This article was first published by the Center for Media and Democracy at PRWatch.org. To see some of the political ads discussed in this article, see the videos embedded in the original article at PRWatch.org.
Most of the headlines in recent weeks have focused on embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s effort to ward off a recall, but four Wisconsin State Senate seats are also up for grabs in the June 5 recall elections. These four elections could swing control of the Senate to the Democrats. Last summer, six senators faced recall elections, and Democrats picked up two seats. If they pick up one more seat in the June 5 election, they win control of the Senate and put a halt to the Walker agenda.
In a 60-day winter sprint, recall proponents successfully gathered enough signatures to trigger recall elections for Senators Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls), Pam Galloway (R-Wausau), and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). Senator Galloway resigned at the end of the legislative session, so two elected officials are vying for her seat.
“We expect all four races to be relatively close,” Dan Romportl, executive director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Out-of-state money has not poured in to support these senators to the same extent as for Governor Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. However, for state senate races, there have been significant direct contributions and independent expenditures reported from both inside and outside of Wisconsin. Many of the groups supporting Democrats are organized as PACs and disclose both their donors and spending. Many of the groups supporting Republicans are organized as non-profits running “issue ads” that don’t explicitly endorse a candidate but have the same effect. These groups keep their funding and spending secret, preventing the public from ever knowing who is behind the ads or the total amounts spent.
Although we focus on expenditures by special interest groups below, it is important to note that the national Republican State Leadership Committee Inc. (RSLC, registered in Wisconsin as a corporation) and the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC, registered in Wisconsin as DLCC Wisconsin PAC) are both also spending heavily in these races. The RSLC has spent $555,700 on the races listed below, almost four times as much as the DLCC, which has spent $143,115, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD’s) analysis of figures from the the non-profit, non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), which tracks money in state politics.
In addition, it is notable that three of the eight candidates in the Senate recall races are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill mill whose influence on Wisconsin politics CMD recently brought to light in the report “ALEC Exposed in Wisconsin: The Hijacking of a State.”