Douglas La Follette

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Douglas J. La Follette
Doug LaFollette.jpg
Wisconsin Secretary of State
In office
1974 - 1978, 1983 - Present
Term ends
Years in position (current service)32
Years in position (previous service)4
PredecessorVel Phillips (D)
Base salary$68,556
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First elected1983
Next generalNovember 4, 2014
Campaign $$181,079
Term limitsNone
Prior offices
Wisconsin State Senate
Bachelor'sMarietta College (1963)
Master'sStanford University (1964)
Ph.D.Columbia University (1967)
Date of birthJune 6, 1940
Place of birthDes Moines, IA
Office website
Campaign website
Douglas J. La Follette (born June 6, 1940, in Des Moines, Iowa) is the current Democratic Wisconsin Secretary of State. He was first elected to the statewide position in 1983 and has been subsequently re-elected to the office seven times. He earlier served a term in the office from 1975-1979. While eligible for re-election on November 4, 2014, he has yet to make his intentions known.

La Follette unsuccessfully ran for Wisconsin Governor in the 2012 recall election against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, losing in the primary.[1] The recall was the result of Walker's championing of a law restricting collective bargaining rights. Following its passage, La Follette incited anger from the GOP by delaying the bill's publication, which gave opponents time to go to court and delay it by months. As payback, Republicans passed a bill in 2013 to strip the secretary of state of the power to delay the publication of new laws.[2]

A longtime environmentalist, La Follette helped to organize the first Earth Day in 1970. He first ran for office in 1970, losing his bid for Congress. He then won election to the state Senate, representing Kenosha from 1972-1974.[3]

La Follette has been outspoken about his beliefs on the influence of money in elections, saying he has tried to “lead an effort when I could against the big campaign money.” He cited the issue as a reason for his loss in the 2012 recall as well as his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1988.[4]


La Follette began a teaching career as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Known as a diligent environmental activist prior to running for public office, he was a Wisconsin organizer for the first "Earth Day for Gaylord Nelson" in 1970 and co-founded Wisconsin's Environmental Decade. La Follette helped organized the Earth Day celebration in Wisconsin again in 1990. He was named a Fulbright Distinguished American Scholar in 2003.

In addition to his duties as secretary of state, La Follette has authored a book, The Survival Handbook: A Strategy for Saving Planet Earth, published in 1991, and has served in several other roles, including, but not limited to:

  • Council on Economic Priorities consultant
  • Public Affairs Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as the Assistant Director of the Mid American Solar Energy Complex.
  • Board of directors of the Sierra Club for a three-year term.[5] 2003-2006
  • Former advisory board member of Carrying Capacity Network and is currently an adviser to NumbersUSA.


  • Bachelor's degree, Marietta College (1963) in business
  • Master of Science degree, Stanford University (1964) in chemistry
  • Doctoral degree, Columbia University (1967) in organic chemistry

Political career

Wisconsin Secretary of State (1974-1978, 1983-present)

La Follette currently serves as the Wisconsin Secretary of State, a post to which he was first elected in 1974. In 1978, he launched his campaign to be the state's next lieutenant governor, losing while on a ticket with Governor Martin Schreiber. He was elected to the secretary of state office again in 1982, defeating the incumbent Vel Phillips and has remained in the statewide position ever since. He has often run unopposed, and shuns fundraising in the style of former Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire. In 1990, his opponent -- Madison attorney and radio personality Stuart Levitan -- campaigned on a promise to eliminate the Secretary of State's office, whose duties such as monitoring lobbying activities and investigating ethics violations have been reduced and transferred to other agencies including the State Board of Elections under LaFollette's tenure.

Some have called for the elimination of the Wisconsin Office of Secretary of State, believing it to be nothing more than “a huge government filing cabinet where one can find land deeds, oaths of office and the complete Blue Book collection since 1853. The secretary’s most notable task is affixing the state’s Great Seal to all of the official acts of the governor."[6] Wisconsin State Senator Alan Lasee of De Pere proposed a constitutional amendment in April 2009 calling for the elimination of the offices of Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State, estimating it would save the state up to $2.2 million dollars over the course of two years.[7]

Since being elected Secretary of State, LaFollette has run twice for federal office. In 1988, he ran for the United States Senate, losing in the Democratic primary to Herbert Kohl. In 1996, he lost another primary contest in the first congressional district, this time to Lydia Spottswood, who then lost the general election to Mark Neumann.


