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Campaign cash flowing into war chests of senators facing recall

By   /   May 2, 2011  /   36 Comments

By Kevin Lee     Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON  —  If outside campaign money comes flowing into the state, it could stifle voters' influence in recall efforts against several state senators, a Minnesota legal scholar says.

"The citizens of Wisconsin might lose some control over their elections. This is the next biggest election that is going on in the U.S. for the next couple of months. It could serve as a national referendum," said Hamline University law professor David Schultz.

Recall elections have yet to be finalized by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board but some state senators already are in the full swing of raising campaign money.

So far, most of the money has come from inside-the-state sources, but Schultz said he expects the funding floodgates to open. One senator has accepted money from an Ohio union.

Nine state senators are facing potential recall elections, pending the validity of signed petitions and any legal challenges.

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R- River Hills, leads the fundraising pack with more than $421,000 for her political campaign committee in 2011.

Darling's three largest one-time contributions this year are a $20,000 contribution from Ted Kellner, who is listed as the chief executive officer of Fiduciary Management in Milwaukee; $10,000 from Daniel McKeithan, president of Tamarack Petroleum in Milwaukee; and $7,000 from Albert Nicholas, CEO of Nicholas Funds in Milwaukee, according to campaign reports.

Her committee has spent more than $206,000 this year so far, mostly in campaign mailers, media advertisements, office supplies and surveying research.

Darling campaign spokesman Andrew Davis said the campaign has learned from its 2008 fundraising efforts.

"We've been reaching out in standard ways with mailers and advertisements," said Darling campaign spokesman Andrew Davis. "We've also been doing a lot of direct fundraising emails and online fundraising."

State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, has more than $179,000 at his disposal in the run-up to a potential recall election. The assistant minority leader raised $127,000 so far this year while spending more than $54,000.

A message left with a number listed for the Hansen campaign was not returned.

Records showed Hansen's campaign sent a Chicago-based media firm almost $50,000 to produce a television advertisement regarding recall efforts against him.

Campaign records showed the Democratic Party of Wisconsin donated $50,000 to Hansen campaign fund on April 11.

The campaign fund received $5,000 from the Bay Lakes United Educators in Green Bay, which is affiliated with the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the National Education Association, and $4,000 from the United Transportation Union in North Olmsted, Ohio.

The UTU is an AFL-CIO affiliate that represents about 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus and mass transit workers in the United States and Canada, according to its website.

Some of the recall committees seeking to recall senators from both parties have depended on out-of-state money to push their efforts. Final recall committee campaign reports are due to be submitted this Friday.

 The Democratic Party of Wisconsin donated $60,000 to the campaign fund of state Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, the highest one-time contribution to a state senator facing recall. Holperin's campaign also received more than $18,000 from the State Senate Democratic Committee.

So far, Holperin has spent more than $90,000 this year, with more than $65,000 of that going towards advertising.

State Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, has raised more than $180,000 this year in contributions, with the single largest contribution of $15,000 coming from Jere Fabrick, CEO of Fabco, Inc. in Milwaukee.

Kapanke spent the bulk of $90,000 so far this year on direct mailers and consultancy fees to oppose the recall effort against him. Records show he has more than $99,000 on hand as of mid-April.

State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, has already announced her candidacy if the GAB certifies a recall election for Kapanke. Pre-election campaign numbers were not available for Shilling as of Monday. The most recent campaign reports showed Shilling had almost $52,000 on hand as of January.

State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-La Crosse, had not submitted recent campaign reports as of Monday. Signed petitions for his recall were submitted last Thursday.

Elected officials who were subject to recall efforts could accept unlimited campaign contributions while recall committees gathered signatures, said Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney.

Those unlimited contributions could only go to opposing recall efforts, such paying for advertisements or for legal fees. If an elected official has excess recall contribution money, the official must return the funds to the donor or donate the money to charity.

“No limits were placed on (recall contributions) because it’s something that you cannot plan for," said Magney.

State senator campaign fundraising and spending (from GAB records)

State Senator

How much raised this year

How much spent this year

Money in Campaign Fund*

Robert Cowles

Not submitted

Not submitted

Not submitted

Alberta Darling




Dave Hansen




Sheila Harsdorf




Jim Holperin




Randy Hopper




Dan Kapanke




Luther Olsen




Bob Wirch




* includes leftover funding from last year


  • Karen

    Well at least they are spending advertising money here! That should create some jobs…

  • Fran

    This is utter insanity – and we have to listen to all this hatred and vitriol!

