Laning
Conservative groups have spent $5 million "against" Tammy Baldwin -- five times more than against all other Democratic U.S. Senate incumbents up for election in 2018 combined.  

Martha Laning on Friday, January 5th, 2018 in an interview

Mostly True

Millions more spent to defeat Tammy Baldwin than all other incumbent Democrats in Senate combined

Two Republicans -- Kevin Nicholson (left) and Leah Vukmir (right) -- are running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Moneywise, the most important U.S. Senate race in the country might be for the seat held by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

At least that’s the suggestion from Martha Laning, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Laning was interviewed on the "Devil’s Advocates," a liberal radio talk show based in Milwaukee, on Jan. 5, 2018 -- 10 months ahead of the general election. Co-host Dominic Salvia said the Huffington Post reported that conservative groups had already spent $3 million against Baldwin. He asked Laning how Baldwin and the state Democratic Party could counteract that.

Laning replied with an even more eye-catching money claim, saying:

Well, I want you to know, first, that it's $5 million that's been spent against Tammy -- and it is five times more money spent against Tammy Baldwin, our senator, than all of the other U.S. Senate candidates up in 2018 combined. So, they are coming after Tammy Baldwin like no other.

That means Laning is claiming $5 million has been spent against Baldwin -- five times more than has been spent, in total, against all of the other Senate Democrat incumbents who are up for re-election in 2018.

The stakes

It won’t be known until after the August 2018 primary election which GOP opponent that Baldwin, who was elected in 2012, will face. So far, two suburban Milwaukee Republicans are running: State Sen. Leah Vukmir and political newcomer and former Marine Kevin Nicholson.

Including Baldwin, Democrats are defending 25 U.S. Senate seats in 2018 (two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democrats). The New York Times says it’s a "tossup" as to whether Democrats can wrest control of the chamber from the GOP, which has a two-seat edge.

Noting the Huffington Post article that was referenced in Laning’s interview, the political news website Axios made this observation about the Senate races and President Donald Trump:

There are 10 Democratic senators [including Baldwin] up for re-election this year in states that Trump won. But if conservative groups’ spending is any indication, Wisconsin might be the hardest seat for Democrats to keep.

The numbers

The Huffington Post article was based on data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which is based on reports made to the Federal Election Commission. So, we went to the center’s website to produce this breakdown on how much conservative groups have reported spending so far against Baldwin:

Expenditures against Baldwin during the 2018 election cycle

Group

Affiliation

Amount Spent

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce

Arlington, Va.-based hub for spending by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch

$1.66 million

Americas PAC

Marion, Iowa,-based super PAC

$703,500

Restoration PAC

Suburban Chicago-based super PAC

$527,499

Committee to Defend the President

Hybrid PAC/super PAC that supports Donald Trump

$130,680

Stars & Stripes Forever PAC

Alexandria, Va,.-based super PAC

$17,569

Restore American Freedom & Liberty

Denver-based hybrid PAC/super PAC

$14,000

Conservative Freedom Fighters

Denver-based hybrid PAC/super PAC

$12,000

Conservative Liberty Coalition

Denver-based super PAC

$2,000

Wisconsin Right To Life Victory Fund

Milwaukee-based super PAC

$800

Total

 

$3.07 million

 

By comparison, a total of $599,688 has been spent against other incumbent Senate Democrats (only 12 of the 25 have had groups spend against them, the Center for Responsive Politics told us).

So, the $3 million spent against Baldwin is five times as much as has been spent against the other Democrats.

But what about the $5 million that Laning claims?

To reach that, you have to add in how much conservative groups have spent in support of Nicholson, the GOP newcomer (so far, none have reported expenditures in support of Vukmir).

Here’s that breakdown based on the Center for Responsive Politics data:

Expenditures for Nicholson during the 2018 election cycle

Group

Affiliation

Amount Spent

Restoration PAC

Suburban Chicago-based super PAC

$1.14 million

Americas PAC

Marion, Iowa-based super PAC

$868,843*

Solutions for Wisconsin

Austin, Texas-based single-candidate super PAC that supports Nicholson

$209,056

John Bolton Super PAC

Bolton was U.S. ambassador to United Nations under GOP President George W. Bush

$196,860

Club for Growth PAC

Anti-tax group

$18,568

Club for Growth Action super PAC

 

$11

Total

 

$2.43 million

 
So, if you add what’s been spent in support of Nicholson to what’s been spent against Baldwin, that’s a total of $5.43 million.

And that figure is seven times more than the $758,101 that’s been spent against the other Senate Democrat incumbents, or for their opponents, according to the center.

It’s worth noting that the pro-Nicholson money, largely for ads promoting his personal background, are not against Baldwin in the same way as the money spent attacking her positions or votes.

But the pro-Nicholson money clearly is aimed at helping Nicholson win Baldwin’s seat.

A closing note

In defending Laning’s statement, the Wisconsin Democratic Party told us that a consultant for Baldwin’s campaign had determined that $5.5 million has been spent on ads directly against Baldwin -- $4.5 million on TV ads and $1 million on web ads. (Baldwin's campaign would not identify the consultant to us.)

This approach takes in additional spending, since not all the groups have to report to the Federal Election Commission.

But the consultant could not provide a comparable tally for the other Democratic incumbents.

Our rating
 

Laning says conservative groups have spent $5 million "against" Baldwin -- five times more than against all other Democratic U.S. Senate incumbents up for election in 2018 combined.

Based on reports to the Federal Election Commission that were analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, the total exceeds $5 million and is actually seven times more than what has been spent against the other Democrats. The only caveat is that $3 million has been spent directly attacking Baldwin, while the rest has been spent in support of one of her opponents.

For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification, our rating is Mostly True.

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Mostly True
Conservative groups have spent $5 million "against" Tammy Baldwin -- five times more than against all other Democratic U.S. Senate incumbents up for election in 2018 combined.
In an interview
Friday, January 5, 2018
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