Legislative Leaders Continue to Milk Budget Cash Cow

Legislative leaders and the four leadership committees they control raised 56 percent of the $1.36 million in contributions gleaned from special interests by all legislators while they were considering the 2005-07 state budget, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows. Legislative Leaders Continue to Milk Budget Cash Cow

Nine of 135 Committees Responsible for Over Half of $1.36 Million Raised

August 1, 2005


Legislative fundraising during the first half of 2005 invited powerful special interests to use their clout and cash to affect key policy and spending decisions in the budget. The practice has continued for yet another state budget despite trials pending against four former legislative leaders accused in 2002 of pay-to-play corruption and other felonies. The current legislative leaders milked special interests for $765,893 between January and June.

Key findings in the WDC review include:

  • Assembly and Senate leaders raised $220,792 through their personal campaign committees (see Table 1). In addition, legislative leaders raised another $545,101 through leadership committees (see Table 2) they control and use to help their colleagues at election time provided they vote on policy the way they are told. The total fundraising by the four committees is 39 percent higher than the $392,224 raised during the first six months of 2003 and 140 percent more than the $226,990 raised in the first half of 2001;
  • Gearing up for his reelection bid in 2006, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle held at least six fundraisers, including a pricey $1,000-a-head golf outing, while his budget was in play. He raised a record $1.44 million for a six-month budget period. His fundraising total was 2.5 times more than what he raised during consideration of the last state budget in the first half of 2003. Doyle’s fundraising put him well ahead of his Republican challengers; Mark Green and Scott Walker (see Table 3).

Most of the top dozen fundraisers were legislative leaders or first-term office holders whose jobs may be targeted by the other party in the 2006 elections. The top Senate fundraiser was Republican Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz at $85,855. Before he was elected majority leader late last year, Schultz was pretty much overlooked by big contributors. He raised only $8,430 in all of 2003 when the last state budget was considered.

Also among the top five Senate fundraisers were Republicans Cathy Stepp and Tom Reynolds and Democrat Jeff Plale who are first term office holders raising money at a fast clip because they fear tough reelection contests in 2006.

Republican Senator Ted Kanavas of Brookfield , who holds a safe GOP seat, held at least four fundraisers between February and June to raise $54,971 because he does not care if it looks like he is using the state budget to shake down special interests. Kanavas said in a May interview "I don’t apologize for raising money. That’s politics."

In the Assembly, Republican Speaker John Gard led the list of fundraisers with $51,770. Gard’s Assembly campaign account continued to draw contributions even though he is running for Congress in 2006 rather than reelection to the Assembly because special interests know the fate of their wish lists depends on Gard.

Republican Majority Leader Michael Huebsch followed Gard, raising $44,710. Like Schultz, special interests never paid much attention to Huebsch until he was elected to a leadership post late last year. Huebsch accepted $8,517 in contributions in all of 2003 when the last state budget was considered.

Representative Jean Hundertmark, a Clintonville Republican, raised $37,700 in the first half of 2005, substantially more than the $24,483 she raised in all of 2004 when she was running for reelection because she is running for lieutenant governor in 2006.

Rounding out the top five Assembly fundraisers were Democratic Assembly Minority Leader James Kreuser who accepted $22,225 in contributions, and Democratic Representative Pedro Colon of Milwaukee who raised $19,915. Colon may challenge Democratic Senator Tim Carpenter for his 3rd District seat next year.

Table 1
Legislative Leaders

Name Title Party Total Fundraising
Dale Schultz Senate Majority Leader Republican $85,855
John Gard Assembly Speaker Republican $51,770
Michael Huebsch Assembly Majority Leader Republican $44,710
James Kreuser Assembly Minority Leader Democrat $22,225
Judy Robson Senate Minority Leader Democrat $16,232
Total $220,792

Table 2
Legislative Leadership Committees

Committee Total Fundraising June 30 Cash Balance
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $177,481 $46,395
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $157,020 $177,770
State Senate Democratic Committee $109,761 $17,786
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $100,839 $53,357
Total $545,101 $295,308

Table 3
Constitututional Office Candidates

Name Party Total Fundraising June 30 Cash Balance
James Doyle (I) Democrat $1,442,315 $3,463,204
Mark Green Republican $678,886 $1,739,157
Scott Walker Republican $606,901 $502,513
Name Party Total Fundraising June 30 Cash Balance
Barbara Lawton (I) Democrat $10,918 $26,307
Jean Hundertmark Republican $37,700 $47,555
Name Party Total Fundraising June 30 Cash Balance
Peg Lautenschlager (I) Democrat $173,442 $140,771
JB Van Hollen Republican $107,537 $83,780
Paul Bucher Republican $107,637 $80,580
(I) Incumbent

All Legislators by Total RaisedAll Legislators by Name