We all knew it was bad, but now we have the numbers. Campaign spending tripled in Wisconsin (and likely other states) in 2010 - 2012 from what it had been in 2006 - 2008.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated the total spending in Wisconsin elections and found that $392 million was spent in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, up sharply from the $124 million spent in the previous four-year election cycle.While the recall elections had some impact on the total, there was no denying that for the first time ever we saw campaign ads for state legislative races in 2010. State legislative races! Of course, those ads were all for Republican candidates purchased by astroturfed organizations like Americans For (the Kochs) Prosperity.
And then there was a flood of mailers, daily from state legislative candidates showing smiling, shiny faced candidates promising "reform", JOBS!, promoting them as "moderates" ready to "serve the people" of the district. Not mentioned anywhere was their political party, the GOP. Only when voters got to the polls did they realize the political affiliation of those shiny new candidates.
It worked big time. In 2010 enough voters were fooled into voting for stealth Republican candidates who promised jobs and moderation, but delivered extremist ideology as soon as they were sworn in.
Sadly, the GOP had far too much help in their scheme from RW radio hosts whose programs play on more than 1 station in every market in the state and whose programs were filled with outrage, lies, and propaganda. Even more troubling, however, was the seeming collusion of the mainstream press that often repeated the Republican talking points, ignored the records of Republican candidates like Scott Walker (often whitewashing his long list of failures) and Ron Johnson, yet scrutinizing Democrats.
Scott Walker and Ron Johnson ads had flooded every market in the state almost non-stop. Both promising jobs, jobs, jobs, but not mentioning party affiliation. Both men smiling and friendly looking in their Republican Cosumes (casual pants, non-white, long sleeved shirts with sleeves rolled up to mid-forearm) promising to bring jobs to a state worried about the impact of the financial collapse despite faring better than most. They left the dirty work of lies, innuendo, and attack to their allies running astroturf organizations to pummel their opponents incessantly.
They fooled a lot of voters, too, in the generally low turnout mid-term elections and won majorities in many normally blue or purple states in the rust belt not only in Congressional races, but in gubernatorial and state legislative races achieving the ultimate trifecta of policits: Republican Governors and Republican majority legislative bodies.
Of course, doing this on an obviously coordinated basis (and having all that legislation ready to go on Day 1) meant that this was planned long in advance. Getting the trifecta in the mid-terms and in a year that placed Republicans in control of redistricting state legislative maps was a key to not just getting, but keeping power for a party that saw the handwriting on the wall. They knew they were losing electoral support because of their increasingly unpopular agenda and were on a downward spiral towards future defeat.
Instead of changing their party, moderating their positions, and regaining support, they chose Door #2: If you can't win, cheat. They had limited success with their previous schemes of disenfranchising voters by wiping them off lists of registered voters and the long lines in Democratic areas that were deliberately created by a lack of voting machines or poll workers didn't discourage enough voters to ensure GOP victories. It just made people mad and created nice video of people standing in line for hours to vote that were shown on local and national television.
And even sending people official looking "voter information notices" and robo calls giving the wrong election date or wrong polling location didn't have the same impact as they did when they were new and shiny (and illegal) tactics. Despite a lack of prosecution of these illegal acts, not enough voters fell for it.
Nope, they needed a new scheme and massive spending from their well-heeled and, therefore, well-served puppet masters would enable them to cheat legally by getting into office and ensuring Republican victory forever by changing the maps to keep Congressional and state legislatures in GOP hands forever. With courts ignoring secret, off-site redistricting and withholding documents, they got away with it, too.
It worked. Despite receiving 200,000 more votes statewide, Democrats are very much in the minority in our State Legislature here. And that will continue to be the case unless Republicans screw up big time.
While I'm still upset, I'm not idle. Getting information out to people in between elections is important. Letting folks know who is really served (wealthy individuals and large corporate Republican campaign donors) by mining legislation, school voucher programs, and the other extremist legislation means there's less minds to change when GOTV comes around again. And while I can't change the corporate media into organizations that do actual, real journalism or make them report the facts, I can add to the body of information that people have to counter the misinformation people carry around with them.
I talk to people, wear issue buttons (I think of them as conversation starters), and do a Reply to All when I receive BS in my email inbox so everyone who got a copy of that lying email will get actual facts in their inboxes in return. Don't delete; respond.
Think of it as public service. It will take all of us to counter the propaganda and lies. We have to do it all the time. not just in election years. We can't rest until 2014 or 2016. We have a lot of money to overcome with people power.
If you don't start now and keep on going, you might end up living in a state like FitzWalkerStan. Or a country that has become controlled by political lunatics.
Addendum: A Small Glimmer of Hope
We're in the middle of another contentious State Supreme Court election where money, money money (the majority from out of state) has been rolling in for RWr Patience Roggensack who is seeking anothe 10 year term. While she murmurs support for campaign finance reform, her hands are busily grabbing at all the payola coming in for her from the usual RW sources.
And she can, because our GOP dominated State Legislature repealed the law that provided barriers to corporate spending on campaigns in 2011; the former Impartial Justice Act. Very convenient for her as well as all the "she's a moderate, impartial, experienced Justice" ads run by Americans for (the Kochs) prosperity during the primary election last month.
However, there is a small glimmer of hope:
Reform groups such as Common Cause in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign argue, correctly, that there are smart ways to address the challenge.I'm going to have something else to talk to people about. Frankly, most people DO support campaign finance changes.
The Democracy Campaign has suggested that, instead of direct public financing, the state should provide incentives for small donors — effectively creating a popular counterbalance to big money.
The proposal came as part of a reform plan with these key features:
• Public matches of small donations if the contributions come from people eligible to vote for the candidate.
• An Election Participation Incentive program providing a $25 tax credit ($50 for couples) for small contributions to candidates the donor is eligible to vote for.
• Sharply reduce the limits on campaign contributions to candidates for state office — cutting in half the allowable donations to legislative candidates and making larger reductions in limits on donations to candidates for statewide office.
• Close the “magic words” loophole in state law — require interest groups to register as political action committees and disclose the amount and source of money spent on campaign advertising and other forms of electioneering, plus comply with contribution limits for PACs.
• Require corporations to obtain a majority of shareholders’ approval to spend corporate funds on political activities. Require the same of cooperative associations.
The Democracy Campaign proposed to apply the reform to elections for Assembly, Senate, governor, attorney general, Supreme Court and all other statewide offices.
NEWS!: RoJo Running Again Edition!
Johnson met with a small group of Republican strategists at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Thursday to discuss his future.Bwahahaha! He's polling in the high 30s (losing badly if Feingold runs against him) and even his Republican colleagues in the Senate don't like him. Public attention to his sheer stupidity and incompetence aren't helping.
“He had a meeting with some of the heavy hitters from the downtown GOP community at the NRSC. Sen. Johnson told them he would run again,” said a GOP source familiar with the meeting.
A second Republican source confirmed the account of the meeting.
The group included what one Republican lobbyist called a “kitchen cabinet” of Republican strategists from a variety of D.C. firms and trade associations.