Friday, July 29, 2011

Total Spending in August Recall Elections could reach $25 million

Press Release
July 29, 2011

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


With the entire nation watching what will happen in the eight State Senate recall elections in August, the dollars are flowing in from all over the country to flood Wisconsin (and Minnesota) airwaves in order to to try to persuade the handful of voters who have not yet picked sides in these battleground districts.

At stake is what party will have partisan control of the State Senate and, perhaps, the future of the Scott Walker and Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald - Republican Agenda. Some have suggested that the Wisconsin recall elections are a national barometer for what might happen all over the nation in 2012 -- including the fate of President Barack Obama. We will know soon enough.

There have never been this many recall elections held at one time in Wisconsin or anywhere in the country, so to try to compare them with other elections or to put them in some national context is difficult if not impossible. But one thing is certain -- millions of dollars will be spent in almost all of the eight elections and the $3 million record spending for a single State Senate election that was set in 2000 is likely to be broken in one or more of the August elections.

One of them might be in the 10th State Senate District where current Republican State Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls faces a serious challenge from Democrat Shelly Moore of Ellsworth. Harsdorf emerged as the winner in that 2000 election defeating incumbent Democratic State Senator Alice Clausing. The $3 million dollar record set in that election could be surpassed because of all of the spending for campaign ads on Minneapolis TV -- which covers the 10th Senate District of Wisconsin. To read more about the money being raised and spent in this race, go here.

One State Senate recall election that will almost assuredly surpass the $3 million record figure is in the Milwaukee area where Republican State Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills tries to fend off an aggressive challenge from Democratic State Representative Sandy Pasch of Milwaukee. Darling, utilizing her position as Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Legislature's all-powerful Joint Finance Committee, has raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Pasch has managed to raise enough to stay competitive.

Of course the biggest spending in all of these State Senate recall elections is by outside special interest groups on both the left and the right. Estimates of between $20-30 million in total spending on the eight elections in August are not inconceivable given the enormous stakes that both Republicans and Democrats have in controlling the Wisconsin State Senate. Much or most of the outside spending from both within and outside of Wisconsin is and will be undisclosed because Wisconsin has thus far failed to pass disclosure legislation that will force the outside groups to tell voters who the donors of all the money are and where it is coming from.

After the recall elections are over, and whatever the outcome, Wisconsin legislative Republicans and Democrats alike should join together and pass effective disclosure legislation -- something CC/WI has been pushing for since 1997. We are working with legislators of both political parties to get such a measure introduced. It is well past time to shed light on the big money that now controls Wisconsin elections.

For more on what CC/WI and others are saying about spending in the recall elections, listen to this short segment from Milwaukee Public Radio.


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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