Eight to one

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 · 18 Comments »

Greg Sargent on Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconson:

Indeed, one way of thinking about tonight’s results is that they say at least as much about Citizens United, and the ways it has empowered opponents of organized labor, as they do about the very real decline of union power. An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found that Walker outraised his vanquished opponent Tom Barrett by nearly eight to one, and that outside groups supporting Walker vastly outspent unions, thanks to Citizens United.

Eight to one? Seriously? Walker spent eight times as much as Barrett?

Gosh, I wonder if that kind of cash could have had any effect on the election.

The Center for Public Integrity provides more details: Walker raised more than $30.5 million in contributions, while Democratic challenger Tom Barrett raised only $4 million.

Two-thirds of Walker’s money came from out of state, with billionaires like David Koch ponying up huge sums. Barrett got donations from out of state as well, mostly unions, but only one-fourth of his money was raised that way. Compare and contrast:

Through April, Walker’s top three donors combined gave more than challenger Barrett’s campaign had raised overall. Four of Walker’s top seven donors are out-of-state billionaires, including AmWay founder and former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, and casino magnate Adelson, who each gave $250,000.

Elena Barham is a West Madison High School senior who helped form the [pro-Barrett] Students for Wisconsin PAC. So far, the group has raised about $30 from T-shirt sales.

“Our goal is not money-based,” said Barham, whose group has focused on voter registration among young voters. “It’s about showing that a grassroots effort could have an impact.”

Think again, young Elena. Think again.

Beyond the campaign contributions to Walker and Barrett, another $30 million or so was spent by independent groups on issue ads and organizing. This also seems to have been overwhelmingly dominated by pro-Walker outsiders, like the shadowy Coalition for American Values. In the days leading up to the election, the Coalition for American Values blitzed the state with a bunch of TV spots arguing that, even if you didn’t like Scott Walker, the recall effort was an abuse of the process. Interestingly, MSNBC’s exit polling data showed that 60% of voters felt that the recall effort was an abuse of the process. What a coincidence.

I realize that a lot of people are going to interpret this election as a triumph of Republican ideas or a failure of Democratic messaging. But I think you can only draw conclusions like that if both sides have an equal shot at making their case. That’s not what’s happening here. There is no level playing field. One side is spending tens of millions of dollars to saturate the airwaves and mailboxes with propaganda, and the other side is holding bake sales and selling T-shirts.

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18 Responses to “Eight to one”

  1. Vera says:

    This is chilling stuff.

    Until recently I could always find some corner of my soul that contained a wee bit of optimism for the U.S. system of politics and government. But I just checked, and it’s gone.

  2. tinfoil hattie says:

    Me too, Vera.

    As a woman, I have always felt that “Your vote is precious! You MUST vote! If you do not vote, you DESERVE to lose the right to vote!” was a crock. I am 51 and have mostly had to choose between one dude & another, locally and nationally. Because of our crappy primary process, I lost the only opportunity I’ll ever get to vote for a woman for president. (I can vote for Jill Stein next fall, I guess.)

    Elections do nothing to empower “the people.” Elections are a crock. No, I don’t believe the American political process is the best ever. So freaking sue me.

  3. Violet Socks says:

    I wonder how Anthony Kennedy feels about having authored one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of all time.

  4. Alice Molloy says:

    “Until recently I could always find some corner of my soul that contained a wee bit of optimism for the U.S. system of politics and government. But I just checked, and it’s gone.” –Vera

    Yeah. No fighting chance any more. Humans have lost the struggle with corporations for who gets to be “the people”. I’m wondering: when enough of us humans recognize that is the way it is, we are now a subject species, will strategy/tactics differ.

  5. tinfoil hattie says:

    I wonder how Anthony Kennedy feels about having authored one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of all time.

    No problem for him. I’m sure he’s fine with it.

  6. Toonces says:

    “Conservatives” hate democracy.

  7. albrt says:

    To be fair, the Wisconsin Democrats were holding bake sales and selling T-shirts in support of a guy whose campaign website not only failed to mention what his party stands for, it failed to mention what party he is a member of.


