Political committees and outside electioneering groups named in various media reports as possible targets of a second John Doe investigation into suspected political wrongdoing in Wisconsin accounted for more than half of all the campaign spending in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections and two-thirds of the spending in last year's election for governor.
The committees and groups spent $70.5 million, or 51% of the total $137.5 million in recall spending. They accounted for $54.4 million in spending in the 2012 recall election for governor, which is 67% of the overall spending of $81 million in that race.
A Wall Street Journal editorial identified Friends of Scott Walker, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Republican Governors Association, the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and American Crossroads as targets of the criminal probe. The newspaper also quoted Wisconsin Club for Growth officer Eric O'Keefe saying he is a target and was subpoenaed by investigators.
Walker's campaign spent $36.1 million to thwart the recall effort and the Republican Governors Association spent $9.4 million. The state Republican Party reported spending $1.2 million on the senate recall elections. Wisconsin Club for Growth also focused mostly on the senate recalls, with $9 million of its total spending of $9.1 million going to help targeted Republican senators. Wisconsin Family Action spent $850,000 to sway the senate elections. WMC spent $4.7 million on advertising, including $4 million on ads in the governor's race. Americans for Prosperity spent a total of $4.5 million on recall ads, with $3.7 million going to the effort to keep Walker in office and the rest helping GOP senators.
Two groups named by the Wall Street Journal – American Crossroads and the League of American Voters – did not do any detectable campaign spending in the Wisconsin recall elections. But American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS in particular are known to funnel large sums of money to other dark money groups.
Other groups whose names have cropped up in media reports in association with John Doe 2 also played conspicuous roles in the recall elections. Citizens for a Strong America spent $1.7 million on the senate recalls. According to a Center for Media and Democracy review of tax filings, the group got almost all of its funds in 2011 from Wisconsin Club for Growth. In turn, Citizens for a Strong America supplied Wisconsin Family Action with virtually all of its reported grant revenue for 2011.
Club for Growth also gave $425,000 to the Jobs First Coalition, which was close to half of what the coalition raised in 2011. Jobs First Coalition spent $100,000 on the senate recalls. The group also transferred $245,000 to the American Federation for Children, which spent $2.8 million on all of the recall elections including $1.1 million on Walker's behalf.
Two more groups that figure into the equation are the national Center to Protect Patient Rights and a dark-money conduit known as the Wellspring Committee. Neither did any detectable spending in the recall elections, but Wisconsin Club for Growth received $225,000 from CPPR and $400,000 from Wellspring in 2011. CPPR and another group were ordered to pay $1 million in fines in October to settle allegations in California that they conspired to conceal the origins of political campaign money.