GOP Legislators Have Sharp Campaign Cash Lead

Republicans have three times more cash stashed away than Dems

February 26, 2014

Madison – Republican legislative campaign committees started the 2014 election year with nearly three times more cash in their campaign accounts than Democrats, and both parties used mega-fundraising committees to milk special interests for nearly a third of the legislative campaign cash raised in 2013, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis found.

Republicans control the Senate 18-15 and dominate the Assembly 60-39, and they used those comfortable margins – made possible by a controversial redistricting plan – to maximum advantage, approving a 2013-15 state budget during the first six months of 2013 that offered a smorgasbord of tax breaks, relaxed regulations and other rewards to wealthy special interests that fuel their campaigns.

Campaign finance reports filed with the state and reviewed by the Democracy Campaign showed:

  • Legislators and four legislative campaign committees used by Senate and Assembly Republican and Democratic leaders to raise special interest campaign cash had $4.14 million in their accounts December 31, including $3.09 million in Republican campaign accounts and $1.05 million in Democratic campaign accounts. Per capita, that averages $37,274 per Republican campaign committee and $18,747 for each Democratic campaign committee.
By house, Senate Republicans had an average $62,659 in their campaign accounts compared Senate Democrats who had $22,582 per capita. Assembly Republicans held a $29,738 per capita advantage over Assembly Democrats who had an average $17,213 in their campaign accounts December 31.
  • Legislators and the four legislative campaign committees raised $3.53 million in 2013 and Republican legislative committees raised twice as much as Democrats – $2.36 million versus $1.17 million. Per capita that averages $28,448 for each Republican legislator and $20,803 for each Democratic legislator.
By house, Senate Republicans raised $49,773 per capita compared to an average $26,374 by Senate Democrats, and Assembly Republicans outpaced Assembly Democrats an average $22,117 to $18,575 in fundraising.
The fundraising and cash on hand advantage that one party has over the other even 10 months before the elections is significant. As more money continually flows to power, candidate campaign committees, like individual donors, can contribute to other candidates allowing incumbents with no challengers or easy races to give large amounts of their campaign cash to colleagues in tougher contests. Donors and political committees can contribute up to $500 every two years to Assembly candidates and a maximum $1,000 every four years to Senate candidates.
  • The four legislative campaign committees controlled by Senate and Assembly legislative leaders raised a total of $1.07 million – 30.4 percent of the $3.53 million in total legislative fundraising in 2013. The amount raised by the legislative campaign committees ranked second behind the record for an odd-numbered year – $2.1 million in 2011 – and was just a few thousands dollars more than the total raised by the four committees in 2009.
  • Twenty legislative candidate and campaign committees raised more than $50,000 in 2013, including 15 GOP committees and five Democratic committees (Table 1). Topping the list was the four legislative campaign committees – a sign of the reliance by both Republican and Democratic legislators on the pocketbooks of powerful special interests like business, manufacturing, real estate, construction, energy, transportation and health care, among others. Other top fundraisers included legislative leaders, and candidates in special Assembly elections last fall and in targeted legislative races and contests for statewide office in the 2014 general elections.

Table 1
Top* Legislative Fundraisers In 2013

Candidate Office Party Fundraising
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee A R $310,208.98
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee A D $277,175.74
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate S R $273,697.86
State Senate Democratic Committee S D $210,517.71
Fitzgerald, Scott S13 R $170,253.55
Pridemore, Don A22 R $148,491.01
Marklein, Howard A51 R $122,031.55
Kulp, Bob A69 R $83,253.89
Bernard Schaber, Penny A57 D $80,085.90
Nygren, John A89 R $73,990.11
Richards, Jon A19 D $73,274.44
Rodriguez, Jessie A21 R $66,266.33
Lasee, Frank S01 R $65,623.89
Skowronski, Ken A82 R $60,941.50
Petrowski, Jerry S29 R $60,648.96
Ellis, Michael S19 R $58,662.85
Vinehout, Kathleen S31 D $58,560.62
Darling, Alberta S08 R $58,475.00
Farrow, Paul S33 R $55,160.42
Vos, Robin A63 R $50,203.11

