Gov. Scott Walker continues to shatter fundraising records in an effort to survive the upcoming recall election, raising about $13 million in the most recent campaign filing period, bringing his total war chest to more than $25 million raised since January 2011.
The governor's latest totals, which cover the period of Jan. 18 through April 23, nearly triple the record he set in the last filing period, when Walker raised $4.6 million between Dec. 11 and Jan. 17. The previous total was the most ever raised during one period by a candidate for a state office.
Campaign finance paperwork for all of the candidates in the upcoming recall election was due to the Government Accountability Board on Monday. Walker faces Arthur Kohl-Riggs in the May 8 Republican primary and then will presumably face off against the winner of the Democratic primary in the June 5 general recall election. Four Democrats are vying for the chance to face him: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.
The governor has spent much of this year flying across the country raising money. As a target of a recall election, he has become a national Republican hero, a status that has helped him raise vast amounts.
The difference between his fundraising totals and his opponents' is substantial. The deadline was midnight Monday, so not all documents were available by press time. Other candidates' totals include money raised from Jan. 1 through April 23 — more than two weeks longer than Walker's reporting period.
According to GAB documents:
• Kohl-Riggs, a Capitol protester who is essentially a protest candidate, raised $2,045 and has $1,565.
• Barrett, who didn't get in the race until March 30, raised about $830,000 and had about $475,500 cash on hand.
• Falk raised $977,059 this period, with $118,000 cash on hand.
• La Follette raised $118,062, though $112,000 of that was a loan from himself.
• Vinehout raised nearly $44,000 and had about $13,500 cash on hand.
But the governor also faces opposition from groups associated with the recall. For example, Wisconsin for Falk raised $4.45 million this year, of which only about $5,700 came from individual contributions. The rest came from unions, primarily Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFSCME. The organization had about $517,000 cash on hand. Meanwhile, an organization that spearheaded the recall process, We are Wisconsin, raised $1.7 million between its PAC and its political fund.
According to the governor, who announced his totals Monday afternoon, he received 125,926 contributions, of which 76 percent were $50 or less.
"We continue to see strong grass-roots support for Gov. Walker, his bold reforms, and his plans for moving Wisconsin forward," said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.
A State Journal analysis found that of the 43 donors who gave Walker more than $10,000 or more, only 16 reported living in Wisconsin, and those 43 large donors gave Walker about $2.5 million. And Walker raised $8,376,195 from out-of-state donors, with some 74 percent of his individual donors coming from out of state.
Large Walker donors outside Wisconsin included school voucher advocate Richard M. DeVos, billionaire owner of the Orlando Magic and the co-founder of the direct sales marketing company Amway; and Sheldon Adelson, billionaire CEO of the Las Vegas Sands who has given tens of millions to the super PAC supporting presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Both men gave $250,000. Another billionaire, Warren Stephens, an investment banker and conservative financier, donated $100,000.
Critics accused the governor of trying to use a decided fundraising edge to obscure his record.
"The unprecedented amounts of money coming to defend Scott Walker's radical agenda are breathtaking, and it is true that we will be badly outspent," said Mike Tate, Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said Walker has raised a vast, unprecedented amount of money in part because the race is viewed as crucial across the country.
"This has become a national election," he said. "I think most Republicans view Walker's survival as essential if they are going to win the presidency."
Heck said it is going to be an incredibly expensive race even though he doesn't think there are many Wisconsin voters who are undecided about Walker.
The governor has spent nearly as much as he has raised. Walker's campaign said it finished the quarter with a total of more than $4.8 million cash on hand, meaning Walker has already spent more than $20 million on the recall.
State law allowed Walker, as the target of the recall election, to raise unlimited amounts of cash up until elections officials certified the recall on March 30.
Joe Heim, UW-La Crosse political science professor, said he suspected Walker spent most of his campaign money because the governor was required to return or donate all contributions above the typical $10,000 limit once the election was certified.
"That's a huge amount. It's unprecedented," Heim said of Walker's fundraising total.
Heim said Walker's campaign cash will be "pretty daunting" to the Democratic candidate who wins the May 8 primary, adding that much of Walker's money will likely be spent on a barrage of television and radio ads over the next month.
Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak issued a statement Monday, saying, "No amount of special interest conservative cash can hide the fact that under Walker, Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in the country last year, and led the nation in significant job loss over the past 12 months."
Said Falk, "He raised $13 million from across the country because he's delivered an extreme agenda that isn't our Wisconsin values, and I'm proud to stand with the nearly one million people who have signed a recall petition to remove him from office."
— State Journal data reporter Nick Heynen contributed to this report.