As legislative and gubernatorial elections approach and Republicans and Democrats begin to ramp up campaign fundraising, the numbers show Republicans will likely have the financial edge in November.
Recent and past reports released by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan political watchdog group, broke down the numbers to give individuals a sense of how much money flows through various campaign finance accounts.
As of the end of December 2013, a total of $4.14 million was raised between Democratic and Republican candidates for financing legislative elections, according to one report from WDC. Of that, the report shows Republicans have raised $3.09 million, while Democrats have only raised $1.05 million.
The amount raised so far is the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the amount of money that will flow in and out of campaign accounts by Election Day, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe said.
“Even though legislators raised $3.5 million in 2013, and they have more than $4 million in their campaign accounts as they enter the election year, much, much more money will be raised,” McCabe said.
A disparity between party campaign funds in legislative races is quite common, according to McCabe, as “money flows to power.” He said whatever party is in power, whether it is Democratic or Republican, generally attracts greater funds from special interests trying to influence legislative agenda.
However, the real disparity in campaign funds can be seen in gubernatorial elections. According to the reports, by the end of 2013, Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch jointly raised $9.07 million for a probably re-election bid in the fall. The campaign account of Mary Burke, former Trek Bicycle Corporation executive and likely Democratic nominee for governor, contained only $1.8 million.
Jay Heck, Common Cause Wisconsin executive director, said because Walker has been considered a potential Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election for some time, he has attracted a lot of money from outside of the state.
Walker has traveled around the country, raising money for his reelection, and recently visited Florida and Texas to attend fundraising events, Heck said.
“In Wisconsin, you’ve got a governor whose obviously attracted a lot of national attention and then a Legislature that has worked very closely with him – that is a formula to make a lot of money,” Heck said.
The report found that statistically, candidates who spent more generally won the legislative seat. The candidate who spent the most won 102 of the 115 legislative races in the last election, or 89 percent of seats.
Candidates who won election seats generally spent much more money than their opponents, the report said. In the last legislative election the combined 115 winners collectively raised $5.88 million compared to $3.39 million raised by the losing candidates.
The phenomenon of “money in politics” is a “corrosive force,” Heck said, and is an issue he said has gotten worse in recent years.
Since the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United vs. FEC in 2010, which allows corporations to contribute unlimited funds to political campaigns, campaign spending in Wisconsin has more than tripled from $123.7 million in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles to $391.9 million in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, according to a WDC report.