*Table represents candidates and committees that raised $50,000 or more in 2013

Legislative fundraising was led by the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee which raked in more than $310,000. This fundraising committee for the Assembly GOP also had more cash in the bank – $307,330 – at the end of 2013 than any other legislative committee.
Rounding out the top five legislative fundraisers were the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee at $277,176, the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate at $273,698, the State Senate Democratic Committee at $210,518 and GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau at $170,254.
  • Twenty-one legislative committees had $50,000 or more in their accounts December 31, including 15 Republican committees and six Democratic fundraising committees (Table 2). At the top was the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee’s $307,330 in cash on hand followed by Fitzgerald with $281,015, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Burlington at $205,734, GOP Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah at $182,200 and Republican Representative Howard Marklein of Spring Green at $142,259.

Table 2
Top* Legislative Campaign Cash Balances
December 31, 2013

Candidate Office Party Cash On Hand
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee A R $307,330.16
Fitzgerald, Scott S13 R $281,014.77
Vos, Robin A63 R $205,733.80
Ellis, Michael S19 R $182,200.43
Marklein, Howard A51 R $142,259.23
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate S R $108,544.42
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee A D $93,100.85
Bernard Schaber, Penny A57 D $93,021.98
Lazich, Mary S28 R $92,802.29
Richards, Jon A19 D $92,370.18
Nygren, John A89 R $88,639.16
State Senate Democratic Committee S D $84,458.48
Petryk, Warren A93 R $76,644.93
Petrowski, Jerry S29 R $67,626.47
Kooyenga, Dale A14 R $58,805.36
Lasee, Frank S01 R $58,528.16
Kaufert, Dean R A55 R $58,462.31
Wirch, Robert S22 D $55,569.22
Larson, Chris S07 D $53,483.63
Kedzie, Neal S11 R $50,911.98
Tranel, Travis A49 R $50,312.95

*Table represents candidates and committee with cash on hand of $50,000 or more on December 31, 2013

Ellis’s campaign account always ranks among the highest cash balances for any given campaign finance reporting period. In most of his past reelection contests Ellis has raised and spent little money to win, but he faces a tougher challenge in 2014 from Democratic Representative Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton to remain in office. Marklein, who is one of the most conservative members of the Assembly, announced early last year he would challenge moderate Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center . Schultz, who recently decided not to seek reelection, has come under fire from fellow Republicans in recent years for siding with Democrats in controversial votes against public employee collective bargaining restrictions that spawned the 2011 and 2012 recall races, mining deregulation and school voucher expansion, among others.
  • The $3.53 million in total legislative fundraising in 2013 was on par with previous, comparable odd-numbered years, like 2007 when legislative committees raised $3.86 million and 2005 when legislative committees accepted $3.35 million.
Legislative fundraising in 2011 and 2009 was affected by factors that make those years incredible to compare to other odd-numbered years. In 2011, legislative committees raised $12.22 million because of nine Senate recall races where fundraising skyrocketed because of quirky state campaign finance laws that allowed recall targets to accept unlimited amounts from individuals and committees. In 2009, legislative committees raised $2.91 million due in part to a self-imposed Assembly fundraising ban during much of the first six months of the year while the legislature considered the state budget.

In addition to legislative fundraising committees, year-end campaign finance reports filed by Republican Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch showed they collectively raised $9.07 million in 2013 in preparation for a likely reelection bid this fall. As of December 31, Walker and Kleefisch had a combined $4.97 million in their campaign accounts.

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke raised $1.8 million in 2013 and had $1.32 million in her campaign account December 31. So far, the only registered Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor – Senator John Lehman of Racine – raised $9,340 in 2013 and had $10,647 in his campaign account December 31.

All Legislators
RaisedCashAlphabetical