 contributions in 2001 came from different people, at best his campaign is getting support from only three-tenths of a percent of the state’s voting age population.

Attorney general candidate Brian Burke claims 5,500 donors, which he says "shows broad-based grassroots support of my candidacy." But his donors represent only one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s voting age population, and 67 percent - or $2 of every $3 - of the $259,694 that Burke accepted came in individual contributions of $100 or more.

"None of these candidates is running a campaign that even remotely resembles a grassroots effort," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "All their campaign reports show is how much wealthy special interests like them."

Table 1Table 2

TABLE 1
BREAKDOWN OF LARGE AND SMALL INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS IN 2001
TO CANDIDATES FOR STATE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES

GOVERNOR
CANDIDATE TOTAL 2001
INDIVIDUAL FUNDRAISING*
$100 OR MORE AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
<$100 AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
McCallum $2,578,236 $2,258,372 88% $319,864 12%
Doyle $1,042,112 $952,889 91% $89,223 9%
Barrett $561,517 $512,754 91% $48,763 9%
Falk $338,399 $319,826 95% $18,573 5%
George $129,005 $116,324 90% $12,681 10%
Thompson $84,609 $60,637 72% $23,972 28%
TOTALS $4,733,878 $4,222,903 89% $515,177 11%
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
CANDIDATE TOTAL 2001
INDIVIDUAL FUNDRAISING*
$100 OR MORE AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
<$100 AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
Farrow $29,464  $25,293 86% $4,171 14%
Shibilski $238,747  $217,153 91% $21,594 9%
TOTALS $268,211 $242,446 90% $25,765 10%
ATTORNEY GENERAL
CANDIDATE TOTAL 2001
INDIVIDUAL FUNDRAISING*
$100 OR MORE AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
<$100 AND %
OF 2001 FUNDRAISING
Burke $259,694  $174,890 67% $84,804 33%
Lautenschlager $68,251 $57,437 84% $10,814 16%
Biskupic $48,461 $40,329 83% $8,132 17%
TOTALS $376,406 $272,656 72% $103,750 28%

*Excludes self contributions.

TABLE 2
ESTIMATED PERCENTAGE OF VOTING-AGE POPULATION WHO
CONTRIBUTED TO 2001 CANDIDATES FOR CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES

CANDIDATE PARTY CONTRIBUTORS AS PERCENTAGE
OF VOTING AGE POPULATION
McCallum R 1/2 of 1%
Doyle D 3/10 of 1%
Barrett D 8/100 of 1%
George D 2/100 of 1%
Falk D 3/100 of 1%
Thompson L 3/100 of 1%
Farrow R 6/1000 of 1%
Shibilski D 3/100 of 1%
Burke D 1/10 of 1%
Lautenschlager D 1/100 of 1%
Biskupic R 4/1000 of 1%