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Campaigns spend record $93M in Wisconsin gubernatorial race

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Campaign spending reached a state record of $93 million during Wisconsin’s 2018 gubernatorial race between the Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tony Evers, according to a watchdog group’s review.

The group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found that Walker and his outside backers spent about $58 million on the former governor’s failed attempt at a third term, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Evers and outside groups, meanwhile, put about $35 million into the campaign that ended in his victory, which helped Democrats reclaim power after President Donald Trump had carried the state by less than 1 point in 2016.

“Getting the most money doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win, but it does give you a huge advantage,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Campaign spending last year exceeded by $11 million the amount spent in the 2014 gubernatorial race between Walker and the Democrat Mary Burke.

The increase comes after the state loosened campaign finance rules in 2015 by allowing coordination between political campaigns and advocacy groups.

Wisconsin’s new system generally made it easier for national groups to spend money without disclosing their donors, and increased spending limits for individual donors to gubernatorial campaigns.

Rothschild said the increase in spending levels also shouldn’t come as a surprise coming, as it does, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, which allowed businesses, unions and nonprofit groups to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.

Outside groups representing ideological, business and labor interests spent about $41 million in the governor’s race last year. The conservative political-advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which is part of Kansas billionaire Charles Koch’s network, spent $8 million on Walker’s campaign. The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal group, spent about $2 million backing Evers.

Rothschild said he expects campaign spending in the state’s 2022 race for governor to top $100 million.

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