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Candidates’ spending tops $1 million in high court race (UPDATE)

wissupremecourtcandidatesThe two candidates for last spring’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election raised slightly more than $1 million through their campaigns.

Justice Pat Roggensack, who won re-election to a second term on the bench on April 2, raised $618,411.18 from Jan. 1 to June 30. Her challenger in the election, Ed Fallone, a Marquette University law professor, raised $401,394.23 in the same period.

Among the committees that contributed to Roggensack’s campaign, some of the biggest donations came from the Republican Party of Milwaukee County, which gave $2,500, and the Friends of Albert Darling, a committee set up for the re-election of the current Republican co-chairperson of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, which also gave $2,500.

Among the committees that contributed to Fallone, the union the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $8,500 and the Central Wisconsin UniServe Council, a pro-public-schools organization, gave $8,625.

Fallone said he was proud of his campaign’s fundraising, even though he was ultimately defeated at the ballot box.

“Our basic attitude was that we predicted how expensive it would be to raise money for a statewide race,” he said. “And we raised the money we thought we needed.”

Fallone said his campaign’s performance compared well with the fundraising undertaken by other candidates who had challenged incumbents on the court. In the months leading up to the 2011 Supreme Court election, JoAnne Kloppenburg, a former state assistant attorney general, raised $528,733.83 in her unsuccessful attempt to unseat Justice David Prosser. Both candidates in that race, though, had agreed to pay for their campaigns with public financing, which essentially limited them each to receiving $400,000 in public grants.

In the months before the 2009 Supreme Court election, Randy Koschnick, Jefferson County circuit judge, raised $171,841.02 in an unsuccessful attempt at unseating Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Roggensack couldn’t immediately be reached. Brandon Scholz, her senior campaign advisor, said the fundraising totals were relatively modest.

“Some of the rhetoric about Justice Roggensack’s re-election was that millions would pour in and people would seek to buy the race,” he said. “But all that campaign rhetoric you heard, it didn’t really play out.”

But the filings released Monday did not account for spending on issue ads from independent groups, which have been the source of the bulk of the money funneled into several recent Supreme Court elections. Without having final figures for such spending, Fallone said he expects it played much less of a role in his race against Roggensack than it has in other recent elections to the court.

In 2008, outside groups spent $4.8 million in a contest that resulted in the first incumbent to lose a seat on the Supreme Court in about 40 years, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, an organization that tracks campaign spending. Justice Michael Gableman unseated former Justice Louis Butler that year in an election costing nearly $6 million.

The year before, outside group spent $3.1 million in a Supreme Court election in which neither candidate was an incumbent, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The $5.8 contest resulted in Justice Annette Ziegler defeating Linda Clifford, a Madison-area lawyer.

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