Out-of-state donors keep giving Walker cash

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND , Associated Press
  • Updated: May 30, 2012 - 11:33 PM
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In this May 24, 2012 photo, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses supporters in Waukesha, Wis., as Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch listens. While Wisconsin generally elects its governor and lieutenant governor as a pair, the two Republican incumbents face recall elections June 5 on separate ballots, leading to the slim possibility that the governor will be of one party and his second-in-command of the other.

Photo: Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press - Ap

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MADISON, Wis. - Out-of-state donors kept pumping cash into Scott Walker's campaign last month as the embattled Republican governor made his final preparations to face next week's historic recall.

Reports filed with state elections officials Tuesday show Walker collected $5.9 million between April 24 and Wednesday. Almost two-thirds of that money — $3.7 million — came from contributors who listed an address outside Wisconsin. Another $112,778 came from donors who didn't provide enough information to determine an address.

"Walker has made no secret of the fact that his campaign is a national campaign. He's using that limelight to raise money and help his effort," said Jay Heck, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin. "The question is whether or not the people of Wisconsin will resent that or if it's fine with them."

Democrats upset with Walker for proposing a measure last year stripping most public sector workers of nearly all their union rights have forced the governor and four other GOP officeholders into recall elections on Tuesday.

Democrats painted the plan as an all-out attack on organized labor, but Walker said he had to make the move to balance the state budget. Republicans across the country have rallied around him.

Aided by a quirk in state law that eliminates contribution limits for recall targets, the governor has amassed an eye-popping $31 million since he took office in January 2011. An unprecedented amount has come from outside Wisconsin. Campaign finance reports covering the weeks between Jan. 1 of this year and late April show two-thirds of the governor's money came from out-of-state.

The newest reports illustrate the depth of Walker's staying power with his fans across the country. His biggest contributor was Richard Pieper, who runs Pieper Electric in Milwaukee, with $100,000. URL Pharma President Richard Roberts of New Jersey and Christy Walton of Wyoming, widow of John T. Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, each gave the governor $50,000. None of them immediately returned messages Wednesday.

The reports also show the governor has transferred $100,000 in campaign contributions to a legal defense fund he set up after Milwaukee prosecutors began investigating his associates during his stint as Milwaukee County executive.

Five people have been charged in the probe so far. Walker has insisted he's not the target of the investigation, but state law allows him to establish the fund only if he or one of his agents is under investigation for or has been charged with campaign or election violations. Walker has declined repeated calls to explain his role in the probe.

Walker's opponent, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, meanwhile, raised $3.4 million between April 24 and Wednesday, with 70 percent of his money coming from donors with Wisconsin addresses, the reports showed.

His largest contributor was the state Democratic Party with $53,612, a little more than half of what Pieper handed Walker. Four groups each contributed $43,128, including the National Education Association, the Wisconsin Education Association Council's Fox Valley chapter's Appleton-based political action committee, and the International Association of Firefighters and American Federation of Teachers' Washington, D.C.-based political action committees.

"I have a lot of confidence in Tom's abilities," said Bryan Kennedy, president of AFT-Wisconsin, who made the request for the national PAC contribution. "No reservations whatsoever. He'll be a fair and even-handed governor."

Barrett has raised $4.2 million since he jumped into the recall race in late March, an impressive amount in its own right considering that, unlike Walker, he was bound by the $10,000 limit on individual contributions. Still, he lags far behind Walker's totals.

Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said in a statement that Walker has stronger grassroots support than Barrett and promised voters will ultimately reject the mayor on Tuesday.

Barrett has tried to turn Walker's fundraising against him, accusing him of worrying more about being a "right-wing rock star" than running the state. Barrett's campaign spokeswoman, Melanie Conklin, issued a statement Wednesday echoing that sentiment, saying Walker's out-of-state money wasn't surprising and Barrett would always put Wisconsin first as governor.

"He's got the mountains of money. I've got you," Barrett told dozens of supporters at a rally Wednesday evening in downtown Madison.

Barrett's strategy hasn't seemed to move voters, though, as Walker saturates the air waves with multiple ads attacking the mayor. A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed Walker with a narrow 7-point lead heading into Election Day, 52 percent to 45 percent.

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