Jason Stein and Alison Bauter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Gov. Scott Walker raised and spent nearly $7 million in his final days fighting off the June 5 recall against him in an election that likely will double the previous state spending record.
In all, Walker raised more than $37 million since January 2011 for his recall fight, an eye-popping figure that on its own equals the estimated $37.4 million spent by all candidates and independent groups in the 2010 governor's race.
Walker ended the recall with a sizable sum of $1.6 million in the bank, giving him a strong start toward a 2014 re-election race. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic opponent who lost to Walker in both the 2010 race and the recall, raised about $2.5 million for the period, spent $3.6 million and had $250,000 in cash left, spokesman Phil Walzak said.
This latest filing covers the period between May 22 and the end of June. The majority of the Republican governor's money in previous filings came from out of state.
"Overwhelming support from the grass roots was the engine behind Governor Walker's historic victory in June, and that strong support continues in an incredible way," Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said in a statement.
Full reports for Barrett and groups such as the labor-backed Greater Wisconsin Political Fund were unavailable at deadline.
Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said he expected the estimated total spent by the candidates and outside groups in the recall election for governor would hit $80 million.
"I think we're going to see the previous record doubled, that's right," McCabe said.
The recalls against Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators arose after the governor's legislation to end most collective bargaining for most public employees.
Walker raised so much because of the national appeal he developed with conservatives after the high-profile fight with labor unions that sparked the recalls that brought in large numbers of small-time and wealthy donors. He also made extensive use of a quirk in Wisconsin law that allows unlimited fundraising by incumbents while recalls are pending.
Normally, donors can give a maximum of $10,000 to a candidate for governor. But donors can give any amount to defray expenses incurred from the time recall petitions are taken out to the time a recall election is called.
For instance, in the latest period, Richard R. Pieper, an executive at Pieper Electric Inc. in Milwaukee, and Richard Roberts of Lakewood, N.J., the president of URL Pharma, both contributed $100,000. John Nau of Houston, the president and chief executive officer of Silver Eagle Distributors, contributed $50,000.
Other top donors in the latest period include Warren Williamson, a retired real estate worker and longtime Republican campaign and Club for Growth donor from Pasadena, Calif., and Paul Stahlberg of Barrington, Ill., CEO of manufacturing company Catalyst Exhibits Inc., which is scheduled to move from northern Illinois to Pleasant Prairie in the near future. Both contributed $20,000.
A recall election means another twist to the donation limits. With the recall election over, the limits are restarted and all these donors can give another $10,000 if they wish to the governor.
Walker's campaign paid $29,800 to the law firm of Michael Best and Friedrich on June 6. Walker has disclosed that his campaign retained former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic of Michael Best after Milwaukee County prosecutors subpoenaed campaign emails in 2010 as part of an ongoing John Doe investigation into Walker's former aides from his time as Milwaukee County executive.
Kleefisch, who defeated Madison firefighter and union leader Mahlon Mitchell in the June 5 recall, raised $277,000 in the latest period, spent $185,000 and had $123,000 on hand.
In other filings, Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine raised $78,000 in the final days before the June 5 recall elections.
The filing shows Wanggaard spent $181,745 in the final days in the election he lost to John Lehman, a Racine Democrat. In the final days, Lehman raised $51,929 and spent $97,000.
A recount that ended Monday called the race in Lehman's favor, though Wanggaard is considering a court challenge.
Like Walker, Wanggaard benefited from a quirk in state law that allows incumbent officials facing recall to raise unlimited donations. He received $20,000 on May 31 from Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, Ill., the president of packaging and shipping supplier Uline.
Normally, the limit for a donation to a state senator from a single contributor is $1,000 per four-year election cycle.
Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Stettin) raised $37,200 during the period and spent $88,200 on his way to winning a state Senate recall election against Rep. Donna Seidel (D-Wausau). Petrowski ran for the seat after former GOP Sen. Pam Galloway, a recall target, stepped down before the election.
Filings for other candidates in the recall elections were unavailable Thursday.
©2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel