MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Campaign spending reached a state record of $93 million during Wisconsin’s 2018 gubernatorial race between Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tony Evers, according to a watchdog group’s review.
The group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found that Walker and outside backers invested roughly $58 million into the former governor’s failed attempt at a third term, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Evers and outside groups put about $35 million into the campaign that ended in his victory , which helped Democrats reclaim power after President Donald Trump carried the state by less than 1 point in 2016.
“Getting the most money doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win, but it does give you a huge advantage,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Campaign spending last year topped the 2014 gubernatorial race between Walker and Democrat Mary Burke by $11 million.
The increase comes after the state loosened campaign finance rules in 2015 by allowing coordination between political campaigns and advocacy groups. Wisconsin’s new system generally made it easier for national groups to spend money without disclosing their donors, and increased individual donor spending limits for gubernatorial campaigns.
Rothschild said the spike in spending levels also shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed businesses, unions and nonprofits to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.
Outside groups representing ideological, business and labor interests spent about $41 million in the governor’s race last year. The conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which is part of Kansas billionaire Charles Koch’s network, spent $8 million on Walker’s campaign. The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal group, spent about $2 million backing Evers.
Rothschild said he expects campaign spending in the state’s 2022 race for governor to top $100 million.