Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Hovde pledges salary to charity.

Madison— While Democrats try to portray California bank owner and real estate billionaire Eric Hovde as an out-of-touch multimillionaire, the Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate candidate pledged Friday to donate his salary to charity if elected.

Hovde may spend $20 million of his own money to defeat Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. This contest is one of several that might determine Senate Democratic majority control. “I’ve worked hard, been fortunate,” Hovde adds in the ad. I won't take their special interest money.

Hovde pledges to donate his $174,000 taxpayer-funded salary to a Wisconsin nonprofit annually. The organizations will not include the Hovde Foundation, run by Hovde's family, according to his spokesperson, Ben Voelkel.

“I can’t be bought,” Hovde declares, promising to resist special interests. Hovde has refused corporate special interest payments, but he can't regulate how they spend campaign funds. Hovde has negligible opposition in August Republican primary. The general election is Nov. 5.

After growing up in Wisconsin, Hovde owns a $7 million Laguna Beach mansion and is CEO of H Bancorp and Sunwest Bank. His grandfather founded Madison-based Hovde Properties in 1933. He is CEO. Hovde has not declared if he would sell his assets if elected.

In 2012, Hovde was valued at least $52 million, his last Senate run. Hovde lost the Republican primary to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who lost to Baldwin.

Baldwin, who was first elected to Congress in 1998, has been portrayed by Hovde and his supporters as a career politician who has served too long. She served six years in the state Legislature before entering Congress. Baldwin and Democrats call Hovde an out-of-touch Californian. Hovde submerged himself in a Madison lake in February to dispel that image. Baldwin declined his challenge.

“Wisconsin voters will see Eric Hovde for who he is: a megamillionaire, California bank owner who doesn’t share our values and can’t be trusted to fight for us,” Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson Arik Wolk said of Hovde’s charity pledge.

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a multimillionaire, once said, “Nobody’s Senator but Yours.” Hovde’s commitment to contribute his income to charity is similar. Kohl took his 1989 senatorial salary of $89,500 but surrendered all compensation raises to the taxpayer. December saw Kohl's death.

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