Gov. Walker raises $4.5 million to counter recall efforts

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, shown here giving his State of the State address Jan. 25, has earned 77 percent of his campaign contribution from grassroots donations.

As recall elections approach, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign team has raised more than $4.5 million in its most recent reporting period, and $12 million overall. Although there have been allegations that Walker’s funding has been based largely on wealthy out-of-state donors, his campaign reports 77 percent of the 21,443 individual donations were $50 or less.

Walker’s high volume of small donations points to his campaign’s success in stimulating a grassroots movement motivating Wisconsin residents to make donations, regardless of the amount.

“Governor Walker’s message of moving Wisconsin forward continues to resonate with voters,” campaign Communications Director Ciara Matthews said in a statement. “It is this message, and the success of the governor’s reforms, that have inspired people to contribute to his campaign in overwhelming numbers.”

Volunteers around Wisconsin began collecting signatures to recall Walker in November. Democrats were able to collect more than 1 million signatures, allowing recall elections to take place after all the signatures are verified.

Walker’s campaign team has used the time until the signatures are validated to generate the same enthusiasm among supporters of the governor that Democrats have for the recall among theirs. Until a recall election date is set, Walker’s campaign also has no fundraising limits.

“These donations will allow us to fight back against this baseless recall and ensure Gov. Walker can continue to lay the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin and keep government working on the side of taxpayers,” Matthews said.

While the Walker campaign has had time to raise money since talks of the recall began, Democrats have yet to name a candidate to run against Walker in the election. According to Janet Boles, a professor emerita in Marquette’s political science department, this shouldn’t put them at a disadvantage in terms of raising funds or getting votes.

“Campaign spending doesn’t determine the outcome of an election, but each candidate needs enough money to get his or her message out,” Boles said.

Boles added that once a Democratic nominee is chosen, enthusiasm for the governor via his campaign donations could dwindle.

“Scott Walker’s TV ads to date have succeeded in modestly rebuilding his image among the independent or undecided voters in Wisconsin, but once a Democratic nominee emerges, that initial upswing in ‘favorable image’ may not hold,” Boles said.

Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said that while fundraising hasn’t begun for a Democratic candidate, Walker’s campaign has an advantage because of wealthy out-of-state donors along with its grassroots donors.

“(The Democratic Party) isn’t appealing to Texas billionaires and oil billionaires like Walker,” Zielinski said. “We can’t compete with that kind of money. While people in Wisconsin are losing their jobs, he’s going to Florida to shake down billionaires.”

On campus, Marquette’s College Republicans have tried to motivate students to vote for Walker in other ways besides just donating money. According to Daniel Denis, treasurer for the College Republicans and a senior in the College of Business Administration, the organization has focused more on building a grassroots organization.

“The College Republicans do not typically donate money to campaigns,” Denis said. “This is in part due to our own lack of funds and in part due to campaign finance law limitations.”

Denis said making sure students are informed on campus and getting students to pay attention to Republican candidates are higher priorities than raising funds for candidates.

“We focus instead on rallying conservative students and community members to different Republican causes,” Denis said. “We try to get the issues and candidates noticed on campus and help organize volunteers to counter the recall efforts.”