Stolen quotes

In 1970, the Kenosha News broke the story that La Follete, while campaigning in the Democratic Primary in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District against Les Aspin, produced a brochure supposedly full of quotes from average citizens who played up his family ties to ‘Fighting’ Bob La Follette. The Wisconsin newspaper revealed those quotes were stolen from the campaign literature of Michael Harrington, a Massachusetts Democrat.[8]


La Follette was ordered in 1984 to pay a $500 fine for allowing the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua (WCCN), an activist organization whose purpose was to promote people-to-people projects and locally-based "municipal foreign policies" by individual United States cities as an alternative to the militaristic foreign policy of the United States government under President Ronald Reagan, to use his secretary of state office as a base for their activities. La Follette’s then-wife was the leader of the non-profit organization at the time.[9]


In 1988, La Follette was punished with a fine of $50 for allowing lobbyists to sign a letter requesting that the Wisconsin State Legislature to increase the staff in the office of secretary of state.

Notification of law change

In 1990, Stuart Levitan, a challenger for the Democratic nomination for Wisconsin Secretary of State, charged La Follette “through ingnorance or incompetence [for] fail[ing] to notify [Milwaukee] county officials of a proposed change in state law that will cost the county at least $50,000 a year.”[10]

State computer use

In 2006, La Follette was fined $500 by the Wisconsin State Ethics Board after he admitted to using a state-owned computer and email system to create and send campaign-related documents.[11]

Wisconsin State Senate (1972-1974)

His first attempt at a public office came in 1970 when he ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives seat based out of Wisconsin's first congressional district. He lost in the Democratic primary contest to the future United States Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin. He later served in the Wisconsin State Senate representing Kenosha County for one term.



See also: Wisconsin secretary of state election, 2014

La Follette is eligible to run for re-election as Wisconsin Secretary of State in 2014. He has not yet made his intentions in the race known.


See also: Scott Walker recall, Wisconsin (2012)

La Follette ran for Wisconsin Governor in the recall election against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker.

Recall petitions were turned in on January 17, 2012 and officially certified on March 30. La Follette filed papers to run on February 23[12] and officially declared his campaign on March 28.[13] He faced Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and protest candidate Gladys Huber in the primary on May 8.[14] Hariprasad "Hari" Trivedi ran as an independent.[15]

Wisconsin Governor Recall - Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngTom Barrett 58.1% 390,191
Kathleen Falk 34.1% 229,236
Kathleen Vinehout 4% 26,967
Doug La Follette 2.9% 19,497
Gladys Huber 0.7% 4,847
Scattering 0.1% 864
Total Votes 671,602
Election Results via Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.


See also: Wisconsin Secretary of State election, 2010
  • 2010 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary
  • Douglas LaFollette ran unopposed this contest

On November 2, 2010, Douglas La Follette won re-election to the office of Wisconsin Secretary of State. He defeated David D. King in the general election.

Wisconsin Secretary of State, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDouglas La Follette Incumbent 51.6% 1,074,118
     Republican David D. King 48.3% 1,005,217
     - Scattering 0.1% 1,863
Total Votes 2,081,198
Election Results Via: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board


On September 12, 2006, LaFollette easily won re-nomination as the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State over primary challenger Scot Ross, who, earlier that year, admitted to illegally campaigning on state time as a member of the State Assembly Democratic Caucus.[16] Ross would go on to become executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a progressive political activist organization.

