The Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised more than four times what the state Republican Party raised in the first half of the year, hauling in more than $4.2 million across its two major state accounts.
The Democratic Party’s multimillion-dollar fundraising haul — about $4 million of which was raised to support candidates and about $200,000 was for administrative costs — compares to about $835,000 raised by Republicans over the same time period, including about $95,000 for administrative costs, rather than to support candidates.
The Democratic Party closed out the month of June with about $1.8 million in its main account, while Republicans ended the month with about $165,000.
It’s yet another fundraising report that has reflected the increasing strength of the Democrats in the fundraising arena as Wisconsin’s status as a swing state continues to garner national attention. Last year, the Democratic Party raised more than the Republican Party for the first time in 12 years, by more than $14 million, buoyed by a presidential election in which Wisconsin was pivotal to President Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent Donald Trump.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a group that tracks campaign spending, reported the Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised more than $23.6 million in 2020, nearly two-and-a-half times more than the $9.8 million raised by the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
Campaign finance laws written by Legislative Republicans and signed in late 2015 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker allow political parties to receive unlimited donations and make unlimited transfers of funds to candidates.
Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesperson Anna Kelly said the latest fundraising reports show the state GOP heading in the right direction.
“Our fundraising operation fueled the grassroots effort that resulted in a highly successful local elections program in the spring and dominating victories in special elections throughout 2021,” Kelly said. “As we build on this momentum, the Republican Party of Wisconsin is in stronger financial condition than at this point in the previous cycle, field staff are being hired throughout Wisconsin even earlier than in the past, and we will have the resources necessary to win in 2022.”
Fundraising figures are just one component of a successful campaign or political party, but they can offer a glimpse into the campaign’s or party’s organization, donor base and overall support. They also provide one indication of the success of each party in a post-Trump political environment.
They can also be simple reflections of the political realities on the ground. For instance, state political parties tend to have an easier time raising money when their candidate is the governor, a benefit Democrats currently enjoy.
Political strategists say the Democratic Party’s fundraising success is an indication the party is able to nurture a donor base and sustain participation, which has been a problem for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin over the past decade.
“I think it shows a continuing engagement among Democrats even after Trump,” said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki.
As for Republicans, Zepecki said he believes the state GOP will have no trouble raising money moving into 2022, but that the GOP’s smaller fundraising haul might underscore the challenges for the party of navigating a post-Trump world.
Republican strategist Brandon Scholz cautioned not to put too much stock in the fundraising figures. He said while the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s fundraising strength presents a challenge to the GOP, it doesn’t indicate the Republican Party is lost in the wilderness.
“Politics is cyclical,” Scholz said. “You can’t sit back on your laurels because you raised a ton of money one year. You’ve got to stay with it.”
One of the largest recipients of the Democratic Party’s contributions has been Gov. Tony Evers, who is seeking a second term in office and sits with $7.3 million in campaign funds after raising $5 million in the first half of this year.
Of the more than $1.9 million in committee contributions to Evers’ campaign in the first six months of the year, more than half — or just over $1 million — came from the state party.
Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws allow unlimited contributions to political parties, which can in turn transfer that money to political candidate committees in order to circumvent contribution limits imposed on candidate committees.
Other major contributions to Evers’ campaign include: $86,000 from the Democratic Governors Association; $43,000 from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee; and $86,000 each from the Engineers Political Education Committee, the Laborers International Union of North America and the American Federation of Teachers COPE.
The remaining $3 million in funds raised by Evers came from individual donors, with the largest donation amount from individuals coming in at $10,000.
Candidates for Congress continue to raise funds. U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, raised about $620,000 in the second quarter of the year. If U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, doesn’t run for reelection, Gallagher is rumored to be a potential candidate in the GOP primary.
In the race to represent Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, covering much of western Wisconsin, Republican challenger Derrick Van Orden raised about $754,000 between April and June and ended the reporting period with just over $600,000 in the bank.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, raised about $408,000 during the reporting period, and ended it with about $1.4 million in the bank.
State Journal reporter Mitchell Schmidt contributed to this report.
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY II
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.