27th Senate District Home to Three Campaign Spending Records

February 2, 1999

Madison - The voters of the 27th Senate District endured unprecedented levels of spending on three fronts in 1998. Shattered records include spending by a single candidate, spending by both candidates and overall spending including that by outside groups. The non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign researched campaign finance filings due Monday and found:

Republican Nancy Mistele spent a total of $306,375 making her the first legislative candidate to ever cross the $300,000 threshold in a fall campaign.

Records for fall campaign spending by candidate:

1998 Mistele $306,375
1996 Metcalfe $233,628
1996 Adelman $232,386

Mistele and Democrat Jon Erpenbach, who spent $186,879 and won the election, combined to spend $493,255, breaking the record set in 1996.

Records for fall campaign spending by both candidates:

1998 Mistele/Erpenbach $493,254
1996 Metcalfe/Chvala $433,756

The most appalling record is for overall spending including outside special interest groups. All told nearly $1.2 million was spent to influence the outcome of this Senate race.

Total spending in a single district:

Mistele $ 306,375
Erpenbach $186,879
Issue Ads* $154,329
Independent expenditures** $478,255
Total: $1,125,838

*By WMC at $139,329 as reported in the media and Americans for Job Security estimated at $15,000.
** By seven different groups, led by WEAC-PAC at $345,626.

The previous record for total spending by all campaign entities was $689,325, set earlier in 1998 in the Special Election in the 28th State Senate District, to replace Lynn Adelman. There was no spending on so-called "issue ads" in this race.

"This dramatic increase in campaign money is not coming from voters inside the district, but is fueled by outside money," said WDC executive director Gail Shea.

"Campaign spending at this level floods voters with 30-second TV ads dominated by special interest agendas. Energy, new ideas and a commitment to public service are no longer sufficient qualifications to run for the state legislature. Candidates are forced to become professional fund raisers as well."

"There is no room for ordinary citizens in these million dollar campaigns," said Shea. "If we want grassroots, candidate-centered campaigns we must have campaign finance reform is this legislative session. Run-away spending must be capped and outside groups must be reined in."