State Candidates Dug Deep Into Own Pockets to Run

Personal spending a bad investment and drives up cost of campaigns

February 7, 1997

Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign today released figures detailing the huge amounts of money candidates sank into their own races for state office in the 1996 campaigns. "Sank" is the operative word as eight of the 12 largest self-contributors lost their bid for office.(See table below.)

Gail Shea, executive director of the non-partisan watchdog group, said these candidates are not only making a bad investment, they are also driving up the overall spending in Wisconsin elections. "The candidates making the largest personal investments are often involved in the most expensive campaigns," said Shea. "However, the voters were not impressed by their spending."

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign detailed twelve candidates from last fall’s elections. Each candidate contributed at least $10,000 to his or her own campaign. Of those twelve:

  • Eight lost, four won
  • Two of the senate candidates set new records for spending by a candidate, four were involved in races that set new overall spending records
  • In two cases, the personal money put into the campaign amounted to over 60% of the total spent by that candidate
  • Six contributed more than $25,000, one gave over $100,000

Topping the list of self-contributors was Randy Nash, who spent over $100,000 of his own money in a failed attempt to unseat Senator Alberta Darling. "Not long ago $100,000 was considered a lot of money to spend overall. I hope this doesn’t mark the beginning of self-financed campaigns for the state legislature," said Shea.

Two Dane county candidates also made the list of top self-contributors. Matt Klecker was number three on the list. He put $30,050 of his own money into a failed attempt to unseat Rep. Dave Travis. Tom Metcalfe, who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Chuck Chvala, spent $26,939 of his own money, "earning" him the seventh place on list.

Candidates who contributed heavily to their own campaign were typically involved in expensive races. 

  • Nash and Darling combined to spend $363,050. Nash, alone, spent $155,966.
  • Klecker and Travis spent a total of $137,855. Klecker spent $73,929.
  • Metcalfe and Chvala set a new record by spending a total of $433,756.Metcalfe spent $233,628, more than any other candidate last fall.

Four of the senate candidates (Nash, Adelman, Metcalfe, and Lawton) were involved in races that set new records for total candidate spending. Adelman and Metcalfe set new records for spending by one candidate.

"Voters overwhelmingly agree that there is too much money going into campaigns," said Shea. "Wealthy candidates should not contribute to the epidemic of big money politics by tapping into personal fortunes to run for public office."

Members of the state legislature earn $39,211 per year.

Tapping personal wealth - a bad investment

Candidate (Party) House Status Contributed
to own Campaign
Total Spent
by candidate
Won/Lost Total spent
by both candidates
in the race
Randy Nash (D) Senate C $101,1521 $155,966 Lost $363,0503
Lynn Adelman (D) Senate I $35,000 $232,3862 Won $326,1053
Matt Klecker (R) Assembly C $30,050 $73,929 Lost $137,855
Thomas Sykora (R) Assembly C $30,020 $68,926 Won $105,498
David Rice (D) Assembly C $28,700 $60,829 Lost $103,408
Steven Wieckert (R) Assembly O $28,5401 $47,574 Won $63,998
Tom Metcalfe (R) Senate C $26,939 $233,6282 Lost $433,7564
Barbara Lawton (D) Senate C $22,000 $136,566 Lost $325,4253
Nancy Levanetz (R) Senate C $20,262 $144,707 Lost $244,423
Bruno Rizzo (R) Senate O $15,163 $54,937 Lost $109,424
Jay Griggs (R) Senate C $11,888 $125,157 Lost $269,423
Anthony Staskunas (D) Assembly O $10,100 $24,422 Won $26,364

Status Key: C=Challenger, I=Incumbent, O=Open Seat

1 personal money put into the campaign amounted to over 60% of the total spent by the candidate
2 new records for spending by one candidate
3 surpasses old record of $275,389 for total spending by candidates in a fall election
4 sets new record for total candidate spending in a fall election