MADISON, Wis. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker funneled more than $320,000 from his campaign account to defense attorneys over the last six months as he and his allies fought a secret probe into fundraising and spending during the 2012 recall election.
Details of those expenses were included in a campaign finance report filed Monday by the Republican governor. Other reports Monday showed the Republican candidate for attorney general with a huge money advantage over two of his Democratic opponents.
All the expenses were labeled "legal fees compliance/administrative."
They come after Walker's campaign paid Biskupic & Jacobs $86,000 in the second half of 2013. The firm is run by former U.S. Attorneys Steven Biskupic and Michelle Jacobs.
The latest legal expenses come on top of almost $650,000 that Walker's campaign paid to attorneys during an earlier John Doe investigation into his aides and associates during his time as Milwaukee County executive. That brings the total the governor has had to spend on John Doe investigations to nearly $1 million.
The more recent probe was looking into whether conservative groups illegally coordinated their activities with Walker's campaign, but it has been halted by a federal judge. Prosecutors are appealing to reopen the probe.
Walker has had to deal with the investigation as he campaigns for re-election against Democrat and former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive Mary Burke. The race has been tight, with the candidates tied among registered voters in a May poll by Marquette University Law School. A new poll by the school is due out Wednesday.
Walker has had a big financial advantage in the race. He raised $8.3 million in the first half of the year, more than double the $3.6 million taken in by Burke. As of June 30, Walker has said he had $7.6 million on hand, about triple the $2.5 million Burke had.
Walker and Burke disclosed those fundraising numbers earlier this month and Walker filed his full report Monday showing the legal payments and other expenses. As of late Monday, Burke had not yet filed her report, which was due by midnight.
State Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madison, who is making a long shot bid for the Democratic nomination against Burke, has not yet reported what he has raised.
For the first half of the year in the race for attorney general, state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee reported raising $190,000 and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ reported taking in about $172,000. Happ used $20,000 of her own money to boost her campaign.
Richards and Happ will face Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne in the Aug. 12 primary. Ozanne has not said yet how much he raised during the first half of 2014.
The lone Republican in the race Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel far outraised Richards and Happ. Schimel raised more than $360,000 during the first half of the year, according to a news release he issued Monday.
That puts Schimel in a better position for the final crucial months of the campaign. As of June 30, Richards had about $170,000 in his account, Happ about $121,000 and Schimel more than $400,000, according to his campaign.
Richards and Happ both plan to run television ads before the primary and are expected to deplete most of their cash by then. Schimel, by contrast, can save his campaign money because he doesn't have a primary opponent.
Richards' report showed he received $2,500 from a Service Employees International Union campaign fund, $1,000 from the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs Association and $500 from an AFL-CIO political fund. He also received $1,000 from the Forest County Potawatomi, which run a Milwaukee casino and are fighting a proposed casino in Kenosha that the Menominee Nation want to build. Walker is now weighing whether to approve the development. Whatever he decides, litigation is possible and the attorney general could get drawn into how to respond to it.
Richards also found backing from the campaign accounts of many of his Democratic colleagues in the Assembly. He collected $250 apiece from Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, and Reps. Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee, Cory Mason of Racine and Nick Milroy of South Range. Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, gave Richards $300, and Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, gave him $100. Former Rep. Shirley Krug, D-Milwaukee, sent $2,500 to Richards, and former Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines gave him $1,500.
Happ received a $10,000 donation from a fund run by EMILY's List, a national group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights. She also got more than $5,600 in help from a fund run by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The tavern industry's campaign fund gave Happ $1,500. She is the only candidate for attorney general who has said she opposes criminalizing a first offense for drunken driving.
Schimel has expressed skepticism of that idea but hasn't said he outright opposes it. Richards and Ozanne support making a first drunken driving offense a misdemeanor, rather than a citation as it is now. Happ also received $1,000 from the campaign account of outgoing Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville. Her largest individual contribution $10,000 came from Lois Quale, a Jefferson retiree.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch's campaign took in more than $520,000 in the first six months of 2014. She had more than $688,000 on hand for the coming months.
That dwarfs the $37,800 raised by Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, in his bid for the post. He had about $17,400 in his account at the end of last month.
Lehman has raised far more money than Mary Jo Walters of Madison, who raised just $802 and spent all of that amount.
Kleefisch does not face a Republican primary and will be paired with Walker on the Nov. 4 ballot. Much of her campaign cash will go to help the ticket.
(Kevin Crowe and Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.)
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