July 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
3 advocacy groups seek to raise $3.5 million for Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A trio of advocacy groups has launched an independent expenditure campaign with a goal of raising $3.5 million to help Rep. Tammy Baldwin in her bid to become the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.

The campaign — a collaboration of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, EMILY’s List and the Human Rights Campaign — is called the “WISCONSIN WOMEN VOTE!” project.

Jeff Spitko, senior vice president of external affairs at the Victory Fund, said the campaign involves raising money in addition to creating TV ads, a website and an online campaign targeting female swing voters statewide.

“The initial push is the launch of the website and … we’re starting to go out on television,” Spitko said. “We’ll continue that same thing in August and September and also appropriate those online initiatives and direct mail initiatives.”

As of last week, Spitko said the organizations have raised about $1 million, but are looking to raise $3.5 million as soon as possible over the course of Baldwin’s campaign.

“The sooner the money’s in play the more effective we’ll be in getting out the message,” Spitko said. “All three organizations are really having a fundraising push in order to make sure that the funds are there to support Tammy. All three of us have a vested interest and want to make sure that we have an authentic voice in the Senate on Election Day.”

Baldwin has no competition for the Democratic nomination to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate. But it’s unclear whom she’ll face in the general election because of the crowded Republican field. Eric Novde, a hedge fund manager, is a newcomer to the race and has become a popular figure in the Republican primary. Other Republicans in the running are former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann and State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

The memo dated July 11 announcing the partnership addresses the threat that Republican challengers present to Baldwin, saying they’re beholden to conservative interests.

“In the last couple of weeks, the radical right, led by the Koch Brothers and their front groups Americans for Prosperity and American Commitment began an all-out assault on Tammy Baldwin, spending over $1 million on the air in Wisconsin to distort her record,” the memo states. “Not only that, but the two main contenders for the Republican nomination, former Governor Tommy Thompson and hedge-fund manager Eric Hovde have dumped millions on television to earn the right to take on Tammy in the fall.”

The first portion of the campaign involves running a TV attacking Hovde and Thompson as Washington insiders and praising Baldwin. Spitko said the ad started running earlier this month in Wisconsin and future ad buys are planned in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau.

Neither EMILY’s List nor HRC provided a statement regarding the independent expenditure campaign for Baldwin in time for the posting of this article. The Baldwin campaign also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The race between Baldwin and her opponents appears tight. According to data published last week from Public Policy Polling, she’s in a virtual dead heat with Novde, who leads her 45-44, and Thompson, whom she ties 45-45. Baldwin leads Neumann by 45-41 and Fitzgerald 46-42.

But the memo announcing the initiative says Baldwin can win if she receives the support she needs to put her over the edge.

“As our recent internal polling confirms, Tammy can win, as long as we can present Wisconsin voters with the real choice in this election: a DC insider who will go to Washington and work for the wealthy and corporate special interests, or a progressive fighter who’s always stood up for middle class Wisconsinites,” the memo states.

Baldwin already enjoys a fundraising lead over her potential opponents. According to a report for WTAQ in Wisconsin, Baldwin raised $2.2 million for her campaign from April through June. Meanwhile, Thompson raised $834,000, Neumann raised $733,000, Hovde raised $237,000 and Fitzgerald raised $41,000. But Hovde has spent an estimated $3 million of his own money on TV ads over the last few months to become more well-known.

Watch the ad on behalf on the campaign below:

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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