Baldwin-Thompson Senate race sets new spending record, led by outside groups

Majority of money spent on negative messaging

Published On: Oct 26 2012 05:27:54 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 26 2012 06:04:39 PM CDT
Tammy vs. Tommy: Outside spending
By Bill Lueders, special to -

MADISON, Wis. - The battle between Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin is emerging as one of the most important -- and costly -- races in the country. It has drawn tens of millions of dollars from outside groups who see it as a race that could go either way and possibly determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Already, these outside expenditures, coupled with prodigious spending by the candidates, make this the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin history.

The Federal Election Commission requires outside groups to promptly report independent expenditures; that means the database listing this spending is continually updated. As of  midday on Friday, Oct. 26, data compiled by the FEC and analyzed by the Center for Responsive politics on its Open Secrets website reveal:

Of this amount, all but about $2.6 million was spent either for or against Thompson or Baldwin, the two candidates who emerged from the Aug. 14 primary.

The biggest outside spenders on Baldwin's side, to date, are the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which spent $5.7 million; Women Vote!, a super PAC run by Emily's List, which spent $2.2 million; and Majority PAC, which spent $3.2 million. Thompson's biggest outside backers were Crossroads GPS, which spent $4.7 million on his behalf and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which spent $4.1 million.

Through the end of September, Tammy Baldwin had spent $8.5 million and Tommy Thompson had spent $3.8 million. Add in spending by Thompson’s unsuccessful rivals in the primary (Eric Hovde, $6,277,420), Mark Neumann ($3,774,265) and Jeff Fitzgerald ($211,044) and the spending total reaches $22.6 million. Add that to the amount spent by outside groups and the total tops $50 million, well more than the $38 million spent in 2010.

And it will almost certainly go even higher. Through the Sept. 30 filing deadline, Baldwin reported having $3.5 million cash on hand and Thompson, who has contributed more than $800,000 to his own campaign, said he has $2 million on hand.

This report is part a collaborative project with WISC-TV in Madison.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.