‘The Recall Rationalization’

by Rich Lowry

I write about the Left’s argument that Citizens United made it impossible to defeat Scott Walker. The decision, which directly impacted corporate and union spending, was basically an irrelevance in Wisconsin. The big advantage Walker had was state law, which gives the target of a recall a window to raise unlimited funds. If Democrats thought this was such a terrible provision, they never should have passed it in the first place. The Journal Sentinel has the background:

In fact, though the change was supported by incumbents in both parties, Democrats were key to its birth in 1987 – and state elections officials supported it at the time.

The change bubbled up through the State Elections Board during the Democratic administration of Gov. Tony Earl. It came during a period when two state senators – Democrats Gary George and Tom Harnisch – had been forced to use campaign funds to pay lawyers for court challenges to recall efforts against them.

State Sen. David Helbach (D-Stevens Point) inserted the change into the 1987-’89 state budget as the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee finished its work.

Though Democrats helped maneuver the change into law, both parties backed it. The committee vote was bipartisan and unanimous and Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson – who succeeded Earl in January 1987 – did not veto the provision.

To the extent Citizens United played a role in Wisconsin, it probably helped the Left, since national unions spent so much money there. The money supporting the right was overwhelmingly coming from interested individuals, and when the Left talks about new restrictions on campaign spending, if they are going to have the desired effect, they will have to crack down on individual, not corporate, spending, i.e., David and Charles Koch more than Koch Industries.

There’s also the question of how much, at the end of the day, the pro-recall forces were really outspent, once you account for the in-kind contributions of the unions, MSNBC, etc. James Sherk addressed this yesterday and our friends over at Hot Air had this good rundown, too.

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