Legislative Fundraising In First Half Of 2011 Smashes Records

Off-year fundraising even trounces six-month election year record

October 4, 2011

Madison – Legislators raised a record-shattering $6.8 million during the first half of 2011 driven by 12 officeholders involved in the summer recall elections who accounted for nearly two-thirds of total fundraising, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

The $6.8 million was sharply more than legislators have ever raised in the first six months of a comparable, odd-numbered year as well as the first six months of an election year (see Bar Chart).

The latest fundraising total, which includes campaign contributions to legislators and four mega-fundraising committees controlled by Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate and Assembly, was 325 percent higher than the previous record for fundraising in the first six months of a comparable, odd-numbered year – $1.6 million in 2001. It was also more than seven times higher than the $922,291 raised during the last comparable six-month period between January and June 2009.

Legislative Fundraising in the First Six Months

Legislative fundraising in the first half of 2011 was also substantially higher than in the first six months of previous even-numbered election years when fundraising amps up for the November general elections. The latest 2011 six-month fundraising total was 93 percent higher than the record $3.52 million raised by legislative candidates in the first six months of 2010. That’s remarkable since fundraising in an even-numbered, general election year includes incumbents and challengers, often totaling well over 200 candidates while fundraising in odd-numbered years covers only the 99-member Assembly and 33-member Senate.

Fundraising by the four legislative campaign committees used by Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses to draw special interest contributions to spend on elections totaled a record $1.4 million for the first six months of 2011 (Table 1). That is 153 percent higher than the old, comparable record – $554,801 for the first six months of 2009. It is also 19 percent higher than the annual fundraising record set by the four committees – $1,185,085 in the 2010 election year.

Fundraising by the four legislative campaign committees was led by the State Senate Democratic Committee which took in $888,116 followed by the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate at $270,927. Both committees used the summer recall elections as a fundraising tool to pad their coffers and raise and spend money to help the nine senators targeted for recalls and their challengers.

Table 1
Legislative Campaign Committee Fundraising And Spending
In the First Six Months of 2011

Committee Fundraising Spending
State Senate Democratic Committee $888,116 $559,285
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $270,927 $254,816
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $117,924 $38,701
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $129,451 $20,247
Totals $1,406,418 $873,049

The State Senate Democratic Committee’s fundraising more than quadrupled the previous record fundraising by the committee in the first six months of an odd-numbered year – $210,621 in 2009. The committee’s fundraising during the four previous comparable periods – January to June 2009, 2007, 2005 and 2003 ranged from $73,616 to $210,621 and averaged $142,469.

The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate’s fundraising nearly tripled the previous record fundraising by the committee in the first six months of an odd-numbered year – $100,839 in 2005. The committee’s fundraising during the four previous comparable periods – January to June 2009, 2007, 2005 and 2003 ranged from $39,796 to $100,839 and averaged $80,805.

The top 18 fundraisers between January and June 2011 who raised more than $50,000 is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and includes 12 legislators involved in the recalls, two Republican legislative leaders and an Assembly Democratic representative who won one of three spring special elections to fill vacant seats (Table 2).

Topping the list was Republican Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills who raised $958,418 and spent $561,252 during the first six months of 2011. Darling was one of nine senators – six Republicans and three Democrats – who faced recall elections in July and August because of their actions earlier this year to support or oppose a plan by GOP Governor Scott Walker that sharply reduced public employee collective bargaining rights. A report issued last month by the Democracy Campaign showed outside groups, the candidates and other political committees spent a record $44 million on the recall elections.

Subsequent campaign finance reports by Darling showed she ended up raising nearly $1.32 million and spending a record $1.23 million through August to win her recall.

Behind Darling was former Republican Senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse who raised $725,913 and spent $611,233 in the first half of 2011. Subsequent campaign reports through August show Kapanke, who lost his recall election, ended up raising and spending more than $1 million on his recall.

Rounding out the top three candidate fundraisers during the first six months was Darling’s recall opponent Democratic Representative Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay who accepted $431,302 and spent $214,863 during the first six months. She would go on to raise $806,735 and spend $800,744 through August.

The 12 legislators involved in the recalls raised a combined $4.21 million in the first six months of 2011 which was 62 percent of the $6.8 million in total legislative fundraising.

For a complete list of legislators’ fundraising during the first six months of 2011, please check out the web version of this report at www.wisdc.org.

Wisconsin’s top statewide officeholder Republican Governor Scott Walker raised $2.51 million and spent $1.01 million during his first six months in office when Democrats and their backers announced they want to recall Walker. The Walker campaign’s cash balance was nearly $1.88 million as of June 30. The earliest Walker can be recalled is January 2012 after he has been in office at least a year.

By comparison, Walker’s fundraising and spending in the most recent six months was substantially higher than that of his predecessor former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle in the two six-month periods after Doyle’s 2002 election and 2006 reelection. Doyle raised $527,684 and spent $339,325 between January and June 2007 and he raised $562,954 and spent $346,758 between January and June 2003.

Table 2
Top* Legislative Fundraisers
January – June 2011

Legislator Party Office Total Raised Total Spent
Darling, Alberta** R S08 $958,418.33 $561,251.95
Kapanke, Dan** R S32 $725,913.48 $611,232.65
Pasch, Sandy** D A22 $431,301.81 $214,863.10
Holperin, Jim** D S12 $336,602.88 $183,138.39
Harsdorf, Sheila** R S10 $327,732.54 $196,314.86
Hansen, Dave** D S30 $316,850.11 $172,654.66
Shilling, Jennifer** D A95 $271,384.52 $169,739.09
Hopper, Randy** R S18 $226,707.94 $147,746.31
Clark, Fred** D A42 $226,501.27 $75,946.94
Fitzgerald, Scott (Senate majority leader) R S13 $185,349.83 $52,546.33
Wirch, Robert** D S22 $181,770.63 $94,425.42
Doyle, Steve*** D A94 $123,654.95 $117,042.17
Grothman, Glenn R S20 $109,170.50 $32,552.59
Olsen, Luther** R S14 $107,111.27 $36,883.92
Cowles, Robert** R S02 $97,116.67 $58,624.79
Larson, Chris D S07 $74,958.53 $11,691.61
Fitzgerald, Jeff (Assembly Speaker) R A39 $56,590.72 $22,865.56
Lassa, Julie D S24 $56,044.78 $7,439.42

*Table shows legislators as of June 30 who raised more than $50,000.
**Recall election candidate
***Spring special election candidate

First six months fundraising and spending by all legislators
FundraisingDistrictAlphabetical