Vending Machine Politics

In this update: 1. Final recall election finance reports show massive Walker edge 2. Democracy disconnnected 3. The harm money in politics does Vending Machine Politics

Email date: 7/9/12

In this update:
1. Final recall election finance reports show massive Walker edge
2. Democracy disconnnected
3. The harm money in politics does

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Final recall election finance reports show massive Walker edge
Post-election reports accounting for fundraising and spending in the two weeks before the June 5 recall election for governor show that Governor Scott Walker raised $6.8 million and spent $6.9 million since May 22. That’s more than his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, was able to come up with for his entire campaign.

Walker’s home-stretch haul brought his fundraising total to a staggering $37.3 million. The governor spent $36.1 million beating back the recall attempt, more than tripling the old record of $11.1 million that he set in the 2010 election for governor. Walker alone roughly matched what all the candidates and interest groups combined poured into the 2010 race, which at the time was the most expensive election in Wisconsin history.

Walker took advantage of a loophole in state law freeing public officials targeted for recall from campaign contribution limits. He also received unprecedented levels of financial support from out of state and became increasingly dependent on nonresidents for help as the election neared, with 74% of the money he raised from individual contributors after May 21 coming from outside Wisconsin. Of all the money Walker got from individual donors over the course of the entire campaign, 64% came from out of state while 36% came from Wisconsin residents.

The breakdown of the origins of Barrett’s money was the exact opposite, with 36% coming from outside Wisconsin and 64% coming from state residents. But like Walker, Barrett became more reliant on out-of-state money in the campaign’s final days. Half of the money he raised in the two weeks leading up to the election came from outside Wisconsin. On Friday the Democracy Campaign posted lists of contributors who gave more than $1,000 in the latest reporting period to Walker and Barrett.

Overall, Walker spent more than five times as much as Barrett, who reported spending $6.6 million on his bid to unseat the governor. In addition, interest groups on both sides combined to spend tens of millions of dollars on the race. The Democracy Campaign is still counting up the money in the race and will put a final price tag on it later this month. What can be said for sure at this point is that total spending will reach $80 million, more than doubling the previous record for a state election.

In the meantime, the Democracy Campaign enhanced the public’s ability to follow the money in state politics last week by adding nearly 44,000 new records to our searchable online database of campaign contributions.

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Democracy disconnected
When you look at where political campaigns spend all the money they raise, it’s clear they are little more than collection agencies for the television stations. While the political class seems perfectly comfortable with this arrangement and the TV stations are no doubt delighted, citizens of every stripe see it as a sick system and a crooked game. The striking disconnect between elected officials and the people they are supposed to be representing is the subject of our latest Big Money Blog.

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The harm money in politics does
This year’s recall election for governor was the costliest election in Wisconsin history. As the national group United Republic points out, today’s insanely expensive elections are costly in more ways than one. The organization’s website spells out how money in politics ends up hurting the economy, education, the environment, the nation’s health and national security.