All of the candidates hoping to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election raised a combined total of about $2 million, less than one-sixth of the $13.2 million that flowed into Walker's campaign war chest during the most recent reporting period.
Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive who announced her plans to get in the recall race long before the election was officially ordered, outraised Walker's other challengers but far trailed the governor in fundraising. And Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Barrett, who was just re-elected as Milwaukee's mayor in early April, raised $831,000 but had an additional $500,000 remaining from his recent mayoral run.
Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout were dramatically behind their Democratic challengers in fundraising. La Follette received about $118,000, including some $112,000 he gave to his campaign, and Vinehout got just $44,000.
"You don't see too many candidates have 25 times more than their challengers," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the campaign finance watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "But nothing about these recalls is normal."
The candidate fundraising is just part of the story. Contributions have also been flowing into outside groups, and those third-party organizations have already spent millions in advertising.
Right Direction Wisconsin, a political action committee of the Republican Governors Association, spent about $4.1 million during the most recent reporting period, from mid-January through April 23, according to the campaign finance report it filed with state elections officials. Other organizations that support Walker, including Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, are expected to spend millions defending the governor.
Outside groups that oppose Walker are also expected to spend millions, including organizations such as Wisconsin for Falk, Greater Wisconsin Committee and We Are Wisconsin.
McCabe predicted $60 million to $80 million will be spent on the recalls by candidates and third-party groups, likely in the upper end of that range.
Walker's war chest was fed in large part by out-of-state donations, which accounted for about two-thirds of his fundraising total since December. None of Walker's challengers reported cracking $1 million in fundraising in the most recent reporting period.
Falk brought in about $977,000, with just more than half of that coming from donors in Wisconsin. At least $253,000 of Falk's donations came from unions, which have rallied against Walker for more than a year since he pushed through a measure to effectively end collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin.
The political action committee for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, contributed about $43,000 to the Falk campaign, AFSCME Wisconsin gave her $35,690, and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin donated $35,000. The liberal women's political organization Emily's List contributed $38,838.
Barrett raised far more of his campaign cash in state, with 87 percent, about $720,868, coming from Wisconsin donors and $110,500 more from out of state.
The Milwaukee mayor, who lost to Walker in the November 2010 general election, did not get the union contributions that Falk did, but a dozen people contributed the $10,000 maximum donation to his campaign. That includes well-known Milwaukee attorney David Gruber, former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen and Michael Best and Friedrich attorney David DeBruin.
Hari Trivedi, an Independent candidate for governor, reported receiving $33,378, of which $32,246 came out of his own pocket. He reported having just $26 cash on hand.
As expected, far less money went toward the recall race targeting Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. She reported receiving $540,562 during the recent period and having $424,856 in cash left in her campaign coffers. She led her Democratic challenger Mahlon Mitchell, a Madison firefighter who reported raising $135,563 since entering the race and having $98,949 cash on hand.
— State Journal data reporter Nick Heynen contributed to this report.