Explained: Where did Walker's millions in campaign funds go?
by Emma Palasz, The Badger Herald
Since Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign ended last month, more information has emerged regarding his campaign expenses and the amount of donations he received.
Walker’s campaign expense reports to the Federal Election Commission shows he raised almost $7.4 million. But in reality, Walker raised more than $20 million with his super PAC “Unintimidated PAC,” according to OpenSecrets.org.
Walker still has numerous debts to pay, including to taxpayers for his travel and security expenses.
Walker dropped out of the presidential race Sept. 21 after he abruptly ran out of funds.
Dennis Dresang, professor emeritus of the La Follette School of Pubic Affairs at University of Wisconsin, said Walker might not have ran out of funds so quickly if he handled his money more wisely.
Super PAC money, Dresang explained, is only for radio and television advertising expenses, not travel expenses or staff salaries, on which Walker spent millions.
The National Journal reported roughly half of Walker’s super PAC funds came from Diane Hendricks and Marlene Ricketts, both wealthy business owners.
Walker spent more of his campaign money early on in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dresang said, because he wanted to do well in those polls. Dresang explained Walker spent a lot of his campaign finances in travel and other expenses when visiting those states and figured he would make it up later after performing well in debates. This is also why he invested so much in super PAC funds instead of his campaign.
But Dresang said Walker did not perform as well as he thought he would in debates, fumbling even on “gotcha” questions that he could have breezed over, such as when a reporter asked if he thought Obama was a Christian and Walker responded that he did not know.
Another of Walker’s problems, Dresang said, was that he spent so much money on staff instead of using volunteers, especially in Iowa.
“He didn’t raise enough money for the campaign, given the strategy and the reliance on paid staff as opposed to volunteers,” Dresang said.
Walker spent millions of dollars on travel, which required not only expensive fees but more staff coordination and salary expenses. He spent hundreds of thousands in states like Iowa, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, New York, Illinois, Arizona and some foreign countries, according to FEC records.
According to WBAY News, Walker defended his travel expenses, saying traveling to foreign countries in particular was for Wisconsin’s economic benefit.
“These trade missions were official trips and allowed our delegation to make a strong case to overseas companies about why they should consider establishing new operations in Wisconsin or providing additional capital to help Wisconsin businesses,” Walker spokesperson Laurel Patrick said in a statement to WBAY.
Dresang said Walker’s motive was likely to improve his image on foreign policy because he was lacking in those credentials.
Instead, Dresang said, all he did while traveling was burn through his money.
“You don’t get credentials in foreign policy by traveling to another country,” Dresang said. “It’s much more complicated than that. It was a pretty naïve policy.”
Several state Democrats, WBAY reported, argued Walker needed to pay back taxpayers immediately for what he spent abroad.
Assembly Democratic Assistant Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, unveiled legislation insisting Walker report and swiftly pay back what he owed taxpayers from his campaign’s travel and security costs.
Critics also questioned the high salaries Walker spent on his staff, which totaled $1.9 million. Some of his staff’s salaries translated to a rate of $50,000 to $100,000 per year, FEC reports show.
Controversy arose, too, at the news Walker spent $1,500 on each of his sons during his campaign, according to Wisconsin State Journal.
In terms of how Walker will pay back his dues, which according to the FEC total $1 million as of Oct. 15, Walker cannot necessarily rely on donors, Dresang said.
“He’s gonna have to have a lot of bake sales,” Dresang said. “Why would [donors] invest in somebody who’s no longer a candidate and really ran a poor campaign? … He’s got a real challenge trying to raise money at this point, given all of the failures of the campaign.”