Fifty Three to Fifty Six: 54th race spending could top $250,000

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

54th race spending could top $250,000

Gordon Hintz and Julie Pung Leschke are both hoping to make history as the next representative for the 54th Assembly District.

But before a single vote is tallied for either of them, they already have, as the race for the seat has turned into the most expensive Assembly race in Oshkosh history. Including money raised by the candidates and independent spending by outside issue groups, total spending on the election could easily rise to $250,000.

Republican candidate Pung Leschke had out-raised and out-spent Democratic candidate Hintz, state campaign finance documents filed Monday show.

Pung Leschke raised just over a total of $104,000 since the campaign began by Oct. 23, the last day of the finance reporting period. Hintz raised almost $85,900 in the same time period. Hintz has declined any contributions from political actions committees. Pung Leschke has received more than $7,000 from such groups since the primary election.

"I think people were estimating it was going to be in the $100,000-plus range," Pung Leschke said.

Hintz said he's both surprised and not surprised that the race drew the dollars it did.

"I think it's crazy the amount of money spent in an Assembly race like this," Hintz said. "I knew it was going to be a competitive race."

Before submitting his finance filing Monday, Hintz put out a plea to supporters to raise $2,400 by 2 p.m. Tuesday to answer attack ads against him sponsored by Wisconsin Family Action. Hintz said that fundraising goal was met.

"I still have eight days left to counter all the negative, slimy ads against me," Hintz said. "I thought I may as well inform people it's going on and see if I can counter it."

Hintz raised just more than $30,700 in contributions from individuals since the primary. Pung Leschke raised just more than $47,000 in contributions from individuals in the same period.

Since the primary both Hintz and Pung Leschke raised the bulk of their money from individual donors living outside of Oshkosh. Of the $30,700 Hintz raised from individuals, 56 percent, or $17,297, was from individuals living outside of Oshkosh. Seventy-eight percent, or almost $37,000, of the money Pung Leschke raised from individuals was from individuals living outside of Oshkosh.

In the period before the primary, each raised about two-thirds of their funds from Oshkosh residents.

Hintz also received $7,763 in a Wisconsin Campaign Election Fund Grant. The grants are funded by taxpayers who mark a campaign finance check-off box on state income tax forms.

Pung Leschke raised almost $55,000 total since the last campaign finance filing was due in early September, just before the primary election. Of that amount, $7,775 was from political action committees. That includes $1,000 from the Republican Party of Winnebago County, and $500 contributions from the Wisconsin Hospital PAC, the Tavern Industrial PAC, and the Fitzgerald for State Assembly campaign. Pung Leschke's campaign manager, Brian Pleva, is a legislative staffer currently off the state payroll from the office of Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.

Pung Leschke said her acceptance of PAC money does not make her beholden to the interests of those groups over the voters in the district.

"I will never, ever vote for something because I got money from someone," Pung Leschke said.

By Oct. 23, Pung Leschke had spent $72,216 of the money she had raised.

Her biggest single expenditure was just more than $9,000 for opinion polling. She also spent more than $14,000 for radio spots, printing of postcards and pamphlets and media consulting form Kelly, Scott and Madison, a Chicago-based media buyer firm. Pung Leschke also spent $525 to buy a mailing list from Wisconsin Right to Life.

Hintz had spent $56,033 as of Oct. 23.

His biggest single expenditure was $10,800 for a cable TV spot purchase with Time Warner Cable. Hintz made two other TV ad buys, one for $10,400 and one for $9,985. Hintz spent another $6,681 on printing for campaign literature and production costs for the TV ads and radio advertising.

Hintz's latest filing reflects that on Sept. 20 he returned $2,557 in contributions from political action committees and did not accept any further funds from such groups.

He accepted one $400 in-kind contribution from the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.

Hintz said he made the decision to return all PAC money and not accept PAC donations as a way to combat public distrust in government.

"If I could demonstrate to the voters that I'm representing their interests, I would do that," Hintz said.

A total of final dollars raised and spent in the campaign will not be filed until January for both candidates.

Bethany K. Warner: (920) 426-6668 or

From November 1, 2006



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