Nor were they outspent "eight to one" or "ten to one" or whatever. In the election to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker and replace him with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Democrats were probably outspent by about 5 to 2, at least as far as I can tell from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, or maybe by 3.36 to 1. While there seems to be some uncertainty about the exact figures, there doesn't seem to be any way the spending ratio was as high as is often claimed, once you account for the outside and independent spending that we all agree is important to account for. And four different analyses of Wisconsin television advertising give similar ratios.
I keep seeing the "seven to one" ratio thrown around over and over again by smart people, and we really need to try to correct the record. I can understand why this became a meme on this and other liberal blogs, but we should get this sort of thing right. Barrett and the Democrats really did get outspent, but I don't think it will benefit anyone's case to exaggerate or to tell an incomplete story. Conservatives are having a great time debunking this. And it's especially silly for anyone to be throwing that figure around while complaining about "Citizens United", as I'll explain in the main body.
I apologize if this has been well-covered, but I think it bears repeating.
This diary by Lawrence Lewis quotes the work of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to establish the "ten to one" ratio. But he's only looking at the spending by the campaigns themselves, and not at outside spending.
Now, honestly, I can't get these figures from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's own website, and I'm a little wary of their numbers--see below--but here's what the group's Executive Director said a few days ago:
The Madison group, which tracks campaign spending, estimates that when final reports are made to state election officials, they will show about $80 million has been spent on behalf of both candidates in the governor's race. That would more than double the $37.4 million record set in the 2010 governor's race between the same candidates.(My emphasis.)
According to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe, campaigns and special interests on both sides engaged in "something akin to a nuclear arms race" to round up money to spend on advertisements targeting a minute percentage of undecided voters.
Exit polls from CNN showed 86 percent of voters had made up their mind more than a month before the election.
With more than a year's head start, the campaign for successful incumbent Gov. Scott Walker spent more than $47 million, according to McCabe. The losing Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, spent $19 million.
Now, perhaps that will change with "final reports", but there's obviously no way for this to become an "eight to one" ratio, right? $47:$19 is about 5:2, as far as ratios go. It might be more like 47:18.5 or 47:18.4, e.g., here:
Update, (June 7, 12:33 pm): Outside groups made a final spending blitz on the weekend before the recall vote. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, outside spending, which includes independent expenditures and issue ad buys, now totals roughly $33.5 million.The report that Lewis' diary linked to gave Walker's spending as $29 million and Barret's as about $2.9 million, so that gives $47 million for Walker and the Republicans, and $18.4 million for Barrett and the Democrats. The 18/15.5 figures are repeated here.
Of this sum, Walker supporters outspent Barrett supporters $18 million to $15.5 million.
Granted, an earlier report quoting McCabe apparently made some big mistakes, although I'm not sure if they were the Democracy Campaign's problem. I've been looking for independent sources for an overall spending analysis. But even that PR Watch story says:
According to initial estimates, an astonishing $63.5 million was spent on the recall election, and $45 million of that sum -- more than 70 percent -- came from Walker's campaign and supporters. [...] In light of these facts, claiming "the parties' mountains of money are about even" in an article published just two weeks before the gubernatorial election left readers with serious misconceptions, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) first reported.Reason for Skepticism?:
This NYT article has similar numbers from May 21st: $45.6 million for Republicans, $17.9 million for Democrats.
One caveat is that they include $4.5 million by Wisconsin for Falk. It's possible that this is double-counting, since, over at the Campaign's site, Wisconsin for Falk has precisely the same amount listed as "anti-Walker" spending as they have listed as "pro-Falk" spending--presumably, a single ad or ad campaign that someone thought fit both categories.
Of course, such double-counting might well be inflating spending reports on both sides. Here is the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's list of gubernatorial independent expenditures. Looking only at Walker and Barrett, I only see $8,939,615.49 in pro-Walker or anti-Barrett spending, while I see $8,455,208.07 in anti-Walker or pro-Barrett spending just from the "Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund" and "We Are Wisconsin". There might be some of that double-counting all around, though, with several of those groups having similar "pro" and "anti" expenditures.
I suspect some of this is simply that they haven't updated that table to account for the final spending. I'd really like to find an independent analysis, other than the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's, to check all this against.
Even if that was the sole extent of the independent spending, though, that'd be about $38 million for Walker and the Republicans and about $11.3 million for Barrett and the Democrats, or a ratio of about 3.36. It's also possible that the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign knows what it's doing, and isn't double-counting in its most-recent totals.
