Defend Wisconsin News Round Up

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Defend Wisconsin News Round Up

by Lucy Faraday

Total Expensive Recall: Walker Recall Cost $81 Million

You read that right. It’s been reported in a number of newspapers that the Wisconsin recall of Governor Scott Walker has so far cost donors a staggering $81 million. To put that in context, it is the most amount of money spent on any election or political campaign in Wisconsin, ever. This is even twice, yes, twice the amount of money spent by Walker and Barrett in their 2010 election duel.

The Poll

The financial survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign group, who are a non-partisan group in the state.  Based in Madison, they crunched the data provided from campaign reports and advertising buys  to see how much each campaign spent. In the end it was determined that Walker spent $58.7 million while Barrett spent $22 million. Walker won the recall election in June by 7 points.

The campaign group revealed a few surprises in terms of Walker’s campaign funding. Naturally, the big hitters were there ploughing money in as is often associated with a Republican financing campaign. For example, Tamko Building Products’ David Humphreys gave $260,000, while ABC Supply’s Dian Hendricks gave half a million. What might surprise is that 77 percent of donations were valued at $50 or less, showing that Walker managed to motivate his grassroots support for the recall election.

At the same time and during the previous year there were 15 recall motions in the state. During these elections the Republican party was able to outspend the Democrats in every contest. Total spending including the non-governor recall elections totaled $137 million. Republicans accounted for $84.5 million, while the Democrats spent $52.6 million. As money seems to determine the outcome of elections (as in who spends the most gets the most votes), perhaps it is not surprising that the Democrats only succeeded in removing three state senators. On the other hand it could be argued that getting three out was a triumph of voter power over finance.

Polling Day Problems

It seems many people were upset with the recall election for more reasons than others. Naturally those being recalled resented the fact they were having to re-justify their elections, but that is just the nature of democracy.  The Wisconsin League of Women Voters complained after the election that many constituents found polling booths confusing and that adequate help was not given at the time. 150 volunteers made observations around the state and 420 polls were conducted at the time and afterwards. The most confusing aspect was documentation, as in what was needed and what was not. As a result, the League called for polling booth staff to be better trained for future elections.

Democrats Breaking Up

The result of the election was a narrow 17-16 majority in the senate for the Democrats. This state of affairs lasted barely a month before Tim Cullen threatened to quit the Democrats and go solo. What was a narrow victory in an overall disappointment for the Democrats was caused by Majority Leader Mark Miller, who apparently only offered Cullen chairmanship of a minor committee and nothing more important. The whole debacle raises questions about the effectiveness of the senate. The only good news for Miller is that Rich Zipperer, a Republican senator, is likely to become Walker’s new Deputy Chief of Staff, removing his vote from the senate until the next election. Still, Cullen now has the ability to use his vote as a weapon against the Democrats unless placated. That is a dangerous game to play.

Campaign Funding

The amount of money spent, the confusion at the polls and the power plays of elected officials makes you wonder about democracy. If the biggest spender always wins, is there really an element of choice and thought in the election? Can freedom of thought be linked to money in that way? After all, in a free economy a person is able to change financial service providers if they so choose. For example, if you can find cheaper mortgage rates abroad, you will go and take them. By the same token, companies and wealthy investors are moving their money to whichever candidate best represents their needs, but what about the needs of the voters?

The individual voted into office should win the argument of what to do about the needs of the people as a whole and also as individuals. These are not just finance. They should not be based on patronage, on deals and favors.  Still, the alternative is to give each candidate equal funding from the state and that will just cost taxpayers even more of their hard earned money.

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