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Money flows in Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race

By   /   April 18, 2012  /   No Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Multimillionaire business Eric Hovde is piling his own cash into his campaign coffers in his bid for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Could this be deja vu for Wisconsin voters? The state’s soon to be senior U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, self-funded his campaign in his successful 2010 Senate bid.

Senate candidates’ campaign finance disclosure reports for the first quarter of the year were due April 15 to Federal Elections Commissions.

As of Wednesday, only reports for Hovde and former Wisconsin 1st District U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, both Republicans, were available on the FEC’s website. Reports for the other major Republican candidates, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, were not posted late Wednesday.

Here’s a closer look at the campaign finance numbers.

Self-funding so far

Hovde, the hedge fund manager and self-described political outsider from Madison, received outside contributions of $109,153 in his first quarter of campaigning. Hovde was the last of the so-called major candidates to jump into the race, launching his campaign March 8.

After initially loaning his campaign $250,000, Hovde, dumped another $1.5 million to his campaign.

The Hovde campaign spent $259,584.98 in the same period, leaving him with $1,599,568.02 cash on hand. Hovde’s campaign filed organization papers March 8, so the candidate’s filing reflects his first three weeks on the campaign trail.

“The first quarter was remarkably successful for Eric,” said Sean Lansing, spokesman for the Hovde campaign. “He’s never run for office before and he was still able to raise almost $110,000 in just three weeks.”

Hovde’s first outside donation was $2,500 from Wilbur Smith, part owner of Greenlaw Partners, a real estate development and investment management company in Newport Beach, Calif. Hovde is CEO of his Madison-based family-owned real estate development firm.

He received another $5,000 from James Bisenius, CEO of Common Sense Investment Management, of Portland, Ore., and $2,500 more from Janet Bisenius of the same company. Hovde’s campaign donations mostly come in the $2,500 or $5,000 variety from people at investment firms, owners of businesses, or from people and employers with the Hovde name.

Wisconsinites, a dozen of them, donated $14,500 to Hovde. Roughly two-thirds of that, $10,000, came from the Madison-based philanthropic Vaccaro family. Marc Vaccaro co-founded the Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterparks.

The Vaccaros contributed to two high-profile Democrats in 2006, the campaigns of then-Gov. Jim Doyle and Kathleen Falk, who is one of four Democrats vying to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a June 5 recall election.

Many pundits see Hovde as following in the footsteps of Johnson, a Wisconsin businessman who U.S. News & World Report described as one of the nation’s top 10 self-funded candidates. Johnson in 2010 beat Democrat U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

Neumann’s 17,000-plus

Neumann, who runs closest to Thompson in recent Republican primary polls, received contributions of $654,541.19 in the first quarter. The campaign spent $409,656.36 and is left with a war chest of $796,908.84.

About 42 percent of Neumann’s contributions — $266,583.97 — came from donations of $50 or less. Neumann’s campaign announced earlier it received donations from more than 17,000 individuals.

The former congressman also received $20,490.78 from political action committees, or PACs. One PAC, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, recently contributed $10,000 to the Neumann campaign.

Neumann has raised nearly $1.5 million overall.

The others

Thompson’s campaign announced it raised $660,000 in the first quarter.

The Democrat’s candidate for U.S. Senate, Tammy Baldwin, led all Senate candidates in fundraising. Her campaign raised $1,892,591.17 over the same period, Jan. 1 to March 30.

Baldwin spent more than $1 million dollars in the first quarter, leaving her with a war chest of more than $2.75 million.

Thompson, as of the most recent polling, leads all candidates, although many of the polls show a close race in the seat being vacated by long-serving Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.