Walker Raises and Spends More Money than Any Candidate in Wisconsin History

The headlines in Wisconsin are all about the $25 million dollar man -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Walker's campaign committee has raised an eye-popping $25 million for the recall, $13 million since January 2012 when close to 1 million signatures were filed with the Wisconsin elections board triggering a recall election. Walker spent a huge sum $5 million on direct mail, rivaling the $4.5 million spent on TV. The direct mail allows him to build a national data base of funders to tap for the recall.

In total, Walker has spent $20,854,000, more money than any candidate in any race in Wisconsin history. "Wisconsin's never seen anything like this kind of money," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "This is all to persuade a relatively tiny universe of undecided voters. It'll be the highest cost per voter spent in the history of the nation in terms of the cost of persuading people."

Walker's opponents have barely scratched the surface. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has raised $977,000; Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has raised $831,500, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette $118,000, Wisconsin Senator Kathleen Vinehout, $44,000. Arthur Kohl-Riggs, who is running against Walker in the Republican primary, has raised little over $2,000.

Combined, the opposition candidates barely raised $2 million. Despite Walker having spent more than ten times than his opponents have raised, a poll released today from Marquette Law School shows him in a dead heat with Barrett, who entered the race just one month ago.

David Koch Lends a Helping Hand

Perusing Walker's campaign reports, many wondered, where are the Kochs? David Koch recently told the Palm Beach Post that he was going to help Walker get reelected. "We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more." But there are no eye-popping checks from the Koch brothers in the "Friends of Walker" report. Perhaps even the Kochs have caught on that the optics of direct donations do not look so good.

But there is no shortage of indirect aid coming in from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity 501(c)3 "charitable" arm, which has been working with the right-wing MacIver Institute to produce a multi-million dollar "issue ad" campaign called "It's Working!" The online, television and direct mail campaign touts the benefits of the Walker austerity budget, which sent unemployment in the state off a cliff. Sources say the groups have spent $2.9 million on TV ads to date and untold sums on staff, rallies, direct mail and internet.

The Republican Governors Association PAC, "Right Direction Wisconsin," is also spending heavily in the state, including a $2 million dollar television ad buy, according to sources. It filed a clunky paper report with the state elections board indicating that they spent $4 million in total, but because they are running so-called "issue ads" they are not obliged to report their donors. The RGA benefited from a generous gift of $1 million from David Koch in April 2011, after Walker's collective bargaining bill sparked a mass uprising. The Republican State Leadership Committee is also funded by Koch Industries and is also now registered to play in the Wisconsin recall.

The Democrats also have 3rd-party supporters. "Wisconsin for Falk" is a PAC and a 527 started by state labor unions most effected by Walker's collective bargaining bill, such as AFSCME and WEAC. It has reportedly spent a total of $3 million on television ads and is planning another $1 million ad buy. The Greater Wisconsin Committee, registered as a PAC, an independent expenditure group and a 527, may also be a big spender in this election cycle. It spent $800,000 in December 2011 on television ads critical of Walker's budget cuts and has raised $3 million so far, much of it from the Democratic Governor's Association. It is now up with television ads detailing Walker's jobs record.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe predicted $60 million to $80 million will be spent on the recalls by candidates and third-party groups. The recall primary is May 8, and the general election is scheduled for June 5.

63% Walker Money is From Out of State

Walker's report shows "strong grass-roots support for Governor Walker, his bold reforms, and his plans for moving Wisconsin forward," said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews. While Walker likes to say that 96,000 of his contributors gave $50 or less, it appears that the vast majority of his money is large checks from out-of-state donors.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

  • $8.37 million, or roughly 63%, of the total $13 million raised by Walker came from out-of-state;
  • 74% of individual contributors were from out-of-state.

Top out-of-state contributors include noted private school voucher booster Richard DeVos, founder of Amway, and failed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's SuperPac sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, each contributing $250,000. A cool half million came from ABC Supply Company Co-founder Diane Hendricks from Beloit, which boosted his in-state totals substantially.

Dinning His Donors for his John Doe Criminal Defense Fund?

In all the direct mail flooding the country from the Walker campaign, you can be sure that Walker is not talking about the 15 felony indictments that have been lodged against his former staff, campaigns staff and associates for embezzlement and corruption in office in a secret "John Doe" probe being run out of the Milwaukee District Attorney's office. Nor have they heard that Walker himself now has a group of law firms representing him in the ever-widening probe and a criminal defense fund called the "Scott Walker Trust." But his campaign is all too aware of the fact that they may need to raise substantial sums if Walker is indicted.

A quirk in Wisconsin campaign finance law allowed Walker to raise unlimited amounts of money once the recall petitions were filed but before an election was actually certified, a time period from January 17, 2012 to March 30, 2012. After that point, regular campaign limits for individuals and PACs are reinstated; $10,000 for individuals, $43,000 for PACs.

But a quick look at the mega-donors in Walker's campaign receipts file reveals a lot of folks donating huge sums after the March 30 cut-off. For instance, Dian Hendricks, one of the owners of the ABC Supply Company, cut a check for a whopping $500,000. There are 10 other individuals who had amounts over $10,000 past the March 30 cut-off, for a total of $1,072,000.

