Wisconsin Recall: The Color of Money

Americans woke up this week to the first major impact of last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited independent campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall election on the back of a $31 million campaign war chest that was beefed with more than $20 million from out-of-state donors. The win leaves Walker deeply indebted to far-right activists and a coven of anti-union billionaires that includes casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, David and Charles Koch and Walmart heiress Christy Walton.

According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, about $45.6 million was spent on behalf of Gov. Walker, compared with about $17.9 million for his Democratic rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Four of Walker’s top seven donors were out-of-state billionaires.

“The Citizens United ruling and the avalanche of corporate cash it unleashed has the potential to transform elections in a fundamental and dangerous way,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Combined with the ongoing GOP campaign to suppress voter turnout, we’re looking at a serious threat to representative democracy as we know it.”

While Walker defeated Barrett by a 54 to 46 margin, Wisconsinites also voted to return the state Senate to Democrats. Sen. John Lehman’s victory over Walker ally state Sen. Van Wanggaard gives Democrats a one-seat majority in the Wisconsin State Senate, making it much harder for Walker to push his virulently anti-worker agenda.