Email date: 4/5/07
In this update:
1. Supreme Court price tag surges past $5M, zeroes in on $6M
2. McCain-Feingold getting good results, reviving parties
3. Academic study shows election fraud qualifies as urban myth
The most hideous state Supreme Court race Wisconsin has ever seen is over. Annette Ziegler won going away, except to the extent that she also loses. Aside from democracy itself, another clear loser in Tuesday’s election was the institution of the Supreme Court and the entire state judiciary.
The ugliest high court race in state history also was far and away the most expensive. Just how expensive it was won’t be known for sure for more than three months when final campaign finance reports are filed. Those reports, due on July 20, will show that both Ziegler and her opponent Linda Clifford topped the $1 million mark in fundraising and campaign spending with room to spare.
Along with the $828,889 Ziegler reported spending through March 19, we know that she also had nearly $103,000 in cash on hand and dumped another $250,000 of her family’s money into her account in the final days of the campaign, bringing her total to nearly $1.2 million. And that doesn’t count campaign contributions she accepted from others in the final two weeks of the campaign.
Clifford disclosed spending $605,914 through March 19 and had close to $161,000 more in the bank at that point. She then put another $300,000 of her money into her campaign fund for the final push, bringing her total to almost $1.1 million, again with two weeks worth of fundraising still unaccounted for.
Over and above the candidates’ largess, the Democracy Campaign so far has been able to account for $3 million in spending by interest groups in the race. A single group, the big business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), accounts for $2.2 million of this total.
Add it all up and the fundraising and spending already tops $5.25 million. WMC alone is responsible for more than 40% of this staggering sum. When an official tally of overall spending is finally possible in late July, expect it to reach $6 million or more. The previous record for total spending in a Supreme Court race was just under $1.4 million. All this has even Ziegler crying for reform of the way judges are chosen.
As Mark Twain famously said, a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. One popular myth that has more than made the rounds is that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold, has been a miserable failure. A recent op-ed in The Washington Post marking the fifth anniversary of the campaign reform law’s enactment lays waste to the anti-reform spin.
Truth is, McCain-Feingold was a very modest reform that has probably done more and done it faster than even its most loyal supporters thought possible. Among the law’s most notable effects is the way it has forced the national political parties to reconnect with their grassroots.
Speaking of popular myths, there is no better example than claims of widespread election fraud. In fact, election fraud is extremely rare. So rare, it turns out, that a Columbia University political science professor found that voter fraud has not occurred with enough frequency to establish a statistically significant model to study.
Meanwhile, a federal agency that serves as a clearinghouse for election research is playing games with another study by Rutgers and Ohio State universities that seriously undercuts the case for the solution of choice to the problem of allegedly widespread voter fraud.