    I don’t blame Barrett personally for this – refusing to stand for anything is the core premise and the defining cultural marker of the Democratic party leadership.

    Regardless of money, it’s a lot harder for a message to get through if you haven’t got one.

  8. Nina M. says:

    I urge you to not buy in to the Center for Public Integrity’s line of thinking.

    1. It is really hard to count how much is spent in this type of election (any type, really) because there are different reporting requirements for different “types” of money. A lot of the money that unions spend falls under the category of “membership communications” and is exempted from reporting requirements. For this reason alone, union spending is likely to be undercounted. And it has nothing to do with Citizens United.

    2. For whatever reason Barrett didn’t get the support from the national Democratic party that many expected. I don’t know why – I really didn’t follow this election. But If the DNC fundraising machine didn’t produce – well, I don’t know why but that isn’t because of Citizens United.

    3. Walker, as an elected politician, had a huge operational advantage. He could rely on a campaign and especially a fundraising operation that was already in place. He already had a base of donors, trained staff, data management systems, media and direct mail consultants, etc. Yes, the unions also have established operations – but it is not coordinated. Furthermore, unions have no experience fundraising from the general public (all their political spending money comes from people who are already union members). This has nothing to do with Citizens United – rather it comes down to pitting an inexperienced candidate against an established pol.

    4. More money does not automatically equal better results. There are a number of high profile elections that are excellent case studies in how a fundraising advantage did not turn into a victory. This is going back ages but Michael Huffington is always the first example that springs to my mind.

    5. I question whether Citizens United is even applicable in this case — this was a state level election, governed by state election rules (except for the applicable IRS rules). Did Citizens United have any bearing on state level races? I was under the impression it deal only with federal rules.

    Look, the campaign finance reform movement is pushing the idiotic notion that we need a Constitutional amendment to “undo” Citizens United. They are wedded to the notion that the only way to level the political playing field is to have public funding of campaigns. For this reason, they are committed to choking off fundraising by any means possible – the thinking is that if elected politicians find it too hard to raise money, they will turn their support to public funding.

    They will say anything, and twist numbers however they want, to make their case. And they’ll never admit that making candidates reliant on a fund administered by a small group of individuals — individuals most likely appointed by the politicians in power — is a lousy idea. Its as bad an idea as letting politicians draw the boundaries of their own districts… and we see how well that works out.

    But they keep pushing, and we are left with the situation that campaign finance reform advocates make it harder for candidates to raise money… which translates into raising the cost of fundraising. (It raises the cost because candidates need more staff to fulfill reporting requirements, more legal advice about following the rules, and they must raise many more gifts in smaller increments).

    The result is that ordinary people find it *harder* to run for office, clearing the field for self-funded candidates.

    The Center for Public Integrity et al consistently forget that unions *are* corporations – they are incorporated 501 (c)(5)s. Barring corporations from campaigning means barring unions too. And nonprofit advocacy groups.

    When you take third party support out the picture, and you make it harder for ordinary people to fund campaigns by raising money, only millionaires can afford to run. I don’t think this is the solution we are looking for,

    There are a lot of reasons Walker wasn’t defeated. Citizens United is not one of them. And please, please don’t buy into the simplistic (and ultimately detrimental) argument that money = victory; finance reform = progress.

  9. Nina M. says:

    Sorry about the rant… guess you can tell this issue drives me nuts.

  10. quixote says:

    There’s been some research on the relation between ad buys and votes, although usually it’s too squeamish to draw the conclusions evident in the data. Da Silveira and De Mello (2008) (pdf):

    As a preview, the estimated impact of TV advertising time is much stronger then what received literature suggests. Using our preferred estimate, one percentage point change in the difference in TV
    advertising time shares causes a 0.241 percentage point change in the difference in vote share.

    That’s a fairly precise relationship between money and votes. Given the money on the Walker side, he got less than 0.241% vote gain per ad share, but more money solved that problem.

