MADISON, Wis. – Republican Gov. Scott Walker has raised about $31 million since he took office 17 months ago, including a remarkable $5.9 million in the last five weeks reported to Wisconsin regulators Tuesday.
The first-term Republican reported his latest donations a week before he faces Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a recall election that is also a rematch of the 2010 governor's race. The state elections board predicted Tuesday that turnout would be between 60 percent and 65 percent, nearing levels normally seen in a presidential election.
Barrett, who was bound to fundraising limits of no more than $10,000 from any one donor, reported an impressive $3.4 million over the past five weeks. He raised about $4.2 million since joining the race at the end of March and had $1.5 million cash on hand.
In his 2010 campaign, Walker set the state's fundraising record by bringing in $11 million. But he has nearly tripled that since by playing off his national conservative credentials as he rocketed to stardom after taking on public sector unions.
That fight, in which most Wisconsin public workers lost their collective bargaining rights, triggered the recall. Wisconsin law allowed Walker, as the subject of the recall, to raise unlimited amounts to pay for any debts he incurred over a nearly five-week period.
That has allowed him to rake in massive donations never before seen in Wisconsin, including $100,000 he reported receiving Sunday from Richard Pieper, the head of Pieper Electric in Milwaukee. He also reported receiving $50,000 from Richard Roberts, president of URL Pharma in Philadelphia and $25,000 from Mac Carney, CEO of Midwest Insurance Co. in Springfield, Ill., over the past week.
Walker reported raising $5.1 million between April 24 and May 21, but that full report with details of donations had yet to be filed as of early Tuesday evening. In the past week, he has raised an additional $800,000 at least in reports he is required to file noting any donation above $500. Walker had $1.6 million cash on hand.
"It's clear Tom's support comes from tremendous energy from the grass roots, while Walker continues to raise unlimited money," Barrett's spokesman Phil Walzak said.
Walker raised about two-thirds of his $31 million in less than five months this year.
Both Barrett and Walker were out campaigning Tuesday. Barrett took to the road with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, while Walker held a campaign event at Husco International in Waukesha. Walker also attended the groundbreaking of a new 80,000 square-foot addition for an Ashley Furniture production facility in Whitehall that is projected to create 225 jobs.
Walker's campaign, meanwhile, released a new television ad attacking Barrett on Milwaukee crime numbers. The ad refers to a review by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that found 500 incidents since 2009 that Milwaukee police misreported to the FBI as minor assaults instead of aggravated assaults. If the 500 incidents been classified properly, the violent-crime rate last year would have risen 1.1 percent from the previous year's figures, instead of falling 2.3 percent as the police department had reported.
"Violent crime in Milwaukee is up, and Tom Barrett isn't telling the truth," the narrator in Walker's ad says.
Barrett has said he supports an internal audit. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, issued a statement saying there's no evidence to back up claims that Barrett is lying and covering up crime.
Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, called the ad "over the top" and said it indicates Walker is behind.
Walker's spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said Barrett owes his constituents an explanation of what she called "widespread misreporting of violent crimes" in Milwaukee.
A pro-Barrett group called the Greater Wisconsin Committee also released a new ad Tuesday that hits Walker on a number of topics, including his measure taking away collective bargaining rights from state workers and his role in an ongoing secret criminal investigation centered on former aides and associates of his when he served as Milwaukee County executive.
Walker has refused to talk in detail about that so-called John Doe investigation.