Outside Money Drowns Outs Voters’ Voices In Legislative Races

Legislators got most big contributions from outside their districts

October 10, 2007

Madison - Wisconsin legislators elected last November collectively accepted 70 percent of their large individual contributions in the 2006 election cycle from special interest contributors who could not vote for them, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Wisconsin voters should be alarmed about the high amount of contributions their legislators accept from outside their districts because it makes those officeholders more beholden to their special interest contributors than to the constituents who elect them.

And when 98 of the 116 Senate and Assembly seats were won by the candidate who spent the most money and most of the winners accepted more than half their contributions from outside their districts, it begs the question: Who’s really electing your legislator?

Among WDC’s key findings were:

  • Seventy percent or $3.25 million in large individual contributions accepted by the 116 legislators elected in November 2006 came from special interests outside their districts compared to 30 percent or $1.41 million that came from people who could vote for them. The figures represent contributions to the 99 winning Assembly candidates during their two-year election cycle in 2005-06 and contributions to the 17 winning Senate candidates during their four-year election cycle from 2003-06;
  • The top 10 out-of-district fundraisers by amount was made up mostly of legislative leaders and winners of targeted races where the parties and special interests accelerated spending to try to pick up a seat held by the other party. Seven legislators – five Republicans and two Democrats – raised more than $100,000 in large individual contributions from outside their districts (Table);
This group was led by Senator Ted Kanavas, a Brookfield Republican who raised nearly $250,000, or 71 percent, of his large individual contributions from 2003 through 2006 from people who could not vote for him. Kanavas was followed by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz who raised nearly $225,000 or 78 percent of his large individual contributions from outside his district from 2003 through 2006. Rounding out the top three was Republican Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch who raised nearly $163,000, or 87 percent, of his large individual contributions from outside special interests in 2005-06.
  • Thirty-four of the 116 legislators who won last November accepted $499,546 in large, out-of-district contributions even though they had no opponent in the primary or general election. Why did they accept large amounts of campaign contributions – let alone from outside special interests – when they didn’t need them? The top recipients were two legislative leaders – Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald accepted $158,648 or 80 percent of his large individual contributions from outside his district and Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser accepted $47,453 or 84 percent of his large contributions from people who could not vote for him. Overall, 21 Democrats with no opponents collected $206,394 and 13 Republicans with no opponents accepted $293,152 in large out-of-district contributions;
  • Thirty-nine legislators – one in three – got 75 percent or more of their large individual contributions from outside of their districts, including three Democratic legislators who accepted 100 percent of their large contributions from outside contributors.Sixty-one legislators – more than half of the 116 legislators elected last November – got 66 percent or more of their large contributions from outside their districts and 91 legislators accepted 50 percent or more of their large individual contributions from special interests who could not vote for them;
Representative Jason Fields, a Milwaukee Democrat, was among the three who got 100 percent of their large individual contributions from outside donors in 2005-06. He accepted the highest amount of contributions among the three – $9,075. Among his biggest outside contributors were hospital and medical interests at $2,250 and supporters of Milwaukee’s parental school choice program which uses public tax dollars to allow low-income children to attend private and religious schools. They gave him $1,475.
  • Overall, out-of-district versus in-district large individual contributions were also split about 70 percent to 30 percent when calculated by house and by party;
Candidates elected in the 99 Assembly races accepted $1.73 million or 70 percent from outside their districts and $730,138 from within their districts. In the 17 Senate races, the candidates who won received $1.51 million or 69 percent of their large individual contributions from outside their districts and $683,907 or 31 percent from people who can vote for them.
By party, the 59 legislative Republicans who won their races got $2.04 million or 70 percent of their large individual contributions from outside their districts and $873,460 from within their districts. The 57 legislative Democrats who won their races accepted $1.21 million or 69 percent from outside their districts and $540,585 or 31 percent of their large individual contributions from their constituents.
  • Out-of-district special interest contributions remained the major source of campaign cash for most legislators compared to fundraising in previous election cycles. In the 2004 legislative elections, the winners got $2.65 million, or 66 percent, of their large individual contributions from outside their districts. In the 2002 elections, winners accepted $2.63 million, or 71 percent, of their large contributions from special interests who could not vote for them;
  • In addition to direct contributions to candidates from outside special interests, voters in several state Assembly and Senate races were besieged with negative, false mailings, broadcast advertising and other electioneering activities by groups that spent nearly $2.9 million in mostly outside, unreported money to steal legislative elections from the voters.
Phony issue ad groups spent an estimated $2.2 million in outside money on legislative races and other organizations spent $663,993 in disclosed independent expenditures. The phony issue ad independent expenditure groups included the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union; Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group; the pro-school choice group All Children Matter; the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a union-backed group that supported Democratic candidates; the League of Conservation Voters; Planned Parenthood; American Federation of Teachers; Wisconsin Right to Life; Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; National Rifle Association; and Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative group that also campaigned in favor of the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, among others.

