When you’re up against a candidate who belongs to a political dynasty and has a fundraising network that spans decades, there is perhaps only one option: Bring in new blood.
As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker readies his likely presidential campaign, one of his biggest near-term hurdles is building a war chest that will allow him to face off against well-funded opponents.
To do that his team said it is targeting a new generation of bundlers by tapping into the network of more than 350,000 potential donors who supported the governor in his recall election and turning to entrepreneurs who’ve launched new businesses in the last five to 10 years.
“Our donor is not the tried and true Republican donor in New York City that’s given to everybody since Reagan,” said Anthony Scaramucci, who is the founder of investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is raising money for Walker. “We don’t have the mercenary donor that’s paying for past political favors.”
Jon Hammes, founder of a health care consulting company in Wisconsin, will serve a national finance co-chairman for the campaign, along with Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, according to a source familiar with the plans. The move combines a veteran campaign fundraiser – Hammes has raised money previous Republican nominees, including Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain – with a big dollar donor who is still relatively new to the political fundraising scene. This will be Ricketts’ first role within a presidential campaign.
Their goal is to build an army of bundlers like Genevieve Hillis, a 34-year-old lobbyist in Chicago for a health care equipment company. Hillis helped Walker raise money for his gubernatorial campaign and grew that network of supporters during his recall election. Now she’s preparing to take on her biggest role yet in a presidential campaign, helping to bring in new donors and introduce Walker to potential high-dollar supporters he might not otherwise meet.
“I haven’t encountered anybody that was a supporter in the recall that isn’t going to be a supporter in the presidential,” Hillis said, although she acknowledged fundraising for a candidate in a crowded presidential field is a different battle than raising money for a recall race outside of the normal campaign cycle.
Walker’s team isn’t above courting the moneyed donors other campaigns are chasing either. Hillis often speaks to potential donors who are drawn to Walker and might be inclined to give hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they are also being courted by the Bush campaign. Her pitch: Let me get you on the phone with the governor.
“Scott is willing to have very frank conversations,” Hillis said. “He’s willing to be educated on a subject and open to changing his mind. He’s a reasonable person.”
Walker’s allies said they don’t expect him to be among the most flush in the field this quarter. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to raise a jaw-dropping sum for the quarter that ended June 30. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the super PAC supporting him claim to have raise nearly $50 million combined.
While the first reporting period is significant, members of Walker’s team said they are focused on building a team of bundlers who can steadily broaden his financial base by pitching the governor’s message to an ever-widening circle of new donors.
“I’m looking for the people, men or women, that are focused on being involved in the process aggressively,” said Michael Morgan, 44 years old, who is raising money for Walker. “If that means raising thousands of dollars at the start, I’m happy with it. Hopefully that will graduate to tens of thousands of dollars.”
Morgan is no stranger to political fundraising. He organized the finance operations for Sen. Mark Kirk’s House and Senate bids and remains a staunch supporter of the Illinois Republican. But Morgan’s upcoming stint as one of Walker’s finance co-chairs in Illinois will be his most prominent role in a president campaign.
Walker’s “testing-the-waters committee,” a precursor to his official campaign, is asking bundlers to raise $27,000 by July 12th. Morgan said it took him just four days to surpass that goal. All of the early contributor were under the age of 50.
“It’s been a good pace I would say,” Morgan said of his fundraising efforts so far. “Now that the announcement is imminent there’s a lot more interest.”