The broader point? There's every reason to think that outside spending was reasonably competitive between Democratic and Republican groups, and that it was a significant portion of the race's spending. Whatever the details of the accounting, I think that means reporting only on the campaigns' own spending is misleading--and it means the most comprehensive spending ratio will be significantly less than the admittedly dramatic ratio between Walker's own campaign spending and Barrett's.
Despite the concerns that raises, I'm pretty confident that the above spending ratios are probably close to correct. Why? Because that 5-2 ratio is broadly consistent with this independent, as far as I know, report on advertising, which wouldn't have the same classification problem:
Walker, the Republican Governors Association, and independent tea party groups and other grassroots fiscal conservative organizations have spent around $2.484 million to run ads in the recall campaign over the past week, according to data provided to its clients by Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks and estimates the costs of campaign television ads.(Again, my emphasis.)
That's more than double the $1.125 million Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's Democratic challenger, Democratic Party committees and independent progressive groups have spent to run commercials from last Monday through Sunday. Overall nearly $3.6 million has been spent to flood Wisconsin airwaves with recall spots the past week.
The Republican advantage in ad spending is not just a one-week phenomenon. Dating back to November 1, Walker and his Republican allies have spent $12.3 million to run ads, more than double the $5.6 million spent by Barrett and his Democratic allies. Overall, more than $18 million has been shelled out to run recall related spots since the beginning of November.
That's a very similar ratio--12.3/5.6 is about 2.2, and 47/18.5 is about 2.5.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies have outspent Democrat Tom Barrett and supportive groups more than 3-1 on TV ad buys during the three months leading up to the June 5 recall election, according to a Hotline On Call analysis.The numbers quoted for March 20-June 5th are $17.5 million by Walker and Republicans, and $5.8 million by Barrett and Democrats. Even so, that's a 3:1 ratio, which is also pretty close to the alleged overall spending ratio of 47:18.4 or so.
Walker's campaign, which has raised a record $25 million+ for the recall campaign, spent over $7 million for TV buys from March 20 through Election Day, according to a source tracking ad buys in the state. In anticipation of the recall, the governor has been on the air since last December, with spots touting his record, including his controversial budget repair bill curbing collective bargaining for public employees. In total, Walker's campaign has spent over $12 million on recall election campaign ads.
Moreover, these last reports contradict the idea that Walker and the Republicans had "unanswered" television dominance or whatnot. Again, Barrett and the Democrats were outspent, but by 2:1 or 3:1, not by 8:1.
Here's a Madison-specific report:
In the final days of the recall campaign, Democrats finally stepped up their spending on the Madison airwaves, thanks largely to the Greater Wisconsin Committee, an independent group financed primarily by labor unions and other big donors.I think I added up the figures in there, and they give Barrett and the Democrats as spending $216,475 in the Madison market, with Walker and the Republicans spending $585,495--a ratio of about 2.7.
Greater Wisconsin’s heavy TV ad buys in the final days of the recall race means Tom Barrett's candidacy remains greatly overmatched but not swamped by Gov. Scott Walker’s record-breaking ad campaign.
Here's a report on the Milwaukee media market:
Walker out-spends Barrett 2-to-1 on Milwaukee TVHere's maps of the media markets for Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and his supporters are out-spending Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by more than two-to-one in the Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin television market, where about $6.3 million has been spent in the weeks leading up to the June 5 recall election.
Walker’s TV commercial spending in the Milwaukee market does not match his five-to-one fundraising advantage over Democratic challenger Barrett. Both campaigns also are buying time in the state’s other television markets: Madison, Green Bay/Fox Valley, La Crosse, Eau Claire and Wausau.
Nevertheless, Walker and his supporters have bought television time with a gross value of nearly $4.4 million since early May, according to records reviewed June 1 at Milwaukee’s four local news stations and Time Warner Cable. Barrett and his supporters spent $1.9 million.
4.4 to 1.9 is a ratio of about 2.3. It seems likely to me that the television advertising ratios would be similar to the campaign spending ratios, if not more favorable to Walker and the Republicans, if the election was indeed "TV Ad Spending vs. Boots On The Ground".
Of course, that article mentions a $10 million expenditure by Americans for Prosperity, linking to this CNN story, that I'm not sure is in the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's table. Of course, I already figured that table was incomplete. I also don't necessarily believe them, or know what exactly that includes. This "iWatch News" article suggests that the Campaign is aware of (some version of) Americans for Prosperity:
Then there are issue ad groups which raise and spend unlimited funds, and do not register or disclose their spending. However, they are barred from urging voters to support or oppose a candidate.This Alternet article also mentions the Campaign keeping track of Americans for Prosperity's "issue ads". Some of their expenditure could have been this "bus tour" thing, though. Hotline's analysis mentions Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, but not Americans for Prosperity or the Center for Union Facts. The other television advertising analyses mention some of these other "alphabet soup" groups, but not Americans for Prosperity. Of course, one group might be making the expenditure through another--who the hell knows?
