Campaign donations from out of state are shattering previous norms as both sides of the ongoing recall battle try to gain a fundraising edge, a State Journal analysis has found.
Documents made available by the state on Friday showed that nearly 60 percent of the donations and almost 30 percent of the $1.18 million raised by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin since July came from outside the state.
That news comes a day after Gov. Scott Walker submitted documents revealing nearly half of the $5.1 million he raised — the most by one candidate in one filing period in state history — came from beyond state borders.
"There was a time when getting just 10 percent of your money from out of state would have raised serious eyebrows," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, an organization that tracks money in politics. "We simply have never seen campaigns rely so heavily on outside money."
The Republican Party of Wisconsin raised $763,733 since July and has $2.87 million on hand. A detailed analysis of its numbers was not available Friday evening. But given the fundraising so far, the party seems to be playing mainly a supporting role in Walker's recall defense.
The recall effort taking place in Wisconsin has national ramifications for Republicans and Democrats. Since Walker introduced his controversial collective bargaining bill in February, the state has been seen as a potential bellwether for political change.
Conservatives view Walker as a hero and hope his budget cuts and hard-line approach with public employee unions will spread to other parts of the country. Liberals view him as an enemy and fear his efforts will take hold elsewhere.
This dynamic was at play during the nine recall elections this summer, during which several candidates raised as much as a third of their cash from out of state. According to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a total of $44 million was spent during those recalls, about 80 percent of which came from out-of-state special interest groups.
"I don't see this trend changing anytime soon," McCabe said. "Both sides are taking advantage of it."
Other documents made public Friday and covering contributions from July 1 to Dec. 10 show:
• United Wisconsin, the organization heading the Walker recall effort, raised more than $300,000, 82 percent of which came from in-state.
• The biggest donor to the Democratic Party was the State Senate Democratic Committee, which gave $212,949. Three unions giving about $41,000 total were among the Democrats' biggest donors.
Walker's campaign has said more than 37,000 donors contributed $50 or less to the governor, a total that helped him raise about $7.6 million so far this year.