GOP lawmakers had 4x more cash than Dems entering 2022

By: - February 21, 2022 6:00 am
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Republican lawmakers who control the legislature had four times more campaign cash than Democrats entering the 2022 election year, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Year-end campaign finance reports showed the 132 Assembly and Senate lawmakers and their four legislative campaign committees had $10.3 million in their campaign accounts as of Dec. 31. Republican lawmakers and their two legislative campaign committees had $8.21 million in the bank and Democratic legislators and their two legislative campaign committees had $2.09 million at the end of 2021.

The main reason legislative Republicans consistently raise and save more than Democrats is that money flows to power. Republicans hold comfortable majorities of 61-38 in the Assembly and 21-12 in the Senate that allow them to determine the fate of legislative proposals.

One need look no further for proof that money flows to power than the year-end cash balances held by the four legislative campaign committees, which are used by legislative leaders to raise campaign cash from special interests. The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate held a combined $3.75 million, which was 7.5 times more than the year-end $497,700 held by the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and the State Senate Democratic Committee.

The other reason Republicans have higher totals is because there are more of them. There are 82 GOP lawmakers plus two GOP legislative campaign committees and 50 Democratic lawmakers plus two Democratic legislative campaign committees.

But even per capita, Republicans are sharply ahead of Democrats. Republican lawmakers and their legislative campaign committees had an average of $97,738 in their campaign accounts on Dec. 31, compared to the average $40,108 held by Democratic legislators and their legislative campaign committees.

Sixteen candidate and legislative campaign committees had more than $100,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2021.

The largest cash balances

Here were the largest cash balances:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (regular and segregated funds), $2.45 million;

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate (regular and segregated funds), $1.3 million;

GOP Sen. Howard Marklein, of Spring Green, $416,497;

Republican Sen. Roger Roth, of Appleton, $406,178;

GOP Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, of Oostburg, $306,648;

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee (regular and segregated funds), $297,035;

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Rochester, $210,496;

GOP Sen. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, $205,338;

State Senate Democratic Committee (regular and segregated funds), $200,656.

Campaign finance reports also showed legislators raised a total of $7.42 million in 2021. Republicans raised almost three times more than Democratic lawmakers – $5.5 million versus $1.92 million. Per capita, Republicans and their legislative campaign committees raised an average $65,424 compared to $36,948 by Democrats and their legislative campaign committees.

Ten legislative campaign committees and candidates raised more than $100,000 in 2021

Top fundraisers were:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (regular and segregated funds), $1.68 million;

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate (regular and segregated funds), $1 million;

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee (regular and segregated funds), $684,127;

State Senate Democratic Committee (regular and segregated funds), $413,277;

GOP Sen. John Jagler, of Watertown, $221,593.

The 2021 legislative fundraising and cash-on-hand figures continue a pattern of successive increases in odd-numbered years (see Bar Chart below). That’s due in part to sweeping changes made to state campaign finance laws in 2015 by the GOP-controlled legislature and governor’s office. Those changes doubled individual and political action committee contribution limits and allowed corporate contributions to parties and legislative campaign committees, among other things.

Bar chart from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign data. Totals also include legislative campaign committee (LCC) fundraising and cash-on-hand.

The $10.3 million held by legislative committees at the end of 2021 was 30 percent higher than the $7.94 million that legislative campaigns had at the end of 2019 and 40 percent higher than the $7.38 million in legislative campaign accounts at the end of 2017.

The $7.42 million that legislative committees raised in 2021 was 31 percent higher than the $5.67 million legislative campaigns raised in 2019 and more than double the $3.54 million that legislators raised in 2017.

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Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild

Prior to joining the Democracy Campaign at the start of 2015, Matt worked at The Progressive magazine for 32 years. For most of those, he was the editor and publisher of The Progressive.

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