"Inexpensive" Races Carry $3M Price Tag

“Inexpensive” Races Carry $3M Price Tag

Email date: 7/25/13

In this update:
1. WDC puts price tag on state Supreme Court, school superintendent races
2. Legislation calls for statewide vote on Citizens United
3. Business leaders have major misgivings about political giving
4. Walker continues to rely heavily on out-of-state donors

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WDC puts price tag on state Supreme Court, school superintendent races
Here’s a measure of how a new normal has been established when it comes to money in politics: This year’s races for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and for state school superintendent cost more than $3 million, and these were considered low-profile, inexpensive elections.

In both races, outside interest groups handily outspent the candidates, another phenomenon that is increasingly viewed as normal. Call us old fashioned, but we still believe candidates ought to matter in elections and voters are ill-served when those running for office become little more than bystanders in their own races.

For more reflections on the report we issued this morning, check out our latest podcast. And check out the Campaign 2013 feature on our website for detailed fundraising and spending figures in this year’s spring elections.

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Legislation calls for statewide vote on Citizens United
At a Capitol press conference yesterday, supporters of the push to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous decision in the Citizens United case allowing unlimited election spending announced the introduction of legislation authorizing a statewide referendum on the 2010 court ruling. The Democracy Campaign is part of a 26-group coalition that worked for the drafting and introduction of this legislative resolution, and WDC will be working in the weeks and months to come for its passage.

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Business leaders have major misgivings about political giving
While most legislators seem unwilling to ask Wisconsin voters how they feel about the Citizens United decision, two national polling firms just asked more than 300 business leaders for their take on money in politics. The polling agencies, one Republican and the other Democratic, found that three-quarters of company executives view political giving as “pay to play,” and almost nine out of every 10 favor limiting how much individuals, corporations and outside groups can spend to influence elections.

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Walker continues to rely heavily on out-of-state donors
In his latest campaign finance report (warning: link downloads a 1,695 page pdf report) filed earlier this week, Governor Scott Walker disclosed that he raised more than $3.5 million in the first half of the year. Of his fundraising total, nearly $2 million came from out-of-state donors. A total of 71 contributors gave the maximum amount of $10,000 including 15 who live in Wisconsin and 56 from outside the state. Among the $10,000 donors from Wisconsin are John Bergstrom, the CEO of Bergstrom Automotive in Neenah, and Kenneth Graham, president and CEO of HNTB Corporation.

Seventeen donors from Texas gave Walker $10,000 including Robert McNair, CEO of the NFL’s Houston Texans, while 10 Illinois donors maxed out, including Richard Uihlein, owner and CEO of Uline Corporation. Among the other $10,000 donors from around the country is Christy Walton of Arkansas, who is part of the Wal-Mart clan.