As Wisconsin approaches the first general round of its recall elections, it's worth a look at the individuals who have made contributions to the various campaigns. There might not be any surprises in the candidates' campaign finance disclosures, but a few interesting trends do present themselves.
Among significant individual donors, only one pair of power players shared the wealth equally among candidates. Louis and Michele Gentine, owners of Plymouth-based Sargento Cheese, each donated $1,000 apiece to Republican recall candidates Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez), Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) over a six-day period in June. Within that time period, recall challengers Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) - who fell two signatures short of the ballot- and Kim Simac also each received $2,000 from the Gentines.
Out-of-state donors William and Patricia Hume (an executive with Basic American Foods and a travel agent, identified as California residents) donated to all but three Republican candidates. The Humes donated $500 apiece in April to Cowles, Harsdorf and Kapanke, but they doubled that amount in their donations to Darling and Olsen. Hopper, Nygren and Simac, however, received no money from the California couple.
Hopper fared better with Ralph Stayer, president of Johnsonville Sausage, based in Sheboygan Falls, who donated $15,000 to Hopper's campaign in March. Hopper also received a sizable donation from Jere Fabick, president of Milwaukee-based Fabco Equipment, Inc., to the tune of $20,000. Stayer also gave $2,000 to Darling's campaign, and his sister, Launa, also with Johnsonville, made a $5,000 contribution to the Darling campaign. Fabick contributed $15,000 to both Darling's and Kapanke's campaigns.
Darling was, it seems, a darling of many donors' pocketbooks. Among donors who made significant contributions to several Republican candidates, Darling received much more than other candidates did in several cases. Ted Kellner, executive chairman of Fiduciary Management, Inc. in Milwaukee, gave $22,500 to Darling in March before following up with $2,500 contributions to Harsdorf and Kapanke in April.
Dan McKeithan, president of the Milwaukee-based Tamarack Petroleum Company, gave Darling $20,000 - a donation 16 times larger than his $1,250 contributions to Kapanke's and Olsen's campaigns. Michael Grebe, president and CEO of the right-wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, started his recall contributions by giving $5,000 to Darling in March. He followed that contribution with $500 to Olsen and $1,000 to both Cowles and Harsdorf in June.
Darling also received $7,500 worth of support from Dennis Kuester, the retired chairman of Marshall & Ilsley Corp. Kuester donated $5,000 to Kapanke's campaign, but his largest contribution was $10,000 given to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate received another $10,000 contribution from an M&I executive - this one from San Orr, Jr., an independent director of Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and director of Marshall & Ilsley Bank Inc. Orris also chairman of Wausau Paper Corp. and serves, along with Kuester, as a director of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. His wife also contributed $2,000 to Simac's campaign. The committee also received a $10,000 contribution from George Ball, chairman and CEO of Pennsylvania-based seed supplier W. Atlee Burpee.
The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate was also given $5,000 by Joseph Alexander, president of the Madison-based developer The Alexander Company. Alexander contributed $10,000 to Darling's campaign.
The individual donors of corresponding significance on the Democratic side pale in comparison to some of the large amounts given by individual Republican supporters. However, Democratic candidates also benefited from the contributions of a few "power player" donors.
Fred Eychaner, CEO of the Chicago-based Newsweb Corporation, contributed $1,000 to the campaigns of recall challengers Jessica King, Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), Nancy Nusbaum, Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) and Shelly Moore. He contributed $2,000 to the campaign of incumbent Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).
Hansen and Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) were the only incumbents to receive $2,250 from Chris and Mary Geisler, of Madison. Incumbent Sen. Robert Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) received $2,050, and challengers Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and King each received $2,000 from the Geislers.
Leigh Barker Cheesebro, a union representative for the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), gave $1,000 each to incumbents Wirch and Holperin and challengers Moore and Pasch. Moore, Pasch, Shilling and King also received $1,000 from Stacey Herzing in May. Herzing gave $500 each to Holperin and Wirch in July.
Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein, founder of the Brico Fund, gave $1,000 each to King, Clark, Pasch and Holperin, and $250 to Nusbaum. Nusbaum fared better with Robert Habush, attorney with the Milwaukee-based law firm Habush Habush & Rottier. Habush gave $1,000 to Nusbaum and Pasch, $1,300 to King and $200 to Clark.
Former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, a physician in Appleton, also contributed to several Democratic campaigns. He and his wife gave Hansen's campaign a total of $500 in April, and he contributed $1,000 each to the campaigns of Clark, Nusbaum and Holperin in May and June.
Not every candidate was swimming in individual campaign contributions. David VanderLeest, the Green Bay Republican who was defeated in his July 19 challenge against Hansen, listed just two contributions from individuals: $1,000 from himself and $1,000 from Thomas Mattson, a Green Bay wind farm developer who was also the treasurer of Friends of VanderLeest.
Correction: Stacey Herzing was initially identified above as director of communications for Herzing University. She is not an employee of Herzing University and does not represent its views. The article has been changed to reflect this correction.