Candidate, Special Interest Spending Soars in 2000
Independent Spending Balloons 134% to $2.5 Million
February 8, 2001
Madison - Legislative candidates spent $7.1 million and special interests blew a reported $2.5 million to set new spending records in election year 2000 and send the cost of one senate race soaring to at least $1.7 million, not counting hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional unreported spending on phony issue ads, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis released today.
Overall legislative spending by candidates was 26 percent higher than election year 1998 when candidates spent about $5.6 million.
Reported spending by special interests through independent expenditures on behalf of candidates skyrocketed to $2.53 million, led by the Wisconsin Education Association Council which showered $1.1 million on two races to help Democrats retain control of the Senate. Total independent spending in the 2000 general election was 134 percent higher than the $1.1 million reported in the 1998 general election and 229 percent higher than the $771,043 reported in the 1996 general election.
In addition to independent expenditures, special interests led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce also spent undisclosed amounts on issue advertising aimed at influencing voters. It’s unknown how much money was spent on issue ads because these groups refuse to disclose it. However it’s likely WMC and the others spent as much as those who made independent expenditures.
"Based on what we know about the nature and extent of the phony issue ad campaigns, it’s safe to say that the special interest spending that was done under the radar was roughly equal to the independent expenditures that were reported," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "Wisconsin’s system of disclosure has broken down. Because of a gaping loophole in our campaign finance laws, huge sums of undisclosed money are being spent and we have no way of knowing who’s writing the checks or whether illegal money is being used to bankroll these campaigns."
Senate candidates spent $3 million in 2000, compared to $2.2 million in 1998, a 38 percent increase. The 10th and the 32nd districts broke the record for the most spent by candidates and special interests (excluding issue advertising) in a Senate race - $1 million in 1998. One Senate candidate also broke the record for single candidate spending, which was $306,375 in 1998. Six senate candidates spent more than $200,000 on their campaigns, compared to only one in 1998.
The race in the 10th Senate District was the most costly in state history - $1.7 million excluding issue ad expenditures - due in part because special interests spent sharply more than the two candidates in the race. Special interests led by the Wisconsin Education Association Council made $940,428 in independent expenditures that supported Democratic incumbent Alice Clausing, who spent $303,051. Republican challenger Sheila Harsdorf, who defeated Clausing, set the new senate candidate spending record - $409,279 - and benefited from undisclosed amounts of issue advertising.
In the 32nd Senate District, the candidates and special interests spent $1.14 million - excluding issue ad costs - to determine who would be the winner for the open seat. Again, special interests led by Independent Citizens for Democracy, a Democratic super PAC funded primarily by unions, made independent expenditures - $642,875 - that exceeded what both candidates spent. Republican Dan Kapanke, who lost, spent $253,880 and Democrat Mark Meyer spent $242,129.
Assembly candidates spent $4.1 million compared to $3.5 million in 1998, an 18 percent increase. Spending in one race broke the previous record of $184,565 set in 1996. However, most of the money spent in the 32nd Assembly District race - $221,683 - was spent by Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and it was not aimed at defeating his opponent. Most of Jensen’s expenditures went for fundraising and promoting himself around the state as a possible GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2002. Twenty-five Assembly candidates spent more than $50,000 on their races in 2000, compared to 12 candidates in 1998.
Unlike the previous two elections, special interests in 2000 exerted more influence on the outcome of Assembly races as seen through a sharp surge in independent expenditures, from $169,235 in 1998 to $647,233 in 2000, a 282 percent increase.
"Even though candidates are spending obscene amounts in their own right, they are now often being considerably outspent by the special interest groups running their own campaigns. In a growing number of races, candidates have become bystanders. They've been turned into pawns," McCabe said. "What we have now are campaigns without rules, a lawless environment. Without reforms that restore sanity to our campaign finance system, there will be no end to the political arms race."
Six campaign finance reports, which were supposed to be post marked no later than Jan. 31, were not on file at the State Elections Board as of 11 a.m. Feb. 8. These candidate reports were for 24th Assembly Republican Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz and 81st Assembly GOP challenger Tim Russell; Democratic challengers Glenn Kopitske of the 56th Assembly District, Denise Barker of the 38th Assembly District and Sara Lee Johann of the 8th Senate District; and Green Party challenger Robert Mead of the 51st Assembly District.
|Senate Candidates||Assembly Candidates|
|Sheila Harsdorf (R) - River Hills||$409,279||Scott Jensen (R) - Waukesha||$211,071|
|Alice Clausing (D) -Menomonie||$303,051||MaryAnn Lippert (R) - Marshfield||$120,768|
|Dan Kapanke (R) -La Crosse||$253,880||Jerry Petrowski (R) - Marathon||$104,373|
|Chuck Chvala (D) - Madison||$251,417||Rick Skindrud (R) - Mount Horeb||$86,401|
|Mark Meyer (D) - La Crosse||$242,129||Judy Krawczyk (R) - Green Bay||$85,404|
|Constitutional Officers||State Senators||State Representatives|
Scott McCallum (R)
(D) - Milwaukee
(R) - Waukesha
James Doyle (D)
(R) - Neenah
(D) - Madison
Secretary of State
Doug La Follette (D)
(D) - Stevens Point
(D) - Milwaukee
Jack Voight (D)
(R) - Richland Ct.
(D) - Milwaukee
|Lt. Governor - Vacant||---||
(R) - Redgranite
(R) - Wauwautosa
|Nelson, Lisa B.||R||S16||$184,780.82|
|Arciszewski, Kathleen S.||D||S28||$25,534.96|
|Bailey, John E.||L||S12||$1,416.75|
* Total includes spending up to October 23, for one candidate who has not filed the January 2001 report as of the date of this post.
|Jensen, Scott R.||R||A32||$211,070.90|
|Vruwink, Amy Sue||D||A70||$68,245.58|
|Peggs, Steven R.||D||A88||$63,953.69|
|Bies, Garey D.||R||A01||$63,521.24|
|Friske, Donald R.||R||A35||$52,914.28|
|Weber, Roger L.||D||A34||$42,143.74|
|Van Akkeren, Terry||D||A26||$41,695.93|
|Sanders, Thomas J.||R||A05||$39,604.36|
|Rabas, Cal R.||R||A44||$33,187.98|
|Spillner, Joan Wade||R||A42||$22,568.97|
|Nass, Steven J.||D||A37||$17,751.81|
|Harris, Leo V.||R||A71||$11,318.72|
|Nass, Stephen L.||R||A31||$9,825.71|
|Mannisto, Richard T.||R||A09||$9,069.74|
|White, Rose C.||D||A51||$8,691.19|
|Lundgaard, Laurie J.||D||A30||$8,080.32|
|Drumel, Daniel J.||D||A83||$6,940.71|
|La Fave, John||D||A23||$6,786.37|
|Woods, Scott A.||D||A43||$5,652.00|
|Williams, Annette Polly||D||A10||$1,925.96|
*Total includes spending up to October 23, for the five candidates who had not filed the January 2001 report as of this date.