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Tim Michels Contributed Almost Twice as Much to Defeat Rebecca Kleefisch as He Did to Defeat Tony Evers

Something is really off here.

Republican Tim Michels contributed almost twice as much of his own money to defeat conservative Rebecca Kleefisch as he did to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Campaign finance reports filed and amended through Nov. 8, 2022, show that Michels contributed just over $6.7 million to his own campaign after the primary.

In contrast, campaign finance reports show that Michels contributed nearly $12 million of his own money during the primary to defeat Kleefisch, who had served as lieutenant governor under Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Michels and his supporters staked his primary campaign on the argument that he could self-fund against Tony Evers and, thus, match the Democratic governor’s spending dollar for dollar.

In fact, Michels insiders said he would contribute as much as $50 million.

That did not happen.

It’s also worth pondering that some Kleefisch supporters noted during the primary that Michels’ company benefits financially from road contracts. It’s not a stretch at all to realize that Evers would probably spend more money in the road budget than Kleefisch would have; it’s also worth noting that Michels and his company officials were on boards of groups that did not push conservative fiscal causes over the years and advocated for greater roadbuilding budgets, even opposing Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial efforts to not raise the gas tax.

Others have pointed out that some of the people pushing Michels are tied to a law firm heavily involved in the efforts to get a new Kenosha casino, which is something Walker would not approve.

Michels’ supporters have argued that their motives for wanting a Kleefisch alternative revolved around their sincere concerns that she couldn’t win. A poll before the primary election, though, showed that she would fare better with independents than Michels.

It’s also worth noting that most of the money Michels contributed for the general election were actually loans to his own campaign, meaning he could get paid back.

Michels contributions during the primary however were not loans.

General election contributions/loans by Michels to his campaign

We found these personal donations/loans from Michels after the primary, according to campaign finance reports:

Aug. 10 $1.1 million
Aug. 15 $725,000
Aug. 19 $900,000
Aug. 31 $1 million
Sept. 10 In-kind $9,123.49
Sept. 24 In-kind $8181.23
Oct. 1 In-kind $8,834.09
Oct. 6 In-kind $5,978.45
Oct. 9 In-kind $6,255.94
Oct. 17 In-kind $3963.37
Oct. 14 $1 million
Oct. 21 $1 million
Oct. 27 $1 million
Oct. 30 In-kind $3,889
Total: $6,771,226

His campaign’s cash balance was just over $531,000 in the final general election report.

Primary election contributions by Michels to his campaign

Contrast that to his primary spending:

April 22 $1.2 million
April 29 $1 million
April 30 $9,465
May 6 $1.2 million
May 7 $6,416.00
May 20 $500,000
May 25 $1 million
June 2 $500,000
June 8 $1 million
June 15 $1 million
June 29 $500,000
July 7 $750,000
July 11 $25,000
July 13 $1 million
July 21 $1 million
July 28 $1 million
July 29 $250,000
Aug. 3 $40,000
Total $11,980,882

Michels also took in donations from other individual contributors. But it wasn’t enough to match Evers.

On Nov. 1, 2022, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that Evers had spent $37 million in the race and Michels had spent $24 million. However, some of that is primary spending.

The spending doesn’t include outside groups’ spending, of course.


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