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Wisconsin recall spending nears $44M

Wisconsin recall spending nears $44M

By Jon Byman. CREATED Sep 20, 2011 - UPDATED: Sep 20, 2011

MADISON - A new report this morning finds an obscene amount of money was spent on Wisconsin's nine Senate recalls over the summer.  The amount shatters previous spending records on state races in Wisconsin.

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign report, nearly $44 million was spent on recall elections targeting nine Wisconsin state lawmakers following this year's Capitol Chaos.

"They are absolutely jaw dropping figures," said the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Executive Director Mike McCabe.  "Politics has it's own inflation rate and seems to be the one sector of the economy that is totally recession proof," McCabe said.

McCabe points out that the $44 million more than doubles the previous record spent on legislative races.  That was $20.25 million in 2008.  And that was on 99 Assembly races and 16 races in the Senate.  This summer's number was for just 9 Senate races.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign based its estimates on reports filed with the state and assumptions on how much was spent by groups that don't have to report.

The report found Democrats and their backers outspent Republicans $23.4 million to $20.5 million in this summer's recalls.

Outside groups outspent the candidates themselves $34.5 million to $8 million.  McCabe says three of the Senate races saw record spending for candidates.  "We had record fund raising and spending by candidates and yet they were being outspent by 4 to 1 by outside interest groups," said McCabe.

The advantage for Democrats also was seen in outside spending, as they generated $18.6 million compared to $15.9 million for Republicans.

We Are Wisconsin, a political action committee composed of national and Wisconsin unions, spent the most on the recalls at $10.75 million. The group paid for more than 20 television ads and spent the most in support of Democrat Sandy Pasch in her race against Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills. Darling won.

The estimated $10 million spent on that race was more than any of the others. The second highest, at $7.2 million, was in the race won by Republican Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon over Democrat Fred Clark.

Club for Growth Wisconsin, the state arm of the national conservative group, was the second highest spender at an estimated $9 million.

Because of the type of campaigning it does, Club for Growth Wisconsin is not required to file the same reports as We Are Wisconsin, and its spending was estimated by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It estimated the spending by looking at television ad buys and the cost of comparable activity like mailings, automated phone calls and consulting that is disclosed by others.

The Democratic-backing Greater Wisconsin Committee was third with an estimated $4 million in spending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report