Disturbing statistics on WI recall vote

Like support for Prop 8, a supermajority of contributions in the WI recall election came from out-of-state donors.

$63.5 million: The minimum amount spent by both sides in the recall

70 percent: How much more expensive the governor’s recall election is than the state’s second-most expensive race (the 2010 gubernatorial campaign)

$30.5 million: Amount raised by Walker to fight off the recall effort

$3.9 million: Amount raised by his challenger, Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee

About 2/3: Proportion of Walker’s donations that have come from donors outside Wisconsin

About 1/4: Proportion of Barrett’s donations that have come from donors outside Wisconsin

Unlimited: Maximum individual donation Walker may accept under state law

$10,000: Maximum individual donation Barrett may accept under state law

$16.3 million: Amount spent by pro-Walker independent expenditure groups, which have invested $22 million in the Wisconsin recall

Some of the biggest contributions and expenditures in support of Walker:

$510,000 to Walker from Diane Hendricks, Wisconsin’s richest businesswoman and a member of Charles and David Koch’s million-dollar donor club

$490,000 to Walker from Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who with his wife has spent more than $8 million on the 2012 elections

$260,000 to Walker from David Humphreys, a member of the Kochs’ million-dollar donor club

$250,000 to Walker from former Amway CEO Dick DeVos of Michigan, a member of the Kochs’ million-dollar donor club

$250,000 to Walker from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who with his wife has spent more than $25 million on the 2012 elections

$100,000 to Walker from Wyoming investor Foster Friess, a member of the Kochs’ million-dollar donor club

$100,000 to Walker from New York billionaire Louis Bacon, a media-shy hedge-fund trader

$100,000 to Walker from Dallas oil and gas billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones

$6.5 million on ads spent by Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the anti-labor Center for Union Facts

$4 million on ads spent by the Republican Governors Association‘s Right Direction Wisconsin PAC; only about $7,000 was raised in-state. The RGA got $1 million from David Koch in February. It’s also received $500,000 from the US Chamber of Commerce

Walker survives recall election by outspending his challenger 7-to-1

It’s another disappointing day for “free-and-fair” elections in America.

In his bid to retain office, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin outspent Democratic challenger Tom Barrett 7-to-1. Despite fallacious Republican rhetoric about states’ rights, Walker won the recall election with the help of millions of dollars from out-of-state and corporate campaign contributions.

It would be difficult to determine exactly how much each candidate spent to buy a single vote due to lax and convoluted campaign finance laws. However, here are some facts that can help form a rough estimate.

TOTAL EXPENDITURES:

1. Walker spent about $32 million total in the 2012 recall election, the supermajority of it coming from outside the state by special interests including wealthy individual donors, special interest groups, and SuperPACs. This figure represents almost twice as much as both Walker and Barrett spent together in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

2. Roughly 38 percent of Walker’s individual donations came from WI residents.

For example, the Republican Governors Association alone used independent expenditure and phony issue ad groups, spending an estimated $5 million to sponsor numerous TV ads that claimed voting for Barrett’s would lead to higher taxes and lost jobs.

3. By contrast, Barrett spent about $5 million in this election much of it coming from middle class donors and labor unions representing state workers, teachers, police, and firefighters.

4. Roughly 74 percent of Barrett’s individual donations came from WI residents.

TOTAL VOTES:

1. Walker took 53.1 percent of the vote with 1,334,450 ballots.

2. Barrett took 46.3 percent of the vote with 1,162,785 ballots.

3. The difference is 171,665 ballots.

PRICE POINTS:

1. Walker and his out-of-state supporters effectively paid $23.97 per vote.

2. Barrett and his supporters paid $4.35 per vote, about five times less than Walker.

This is American democracy at its finest in the Age of Money and Propaganda. If political commentators are wondering why Walker is the first governor in American history to survive a recall vote, the answer is clear. He spent more money—most of it coming from people who are not even his constituents.

Instead of reconciling themselves to the inevitable, and going along for the sake of getting along, WI voters would be in their right mind to revolt against state government, which apparently no longer represents them, either by demanding legislation to end campaign contributions from out-of-state contributors, or by storming the state capitol in Madison with pitchforks and torches.

American Trust Inc., or Why we are losing the battle for our democracy

 A Gallup News Poll released Monday is telling. Americans trust their bankers more than their elected officials. According to the poll, 64 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of Congress as low/very low. This is the lowest rating since the poll was first started in 1976 to rate the public’s perception of the trustworthiness of various professions. Congressional representatives (and presumably senators) are now tied with lobbyists, who are consistently ranked at the bottom along with the ubiquitously sleazy profile of used car salesmen and telemarketers. (Won’t somebody give good ‘ol Gil a break?) In other words, well over half of Americans believe their politicians are liars.

This dim view of American democracy is consistent with the public’s low disapproval rating of the job Congress is doing, or not doing as it were. An overwhelming 82 percent of the electorate is dissatisfied with its performance, whereas 10 years ago an average of 60 percent of those surveyed approved of the job Congress was doing. Times have changed. Or have they?

Two troubling facts stand out when placed alongside these statistics.

1. The incumbency rate in Congress has been above 80 percent since 1964. That means less than 20 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives turns over from year to year. In the Senate the numbers vary slightly more but not by much. Since 1964 the incumbency rate in the U.S. Senate has never dropped below 50 percent, and since 1982 it has remained steady at 70-80 percent. What does this mean? Despite skepticism of both the profession and institution, Americans continue to send the same people back to Washington over and over again. In short, they reward the apparently poor performance of representatives and senators by reelecting them. (This fact can be related to the alarming salaries and bonuses that corporate executives are giving themselves despite their poor performance. Got Enron-fever, anyone?)

2. In addition, Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of various business professionals higher than Congress. Only 22 percent of responders ranked real estate agents as low/very low, 26 percent for bankers, 32 percent for executives, 37 percent for lawyers, and 40 percent for stockbrokers. This means that on average Americans trust big business more than democracy despite the fact that the former is paying off the latter to do its dirty work, and despite the fact that the public is supposed to exercise control over the latter with the power of voting.

What is troubling about these statistics is that Americans are clearly losing (have lost) control of their democracy, and the numbers explain exactly why this is happening. They basically trust the corporate world (slightly) more than their politicians. Yet it is corporate America that is getting its way in Washington and having its way with America—by flooding the nation’s capital with billions of dollars in election money, corporate sponsorship of policy think tanks, and downright graft. Even though the electorate is apparently aware that the honesty and ethical standards of politicians have been compromised, they are alarmingly less aware that the source of that corruption can be traced to corporate America.

For all the vaunted talk of the Tea Party’s renewal of responsible government it is the anger and frustration reflected in the Occupy movement that best reflects the political reality. The exclusive blame for America’s problems lies neither with politicians and big government, nor corporations and their greedy executives. There is plenty of blame to spread around there, and OWS has taken an important first step in exposing this evil collusion between elected officials and big business. When it comes down to it, the electorate shares much of the blame for sending the same people back to Congress year after year, effectively preserving a perverse incentive structure for rewarding incompetence and corruption. Maybe it’s time to run for Congress?