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Among some true believers, Scott Walker is not just governor of Wisconsin. He is America’s governor.

Most of the money now pouring money into Walker’s gubernatorial campaign coffers comes from people who live in other states, newly released campaign finance filings show.

Of the $3.5 million received by Walker in the first six months of this year, nearly $2 million came from out of state. This continues a trend that began when Walker first announced sweeping changes to the collective bargaining power of most public employees, prompting historic protests and an unsuccessful recall attempt.

Consider: When Walker was first elected in 2010, he raised and spent about $11 million. Of this, less than 10 percent came from donors in other states, according to the state Government Accountability Board’s online database.

Between Feb. 12, 2011 —  the day after Walker’s announcement — and June 6, 2012 — the day after the recall election — his campaign took in $35.9 million. Of this amount, $21 million, or 59 percent, came from outside Wisconsin.

And of the $6.9 million Walker has raised since the recall, nearly two-thirds flowed from out of state. The campaign has been able to continue spending and even sock away $2.2 million cash on hand.

Of the $6.9 million Walker has raised since the recall, nearly two-thirds has come from out of state. Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Kate Golden / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

“That’s pretty impressive, without him even having an opponent,” says Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “He’s got a bigger national image than most people realize, especially among individuals and groups that fund Republican campaigns nationally.”

Walker, who faces re-election in Wisconsin next year, is frequently mentioned as a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016. And while federal rules forbid the use of money raised for a state office like governor to seek federal office, Heim sees a connection between the two campaigns.

“If Walker wins in 2014 substantially, it strengthens his position,” Heim says. Conversely, a squeaker win against a lesser-known opponent “would diminish his image nationally.”

Walker deputy campaign manager Jonathan Wetzel, asked about the high level of out-of-state contributions, replied via email: “We’re grateful for the enormous grassroots support the campaign has received to help Gov. Walker continue to move Wisconsin forward.”

In a recent press release, Walker’s campaign noted that 80 percent of the donors who helped it raise $3.5 million so far this year gave $50 or less. It did not mention that these donors, though numerous, accounted for just 22 percent of the total amount.

In fact, half the governor’s receipts during this time came from people who gave $1,000 or more. This includes more than 70 people who gave $10,000, the maximum allowed per election cycle under state law. (A bill that would double this limit to $20,000 passed the state Assembly and is pending in the Senate.)

Heim says donors to Walker’s campaign, even those who live in other states and cannot vote for him, feel they have “a vested interest in his policies,” which they hope will “spread throughout the country.”

Warren Stephens, the chairman and CEO of an investment banking firm in Little Rock, Ark., who gave Walker a $10,000 contribution on June 24, affirms this.

“Well, it’s pretty simple,” Stephens says. “He (Walker) seems to be doing things that governments need to be doing. Frankly, I think he’s kind of on the front lines of that as it relates to other states.”

Stephens says he does not normally give money to candidates in other states, adding that his company does not do business in Wisconsin. He finds it fascinating to watch Walker “take on the challenges that he has and, you know, survive.”

The two men have never met, but they have spoken by phone. That was after Stephens last year took advantage of the suspension of usual contribution limits for a recall race and cut Walker a $100,000 check.

“He called me to thank me,” Stephens recalls. “I thought that was very nice of him.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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7 replies on “Out-of-state donors buoy Walker”

  1. Thank you for this revealing article.

    Donations from outside a candidate’s district should be illegal.

    It clearly interferes with (even blocks) the relationship between candidates (or elected winners) and the people in their districts.

    Who does Walker REALLY represent and serve if 60% or more of his campaign comes from people he was NOT elected to represent?

    Though I’m a Wisconsin resident, I can’t afford to give $10,000 (or even $100) to my preferred candidate for Governor. I’m nearly powerless to influence the election (beyond placing my 1 vote.)

    Why should a rich banker in Arkansas, who neither lives nor does business in Wisconsin, be better represented and SERVED by Walker than literally millions of voters who live and work exclusively in Wisconsin and can’t afford to donate to Walker’s campaign?

    Added interference from huge amounts of independent electioneering, also funded largely from outside candidate’s districts, just compounds the outrage.

    American elections have become corrupt tragedies. We’ve all suffered a “money coup” and should be fighting back, but the coup leaders have too much power now.

    1. He is receiving these donations from the koch bros., namely americans for prosperity, which isna facade group for the koch bros. views and how to manipulate to make them more money than they already have. Welcome to the new america paid for by special interests and inreasing the income gap every second with new dergulation of improtant fundamental laws and rights to americans. Our founding fathers are probably rolling over in their graves. This is not the america they fought for. They fought to get away from an elitist society and niw the tides have turned in the past two decades.

  2. The recent arrests of singers is a calculated tactic to burnish his national profile–what else has he got to entice big donors with? Note that there were plenty of GOP cameras at the resulting (and expected, no doubt) enlarged and enraged groups in response to the singers arrests.

    Let’s hope he runs in the 2016 primary– he’ll be creamed.

  3. Has there been a story done by this organization as to how much out of state money was poured into the anti-Walker campaigns we’ve seen the past 2 years? Or how many out of state union operatives were here providing in kind campaign donations with their time?
    Or maybe how much out of state money Jim doyle received in his campaigns? Or how many of those Obama donors were really the “small donors” that he liked to brag about versus all those rich liberals and special interests who gave big bucks to him?

    It seems this organization has been engaged in an odd anti-Walker agenda. Perhaps it’s time that the taxpayer stop providing free office space on our university campus for this one organization. Or….maybe it’s time to invite media organizations of all stripes onto campus for their freebies as well.

    1. You ask whether “this organization” has written on how much out-of-state money went to oppose Walker — that is, support his opponent. The answer is yes. That was covered in this column ( from December 2011 and this article ( from June 2012.

      Here’s an excerpt: “Walker enjoyed a huge funding advantage, having raised more than $32 million through June 4, compared to Barrett’s $4.6 million. More than half of Walker’s money came from out of state, compared to about a quarter for Barrett, attesting to the race’s high level of national interest.”

      As for how much out-of-state money Doyle received, that was something the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism looked into for a recent collaboration with Ch. 3 TV. The relevant section:

      “Walker’s fundraising for the recall election shattered previous records, and involved a much higher share of out-of-state support than for previous Wisconsin governors. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, during his last two years in office, raised $1.6 million, of which 80 percent was from Wisconsin donors.”

      The Center, which focuses on Wisconsin, has not examined campaign donations to President Obama. Anyone wishing to do so will find relevant data on the Federal Election Commission website:

  4. It seems liberals like to whine when they are outraised by Republicans, but have no problem with large amounts of money raised (from all sources) by their own Democrat candidates. I don’t think there was a whole lot of complaining about the out of control fundraising by Barack Obama, and that some of that money came from outside the USA and from untraceable sources.

    1. So we agree that outside money is bad for elections and should be outlawed?

      Then let’s all work TOGETHER to force ALL of our politicians to get it done!

      Party affiliation isn’t the issue. MONEY INFLUENCE is the issue.

      Walker is the “poster boy” here because his particular campaign was especially awful in this regard and broke all prior records by a wide margin.

      But the bigger picture shows that BOTH the Republican and Democratic Parties should be ashamed of their inability to fix this problem. They’ve both had many opportunities over the past 20 years, but they BOTH have failed because their majorities were too addicted to the money they wanted for their own campaigns. Neither party is showing patriotic leadership.

      Let’s stop the partisan bickering here on this issue and turn our combined focus on ALL the elected officials who should be working overtime to stop this outrage.

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