As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports, the PCCC's latest move comes in the wake of Wisconsin Democrats' complaints that the Democratic National Committee hasn't fully invested in the Walker recall effort. The DNC, for its part, says it has directed $800,000 to Wisconsin since November, with $250,000 of it going to the state Democratic Party. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will also host a fundraiser this week for Walker's challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Adam Green, PCCC's director, said in a statement that the Walker recall is "a top national priority for progressives—and it should be for the national Democratic Party." Green went on, "When we heard that the Democratic National Committee wasn't giving Wisconsin Democrats the resources needed to get out the vote, the PCCC made a strategic decision to do less fundraising for our own Wisconsin TV ads and instead focus our attention on righting the DNC’s wrong. We're proud that in the last 9 days, thousands of PCCC members helped us raise $100,000 for Wisconsin Democrats to get out the vote in the final stretch."
Green said the PCCC's new get-out-the-vote cash infusion brings the group's total investment in Wisconsin to about $230,000. The group has already spent $100,000 on TV ads and contributed $30,000 to local Democratic committees.
American for Prosperity's "Stand with Walker" bus tour in 2011.
This week, the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit with ties to Charles and David Koch, launches a four-day, 10-city bus tour to "highlight the successes we have had in Wisconsin and lay the ground work for the challenges to come." AFP's "A Better Wisconsin" tour hits the road just days before the state's hugely anticipated gubernatorial recall pitting Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, as well as four state Senate recall elections that will decide who controls the Senate. AFP has promoted its tour to state and national media, and no less than AFP national president Tim Phillips will be on hand to rally Wisconsinites.
Given the tour's timing and billing, any reasonable person would view it as a statewide drive to get out the vote for Walker and his GOP allies in the June 5 election. Not AFP.
AFP's Wisconsin director, Luke Hilgemann, says the bus tour has nothing to do the recall elections. "We're not dealing with any candidates, political parties, or ongoing races," Hilgemann told the Hudson, Wisconsin, Patch news site. "We're just educating folks on the importance of the reforms."
Hilgemann added that the tour's speakers will be discussing "the importance of the budget reforms and why Wisconsin taxpayers and citizens can't afford to move backward away from those reforms to the day of old where we had huge budget deficits and bloated government."
There's a reason AFP isn't mentioning specific candidates: As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, AFP can't make pure politics a majority of what it does—or else it could lose its tax-exempt status. But if the group's leaders claim to only be educating people about issues, that's in line with its mission as a "social welfare" organization.
Wisconsin Democrats aren't buying AFP's claim that its upcoming tour is solely about issues. "Scott Walker's out-of-state special interest patrons are rightfully nervous that Scott Walker, their corrupt investment, is about to go belly-up," says Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. "They will and have done everything in their power to prop up his anti-Wisconsin political machine."
AFP-Wisconsin isn't the only state chapter planning to rally around Walker for the recall. As Republic Report notes, AFP-Illinois says it will bus supporters to Wisconsin days before the election for a rally and canvassing, with food provided.
Nor is this the first time AFP has bussed in supporters to show support for Walker and his agenda. The group's "Stand Against Spending. Stand With Walker" bus tour in March 2011 cruised across the state for four days to "take a firm stand against wasteful government spending and support responsible economic policies like Governor Walker's," according to AFP's Tim Phillips.
It's not surprising, then, to learn that out-of-state money is pouring into the Walker recall at a record pace—and it's powering the efforts of Democrats, Republicans, interest groups, and unions alike.
In Wisconsin's 2006 gubernatorial election, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, out-of-state campaign donations made up 15 percent of all donations. In 2010 it was 9 percent. But in the Walker recall? It's a staggering 57 percent.
According to an analysis by the political-money-watching Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, $3 out of every $5 raised by Walker came from outside Wisconsin. Walker's largest donors include Texas homebuilding king and Swift Boat for Veterans backer Bob Perry, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, and Richard DeVos, heir to Amway fortune. A little more than $1 of every $10 given to Barrett was out-of-state campaign cash.
Walker raised $13 million in the first three months of 2012, bringing his total fundraising haul since January 1, 2011, to $25 million. Walker benefitted from a quirk in state election law allowing him raising unlimited campaign cash for months to fend off the recall challenge. Barrett raised $750,000 in the first 25 days after entering the race in late March.
Interest groups bankrolled by out-of-state cash are also playing a pivotal role in the recall. The Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, both based in Washington, DC, have together ponied up nearly $7 million for the Walker recall. The RGA, as Mother Jones has reported, is the GOP's corporate-funded dark money machine, shuffling tens of millions in campaign cash to boost Republicans and bash Democrats nationwide. Labor unions have pumped millions more into the groups We Are Wisconsin, which supported Democrats in last summer's state Senate recall races and supports Barrett now, and Wisconsin for Falk, which supported Kathleen Falk in the recall Democratic primary and opened field offices around the state.
For more than two decades, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carved out a reputation as one of Congress' feistiest reformers, a lawmaker willing to take on corporations, unions, wealthy benefactors, and sometimes the leaders of his own party. For years McCain fought alongside former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to ban unregulated, unlimited, undisclosed campaign cash known as soft money. He believed so strongly in campaign finance regulation and tough enforcement of the law that one former Federal Election Commission official recalls McCain telling him, "You're doing God's work."
Yet McCain's 2008 presidential bid disillusioned many of his reformer allies, such the good-government group Public Citizen. They watched with disgust as McCain distanced himself from campaign finance reform and his iconoclastic image. For his part, McCain felt hung out to dry by those allies after they supported Barack Obama despite all the political capital McCain had expended fighting for reform.
Now, however, McCain is starting to resemble his reformer self again. He slams the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision every chance he gets. He has teamed up with Democrats to demand a rethinking of Citizens United and to craft a new bill that would beef up disclosure of campaign donations and political ads. "He is starting to exert himself, which he had not been doing over the past couple years," says Craig Holman, the top lobbyist for Public Citizen.
Wisconsin Democrats and union officials have a message for the recall doomsayers: Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are still locked in a dead heat.
After the last three public polls showed Walker with a 4 to 9 percentage point lead over Barrett, Democrats released an internal poll suggesting the race remains up for grabs. In a survey of 472 recall voters by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Walker was ahead of Barrett by 3 points, 50-47. That's within the survey's 4-point margin of error. And in an encouraging sign for Democrats, Barrett leads Walker 50-44 among independent voters in Wisconsin.
Barrett backers say the new survey shows Walker hasn't locked up the June 5 recall election. "This race remains a dead heat, with Barrett solidifying and even building on his lead amongst independents, and Democrats' turnout operation in full gear as early voting and GOTV begin in earnest," Kelly Steele, the spokesman for the labor-backed outside political group We Are Wisconsin, wrote in a memo released to the press.
Steele also took aim at the recent flurry of polls, saying they were "flawed" because Republicans were overrepresented in their samples. The race will remain a "dead heat" until election day, Steele argued, and turnout will decide who triumphs on June 5. "On Election Day, it's that very turnout that will determine the outcome, and we remain confident in our trajectory and continue to execute our program as planned."