By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The river of recall cash has begun to flow, powered by $10 trickles and $240,000 floods.
Campaign finance reports for July 1 through Dec. 10 period were due Thursday to the Government Accountability Board, or GAB, which oversees the state's elections.
Efforts are under way to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP senators, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Van Wanggaard ofRacine and Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau.
A group of northern Wisconsin residents also is mulling a recall of state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, but hasn't started circulating recall petitions.
The Friends of Scott Walker campaign committee received $5 million and spent just shy of $4 million from July 1 through Dec. 10, according to its report filed Thursday. The committee has $3 million on hand.
This is the first campaign finance report filed since efforts to recall Walker began Nov. 15. Those seeking to recall the governor have until Jan. 17 to file 540,208 signatures with GAB before a recall election can be set.
Incumbents facing recall efforts are exempt from standard campaign contribution limits, until an election is officially ordered.
That enabled, for example, Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder, to contribute $240,000 on Nov. 16, and Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, of Wake Forest, Ill., to donate $100,000 each to the Friends campaign war chest. Richard Uihlein is owner and CEO of Uline Inc., a shipping and packaging company. Elizabeth Uihlein is president.
“I think you’ll see some very large contributions to the governor that are much larger than are normally allowable, because he’s in a period of unlimited fundraising,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, or WDC, which tracks campaign spending in the state.
The Kleefisch campaign said it would not be submitting paperwork, because Kleefisch “didn’t have any information to report,” said GAB spokesman Reid Magney.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, or DPW, meanwhile, said it had collected more than $1.1 million since July, according to the Associated Press news service. Details of the contributions were not available online late Thursday.
But what appear to be large numbers in December may seem like a mere drop by spring.
More than $44 million was spent on last summer’s nine state Senate recall elections, the WDC estimated.
The GOP lost two state Senate seats, narrowing the party's majority position in the chamber to one.
This round of recalls has the potential to include two statewide races — Walker and Kleefisch — potentially pushing the amount spent much higher. But it’s unclear how much money will come into the contests.
“The heavy money flow is yet to come,” McCabe said.
Yet while campaigns undoubtedly love six-figure checks, people like Rose Byholm and Barbara Meyer are the bread and butter of campaign funding.
Byholm is an 80-year-old widow who lives in Weston and recently contributed $50 to Friends of Pam Galloway, because she said she believes Galloway is a good representative for the Wausau-area district and the recall efforts against her state senator are "horrible."
“I can’t afford too much,” Byholm said.
But, she said, if Galloway loses, “it would be because there’s too much money behind the people who are against her.”
Meyer recently contributed $50, too — a donation to the Lafayette County Democratic Party, intended to help kick Walker out of office.
Meyer, 77, a retired nurse who lives in Argyle, paused when asked what she dislikes most about the sitting governor.
Walker has been criticized for everything from cutting aid to local governments to limiting the collective bargaining for most of the state’s public union employees.
“I guess maybe it was his whole attitude of, ‘I’m here now. I’m king, and I can put all this legislation through,’” Meyer said.
More details will emerge in the coming days on the amount of money being spent on the recalls and how that money is being spent.
But, McCabe said, “I wouldn’t expect numbers that would really knock people’s socks off or would really floor you, because that money flow doesn’t really intensify, until we’re more into the process.”
Petition circulators have 60 days to collect enough signatures to trigger a recall — 540,208 each for Walker and Kleefisch, and between 14,958 and 16,742 for the GOP state senators.
With a month to go before the petitions need to be submitted to the GAB, DPW chairman Mike Tate announced Thursday that more than 507,000 signatures have been collected in the recall effort against Walker. Organizers are aiming for more than 720,000 to withstand any challenges.
The GAB has said that if any recall elections result from the current efforts, the elections won’t be held until late spring or early summer.