The Secret Auction

In this update: 1. Interest groups report spending $10M on state elections 2. A true friend lost 3. Throwback journalism 4. Infantile politics The Secret Auction

Email date: 11/17/10

In this update:
1. Interest groups report spending $10M on state elections
2. A true friend lost
3. Throwback journalism
4. Infantile politics

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Interest groups report spending $10M on state elections
In addition to showering candidates for state office with millions of dollars in campaign contributions, special interest groups reported spending nearly $10 million on their own advertising to influence this year’s state-level elections, according to a report issued Monday by state election authorities.

The report is as notable for what it did not show as for what it did. The Democracy Campaign already has accounted for at least $5 million in additional spending that was not reported, and continues to assemble facts to put a reliable price tag on other campaigning that has come to our attention. Among the groups not included on the list of reported spenders is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby. The cost of WMC’s campaigning easily reached seven figures.

Perhaps the biggest missing piece in the state’s disclosure report is exactly who gave these groups all that money. Funding sources remain a mystery for the most part because only a few of the several dozen groups that spent heavily on election advertising disclose their donors.

Mouthpieces for the party fronts and outside interest groups were quick to downplay the magnitude of their intervention, employing some pretty fancy rhetorical dance moves to throw reporters off the scent. An item posted Tuesday on our Big Money Blog goes into more detail.

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A true friend lost
Terribly sad news came to us earlier this week. The cause of democracy lost a valiant foot soldier and the Democracy Campaign lost a dear friend when Larry Hansen passed away Monday evening after a spirited battle with cancer. Larry truly lived a life of purpose, and WDC is one of countless beneficiaries of his remarkable contributions and one small example of how he touched so many. Larry good-naturedly prodded us to think bigger and do more, but also always had our back. WDC’s director shared a few thoughts that we've posted here on our website.

Larry, thank you for all you did. We wouldn't be what we are today if it hadn't been for you. We will miss you.

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Throwback journalism
Journalism faces threats not seen in any of our lifetimes. Sometimes it seems as though journalism is about to abandon us altogether, and there are even moments when it feels like it already has. When such thoughts grow especially strong, it is time to read Bill Lueders’ book, Watchdog. Lueders is a journalist in the finest tradition and has been for 25 years. The collection of stories does as good a job as you’ll see anywhere in chronicling the evolution of Wisconsin politics. It isn't a pretty picture, but it’s an important one to see and understand. In the spirit of true journalism, Lueders makes an outstanding contribution to enhancing our understanding.

For those in the Madison area, there will be a reading by the author this Saturday.

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Infantile politics
Speaking of things worth reading, this article is long and reading it will take you a while but it’ll be time well spent.