For the first time in 12 years, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin last year outraised the state Republican Party — by more than $14 million, according to year-end fundraising and spending reports filed by both groups.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a group that tracks campaign spending, reports the state Democratic Party raised more than $23.6 million in 2020, nearly two-and-a-half times more than the $9.8 million raised by the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Last year’s fundraising was driven largely by the presidential election, in which former Vice President Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the state by fewer than 21,000 votes. Despite unfounded claims of voter fraud by high-ranking Republicans including Trump, Biden was sworn into office Wednesday.
In addition, the state Democratic Party launched a Save the Veto campaign last year to prevent GOP gains in the state Assembly and Senate, where Republicans made a push to secure veto-proof supermajorities. Democrats staved off supermajorities, but failed to make major gains in either chamber, continuing a decade-long trend in the state due in part to GOP-drawn legislative maps.
Ultimately, Democratic candidates received about 46% of total votes cast in state Assembly races, but ended up with only 38 of 99 seats after winning two new districts. In state Senate races, Democratic candidates secured about 47% of total votes, but only picked up 38% of the seats on the ballot and now control only 12 of 33 seats.
In terms of spending, the state Democratic Party doled out more than $24.7 million and ended the year with cash balances of about $550,000, while the GOP spent more than $9.9 million and ended the year with almost $450,000 on hand, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Both parties saw major increases in overall fundraising, from a combined $2 million in 2010 to about $33.5 million last year. The Democracy Campaign attributes skyrocketing fundraising to laws enacted in 2015 under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker that allow individuals to give unlimited amounts to political parties, rather than the previous limit of $10,000, and grant political parties the ability to accept campaign contributions from corporations.
While several reports last year already highlighted Democrats largely outraising their GOP counterparts, the most recent report shows that trend continued through the remainder of the year. Between Oct. 20 and Dec. 31, Democrats raised 34 times more in individual contributions than Republicans — almost $879,000 to nearly $26,000.
While the state Republican Party received only one large individual contribution of $25,000 in that 10-week span, Democrats brought in more than two dozen individual contributions of more than $10,000.