After a close finish in 2020, the Republican looks to flip the western Wisconsin congressional seat Democrats have held for 26 years.
By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT
It’s another record year of campaign donations in western Wisconsin.
Derrick Van Orden, Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin, has raised nearly $6 million for his 2022 campaign, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission. That’s compared to about $1.4 million for his Democratic opponent state Sen. Brad Pfaff.
Those figures are accurate up to Sep. 30, the most recent reporting deadline. With several weeks of fundraising needing to be reported before the election, Van Orden has, on his own, already shattered the record amount for the district he and Democratic Rep. Ron Kind raised for their tight election — about $5 million — in 2020.
Van Orden nearly won the district that year, when he gave Kind his first serious challenge in years, losing by about 3 percent and about 10,000 votes.
Considering that finish, his fundraising, and former President Donald Trump’s winning the district in 2016 and 2020, Van Orden has to be considered the frontrunner, said Joe Heim, a political science professor emeritus at UW-La Crosse.
“The district is so large that just getting your name and face around is a major undertaking,” Heim said. “So his name is much better known than a first-term state Sen. Pfaff.”
Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District runs along the Mississippi River from Platteville nearly 200 miles north to Eau Claire.
“All this has given Van Orden a distinct advantage,” Heim continued. “Add into all this is the normal, national, historical pattern of the ‘out of White House party’ gaining seats in Congress, you have an environment favorable to a Republican.”
Federal campaign limits allow an individual to give a candidate for federal office a maximum of $2,900 per election, and candidates face a primary and a general, so one person can give a total of $5,800 to one candidate per election cycle.
More than 100 people have donated the maximum $5,800 to Van Orden’s campaign, according to filings with the FEC. Notable names giving the max include Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn and his wife Andrea Wynn, Menard’s founder and owner John Menard Jr and his wife Fay Menard, Kwik Trip CEO Don Zeitlow, billionaire Republican megadonors Dick and Liz Uehlein of ULINE, billionaire Diane Hendricks and Kim Hendricks of ABC Building Supply, and Ross Perot Jr.
Top donors to Pfaff’s campaign include Judith Faulkner, CEO and founder of Epic, the healthcare software giant based in Dane County, her husband Gordon Faulkner, and Kevin Conroy, the CEO of the Madison-based Exact Sciences, all of whom have given $5,000.
The retiring Kind’s campaign committee has given Pfaff’s campaign at least $4,000. Kind and his wife Tawni Kind also personally gave Pfaff’s campaign at least $3,000 and $3,750 each. Pfaff previously worked for Kind’s congressional office.
Former Democratic state legislator Tim Cullen gave him $3,400.
Lynde Uihlein, a Schlitz heir, major Democratic donor and relative of Dick Uihlein, has given Pfaff $2,800. Former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl has given Pfaff’s campaign $2,700.
Asked about the huge fundraising difference in the campaign, Pfaff said in an email “when you have a record that you have to run away from and be scared of, you need more money to do it.”
Pfaff criticized Van Orden for his written admission that he exposed another male soldier’s genitals to female soldiers in his book “Book of Man: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to the Lost Art of Manhood.” Pfaff also noted that Van Orden was put on probation for trying to board a plane with a loaded handgun last year. And he pointed to Van Orden’s attendance at Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 in Washington D.C. that devolved into a violent attack on the Capitol and the police guarding it.
“That’s why millions of out-of-state dollars are flowing in to help Derrick,” Pfaff wrote. “But let’s also be clear, when I’m on the campaign trail, I don’t hear about who is winning the fundraising war. I hear about real challenges that voters are dealing with like rising costs, job opportunities that are few and far between, and a feeling of being left behind by Washington politics.”
Van Orden did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.
Independent spending in the district
So far, outside groups have spent about $600,000 promoting Van Orden and another $600,000 on ads attacking him, according to the database on Open Secrets, an organization that collects and publicizes campaign finance data. Outside groups have spent only about $25,000 supporting Pfaff and about $725,000 attacking him.
The Center Forward Committee, which has ties to the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, has spent $600,000 attacking Van Orden.
The Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund has spent more than $400,000 and the National Republican Congressional Committee more than $300,000, both to attack Pfaff.
Two law enforcement Super PACs have spent nearly $500,000 supporting Van Orden.
Disclosure of personal finances
Per federal law, candidates for federal office must file reports disclosing their financial holdings including assets, earned income, liabilities, etc.
Van Orden has not disclosed any earned income since at least Jan. 1, 2020, according to his reports. He has been running for Congress for most of that time. He also reported checking account holdings between $1,001 and $15,000. His campaign did not respond to questions on how he has supported himself with no income.
