February 26, 2020
Republican lawmakers who control the legislature had four times more money in their campaign accounts at the start of the 2020 election year than their Democratic counterparts, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.
The legislature’s 132 members and their four legislative campaign committees ended 2019 with $7.94 million in the bank. GOP lawmakers and their two legislative campaign committees had more than $6.3 million. Democratic lawmakers and their two legislative campaign committees had $1.6 million in their campaign accounts.
Per capita, the 84 Republican candidate and fundraising committees had an average of nearly $75,400 in their accounts, compared to about $30,900 for the 52 Democratic candidate and fundraising committees.
Eighteen candidate and fundraising committees had cash balances of more than $100,000 on Dec. 31.The highest cash balances were:
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, nearly $1.4 million;
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $935,800;
GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, about $469,100;
GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Burlington, about $338,350;
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, about $273,550;
State Senate Democratic Committee, about $246,250;
Republican Sen. Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point, about $237,690.
Campaign finance reports also showed legislators raised $5.67 million in 2019. Republicans raised more than $4 million – 2.5 times more than the $1.64 million raised by Democrats. Per capita, Republicans accepted an average of about $48,000 last year and Democrats took in an average of about $31,500.
Ten candidate and fundraising committees raised more than $100,000 in 2019 led by:
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $1.06 million;
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $990,130;
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $445,836;
State Senate Democratic Committee, $434,384;
Republican legislators have routinely banked and raised more than Democrats for numerous reasons during the last several years. There are sharply more Republicans than Democrats in the legislature, and GOP lawmakers control the legislature by large margins – 63-36 in the Assembly and 19-14 in the Senate. That means Republicans draw more special interest cash since money flows to power and they control the fate of spending and policy proposals before the legislature.
In addition, GOP-led changes to campaign finance laws in 2015 substantially increased or eliminated contribution limits . Changes in the law also allowed the legislative campaign committees to collect corporate contributions, which were illegal for more than 100 years.
Finally, there are no GOP statewide, constitutional officeholders to draw campaign cash away from legislative coffers. Between 2010 and 2018, Republicans held the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and treasurer which drew tens of millions of dollars in GOP campaign contributions.