Legislators Rely On Special Interests More Than Voters
Lawmakers collectively accepted $2 of every $3 from donors who can’t vote for them
June 16, 2010
Madison – Legislators rely more on far-off, wealthy special interests to fund their election campaigns than on the people who can vote for them, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis that found legislators accepted $2 of every $3 from contributors outside their districts in 2009.
Legislators raised $1.29 million in contributions of $100 or more in 2009, including $823,915, or 64 percent, from individuals outside their legislative districts and $461,907, or 36 percent, from people who can vote for them.
The finding closely resembles the proportion of out-of-district versus in-district contributions legislators accepted in previous, comparable odd-numbered years (see Bar Chart). In 2003, 2005 and 2007, legislators collectively accepted 65 percent to 71 percent of their large individual contributions from outside their districts and only between 29 percent and 35 percent of large contributions from their constituents.
The large amount of campaign contributions legislators accept from outsiders to help them stay in office means the wishes of special interests likely trump constituents’ interests.
The Democracy Campaign analysis of 2009 in- and out-of-district contributions also found:
- Nineteen of the legislature’s 132 members accepted $10,000 or more in large individual contributions from outside their districts in 2009 (Table). Most of these legislators fall into three categories: They hold targeted Assembly or Senate seats and face tough reelections this year or they are legislative leaders or they are legislators who hinted they may seek statewide office in the 2010 general elections.
For instance the top recipients of out-of-district contributions were Democratic Senator Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa who accepted $78,345 or 86 percent of his large contributions from outside his district followed by Republican Representative Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa who accepted $71,563 or 77 percent of her large contributions from outside her 14 th Assembly District. Vukmir is challenging Sullivan for his 5 th District Senate seat and it’s expected to be one of the most hotly contested and expensive legislative races in November.
Sullivan and Vukmir were followed by Republican Representative Brett Davis of Oregon who received $62,592 or 64 percent of his large individual contributions from outside his 80 th Assembly District. Davis is among four GOP candidates running for lieutenant governor. Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, another legislator holding a targeted seat, raised $41,714 or 82 percent of her large contributions from outside her 31 st Senate District, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau accepted $40,017 or 76 percent of his large individual contributions from outside his 13 th Senate District.
- Forty-five legislators, which is one-third of the legislature, accepted 75 percent or more of their large individual contributions from outside their districts – the same number as in 2007. This bunch includes 15 legislators – 10 Democrats and five Republicans – who got 100 percent of their large contributions from outside their districts led by Representative Jason Fields who accepted $1,950 and Senator Spencer Coggs who got $1,800. Both are Milwaukee Democrats.
Conversely, six legislators accepted all of their large contributions from inside their districts. They were Republican Senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend, $500; Democratic Senator Mark Miller of Madison, $450; Democratic Senator Robert Jauch of Poplar, $330; GOP Senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, $300; GOP Representative Pat Strachota of West Bend, $100; and Democratic Representative Spencer Black of Madison, $100.
- By party, the legislature’s 70 Democrats raised $389,283 or 72 percent of their total $543,730 in large individual contributions from outside their districts and the legislature’s 61 Republicans raised $434,632 or 59 percent of their $742,092 in large individual contributions from outside their districts.
- By legislative caucus, the Assembly Republicans accepted the most money from outside their districts – $335,930 or 66 percent of the $509,155 they raised. The Senate Democrats accepted the highest percentage of large individual contributions from outside their districts – 74 percent or $199,879 of the $269,520 they raised. The Senate Republicans were the only caucus to collect more large contributions from inside their districts than from outside – $134,236 or 58 percent of the $232,937 in large contributions they raised came from constituents. The Assembly Democrats raised $189,405 or 69 percent of their total $274,210 in large individual contributions from outside their districts.