We're finally starting to get some reliable analysis of the campaign spending that took place in Wisconsin over the past year. Unsurprisingly, the Johnson-Feingold contest represented the most expensive campaign for federal office in state history.
The two candidates campaigns spent a combined $27 million, with Johnson spending about $14 million and Feingold $13 million. In addition, there was about $3 million in independent expenditures, about $2 million of which was run for Johnson.
Perhaps the most significant detail in the financial reports is how little was spent in opposition to Johnson. Independent groups spent about $32,000 to oppose the plastics manufacturer, most of which, I'm guessing, came in the form of mailers or online media. In contrast, over $800,000 was spent against Feingold in the form of TV and radio ads, mailers and online media.
Although Feingold did not impose the type of spending limits on himself that he did in 1998, when he squeaked out a win against Mark Neumann, he did not accept any ads from third-party groups such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Then again, it's unclear whether the DSCC would have been willing to spend money on the race in the closing weeks, as polls increasingly indicated that Feingold's cause was lost.
Nevertheless, some Democrats still express frustration that Feingold didn't invite third parties to run attack ads against Johnson. "We could have used a couple of good attack ads that show Johnson defending pedophile priests," one Dem campaign worker told me.