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Misreading Wisconsin’s recall vote

June 15, 2012
By Ann Mullen , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

On a sunny day last Friday, I opened my Enterprise, and was shocked to see your inflammatory cartoon depicting "Public Employee Unions" as a giant fist, with a stranglehold grip on the states; the message was that the re-election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has eroded this "steel-fisted" grip.

The fact that Walker survived the recall vote in Wisconsin doesn't prove anything about unions in Wisconsin or elsewhere, except for the following:

Money talks: Walker directly collected $30.5 million from corporations, trade associations and individuals, 66 percent of it from outside the state of wisconsin, while Democrat Tom Barrett collected a mere $3.9 million in direct contributions. Walker spent $22.86 for each vote he received and Barrett $3.35 for each he received.*

The Citizens United case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations may pour hundreds of millions of dollars into election campaigns because they are "people, too," had beautiful results in Wisconsin; an additional $33 million (which may climb by another $10 million or more once Q2 reports are filed), was spent by third-party political groups on issue ads and other support** ($18 million for Walker, $15.5 million for his opponent).

The total of direct and outside spending favors Walker, 71 percent to 29 percent.***

None of these figures include the $8.4 million spent by Walker in 2011, while the recall effort was under way but before the election was scheduled.****

Walker conveniently twisted facts. As an example, he stated that he had created a surplus; I guess that's so if you cut spending on teachers, programs that help students and the needy and turn around and reward wealthy people with additional tax breaks that they don't need.

There is another aspect to this recall election that's not very well known. The anti-public-union collective-bargaining bill that Walker forced through the Wisconsin legislature was written by a powerful, little-known group, the American Legislative Exchange Council. This "council" is underwritten by major corporations in the pharmaceutical, energy, insurance and oil industries. ALEC writes "model" legislation. The legislation that Walker introduced in Wisconsin was not designed to break some "stranglehold" that the state was suffering under from public employee unions; rather, it was designed to break the unions, period. It consists of draconian measures that were designed to undermine what the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (founded in 1932) called an attempt to "undo over 50 years of labor peace" in Wisconsin. The provisions are:

an average 8 percent reduction in wages

collective bargaining is limited to wages only

no collection of union dues by the employer

union contracts limited to one year only, with a new, higher vote percentage required to accept a contract.

I am from Wisconsin. I am proud to have been born there, and I grew up there. The green woods and plentiful small lakes of northern Wisconsin evoke the peace of the North Country (without the mountains). The people there are plain-spoken, hard-working, polite, friendly people like the ones here. Wisconsin has always had a sensible approach to politics. I'm sad to see the disharmony that Gov. Scott Walker has brought to this beautiful, wonderful state with such great people.

But he didn't do it on his own. He did it with an overwhelmingly large re-election campaign fund; he was funded mostly by people who don't know or care about Wisconsin; he did it by introducing unreasonable legislation written by ALEC, an organization whose loyalties are not to the state of Wisconsin but to corporations; and he did it because of the illogical and ridiculously slanted decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. (By the way, Mitt Romney also believes that corporations are "people," too. Check that out on YouTube.)

The blatantly misleading cartoon like the one about the Wisconsin recall election is bolstered by one premise - that people here in the North Country (or elsewhere) don't know anything about a state 1,000 miles away.

Well, that cartoonist is wrong. As a proud native Wisconsinite, I know the facts, and hopefully, now others who live here do, too.


Ann Mullen lives in Saranac Lake.



*Campaign totals from various sources, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, iWatch News (the Center for Public Integrity) and Mother Jones. Dollar-per-vote figures arrived at by calculating number of votes each received divided by direct campaign contribution spending.

** Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

***Arrived at by adding the figures of outside ($18 million for Walker, and $15.5 million for Barrett) and direct spending together.




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