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By Dave Umhoefer July 27, 2014

Glenn Grothman says he leads in grassroots financial backing

When Republican moderate Tom Petri retires next year, his successor in Congress is likely to be a more conservative member of the party.

Four Republicans are battling for the party’s nomination, and fundraising will help determine who emerges from the Aug. 12, 2014 primary in Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District. The winner will take on Democrat Mark Harris.

When state Sen. Glenn Grothman’s mid-year campaign fund balance trailed two of his Republican rivals for the seat, he put a positive spin on his showing.

"The fundraising numbers are in, and our grassroots support is unmatched!" he wrote in a Facebook post on July 16, 2014.

Grothman, of Campbellsport, says it is smaller donations from Wisconsin that define his stronger "grassroots" support when compared to better-funded rivals Joe Leibham, a state senator from Sheboygan, and Duey Stroebel, a state representative from Saukville.

We wondered if Grothman really has an edge among regular Joes and Janes giving $1 to $199 at a time in contrast to the deep-pockets givers.

So we did what we do -- crunched the numbers.

We trained our calculator mainly on Leibham, who raised $302,940 so far in 2014, and Grothman, who’s taken in $147,638.

That’s because Grothman clearly has more financial support from regular folks than Stroebel ($368,206), who’s mainly using his own money, and than Tom Denow of the Oshkosh area, whose scant fundraising did not require reporting.

We found a virtual dead heat between Grothman and Leibham on some indicators of small-bore support -- but better news for Leibham on key bottom-line measures.

To the numbers:

Concentration of Wisconsin support:

More than 99 percent of Grothman’s donors are from the Badger State, compared with Leibham at 98.1 percent.

A broader way to look at it is donations, not just donors (some donors give multiple times). By that measure, Leibham and Grothman each got between 98 and 99 percent from Badger State residents.

Concentration of small givers:

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Slightly more than 76 percent of Grothman’s individual donations were $100 or less. The comparable figure for Leibham: just over 75 percent.

Again, basically even.

On donations of under $200 -- the threshold at which the Federal Election Commission allows candidates not to itemize donors by name -- Grothman had a larger advantage: 79 percent to 74 percent.

(Leibham discloses names and other information on all donations; Grothman, as is true for many candidates, discloses smaller donations only as a lump-sum number, as the FEC allows. He shared additional detail with us for this story. The candidates’ fundraising reports are on the FEC website.)

Money total from small givers:

Leibham ran ahead of Grothman on total funds from those giving $100 or less per donation, $46,000 to $41,000.

Number of small and in-state donations:

Leibham attracted almost 200 more sub-$101 contributions than Grothman, and about 300 more total donations from Wisconsinites.

Big money donations:

Leibham gets a slightly larger share of his contributions from people giving $1,000 or more.

In short, the pair get basically the same, very large share of their support from in-state donors and from small donations, but Leibham does more volume.

Grothman campaign spokesman Brandon VerVelde told us Grothman should get credit for winning straw polls at GOP events.  

Perhaps he should, but the candidate’s statement was about fundraising.

Our rating

Grothman boasted that, "The fundraising numbers are in, and our grassroots support is unmatched!"

But the numbers show that Leibham matched or out-did Grothman on most measures.

That reads as pretty matched to us.

We rate Grothman’s claim False.

Our Sources

Interview with Brandon VerVelde, Grothman campaign spokesman, July 24, 2014

Interview with Ryan Terrill, spokesman for Leibham campaign, July 24, 2014

Interview with Judith Ingram, FEC press officer, July 24, 2014

Interview with Christian Hilland, FEC spokesman, July 24, 2014

Grothman campaign press release, July 15, 2014

Leibham campaign press release, July 15, 2014

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Glenn Grothman says he leads in grassroots financial backing

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