Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski spend personal funds in US Democratic Senate primary
Two of the top Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate made large personal loans to their campaigns last year in a bid to defeat incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
But looking only at contributions from non-candidate donors last quarter, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was the top Democratic fundraiser.
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry loaned his campaign $2.35 million since the start of the campaign, including $1.55 million last quarter. Between loans and contributions, Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski invested a total of $1.795 million in her campaign, including $750,000 last quarter.
Lasry and Godlewski faced Barnes and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, among others, in the Democratic primary for the Senate. Neither Barnes nor Nelson have reported any loans to their campaigns.
Barnes led the field in individual donor contributions last quarter, raising more than $1.2 million from October 1 through December 31. Lasry raised approximately $473,000 from individual donors during the same period, followed by Godlewski who raised over $364,000 and Nelson who raised approximately $216,000.
Anthony Chergosky, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said fundraising is especially important in a primary campaign because voters are still making up their minds about candidates. Given that, he said he wasn’t surprised to see Lasry and Godlewski contributing to their own runs.
“Relying on your own money is something that can be helpful in the short term. It can help you get through this next phase of the campaign,” Chergosky said. “But it’s not necessarily a good sign for them that they rely so much on their own money.”
Looking at all contributions to candidates — including personal loans — since the start of the campaign cycle, Godlewski had raised nearly $3 million, Lasry about $5.1 million, Barnes about $2.4 million, and Nelson nearly $1.2 million.
Looking strictly at how much money each of the campaigns had on hand at the end of last year, Godlewski brought in $1.3 million, Lasry $1.1 million, Barnes $1.1 million and Nelson around. $484,000.
Johnson, who officially announced his re-election campaign on Jan. 9, raised about $906,000 in the last quarter of 2021 and has raised about $4.3 million since the start of the current cycle. It grossed around $2.3 million in cash. Taken together, each of those numbers lagged the Democratic field.
“I think Ron Johnson’s numbers are disappointing, but I don’t know if it really matters that much in the long run,” Chergosky said. “If this election is just a simple referendum on Joe Biden, and people are basically voting on whether or not they like Joe Biden, then the fundraising numbers won’t really matter. “
Johnson said he wouldn’t invest his own money in this campaign, but self-funding helped him get his start in politics. In 2010 Johnson spent about $9 million of his own money for his campaign against former Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.