Legislative Races Get Record Cash Despite Statewide Contests

Incumbents enjoy $4 to $1 cash advantage; fundraising doubled from 2002

August 3, 2010

Auction 2010Madison – Legislative candidates and their fundraising committees accepted about $3.5 million in campaign contributions in the first half of 2010 – a record in a general election year and more than double what they raised just eight years ago, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

The Democracy Campaign’s review of unaudited campaign finance records filed by the candidates with the state found legislative candidates raised $3.52 million between January and June 2010. That is 3.9 percent higher than the $3.39 million they raised at the same time in 2008; 21.6 percent more than the $2.9 million they raised in 2006 – the last comparable gubernatorial election year; and 114.9 percent more than the $1.64 million they raised in the 2002 gubernatorial election year (see Bar Chart).

Legislative Fundrasing and Campaign Account Balances During the First Six Months in Election Years

Legislative candidates and their four legislative leadership committees had about $5.62 million in their campaign accounts as of June 30. That is 5.3 percent less than the $5.94 million they had at the same point in 2008; 8.4 percent more than the $5.19 million they had mid-year 2006; and 46.3 percent more than the $3.84 million they had in their accounts at the same time in 2002.

The reports showed 92 incumbents running for reelection had four times more money in their campaign accounts than the 122 challengers they face – $3.35 million versus $814,711. Incumbents raised $1.37 million in the first six months of 2010 compared to $856,746 by their challengers.

Seventy-eight candidates running for 23 open seats – races where there is no incumbent – raised $907,550 and had $918,766 in their campaign accounts June 30. An additional 19 candidates running for open seats raised no money during the period and had no money in their campaign accounts.

Assembly Democratic candidates raised more than Assembly Republican candidates in the first six months of 2010 – $1.2 million versus $1.13 million – but GOP candidates had more in their campaign accounts – $1.87 million versus $1.76 million. Democrats control the Assembly 51-46 with two independents.

In the Senate, Republican candidates outraised Democrats $632,969 to $554,992 and had more in their campaign accounts – $1.03 million versus $976,968. Democrats control the Senate 18-15.

Third party and independent Assembly and Senate candidates raised $2,702 and had $2,671 in their campaign accounts.

For a complete list of the candidates, the amount they raised and their campaign cash balances, please follow the links below.

The four legislative campaign committees, which are used by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate to milk special interests for more campaign cash to spend at election time raised $390,045 during the first six months of the year and had $547,684 in their campaign accounts (see Table 1).

Table 1
Legislative Campaign Committees

Committee Amount
Raised
June 30
Cash On Hand
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $122,847 $141,207
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $28,783 $176,635
State Senate Democratic Committee $166,894 $175,659
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $71,521 $54,183
Totals $390,045 $547,684

Legislative campaign committee fundraising is generally on par with what they’ve done most election years, except in 2002. The four committees raised $382,727 in 2008; $357,280 in 2006; $390,404 in 2004 and $169,049 in 2002.

However, the committees’ total cash on hand is substantially larger than comparable periods in previous election years when it ranged from $225,168 in 2004 to $456,409 in 2008.

Like most previous years, the top 10 fundraisers are mostly incumbents, challengers and open seat candidates in targeted races (see Table 2). Topping the list was Republican Representative Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa who is challenging freshman incumbent Democratic Senator Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa for his 5 th District seat. She raised $85,204 and had $120,778 in her campaign account compared to Sullivan who raised $42,759 and had $119,885 in his campaign account.

Behind Vukmir was Republican Ed Thompson of Tomah who is challenging one-term incumbent Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma for her 31 st District seat. Thompson raised $62,765 and had $46,878 in his campaign account. Vinehout raised $27,639 and had $60,719 in her campaign account.

Rounding out the top three fundraisers was Democratic Assembly candidate John Simonson of Mineral Point who raised $59,273 and had $58,436 in his campaign account. Simonson is seeking to replace outgoing Democratic Representative Steve Hilgenberg. Simonson faces Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green who raised $22,984 and had $52,267 in his campaign account.

Table 2
Top Legislative Fundraisers
January – June 2010

Candidate Status* Office Party Total Raised Cash On Hand
Vukmir, Leah C S05 R $85,204.31 $120,778.38
Thompson, Ed C S31 R $62,765.40 $46,878.22
Simonson, John O A51 D $59,272.97 $58,436.29
Cullen, Tim O S15 D $43,927.04 $35,858.87
Mason, Cory I A62 D $43,902.29 $86,612.47
Sullivan, Jim I S05 D $42,759.23 $119,884.63
Zipperer, Rich O S33 R $42,720.22 $43,822.12
Decker, Russ I S29 D $42,672.71 $174,522.62
Kedzie, Neal I S11 R $41,661.28 $118,496.98
Sheridan, Michael J I A44 D $41,270.00 $44,156.67

*‘C’ means challenger; ‘O’ means open seat; ‘I’ means incumbent

Other findings from the Democracy Campaign review include:

  • Seventeen of 93 incumbents, or 18 percent, are unopposed in the primary and general elections, and 25 of the 93, or 27 percent, are unopposed in the general election;
  • The campaign finance report filed by Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls says her campaign committee gave the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $15,000 May 7, but the committee’s report lists no donation from Harsdorf;
  • A campaign finance report for Democratic Representative Terese Berceau of Madison was not available two weeks after it was due at the Government Accountability Board, which enforces election, campaign finance and ethics law;
  • A campaign finance report filed by former Republican Representative Frank Lasee of DePere who is running for the open 1st District Senate seat erroneously identifies $2,335 in political action committee contributions as coming from the Government Accountability Board;
  • A campaign finance report filed by Republican Representative Dan Knodl of Germantown lacked: required addresses for all of his individual donors, who gave him $4,825; required occupation and employer information for $3,125 in contributions of more than $100; and the purpose of $2,889 worth of expenses paid by his campaign committee.

Candidate Fundraising

Total RaisedCash BalanceAlphabetical

July 2008 Fundraising