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Wisconsin Gov. Evers way ahead of Republican challenger Michels in direct donations, but losing in outside spending



FILE - (left) Republican candidate for governor in Wisconsin, Tim Michels; (right) Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has raised about $42 million in his reelection campaign, while his challenger Republican businessman Tim Michels has raised about $25 million, according to the campaign finance database Follow the Money.

Michels, however, has given his own campaign about $18 million, accounting for more than 70 percent of his direct donations.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party has given Evers about $15 million. The Wisconsin Republican Party has given Michels about $3 million.

Peter Cameron is managing editor of The Badger Project, a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit based in Madison. — This story was funded in part by a grant from the La Crosse Community Foundation.

Outside spending groups have picked up the slack for Michels. They have spent at least $13 million on political messaging, a lot of which is TV and radio advertisements, attacking Evers and supporting the Republican, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks campaign finance data in the state.

That’s three times more than outside groups allied with Evers have spent — about $4 million attacking Michels and supporting the incumbent.

State law limits candidates for governor to accepting a maximum of $20,000 from a single person per election cycle. A political action committee can donate a maximum of $86,000 per election cycle to a gubernatorial candidate.

Independent groups, some of which are called Super PACs, can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money running advertising promoting or trashing candidates.

This change in campaign finance law comes from the Supreme Court decision in the 2010 Citizens United case, which ruled that political groups could raise and spend unlimited amounts to use in political messaging as long as they didn’t coordinate with political campaigns.

The Right Direction Wisconsin Political Action Committee has spent at least $8 million to defeat Evers, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The group was launched by the Republican Governors Association.

The Monona-based A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund has spent nearly $3 million to elect Evers, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Americans for Prosperity, a part of the Koch Brothers’ network, has spent nearly $4 million to get Michels elected, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Peter Cameron is the managing editor of The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture in Wisconsin which investigates our public officials and other important state issues.

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