Campaign finance reports detail expensive recall races in Wisconsin

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June 1, 2011

By Greg Janetka and Geoff Pallay

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2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
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MADISON, Wisconsin: If trends shown in reports filed with Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board continue, the Wisconsin recalls are going to be extremely expensive elections. To date, candidates targeted for recall have filed two reports, the Spring Pre-Election and Special Pre-Election reports. That data show more than $1.2 million flowing into the race just on the side of candidates. Numerous committees pushing for recalls have also been active.

Due to a 1987 law, campaign finance rules are altered during a recall. From the time a recall campaign is initiated until the GAB sets a date for the election, there are no limits on donations.[1] Normally, candidates can receive $1,000 from each individual and PAC, and up to $22,425 from special interests and political parties. However, the donations during this period can only be used for "legal fees and other expenses," which includes political ads. All of the contributions above the regular limits must be spent before a recall election is set, with any unused money either returned to the donor or donated to charity.[2]

According to officials at the GAB, the next report due from committees, candidates and recall committees, is the July Continuing Report.[3] That document would cover all activity through June 30, 2011 and is due to GAB by July 20, 2011. That means, if the recalls do take place on either July 12 or July 19, that the financial activity of the organizations will go largely unknown until after the actual election has occurred.

Here are the following sums of campaign funds raised by the nine incumbents facing recall:

Campaign Finance Status of Recall Elections as of June 1, 2011
District Incumbent Total funds raised Cash on Hand
8 Alberta Darling $421,939.81 $219,730.51
30 Dave Hansen $127,437.34 $179,491.22
10 Sheila Harsdorf $110,166.80 $59,472.00
12 Jim Holperin $150,903.89 $75,319.92
18 Randy Hopper $131,446.60 $105,615.72
32 Dan Kapanke $180,309.84 $99,061.24
14 Luther Olsen $34,735.59 $34,527.26
22 Robert Wirch $50,964.95 $101,007.39
TOTAL $1,207,904.82 $874,225.26

Darling’s campaign has by far raised the most money. She will be facing state Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch (D) in what appears to be shaping up as an attention-grabbing battle for District 8 in the Milwaukee area.

The breakdown of contributions to Republicans vs. Democrats is as follows:

Three Democrats, Hansen, Holperin, and Wirch, have reported donations totaling $329,306.18 as of June 1, 2011.

Five Republicans have filed reports indicating a total raised of $878,598.64. One of the targeted GOP Senators, Cowles, has not yet filed any reports for the recall.

On average, each candidate has taken in $150,988.11 as of the first of June. After considering expenditures and beginning balances, the candidates collectively have $874,225.25 on hand, a number that averages out to $109,278.16.

Impact of PACs

PACs are already heavily involved in the races, donating a total of $237,150.62; $46,100.00 to Republicans and $191,050.62 to Democrats. Holperin (D) has benefited more than any other candidate from PACs, receiving $101,375.25 from 21 different committees.

In all, 45 PACs have made donations directly to affected candidates to support them in defeating the recalls. Every candidate facing a recall shows some support from PACs.

Over the coming weeks, we will be digging deeper into the campaign spending reports. In particular, we will be taking a closer look at money raised by challengers, as well as considering detailed breakdowns of the individual campaigns themselves.

See also