EDITOR’S NOTE: After the story was published, Justin Giorgio, a spokesman for Van Orden’s campaign, said the candidate and his wife live on his military pension after 26 years of service, and on payments for his 100% disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Benefits from federal retirement programs and disability payments from the federal government need not be reported, according to the rules of the U.S. House Ethics Committee.
On a disclosure form filed in August 2021, Van Orden reported he was a partner in “Van Orden Properties LLC” and a co-owner of “JIC Global LLC” doing business as “Juarez Industries.” He did not report holdings in those companies on a disclosure form filed in June. His campaign did not respond to questions asking about those companies.
Pfaff reported his annual state Senate salary of about $55,000, farmland holdings valued between $100,000 and $250,000, between $100,000 and $250,000 in stocks, and a pressure-washing business in Madison.
Van Orden was present at Trump’s rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 at which the president fraudulently claimed the election had been stolen from him. Trump has repeated that lie despite numerous court cases, recounts and audits across the country finding no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Van Orden said he left the rally when attendees attacked police and broke their way into the Capitol. To pay for the trip, Van Orden used campaign funds at a time when he was not a candidate, but the FEC rejected a formal complaint against him, saying the sum was too small to pursue, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The Republican candidate has refused to debate Pfaff. He told Channel 8 News that he wanted to do a town hall-style debate, but then refused or ignored his challenger’s offer to do some. Van Orden participated in a debate against Kind in 2020.
And Van Orden was fined and placed on unsupervised probation in Iowa in 2021 when he tried to board a plane with a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage. A judge ordered he pay $360 and show he had taken a firearms safety course, which he did, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The Transportation Security Administration also fined him, the newspaper reported.
Gov. Tony Evers nominated Pfaff in 2019 to be the state’s agricultural secretary, but the Republican-controlled state Senate, which must approve the appointees, voted against Pfaff after he criticized Republicans for delaying funding for a farmer suicide prevention program.
Pfaff then ran for state Senate in the district that includes La Crosse in 2020 and won a tight and expensive race. His state Senate term ends in 2024.
This story was funded in part by a grant from the La Crosse Community Foundation.
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.
DONORS WHO GAVE THE MAXIMUM TO VAN ORDEN
|AYLWARD, AMY J.||NEENAH, WI||$5,800|
|AYLWARD, RICHARD J. MR.||NEENAH, WI||$5,800|
|BAUMGARTNER, DONALD||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|BAUMGARTNER, DONNA MS.||RIVER HILLS, WI||$5,800|
|BENEDICT, DEBORAH||MEDINA, MN||$5,800|
|BENEDICT, MICHAEL||MEDINA, MN||$5,800|
|BERARD, ROBERT MR.||STEVENS POINT, WI||$5,800|
|BILLHEIMER, JOHN||LIVERMORE, CA||$5,800|
|BUCKLEY, MARJORIE||NORTH PALM BEACH, FL||$5,800|
|BUCKLEY, WALTER W. JR.||NORTH PALM BEACH, FL||$5,800|
