Campaigns drop big bucks on local airtime

2012-06-02T00:00:00Z 2012-06-03T07:07:10Z Campaigns drop big bucks on local airtimeBy Chris Hubbuch La Crosse Tribune

Politicians and their allies have spent more than $7.8 million this year alone to saturate western Wisconsin airwaves with nearly 17,000 ads attempting to sway voters in next week’s recall elections.

Need another reason to turn off the tube? As of mid-week, there were already more than 100 ads slated to run through election day.

The numbers are based on public records of political advertising purchased at WKBT, WEAU, WXOW, WQOW, WLAX and WEUX.

Gov. Scott Walker has dominated the conversation, with his campaign and supporting independent organizations accounting for more than

$4.8 million of that spending.

Democratic challenger Tom Barrett has spent just $486,000. Outside groups have spent another $1.3 million locally attacking Walker, as well as Republican Sen. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, who also faces a June 5 recall election. The bulk — $1,286,000 — has come from the liberal Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.

Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce is second among independent groups, spending about $1.05 million on Walker’s behalf. Other groups on the right, led by the Republican Governor’s Association’s committee Right Direction Wisconsin, have put almost another $1.8 million behind Walker.

Records shattered

Statewide, Walker has spent more than $29 million on his campaign; Barrett about $3 million. Outside interest groups on both sides have poured in another $30 million, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonprofit organization that tracks campaign spending.

Total spending on recall elections in the past two years has already surpassed $100 million.

To put that in perspective, prior to this year the most expensive election campaign in Wisconsin’s history was the 2010 governor’s race between Walker and Barrett. Total spending on that race, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign: $37.4 million.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Mike McCabe, WDC executive director.

Throw in ads for the presidential primary and a U.S. Senate race that’s off to an unusually early start, and half a dozen TV stations in western Wisconsin have raked in more than $8.9 million so far this year.

“I really am exhausted by the advertising,” said John Bahr, a 56-year-old La Crosse resident. “I think a lot of people want to see it over with.”

Wasted money?

With only about 3 to 4 percent of voters still undecided in the recall, is all this advertising changing anyone’s mind?

Not likely, said Charles Franklin, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Marquette Law School poll, which has surveyed registered Wisconsin voters throughout the winter and spring.

Back in January, more than a third of respondents had no opinion about Barrett, who didn’t enter the race until the end of March. Now that number has fallen to 11 percent.

Along the way, Barrett’s unfavorability numbers have edged up, which could suggest the barrage of negative ads had some effect. But Franklin said it’s impossible to separate the effect of the ads from other elements of the campaigns.

And while Walker’s approval rating has varied, it hasn’t trended strongly one way or the other, despite ads targeting him.

“Tens of millions of dollars are spent on advertising, and it doesn’t seem to move the needle much,” McCabe said. “People either love Scott Walker with a passion … or they hate him ... and there’s not much in between. I don’t think the ads are going to change that.”

So why spend all that money?

Ads help with name recognition. But mostly it’s because that’s what politicians do, Franklin said.

McCabe likens it to an arms race. Nobody wants to be outspent.

“No campaign manager at the end of an election wants to be accused of not doing as much as possible,” he said. “They throw the money at the ads even if the ads don’t seem to be working. So a lot of money goes down a big rat hole.”

