Despite it not being an election year, state lawmakers were still able to bring in a large amount of campaign cash during the last year. An analysis by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows members of the state Legislature had over $4.1 million in the bank at the end of 2013, with about $3.5 million of that raised during the year. The report also found that Republicans have an almost three to one cash advantage over Democrats heading into the election this fall.
WDC executive director Mike McCabe says legislative leaders and the campaign committees in each chamber were among the top fundraisers, along with several lawmakers looking to move up to higher office with campaigns for statewide office or Assembly members seeking Senate seats. There were 20 legislative candidate and campaign committees that raised more than $50,000, with 15 of those for Republicans and five for Democrats. McCabe says the concentration of cash in the top seats in the Legislature only proves the old adage that “money flows to power,” with special interest groups trying to influence what goes on at the Capitol.
McCabe says the massive funding advantage, combined with more partisan legislative districts created by the Legislature in 2011, could result in some very one-sided races in the fall. He says there’s already a type of “wealth primary” that appears to be driving possible candidates out of the race, before they even decide on running in the first place.
A surprising find, McCabe says, is that a large number of rank and file lawmakers actually did very little fundraising in 2013. He suggests that could be an indication that many legislators may be considering retirement at the end of the session. More than a dozen lawmakers have already announced they will not seek reelection this coming November.