  11. Nina M. says:

    There are some really interesting strategic points raised in the post at Black Agenda Report, which I saw thanks to the link in the sidebar here –


    Also some interesting points raised in the transcript cited in the second comment –


    JAY: Let’s start with the first thing about the importance of the money. One thing I don’t quite get about what happened in Wisconsin is that it’s not like the Democratic Party doesn’t know a lot of billionaires. President Obama’s apparently going to raise $1 billion for his election. There’s plenty of liberal Democratic money out there, but it didn’t come to Wisconsin. Why didn’t they try to mobilize this national money?

    KARLIN: As I wrote in my article on Truthout last Friday about my interviews with activists in Madison who had participated in the uprising, the Obama campaign and the Obama White House wanted to stay as far away from Wisconsin as possible. And I don’t think the president ever mentioned Wisconsin or Barrett in the last few months.

    I think Jay Carney the other day just gave a very sort of perfunctory support of Barrett on behalf of the president, but it was almost an aside, the reason being that in the polls, including the Marquette poll, which was somewhat controversial but widely quoted by the mainstream press—that was the last poll—they had—the Marquette poll, they had Walker ahead by about 7 points. In that same poll, they asked the same people who they would vote for, Obama/Romney, and Obama was ahead of Romney by about the same margin, and today in exit polling, Obama was ahead of Romney by several points.

    So I think looking at the polling before the Wisconsin recall, one can speculate that the White House didn’t want to risk any association with the recall election.

    JAY: But my question was a little different… my question was about the money. They could’ve, without Obama directly getting so involved himself, help mobilize national money, and they didn’t seem to do that.

    KARLIN: [... ] I’m saying that the White House and the Democratic National Committee did not want to call in money for this state recall election. One, they wanted to preserve it for the fall election, including Obama’s, of course, and two, they felt that Walker in a way was too hot to touch and that there was not going to be a high likelihood that this was going to succeed. So I think they simply didn’t put the money in.


    JAY: Now, in terms of the on-the-ground game over the last months, there seems to have been an inability of the unionized workers to speak to non-unionized workers and persuade them that these policies are not in their interest…

    Karlin: … While they [WI progressive opinion leaders] said to recall may have been an option that had to be used, nonetheless it dragged the energy from energizing, mobilizing, and as Ed Garvey said, converting those type of workers who are underpaid and exploited, convert them to the side of being in support of unions instead of resenting unions…

    … Barrett was in a primary. He beat the progressive candidate from Madison [incompr.] Dane County. And so there wasn’t a real enthusiasm for Barrett among the progressives.

  12. Toonces says:

    People seem to like public financing, even in Arizona:


    “The poll by Lake Research Partners found support grew when the 500 likely voters were given details of how the law worked, specifically that it uses “limited public funding” to pay for campaigns, in exchange not accepting donation from “lobbyists, interest groups, or any other private source.”‘ In that case, support increased to 77 percent.”

  13. Gayle says:

    “Look, the campaign finance reform movement is pushing the idiotic notion that we need a Constitutional amendment to “undo” Citizens United.”

    We do need a constitutional amendment to undo Citizen’s U. There’s nothing “idiotic” about that.

  14. Carmonn says:

    Yes, albrt, but Barrett didn’t fall from the sky into the nomination slot. He TROUNCED someone who promised to fully restore collective bargaining rights. Falk isn’t exactly the type to hide what she believes, so what are we supposed to take from that?

  15. Violet Socks says:

    We do need a constitutional amendment to undo Citizen’s U. There’s nothing “idiotic” about that.

    I agree. It’s a disaster.

    Justice Stevens thinks the Court will eventually reverse itself: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/justice-john-paul-stevens-citizens-united-fall-apart.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

  16. Nina M. says:

    And how with that constitutional amendment affect the rights of people who band together to form advocacy organizations? To form unions?

  17. Topper Harley says:

    Barrett was legally barred from receiving more than $10K from a given donor, while Walker, as sitting governor, was not. That’s Wisconsin state law.

    Inside the state, Barrett raised about $3 million to Walker’s $10 million.

  18. Doctress Julia says:

    I would’ve voted for Kathleen Falk… had she been an option.