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Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke holds a press conference at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. MJS photo Angela Peterson Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke holds a press conference at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. MJS photo Angela Peterson

Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke holds a press conference at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. MJS photo Angela Peterson

By Dave Umhoefer December 22, 2013

Mary Burke says 70 percent of money contributed to Scott Walker comes from outside Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign had a healthy $2.2 million on hand at last count -- and that was after he dropped $2 million getting his 2014 re-election machine revved up.

Mary Burke, the Madison Democrat challenging him, tries to use Walker’s state and national fundraising prowess against him as she courts donors for her campaign.

"Will I be out-fundraised? Yes," Burke told the Journal Sentinel Dec. 13, 2013, repeating a claim she has made on the campaign trail.

She added: "When Scott Walker raises nearly 70% of his money from out of state, that's going to be hard to beat. But what I feel is I'll be able to raise what I need to get the message out. My money is going to come largely from the people of Wisconsin."

Only time will tell if Burke gets the nomination and is outspent by Walker. She’s expected to tap her personal wealth.

But we can take a look at her claim that Walker gets more than two-thirds of his campaign cash from outside Wisconsin.

Did the governor, in the year after his recall election, still attract that level of interest from around the country?

Different ways to count it

Burke didn’t specify a time period for her claim, so there are different ways to look at it.

For example, about 62 percent of Walker’s total fundraising from his first days as governor in January 2011 through the midway point of 2013 -- the most recent reporting period available -- came from out-of-state donors.

Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki said she meant funds raised for the 2014 election cycle. That’s a logical way to frame it, given that Burke is jumping in during that cycle.

Zepecki said Burke specifically meant funds raised after the recall election Walker won on June 5, 2012. She crunched the numbers herself using the database maintained by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a widely used source on campaign fundraising.

Of $4.8 million raised by Walker after June 5, 2012, 68 percent was from states other than Wisconsin, we found when using the Democracy Campaign data’s advanced search function. The data is current through June 30, 2013, when candidates last reported their fundraising to the state.

So by that accounting Burke appears to be on target.

But there is a problem with her analysis.

The Democracy Campaign, when it issues its own reports, uses July 1, 2012 as the start date of the 2014 season. By that timeline, 59 percent of Walker’s individual receipts since then were from out of state. (Data note: The Democracy Campaign data omits some donors under $100, but that makes little difference in the bottom line.)

There’s a second way to look at this, and it’s the official way described in state statutes.

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State law defines the recall period as extending to July 31, 2012.

That July 31 marker recognizes the fact that campaigns don’t close the books on an election for several weeks or months after the polls close. Donations, for example, continue to come in, and bills must be paid.

Walker booked more than $3 million in the eight weeks after the recall election, reflecting the tail end of the frenzied recall fundraising period. He booked more than 39,000 donations between June 6 and June 30 alone.

Activity in his campaign accounts slowed to a trickle after July 31.

So those late-June donations are pretty clearly related to the recall, and are officially considered so, but Burke’s timeframe includes them.

And that makes a significant difference, because Walker’s recall fundraising was truly a national affair.

Crunching our own numbers

So to get the "official" number we crunched the numbers from Walker’s state campaign reports starting with donations after July 31, 2012. As part of this, we examined all individual donations instead of excluding those smaller than $100.

Bottom line: We found of the $3.6 million Walker raised from the official post-recall start date of July 31 to June 30, 2013, some 56 percent was from out of state.

So, still a solid majority from out of state, but not the two-thirds Burke claimed.

There’s not a perfect way to do this, because Walker is free to carry over unspent recall funds and use them in the 2014 race.

Walker raised money from every state in the period. Wisconsin was king, by far, followed by Texas, Illinois, Florida and California. His very largest donors are mostly from out of state

"While some candidates are able to turn to a vast personal fortune to fund their campaign, we rely on folks who believe in what we’re doing, and support us by contributing their hard-earned money," Walker campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said when asked about out of state contributions. In the period, 75 percent of Walker’s contributors gave $50 or less.

Burke will file her first six-month campaign report in late January 2014.

Our rating

Burke said that "Scott Walker raises nearly 70 percent of his money from out of state."

By her layman’s definition of the 2014 campaign season, she’s on target.

But the number drops to 56 percent if you use the official state definition of the 2014 cycle -- an approach that weeds out a mountain of recall-related donations from the analysis, as Burke’s campaign said she intended.

We rate her claim Mostly False.

To comment on this article, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website.

Our Sources

Email exchange with Joe Zepecki, Burke campaign spokesman, Dec. 17, 2013

Email exchange with Jonathan Wetzel, spokesman, Walker campaign, Dec. 20, 2013

Email exchange with Reid Magney, spokesman, state Government Accountability Board, Dec. 16, 2013

Interview with Richard Bohringer, lead campaign finance auditor, state Government Accountability Board, Dec. 19, 2013

Interview with David Julseth, data analyst, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Dec. 19, 2013

Email exchange with Mike McCabe, executive director, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Dec. 19, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scott Walker raises $3.5 million this year in re-election bid," July 22, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Mary Burke hitting campaign trail hard," Dec. 14, 2013

Journal Sentinel analysis of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Campaign Finance Database, Dec. 19, 2013

Journal Sentinel analysis of data in Government Accountability Board’s Campaign Finance Information System, Dec. 15, 2013

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Mary Burke says 70 percent of money contributed to Scott Walker comes from outside Wisconsin

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