Scott Walker burned through $90,000 a day, left campaign $1M in debt

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

Gov. Scott Walker burned through $90,000 a day during his short-lived race for the presidency and left his campaign about $1 million in debt.

Walker raised about $7.4 million in his campaign during the third quarter of this year and spent about $6.4 million of it before dropping out 71 days after his campaign’s official launch, according to finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Reports filed by presidential candidates in mid-October cover July through September. Walker officially entered the race in mid-July, although he traveled the country extensively the first six months of the year, partly using Wisconsin taxpayers’ money. He dropped out of the race on Sept. 21. 

Walker reportedly left the race because fundraising couldn’t keep up with his massive campaign operation, which grew to around 90 staffers. He decided to drop out rather than take on debt or significantly scale back his operation when his polling numbers went into a steep decline in key early voting states and donors began to balk, according to The Associated Press.

Frenzied spending

The Wall Street Journal reported that Walker’s debt stretches to more than $1 million beyond his cash on hand when unpaid bills are included.

That debt is not surprising.

Walker paid his campaign manager Rick Wiley nearly $52,000 for three months of work, which equals about $208,000 a year. Campaign communications director Kirsten Kukowski was paid about the same amount.

Also on the payroll were Walker’s two sons, who were paid about $1,500 a month to campaign for their dad. The recently released FEC report shows Alex Walker was paid $4,819 between June 30 and September and Matt Walker was paid $4,824.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson told the AP that Matt and Alex had part-time jobs at campaign headquarters and returned to school when the fall semester began. Both sons were frequently by Walker’s side when he campaigned.

Walker has promised to pay back travel costs for the taxpayer-funded security detail that traveled with him as he campaigned. His administration said in mid-October that $67,000 in security costs remained unpaid.

In the wake of the Walker campaign’s crash, Wiley’s management has come under withering criticism from Republicans, particularly Walker loyalists. They contend that Wiley encouraged Walker to go too big too soon and failed to prepare him adequately for unscripted appearances.

Wiley’s alleged persona as an overgrown party boy — and not in the sense of political parties — didn’t sit well with the Christian extremists who were among Walker’s most ardent supporters.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Walker said recently he would not run for president again as a sitting governor, because it’s too difficult to do both. His second gubernatorial term runs through 2018.

With his presidential campaign behind him, Walker has not indicated whether he’ll seek a third term as governor. His current favorability ratings are under water: 57 percent of Wisconsin voters saying they disapprove of his job performance, while only 37 percent approve, according to a Marquette Law School poll released in September.

Many Walker loyalists contend that if not for his unbridled spending, Walker would have been able to remain in the race. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story the morning Walker quit the race insisting that his high favorability ratings outside of Wisconsin augured well for his campaign. Meanwhile, Walker’s fundraising was on par with other Republican contestants. Carly Fiorina reported raising $6.8 million during the third quarter. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio brought in $6 million. 

On the other hand, Ben Carson raised $20 million, Jeb Bush hauled in $13.4 million and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a longshot candidate, wrangled $12.2 million in donations.

On the Democratic side, where the presidential field is less crowded, Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $28 million and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders collected $26 million.

The FEC figures include only direct contributions to campaigns and not money raised by super PACs.  PACs support campaigns with TV commercials and other promotional media. According to federal law, they’re barred from coordinating their activities with campaigns, although the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on July 16 that such coordination is legal under Wisconsin law.