Campaigns drop big bucks on local airwaves

2012-06-02T16:52:00Z 2012-06-02T16:55:33Z Campaigns drop big bucks on local airwavesBy Chris Hubbuch| Lee Newspapers Chippewa Herald
June 02, 2012 4:52 pm  • 

EAU CLAIRE – 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 WEAU, WQOW and WEUX in Eau Claire and WKBT, WXOW and WLAX in La Crosse.

State Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls), trying to retain his seat in Tuesday’s recall election, spent over $72,300 on broadcast TV ads in the Eau Claire-La Crosse TV market. His opponent, Democratic former state Rep. Kristen Dexter of Eau Claire, spent over $49,800.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has dominated the spending conversation, with his campaign and supporting independent organizations accounting for more than $4.9 million of that spending.

Democratic challenger Tom Barrett has spent just $486,000, about a tenth of Walker’s total.

Outside groups have spent another $1.3 million locally attacking Walker, as well as Moulton.

The bulk —$1,286,000 — has come from the liberal Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.

Another $365,650 was spent by independent groups to attack Dexter.

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 2016 Chippewa Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. SoAnniWay
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    SoAnniWay - June 05, 2012 2:03 am
    OldWise(sometimes grumpy)One: I have no idea if my previous comment will be posted, but anyway, goodnight, and have fun posting on this fickle site...remember Rule 7 to stay in the news site's good graces. Take care and smile.
  2. SoAnniWay
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    SoAnniWay - June 05, 2012 1:58 am
    OldWiseOne - the fact that you changed my quote in your quote bubble ("blah, blah, blah") indicates to me that I hit a nerve of yours. If you are okay with a news site that picks and chooses comments to censor, I am happy for you. I am only posting to your comments today (because I am nice) as I really have no desire to post on a news site that inconsistently removes some of my perfectly civil and thought-provoking comments. Yet, we have been off-topic for hours! Way too unpredictable for me.
  3. SoAnniWay
    Report Abuse
    SoAnniWay - June 04, 2012 9:28 pm
    OldWiseOne: Complacent - pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied: "The voters are too complacent to change the government." Taken from
  4. SoAnniWay
    Report Abuse
    SoAnniWay - June 04, 2012 1:26 pm
    oldwiseone said: "The difference is when my comments are removed, I understand why and I don't squeal about it."

    Good thing our founding fathers and veterans did not have your complacent attitude; otherwise, you and I may not be free to even have this discussion.

  5. SoAnniWay
    Report Abuse
    SoAnniWay - June 04, 2012 8:44 am, my, you sure are a critical one, aren't you? The Pravda comment was a light-hearted way to make a point. The point being that if the rules of dialogue are so restrictive, why even bother? I prefer not to be a rubber-stamp commenter for any news site. And aren't we violating the rules by discussing this matter, which is off-topic? Rule 7 violation!!!
  6. SoAnniWay
    Report Abuse
    SoAnniWay - June 03, 2012 10:07 pm
    grow_up - you can see from an earlier comment (3:13 PM) that I was complaining/petitioning on your behalf...stay strong and persevere!
  7. grow_up
    Report Abuse
    grow_up - June 03, 2012 9:28 pm
    grow_up said: "What? Wait - see if any of this sounds familiar. Apparently my comment has been RECALLED. Hmmmmmmmmmmm"

    Rule 7, stay focused and ask questions. Let me try again. When will a politian get smart and spend their campaign money to reduce the deficit, and get more votes for that action, then wasting their money on ads, phone surveys, and doorbelling?
  8. grow_up
    Report Abuse
    grow_up - June 03, 2012 9:12 pm
    What? Wait - see if any of this sounds familiar. Apparently my comment has been RECALLED. Hmmmmmmmmmmm
  9. SoAnniWay
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    SoAnniWay - June 03, 2012 8:42 pm
    OldWiseOne...uh, yes, I am aware this is a privately-owned site. I did not think that the Chippewa Herald was a "Pravda" news agency and, therefore, I was hoping for a bit more freedom of dialogue. I am all for private companies doing what they want in a free market atmosphere; however, sometimes decisions made by private companies aren't in their best interests, especially considering the difficulty newspapers have making a profit. That said, thanks for your Northern "hospitality"
  10. SoAnniWay
    Report Abuse
    SoAnniWay - June 03, 2012 3:13 pm
    Seriously? Comments have been removed? As a newer reader to this sight this censorship gives me no incentive to participate or to even bother checking for the daily news here...I hope the removed comments are just a glitch, because a reader's response to my comment was very appropriate and now it disappeared? The removed comment followed "Rule 7."
  11. momofmany
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    momofmany - June 03, 2012 1:42 pm
    I don't care who is spending what on this election. I believe everyone has their minds made up. Looking forward to this being over.
  12. Rod Stetzer Staff
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    Rod Stetzer - June 03, 2012 12:14 pm
    Rule 7: Stay focused, and ask questions. Keep on the story's topic.
    The article is about campaign financing. Not about anything else. Please keep on topic. Thanks. -- Rod Stetzer
  13. Rainbird
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    Rainbird - June 03, 2012 12:00 pm
    Scott Walker's advertising budget is the only good thing he has done for the economy of the state of Wisconsin.
  14. Clancy G
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    Clancy G - June 03, 2012 4:06 am
    Interesting they say "alot of money" went down a rat hole. Walker spent "alot of money" Barret didn't. How true this statement is.
  15. SoAnniWay
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    SoAnniWay - June 03, 2012 1:33 am
    Yes, this is wasted money caused by the uncalled-for, hissy fit of the public (mainly teachers) unions. To recall politicians because your union mentality/brainwashing disagrees with the majority of the voters who voted for the aforementioned politicians is absurd!
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