Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has far outpaced his Democratic colleague, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, in fundraising so far this year.
Johnson, the conservative who unseated former Sen. Russ Feingold as part of the tea party wave in 2010, reported raising $407,886 in the first three months of 2014. It is by far his campaign’s best quarterly performance since he took office in January of 2011.
Baldwin reported raising $134,870 during the same period.
Why so much less? A couple sources suggest it's because she's only been in the Senate for a little over a year and, unlike Johnson, has not built up the same rolodex of donors.
“That’s the likely reason,” says UW political science professor Ken Mayer, who studies campaign finance. “It may also be that these two years are more favorable for the GOP, so you hit when things are hot. Tammy is not going to run short of money for (her reelection in) 2018.”
Indeed, the Johnson and Baldwin campaigns raised nearly identical sums of money in their first years in office. Baldwin raised $626,898 in 2013 while Johnson raised $607,741 in 2011.
Both candidates receive the great majority of their contributions from individual donors; they both received less than 20 percent of their funds from political action committees.
But the official campaign figures don’t tell the full picture. Both candidates also have affiliated “leadership PACs” that they use to raise money, largely from special interest groups. Typically senators will use such groups to dole out money to other candidates for office.
In the 15 months since she took office in January 2013, Baldwin’s leadership PAC, “People’s Voice PAC,” has raised $190,346.
Figures for the first three months of 2014 are not yet available for Johnson’s group, “Strategy PAC,” but the figures for 2013 show that the group fundraising’s is on pace with Baldwin’s group. Last year, the PAC raised $136,500.
Individuals who give to the candidates’ leadership PACS, neither of which have websites, represent an elite class of donor than those who give to traditional candidate campaigns (already a small sliver of the population).
The $82,500 that Strategy PAC reported raising from individuals came from 17 Wisconsin donors, all but one of whom gave $5,000, the maximum allowable contribution to a PAC. Ten of those donors were spouses of other donors, who each gave $5,000. Beloit billionaire Dianne Hendricks also chipped in $5,000.
The rest of the group’s money came from political action committees affiliated with corporate interests, such as Koch Industries and MillerCoors.
The $166,000 that People’s Voice PAC raised from individuals did not come exclusively from large donors, but it received a great share of its money from lobbyists and other Washington, D.C., insiders. It also received a large chunk of money from political action committees affiliated with unions and corporations, including MillerCoors.