Record-Breaking Recall Election Spending

In this update: 1. Over $137 million spent on recall elections; $81 million in governor’s race 2. Shortcomings in disclosure laws glaringly apparent in recalls 3. Big lie behind voter ID laws exposed Record-Breaking Recall Election Spending

Email date: 7/25/12

In this update:
1. Over $137 million spent on recall elections; $81 million in governor’s race
2. Shortcomings in disclosure laws glaringly apparent in recalls
3. Big lie behind voter ID laws exposed

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Over $137 million spent on recall elections; $81 million in governor’s race
The Democracy Campaign issued a report today showing that the recall election for governor ended up being more than twice as costly as the most expensive state election previously seen in Wisconsin, and Governor Scott Walker more than tripled the records for campaign fundraising and spending in a statewide race, records he set himself in 2010.

In the 15 recall elections in 2011 and 2012, the Democracy Campaign accounted for a combined $137.5 million in spending, with Republicans outspending Democrats by nearly $32 million. In the governor’s race, Republican forces spent roughly two and a half times as much as Democratic candidates and interest groups.

A podcast with reflections on the record-breaking recall election spending also was posted this morning.

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Shortcomings in disclosure laws glaringly apparent in recalls
Glaring deficiencies in Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure laws were laid bare by the recall elections as millions of dollars spent influencing their outcomes could not be traced to their origins, leaving voters clueless about who paid for a good number of the campaign advertisements. Also concealed is the full truth about how a tiny number of extremely affluent donors paid for most of the recall election campaigning, just as they are paying for most of the politicking in this year’s presidential race.

In a web-exclusive commentary, journalist Bill Moyers notes that many politicians who used to support disclosure now are openly fighting against it. Moyers offers an explanation for their newfound insistence on secrecy: “The majority of Americans — citizens of a country born in what one historian calls ’the age of democratic revolutions’ — would never choose to be governed by the few at the expense of the many. Politicians required to play by the rules, to openly confess that their loyalty has been purchased and forced to identify the highest bidders, could not possibly survive the scrutiny. So they must bend the rules to conceal their transactions. In doing in democracy, their safety is in secrecy, and we must be kept in the dark.”

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Big lie behind voter ID laws exposed
Attorneys defending Pennsylvania’s voter ID law made an awkward confession as they prepare for trial, conceding that they have no evidence of the kind of voter fraud that purportedly could be prevented by requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The lawyers could produce no evidence of identity fraud in voting done in Pennsylvania or in any other state.

The Democracy Campaign has pointed out on numerous occasions that Wisconsin has not seen a single case of in-person identity fraud, the only kind the state’s new voter ID law could possibly prevent. That fact is among the reasons WDC intervened in court in support of the legal challenges to the law. Another reason is the substantial financial burden the law places on certain citizens who are eligible to vote, a burden akin to earlier forms of poll taxation.

New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice recently issued an analysis showing how close to a half-million Americans face significant barriers to obtaining the kind of ID now needed to vote in many states.

Another Brennan Center report issued last week highlights numerous barriers that exist in Wisconsin. Among the problems identified in the study is that "many ID-issuing offices maintain limited business hours. For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012 — February, May, August and October — have five Wednesdays."

The report goes on to note that “voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax — outlawed during the civil rights era — cost $10.64 in current dollars.”