Campaign cash: Wisconsin GOP gains most from higher contribution limits

Republican statehouse candidates benefited more than Democrats from Wisconsin’s doubled campaign contribution limits during the first six months of the year, a new analysis has found.

The net GOP advantage was about $25,000, or less than 1 percent of the $2.6 million raised by all legislative candidates in the first half of 2016, the Wisconsin State Journal reported over the weekend.

But Matthew Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which conducted the analysis, said it reflects how a smaller number of people are playing a larger role in funding candidates and influencing public policy.

“That is not a healthy development,” Rothschild said. “Our democracy should not be a tug of war between a few extremely rich people on the left, and a few extremely rich people on the right, which is what it’s becoming. Instead, we all, as citizens, should have an equal voice and an equal say.”

The watchdog group found 290 donations that exceeded the old limits, which were doubled under new laws that took effect at the beginning of the year.

Previously, individuals could give $500 to Assembly candidates, $1,000 to Senate candidates and $10,000 to statewide candidates annually. This year marked first time the amounts were raised since the 1970s.

GOP legislative campaigns collected $90,402 extra thanks to the change, or about 38 percent more than the extra $65,491 that Democratic legislative campaigns took in.

There were 159 donations that exceeded the old limits for legislative Republicans and 120 such donations for Democrats. Altogether Republican Legislative campaigns raised $1.35 million and Democratic Legislative campaigns raised $1.29 million in the first half of the year.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign raised an extra $50,000. Nonpartisan and independent candidates raised about $46,000 extra.

The analysis looked at single donations that exceeded previous limits, and didn’t include donors who exceeded the old caps via multiple donations.