Recall Race for Governor Cost $81 Million

Fifteen recall races in 2011 and 2012 cost $137 million

Posted: July 25, 2012
Updated: January 31, 2013

Madison – Candidates, special interest groups and political committees spent nearly $81 million in the failed attempt to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker in June – more than double the record $37.4 million spent for a statewide office in the 2010 governor’s race, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Overall an estimated $137.5 million was spent on the unprecedented 15 recall races for governor, lieutenant governor and state Senate in 2011 and 2012, based on the review of outside electioneering activities, television advertising buys and campaign finance reports filed by the candidates, groups and political committees.

Walker and Republican groups and committees outspent all of the Democratic candidates, groups and committees $58.7 million to $21.9 million in the governor’s race where Walker defeated his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett and independent candidate for governor Hariprasad Trivedi who spent $305,204 (Table 1).

For all of the recall races in 2011 and 2012, Republican candidates, groups and committees outspent their Democratic counterparts $84.5 million to $52.6 million.

Candidates for the 15 offices spent $56.4 million. Republican candidates spent $42.9 million led by Governor Scott Walker who doled out $36.1 million to win. Democratic candidates doled out $13.1 million led by Barrett who spent $6.6 million.

Outside special interest groups spent $75.8 million in the 15 recall races, including $39.8 million by groups that backed Republicans and $35.9 million by organizations that supported Democrats (Table 2). Nearly half of the outside group spending – an estimated $36.5 million – was done in the governor’s race alone where groups that backed Walker spent about $22.6 million and groups that backed Barrett and Democrat Kathleen Falk who lost to Barrett in the primary spent nearly $14 million.

The state parties, recall committees and two Senate fundraising committees used by legislative leaders to raise and spend money on elections spent $5.3 million, including $3.5 million on behalf of Democrats and $1.8 million on behalf of Republican candidates.

The estimated $93.4 million spent in the 2012 recall elections for governor, lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats more than doubled the estimated $44 million spent in the 2011 recall elections for nine state Senate seats.

The $36.1 million Walker spent more than tripled the record $11.1 million he sunk into his 2010 general election race. Nearly $22 million or 64 percent of the individual contributions he raised since January 2011 and spent mostly on the recall came from out-of-state banking, manufacturing, construction, real estate and other powerful special interests hailing from Florida, Texas, New York, Missouri, Nevada, Wyoming and New Jersey, among other states. Walker drew massive contributions above the usual $10,000 calendar year limit on individual donations because state law allows recall targets to collect unlimited cash to pay bills that come in before a recall election is approved.

A preliminary review of Walker’s contributors since January 2011 found 37 individuals, including 26 from outside Wisconsin, representing construction, manufacturing, finance and other powerful special interests who each gave the governor between $50,000 and $510,000 for a total of $4.74 million (Table 3).

In addition to Walker’s spending, most of the money spent by outside smear groups in the 2012 recalls was spent in the governor’s race.

Outside group spending was led by the Republican Governors Association which doled out $9.4 million to support Walker through its Right Direction Wisconsin Political Action Committee. The group, which spent an estimated $5 million to help Walker win the 2010 general election, paid for a barrage of television ads that said Barrett’s policies as Milwaukee mayor have left the state’s largest city in economic disarray by increasing unemployment, taxes and government spending.

The Republican Governors Association raises much of its cash from large corporations to support GOP candidates for governor around the country through a 527 group named for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service regulations that govern them. During the first six months of 2012 coinciding with the recall efforts against Walker, the association’s 527 outfit raised $29 million, including $792,725 from 19 Wisconsin trade groups, corporations and individuals led by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce which gave the group $437,725.

PACs like Right Direction and corporations created to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates must file reports with the state that provide nominal disclosure about their fundraising and spending activities. And the 527 organizations operated by some electioneering groups must regularly file reports with the IRS that provide a glimpse of their unlimited fundraising and spending often used in state and federal elections. But other outside electioneering groups like phony issue ad groups that sponsor broadcast ads and other electioneering activities to smear candidates without directly saying who to vote for or against do not have to disclose any of the unlimited cash they raise and spend.

