Wisconsin's unprecedented 15 recall races for governor, lieutenant governor and state senate in 2011 and 2012, prompted a record amount of campaign spending, according to a report released Wednesday (July 25).
Candidates, groups and committees spent a total of about $137.5 million on races, including about $84.5 million in support of Republicans, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan research group that tallied public spending data.
Spending on the failed attempt last June to recall Governor Scott Walker totaled $80.9 million, with the polarizing Republican and his supporters spending the bulk of it, $58.7 million. That shattered the previous record spent on a statewide office race. In 2010, when Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, total spending topped $37 million.
Barrett, Walker's main challenger in 2012 as well, and his supporters spent about $22 million on this year's special election. Walker, whose efforts to scale back collective bargaining for public employees sparked national discord, won the election by a wide margin.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Tom Evenson, Walker's campaign spokesperson, characterized the campaign as a “ground up grassroots movement,” fueled by a vast collection of small donations.
But data show Walker was buoyed by big spenders, too. That included more than $9.4 million from the Republican Governors' Association, $4 million from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, an estimated $3.7 million from Americans for Prosperity and more than $800,000 from the National Rifle Association.
Walker, whose campaign spent $36.1 million of its own money, collected 37 donations from individuals who gave between $50,000 and $510,000, amounting to $4.74 million. Twenty-six of those donations came from outside Wisconsin, according to the report.
Barrett's campaign spent $6.6 million, while outside groups spent millions more in support. Pro-Barrett spending included more than $5.3 million from Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund, almost $4.5 million from Wisconsin for Falk, $3.1 million from the We Are Wisconsin Political Fund and about $1 million each from two other groups.