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Big money, big turnout in WI recall land

By   /   May 30, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — A week before Wisconsin’s historic recall election, big numbers was the catch of the day — served, of course, with the usual side of political spin.

It’s just more to love in recall land.

Millions and millions of dollars are pouring into Wisconsin's historical gubernatorial recall race.

Big money

The tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu is the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with some 10,500 inhabitants, according to its most recent census.

Still, Tavalu is a sovereign state.

Embattled Republican Gov. Scott Walker has raised more money since he’s been in office than Tavulu’s annual gross domestic product of $27 million.

Walker, in the fight of his political life, raised $5.9 million along between April 24 and May 21, according to finance disclosures posted at the Government Accountability Board website. He has raised around $31 million since he took the oath of office in early January 2011.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democrat challenger in next week’s unprecedented gubernatorial recall election, took in $3.4 million more than the most recent five-week reporting period, and has raised $4.2 million since jumping into the race in late March.

Walker’s totals to date are record-setting by every measure, with the governor far outpacing his previous campaign finance high-water mark of $11 million-plus in 2010.

Critics have knocked Walker for his legal ability under Wisconsin recall law to raise unlimited campaign funds through the first stage of the recall campaign. But Walker in recent week still has dwarfed his challenger in the money chase.

His critics further blast the governor for raising the majority of his campaign cash from out of state, with about 70 percent of Barrett’s money coming from donors inside Wisconsin. They charge Walker, darling of the national conservative movement, has spent an inordinate amount of time collecting checks from out-of-state donors.

“It’s clear Tom’s support comes from tremendous energy from the grassroots, while Walker continues to raise unlimited money. And no Democratic candidate for governor in the history of this state has received this level of support,” said Barrett spokesman Phil Walzak on the candidate’s website.

Walker spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, shot back that Walker has attracted grassroots support across Wisconsin and everywhere he goes.

“More than 73 percent of our contributions were $50 or less, showing that as the election draws closer, Governor Walker’s grassroots support is as strong as ever,” she said in a statement.

But big labor unions and others associated with the Democratic Party reportedly have raised more than $40 million to fight Walker during the past 17 months.

One question bears asking: Would Barrett, Walzak and friends turn down that out-of-state money if they could get their hands on it? Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves.

There’s been a whole lot of spending going on, too, as Wisconsin TV viewers deluged with campaign ads will testify.

The Walker campaign reported more than $1.6 million cash on hand in the recall and general campaign funds; Barrett, $1.5 million.

When the final campaign fundraising figures are tallied, perhaps Wisconsin political appropriations will approach the $151 million GDP of the Republic of Kiribati, an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean.

Big turnout

This stands to be one crowded election day.

Turnout in Tuesday’s recall election is expected to approach 65 percent, shattering gubernatorial election turnout records, according to the Government Accountability Board, the state’s campaigns and elections watchdog.

That means as many as 2.8 million will cast a ballot in the contest, a rematch of the 2010 race between Walker and Barrett.

A decent share of those ballots will be in absentee form.

As of late last week, GAB said at least 113,558 absentee ballots had been issued by Wisconsin’s local election officials.

That compares to 68,000 early-voting ballot tracked statewide in this month’s recall primary elections, and already about half of the 230,000 absentee ballots cast in the November 2010 general election for governor.

Kevin Kennedy, GAB’s director and general counsel, said the unknown territory of Wisconsin’s first statewide recall election makes predicting turnout a challenge.

“We typically look at history for guidance in predicting turnout,” he said, noting turnout in Tuesday’s election is expected to be much higher than the 49.7 percent in the 2010 general election, and perhaps slightly lower than the 69.2 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential election.