Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What does yesterday’s Wisconsin election mean for our country?

As you probably know by now Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker beat Democratic challenger Tom Barrett 53% to 46% in yesterday’s recall election.  The results were about the same as in 2010 when Barrett ran against Walker. 

There are many explanations being offered for why Walker was able to beat Barrett in what appeared to be shaping up to be a close election that would be decided by turnout.  Many think that a number of Wisconsin voters who would have voted for Barrett and/or voted for Obama in 2008, voted for Walker because they didn’t think that a recall election was the proper way to handle a dispute about policy rather than something more serious such a malfeasance in office.  Others say that Republicans this time were able to match the grassroots voter turnout efforts launched by unions and other Barrett supporters so the Democrats lost any turnout advantage.  Regardless, it is unclear what yesterday’s election has to say, if anything, about Obama’s chances of carrying Wisconsin in November, particularly since exit polls showed that many Walker voters said they intended to vote for Obama, not Romney.  Overall Obama led Romney in exit polls by 7 points, 51 percent to 44 percent.

So, the Wisconsin outcome might tell us a lot or nothing at all about November.  That is accepting for one thing.  Republicans spent a huge amount of money supporting Walker.  As you probably know, Scott Walker spent some $30 million to avoid being recalled versus just $4 million for his opponent Tom Barrett.  Most of Walker’s money came from large out-of-state donors.  Source Watch has listed the top five.

  • Richard DeVos: DeVos of Holland, Michigan is the co-founder of Amway Corp. and owner of the Orlando Magic, DeVos runs the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, a conservative foundation and grant making body formed in 1970. DeVos has been active in the school voucher movement, and Walker expanded Milwaukee’s voucher program and established a similar one in eastern Racine County in Wisconsin's 2011-2012 budget. DeVos donated $250,000 to Walker's campaign. [35]
  • Diane Hendricks: Hendricks of Beloit, Wisconsin is owner of ABC Supply, a supply company for contractors of all stripes. Hendricks garnered national attention in May 2012 after a tape was released that shows her asking Walker how he would turn Wisconsin into a "red" state and if he would implement "Right to Work" legislation. Walker responds telling her he would use "divide and conquer" as a strategy against unions, starting first with a "budget adjustment bill" applying to public workers. She gave Walker $500,000 on April 12, 2012 and $10,000 on January 31, 2011, making her his single biggest contributor. Hendricks has given money to Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson, Tommy Thompson and the Republican National Committee and is worth an estimated $2.8 billion. [36]
  • Bob Perry: Perry of Houston, Texas, gave Walker $250,000 on December 4, 2011. Perry's wealth comes from the homebuilding company Perry Homes, but he is most famous for bankrolling the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," which funded a blistering ad campaign against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race. He is a big donor to Texas Governor Rick Perry (no relation), and he gave an eye-popping $7 million Karl Rove's American Crossroads group, one of the largest single campaign contributions ever. [37]
  • Jere Fabick: Fabrick of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is CEO of Fabco Equipment, Inc. Jere Fabick gave $250,000 to Walker in 2011 and 2012. In 2003, Fabick was fined for violations of Wisconsin's limit on political contributions for previous Republican Governor Scott McCallum. [38]
  • David Humphreys: CEO of Tamko Building Products, Missouri's David Humphreys is an out-of-state donor who gave Walker a hefty $260,000 in January 2012. A month later Humphreys gave $250,000 to the Republican Governors Association which is running ads statewide supporting Walker and criticizing recall opponent Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. [39][40]

Additionally, Walker was backed by huge independent expenditures from the Republican Governor's Association and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity Group. Americans For Prosperity has spent $2-3 million each on TV ads in support of Walker, while the ad spending by the Republican Governor's Association and their local PAC, Right Direction Wisconsin, has been estimated to be as high as $5 million two weeks before the recall. [45] 

One must assume that when one candidate can outspend his opponent 8 to 1, that spending must make some kind of difference.  Would the outcome yesterday have been the same if Walker had been able to raise just $4 million, like Barrett, not $30 million?  We expect deep-pocket Republican conservatives to spend with abandon this fall in order to defeat Obama.  Although, Obama has raised a lot of money himself, no one expects the Democrats to be able to match the Republicans when it comes to Republican Super Pac spending.

Are we about to see politics undergo a major change in America?  Will a few super rich individuals gain the power to dictate how our country will be governed and for whom?  Are we about to see a few super-rich people take over our country?  I hope not.  However, if you consider what happened yesterday in Wisconsin, you have to be concerned.

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