Political Animal


June 08, 2012 10:02 AM Money Talked in Wisconsin

By Ed Kilgore

I know conservatives call any discussion of the bacchanalia of billionaire spending deployed to save Scott Walker “spin” or “whining;” we’re supposed to accept it was a sober, once-and-for-all referendum on the welfare state and unions and shuffle off to the dustbin of history as the “job-creators” of America prepare to shower the nation with the blessings of minimum wage, no-benefit jobs. But as the numbers are slowly assembled, it looks like Team Walker had just short of a 3-1 margin going into June 5. Here’s TPM’s Eric Kleefeld:

“It’s a moving target, and we continue to track the money,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the campaign finance watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “It’s gonna be well into July before we can put a final price tag on the race, because post-election reports filed by the candidates aren’t filed until July 5.”
So far, at least $66 million in spending has been accounted for in the recall races that took place Tuesday, for the gubernatorial recall, the lieutenant governor race and four state Senate races, said McCabe. “Based on what we’re seeing, we expect that the total is going to be in the ballpark of $80 million or more, by the time everything is accounted for. And then if you combine that with spending in last year’s recalls, the overall recall election spending in 2011 and 2012 is gonna be between $125 and $130 million.”
“We’re in a new era of madness, if you ask me,” McCabe said.
However, the campaign spending that has been tracked so far only goes up through the May 21 filings, McCabe said. Of that amount that has been accounted for, Walker spent $29.3 million, and Barrett spent only $2.9 million. Walker was aided by the fact that the state’s campaign finance law allowed him to take in unlimited contributions starting from the time when recall petitions were first circulated in November 2011, up through when the election was officially triggered in late March 2012.
On top of that, Republican-allied groups spent $18 million, and Democratic groups spent $15.5 million, for a total of about $66 million.
The final weeks of the campaign naturally saw a huge burst of activity. Based on the observed pace of television advertising, McCabe estimates that an extra $14 million or more was spent, though the true figures will not be known until July.

So we’re looking at a $47 million-$19 million advantage for Walker’s forces prior to May 21, and I don’t think they lost their edge between then and June 5.

Was this the only reason Walker won? Probably not. But anyone who thinks it didn’t matter at all is either dishonest or delusional.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on June 08, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Yep, and John Roberts and his corporate U.S. Court are in a state of constant ejaculation at this point because of this. His wet dream is all about creating a Plutocratic/Fascist country. And, due to his efforts, we are rapidly moving towards his wet dream.

  • T2 on June 08, 2012 10:13 AM:

    of course the money mattered. But what about the large % of union members and pro-union households that voted for Walker? He didn't just scrape out a win because he bought lots more commercials...he crushed Bartlett..... What did money have to do with the union members effectively voting to disband their unions?

  • Lifelong Dem on June 08, 2012 10:18 AM:

    Republicans always say money doesn't mean that much in an election win unless they're on the losing side. In Illinois, when Republicans are on the losing side in a money fight, they sqeual loud and long.

    Funny how the world works.

  • simplx on June 08, 2012 10:22 AM:

    Minimum wage jobs? You are such an optimist… Who says there’ll be a minimum wage law left?

  • paul on June 08, 2012 10:29 AM:

    If we were truly taking a business-like approach to elections, we would divide the votes for each side by the money spent by that side. No business could possibly stay in operation if they spent 3 times as much for their raw materials as their competitors, but in winner-take all elections that kind of waste still appears profitable.

  • DAY on June 08, 2012 10:30 AM:

    It would be a pleasant change from the usual 'he said/she said' diatribes if some FACTS entered the discussion.
    Of course, I don't have them!
    Perhaps Ed can do a piece on this, in between viewings and burials.

    I would like to know about the pay and benefits of these public sector union workers. Hourly wage, overtime, double and triple time, health care, dental/eyeglass plans, "other". At what age can they retire? What percentage of their pay is their pension? (I heard- probably on Fox- the can retire at age 50 and get 90% of their base pay. If true, then I think some adjustments need to be made; remember, Mr. Boner says, "Were broke!")

  • Tramey on June 08, 2012 10:34 AM:

    Money matters, but so does messaging. From what I'm reading about messages and advertising is that Walker scored big in discrediting the whole idea of between-elections recall. This apparently resonated with many voters who considered themselves "fair-minded." Perhaps they didn't care for Walker, but they didn't think it was "fair" to recall him "just" because you disapproved of his politics. That, and I think many Wisconsinites are just uncomfortable with big rallies and shouting.

  • jjm on June 08, 2012 10:41 AM:

    I'm with @paul on this one. When is there a law of diminishing returns on these expenditures?

    It reminds me of the 'bubble' economy where the investors were absolutely certain of incredible returns on their money. Our state governments would have to end up giving all their tax revenues to these loony donors and it still not might make up for the expenditures.

    Of course, as long as billionaires are not outlawed by our tax code, there is little reason to assume that they are acting like rational capitalists in their own actual interests instead of the anti-commie paranoid desire to overthrow the working classes and make the world safe for their Hitler paintings and original signed copies of Mein Kampf (see Romney's recent Texas billionaire visit).

  • c u n d gulag on June 08, 2012 10:42 AM:

    I wonder if some, or how many, of the "Creative Job-sucking" rich assholes, and their Corporate selves, will spend more on this election this year to boot Obama and the Democrats out, they they'd have spent paying taxes?