|BUNTROCK, DEAN L.||OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL||$5,800|
|BUNTROCK, ROSEMARIE||OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL||$5,800|
|BURKE FOLEY, RORY MR.||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|BURKE, KATHRYN MS.||FOX POINT, WI||$5,800|
|BURKE, WENDY||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|CALLAN, JAMES J.||FOX POINT, WI||$5,800|
|CAMERON, RONALD M.||LITTLE ROCK, AR||$5,800|
|CHESEBRO, KENNETH||CAMBRIDGE, MA||$5,800|
|CONLON, DAVID W.||JOHNSON CITY, TX||$5,800|
|DAHL, HARRY J. MR.||SPARTA, WI||$5,800|
|DEAN, JANE S.||MEQUON, WI||$5,800|
|DEAN, RANDOLPH H.||MEQUON, WI||$5,800|
|DEAN, RICH MR.||MEQUON, WI||$5,800|
|DHEIN, JERE MR.||GREEN BAY, WI||$5,800|
|DOHERTY, EDWARD D.||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|DRUCKENMILLER, STANLEY F.||NEW YORK, NY||$5,800|
|DUHAMEL, KATHERINE B.||SAN FRANCISCO, CA||$5,800|
|DUHAMEL, WILLIAM F.||SAN FRANCISCO, CA||$5,800|
|FARROW, PETER C.||CHIPPEWA FALLS, WI||$5,800|
|FISHER, KENNETH L.||PLANO, TX||$5,800|
|FISHER, SHERRILYN||PLANO, TX||$5,800|
|FUSSNER, CHRISTOPHER JOHN||CHANDLER, AZ||$5,800|
|GALICOT, GREGORIO D.||LA JOLLA, CA||$5,800|
|GELATT, PHILIP M. MR.||LA CROSSE, WI||$5,800|
|HANNA, DAVID MR.||IRVINE, CA||$5,800|
|HANNA, VIRGINIA MS.||IRVINE, CA||$5,800|
|HEIDT, MATTHEW MR.||CORONADO, CA||$6,000|
|HENDRICKS, DIANE M. MS.||AFTON, WI||$5,800|
|HENDRICKS, KIMBERLEE K. MS.||JANESVILLE, WI||$5,800|
|HERMENING, KEVIN J.||MOSINEE, WI||$5,800|
|HERMENING, WENDY||MOSINEE, WI||$5,800|
|HERRO, DAVID MR.||MIAMI BEACH, FL||$5,800|
|HOLSON, RICHARD S.||LAKE FOREST, IL||$5,800|
|JOHNSON, BARBARA B. MRS.||RICE LAKE, WI||$5,800|
|JOHNSON, DREW||SOUTHLAKE, TX||$5,800|
|JOHNSON, ERIK S. MR.||MIDDLETON, WI||$5,800|
|JOHNSON, MARK O. MR.||RICE LAKE, WI||$5,800|
|JOSEPH, CAROL MRS.||OMRO, WI||$5,800|
|JOUHET, FREDERIC||ROCHESTER HILLS, MI||$5,800|
|JOUHET, SANDRA||ROCHESTER HILLS, MI||$5,800|
|KEMMERER, JOHN||JACKSON, WY||$5,800|
|KEMMERER, KAREN||JACKSON, WY||$5,800|
|KENT, WILLIAM||MIDLAND, TX||$5,800|
|KIERLIN, ROBERT A. MR.||WINONA, MN||$5,800|
|KOVACEVICH, RICHARD M.||SAN FRANCISCO, CA||$5,800|
|KRAFT, ROBERT W. MR.||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|KRESS, CAROL J.||GREEN BAY, WI||$5,800|
|KRESS, DONALD F. MR.||GREEN BAY, WI||$5,800|
|KUBLY, BILLIE W.||NAPLES, FL||$5,800|
|KUESTER, DENNIS||NAPLES, FL||$5,800|
|LOQUERCIO, BOB||STREAMWOOD, IL||$5,800|
|LUDINGTON, DAVID DR.||ONALASKA, WI||$5,800|
|LUDINGTON, PATRICIA A. MRS.||ONALASKA, WI||$5,800|
|MARQUIS, DARRELL L.||PEORIA, IL||$5,800|
|MARQUIS, THOMAS||PRINCETON, IL||$5,800|
|MCCORMICK DRIVE LLC||ST. PETERSBURG, FL||$5,800|
|MCKENNA, MIKE MR.||MILTON, WI||$5,800|
|MENARD, FAY||EAU CLAIRE, WI||$5,800|
|MENARD, JOHN R. JR.||EAU CLAIRE, WI||$5,800|
|MILLER, BARBARA||CLEVELAND, OH||$5,800|
|MILLS, ANDREW MR.||LONG LAKE, MN||$5,800|
|MOISO, J JEROME||MCARTHUR, CA||$6,000|
|MOISO, JUDITH||MCARTHUR, CA||$5,800|
|MONCRIEF, R. W.||FORT WORTH, TX||$5,800|
|MOSLING, J. PETER MR.||PICKETT, WI||$5,800|
|MULLINS, LUKE MR.||JUNCTION CITY, WI||$5,800|
|NELSON, CAROL J. MRS.||PRESCOTT, WI||$5,800|
|NELSON, GRANT E. MR.||PRESCOTT, WI||$5,800|
|NEUMANN, AMY||HARTLAND, WI||$5,800|
|NEUMANN, MATT MR.||HARTLAND, WI||$5,800|
|O’BRIEN, KARIN M.||HOLMEN, WI||$5,800|
|PEREZ, WILLIAM||NAPLES, FL||$5,800|