What gives?

The Wisconsin elections board explains that Walker may be using these funds to pay old bills, incurred prior to March 31. Then again, many speculate that Walker is building the war chest in hopes of transferring the money into his criminal defense fund. This cannot be done with out the donor's permission, but who the donor is may never be disclosed.

Walker's latest filings reveal that he transferred $60,000 to his legal defense fund during the pre-primary period. The campaign has previously paid two law firms, Michael Best & Friedrich and Patton Boggs of Washington, D.C., slightly more than $115,000 for the same type of expenses.

To date, the ongoing John Doe investigation has not been a factor in the election. Not a single TV ad has aired on the topic, leading many to speculate that Walker's opponents may be holding their fire until after the primary.

Mega-Donors on Scott Walker's List

Below CMD provides a list of the mega-donors on Walker's latest report filing, many of whom gave after the March 30 cut-off. Review receipts and expense on the candidates filings on the State Election Boards Campaign Finance Information System, here.

  • 4/13/12, Hendricks, Diane M, $500,000.00, Co-founder ABC Supply Company
  • 4/23/12, Unitemized, $389,935.01
  • 3/30/12, Adelson, Sheldon, $250,000.00, Las Vegas Sands
  • 3/16/12, Devos, Richard M, $250,000.00, Alticor
  • 3/6/12, Republican Party of Wisconsin, $218,736.95
  • 3/22/12, Stephens, Warren A., $100,000.00, Stephens, Inc
  • 4/23/12, Kern, Robert D., $100,000.00, Generac
  • 4/23/12, Kern, Patricia E., $100,000.00
  • 2/1/12, Ryan, Patrick G, $100,000.00, Ryan Specialty Group
  • 4/23/12, Childs, John W, $100,000.00, JW Childs Associates
  • 1/24/12, Ricketts, J. Joe, $90,000.00, Hugo Enterprises LLC
  • 4/23/12, Kellner, Ted D., $90,000.00, Fiduciary Management, Inc.
  • 4/4/12, Republican Party of Wisconsin, $78,195.41
  • 4/4/12, Republican Party of Wisconsin, $72,584.53
  • 4/3/12, Bacon, Louis M., $50,000.00, Moore Capital Management
  • 4/16/12, Bacon, Louis M., $50,000.00, Moore Capital Management
  • 3/15/12, Hertog, Roger, $50,000.00, Alliance Capital Management Company
  • 3/6/12, People for Rebecca, $49,365.00
  • 2/28/12, The Caterpillar Inc. Employee Political Action Committee, $40,000.00
  • 2/13/12, Luddy, Robert L, $40,000.00, Captive Aire
  • 3/26/12, Hanley, William L., $25,000.00, Lexington Mgmt Group
  • 3/1/12, RPAC - Wisconsin, $25,000.0
  • 3/19/12, Metro Milw Assn of Commerce, $25,000.00,
  • 1/31/12, Crow, Margaret, $25,000.00, of the Trammel Crow family fortune
  • 3/26/12, Wendt, Gary C, $25,000.00, Deerpath Capital Management, LP
  • 3/19/12, Metro Milw Assn of Commerce, $25,000.00,
  • 2/13/12, Dennis, Richard J, $25,000.00, Self Employed
  • 3/22/12, Uihlein, Richard E., $25,000.00, Uline, Inc.
  • 2/6/12, Fedler, Ronald G, $25,000.00, Gold Leaf Development
  • 3/31/12, Dhein, Jere, $25,000.00, Tosca Ltd.
  • 3/15/12, Kuester, Jonathan, $25,000.00, Self
  • 3/26/12, Gallun, Edwin A., $25,000.00, Metalcraft of Mayville
  • 2/10/12, Pope, James A., $25,000.00, from North Carolina, on the board of Americans for Prosperity
  • 3/26/12, Shields, J. V., $25,000.00, Wellington Shields & Co., LLC
  • 3/14/12, Callan, James J, $25,000.00, James L. Callan, Inc.
  • 2/21/12, Goodnight, James H., $25,000.00, SAS Institute Inc.
  • 4/3/12, Marcus, Bernard, $25,000.00, co-founder of Home Depot
  • 4/6/12, Druckenmiller, Stanley F., $25,000.00, Duquesne Family Office
  • 3/12/12, Harris, Robert H, $25,000.00, Harris Financial Research Consultants
  • 1/31/12, Crow, Margaret, $25,000.00, Trammel Crow Company family fortune
  • 3/1/12, Ziegler, Stephen J., $20,000.00, InPro Corporation
  • 3/1/12, Ziegler, Heather, $20,000.00 see above
  • 3/14/12, Roehl, Everett G., $20,000.00, Roehl Management & Consultants
  • 1/31/12, Schneider, Patricia, $15,000.00
  • 1/24/12, Young, Frederick M., $13,000.00, heir to the Young Radiator Co.
  • 1/24/12, Young, Sandra, $13,000.00, see above
  • 4/23/12, Fieler, Sean, $12,000.00, Equinox Partners CP

This article was updated with the results of the Marquette Law School poll.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.