WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pulled in $13 million in the most recent three-month reporting period to fight off a Democratic attempt to recall him from office, an unprecedented sum of money for a gubernatorial race in the state.
“We continue to see strong grassroots support for Governor Walker, his bold reforms, and his plans for moving Wisconsin forward,” said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews. "Because of the overwhelming support for the Governor, we can continue to speak to voters about how Governor Walker plans to move Wisconsin forward while his Democrat opponents plan to take Wisconsin backwards to higher taxes, record job loss, and massive deficits."
Walker's campaign added that it received 125,926 donations during the most recent fundraising period, which lasted from mid-January to April 23, 2012. Of those contributions, 76.4 percent received, or 96,292, totaled $50 or less.
The Wisconsin recall race is a top priority for both Democrats and Republicans, and the money is flowing in at a historic rate. As a comparison, Walker raised just $11 million for his gubernatorial run during the entire 2010 election cycle.
Four Democrats are vying for their party's bid to face off against Walker. The Democratic primary is on May 8, and the general election is on June 5.
The two Democratic frontrunners didn't raise nearly as much as Walker during the three-month reporting period. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett raised $830,000 in the latest reporting period, while former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk raised $1 million.
They were, however, playing by stricter rules than Walker was.
A big part of the reason that Walker raised such a huge sum is that he was able to raise unlimited contributions while Democrats were gathering and processing signatures to trigger the recall. That whole phase ended March 30. Money raised in excess of normal limits during that period also had to be spent, which is why Walker went through $10 million in that window.
Traditionally, contributors can give a maximum of just $10,000 to a gubernatorial candidate. Democrats were forced to follow those rules during the whole reporting period.
“While Wisconsin loses more jobs than any other state, Gov. Walker has spent his time trying to save his own job," said Falk in a statement, responding to the news of Walker's fundraising. "He raised $13 million from across the country because he's delivered an extreme agenda that isn't our Wisconsin values, and I'm proud to stand with the nearly one million people who have signed a recall petition to remove him from office."
This story has been updated.
Below, more on the history of the Walker recall effort:
In 2010, a surge of Tea Party momentum and backlash against Democrats helped elect conservatives including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became the state's first Republican governor since 2002. Walker promised to cut taxes and create 250,000 new jobs, but a deeper look into his past also showed a politician who had inflamed tensions with unions before. The Washington Post reports on his time as Milwaukee County Executive, during which the collective bargaining rights of unions already appeared to be one of his most ambitious targets: During his eight-year tenure in Milwaukee County, Walker never raised property taxes. He cut the county workforce by 20 percent, improved its bond rating and gave back hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own salary as part of the effort to trim spending. But he also saw his relations with local unions deteriorate. Union leaders say Walker never negotiated in good faith and had a singular solution to every budget problem: cut. Under his watch, the county privatized public jobs, laid off workers and placed others on furlough. [...] Walker argued that collective bargaining was the biggest hurdle to balancing the budget and that unions had little incentive to give ground because they almost always prevailed in arbitration. He said that the cuts he proposed were intended to prevent layoffs and accused union leaders of being uninterested in compromise.
After taking office, Walker announced a number of controversial proposals, including eliminating collective bargaining rights for state employees and reducing public employee benefits, as part of a "budget repair bill." He said the reforms were necessary to prevent the layoffs of thousands of workers. Facing anger from unions, Walker announced his readiness to mobilize the state's National Guard in response to any disruptions. The announcement was met with backlash by public sector workers across the state.
The fight over Walker's proposed budget was contentious, with Wisconsin Democratic state senators crossing state lines to Rockford, Ill. in an attempt to stall the vote. In March 2011, Walker signed the budget, significantly curtailing collective bargaining rights for union-affiliated public employees. Thousands of protesters gathered in Madison, and labor leaders and Democrats vowed to fight back.
In the months following his signing of the bill, Walker's opponents organized, announcing their intentions to recall the governor and his supporters. They erected a tent city and believed they'd won a surprise victory over a conservative state supreme court judge, before amended voting totals from one county reversed the victory. Walker continued to defend his policy but said he had made mistakes in the political execution. Correction: A previous version of this text inaccurately stated the final results of the Supreme Court race.
Wisconsin Democrats scored a victory in their attempt to unseat Republican state legislators when they defeated six "fake" Democrats running in the party's primaries. Four of the six Republicans targeted for recall held onto their seats in the general election.
Petitions to recall Walker and his lieutenant governor gathered nearly a million signatures each, far exceeding the 500,000 needed. Election officials ordered a recall election.
Democratic candidates are now fighting for the chance to face Walker in the recall election. Amanda Terkel reports: Recalling a sitting governor is no easy task; it's been done just twice in U.S. history. But while Republicans are amassing money and ground support in the next few months to fend off the opposition, Democrats are still figuring out who among them will be the strongest candidate to run against the governor. The process is pitting traditional allies against each other, as the candidates try to show off their pro-labor credentials while also making the case that they are best equipped to beat Walker in the general election. There are currently four Democratic candidates competing in the May primary. Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are considered the two frontrunners, with state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Secretary of State Doug La Follette also in the race.