Wealthy Special Interests Drove 2011 Fundraising

Recall candidates raised four times more than the rest of the legislature

February 21, 2012

Madison – Twenty-two legislators involved in recall and special elections in 2011 raised $8.22 million – more than four times the $1.9 million raised by the rest of the legislature, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Wealthy special interests helped all legislators and their four fundraising committees raise a record $12.22 million in 2011 – a year whose legislative fundraising cannot be fairly compared to previous, comparable odd-numbered years because of the unlimited fundraising allowed by 13 state senators targeted for recall.

Put in perspective, total legislative fundraising ranged from $2.6 million to $3.86 million in previous odd-numbered years from 2001 to 2009 when legislators devote much of their time considering the biennial state budget.

The overall record for legislative fundraising was set in the 2008 election year when incumbents, challengers and candidates for open seats raised about $10.7 million, but legislative fundraising in odd- and even-numbered years generally shouldn’t be compared because of the larger number of candidates for legislative office and substantial emphasis on fundraising in general election years.

In addition to candidates, the legislature’s four legislative leadership committees used to raise special interest campaign cash raised a record $2.1 million in 2011. The 2011 total nearly doubles the previous high $1.07 million the four committees raised in a comparable odd-numbered year in 2009 and also beats the record $1.19 million raised by the four committees in the 2010 election year.

Nineteen legislators and the four legislative leadership committees accepted more than $100,000 in 2011, and three of them raised more than $1 million (Table 1). Republican Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills topped the list at $1.34 million. Darling, who was one of nine senators in a recall election last summer, set a record for the most money raised in a year by a legislative candidate.

Darling, who won her race, and her opponent Democratic Representative Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay, who ranked fourth in fundraising at $807,535, spent a combined $2 million – a record for a legislative race. Factoring in outside group spending, Darling’s 8th District contest cost a record of nearly $10 million.

After Darling was Republican Senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse who raised $1.16 million in 2011. Kapanke, who was one of two incumbents to lose a recall election, and his opponent Democratic Representative Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse spent nearly $1.5 million. The race cost a total of $3.7 million including spending by outside smear groups.

Rounding out the three $1 million-plus fundraisers was the State Senate Democratic Committee, one of the four legislative leadership committees, which raised $1.02 million. The Democratic committee’s counterpart, the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, accepted $634,341 in 2011 and ranked fifth in legislative fundraising.

Only one of the top 20 fundraisers was not a legislative leadership committee or involved in a recall or special election. Republican Representative Robin Vos of Burlington, who ranked 20th, raised $131,085 likely because of his role as a co-chair of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. Darling is the committee’s other co-chair.

In addition to substantial fundraising by incumbents and challengers in the recall elections, many of the Assembly’s 30 freshmen elected in 2010 began recharging their campaign accounts in earnest last year (Table 2). The freshmen – 25 Republicans and five Democrats – raised $541,205 or an average of $18,040 each compared to $643,852 or an average $10,385 raised by each of the 62 Assembly representatives who were not involved in recall or special elections and were elected before 2010.

Leading the list of top first-term fundraisers were Republicans Howard Marklein of Spring Green who accepted $46,575, Warren Petryk of Eleva who received $37,045 and Michelle Litjens of Oshkosh who accepted $36,348. Litjens recently announced she would not seek reelection.

Recall efforts started in late 2011 against Republican Governor Scott Walker substantially elevated his fundraising.

The governor raised $9.63 million in 2011, including $7.1 million in the last half of the year because Walker was allowed to raise unlimited campaign contributions after the recall petition drive against him began in November. Since then, Walker has received individual contributions as high as $250,000 and about half of his contributions have come from wealthy special interests outside Wisconsin.

Normally, individuals may give no more than $10,000 a year to all candidates and no more than $10,000 to a single statewide candidate like Walker in each four-year election cycle. Political action committees are usually limited to giving about $43,000 to a candidate for governor in a four-year election cycle.

But during the past several weeks Walker has traveled around the country for speaking engagements and fundraisers in Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona, Washington D.C and Tennessee because he may continue to raise unlimited individual and political action committee contributions until a recall election is set.

Complete list of legislators and the amounts they raised and spent in 2011.

Table 1
Top* Legislative Fundraisers in 2011

Name Party Office Raised
Darling, Alberta R S08 $1,337,634.64
Kapanke, Dan R S32 $1,159,596.89
State Senate Democratic Committee D S $1,023,288.58
Pasch, Sandy D A22 $807,534.63
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R S $634,341.15
Harsdorf, Sheila R S10 $590,860.58
Holperin, Jim D S12 $557,721.50
Fitzgerald, Scott R S13 $447,623.87
Shilling, Jennifer D S32 $410,389.28
King, Jessica J D S18 $407,775.13
Hansen, Dave D S30 $381,365.57
Clark, Fred D A42 $376,431.60
Hopper, Randy R S18 $361,738.30
Wirch, Robert D S22 $292,538.24
Olsen, Luther R S14 $245,279.51
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D A $229,475.97
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R A $215,377.65
Cowles, Robert R S02 $181,023.36
Doyle, Steve D A94 $137,375.03
Vos, Robin R A63 $131,085.33
Grothman, Glenn R S20 $127,460.65
Fitzgerald, Jeff R A39 $105,775.54
Wanggaard, Van H R S21 $101,056.00

*Table shows candidates and leadership committees that raised more than $100,000

Table 2
2011 Fundraising By Assembly Freshmen

Name Party Office Raised
Marklein, Howard R A51 $46,575.02
Petryk, Warren R A93 $37,045.21
Litjens, Michelle R A56 $36,348.00
Tranel, Travis R A49 $33,915.00
Bernier, Kathy R A68 $31,220.30
Knilans, Joe R A44 $26,271.58
Kapenga, Chris R A33 $24,888.90
Rivard, Roger R A75 $24,454.95
Loudenbeck, Amy R A45 $24,220.91
Endsley, Mike R A26 $24,211.30
Tiffany, Tom R A35 $23,379.90
Krug, Scott S R A72 $22,413.50
Klenke, John R A88 $20,991.00
Weininger, Chad R A04 $17,795.00
Knudson, Dean R A30 $16,399.23
Severson, Erik R A28 $16,291.48
Wynn, Evan R A43 $15,948.30
Thiesfeldt, Jeremy R A52 $14,730.00
August, Tyler R A32 $10,761.74
Kooyenga, Dale P R A14 $10,695.00
Steineke, Jim R A05 $10,575.00
Hulsey, Brett D A77 $10,180.07
Bewley, Janet D A74 $9,912.00
Ringhand, Janis D A80 $6,321.92
Farrow, Paul F R A98 $5,989.00
Zamarippa, JoCasta D A08 $5,297.00
Larson, Tom R A67 $4,933.61
Jacque, Andre M R A02 $3,575.00
Kuglitsch, Mike R A84 $3,365.00
Coggs, Elizabeth M D A10 $2,500.00

2011 fundraising and spending by all legislators
FundraisingDistrictAlphabetical