Rod Stetzer of the Chippewa Herald contributed reporting for this story.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. Jobaba
    Report Abuse
    Jobaba - June 02, 2012 7:48 pm
    Sorry I am not affiliated with public unions. I spent a long time in right-to-work states and I know where this will end. You idiots that think unions are bad are only hoping this is the fix you are looking for. I am also old enough to remember Wisconsin before the unions - you ain't seen nothin' junior!
  2. rufus
    Report Abuse
    rufus - June 02, 2012 6:13 pm
    joblahblah you arre so far out there justifying the waste of money on this fiasco. you guys complain about all the walker money issues then you turn around and make a stupid statement like that. You obviously were one of the screaming idiots in madison last year. Where will you all scream wednes day when nothing changes.
  3. Country Boy
    Report Abuse
    Country Boy - June 02, 2012 3:12 pm
    I, I wouldn't want one anyway.
  4. Country Boy
    Report Abuse
    Country Boy - June 02, 2012 3:11 pm
    That might have been true back then, but I don't think so now. All of you Democrats woke up a Sleeping Giant with all of the drum banging in Madison and recall nonsense -- the private employee taxpayer! Fasten your seatbelts! We are going for a ride in this country!
  5. Vicky
    Report Abuse
    Vicky - June 02, 2012 11:35 am
    Scoot's kept the airline industry afloat with all his trips around the country visiting his billionaire butties.
  6. LiberalAlways
    Report Abuse
    LiberalAlways - June 02, 2012 11:04 am
    One business segment that certainly got a boost from the recall elections is the printing industry. Thousand of signs, flyers, banners, etc. Probably kept some people working who would have otherwise been laid off in a slow economy.
  7. LiberalAlways
    Report Abuse
    LiberalAlways - June 02, 2012 11:01 am
    Any threat of a Barrett recall is unrealistic. If he wins he won't be eligible for recall until June of 2013. Based on the time frame of the Walker recall, the earliest an election would be held would be December 2013 or January 2014 (in the middle of the school year, another negative for the GOP) with the normal election less than a year away. So, very unlikely at best.
  8. ahasp
    Report Abuse
    ahasp - June 02, 2012 9:24 am
    "Scott Walker has work to do, trying to get jobs created in Wisconsin." I know, this recall has forced him to travel all over the country, playing Republican Rock Star, gathering money from corporations in Texas, Illinois, New York, etc.
  9. Jobaba
    Report Abuse
    Jobaba - June 02, 2012 9:15 am
    "sort of like the political version of tourism, but with a more concentrated recipients of the money.." I like that, well said!
  10. Tim Russell
    Report Abuse
    Tim Russell - June 02, 2012 8:48 am
    "I'm positive 500,000 signatures would be easy to get."
    The republicans tried to do that twice against Doyle. They also tried to get a recall on Feingold & Kohl (which is allowed). They failed to get the required signatures every time.
    It's not as easy as you claim it to be.
  11. Country Boy
    Report Abuse
    Country Boy - June 02, 2012 8:31 am
    First of all, I'm shocked Random agrees with Joba. Second: this recall was a big waste of time and money. Scott Walker has work to do, trying to get jobs created in Wisconsin. And this whole recall process put that all on hold since last November.

    I think we need to call a truce on these recalls. If Barrett wins (which I doubt), should we recall him? I'm positive 500,000 signatures would be easy to get. We got to stop this madness and waste of money,
  12. random annoying bozo
    Report Abuse
    random annoying bozo - June 02, 2012 7:53 am
    i agree with joba, this recall has infused a lot of money into the wi economy, and a lot of it was out of state money too.....sort of like the political version of tourism, but with a more concentrated recipients of the money..

    but was it well spent? i can honestly say i haven't seen more than a handful of ads, mainly because i don't watch network tv, and haven't for many many years....

    so if you couple the fact that the overwhelming majority has made up their minds long long ago about who gets their vote with the growing number of people who have turned off network tv, the money is probably not well spent by the campaigns.

    network tv is great if you like free stuff over the air, but like anything else, when something is free, you ussually get what you pay for.

  13. Maybe You're Wrong
    Report Abuse
    Maybe You're Wrong - June 02, 2012 7:45 am
    Spoken like someone who doesn't make a living in broadcasting. There's a silver lunging to all that out of state money.
  14. rufus
    Report Abuse
    rufus - June 02, 2012 7:03 am
    saying this thing helps the wi economy is stupid. Really the advertising money could not have been used for real things. really reaching for straws for your upcoming loss
  15. Jobaba
    Report Abuse
    Jobaba - June 02, 2012 6:34 am
    No such thing as a big rat hole. Money spent is money circulating. This recall has been as good for Wisconsin's economy as any foolish plan cooked up by Scoot & the Fitz Boyz.

    Even the public money from the trust fund counts. Old and dusty and covered with mold from sitting in the rainy day fund, it is helping Wisconsin spend its way out of the recession. And we will never deplete that fund. Save it for a disaster? In Wisconsin?
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