  • Marcia


    Do you understand what is happening to Wisconsin? Political issues generate high emotions because they affect the lives of us all deeply. In the case of the recalls, the resistance to the Republican Senators is a response to the fact they support in a block a very harmful piece of legislation proposed by the now Governor which will damage every sector of our state. This is not an issue of hate, it is an issue of the destruction of a society which is not deserving of the depth, manner and scope of the ‘political reach’ of the governor. Anyone who supports the legislation is cooperating with a very negative set of harmful policies being launched and promoted in an ocean of lies, distortions and cover-ups. I urge you to take time to understand the content of the legislation and discover it’s target is you and your family as well as mine.

  • Barb

    This whole thing is utter insanity. We as a state are looking under rugs to support our budget and pay the bills. We voted these people into office,let them do the job and vote them out at the next election if they do not produce. When we can afford to live “large”, change the public sector contracts to meet the ability of the private sector to pay. Right now the money isn’t there. Suck it up.

  • Does anyone see the problem with these cash payments from private industry to our politicians? $20K in Darling’s case!

  • Barb

    Jack, I do see a problem, Industry or Union,what is the difference? There isn’t any. It is all being done to change the result of an election. It is wrong.

  • Barb, I oppose all payola, even from unions and even from other interests I support. I want only public money used for elections, and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has just presented a new proposal to that effect. We are paying for the elections anyway, when companies add their political costs to their product price. I’d rather pay up front at the rate of $10 per taxpayer rather that have corporations influence government spending.


  • Tpartywarrior

    The only senators worthy of a recall are the 14 Democrat cowards who fled the state. If you or I don’t show up for work for 3 weeks we get fired.

    Since when is it heroic to cut and run in America???

  • Tpartywarrior, you’d probably get fired too if you knowingly walked into an inferno. Look, Walker had a gun to everybody’s head. They did the only thing they could do under the circumstances. But as a Tea Partier you should be very cognizant of what is driving spending and taxes… it’s political corruption. We MUST rid our system of it.

  • Irish Mom

    So, Jack, does that include the corruption in the unions, too?

  • John Adams

    You are right Jack…we must rid the system of political corruption….and that is what Walker’s Budget repair bill does…the teacher’s union is the largest political donor in Wisconsin…even teachers who did not agree with how the PAC money was spent were forced to contribute…they now have the freedom to choose. In the past, state and local government just rolled over for the teachers union….Doyle etc did what the teachers wanted and the teachers threw dollars their way….no one represented the taxpayer…as a result, school districts like MPS have a 2011 average compensation package of over $100k…not bad for about 180 days of work. This level of compensation far exceeds what the average Wisconsin taxpayer makes….the taxpayer who is paying the freight…

  • Indeed union bribes are as bad as corporate bribes… but interestingly, politicians always seem to be on the receiving end. They are giving away state assets to anyone the can, all for cash bribes. THAT should piss off both conservatives and liberals.

  • Clif

    Then I assume you would have favored a recall of Abe Lincoln. As an Illinois legislator in 1840 he felt an action the legislature was about to take would be harmful to Illinois. The only action he could take to stop the action (as the doors were locked to force a vote) was to go to the second floor and jump out a window and run, which he did.

    Our 14 Lincoln legislators acted out of principle and were far braver than the lemmings following Walker over the cliff in a series of disasterous legislative initiatives.

  • Clif

    Where do you get your numbers? The wealthy private donors for Republicans far outspend the unions. The difference is that union spending is still transparent while the wealthy can hide their contributions behind the disasterous Citizens United decision of the Republican high court. It’s time to wake up to what is really going on.

    Do a little research on things like the Chamber of Commerce PAC and how much money was filtered down in attack ads to campaigns like Walkers last fall. What a joke to point the finger at unions when the wealthy have been transforming our democracy quite literallyinto an auction where they are guaranteed to be the highest bidders ….

  • Sue

    I think the entire point is missed when you neglect to mention that 14 Representatives held the state lawmakers up, while they refused to attend the meetings at the Capitol. They were being paid to do a job by the taxpayers and wasted our money and time. How many jobs have been lost because of the unions? Many of the people left behind have resented the packages they were forced to swallow or get nothing as their jobs went south or out or the country. Remember these are the same Unions that backed President Clinton when he signed NAFTA. NAFTA led to many jobs fleeing the country and quality was not taken into concideration. Our Social Secuity system has been given to people that have never put into it since Jimmy Carter sign this into law. Many of the problems we have were programs that were started years ago and now we are stuck with the consequences. If giving retirement to people illgally here is such a great idea let the government employees(including the President & Congress) support the people illegally here with their retirement for the next 20 years. We as a nation need to insist that government workers pay their share of the burden so we are not left with just scraps.

