Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisconsin Recall Elections--Money Talks

Yesterday, Wisconsin voters went to the polls in what was the largest recall effort in American history.  Six Republican senators faced recall efforts spearheaded by Wisconsin's public employee unions.  This came in the wake of the GOP's move to destroy the unions back in February of this year.  Democrats needed to win three of the seats to regain control of the Wisconsin Senate.  Democrats failed, though they did take two seats and narrow the Republican majority to 17-16, pending the outcome of two recall elections next Tuesday orchestrated by Republican special interest groups. 

Regardless of which party won the seats in Wisconsin I am disturbed by the money it attracted into Wisconsin.  According to agencies that track political spending the total spent by outside groups on electioneering was around $30 million.  On six seats in the Wisconsin Senate!  In 2010, interests groups spent about $300 million nationwide on races for the U.S. Congress.  That figure is 400% higher than the previous midterm election in 2006.  Projections for 2012 are that independent expenditures will likely top a half a billion dollars.  Much of the money is spent by groups created by wealthy people who want to remain anonymous while influencing the outcome of an election.  In a Democratic system, I think that is fundamentally wrong.  If someone wants to make their case and argue for their positions he/she should also have the courage to do so publicly.  Failing to do so is evidence of cowardliness. 

Additionally, much of what these groups put out is not meant to educate voters on candidates and their records.  It is meant to conceal their true agenda, deceive voters, and amounts to nothing more than a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign.  I am reminded of a campaign like this that occurred in Washington State several years back.  The legislature passed a law requiring employers to retrofit their offices with ergonomically friendly equipment.  The goal was to reduce workplace injuries and reduce the costs of workman's compensation insurance for employers.  Studies indicated that a reduction in workplace injuries would save employers far more than the costs incurred to purchase new chairs and desks and other equipment.  Workers would take fewer sick days and insurance premiums would decline.  Yet, a special interest group, Workers Against Job Killing Rules, emerged arguing that the new regulation would result in an exodus of jobs from Washington to other states.  A fierce campaign was waged and in the end the law was repealed.  The sad part is that there were no actual workers involved in the was a front group for several large employers to deceive the voters through the use of fear tactics over a law they didn't like.  This kind of disinformation campaign goes on every election season in America.  I believe it is a symptom of the dysfunctional state our political system has entered.  The truth doesn't matter anymore, just who can raise the most money and deceive the most people.

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