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Bill Lueders: Campaign cash buying more than just ads for Scott Walker, Mary Burke

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Bill Lueders
August 16, 2014

It's only just begun.

The ads. The yard signs. The emails. The fundraising letters. The campaign events. The ads.

Wisconsin's race for governor promises to be another high-profile, high-spending affair. Republican Scott Walker and Democratic rival Mary Burke together raised $19 million between last October, when Burke entered the race, and July 28, the last reporting date cutoff.

Walker's fundraising advantage is more than two-to-one, $13.1 million to Burke's $6 million. His latest filing shows him with $7.1 million cash on hand, compared to Burke's $1.7 million.

All this will be spent, and much more, given the three additional months of fundraising before the Nov. 4 election. This doesn't include the many millions that will flow into the race from outside interest groups.

What will all of that money buy? Good question.

In the first seven months of this year, Walker spent $7 million to Burke's $3.7 million. These outlays are itemized on the candidates' reports to the state Government Accountability Board. Downloading this data and crunching the numbers yields useful information.

For instance, $3.7 million of Walker's spending total, or 53 percent, went to individuals and companies in other states. Burke, meanwhile, spent $3 million in other states, or 81 percent of her total; just over half ended up in Washington, D.C.

Burke's largest expense category, at 39 percent, was for television ads. All of this went to the D.C.-based GMMB, whose website boasts: “We take on the tough races—the ones the pundits say can't be won.” Previous clients include Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Sens. Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, and Nelson Mandela.

Walker spent slightly more than Burke on TV ads—about $1.5 million to her $1.4 million. But because Walker spent more overall, it accounted for just 22 percent of his total. All of Walker's TV ad dollars went to Nonbox, a consulting firm in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, that makes ad buys.

Walker's largest expense category, at $1.6 million, was for “Mailing Service”—shorthand in the campaign biz for direct mail fundraising. Here the beneficiary was SCM Associates, a GOP fundraising company in Dublin, New Hampshire. Past clients include Mitt Romney, Sen. Scott Brown, Paul Ryan and Walker, whose website testimonial says SCM “played a critical role in my recall election.”

The SCM website says it raised “nearly $15 million” to help Walker in his recall election. Records show his campaign paid the company $6.5 million between early 2011 and the mid-2012 election. To make money, you have to spend it.

Burke has spent more than $600,000 on mailing services, much of it to two Maryland-based companies, ProList and Linemark.

Other findings: The Walker campaign reported spending $216,000 on fundraising expenses such as food and beverages. On two occasions, it paid more than $4,000 for the boogie woogie stylings of Boogie and the Yo-Yoz, an Appleton-based band.

Burke's fundraiser outlays totaled $3,422. Of this, the campaign spent a grand total of $52.75 on entertainment; this went, in one lump sum, to Full Compass Systems, a Verona company that rents audio/visual equipment.

Walker spent $932,417 on consulting fees, compared to Burke's $438,975. He spent $146,636 on surveys and polls, compared to her $136,243. And Walker spent $338,687 on legal fees, presumably related to the stalled John Doe probe, while Burke's legal fees totaled $30,077.

Next to TV ads, the highest “media” expense category for both candidates was online advertising, with Walker spending $189,804 to Burke's $145,424.

In the category of newspaper advertising, Walker's campaign spent a grand total of nothing. Burke coughed up $813 for this cause, including four $2 purchases from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Every little bit counts—and is, on some ledger somewhere, counted.

Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org). The Center produces the project in partnership with MapLight. The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.



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