On his way to a record-exploding $13 million haul in the latest fundraising period, Gov. Scott Walker proved it takes a lot of money to make a lot of money.
According to the expense reports turned in to the Government Accountability Board this week, the governor spent $5.2 million on direct mailing services this year, a political tool that typically includes telemarketing, email fundraising and campaign literature dispersal.
That is a surprisingly high total, one that eclipses even the $4.5 million Walker spent on media this year. By comparison, the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates combined spent a total of $57,653 on mailings.
“The governor has a fairly significant national following,” said Charles Franklin, Marquette University Law School political scientist. “It seems he tapped into that with his direct mailings.”
Walker faces Arthur Kohl-Riggs in the May 8 Republican primary and then presumably will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary in the June 5 general recall election. Four Democrats are vying for the chance to face him: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.
Walker has raised more than $25 million since January 2011 and spent about $20 million over the same period. When those numbers first became public, many of the state’s political experts were surprised.
“It just didn’t seem like $20 million had been spent here,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks money in politics. “Now we know the governor was doing a lot of work to raise money. He did spend a heck of a lot of time on planes.”
The governor has been a frequent flyer recently. Walker spent about $116,000 on travel as he traveled to and raised money in California, New York, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.
But his reports shows the governor banked more on direct mailings than he did the power of his oratory. And according to the reports, Walker spent the lion’s share of his money — $4.2 million — with one company, SCM Associates, a Republican fundraising firm out of New Hampshire.
“That method does bring in the dollars, but it costs a lot,” Franklin said. “I think that’s probably why the Democrats appear to be limiting most of their mailings to inside the state.”
Barrett spent only $7,063 on mailings; Falk spent $49,836; Vinehout spent $754 and La Follette reported spending nothing.
Instead, the Democrats seem to have spent their money on media, most of it TV advertising. Of the $808,000 spent by Barrett, $714,000 went to media costs. The pattern is true for Falk as well, who dedicated $530,000 of her $884,859 in spending to media.
Vinehout spent a total of $50,611, of which $6,801 went toward media. La Follette’s report differed from the rest of the Democrats, in that he said he only spent $93 on media and more than $111,000 on consulting and polling.
Regardless, all of those pale in comparison to the governor’s expense sheet. Walker also spent $1.6 million on administrative costs and $846,693 on consulting and polling.
One of the campaign’s expenditures was $60,000 the governor transferred to the fund set up to pay the two criminal defense attorneys he has hired to represent him in the ongoing John Doe investigation of his current and former aides. State law requires donor approval to use campaign funds for legal defense. Said Ciara Matthews, Walker’s spokeswoman: “Any and all transfers were done in compliance with the law.”
State Journal data reporter Nick Heynen contributed to this report.