  • No John, replacing 10% public bloat with 20% private overhead, from industries that can give campaign cash, is NOT what I’d call “cleaning up corruption.” See


    Though I would agree that some educators could be overpaid, they are a diversionary target that doesn’t get at the real overspending of the government. And with his 4th largest corporate contributors being the out-of-stater Kochs is somewhat bothersome.

  • John Adams


    Do a little research….my numbers are right….cite where I am wrong….

  • John


    I agree with Sue. You seem to have missed the point completely and have chosen to characterize the Budget Repair Bill as something sinister.

    All Walker is doing is creating a parity between what the average taxpayer is paying for their benefits and what the public sector union member is paying for theirs… Why do you consider that offensive?

  • John


    The 1st Amendment allows for freedom of speech. This was specifically directed toward “political speech.” Money is a means of disseminating speech. To suggest that money spent on one’s first Amendment rights is wrong is rather silly.

    While you may not like the idea of others advocating for or against a candidate, it is perfectly legal to do so. Any attempt to make it otherwise would be illegal.

  • John


    Here is the link to the story about Lincoln.

    The last paragraph sums up the event: Lincoln and his fellow Whig enforcers quickly tried to leave, and, finding the chamber doors locked, resorted to climbing out of a window and dropping to the ground. Their self-defenestration was in vain, however, as the motion to adjourn passed, with the predicted consequences for the state bank. Lincoln was afterward embarrassed by what he had done and did not speak of it.

    As the article intimates, in the end, the bank failed. Lincoln was embarrassed. Have you noted any embarrassment from any of the 14 Democrats? I don’t think so.

    The public sector union greed is very telling. Those who support such greed over those who are tasked with paying the bills (taxpayers) is also very telling. I choose to align myself with the taxpayers — based on simple economics, if not on principle.

    Where do you stand? I think we all know.

  • John

    Ha, ha, ha, ha….

    Oh, Jack, there you go again…

    Walker did NOT have a gun to anyone’s head when he ran for and won the election. If anything, it was Doyle who planted a cancer in our state with his spending. Walker recognized it for what it was, and attempted to defeat it. As we all know, cancer can be a terrible thing, especially if one ignores it. Sometimes the cure is as bad as the disease. However, in this case, having the public sector union members pay a “fair share” of their health insurance and pension costs, and STOP the automatic political action deduction from union members is part of the cure. And, it works!

    I only wish you were as adament against union polical action contributions forced on their members as you are with private companies that force no one to contribute to anything…

  • John

    Mr. Adams, you are 100% correct. Go to the head of the class.

  • John


    I think the issue is that anyone who contributes to a political party or to an idependent organization does so freely and willingly. Unions impose a fee on their members and require that fee to be paid. That fee then goes to the political action committee where it is used without any consideration for the politics of those who contributed the money in the first place. It would be like your employer telling you that you had to pony up $50 per month for the privilege of working for him to pay for a conservative political message that you opposed. Now, that is just not cricket, is it…

    That is exactly what Walker is trying to stop. If the union member wants to voluntarily give a political contribution to such a worthy cause, they so be it, and you have lost nothing. If they don’t, you have empowered the individual tremendously. Are you not in favor of such a CHOICE, and the empowerment of the individual? Or, are you strictly in favor of supporting the collective?

  • John


    Can you tell me what Walker has given away for all of his cash bribes thus far?

  • As a shareholder of several private companies, I have NOT ONCE been asked if I would approve of the political contributions diverted from profits or dividends to politicians I may or may not want to support.

  • Kissing up to Walker again John? I sure hope you are getting credit or kudos for this.

  • Barb, do not be swayed by this absolutely idiotic statement. The last sentence is exactly opposite the first sentence. And please forgive John… he likes to present as an expert in everything, even on issues regarding our oligarchy.

  • John


    You wrote: And please forgive John… he likes to present as an expert in everything, even on issues regarding our oligarchy.

    This is your strawman… I make no claim on being an expert on anything. I don’t claim to have been a CEO of a healthcare company, like you. So, tilt at me all you wish; you’re on a fools quest if you do…

    You wrote: Barb, do not be swayed by this absolutely idiotic statement. The last sentence is exactly opposite the first sentence.

    My first sentence: The 1st Amendment allows for freedom of speech.

    My last sentence: Any attempt to make it otherwise would be illegal.