For more detailed information about the groups and to listen to their broadcast ads, please go to the Democracy Campaign website’s Hijacking 2012 Recall feature to check out their profiles, activities and spending.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee which uses all four types of outside electioneering groups, spent nearly $6.7 million in the 2012 recall races – much of it on negative television ads to smear Walker’s efforts to boost state employment, the criminal probe involving campaign activity by his aides while the governor was Milwaukee County executive, cuts in state aid to public schools and state-run health care programs and tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations. The group was created in 2004 to support mostly Democratic candidates for legislative and statewide offices. Most of its funding came from large labor unions and the Democratic Governors Association which raises its money from labor unions and large corporations to support Democratic candidates for governor around the country.

Wisconsin for Falk, a corporation created to make independent expenditures, spent $4.5 million. The group received most of its funding from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council – the state’s largest teachers union. Most of Wisconsin for Falk’s spending supported Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk who lost to Barrett in the May 8 primary to face Walker. Most of its cash paid for broadcast ads that praised Falk and criticized the governor for cutting state aid to public education and restricting public employee collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization and a perennial spender of millions on outside electioneering, doled out an estimated $4 million on phony issue ads this year. The bulk of WMC’s spending was for television ads that told listeners Walker’s policies were improving Wisconsin’s economy and claimed unemployment, taxes and spending in Milwaukee skyrocketed while Barrett was mayor. The group also sponsored radio ads in three of the four GOP Senate recall races that commended the Republicans for supporting legislative policies that created jobs and claimed their Democratic rivals backed higher state spending and taxes.

We Are Wisconsin Political Fund, another corporation funded by national labor unions like AFSCME, AFL- CIO and the National Education Association, spent $3.6 million, including about $3 million in the governor’s race and $576,929 in the four state Senate races and the lieutenant governor’s contest. The group’s PAC was the biggest spender – at $10.8 million – in the 2011 recall races involving nine state Senate seats. But, We Are Wisconsin’s corporate arm kept a lower profile in the 2012 recalls, spending most of its money on paid staff for statewide canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts rather than attack ads.

Americans for Prosperity, a secretive issue ad group created and backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries, and a handful of foundations that support conservative causes, spent an estimated $3.7 million on the governor’s race. The group teamed with the Madison-based MacIver Institute for Public Policy – another supporter of conservative causes – to sponsor a series of television ads in late 2011 and early 2012 that urged residents not to sign Walker recall petitions and touted the governor’s economic policies, including his plan to restrict public employee collective bargaining. The Democracy Campaign filed complaints in March against the groups asking the IRS to determine whether their political activities and support of Walker violated their tax-exempt status as charitable organizations.

Spending in the four Senate races ranged from about $761,000 to nearly $3 million led by the 21st Senate District recall race where Democratic challenger John Lehman of Racine defeated incumbent Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine. Lehman and outside groups that supported him spent an estimated $1.8 million. Wanggaard and outside groups that supported him spent an estimated $1.1 million. Special interest groups outspent the candidates $2.3 million to $633,887 led by the Greater Wisconsin which spent an estimated $700,000 to attack Wanggaard for his support of Walker’s cuts to public education and health care programs. Greater Wisconsin was followed by Planned Parenthood which spent $634,000 to attack Wanggaard for his votes on funding and accessibility to women’s health care programs and equal pay.

Next was the 23rd Senate District contest where incumbent GOP Senator Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls defeated Democratic challenger Kristen Dexter of Eau Claire. The race cost an estimated $2 million. Moulton and outside groups that supported him spent an estimated $700,000 and Dexter and outside groups that supported her spent an estimated $1.3 million. Outside groups outspent the candidates $1.5 million to $475,421 led by Greater Wisconsin which spent an estimated $670,000 to attack Moulton, the Republican State Leadership Committee which spent about $409,000 to smear Dexter and We Are Wisconsin Political Fund which spent nearly $204,000 to back Dexter.

Spending in the 13th Senate District where incumbent Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau defeated Democratic challenger Lori Compas of Fort Atkinson totaled $954,074. GOP candidates, committees and outside groups spent $667,882 and Compas and her supporters spent $286,192. Most of the spending was by Fitzgerald and Compas who doled out $665,649 and $258,701, respectively.

