Politico’s Glenn Thrush is the poster boy for hackery rationalizing Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the WI recall election:
There’s really only one story in Wisconsin, though you wouldn’t know it from the high paragraphs of most news analyses. It’s M-O-N-E-Y.
Cash doesn’t talk in 2012, it shouts, and Wisconsin was a sonic boom that’s breaking glass in Chicago.
Conservative groups outspent unions and progs in Wisconsin by an estimated SEVEN-TO-ONE.
You’ll find less shouty, but still misleading, versions of this all over the media, e.g., Reuters, NPR, and the WaPo’s Greg Sargent (who is shockingly more accurate at the margin on this one). They are all following the lead of Obama campaign flack Jim Messina, who is trying to raise money off the claim that conservative groups “were willing to spend nearly EIGHT times as much money as the Democratic candidate and his allies raised.”
These claims, depending on the phraseology, range from misleading to flatly false, even based on the sources from which the claims are made.
The spending story stems from a release by the liberal Center for Public Integrity, which took based its analysis on data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (ostensibly nonpartisan, but a past recipient of Soros money and the sort of group whose director told CPI the spending was “outrageous and wrong”). However, according to that data, when you combine the spending of the candidates and their supporting groups, the gap shrinks to 2-to-1.
Moreover, it is a fair bet those figures do not include all of the money spent by left-leaning groups on all candidates in the recall.
Indeed, it should be underscored that the left/media here is focused entirely on spending in the gubernatorial recall, when this election was just one of many the left attempted to turn into referenda on Gov. Walker’s public-sector collective bargaining reforms. If once considers the total amounts spent during the Days of Cheesehead Rage on state senate recall elections, Supreme Court elections and so on in 2011-12, the gap shrinks to roughly 1.5-to-1.
Lastly, these figures only account for sums legally required to be publicly reported (and assumes those sums are properly quantified). Rutgers University economist Leo Troy has estimated that actual union political spending is likely several times higher than generally reported. There is no reason to think otherwise in this case.
In short, it is not clear the left was outspent in its attempts to reverse Gov. Walker’s reforms. And the widely-repeated claim that the left was outspent by more than 7-to-1 in the most recent recall election is clearly false.