Mike McCabe On Latest Fundraising Numbers

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Mike McCabe On Latest Fundraising Numbers

Premiere Date: 
July 11, 2014

McCabe also examines the rise in out-of-state contributions to candidates.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

In the governor's race, incumbent Republican Scott Walker has far out-raised Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, in campaign fundraising for the first half of this year. That according to the candidates’ release of records this week. Walker raised $8.2 million to Burke's $3.6 million. Big money politics where, according to our next guest, the new trend is big money out-of-state contributions. Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is here. Mike, thanks for being here.

Mike McCabe:

My pleasure.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do these year-to-date totals we reported at the top on the part of Walker and Burke say what fundraising might look like going forward in this governor’s race?

Mike McCabe:

We'll see the most expensive regular governor's election in our state's history. It won't reach the level of spending that we saw in the 2012 recall election. That was $81 million in total spending. The old record was about $37 million. They're on a pace to raise and spend more than that. So we're going to see a very expensive race. Not reaching the recall election levels, but surpassing what we saw in 2010 for sure.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, just ahead of these numbers coming out this week, you reported on out-of-state contributions. What did they look like?

Mike McCabe:

Well, you know, for years we had seen anywhere from about $300,000 to about $2 million at the most coming into Wisconsin campaigns from outside Wisconsin. Now, all of a sudden in 2011 we saw a huge spike, it doubled to $4 million. And then the next year, in 2012, it went to $17 million. So we’ve seen this huge infusion of out-of-state money. In 2013 Governor Walker got over half of all of his money from outside Wisconsin, and I expect, once we see the campaign finance reports, that trend is going to be continuing in 2014.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about Mary Burke?

Mike McCabe:

She’s, at times, you know, been approaching a third of her money coming from outside of Wisconsin, and so she also is seeing fairly large sums coming from out-of-state. Certainly not on a level that Governor Walker is able to draw money from outside our borders.

Frederica Freyberg:

What explains this? Why do people like and care about Wisconsin now?

Mike McCabe:

You know, they never-- Honestly, donors never paid much attention to our state, but in recent years I think they've seen Wisconsin increasingly as a battleground, maybe even a bellweather that indicates what might happen elsewhere in the nation. What I can say about the outside donors is they’re not just donating in Wisconsin, they're donating nationally. These donors are coming from both coasts and all points in between. They definitely want to influence an agenda nationally, and Wisconsin is seen as a key battleground for them.

Frederica Freyberg:

One of the things I found interesting was looking at the group listing for these out-of-state contributors. I love how the biggest contributors are retired or “homemakers”, but really that's not what they are, right?

Mike McCabe:

Right. Often what they are are the spouses of CEOs of big corporations, you know, or they’re recently retired CEOs of major corporations and they still are active on the board of directors of that company. That kind of thing. But on the campaign finance report they put down retired or homemaker.

Frederica Freyberg:

Yeah, they get to say, homemaker. What kinds of interest groups are most interested in funding Wisconsin in this race?

Mike McCabe:

Well, you know, clearly we're seeing an array of business interests, big corporations that are very active. But then you're also seeing a lot of these major donors are advocates of things like school privatization, and they’re active in trying to push that school privatization agenda all across the nation. The biggest out of state donor of all so far here has been Dick and Betsy DeVos. They’re  out of Michigan. They run an organization called the American Federation for Children which used to be known as All Children Matter, and it’s a school privatization advocacy group. Some of them have specific policy agendas that they're pushing in places all across the country, including Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why does it matter, in your view, that there is a growing trend toward out-of-state contributions?

Mike McCabe:

Well, in general what we're supposed to have are elected representatives who answer to the people who elect them. Increasingly, what we're seeing is, their political fate really depends on people who can't even vote in the election, that live outside of our state. And that calls into question the kind of representation people here in Wisconsin are really getting. The candidates like to say that all this fundraising talks about the extreme enthusiasm in their campaigns. It says nothing at all about what voters think of them so far. What it says is what a fraction of 1% of the state's population that does all the donating and what a bunch of out-of-state donors think, how enthusiastic they are about the candidates. It remains to be seen how enthusiastic voters are about either of them.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now Mary Burke has said that if elected governor she would ban out-of-state contributions, and yet she takes them.

Mike McCabe:

Yeah, she takes them. And I think this reports going to show she’s getting significant money from out-of-state. But again,  not nearly as much as Governor Walker is. She probably sees an advantage in saying, let's at least take the position that Governor Walker shouldn't be doing this. Bottom line is that campaign financing is scandalous in general. Again, a fraction of 1% of the population is really controlling the fate of these elected officials. And they end up having to answer to those donors and cater to them, and that costs the rest of voters dearly. So there’s a whole lot about campaign financing that needs to get fixed, and the out-of-state money problem is part of that.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Mike McCabe, thanks very much.

Mike McCabe:

My pleasure.


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