|PEROT, H. ROSS MR. JR.||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|PERRY, APRIL ROGANNE MS.||DENTON, TX||$5,800|
|PETULLO, ANTHONY J. MR.||WHITEFISH BAY, WI||$5,800|
|PETULLO, BEV||WHITEFISH BAY, WI||$5,800|
|PIEPER, JENNIFER||CORCORAN, MN||$5,800|
|PIEPER, RICHARD MR.||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|PIEPER, RON||CORCORAN, MN||$5,800|
|POPOLO, JOSEPH||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|PREGONT, JOSEPH T. MR.||JANESVILLE, WI||$5,800|
|RAMSEY, JASON||BREVARD, NC||$5,800|
|REES-JONES, TREVOR||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|REIBEL, BARBARA||GREENWICH, CT||$5,800|
|REIBEL, JAMES||GREENWICH, CT||$5,800|
|ROOD, JOHN||JACKSONVILLE, FL||$5,800|
|ROOD, SONYA||JACKSONVILLE, FL||$5,800|
|ROZOLIS, KEITH MR.||LAKE GENEVA, WI||$5,800|
|RYAN, PATRICK||WINNETKA, IL||$5,800|
|RYAN, SHIRLEY ANN||WINNETKA, IL||$5,800|
|SCHLOEMER, JAMES H. MR.||MENOMONEE FALLS, WI||$5,800|
|SCHROEDER, BRIAN MR.||DE PERE, WI||$5,800|
|SCHUH, KONYA D. MRS.||JANESVILLE, WI||$5,800|
|SEWELL, CARL||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|SIEVERS, AUGUST||ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL||$5,800|
|SILSETH, JOHN M. MR.||BROOKFIELD, WI||$5,800|
|SMITH, HAROLD B. MR.||PALM BEACH, FL||$5,800|
|SNIDER, STEVE||NEWTON, MA||$5,800|
|SOLOMON, STEVEN||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|STORY, KENDRA MS.||JANESVILLE, WI||$5,800|
|TOLL, NANCY A. MS.||FRANKLIN, WI||$5,800|
|UIHLEIN, ELIZABETH A. MS.||LAKE FOREST, IL||$5,800|
|UIHLEIN, RICHARD E. MR.||LAKE FOREST, IL||$5,800|
|VANDERMUS, NANCY J. MS.||ONALASKA, WI||$5,800|
|WAKEMAN, BARBARA L.||ANNAPOLIS, MD||$5,800|
|WAKEMAN, CAROL L.||GREEN BAY, WI||$5,800|
|WAKEMAN, JOHN F.||ANNAPOLIS, MD||$5,800|
|WEEKLEY, RICHARD W. MR.||HOUSTON, TX||$5,800|
|WEGNER, KENNETH MR.||ELMHURST, IL||$5,800|
|WIESER, MARK A. MR.||WISCONSIN DELLS, WI||$5,800|
|WILEY, LAWRENCE||MADISON, WI||$5,800|
|WINN, STEPHEN T.||DALLAS, TX||$5,800|
|WOLDING, RICHARD H. MR.||NELSONVILLE, WI||$5,800|
|WOODMAN, JANE MS.||PALM BEACH, FL||$5,800|
|WYNN, ANDREA||LAS VEGAS, NV||$5,800|
|WYNN, STEPHEN||LAS VEGAS, NV||$5,800|
|ZARNEGIN, ROBERT||BEVERLY HILLS, CA||$5,800|
|ZIETLOW, DONALD P. MR.||ONALASKA, WI||$5,800|
|ZORE, DIANE MS.||RIVER HILLS, WI||$5,800|
|ZORE, ED||RIVER HILLS, WI||$5,800|
TOP INDIVIDUAL DONORS TO PFAFF
|CONTRIBUTOR NAME||CITY & STATE||TOTAL|
|KERN, DEBORAH||SHOREWOOD, WI||$5,800|
|LAUX, JOE||ONALASKA, WI||$5,800|
|LUBAR, MARIANNE S||RIVER HILLS, WI||$5,800|
|MERINOFF, CHARLES||NEW YORK, NY||$5,800|
|MILLER, JOHN W||FOX POINT, WI||$5,800|
|PFAFF, SHAWN W||FITCHBURG, WI||$5,800|
|UIHLEIN, LYNDE B||MILWAUKEE, WI||$5,800|
|WALKER, THOMAS||BLACK RIVER FALLS, WI||$5,800|
|WEIL, SAGE||MADISON, WI||$5,800|
|PAGE, GLORIA||LOS ALTOS, CA||$5,300|
|AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR COMPANY PAC||MOORHEAD, MN||$5,000|
|CONROY, KEVIN T.||MADISON, WI||$5,000|
|FAULKNER, GORDON||MOUNT HOREB, WI||$5,000|
|FAULKNER, JUDITH||MOUNT HOREB, WI||$5,000|
|INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS LOCAL 139||PEWAUKEE, WI||$5,000|
|NEA FUND FOR CHILDREN AND PUBLIC EDUCATION||WASHINGTON, D.C.||$5,000|
|NEW DEMOCRAT COALITION ACTION FUND||WASHINGTON, D.C.||$5,000|
|UA UNION PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS VOTE! PAC||ANNAPOLIS, MD||$5,000|
|WISCONSIN BEER DISTRIBUTORS CONDUIT FUND||MADISON, WI||$5,000|