The Campaign for Wisconsin Democracy gathers purchasing data from media outlets, and estimates about $8.5 million in issue ads have been bought during the recall.
The right-wing groups Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, known as “Wisconsin’s Business Voice,” and the anti-union Center for Union Facts have made roughly 75 percent of those purchases. Greater Wisconsin has spent about $2 million, according to McCabe.
So far, despite the incomplete information, I think everything points to the total spending ratio being somewhere around 2 or 3. Not 7, not 8, not 9, not 10.
Now, is it impossible to win when you're challenging an incumbent who (along with their party groups) is outspending you and your party groups by a 5:2 ratio or so? Is that the kind of spending advantage that only Koch-backed Republicans can have?
Not at all! Let's look back at this roundup I did of 2010 House races using OpenSecrets. Democratic incumbents Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson, and Michael McMahon all lost with fairly similar spending ratios:
PA-08: Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy lost by 8 points to Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, but he had a big spending advantage. He spent $4,287,244 from his own campaign to Fitzpatrick's $2,062,733. Democrats had a big edge in outside direct spending as well, with $472,146 on the Republican side to $2,692,489 on the Democratic side. $354,963 of that was from the NRCC, meaning only 4.6% of Republican direct spending here came from outside sources. The Chamber of Commerce had $170,000 in indirect expenditures here, and there was a bit from Americans for Prosperity.Now, why is it particularly silly for people to simultaneously be decrying Walker's "seven-to-one spending advantage" while also blasting "Citizens United"? Because "Citizens United", and the various rulings that followed, are all about outside spending and independent expenditures--donation limits to campaigns themselves, as far as I know, have been left untouched by all of that.
FL-08: Democratic incumbent Alan Grayson turned yet another spending advantage into yet another landslide defeat to Republican Daniel Webster. Grayson spent a whopping $5,459,812 from his own campaign to only $1,756,775 from Webster's. There was $687,199 in outside direct spending on the Republican side and $247,455 on the Democratic side, but $593,230 of that was from the NRCC, meaning only 3.8% of Republican direct spending here came from outside sources. There was also $250,000 in indirect expenditures here from the Chamber of Commerce, and some other minor indirect expenditures.
NY-13: Democrat Michael McMahon lost narrowly to Republican Mike Grimm, but McMahon spent $2,897,473 from his own campaign to only $1,249,139 from Grimm's. Not much outside direct spending in this race, with $89,318 on the Republican side and $47,988 on the Democratic side--with $85,000 of that from the NRCC, that means that only 0.3% of Republican direct spending here came from outside of Grimm's campaign or the NRCC. There were rather small indirect expenditures from Americans for Prosperity and the American Future Fund, with the latter spending $47,176.
Full disclosure: These arguments aren't original to me. In fact, lots of people are making them! But, mostly, not DailyKos people. I can't find a diary mentioning this stuff, although please let me know if there is one.
But: Here's a couple of conservative Atlantic comments that reminded me about this yesterday, one of which linked to this thing throwing together labor spending for different races, which I don't think is the right idea, and here's an, ugh, similar blog post on hotair.com, and a similar point on Outside the Beltway which was linked to by Andrew Sullivan, and which itself linked to this WaPo graphic, and here's a similar point about C.U. on American Thinker, and a similar point about C.U. on the Washington Examiner's blog, albeit one I think is a little incomplete. And there was a similar argument about the spending ratio on Big Journalism, but I'll be damned if I link to them.
But you don't have to click those, if you don't want to! You can read my diary instead, which I mostly wrote before reading most of those.
And this ties back to my initial point:
No one's happier when Democrats throw around false or incomplete information than Republicans are.
If anyone has a link to a comprehensive and well-sourced Wisconsin spending analysis that contradicts the numbers above, or even one that verifies the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's numbers, then I'd be happy to correct or update this diary, of course. I've spent a while looking, and I can't find any others.
(My emphases throughout.)
Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM PT: I should clarify one of the issues here, which is how to classify Wisconsin for Falk's spending. Much of their advertising seemed to indeed include some anti-Walker messaging, but of course it was to promote Falk, not Barrett. On the other hand, a lot of it probably aired fairly close to the general election, since the primary was only a month before.