District Contributions Table

Table
In-District and Out-District Large Individual Contributions to the 2007 Legislature

Listed in descending order by out-district contributions

Name Party Office In-District
Contributions
In-District
Percent
Out-District
Contributions
Out-District
Percent
Kanavas, Theodore R S33 $100,882 29% $249,780 71%
Schultz, Dale R S17 $65,087 22% $224,987 78%
Huebsch, Michael R A94 $24,175 13% $162,997 87%
Fitzgerald, Scott R S13 $39,772 20% $158,648 80%
Sullivan, Jim D S05 $46,508 26% $132,669 74%
Kreitlow, Patrick J D S23 $51,728 31% $115,855 69%
Leibham, Joseph R S09 $118,200 52% $110,373 48%
Vinehout, Kathleen D S31 $38,532 29% $96,508 71%
Lehman, John D S21 $48,411 36% $85,610 64%
Plale, Jeffrey D S07 $15,671 16% $83,698 84%
Davis, Brett H R A80 $24,435 26% $70,072 74%
Fitzgerald, Jeff R A39 $4,295 6% $66,485 94%
Decker, Russ D S29 $22,918 30% $52,704 70%
Vos, Robin R A63 $12,575 19% $52,434 81%
Robson, Judith D S15 $21,778 30% $50,936 70%
Nelson, Thomas D A05 $8,742 15% $50,875 85%
Hintz, Gordon N D A54 $23,412 32% $50,363 68%
Wood, Jeffrey S R A67 $3,125 6% $49,413 94%
Kreuser, James D A64 $8,763 16% $47,453 84%
Moulton, Terry R A68 $12,280 21% $45,168 79%
Mason, Cory D A62 $7,970 12% $56,497 88%
Murtha, John R A29 $23,505 35% $43,509 65%
Van Roy, Karl R A90 $5,362 11% $42,855 89%
Kedzie, Neal R S11 $52,705 56% $41,427 44%
Hahn, Eugene R A47 $5,800 12% $40,780 88%
Gunderson, Scott R A83 $8,027 18% $36,612 82%
Montgomery, Phil R A04 $15,095 30% $36,092 70%
Hraychuck, Ann D A28 $25,005 41% $35,323 59%
Suder, Scott R A69 $12,600 27% $33,663 73%
Vukmir, Leah R A14 $12,625 27% $33,459 73%
Kaufert, Dean R A55 $6,850 17% $33,265 83%
Colon, Pedro D A08 $850 3% $30,619 97%
Gundrum, Mark R A84 $9,875 25% $29,405 75%
Lasee, Alan R S01 $9,265 24% $28,836 76%
Stone, Jeff R A82 $3,956 12% $28,780 88%
Zipperer, Rich R A98 $4,350 13% $28,522 87%
Jauch, Robert D S25 $16,890 40% $25,111 60%
Williams, Mary R A87 $10,650 30% $24,940 70%
Petrowski, Jerry R A86 $13,763 36% $24,757 64%
Carpenter, Tim D S03 $4,395 17% $24,405 83%
Rhoades, Kitty R A30 $13,390 36% $24,040 64%
Nerison, Lee A R A96 $9,516 29% $22,904 71%
Erpenbach, Jon D S27 $19,765 47% $22,689 53%
Wieckert, Steve R A57 $7,515 26% $21,910 74%
Kramer, Bill R A97 $6,725 25% $20,025 75%
Mursau, Jeffrey L R A36 $4,170 17% $19,833 83%
Gottlieb, Mark R A60 $8,650 31% $19,649 69%
Jorgensen, Andy D A37 $3,945 17% $19,280 83%
Vruwink, Amy Sue D A70 $16,100 47% $18,244 53%
Kleefisch, Joel R A38 $17,875 50% $18,125 50%
Hines, JA R A42 $14,113 46% $16,700 54%
Travis, David D A81 $1,450 8% $16,149 92%
Wasserman, Sheldon D A22 $12,220 45% $15,244 55%
Nygren, John R A89 $7,959 34% $15,220 66%