    Even when you attempt to parse my words and take them out of context you fall far short. Does the First Amendment not allow for freedom of speech? And, would the prevention of free speech not be illegal? Hmmmm. If that is too much for you to digest, we can bring out some crayons and go a little slower…

  • John

    Ha, ha, ha, ha… You are really starting to crack me up, Jack.

    As a union member, one has essentially no say in how the political action money is spent.

    As a stockholder of a private company that contributes to a political action endeavor, you have the choice to liquidate your holding if the corporate contributions offend you. Apparently they do offend you, since you rail about such political contributions over and over and over… Yet, you now claim you own shares of private companies and have no say in their politcal actions.

    Either you are a hypocrite by not “walking the talk” and getting out of your holding in such companies, or you simply have no principles when it comes to making money through companies that do exactly what you abhore.

    So, which is it? Are you a hypocrite or unprincipled? Or, do you not own stocks in such companies and only tried to manufacture an argument that you really hadn’t really thought all the way through…

    Keep up the good comedy. Tell us more about what you would or wouldn’t do.

  • John, the key word is “attempt,” which the 1st amendment permits. Get your crayons out… I’m waiting.

  • John


    If I had to choose between kissing up to Walker or to Doyle, I would always choose Walker.

    He is the only one that offered a logical approach to solving the overspending initiated by Doyle. I don’t need to get “credit” for my principled position of believing that those who have bilked the taxpayers over the years with health insurance plans that cost 50% more than the average (same set of benefits) because it is provided by the union’s own insurance company. Or, by asking those who were once granted the privilege of collective bargaining to now accept a new deal — one that is about the same as those offered to Federal workers — a deal that would bring the teachers (as an example) to about 50% of the contribution that is asked of private workers. Hmmm.

    And, Jack, just whom are you kissing? It sure ain’t the guys who are trying to improve Wisconsin. So, who is it then?

  • Wow, for a guy that uses nothing but “John,” you sure expect answers to a lot of personal questions. Excuse me if I ignore your intrusion. But I will say that, when I was a union member, I had the same freedom to find another job that I do today to find another investment. And in some states union members can opt out of political expenditures. (But don’t hold me to that one, I don’t consider myself as expert as you do.)

  • I’d be ashamed if I were as blindly gullible…

  • Barb

    Jack, I listen to Public Radio,and I read the Green Bay Press,Capitol Times,Milwaukee Journal,and the Wall Street Journal and then I voted to be “Blindly Gullible”. So I would like my”stupid “vote to count and have the freedom to know that as a  citizen I can continue to voice my opinion with out being told that I just do not ‘get it’. I got it. One more thing we have  adopted children of numerous ethnic backgrounds and during one listening session,I had a fine union guy call me a bigot. One of the kids had a’soon to retire’ teacher with sleep apnea and his college prep class was for naught as tenure kept this poor guy at the helm. I tried to work within the system and you can guess how far that got me. So you may say the Dems who left the Senate felt that was their only way out, but what is mine, if the union won’t fix itself? I voted so I could be heard.I do think that is the American way. I am not an expert either,but I am not stupid and I refuse to be taken advantage of by a system that I pay for and does not meet the needs of my family or that we can afford.

  • Barb, clearly voting is the only thing we have on our side at the moment. For the record I am (mostly) a republican that voted for Johnson but against Walker (because he opposes my two key issues, health care and campaign reform).

    In my view our most critical issue is our corrupt political system. it led us down the path we are on, and only eliminating it will get it reversed.

    Politicians spend money because they are PAID to spend money by the fat cats that want in the taxpayer’s pockets. Money WORKS, and as much as we want our politicians to be working for us, the Fat Cats are paying them to keep the system broken, because for them a broken system is profitable. And they are willing to share those profits with the politicians that made it all happen.

    It is WHY we can’t balance the budget, or pass good health care reform, or always make the wrong decisions on global warming, or whatever. Good laws don’t require campaign cash to flow, but bad laws do.

    *IF* we had politicians that were not taking cash from outside interests, they would fix these problems overnight. Including the schools.

    I’ll quit ranting… take care.

  • Tpartywarrior

    The only state senators deserving of a recall are the 14 Democrat cowards who fled the state and hid instead of standing up for their principles and views and voting in the state capitol where they belong.

    The left calls these 14 heroes but I ask since when did cutting and running become heroic in America?

    If you or I don’t show up for work for 3 weeks we get fired. Hence, the same should happen to the 14 cowards who answered to their union leaders. They held the democratic process hostage for 3 weeks.