Legislators Ramped Up Cash Grab in ’05

Fundraising accelerates despite public’s growing distrust of elected officials

February 21, 2006

Madison - Legislators raised a budget-year record $3.39 million in 2005 and had double the money in their campaign accounts heading into this gubernatorial election year as they did eight years ago, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

These figures and others gleaned from the latest campaign finance reports show state elected officials continue to ignore the growing public disgust over the role big campaign contributions from wealthy special interests play on public policy and spending decisions. For instance:

  • Personal campaign committees raised $1.58 million and the four legislative campaign committees, which are used by legislative leaders to raise large amounts of money for election year spending, raised $424,907 in the last six months of 2005. Compared to comparable periods before a gubernatorial election year, legislative fundraising in the final six months of 2005 was 20 percent higher than the $1.67 million raised at the end of 2001 and 63 percent more than legislators raised in the last half of 1997.
  • Legislators raised a total of $3.39 million in 2005, the highest of any year in which the state budget is considered. Since the state budget is the only bill the legislature must pass it is routinely used to milk special interests for campaign contributions in exchange for policy and spending decisions favorable to those wealthy donors. Compared to comparable periods before a gubernatorial election year, their 2005 annual fundraising was 77 percent higher than the $1.91 million raised in 1997 and 3 percent higher than the $3.27 million raised in 2001.
  • For the year, the leadership-controlled legislative campaign committees raised $970,008 (Table 1), nearly breaking their 2004 fundraising record of $973,767.
  • Legislators had $4.05 million in their campaign accounts at the end of 2005. Compared to comparable periods before a gubernatorial election year, that is 4 percent less than the $4.26 million they had at the end of 2001 and 101 percent more than the $2.04 million they had on hand at the end of 1997.

Top legislative fundraisers (Table 2) in the last half of 2005 were mostly legislative leaders who pick and craft the legislation that passes and freshmen who may face tough reelection bids.

Republican Majority Leader Dale Schultz was the top fundraiser in the Senate, as well as the Legislature as a whole, hauling in $113,158. He was followed by Republican Senators Joseph Leibham and Ron Brown, both of whom were elected in close 2002 races and face reelection. Leibham raised $79,071 and Brown raised $52,547.

In the Assembly, Republican Majority Leader Michael Huebsch accepted $64,319 in the final six months of 2005. He was followed by Republican Scott Newcomer who raised $54,799 and won a special election in January to fill a vacant suburban Milwaukee seat. Democratic Representative John Lehman raised $38,783 in his quest for a southeastern Wisconsin Senate seat being vacated by Republican Cathy Stepp.

Three Democrats and three Republicans from both houses had the highest cash balances, topping $100,000 (Table 3). They include three who consistently are among those with the highest campaign fund balances because they raise money but do not usually have viable challengers, and Schultz.

Topping the list was Republican Senator Mike Ellis with $198,971 followed by Schultz at $175,293 and Democratic Representatives Sheldon Wasserman at $170,873 and Spencer Black at $142,283.

The state’s five constitutional officers (Tables 2 & 3) collectively raised $1.37 million in the final six months of 2005. Most of that was accepted by Democratic Governor Jim Doyle who took in $1.16 million and had a cash balance of $4.21 million. Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager raised $148,163 and had a cash balance of $161,542.

In addition, the early challengers in the 2006 race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general (Table 4) collectively raised $1.86 million in the last six months of 2005. Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green raised $712,562 and had a cash balance of $2.13 million at the end of 2005. Democrat Kathleen Falk led challengers in the attorney general’s race, raising $269,997 and ending the year with $432,308 in her campaign account.

Tables

TABLE 1
Money Raised by Leadership Committees
Jan. 1, 2005 - December 31, 2005

Legislative Campaign Committee 2005 Fundraising Ending Cash
12/31/05
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $296,548 $44,209
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $214,241 $211,334
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $175,119 $75,301
State Senate Democratic Committee $284,100 $109,221

TABLE 2
Total Raised By Constitutional Officers and Top Legislative Fund Raisers
July 1, 2005 – December 31, 2005

Constitutional Officers
Governor James Doyle $1,164,865
Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton $28,540
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager $148,163
Secretary of State Doug La Follette $11
State Treasurer Jack Voight $32,982

State Senators
Dale Schultz R- Richland Center $113,158
Joseph Leibham R-Sheboygan $79,071
Ron Brown R- Eau Claire $52,547
Scott Fitzgerald R- Juneau $47,903
Ted Kanavas R- Brookfield $36,312

State Representatives
Michael Huebsch R- West Salem $64,319
Scott Newcomer R-Hartland $54,799
John Lehman D- Racine $38,783
Robin Vos R- Racine $34,978
Jean Hundertmark* R- Clintonville $31,845

*Candidate for lieutenant governor.

TABLE 3
Top War Chests as of December 31, 2005

Constitutional Officers
Governor James Doyle $4,206,865
Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton $34,137
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager $161,542
Secretary of State Doug La Follette $10,717
State Treasurer Jack Voight $50,013

State Senators
Michael Ellis R- Neenah $198,971
Dale Schultz R- Richland Center $175,293
Russell Decker D-Schofield $113,111
Joseph Leibham R-Sheboygan $98,650
Mary Lazich R- New Berlin $85,767

State Representatives
Sheldon Wasserman D-Milwaukee $170,873
Spencer Black D- Madison $142,283
Robin Kreibich R- Eau Claire $109,100
Mark Gundrum R- New Berlin $82,043
Dean Kaufert R- Neenah $67,835

TABLE 4
Additional Challengers for Constitutional Offices
Fundraising and Cash Balances
July – December 2005

Candidate Office Party Fundraising Cash Balance
Mark Green Governor R $712,562 $2,129,552
Scott Walker Governor R $623,333 $569,381
Kathleen Falk Attorney General D $269,997 $432,308
Paul Bucher Attorney General R $124,960 $129,236
JB Van Hollen Attorney General R $101,348 $44,161
Jean Hundertmark Lieutenant Governor R $31,845 $50,925

All Legislators Listed AlphabeticallyAll Legislators by Cash Raised
All Legislators by Cash on Hand