Wisconsin governor fended off recall with unprecedented funds

MILWAUKEE Fri Jul 6, 2012 12:24am EDT

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses a crowd at Monterey Mills in Janesville, Wisconsin, June 18, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses a crowd at Monterey Mills in Janesville, Wisconsin, June 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker raised an unprecedented $37 million since taking office in 2011, most of it spent to stave off a bid to recall him after he enacted curbs on public sector unions last year, according to a filing on Thursday.

The 44-year-old, first-term governor, who has become a rising national star of the Republican party, spent more than $35 million to defeat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the June 5 recall election, according to Walker's campaign finance report filed with the state elections board.

Barrett, a Democrat, was also due to release his campaign finances.

"Overwhelming support from the grassroots was the engine behind Governor Walker's historic victory in June, and that strong support continues in an incredible way," Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said.

Walker trounced Barrett by 8 percentage points, a larger margin of victory than when the two faced off in an election two years ago, and he became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall.

The recall victory raised warning flags for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in the first big political test of the 2012 campaign, ahead of the November 6 presidential and congressional elections.

According to the filing, Walker took in $27.7 million since the beginning of the year, during which he went on a nationwide tour giving speeches and raising money to fend off the recall.

He has about $1.6 million in cash in his campaign fund.

Contributions to the Walker campaign far exceeded amounts previously raised by Wisconsin gubernatorial candidates and matched the amount spent by all candidates and interest groups in the 2010 gubernatorial race, the most expensive election in state history.

"Governor Walker matched that himself in this election. It's just insane," said Mike McCabe, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that monitors campaign financing.

Weeks after taking office in January of 2011, Walker angered Democrats and labor groups with his successful drive to limit public workers' rights to collective bargaining. A statewide recall petition drive triggered special elections for Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican senators who were eligible to face recall under state law.

The Republicans were largely triumphant in the recall elections, with only Senator Van Wanggaard, who represents Racine County, losing. In defeating Wanggaard, Democrats earned a 17-16 majority in the Senate until the November election, when half of the members are up for re-election.

(Editing By Andrew Stern and Paul Simao)

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Comments (7)
flashrooster wrote:
This clearly demonstrates that we’ve replaced democracy with a form of plutocracy. If you want to rule, you just need to raise enough money. Raising enough money is easily done by simply promising to do favors for your wealthy contributors. The American people don’t even come into play. We’re just dupes pretending to practice democracy by going to the polls on election day and casting a vote for someone who’s already been chosen for us. You get to play democracy provided you aren’t mysteriously purged from the voting lists in your state or you don’t have the $100.00 you need to acquire a birth certificate in order to get your photo id. So the game of democracy is rather a restricted affair. Whoever raises the most money wins. This is actually true 94% of the time. And we like to pretend we’re real patriots. What a joke. If we were real patriots we’d demand that our system be changed so that politicians can’t be bought and our government not be run by those who have the most access to money. We need publicly funded campaign financing. We’ve become the joke of the world.

Jul 05, 2012 12:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
explorer08 wrote:
The real culprit here is the American people themselves. We are what one of the founding fathers referred to as the “uninformed electorate.” Collectively we know little of history, geography, economics, etc. There is little interest in learning enough to really become an informed electorate that can fend off these well-moneyed power brokers. Yes, out deep dive into a plutocracy is well underway.

Jul 06, 2012 8:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sensibility wrote:
Walker spent over $35 million to defend himself. How much do unions cost the economy every year in lost productivity and earnings? Considering economic analyses that private sector workers are much, much more productive than union workers, probably billions upon billions. The $35 million used to defend the Wisconsin reforms in the person of Walker was worth every penny, and will continue to pay handsome dividends to Wisconsin for years and decades to come.

Jul 06, 2012 9:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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