Wisconsin Candidate Fundraising Up More Than 550 Percent Over 25 Years

January 22, 2018

As Wisconsin residents brace for another election year for legislative and statewide offices, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found fundraising by Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates shot up more than 550 percent in nearly 25 years.

The review found that candidate fundraising between the 1989-90 and the 2013-14 general election cycles, which both featured elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and most of the legislature, shot up from $9.2 million to more than $61.3 million.

That’s an increase of about 565 percent, or nearly seven times the inflation rate, which rose about 84 percent, during the 25-year period.

A few of the likely culprits for this increase in candidate fundraising include a huge influx of out-of-state contributions from wealthy individuals and business and labor groups particularly during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, which drew national attention and special interest contributions to Wisconsin;

And it appears likely legislative and statewide candidate fundraising will only escalate this year. This will be the first election year when candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general can raise money under sharply higher contribution limits. Those limits were doubled from $10,000 to $20,000 for individual contributors a couple of years ago.

Individual contribution limits for legislative candidates was also doubled, from $500 to $1,000 for Assembly candidates and from $1,000 to $2,000 for Senate candidates. The first election year for legislative candidates under the higher limits was 2016, and they raised and spent a record $19 million.