Finally, candidates and outside smear groups spent $761,497 in the 29th Senate District race where GOP Representative Jerry Petrowski of Marathon defeated Democratic Minority Leader Donna Seidel of Wausau. Republican candidates and groups spent $471,039 and Seidel and her supporters spent $290,458. The incumbent who was among those recalled, former Republican Senator Pam Galloway of Wausau, resigned shortly before a recall election was approved. The candidates spent a combined $548,575. Outside group spending was led by the Republican State Leadership Committee at $112,199 to back Petrowski and We Are Wisconsin Political Fund at $47,835 to support Seidel.

Table 1
Spending By Special Interest Groups In The 2012 Recall Election For Governor

Group Amount
Right Direction Wisconsin PAC (Republican Governors Association) $9,410,008
Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund $5,376,080
Wisconsin for Falk $4,474,654
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce* $4,000,000
Americans for Prosperity* $3,700,000
We Are Wisconsin Political Fund $3,043,286
Wisconsin Recall Action Fund* $1,200,000
American Federation for Children* $1,100,000
Center for Union Facts* $1,000,000
National Rifle Association of America (Corporation and PAC) $815,662
Coalition for American Values Committee $400,080
State Tea Party Express* $400,000
Ending Spending Action Fund Wisconsin $245,000
Wisconsin Education Association Council $238,928
Planned Parenthood (Corporations and PAC) $164,864
Progressive Change Campaign Committee (Corporation and PAC) $154,300
Workers’ Voice $152,818
Club for Growth Wisconsin* $100,000
Citizen Action of Wisconsin $60,000
People for the American Way $58,774
FreedomWorks for America – Wisconsin $50,937
Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC* $50,000
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters $48,213
Rebuild the Dream in Wisconsin $43,511
Voces de la Frontera Action Committee $42,279
DGA Action Wisconsin (Democratic Governors Association) $35,929
Conservative StrikeForce – Wisconsin Fund $32,125
American Majority Action $20,537
Democracy for America – Wisconsin $20,000
Moving Wisconsin Forward Committee $19,197
Working America $17,459
Volunteers for Agriculture $15,380
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Wisconsin PAC $11,364
Restore Wisconsin ’s Image and Reputation $10,000
Republican State Leadership Committee $3,245
Citizens for Southwest Wisconsin $3,134
Save Wisconsin Deer Hunting $3,073
Superior Federation of Labor COPE $2,487
Friends of Mark Neumann Inc. $1,500
AFSCME – Wisconsin Special Account $1,488
Wisconsin Right to Life PAC $4,761
Defending Wisconsin PAC $886
Win Wisconsin $487
Wisconsin Recall Movement $395
John Lader $250
Human Rights Campaign $100
Grassroots North Shore $50
TOTAL $36,533,241

*Estimated spending for a phony issue ad group or a political action committee or corporation that did not report its electioneering activities.

Table 2
Spending By Special Interest Groups In The 2011 And 2012 Recall Elections

