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WI Recall Elections: “Ungodly” Sums of Money Pouring In

June 13, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - As the political unrest over Wisconsin's proposed state budget continues, a watchdog group has filed complaints against three of the 11 state senators targeted for recall election. Mike McCabe, executive director of the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, calls the money being raised "ungodly sums."

"It's safe to say that we're going to see some million-dollar-plus senate elections here. We've seen some seven-figure spending in senate races before in Wisconsin, but it's very rare. You'll see that in these recall elections."

McCabe's group has filed complaints against two Republicans and one Democrat for failing to disclose the occupation and employer of many of their contributors.

The rules governing contributions for recall elections are different, because between the time the recall petitions start and the time the election is actually approved, usual contribution limits do not apply, McCabe says.

"What we've seen are some of these targeted senators getting contributions of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, which is way over the established limit they usually have to abide by."

Rules about identifying the occupation and employer of the donor still apply, he adds, and three of the senators who accepted substantial donations have not followed those rules. Without that information, all there is are names on paper, and the public doesn't know who is trying to influence the election, he explains, adding that transparency is critical.

"The public needs to know what kinds of interests are coming to the defense of these senators. When the public is kept in the dark about that, it makes it impossible for voters to make an educated decision about whether they want to continue to support these senators."

As of mid-April, the most recent period for which accurate numbers are available, the 11 targeted senators had collectively raised more than $1.3 million, and contributions have continued to pour in. Six of the 11 recall elections could be held as early as next month.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI