“[T]he $43.9 million spent on the recalls more than doubled the previous record for spending by candidates and groups in legislative races, which was $20.25 million for 99 Assembly seats and 16 Senate seats in the 2008 general elections.”  Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Wisconsin recently made national news for nine state Senate recall elections, and as the above quote indicates, these recall elections were not cheap campaigns. In an oversimplification of the reasons behind the recalls, 6 Republican and 3 Democrat state Senators  “were targeted for recalls in the bitter fighting over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget initiatives. The Republicans were targeted for voting to seriously limit public employee bargaining, the Democrats for leaving the state for three weeks to prevent that vote from taking place.

That these nine recall elections happened at all is fairly surprising.  They were the largest recall elections in American history, and in fact, in the last 100 years, there have only been 20 recall elections across the country.  Even more interesting, however, is that these nine recall elections shattered spending records for Wisconsin state elections.  More than double the amount of money was spent on these nine recall elections than was spent on the 116 statewide races in 2008.   With these staggering figures being reported, it seems  worthwhile to delve deeper into the spending.  The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated “outside special interest groups” spent $34.5 million on the recalls, which were calculated based on “estimates on reports filed with the state and assumptions about how much was spent by groups that don’t have to report.”  While the money spent by outside groups is clearly substantial, it is also a complicated figure to explore because of the large number of outside groups involved, and the differing rules as to which, and what, groups must disclose spending.

An easier figure  to examine is the money spent by the candidates themselves.  These figures offer the advantage of being more straightforward, since only individual candidate spending, which is required to be disclosed, is being examined.  Using data collected from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign “Campaign Finance Database”,  the amount of money the individual candidates spent on their recall elections was compared to the amount of money each “recalled” state Senator spent on their previous election in 2008.  The figures used for the amount spent on the recall elections were based on candidate spending from January 1, 2009 to a few weeks after the recall election.  While this wider time frame will be over inclusive of funds not directly spent on the recall election, presumably a state Senator up for election every four years will not spend significant money in their first two years in office.  As a result, even with this wider temporal scope, the majority of the funds were probably spent on the recall elections.  With all that said, the table below shows the amount of money each candidate spent on the recall election, along with the amount spent on their 2008 election, and the difference between the two.

District

Recalled Senator

Spent on Recall

Spent on initial election

Difference

2

Robert Cowles

$112,774.00

$877.00

$111,897.00

8

Alberta Darling

$1,341,514.00

$624,095.00

$717,419.00

10

Sheila Harsdorf

$589,074.00

$246,899.00

$342,175.00

12

Jim Holperin

$556,849.00

$319,742.00

$237,107.00

14

Luther Olsen

$269,346.00

$47,352.00

$221,994.00

18

Randy Hopper

$438,401.00

$226,900.00

$211,501.00

22

Robert Wirch

$356,526.00

$187,424.00

$169,102.00

30

Dave Hansen

$372,556.00

$202,372.00

$170,184.00

32

Dan Kapanke

$1,060,621.00

$332,245.00

$728,376.00

Note: As indicated above, the information from this table was compiled from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign “Campaign Finance Database”.   The information for what the individual candidates spent on their recall elections is available here; the information for the what each “recalled” state Senator spent on their previous election is available here)

This table shows exactly what one would expect – that every candidate spent significantly more on their 2011 recall election than they did on their 2008 campaigns.  In total, the candidates spent $5,097,661.00 on the recall elections, which averages out to  $566,406.78 per candidate.  By contrast, only $2,187,906.00 was cumulatively spent on the 2008 elections, which was an average of $243,100.67 per candidate.  Overall, candidate expenditures, both in the aggregate and individual categories, more than doubled from the 2008 elections to the 2011 recall elections.  The spending by the nine candidates increased, in total, $2,909,755.00, or an average of $323,306.11 per candidate, from 2008 to the recall elections.  A significant increase in candidate spending, indeed.

While it is clear the recalled candidates drastically increased their spending from 2008 to 2011, it is worth asking what return they got on their investment.  In fact, comparing the candidates in the recall election reveals that the highest spending candidate only won 5 of the 9 recall elections.  The table below shows these candidates, the amount the spent on the recall, as well as the their opponent’s spending on the recall, and the difference in spending between the recalled Senator and the challenger.  The top two entries, Senators Cowles and Olsen were outspent on the recall elections, and yet still won.  The bottom two entries, Senators Hopper and Kapanke, outspent their opponents in the recall elections, but still ended  up losing.

 

District

Recalled Senator

Spent on Recall Opponents Spending Difference

2

Robert Cowles

$112,774.00

$320,337.00

($207,563.00)

14

Luther Olsen

$269,346.00

$384,916.00

($115,570.00)

18

Randy Hopper

$438,401.00

$368,288.00

$70,113.00

32

Dan Kapanke

$1,060,621.00

$425,155.00

$635,466.00

While surely other factors are at play, be it outside spending by other groups or individual characteristics of the particular district, it is worth noting that in these districts, the candidate who individually spent the most did not end up winning the race.

The Wisconsin recall elections of 2011 were historic, both for the number of recalls that actually took place, as well as the amount of money spent on the campaigns.  When it came to individual campaign spending, every recalled Senator dramatically increased their spending from their last elections in 2008, though, the higher spending candidate actually only won 5 of the 9 recall races.  In the end, while the 2011 Wisconsin recall elections certainly featured more money, one is left wondering what impact individual candidate spending actually has on the outcome of an election.

Student contributor

Permalink: http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2011/11/04/serious-spendi…call-elections/ 

in-depth article

The wound was dressed http://essaydragon.com/ with ideoform gauze
Print Friendly