MADISON (AP) - Spending on last fall's legislative races dipped from 2010 after campaign donors funneled their cash into recall elections instead, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's study found spending by legislative candidates, four legislative fundraising committees and outside groups totaled $16.53 million. That's down 14 percent from $19.25 million in 2010 and down 18 percent from a record $20.25 million in 2008.
The group's executive director, Mike McCabe, attributed the dip to campaign donors choosing to focus their resources on the June 2012 recall campaigns. Democrats forced Republican Gov. Scott Walker and five other GOP office holders into recalls for passing a contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights. Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, ultimately lost his seat in the recall elections.
According to the report, legislative candidates in the fall races raised $9.26 million and spent $9.5 million. Incumbents raised $4.59 million and spent $5.12 million; challengers raised $2.34 million and spent $2.23 million. Candidates for open seats raised $2.23 million and spent $2.14 million.
The report found 27 outside groups spent about $5.15 million on the legislative races, including $3.4 million to support Republican candidates and $1.75 million to support Democrats. Total outside spending was down 23 percent from $6.68 million in 2010.
Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group that supports GOP candidates, was the biggest spender at $1.3 million. According to the report, all the money went to fund a television ad attacking Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. Hansen still defeated his challenger, John Macco, a De Pere Republican.
The most expensive race was in the 18th Senate District, where Republican Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac defeated incumbent Democrat Jessica King. The candidates and outside groups spent about $2.7 million on the contest, the report said. Outside groups spent nearly four times as much as Gudex and King's combined $591,132.
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