Legislative Fundraising Plummets In First Half Of 2009

Assembly ban sets pace for lowest six-month legislative fundraising since 1999

August 4, 2009

Madison - For the first time in 10 years legislators raised less than $1 million in a six-month period between January and June 2009 due to the Assembly’s decision to ban fundraising during consideration of the 2009-11 state budget, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

Even though the ban covered only the Assembly, it appears it set a tone that also substantially reduced fundraising in the Senate.

Personal campaign committees raised $367,490 and the four legislative leadership committees raised $554,801 for a total of $922,291 in legislative fundraising between January and June 2009, according to campaign finance reports filed by legislators with the Government Accountability Board. This fundraising total is 40 percent lower than the $1.52 million legislators raised during the last comparable fundraising period between January and June 2007; 32 percent lower than the $1.36 million legislators raised in the first six months of 2005; 28 percent less than the $1.28 million they raised in the first half of 2003; and 42 percent lower than the $1.6 million legislators collected from January to June 2001 (see Bar Chart).

Legislative Fundraising During the First Six Months of Budget Years

Legislators and the four leadership committees have not collectively raised less than $1 million in a six-month period since the $875,715 they raised from January to June 1999.

The Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats 52-46-1, passed a rule earlier this year that prohibited its 99 members from raising money from the time the governor introduced the state budget, which was February 17, until it was approved and sent back to him for signing, which was June 29.

The Senate, which is controlled 18-15 by Democrats, and Democratic Governor Jim Doyle did not stop fundraising during state budget deliberations. In addition, the legislature has taken no action on any of three legislative proposals that would make it illegal under state law for the legislature and the governor to accept campaign contributions from powerful special interests during consideration of the state budget.

Assembly lawmakers raised $89,424 and their two legislative leadership committees – the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee – accepted an additional $247,683 for a total of $337,107. The figure does not count $50,153 in fundraising by two Democrats – Robert Turner of Racine and Terry Van Akkeren of Sheboygan – because their contributions were raised and spent for spring mayoral races and not legislative elections. The figure also does not include contributions to two legislators – Democrat Chris Danou and Republican Joan Ballweg – whose latest campaign finance reports were not available as of 8 a.m. Tuesday from the board. Campaign finance reports were due July 20.

The Senate’s 33 members raised $278,066 and their two legislative leadership committees – the State Senate Democratic Committee and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate – accepted $307,118 for a total of $585,184.

Even though the Assembly’s two leadership committees were exempt from the ban because it only applied to personal campaign committees, special interests did not react by contributing more to the two Assembly leadership committees. Fundraising in the first six months of 2009 by the two leadership committees was lower, on average, than fundraising in the first six months of previous, comparable, odd-numbered budget years.

The Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee raised $139,458 in the first six months of 2009. During the three previous, comparable periods the committee accepted $132,004 between January and June 2007, $177,481 in the first six months of 2005 and $118,835 between January and June 2003 for an average take of $142,773.

The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee raised $108,225 in the first six months of 2009. During the three previous, comparable periods the committee accepted $137,525 between January and June 2007, $157,020 in the first six months of 2005 and $113,685 between January and June 2003 for an average take of $136,077.

The Senate’s $585,184 in personal campaign and legislative leadership committee fundraising was also the lowest since the $417,497 raised by state senators in the first half of 1999. It was 30 percent lower than the $834,240 raised in the first half of 2007, 9 percent below the $646,135 raised between January and June 2005, 10 percent under the $650,577 accepted in the first half of 2003 and 41 percent below the $984,556 raised in the first half of 2001.

The $278,066 raised by Senate personal campaign committees was 55 percent less than the $618,568 state senators raised in the last comparable period – the first half of 2007 – and the lowest since at least the first six months of 1997.

However, the two Senate leadership committees raised record and near-record amounts for the first six months of a budget year or an election year. The State Senate Democratic Committee raised a record $210,621 between January and June 2009, which is 20 percent higher than the previous record $175,876 it raised during the first half of 2007. The committee’s fundraising in the three previous, comparable periods – January to June in 2007, 2005 and 2003 – averaged $119,751.

The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate accepted $96,497 between January and June 2009, which is 142 percent higher than the $39,796 raised from January to June 2007. It just missed the record $100,839 the committee raised in the first half of 2005. The committee’s fundraising in the three previous, comparable periods – January to June 2007, 2005 and 2003 – averaged $75,574.

Despite the substantial drop in legislative fundraising, the figures showed special interest money still flowed to power. Among the four caucuses, the Democrats who control both houses and decide the policies and spending that were in the proposed 2009-11 state budget raised more than their Republican counterparts.

The 18 Senate Democrats raised $400,225 compared to $184,959 by the 15 Senate Republicans. The Assembly’s 52 Democrats raised $185,217 compared to $151,800 by the Assembly’s 46 Republicans. Independent Jeff Wood received a $90 expense refund during the six-month period.

By party, the legislature’s 70 Democrats raised $585,442, compared to $336,759 by its 61 Republicans.

Only one legislator raised more than $50,000 and only 10 raised more than $10,000 during the six-month period. The top 10 fundraisers included five Democrats and five Republicans – nine from the Senate, including three freshman Democrats expected to have tough reelection battles, and one from the Assembly.

The legislature’s top fundraiser was Democratic Senator Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa who accepted $62,525. Sullivan beat an incumbent Republican in 2006 for the 5 th District seat long held by Republicans. He already faces a challenge next year from 14 th District Assembly Republican Leah Vukmir.

Following Sullivan was Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma who raised $46,374. The freshman Democrat is expected to face a tough 2010 reelection campaign after beating a Republican incumbent in 2006 for the 31 st District seat.

Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center was third, raising $16,266. The veteran, moderate Republican represents a swing district that has seen solid Democratic gains for other offices in recent years.

Rounding out the top five was Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau who raised $14,940 and freshman Democratic Senator Pat Kreitlow of Chippewa Falls who raised $12,977 and is a likely Republican target for reelection in 2010 after beating a longtime Republican incumbent for the 23 rd District seat in 2006.

The number of legislators reporting no campaign contributions during the six-month period roughly doubled from previous comparable periods. Forty-four legislators – or one third of the legislature – reported receiving no contributions between January and June 2009, compared to 25 in the first half of 2007; 22 in the first half of 2005; and 25 in the first half of 2003.

Wisconsin’s top statewide officeholders raised nearly $1.1 million in the first half of 2009 led by Doyle who took in $903,586. That is more than $500,000 less than the $1.44 million Doyle raised in the first half of 2005 – the comparable six-month period in his first four-year term. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who faces reelection in 2010, raised $160,177 and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton raised $30,928.

Campaign finance reports for two Republican candidates for governor in 2010 showed Scott Walker raised $1.14 million and Mark Todd of Appleton raised $6,250 in the first half of 2009.

All legislators and fundraising totals

By Total RaisedBy DistrictAlphabetical