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What's Behind the Recall in Wisconsin: Workers Fighting Back As Walker Dodges Questions About Corruption

The roots of the Tuesday's special election recall election unexpectedly began last winter.

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Walker also was asked where he got the idea for Act 10. “In December, after the elections, but before I was sworn into office,” he replied. Soon after the 2010 elections, Walker made the unprecedented move of asking then-Governor Jim Doyle to halt negotiations on long-overdue union contracts. Despite his objections, Walker told the Congressional committee, "the public sector unions and the state rushed to the lame-duck session legislature and to the governor, and tried to pass through contracts that would have locked us into a dire financial situation.”

However, Madison's WTDY recently obtained documents from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) that contradict the timeline Walker described under oath to Congress. It was actually November when the LRB was instructed to start drafting Act 10, not after the events in December.

Additionally, during Walker's Congressional testimony he asserted, not once, but twice, that he  never had a conversation with a donor about punishing the funding base of the opposition party -- a clear reference to attacking unions, which are major Democratic Party funders. However, these statements may be contradicted by a recently-released video of Walker filmed in January 2011 showing him talking to his top donor, billionaire campaign contributor Diane Hendricks. Hendricks asked Walker if “we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on those unions . . .“ “Oh yeah, Walker broke in. “… and become a right-to-work [state]?” she asked. Walker replied that his "first step" would be "to divide and conquer" through his budget repair bill, which had the impact of defunding and dismantling unions –major funders of the Democratic Party. “That opens the door right there,” he said.

This month, three Democratic members of the House Committee have  signed a letter  to Republican Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asking that he press Walker on the veracity of his statements.

Close Race, But Movement Is Far From Over

The race between Walker and Barrett remains a dead heat.

Because of a loophole in state law, Walker has not had to abide by typical campaign contribution limits, and has raised over $25 million, most of it from deep-pocketed out-of-state donors like Bob Perry and Joe Ricketts. Barrett, in contrast, only recently announced his candidacy and has raised just $1 million, 88 percent of it from inside Wisconsin. This means Walker has raised 120 times as much money from outside the state as his opponent -- approximately $14.4 million for Walker versus only $120,000 for Barrett.

Walker's fundraising advantage has helped him flood the airwaves with advertisements that, among other things, tout his "jobs record" -- despite Wisconsin being dead last among all 50 states for job creation -- making claims that have  repeatedly been shown to be  falseRecent reports  show Walker and his Republican allies outspending Democrats on TV by three-to-one.

It remains to be seen whether Walker's piles of money will convince voters to keep him in office until 2014. And the tens of millions spent on the 2012 election will soon be just that: spent. Vanished and forgotten.  But the spirit of early 2011 will live on, and the young people inspired, motivated, and activated by the Wisconsin protests will carry that torch well beyond June 5.

 

 

Brendan Fischer is a law fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of PR Watch.