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More on campaign finances in Wisconsin: Recall committees

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June 3, 2011

By Geoff Pallay and Greg Janetka

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2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

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

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timelineElection Results

MADISON, Wisconsin: Tracking the amount of money that pours into the recall campaigns in Wisconsin is a two-part process. The first step is looking at reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. The second step would be determining how much money is being spent by organizations that do not legally have to disclose their spending -- such as 501C4 groups.

On Wednesday we detailed the fundraising status of the nine incumbents, as detailed in reports filed with the GAB. As of the most recent data, more than $1.2 million was contributed to the senators.

But what of the committees that are attempting to recall senators? Comparable reports to the one incumbents filed show that the recall campaigns took in $449,887, as of the April 25 filing.

Currently, the cash on hand for the campaigns is $9,033 while the senators have $874,225.

Funds raised by incumbents

Here are the following sums of campaign funds raised by the nine incumbents facing recall. All figures are as of June 1, 2011.

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

Funds raised by recall committees

Here are the total funds raised by recall committees and their cash on hand as of June 1, 2011. Out of the nearly $450,000 raised, all has been spent but about $9,000.

Campaign Finance Status of Recall Committees as of June 1, 2011
District Targeted Incumbent Total funds raised Cash on Hand
2 Robert Cowles $145,963.60 $214.55
8 Alberta Darling $91,380.93 $6,504.28
30 Dave Hansen $1,359.45 $0.00
10 Sheila Harsdorf $123,694.35 $220.90
12 Jim Holperin $8,393.00 $459.91
18 Randy Hopper $48,325.57 $490.00
32 Dan Kapanke $17,987.42 $0.00
14 Luther Olsen $ - $ -
22 Robert Wirch $12,783.52 $1,144.15
TOTAL $449,887.84 $9,033.79

Expenditures by incumbents and recall committees

This chart shows the expenditures by incumbent senators targeted for recall and the recall committees against them as of June 1, 2011. Nearly $1 million has been spent between them.

Expenditures of Incumbents and Recall Committees as of June 1, 2011
District Incumbent Expenditures by Incumbent Expenditures by Recall Committee
2 Robert Cowles N/A $145,749.05
8 Alberta Darling $206,424.98 $84,876.65
30 Dave Hansen $54,549.42 $1,359.45
10 Sheila Harsdorf $61,240.05 $123,473.45
12 Jim Holperin $91,737.71 $7,933.09
18 Randy Hopper $39,330.64 $47,835.57
32 Dan Kapanke $90,392.13 $17,987.42
14 Luther Olsen $637.38 N/A
22 Robert Wirch $2,808.55 $11,639.37
TOTAL $547,120.86 $440,854.05

Some noteworthy figures:

  • Recall committee against Cowles raised $145,963. Only $214.55 of that remains, while the rest has been spent.
  • Recall committee against Harsdorf raised $123,694. Only $220.9 of that remains, while the rest has been spent.
  • The two Recall committees against Darling combined to raise $91,380. Of that, $6,504 remains. Of the 9 recall committees and their cash on hand, the money that the Darling groups have is 72% of all cash on hand for recall groups.
  • The three groups targeting Democratic incumbents raised $1,359, $8,393, and $12,783, respectively, for the Hansen, Holperin, and Wirch campaigns. These are the three lowest amounts among all the nine campaigns.
  • The recall campaigns against Harsdorf, Hopper , and Wirch have all outspent the incumbent.

However, these contributions are only those that were required by the GAB. Donations to 501c4 organizations are not subject to disclosure to GAB, and therefore are more difficult to track. These spending figures are only visible when the organization files a 990 with the federal government. The 2011 calendar year form is due to the government by May 15, 2012. Organizations can extend that to October at no penalty. By the time the form is turned in and eventually released to the public, it is likely to be 2013.

But even the 990 itself does not actually reveal very many details. The form does not require revealing expenditures or vendors. Expenditures are typically lumped into one category. In other words, the 990 would not reveal how much spending for an organization went to one reason or another.

Therefore, it is expected that the bulk of spending on the recall campaigns is likely to come from outside groups like 501c4’s that are not affiliated directly with any particular campaign. And if the recent Prosser election is any indication, then the spending will likely be in the multi-millions.

For example, the Prosser and Kloppenburg campaigns each received $300,000 in public funds for campaigning. But according to the Brennan Center -- a nonpartisan public policy and law institute that studies campaign finance -- 501c4 groups spent more than $3 million on tv ads alone earlier this year.[1] That does not include online advertisements, newspaper ads, or other non-tv forms of ad spending.

The Prosser election was built up as the undercard to the main event of the recalls. Therefore, it can be expected that an even greater sum of outside money will flow into the recall races.

Democratic convention

The Democrats began their state convention today, which organizers are calling the “Recall Convention.” The convention, which is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee, runs through Saturday. Former Senator Russ Feingold is not scheduled to speak, but Robert Zerban, who is running against Paul Ryan for his seat in Congress will be.[2] New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was scheduled to speak,[3] but canceled his appearance. The Democratic Party says it did not ask Weiner to cancel, rather it was his decision.[4] Republicans held their state convention on May 21. Recall was also a main topic there, as Gov. Scott Walker and other speakers urged their fellow Republicans to take the threat of recall seriously.[5]

See also