Roth, Roger J Jr R A56 $5,344 26% $15,051 74%
Hilgenberg, Steve D A51 $21,822 61% $13,962 39%
Ott, Jim R A23 $8,335 39% $13,337 61%
Sheridan, Michael D A44 $6,650 36% $12,085 64%
Newcomer, Scott R A33 $10,575 47% $12,028 53%
Honadel, Mark R A21 $6,932 37% $11,780 63%
Meyer, Dan R A34 $14,314 55% $11,693 45%
Sherman, Gary D A74 $17,342 61% $11,236 39%
Friske, Donald R A35 $5,925 35% $11,105 65%
Fields, Jason M D A11 $0 0% $9,075 100%
Albers, Sheryl R A50 $8,240 51% $7,950 49%
Lasee, Frank R A02 $2,275 23% $7,850 77%
Gronemus, Barbara D A91 $4,675 37% $7,850 63%
Strachota, Pat R A58 $18,325 71% $7,635 29%
Smith, Jeffrey E D A93 $17,816 72% $6,860 28%
Zepnick, Josh D A09 $950 12% $6,700 88%
Ellis, Michael R S19 $11,400 63% $6,700 37%
Seidel, Donna J D A85 $9,074 58% $6,646 42%
Richards, Jon D A19 $3,750 36% $6,634 64%
Soletski, Jim D A88 $2,980 31% $6,610 69%
Williams, Annette Polly D A10 $425 6% $6,370 94%
Tauchen, Gary R A06 $7,325 55% $6,025 45%
Cullen, David D A13 $3,325 37% $5,650 63%
Hixson, Kim D A43 $8,817 62% $5,520 38%
Jeskewitz, Suzanne R A24 $3,950 42% $5,501 58%
Garthwaite, Philip D A49 $8,480 61% $5,500 39%
Hubler, Mary D A75 $4,915 49% $5,225 51%
Staskunas, Tony D A15 $310 6% $5,175 94%
Molepske, Louis John Jr D A71 $4,325 46% $5,163 54%
Lothian, Thomas A R A32 $16,150 76% $5,160 24%
Petersen, Kevin David R A40 $19,779 80% $5,075 20%
Bies, Garey D R A01 $8,291 62% $5,070 38%
Grigsby, Tamara D D A18 $100 2% $4,500 98%
Musser, Terry R A92 $6,439 59% $4,450 41%
Shilling, Jennifer D A95 $2,195 33% $4,425 67%
Hebl, Gary D A46 $8,631 67% $4,290 33%
Parisi, Joseph T D A48 $1,300 24% $4,025 76%
Ott, Alvin R A03 $2,731 41% $4,000 59%
Kerkman, Samantha R A66 $5,432 58% $3,970 42%
Kessler, Frederick D A12 $200 5% $3,950 95%
Pope-Roberts, Sondy D A79 $3,700 49% $3,800 51%
Nass, Stephen L R A31 $1,750 32% $3,700 68%
Boyle, Frank D A73 $1,700 32% $3,550 68%
Townsend, John R A52 $2,250 41% $3,300 59%
Turner, Robert D A61 $2,200 41% $3,160 59%
Toles, Barbara L D A17 $400 11% $3,120 89%
Pridemore, Don R A99 $6,801 69% $3,100 31%
Schneider, Marlin D A72 $450 13% $2,950 87%
Kestell, Steve R A27 $4,555 62% $2,755 38%
Ballweg, Joan R A41 $1,425 34% $2,725 66%
LeMahieu, Daniel R A59 $4,250 64% $2,445 36%
Berceau, Terese D A76 $750 25% $2,230 75%
Owens, Carol R A53 $1,500 42% $2,050 58%
Pocan, Mark D A78 $0 0% $1,850 100%
Benedict, Chuck D A45 $1,250 43% $1,675 57%
Van Akkeren, Terry D A26 $2,600 61% $1,650 39%
Sinicki, Christine D A20 $500 25% $1,500 75%
Ziegelbauer, Bob D A25 $3,200 73% $1,200 27%
Steinbrink, John D A65 $500 44% 650 56%
Young, Leon D A16 $0 0% $500 100%
Black, Spencer D A77 $200 100% $0 0%
Krusick, Peggy D A07 $0 0% $0 0%
TOTALS $1,414,045 30% $3,245,638 70%