It's not just the Republican Party's biggest donors rallying behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the run-up to his June 5 recall election.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swooped in to the Badger State to campaign alongside Walker, calling the embattled governor "courageous" and a principled flag-bearer for the conservative movement, according to Politico. Christie told attendees at a rally in the city of Oak Park to "do the right thing" by re-electing Walker.
"Do you stand behind courageous leaders who stand for their principles or do you walk away from them? Wisconsin's going to answer that question for America," Christie said. "And when you answer that question the right way and you keep Scott Walker in the state house in Madison, believe me—it's going to change America, everybody."
Christie cast Walker's recall as a battle pitting "the people" against "the money [and] special interests from Washington, DC." In Christie's telling, those out-of-state special interests are labor unions, which are spending millions to defeat Walker. The irony, of course, is that Walker has for months flown around the country raking in money for his recall war chest from some of the wealthiest donors in America. Since January he's raised $13.2 million, two-thirds of which came from out-of-state donors. Walker's top donors include Houston-based homebuilding tycoon Bob Perry, who's given $500,000, and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who's given $250,000.
Christie and the labor unions do agree on one thing: a lot is at stake in Walker's recall fight. A win for Walker would seem to validate his anti-union, deregulatory agenda; a loss would deal him a stunning rebuke, a rejection of the hard-line conservative policies peddled by Walker and fellow GOP governors including Christie, Michigan's Rick Snyder, and Florida's Rick Scott. From now until recall time, Christie said, "Wisconsin is going to be the center of the American political universe."
Here's the video of Christie's appearance, via Politico:
For those needing more confirmation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's rock-star status in the Republican Party, look no further than his latest fundraising haul: $13.2 million.
That's how much Walker raised from January to late April of this year to protect himself in his June 5 statewide recall election. His haul is 670 percent more than that of his four Democratic rivals combined. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the leading Democrat vying to oust Walker, raised $831,500, while former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk pulled in $977,000.
Walker has jetted around the country in recent months to amass a war chest to fend off his Democratic challenger in June. As the Associated Press reported, Walker attended the Christmas party for anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, fundraised alongside former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg in Manhattan, and this month asked for money at an Oklahoma fundraiser co-sponsored by Koch Industries. Not surprisingly, out-of-state donors accounted for $8.8 million—or two-thirds—of Walker's 2012 haul. They include some of the GOP's biggest bankrollers, including casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and Texas homebuilding giant Bob Perry.
Walker has raised $25 million for his recall campaign since January 2011. He benefited from a quirk in state election law that let him raise unlimited recall defense funds for months while his opponents gathered the necessary signatures to trigger a recall election. Democrats, however, did not get to raise unlimited funds because they were not targeted for recall.
Walker's fundraising is on par with that of second-tier presidential candidates. For instance, Rick Santorum raised $18.5 million between Jan. 1 and March 31, and Newt Gingrich raised a little less than $10 million during that period.
Conservative billionaire Diane Hendricks gave Walker $500,000. Hendricks co-founded Beloit-based ABC Supply, a roofing wholesaler and siding distributor, with her husband, Ken, who died in a 2007 fall.
Her donation was the single largest ever to a gubernatorial candidate in the state and tied the $500,000 given to Walker over recent months by Bob Perry, owner of Houston-based Perry Homes and a chief backer of the Swift Boat Veterans ads against Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 race for president.
"Wisconsin's never seen anything like this kind of money," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "This is all to persuade a relatively tiny universe of undecided voters. It'll be the highest cost per voter spent in the history of the nation in terms of the cost of persuading people."
Divided as they may be, the people of Wisconsin still unite behind at least one cause: Green Bay Packers football. The "Pack" is a religion in Wisconsin, its followers fanatical, each home game at Lambeau Field awaited and attended with the fervor of a Papal visit. And unlike every other NFL team, the Pack is a nonprofit owned by the people, not some 1 percenter friendly with Mitt Romney.
It was no surprise, then, that when Packers defensive stalwart Charles Woodson spoke out in February 2011 against Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans' "unprecedented attack" on workers' rights, Woodson's words reverberated throughout the state. "I hope those leading the attack will sit down with Wisconsin's public workers and discuss the problems Wisconsin faces, so that together they can truly move Wisconsin forward," Woodson said at the time.
In Washington on Friday, Woodson, a member of the NFL Players Association union, doubled down on his support for workers' rights in Wisconsin. "Wisconsin workers and workers in general should have their right to be a union and have a right to fight for whatever rights they believe in," Woodson told Politico's Mike Allen. "We talk about having freedoms in this country. They should have the freedom to fight for their rights."
Here's the video:
Woodson has yet to take a public position on the recall fight targeting Walker. Nor, for that matter, have any other members of the Pack, many of whom flee Green Bay each offseason for warmer climates. But if Woodson or any of his teammates do weigh in on the recall rumble before the June 5 election, you can bet it will tip the scale in one of the most vicious and cash-drenched elections in Wisconsin history.
An anti-Obama ad paid for by dark-money group Crossroads GPS.
Want to peruse Mitt Romney's donor list? See who's on a super-PAC's payroll? Find out which campaign spends the most on Chinese take-out? All that information and more is a click (or four) away on the internet.
However, political advertising information—who's buying ads, where they're buying them, and how much they're spending—remains in the pre-computer age. That information is only available on paper forms stuffed inside filing cabinets at the offices of the broadcasters themselves. These files are public information, yet they are nowhere to be found online. Reporters or citizens looking for ad buy information have to call up individual broadcasters or visit TV stations in person.
No more. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday ruled that TV stations must post online their publicly available political ad information, including who's buying, what they're paying, and how much airtime they purchased. TV ads remain the most potent (and pricey) weapon in a campaign's arsenal, and making ad data readily available online is a game-changer for reporters covering the campaign.
There's a catch. The FCC's requirement impacts only the nation's 50 biggest TV markets, exempting the remaining 160. As the Sunlight Foundation recently noted, TV markets in battleground states such as Iowa, Virginia, and Missouri won't be touched by the FCC's decision. Meanwhile, broadcasters in Los Angeles and New York, both cities where President Obama is expected to win easily, will be subject to the new online requirement.
Still, supporters of the online move hailed the decision as a step out of the shadows for political advertising and win for transparency. "This is a huge victory for the public interest and a critical breakthrough for transparency in an election year," wrote Candace Clement of Free Press, a media reform group that lobbied for moving ad info online. "At a time when wealthy special interests are trying to buy elections, we now have a means to figure out how much they’re spending on these ads, and where."
The National Association of Broadcasters, the industry's main trade group which lobbied against the proposal, said in a statement that it "respectfully disagrees" with the FCC's ruling. "By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the FCC jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily."
Super-PACs are a staple of the 2012 presidential race. Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul all have at least one. The Karl Rove-inspired American Crossroads super-PAC is so powerful that it has begun elbowing aside the Republican National Committee as the key force in national GOP politics.
Now a new breed of super-PACs is taking aim at state and local campaigns—elections where they may get even more bang for their buck.