It's difficult to write about the levels of money now being pumped into Wisconsin's electoral process without using terms like "jaw-dropping" and "eye-popping." It's a wonder we can still recognize ourselves in the mirror, with all these contortions.
Take the recent filings from state campaigns preparing for recalls. They show that Gov. Scott Walker raised nearly $4.6 million in campaign cash in just the five-week period between Dec. 11 and Jan. 17, the date recall petitions against him were turned in.
This is on top of the $7.6 million Walker previously reported raising between Jan. 3, 2011, the day he took office, and his last filing, through Dec. 10. That's a total of $12.2 million for barely more than a year -- compared to $8.1 million in 2010, when he ran a successful gubernatorial campaign, including a primary.
During this same period, between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 17, 2012, the Republican Party of Wisconsin raised $3.1 million. And the four GOP senators facing possible recall elections -- Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and Van Wanggaard of Racine -- collectively raised $811,725 more.
As of Jan. 17, Walker reported having nearly $2.7 million available cash on hand; the state GOP had $205,858, and the four targeted senators had $736,000. Altogether, the Republican side has raised $16.1 million and had $3.6 million cash on hand.
Meanwhile, the pro-recall side raised about $4.1 million -- $3.5 million by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, $413,544 by United Wisconsin, and $118,700 by the four committees targeting GOP senators. The Dems report having about $267,000 cash on hand.
One factor driving up the GOP's totals is a quirk in state law that suspends the usual limits on individual contributions during a recall. An analysis of state Government Accountability Board data shows that Walker has gotten 57 individual contributions above the usual $10,000 limit.
These 57 donations totaled more than $3 million. That's 46 percent of the $6.7 million Walker has gotten in individual contributions since Nov. 16, when this extra-generous giving began.
Walker's campaign, in a press release entitled "Grassroots donors fuel Walker fundraising," crowed that about three-quarters of the governor's more than 21,000 contributions since Dec. 11 came in amounts of $50 or less.
The release did not mention that this grassroots support -- including about $415,000 in itemized donations and $61,000 in lump sums from donors who gave $20 or less -- accounted for only about 10 percent of the governor's total receipts. Meanwhile, 65 percent of Walker's nearly $4.6 million total came from individual donors who gave $1,000 or more.
Most of Walker's largest contributions -- indeed, 56 percent of his total receipts since Dec. 11 -- came from people who live in other states and cannot vote for him.
Altogether, Walker, the state GOP, and the four targeted Republican senators have gotten $6.7 million of their $16.1 million total from out of state, or 41 percent. The pro-recall groups side has gotten $1.4 million of its $3.9 million total, or 35 percent, from out of state.
Where does all this money go?
Walker has reported spending nearly $10 million in campaign funds since taking office. The largest share of this, $5.4 million, has gone to a single company, Nonbox of Hales Corners, to buy radio and TV ads. SCM Associates of Dublin, N.H., has also done well, snaring nearly $1.4 million for mailings.
And FLS Connect of St. Paul, Minn., has gotten $1.1 million for solicitation expenses, to help keep the money flowing.
Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The project, a partnership of the Center and MapLight, is supported by the Open Society Institute.
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