    And how ironic would it be if these rich assholes and their corporate selves lost all, or at least most, of their fortunes and savings under the guaranteed collapse that will come when Mitt and the rest of the sycophantic, "Jesus said feck the feckin' poor!, dingleberry chewers off of rich peoples butts, Republican politicians get in power - and through their moronic revisionist policies, drive this country down faster and deeper into the economic sh*tter than a Bunker-buster missile disguised as a turd?

    If I can spare the energy from lack of food and shelter, I will laugh and laugh and laugh!!!

  • Daryl McCullough on June 08, 2012 10:51 AM:

    3 to 1 advantage? I thought I had read much more extreme ratios, like 8 to 1.

  • Peter C on June 08, 2012 11:00 AM:

    But @CUND, rich people don't suffer much during economic downturns because they don't have to sell the assets that have lost value. Their losses are primarily paper losses and since they have plenty of buffer to absorb an economic shock, they just postpone their purchase of their replacement auxilliary spare Cadillac a month or two (Ann Romney drives two, you know).

    Meanwhile, they scarf up the bargains that the 99% are forced to offer. It is we who feel the pain.

    Meanwhile, high unemployment suppresses labor costs, so their business are more profitable. But, in a downturn, Republicans say we need to pay higher taxes so the 'job creators' can get tax breaks and boost the economy (by snapping up our bargains or buying that extra Cadillac).

  • j_h_r on June 08, 2012 11:29 AM:


    Per Kevin Drum, the 2-1 split in the labor vote is consistent with at least the past two presidential elections. While that doesn't say very much that's good about Wisconsin unions, neither can it be considered an outlier stat in the Wisconsin recall.


  • RepublicanPointOfView on June 08, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Far be it from me to be dishonestly delusional! We, the wealthy funding wing of the republican party, bought this election and we will buy more state and federal government control this fall.

    The 2010 elections were a 'learning experience' in how to use Citizens United Not Timed vs FEC. We have learned how to more effectively use our essentially unlimited capability to buy the government that we want.

    You ain't seen nothing yet! Once the democrats fully understand that if they cross us we can buy them out of office, we will increase our control of state and federal politicians and be able to spend less money doing so.

    Thank God (and money) for Our Supreme Court.

  • Rabbler on June 08, 2012 11:30 AM:

    What the heck does 'matter at all' mean? Not taking much of a stand here, Ed. Are you saying with even money Walker loses? Are you even saying money was the #1 determining factor? If not, then in this particular and unique election, the money didn't matter.

  • ComradeAnon on June 08, 2012 12:03 PM:

    Since so many in the MSM like to project what this means to the future, why haven't any of them discussed weather or not Walker could get re-elected. Since many in Wisconsin, union or not, said that they thought that a recall was inappropriate,and voted for Walker because of that, too bad they weren't asked if they would vote to re-elect Walker.

  • Joe Friday on June 08, 2012 12:07 PM:

    From the exit polling, apparently a number of the voters who disagreed with Walker's agenda nevertheless thought a recall should only be utilized for official misconduct in office.

    Unfortunately, Wisconsin does not have the initiative/referendum process like Ohio does, where the Kasich agenda was upended and smashed by a wide majority of voters.

    Also, the numbers I've seen show a total-spending imbalance of 8 to 1.

  • liam foote on June 08, 2012 12:34 PM:

    As a native Badger with family and friends who remain in Dairyland, over the past few months I often heard that everyone seemed weary of the recall efforts and the incessant attack ads, distortion, and robo calls, in particular.

    Exit polls showed that 70% did not approve of these recalls, 60% saying they should be only for official misconduct and 10% saying they should never be allowed at all. Still, Scott Walker came nowhere near that 70% rate and in the end nearly one half of Wisconsin voters wished to throw him out of office, nearly identical to the percent voting against him in the 2010 election.

    So, no, the money likely did not matter a great deal. If funding for Walker and the GOP had made a considerable difference, votes on his behalf would surely have more closely approached the 70% rate.

  • exlibra on June 08, 2012 1:38 PM:

    [...] as the “job-creators” of America prepare to shower the nation with the blessings of minimum wage, no-benefit jobs. -- Ed Kilgore

    I'm with simplx, @10:22 AM; with unions gone (or, at the very least, severely hobbled), who's gonna fight for keeping the minimum wage there, much less update it periodically?

  • martin on June 08, 2012 1:39 PM:

    I know conservatives call any discussion of the bacchanalia of billionaire spending deployed to save Scott Walker “spin” or “whining;”

    No, they call it "class warfare" which, ironically, it is.

  • monticarlo on June 08, 2012 5:26 PM:

    Last November/December Walker had a 58% disapproval
    rating. A quirk in the recall rules allowed him UNLIMITED fundraising until the recall was certified four months later and he was on the airwaves nonstop through that period until the Democrats had a candidate
    (not until MAY!), reducing those negatives and making people completely sick of political advertising and recalls.

  • Doug on June 08, 2012 7:50 PM:

    If liam foote's post at 12:34 PM, is correct most of the money spent by Republicans was wasted as Walker went into the recall with 80% of those voted for him already in his column.
    How much of the difference between what Walker won by (53%) and that 80% (42.3%) was actually brought into his column by the Republican spending and how much by Republican GOTV efforts - as the two aren't necessarily the same?

  • Lucas Jay on June 10, 2012 11:29 PM:

    Even as a progressive, I believe this might be a case of The Pundits Who Cried Big Money. The real reasons for Walker's victory are highlighted at