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Walker has fundraising advantage, superstar status

Associated Press Modified: May 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: May 1, 2012

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has raised more than $25 million to defend his job, drawing heavily from prominent GOP players outside the state and dwarfing the amounts raised by his Democratic challengers.

Other groups are contributing millions more in advertising. And Walker has leading Republicans campaigning for him, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The governor's fundraising firepower and his broad support among the GOP elite illustrate the challenge facing his opponents. The Democrats who swarmed the state Capitol last year to protest Walker's assault on public unions now have only a month before a historic recall election to counterpunch Republicans who have rallied strongly behind their Wisconsin superstar.

In a sign of how easy it's been for Walker to raise money, his top eight donors accounted for $1.5 million. The two Democratic front-runners raised $1.8 million combined. An unprecedented amount of cash — about two-thirds of Walker's campaign haul in the last report — came from outside the state.

"That's a level of outside influence we've never seen before," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the government-watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "He's been all over the country raising money."

Democratic challenger Kathleen Falk, a former Dane County executive, got plenty of out-of-state support as well. Of the $977,000 she raised between Jan. 1 and last week, nearly $449,000, or 45 percent, came from outside Wisconsin. Another $25,000 came from donors who listed no state in their address.

Her chief rival in the Democratic primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, raised $831,500 during that same span. Eleven percent, or $92,600, came from out-of-state.

Democrats are counting on an electorate that they say is every bit as energized now as when massive crowds of demonstrators descended on Madison last year in response to Walker's effort to end collective-bargaining rights for most public employees.

Walker, who ultimately prevailed in the confrontation, said he acted to help the state deal with its budget deficit. But Democrats saw the changes as an all-out attack on unions, one of their key constituencies.

Unions and others had little trouble gathering more than 900,000 signatures to authorize a recall election for Walker. However, Walker took advantage of a quirk in state law to raise $13.1 million between Jan. 18 and last week.

State law forbids individuals from donating a total of more than $10,000 in a given year, unless the money goes to a recall campaign during the time when the campaign can accept unlimited donations. For Walker, that window lasted nearly five months.

Falk, Barrett and two other Democrats square off in a primary May 8. The winner takes on Walker in the June 5 recall election.

No one on the Democratic side has star power comparable to Walker's status in the GOP. And Democrats shouldn't expect any help from President Barack Obama. Aides to Obama's campaign said the president was not scheduled to campaign in Wisconsin ahead of the recall vote.

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