Record Spending in AG Race

In this update: 1. Spending in attorney general race up five fold 2. Governor’s race makes headlines 3. The Elections Board’s rathole strategy Record Spending in AG Race

Email date: 2/8/07

In this update:
1. Spending in attorney general race up five fold
2. Governor’s race makes headlines
3. The Elections Board’s rathole strategy

Spending in the 2006 attorney general race topped $8.3 million - five times more than was spent in the previous race in 2002, a Democracy Campaign analysis released today shows.

Apologists for the campaign arms race in Wisconsin elections like to claim that runaway spending is needed to ensure a robust debate on the issues and enable candidates to get their message about where they stand to the voters. The smear campaigns that disfigured last fall’s attorney general race were themselves the most effective counterargument. Both major party candidates and their special interest allies spent millions on ads claiming that their opponents would go easy on violent offenders, lacked concern for crime victims, were soft on illegal immigration and would let sexual predators roam free in neighborhoods.

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The Democracy Campaign’s calculation of the cost of the governor’s race that was released Monday has been making headlines across the state. It was the subject of a lengthy article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and also a story distributed statewide on The Associated Press state wire service.

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Just when you think the status of the state’s computerized voter registration project can’t get worse, it deteriorates further. Even though completion of the project already is more than a year overdue, the state Elections Board is now acknowledging that the new system still won’t be fully operational for this spring’s elections.

Elections Board officials are expressing hope that all the kinks in the new system will be worked out and all of its promised functions will be functioning by the presidential primary election in February 2008.

Believe it when you see it. Remember that when it first became clear the Elections Board was going to miss the January 1, 2006 deadline for completing the work, board officials expressed confidence that the new system would be up and working by the April 2006 elections. Those elections came and went without a finished product, and the board then targeted last fall’s elections. Only limited features were in use for the November election, and those didn’t exactly perform flawlessly.

This project has become the state election equivalent of the Iraq War. The question now is whether the Elections Board will ever admit that its rathole strategy is doomed to failure. The board is set to be dismantled and replaced by the new Government Accountability Board in six months. Between now and then, will the board fess up and acknowledge the disaster that this project has become? Will it seriously consider the mounting evidence that its private sector partner in crime Accenture is simply not up to the task of producing a workable statewide computerized voter registration system? Will the board do the right thing and declare Accenture in breach of contract and sue the company so that at least some of the taxpayer money that has been wasted can be recouped? Or will this dysfunctional and soon-to-be-defunct agency continue to throw good money after bad and then pass off the whole mess to the new board?