June 7, 2012

Recall Election Golden Rule: He Who Has the Gold, Rules

Post recall election there has been no shortage of attempts to spin what the results mean. One unquestionable takeaway is that in this election, money mattered. A lot.

Gov. Walker’s billionaire backers, along with outside spending from corporate funded special interest groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Republican Governors Association and shadowy groups like the “Coalition for American Values”, outspent Tom Barrett and groups supporting him by a reported 8 to 1 margin.

Don’t think that makes a difference? Then consider just one example of what that kind of spending advantage means. In a 30-minute evening television news program, the place from which most people get their information, you’d barely notice the 1 or 2 Barrett ads sandwiched between a 5,6, 7 or 8 Walker ads.

How did Gov. Walker rack up such an astounding cash advantage?

In addition to having a lot of really wealthy “friends”, Gov. Walker exploited campaign finance laws to play by different rules than his opponent as he mounted his unprecedented $30 million cross-country cash grab.

In a regular election cycle, both a sitting Governor and their opponent are limited to accepting an aggregate maximum in donations of $10,000 per individual. However, Gov. Walker was not, and in some cases is still not, limited to this contribution amount.

The result? Gov. Walker raked in over twice as much from $10,000 plus mega-donors alone than his election opponent Tom Barrett raised in total for his campaign.

Based on One Wisconsin Now’s analysis of Gov. Walker’s campaign finance reports, he raised over $7.3 million in campaign contributions from just 167 individuals exceeding the $10,000 per election cycle limit.

And we haven’t even touched on the role the foundation controlled by Gov. Walker’s campaign chair played in trying to drive public opinion, like using columnists whose paychecks depend on foundation grants to dutifully pass along talking points spoon-fed to them by the campaign… but that’s a column all its own.

Debate away about the meaning of the election results.

But cutting funding by $1.6 billion for K-12 public schools while giving corporations and the wealthy $2.3 billion in tax cuts is no more popular today than it was last November when recall petitions began circulating.

Can you really argue Tuesday’s election results were an endorsement of policies that make it more difficult for women and armed service veterans to fight workplace discrimination? Or think that Gov. Walker won a mandate for more tax increases on seniors and working families and even higher tuition for University of Wisconsin students?

The inescapable, bottom line fact is that Gov. Walker and his wealthy, right-wing allies bought a win.

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Mike Browne is the Deputy Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute. He has been involved in progressive politics in Wisconsin for two decades – working for leadership in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly.

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