Fundraising reports in the six recall campaigns against GOP state senators in Wisconsin are out. On the rec list,
stcroix cheesehead has a detailed breakdown
. The short version, which you can see in the chart on the right, is that Democrats have an edge in cash on hand in four of the six campaigns. It's pretty unusual for challengers to lead incumbents in cash on hand, much less for the majority of challengers to lead, so this is a very strong showing for the Democratic candidates.
What's particularly impressive is how the Democratic candidates built this advantage. According to a press release from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the average donation to the six candidates ranged from a low of $19.27 for Nancy Nusbaum (who faces Republican Robert Cowles), to a high of $37.14 for Sandy Pasch (who is up against Republican Alberta Darling). Without Pasch, the highest average donation to a Democratic candidate was $23.99 to Jennifer Shilling. Overall, the six Democrats raised $1,556,000 from about 70,000 donors who gave an average of roughly $22.
To put this in perspective, if the average donation to President Obama's 2008 campaign had been $22, then there would have been over 33,000,000 donations to his campaign. That is more than five times the 6,500,000 donations his campaign actually received.
Republicans will seek to cancel out this Democratic cash advantage through corporate-fueled paid media from groups like the Club for Growth. To counter that effort, Democrats have unions:
A political action committee formed by a coalition of unions active in state recall races says it has raised more than $4 million in the past six weeks, and has $2 million on hand to help Democrats.
Its goal is to flip the state Senate to Democratic control.
In a filing prepared for the state Government Accountability Board, We Are Wisconsin listed more than $3 million in donations from the national AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education. The group also received contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - both cash and in-kind - from units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's biggest teachers union; and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
These donations sound large, but unions get their money from their members. The size of union dues is much more analogous to small donations than to seven figure checks from the Koch brothers and other billionaires. Labor isn't just spending this money on ads, either:
Across the state, We Are Wisconsin volunteers are hitting the streets having one on one conversations with their neighbors. As of today, six days from our first primary election day, We Are Wisconsin volunteers have knocked on over 100,000 doors across the state — 102,791 to be exact!
Over 100,000 doors goes nicely with the over 100,000 donors who have given to the Wisconsin recall effort in some fashion.
There is real merit to the sentiment that Wall Street and powerful moneyed interests hold sway over not only the Republican Party, but also in many ways hold disproportionate influence over Democrats. My experience in politics has certainly confirmed that to be the case. As such, it is particularly heartwarming that in the Wisconsin recall elections, the Democratic spearhead is being forged almost entirely by small donors, volunteers on the ground, and unions. Given that this remains, by far, the fight in 2011 with the most potential to build progressive power, perhaps it had to unfold this way or else the fight would not have happened at all.
We do not fight an infinitely powerful opponent. We really can win if we stick together and push back hard. So far, in Wisconsin we're doing just that.