Right-Wing Media Disappear Fact That Conservative Money Swamped Union Message In Wisconsin

Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.

Following Walker's Victory In Wisconsin, Right-Wing Media Disappear Walker's Massive Spending Advantage

WSJ: WI Race “Shows That An Aroused Electorate Can Defeat A Furious And Well-Fed Special Interests.” The Wall Street Journal in a June 5 editorial analyzed the results of the Wisconsin recall election, claiming:

The resounding failure by unions and Democrats to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday is a significant moment for democratic self-government. It shows that an aroused electorate can defeat a furious and well-fed special interest that wants a permanent, monopoly claim on taxpayer wallets.


They lost in the end because Mr. Walker and Republicans rode out the storm, passed their reforms, and are now able to show Wisconsin voters the beneficial results. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/5/12]

Breitbart.com: WI Recall Was “A Victory For Grass Roots Activists, The Tea Party And A Newly Emboldened Republican Party.” A June 6 Breitbart.com post credited “grassroots activists, the tea party and a newly emboldened Republican party” for Walker's recall victory. From the post:

Scott Walker's win tonight was a resounding victory for political courage and government reform. After more than a year of vitriolic attacks and tens of millions of dollars from union member paychecks, Walker and his GOP allies survived everything unions could throw at them. It was a victory for grass roots activists, the tea party and a newly emboldened Republican party. Most importantly, it was a victory for the common sense reforms championed by Walker. [Breitbart.com, 6/6/12]

Daily Caller Highlights Democratic Spending On Wisconsin, Ignores Walker's Spending. In a piece claiming that “Wisconsin was a disaster for Democrats and President Obama,” The Daily Caller claimed that Democrats and Labor spent millions to unseat Walker and on the entire recall effort, without offering any information related to how much Republicans and their allies spent. [The Daily Caller, 6/5/12]

Fox's Kilmeade: “In The End $65 Million Was Spent On Both Sides” And “Public Unions T[oo]k The Biggest Blow.” From the June 6 edition of Fox News' Fox and Friends:

KILMEADE: Obviously this is a really big deal. If you're in a public union and you remember what it was like 16 months ago with all the celebrations and all the protests and you wonder if the squeaky wheel was going to get the grease and they were going to get their candidate. But this is one time the squeaky wheel didn't get any grease. And they just made a lot of noise. And people wondered, how is it that it seemed like the whole entire state was rallying against Scott Walker.

And in the end $65 million was spent on both sides, 16 million has come out of the state coffers for this election. And I think people are recall --

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Fatigued.

KILMEADE: Recall fatigued. They are hung over from it. And they just want to move forward. I think public unions take the biggest blow, more than the Democratic Party or President Obama. [Fox & Friends, 6/6/12]

In Fact, Walker Had A Massive Fundraising Advantage

Wisconsin Campaign Finance Watchdog Group: “Pro-Walker Forces Have Spent About $48 Million Compared To $19 Million For Anti-Walker Forces.” A June 4 Chicago Sun-Times article quoted campaign finance watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign who estimated that campaign spending benefitting Walker totaled about $48 million compared to $19 million for Barett. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

llinois is one of the top three states pouring money into Wisconsin's hotly contested recall election, where a record-breaking $65 million has already officially been spent on television commercials, direct mail and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The final price tag is expected to be about $80 million, the majority of that coming from out-of-state business owners who hope to help Republican Gov. Scott Walker keep his seat and keep standing up to public-sector unions.

Pro-Walker forces have spent about $48 million compared to $19 million for anti-Walker forces, according to the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Project. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/4/12]

Two-Thirds Of Walker's Direct Donations Came From Out-Of-State. The Chicago Sun-Times article further noted that the majority of Walker's direct contributions came from out-of-state donors. From the article:

Conservative Lake Forest businessman Richard Uihlein has given $105,000 to Walker. Barrington industrialist Jack Roeser is in for $2,500.

Chicagoan Keith Bronstein of Tradelink gave $25,000 and Gretchen Schuette, a member of the Wausau Homes family living in Sugar Grove, Ill., gave $50,000.


About $20 million of the $30 million contributed directly to Walker is from out-of-state donors. About $1 million of the $4 million donated directly to Barrett is from out-of-state donors.

