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WI Recall Elections: Spending Records Smashed

August 10, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - With six of Wisconsin's nine legislative recall elections held Tuesday, one on the books from July, and the final two set for next Tuesday, spending has been at stratospheric levels. According to an official at a state watchdog group, one of the side effects is that voters don't get a true picture of where the candidates stand on the issues.

Mike Buelow, research director for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says the money spent on the recall elections, both by special-interest groups and the candidates themselves, is well beyond record levels.

"Right now, outside groups are coming in at about $28 million, and the candidates' total spending thus far is just a little over $5 million."

To put that $33 million total into perspective, Buelow contrasts it with the total campaign spending in Wisconsin in the 2010 election.

"They've spent substantially more - the outside groups - in just these nine legislative recall races than they did for all of the races in the fall of 2010, during the regular elections."

In that regular election, the total amount of outside spending was about $3.75 million.

One of the effects of huge outside expenditures in elections, Buelow says, is that voters don't learn where candidates stand on important issues when nearly all of the ads promote the views of the groups that produce them.

"Really, on the issues, you're not hearing the candidates speak to the issues as much as you're hearing the outside interest groups talk about the issues and frame them in a way that they want."

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has long advocated what it terms meaningful campaign finance reform in the state, to remove the powerful influence of unregulated outside campaign spending.

Track the spending at wisdc.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI