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the sake of getting along, WI voters would be in their right mind to revolt against state government, which apparently no longer represents them, either by demanding legislation to end campaign contributions from out-of-state contributors, or by storming the state capitol in Madison with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