His general election opponent, Republican Sandy Sullivan, drew local media attention for her self-published "tell-all" book in which she claimed she had affairs with several ex-Green Bay Packer football players.[17]

2006 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[18]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Douglas La Follette 72.0%
     Democratic Party Scott Ross 28.0%
Total Votes 332,265
Wisconsin Secretary of State, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDouglas La Follette Incumbent 57.1% 1,184,720
     Democratic Sandy Sullivan 38.4% 796,686
     Green Michael LaForest 4.5% 92,587
     - Scattering 0.1% 1,412
Total Votes 2,075,405
Election Results via Wisconsin Government Accountability Board


  • 2002 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary
  • Douglas La Follette ran unopposed in this contest

On November 5, 2002, Douglas La Follette won re-election to the office of Wisconsin Secretary of State. He defeated Robert Gerald Lorge (R) and Edward J. Frami (C) in the general election.

Wisconsin Secretary of State, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDouglas La Follette Incumbent 56.6% 950,929
     Republican Robert Gerald Lorge 41.3% 693,476
     Constitution Edward J. Frami 2.1% 34,750
     - Scattering 0.1% 1,009
Total Votes 1,680,164
Election Results Via: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

Campaign contributions

Comprehensive donor information for La Follette is available dating back to 1998. Based on available campaign finance records, La Follette raised a total of $181,079 during that time period. This information was last updated on May 6, 2013.[19]

Douglas La Follette's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Governor of Wisconsin Defeated $114,230
2010 Wisconsin Secretary of State Won $1,071
2008 Wisconsin Secretary of State Not up for election $52
2006 Wisconsin Secretary of State Won $25,897
2004 Wisconsin Secretary of State Not up for election $96
2002 Wisconsin Secretary of State Won $1,300
1998 Wisconsin Secretary of State Won $38,433
Grand Total Raised $181,079


Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Douglas La Follette's donors each year.[20] Click [show] for more information.



  • Environmental Excellence Award, Midwest Renewable Energy Assoc., 1992
  • Environmental Advocate of the Year, Clean Water Action Council, 1996
  • Environmental Quality Award, Environmental Protection Agency

Recent news

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Contact Information


Capitol Address:
Post Office Box 7848
Madison, WI 53707-7848

Phone: (608) 266-8888 (ext 2)
Fax: (608) 266-3159

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Huffington Post, "Tom Barrett Wins Wisconsin Recall Primary, Faces Scott Walker In June," May 8, 2012
  2. Wisconsin Public Radio, "GOP Strips Power From Secretary Of State," accessed March 6, 2013
  3. La Follette for Secretary of State, accessed April 11, 2013
  4. Politico, "Doug La Follette rips union money in Wisconsin recall," March 30, 2012
  5. SUSPS - Doug LaFlotte elected to the Sierra Club Board of Directors in April, 2003
  6. Milwaukee Magazine, "What Does Doug LaFollette Do All Day?" 23 May 2006
  7. 1150 WHBY - Lasee wants to eliminate to state offices
  8. Randy Melchert - So tell me more about what Doug LaFollette has done in office…
  9. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Secretary of state race livens up" 27 Oct. 2006
  10. Milwaukee Sentinel, "Candidate reps La Follette on notification of law change" 1 Sept. 1990
  11. Wisconsin State Ethics Board - Use of State Resources for Campaigning/Doug La Follette
  12. Channel 3000, "La Follette Files Papers For Gubernatorial Run," accessed February 23, 2012
  13. WTAQ, "La Follette enters recall race," March 29, 2012
  14. Wisconsin State Journal, "GOP's fake Democrats for recall primaries named," April 5, 2012
  15. WTAQ, "Recall elections officially ordered against Gov. Walker, 5 other GOP lawmakers," March 30, 2012
  16. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Assembly Democrats drawn into caucus scandal" 31 Jan. 2006
  17. CNN "Candidate has sex with the Green Bay Packers" 11 Oct. 2006
  18. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board - 2006 Democratic Primary Election Results
  19. Follow the Money, " Career fundraising for Douglas La Follette," accessed May 6, 2013
  20. Follow the, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Zimmerman
Wisconsin Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Vel Phillips (D)
Preceded by
Vel Phillips (D)
Wisconsin Secretary of State
Succeeded by