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By Dave Umhoefer September 7, 2010

Mark Neumann says he doesn't receive support from special interest groups

In his bid for governor, businessman Mark Neumann badly lags behind rival Republican Scott Walker in fundraising -- that is, if you don’t count the $2.7 million Neumann has lent his own campaign.

In most scenarios, that would be considered a negative. But this is politics.

In a recent radio spot, Neumann put a positive spin on the fundraising picture.

"I didn't run for office for power," the ad says. "I ran because I'm afraid of what's happening in America. That experience taught me how dangerous a permanent class of career politicians can be..."

The ad continues: "I've owned a business for 26 years. My family isn't in politics and my supporters aren't special interest groups in Madison and Milwaukee. Now's our chance. This is the election. Let's choose a governor who will fight for Wisconsin's forgotten middle class."

We were struck by part of that statement. Is Mark Neumann free of big-city special interest group backing?

We’ll define special interests broadly: cash support from political action committees (PACs) and  "bundled" donations from "conduit" organizations. Bundling is when a corporation, trade group or political party collects individual donations, pools them and writes one big check in the group’s name to the candidate.

In 1992, when Neumann first ran for Congress, he denounced PAC contributions. But he accepted them in subsequent races. He served two terms in the late 1990s, representing a district in southern Wisconsin.

This time around, in the gubernatorial race, campaign spokesman Chris Lato said Neumann has not "actively pursued" PAC contributions. But the campaign isn’t  turning such money away.

Lato noted that in Neumann’s latest six-month finance report, covering the first half of 2010, there were no contributions from PACs. In that period, groups and corporations bundled less than $4,000 in donations from their members or employees for Neumann.

If you go back a year -- to the time the campaign began -- the same pattern holds, according to campaign reports filed with the state Government Accountability Board.

PAC cash:
Neumann in 12 months reported getting not one single cash donation from a PAC, according to a PolitiFact Wisconsin review of state records. (The Wisconsin Dental Association PAC wrote him a $1,000 check, according to that group’s report. But PolitiFact Wisconsin couldn’t find a record of it in Neumann’s report. The campaign erred, Lato said.).

Neumann’s statement in the radio ad aims to contrast him with the other two major candidates in the race, Republican Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett. And his rivals clearly have received more from political action committees -- typically labor unions and business interests.

Reports show Walker received $190,000 from political action committees in the same 12-month period that Neumann got nothing or close to it. Barrett received far more, almost $500,000.

Those are the PAC facts.

Conduit cash:
Now let's look at those "bundled" conduit donations.

Neumann, a developer and homebuilder, has received some conduit money from Madison or Milwaukee-based groups.

Neumann’s statewide conduit tally was $12,925 from 78 individual gifts bundled by a small number of conduits. Most of it came from Milwaukee and Madison and just three groups: Wisconsin builders, engineering companies and Realtors, according to our analysis of state records.

Walker, meanwhile, took in $311,000 from 1,300 individual gifts bundled by conduits. PolitiFact’s analysis found. His conduit backers included health care companies, utilities, Realtors, law firms, a timber company, grocers, credit unions, chiropractors and builders.

And Barrett was between the two: $214,000 from conduits.

All Cash:
This brings us to the final tally from PACs and conduits.

Overall, Neumann has received 0.5 percent of his overall war chest from PACs and conduits, compared with 11.5 percent for Walker. Barrett’s campaign topped both Republicans, getting 22 percent from the special interest donations in the year.

So, let’s look at the bottom line.

Neumann’s statement says his supporters "aren’t special interest groups in Milwaukee and Madison." When it comes to measuring that support in dollars, Neumann has received some cash from such groups -- but so little it’s negligible, and his major opponents received far more. He may have wanted more himself, but it did not come his way. Thus, we rate his statement Mostly True.

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