Group Amount
We Are Wisconsin $14,435,234
Greater Wisconsin Committee** $10,747,240
Right Direction Wisconsin PAC (Republican Governors Association) $9,410,008
Club for Growth Wisconsin* $9,100,000
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce* $4,700,000
Americans for Prosperity/MacIver Institute for Public Policy* $4,500,000
Wisconsin for Falk $4,474,654
American Federation for Children* $2,800,000
Citizens for a Strong America* $1,700,000
Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America** $1,474,300
Wisconsin Recall Action Fund $1,419,142
Republican State Leadership Committee** $1,388,657
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin $1,028,156
Center for Union Facts* $1,000,000
National Rifle Association $860,444
Wisconsin Family Action* $850,000
Wisconsin Education Association Council $745,368
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee** $590,854
Wisconsin Senate Democrats $500,000
Coalition for American Values Committee $400,080
Presidential Coalition* $400,000
State Tea Party Express* $400,000
Fire Fighters for Mahlon Mitchell $368,508
Wisconsin WOMEN VOTE! $264,845
Ending Spending Action Fund Wisconsin $245,000
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters $236,810
People for the American Way $225,893
Workers’ Voice $152,818
Citizen Action of Wisconsin $150,896
MoveOn.org Political Action Wisconsin Committee $134,993
Volunteers for Agriculture PAC $124,536
GOPAC Wisconsin $101,928
Jobs First Coalition* $100,000
Wisconsin State AFL - CIO* $85,000
Working America $84,483
Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC* $75,000
Wisconsin Sierra Club Education Committee $70,935
Voces de la Frontera Action Committee $52,296
FreedomWorks for America – Wisconsin $50,937
State Government Leadership Foundation* $50,000
Rebuild the Dream in Wisconsin $43,511
DGA Action Wisconsin (Democratic Governors Association) $35,929
Conservative Strikeforce – Wisconsin Fund $32,125
Our Country Deserves Better* $25,000
American Majority Action $20,537
Moving Wisconsin Forward Committee $19,197
Winnebagoland Uniserv PAC $15,010
NAACP National Voter Fund $14,990
Wisconsin Right to Life $20,202
Faith Family Freedom Fund $12,365
Restore Wisconsin ’s Image and Reputation $10,000
Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin Defense Fund $3,654
Citizens for Southwest Wisconsin $3,134
Save Wisconsin Deer Hunting $3,073
Superior Federation of Labor COPE $2,487
National Federation of Independent Business SAFE Trust PAC $2,277
Friends of Mark Neumann Inc. $1,500
AFSCME – Wisconsin Special Account $1,488
Irreverent Contingent $1,150
Corn PAC $1,104
Defending Wisconsin PAC $886
Wisconsin Recall Movement $790
Win Wisconsin $487
Friends of Ann Schmidt $253
John Lader $250
Wisconsin Recall Initiative $150
Human Rights Campaign $100
Grassroots North Shore $50
TOTAL $75,770,714

*Phony issue ad group and estimated spending.
**Estimated phony issue ad and independent expenditure spending.

Table 3
Top Walker Contributors ($50,000 or more)
January 2011 – June 2012

Name Location Employer Amount
Diane Hendricks Beloit, WI ABC Supply $510,000
Bob Perry Houston, TX Perry Homes $500,000
David Humphreys Joplin, MO TAMKO Building Products $260,000
Sheldon Adelson Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Sands $250,000
Sarah Atkins Joplin, MO TAMKO Building Products $250,000
Richard DeVos Lantana, FL Alticor $250,000
Stanley Herzog St. Joseph, MO Herzog Contracting $250,000
Richard Uihlein Lake Forest, IL U-Line Corp. $132,500
Ted Kellner Mequon, WI Fiduciary Management $121,182
Elizabeth Uihlein Lake Forest, IL U-Line Corp. $102,500
Louis Bacon New York, NY Moore Capital Management $100,000
John Childs Waltham, MA JW Childs Associates $100,000
Foster Friess Jackson, WY Friess Associates $100,000
Roger Hertog New York, NY Retired $100,000
Patricia Kern Waukesha, WI Generac $100,000
Robert Kern Waukesha, WI Generac $100,000
Bruce Kovner New York, NY Caxton Alternative Management $100,000
Richard Pieper Mequon, WI Pieper Electric $100,000
Trevor Rees-Jones Dallas, TX Chief Oil & Gas $100,000
J. Joe Ricketts Bondurant, WY Ameritrade $100,000
Richard H. Roberts Lakewood, NJ Url Pharma $100,000
Patrick G. Ryan Winnetka, IL Ryan Specialty Group $100,000
Mary Sue Shannon Milwaukee, WI Homemaker $100,000
Warren Stephens Little Rock, AR Stephens Inc. $100,000
John Nau Houston, TX Silver Eagle Distributors $90,000
William Hanley Palm Beach, FL Lexington Management $65,000
Thomas J. Schuette Wausau, WI Wausau Homes $55,000
Rex Sinquefield Westphalia, MO Show-Me Institute $55,000
Marcus Hiles Grand Prairie, TX WRPS $51,000
Jere Fabick Oconomowoc, WI Fabco Equipment $50,500
Margaret Crow Dallas, TX Crow Holdings $50,000
Robert Kerbell Eau Claire, WI Lorman Education Services $50,000
Dennis Kuester Milwaukee, WI Retired $50,000
Robert Luddy Raleigh, NC CaptiveAire $50,000
Bernard Marcus Atlanta, GA Retired $50,000
Gretchen Schuette Sugar Grove, IL Wausau Homes $50,000
Ruth J. Schuette Wausau, WI Wausau Homes $50,000
TOTAL $4,742,682