Those are just the easy-to-trace contributions that went directly to candidates' funds. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/4/12]

Billionaire Koch Brothers Alone Spent About $3 Million On Pro-Walker Expenditures. The Chicago Sun-Times article further noted that, among “independent expenditures” funding Scott Walker's campaign, about $3 million was contributed by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity. From the article:

Another $17 million in “independent expenditures” is being spent on anti-Barrett ads by groups associated with the Republican Governor's Association ($9.4 million); the Wisconsin Manufacturers' trade association ($2 million-$3 million) and Americans for Prosperity, largely funded by the energy company-owning Koch Brothers ($3 million), said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Project. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/4/12]

Corporations, GOP Interest Groups, And Conservative Activists Spent Big Money On Behalf Of Walker.

  • NRA Spent $646,000 To Defeat Barrett. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, accessed 6/6/12]
  • Caterpillar Gave $40,000 To Walker. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, 2/28/12]
  • Tea Party Group FreedomWorks For America - Wisconsin Spent $46,445 On Behalf Of Walker. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, 5/9/12]
  • Conservative Activist And Rick Santorum Donor Foster Friess Donated $100,000 To Walker. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, 11/16/11]
  • Conservative Activist And Newt Gingrich Donor Sheldon Adelson Gave $250,000 To Walker. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, 3/30/12]
  • Texas Conservative Activist Bob Perry Gave More Than $500,000 To Walker. [Wisconsin Democracy Alliance, 11/16/11, 1/17/12]

Walker's Cash Advantage Was Fueled By Citizens United And Loophole In Wisconsin Law

Center for Public Integrity's: Citizens United “Nullif[ied] Wisconsin's 1905 Ban On Corporate Campaign Cash.” Michael Abowd of the Center for Public Integrity stated:

Citizens United came down, it didn't just nullify Wisconsin's 1905 ban on corporate campaign cash, it also plunged much of the state's campaign finance reporting into darkness.

“Because corporate and labor expenditures were previously illegal, there were no disclosure laws to regulate their spending,” said [Mike] McCabe [director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign]. “There's been a precipitous drop off in transparency.”

Since Citizens United, Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board requires independent expenditure groups to register as so-called “1.91 groups,” named for the state rule that created them. Of the more than $63 million spent in the race, $22 million has come from these groups -- $16.3 million of it from Walker supporters -- according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Similar to federal super PACs, 1.91 groups can raise and spend unlimited corporate or union dollars and urge voters to support or oppose a candidate. Also, like federal super PACs, they must report their donors -- except when they can avoid it. [Huffington Post, 6/3/12]

The Hill: Walker's Fundraising Was “Buttressed By A Loophole In Wisconsin Law.” A June 5 Hill article reported:

Total spending on the race exceeded $65 million, and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe said once all the numbers are totaled that figure could exceed $75 million, doubling the maximum ever spent on any political campaign in the state.

That number was buttressed by a loophole in Wisconsin law that allowed Walker to raise unlimited donations from individuals for months, while Barrett had hard caps on his donations and could only begin fundraising two months ago when the recall became official. [The Hill, 6/5/12]

The Daily Beast: Walker “Took Advantage Of An Arcane Loophole In Wisconsin Campaign-Finance Law” In a June 3 article discussing fundraising in the Wisconsin recall election, the DailyBeast reported:

In the Badger State, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Barrett is the one primarily relying on third-party efforts. Since he entered the fray in late March, the Milwaukee mayor has raised a mere $4 million for his campaign and is depending on outside groups backed by the labor movement to carry him to victory. By contrast, Scott Walker, the incumbent governor, has taken advantage of an arcane loophole in Wisconsin campaign-finance law, which has allowed him to take in contributions of more than $500,000 apiece from well-heeled supporters and build up a massive war chest of more than $30 million since he took office last year.

One reason for this switch: the loophole allowing unlimited donations benefits only candidates facing possible recall efforts, in this case, Walker. The law was passed in 1987 (and supported by then-state representative Barrett) to level the playing field for incumbents facing recall challenges, who would be otherwise handicapped by Wisconsin's strict campaign-finance laws. Walker took this small loophole, designed to even the odds when state and local candidates faced an unexpected election, and used it to rake in tens of millions of dollars. Yet this loophole hasn't necessarily increased the amount of money Walker has received to beat back the recall effort; rather it seems that large donations from millionaires and billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, which normally would have been directed to super PACs and third-party groups, have instead gone directly into the campaign's coffers. [The Daily Beast, 6/3/12]