• WisPolitics


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

 9:52 AM 

Wiley: Fundraising dropped off after first debate

Scott Walker's campaign manager Rick Wiley rejected criticism he grew the guv's staff too quickly, arguing it was a necessary step to prepare Walker for a national race.

Over the final weeks of the campaign, a regular knock emerged that Wiley had built too big of a staff too early. But Wiley tells WisPolitics.com a national infrastructure had to be built around Walker because none existed. While he had a national network of donors, Walker needed bundlers, for example.

"We had to build that," Wiley said. "In order to build something, you had to spend money to build it."

Wiley said the campaign started seeing a drop in its fundraising after the first GOP debate in Cleveland. Still, he wanted to see a few weeks of numbers before concluding it was a definite pattern. Then a swing through Texas that was supposed to raise $500,000 pulled in just $184,00, Wiley said. Walker has long been known for his ability to raise money through his small donors. But one mailing cost more to send than it raised.

Wiley said ahead of the second debate he started putting together a plan to scale back the campaign and presented it to Walker on Sunday. It included going down to 20 staffers, about one-fourth of what was on the payroll, with a budget of about $1 million a month. Wiley said he was also honest with Walker that fundraising had taken such a hit that he was not confident the campaign could raise that kind of money.

"I was brutally honest with him," Wiley said. "I won't say that my recommendation was to drop out. But I told him in stark terms it's really going to be hard to sustain a staff of 20."

The next day, Walker met with a small group of longtime confidantes at the executive residence before making the final decision to end his campaign, according to sources with direct knowledge of the meeting. Some have portrayed Tonette Walker as pulling the meeting together. But others noted the relationship between Walker and his wife in suggesting it was unlikely that the first lady took any action without the guv's knowledge.

The meeting didn't include Wiley; some sources suggest he was left out so the guv could get feedback on the campaign's resources and how it could move forward without someone in the room who had a personal stake in the outcome. Just hours later, Walker formally announced that he was suspending his campaign.

Wiley said the five-week span between the two GOP presidential debates proved fatal with too many missteps on the campaign trail.

"The birthright citizenship was the beginning of the end," Wiley said. "That was the week we really saw fundraising numbers start to plummet."

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