Legislative Candidate Spending Soars Over ’98

Independent Spending Tops $2 Million, Nearly Double ’98

November 2, 2000

Madison - Legislative candidates spent a record $3 million in a two-month period that ended late last month, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis released today.

The two highest spending candidates were in northwestern Wisconsin’s hotly contested 10th Senate District where Republican challenger Sheila Harsdorf shelled out nearly $250,000 in her bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Alice Clausing, who spent more than $173,000 (Table 1).

The most recent reports filed by legislative candidates for the pre-election period, which covers Aug. 29 through Oct. 23, also shows that fund raising by the legislative candidates - totaling $2.9 million - was substantially ahead of the $2.4 million raised during the same period in 1998 (Table 2).Their cash balance going into the final two weeks of the Nov. 7 election was nearly $3.6 million (Table 3).

In addition to candidate spending and fund raising, the WDC analysis showed that reported independent spending by special interests groups totaled just over $2 million as of today, nearly double the $1.1 million in reported independent spending for the entire 1998 election year. This figure does not include the spending for "issue ads" which is expected to equal the independent spending.

"We know where phony issue ad campaigns are being run and we know there has been a dramatic escalation of this activity over past elections, but there is no way to put a precise price tag on it because these groups don’t have to report their spending," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "There is a gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance law that needs to be closed."

The latest spending and fund raising figures are not final totals because reports for 20 mostly minor candidates had not been received by the Elections Board as of this morning. One report yet to be filed that could reveal sizable spending and fund raising activity is one for Democratic challenger Bob Dueholm in the 28th Assembly District.

Even without all of the candidate reports in, the latest figures show legislative candidate spending is 36% ahead of the $2.2 million spent during the 1998 pre-election period and 25% ahead of the $2.4 million spent in the 1996 pre-election period.

Total election year spending through the pre-election reporting period was also up over figures for the same period in the 1998 and 1996 election years. This year, the candidates spent $4.6 million through Oct. 23, which is 31% higher than the $3.5 million spent for the same time in 1998 and 23 percent higher than the $3.7 million spent during the same period in 1996.

In earlier reports during the 2000 election cycle, fund raising had been running 60% ahead of past elections. McCabe said final spending and fund raising figures will likely mirror that rate of increase when all the candidates’ reports have been filed.

Three Senate candidates - a Republican challenger and two Democratic incumbents - have broken the previous pre-election period spending record - $147,353 set by 27th Senate District Republican challenger Nancy Mistele in 1998.

Tenth Senate District Republican challenger Sheila Harsdorf spent $249,427. She was followed by her opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Alice Clausing, who spent $173,691 and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles Chvala, who spent $151,218.

Clausing and Harsdorf are in a targeted race as are two other candidates who spent more than $100,000 during the pre-election period - Republican Dan Kapanke, an open-seat candidate in the 32nd Senate District, who spent $140,356 and incumbent Republican Sen. Gary Drzewiecki in the 30th District who spent $111,743. Chvala’s opponent, Republican challenger Lisa Nelson, also broke the $100,000 mark by spending $129,656.

Earlier this week, the WDC disclosed that combined candidate and independent spending by the Wisconsin Education Association Council and other special interests in the Clausing-Harsdorf race has already broken the previous record for the state’s most expensive legislative race. The tally stands at more than $1.6 million and will probably top $2 million by the Nov. 7 election. These spending figures do not include the amount spent - likely hundreds of thousands of dollars - by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce on so-called issue ads which do not have to be reported to the state.

However, the latest fund raising and spending figures now show that the old $1.1 million spending record set in the 27th Senate District race in 1998 will probably be broken by two other targeted Senate races.

Combined candidate and independent spending in the open seat race in 32nd Senate District totals $961,275. Democratic Rep. Mark Meyer spent $92,663 in the pre-election period and a total of $133,788 for the year, through Oct. 23. Kapanke spent $140,356 during the pre-election period and $154,840 for the year. The most recent figures available on special interests engaged in independent spending and issue ads show they have spent $672,647.

In the 30th Senate District, candidate and independent spending totaled $506,992, but was expected to increase in the tight race. Drzewiecki has spent $178,371 for the year, through Oct. 23, and Democratic challenger Dave Hansen has spent $90,590, including $81,696 in the latest pre-election period. Independent spending and issue ad expenditures by outside groups totaled $238,031.

In the Assembly, the two most costly races exceeded $100,000 in combined spending by the two candidates.

In the 70th Assembly District combined candidate spending was $126,458 through Oct. 23. Republican MaryAnn Lippert spent $68,429 during the pre-election period and $83,560 for the year. Democrat Amy Sue Vruwink spent $36,927 in the pre-election period and a total of $42,898 for the year, through Oct. 23.

In the 86th Assembly District, the candidates spent a combined $114,280 through Oct. 23. Republican Jerry Petrowski spent $64,913 in the pre-election period and $76,424 for the year. Democrat Sandi Cihlar spent $34,063 in the pre-election period and $37,856 for the year.

For a complete list of the candidates and their expenditures see the links below.

Top Pre-Election SpendersTop Pre-Election Fundraisers
Top Pre-Election Cash Balances
Senate CandidatesAssembly Candidates

Table 1
Top Pre-Election Spenders

Candidate Party Status Status Spending
Harsdorf, Sheila R C S10 $249,427.14
Clausing, Alice D I S10 $173,690.89
Chvala, Chuck D I S16 $151,218.40
Kapanke, Dan R O S32 $140,356.43
Nelson, Lisa B. R C S16 $129,656.13
Drzewiecki, Gary R I S30 $111,743.10
Meyer, Mark D O S32 $92,663.40
Hansen, Dave D C S30 $81,696.28
Darling, Alberta R I S08 $74,400.15
Lippert, MaryAnn R O A70 $68,428.71

Table 2
Top Pre-Election Fundraisers

Candidate Party Status Office Amount Raised
Harsdorf, Sheila R C S10 $208,675.65
Kapanke, Dan R O S32 $166,301.47
Nelson, Lisa B. R C S16 $106,455.76
Meyer, Mark D O S32 $100,162.62
Chvala, Chuck D I S16 $93,452.52
Clausing, Alice D I S10 $81,233.49
Jensen, Scott R. R I A32 $77,047.86
Panzer, Mary R I S20 $55,301.15
Krawczyk, Judy R O A88 $51,013.54
Hansen, Dave D C S30 $50,591.56

Table 3
Top Pre-Election Cash Balances

Candidate Party Status Office Cash Balance
Jensen, Scott R. R I A32 $311,642.73
Black, Spencer D I A77 $120,667.99
Wasserman, Sheldon D I A22 $98,350.73
Shibilski, Kevin D I S24 $91,813.46
Darling, Alberta R I S08 $90,557.78
Clausing, Alice D I S10 $85,315.30
Meyer, Mark D O S32 $85,294.50
Krug, Shirley D I A12 $81,414.13
Lazich, Mary R I S28 $75,455.20
Welch, Robert R I S14 $68,944.88

Senate CandidatesAssembly Candidates