John Nichols on the Fight to Recall Extremist Gov. Scott Walker: It's Money-Power vs. People-Power
Continued from previous page
That’s why his deputy chief of staff, his scheduler, his former deputy chief of staff have all been charged. That’s why the FBI has raided the home of his former chief of staff. That’s why his current press secretary and at least one of his current cabinet members have taken immunity in the John Doe probe. It’s also why the governor is now represented by four separate law firms, including two of the top criminal defense law firms. These aren’t firms that deal with election law; these are firms that deal with major crimes.
We know from financial filings that he’s paying more than $100,000 for the criminal defense firms, as well as his campaign paying hundreds of thousands for election law firms, and a Washington fixer firm. The guy is looking at major state and potentially federal investigations into his activities.
Put that in one box and then I’ll quickly just tell you that in the past week there’s been a significant amount of churn regarding his testimony last April to the US Congress where it appears -- and this is based on questions asked by ranking members of the House Oversight Committee -- that Governor Walker lied at a number of turns. He openly and expressly attempted to deceive the committee while under sworn oath.
JH: Despite these things – and despite his overreach – a number of polls have shown he’s ahead of his opponent. You recently wrote that the race may be a lot closer than those polls suggest. What’s going on there?
JN: I think it’s a $50 million question. Scott Walker has raised more money during this recall campaign – not just more than any candidate in Wisconsin history -- he has raised for his own campaign more than all the candidates in any campaign in Wisconsin history. It’s unprecedented amounts of money. His pre-primary filing showed that he had raised $25 million, with 61% of his money in his last report coming from outside the state of Wisconsin. A bunch of the money is coming in massive contributions of as much as $500,000. He’s had an overwhelming fundraising advantage that at one point gave him a 25:1 ratio for spending on media verus his opponent.
He’s also had huge amounts of money coming into the state through so-called independent groups and individuals. Especially the Koch brothers and other major national donors who have funded him in the tens of millions of dollars. It’s very hard for his opponent to keep up in the financial part of the campaign.
You’ve ended up in Wisconsin with a battle between money power on one side -- and Walker certainly has money power combined with a very enthusiastic conservative base -- and people power on the other side. The grassroots movement is now back in the streets going door to door. Tracking a people-powered campaign is an incredibly hard thing to do. I’m not going to lie to folks and say that it’s certain Scott Walker is going to be beat. I think this a real dogfight. An incredible battle. I’ve covered a lot of politics and this one is one of the most intense fights I’ve ever seen. It’s clear that Walker’s people don’t believe they have an overwhelming lead. It’s also clear that supporters of his opponent Tom Barrett know that they’ve got a real fight on their hands.
What is significant and why I suggest this race is close is not really because we’ve seen some polls showing a significant move toward Barrett -- including a couple polls that came out this week showing the race to be within two or three points -- but also because of an intangible that I think is highly significant. That is early voting. Wisconsin allows voters to cast their ballots prior to election day at the county courthouses or city halls. In the first three days of early voting you saw almost half the voters cast ballots as in the entire roughly 13-day early voting period for the 2010 gubernatorial election. It looks as if we’re going to have a massive turnout, and numbers have been significantly bumped up in areas such as Madison and Milwaukee, which are traditional Democratic strongholds.