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GOP Lawmakers Pushing to Make it Tougher to Mount Recall Elections

Republicans say millions were spent unnecessarily on summer recall elections and they want to change state Constitution to require "just cause" for a recall effort.

Even with record unemployment and minimal job growth across the country, there is still one business that has demonstrated it is recession-proof: politics. 

The Wisconsin recall elections were a boon for statewide cash flow, with nearly $44 million in private funds pouring into the state for nine state Senate races. The Democrats and their supporters spent over $23.4 million for their efforts, with the GOP and conservative groups spent $20.5 million, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

By comparison, $19 million was spent on all of 99 state Assembly elections in November 2010. 

On top of the money raised in the recall, it cost municipalities another $2.1 million to hold the elections, print ballots and notices, and pay poll workers and canvassers, according to the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin. That figure also includes the work of the GAB to oversee the recall.

The GAB surveyed the 40 counties that held recalls in August and tallied the cost of ballots, poll workers and overhead at the polls. The estimated costs were unbudgeted, and some municipalities say they will have to draw the money from contingency funds typically reserved for snow removal or natural disasters.

GOP says high costs were unnecessary

State Republican lawmakers have characterized these huge expenditures as a waste of resources. And state Rep. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) was so distressed by the time and money spent that he is proposing a constitutional amendment to reform the recall process.

Farrow said recalls should be held for a specific reason, such as being found guilty of a misdemeanor carrying a one-year jail sentence or a breach of the Legislature’s code of ethics. Eight other states require misconduct or breach of ethics as a reason to recall.

“This amendment will allow Wisconsinites the opportunity to protect the integrity of our regular election system,” said Farrow, whose district includes part of Brookfield and Sussex. “Furthermore, by requiring that just cause be shown when attempting the recall of an elected official, the amendment will ensure that recall elections remain rare - rather than on a cycle of constant repeat.”

The other current requirements for a recall - obtaining 25 percent of the votes cast in a district during the most recent gubernatorial election and only recalling those who have served at least one year in office - would remain in place.

“My view is that recalls should be reserved for true breaches of trust or misconduct,” Farrow said. “The most recent recalls were being used for political issues. In November (2010), the majority of voters swung control of the Legislature. The minority didn’t like it and they wanted to change that.”

He likened the current recall process as a way for the minority to squelch the voice of the majority of Wisconsin voters.

Farrow and state Reps. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) began circulating the amendment on Tuesday to find co-sponsors. As of Friday, no others have signed on, but state Sen. Alberta Darling expressed interest in the idea, especially the “for cause” requirement.

Pasch, Darling weigh in on proposal

Of the nine Senate recall elections in July and August, the most closely watched and the most expensive, was the . About $10 million was spent on that race, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported.

Darling said recalls shouldn't be considered a “do-over” on valid election results and that people need to accept that the November elections had consequences. 

“If voters don’t agree with policies, they need to wait until the next scheduled election,” Darling said. “The recall elections cost taxpayers money and cost the state of Wisconsin months of lost time in the Legislature.”

But Pasch, who lost to Darling, said the proposal is more about Republicans protecting their own jobs.

“Simply put, citizens should have the right to hold their elected leaders accountable if they don't that feel their values and interests are being aptly represented," Pasch added.

The 8th Senate District includes most of the North Shore, plus Germantown, Menomonee Falls, Mequon, ThiensvilleRichfield, and a small part of Milwaukee.

GOP's moves justified recall, Kessler says

Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) is strongly opposed to the amendment. He said even though the recall option has been used sparingly in the state, this year's unprecedented actions called for its use. 

"The people were fooled by Governor Walker and the Republicans with their blatant dismantling of collective bargaining rights," said Kessler, whose district include a portion of Wauwatosa. "This is a conscious effort by the GOP to weaken accountability." 

As for the record amount of money spent on the recalls, Kessler would like to see campaign spending and contribution limits on both sides of the aisle, but doesn't consider the expenditures wasteful. 

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate called  Vos’ involvement to change recall elections hypocritical.

“Robin Vos supported the recall election of Democratic senators, raised money for Republican candidates, campaigned for Scott Walker’s 'Darling' and said nothing while his party ran phony candidates as Democrats, which drove up the costs of recall election, which all of a sudden seem to bother him," Tate said.

Getting the state constitution amended is no easy task. The measure would have to pass two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature and pass a statewide vote before taking effect.

John Pokrandt September 26, 2011 at 02:57 PM
The current group of GOP leaders either imagines permanent majorities or is incapable of grasping what these and other changes mean when they are in the minority. How are they going to feel about all of those newly minted appointed positions that the governor controls when the governor is a Democrat? Less democracy is never a good thing and removing yet another layer of accountability harms our government.
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 03:19 PM
John, You are aware that we have regularly scheduled elections, correct? I'm a Republican and I'm perfectly comfortable with the possibility and high probability that we'll have a Democratic governor who'll pack those appointed positions with loyalists, just as Walker has done, and just as Doyle did with the positions he was able to appoint people to. There's no guarantee that a civil servant is going to be any more capable or ethical or unbiased than is a political appointee. They just give off less of a scent. We don't need to be able to recall people, simply because we don't like the policies (none of which are irreversible) they put in place. The change makes sense. I'm not afraid of Democrats. I realize they can be replaced at those regular election cycles if the public so chooses, just as can Republicans. Same as it ever was.
Randy1949 September 26, 2011 at 03:23 PM
@Bob McBride -- yes we do need the right to recall before the end of the term if a runaway legislature is ramming through changes they did not campaign on. Why give them three more years to finish the job?
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Randy that's an opinion, not a fact, and we shouldn't be able to launch recalls on opinions. Using the logic you used to formulate your opinion, Obama should be impeached for taking over GM. He never said he would do that when he was campaigning. You folks on the left have a real problem with the perspective thing.
Morninmist Same September 26, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Jay, I do not know about the site you say called for Walker's recall Jan 18th. That is news to me. I have read in several articles that Republicans wanted the Dem 14 recalled. This started when the Dems were out of state (it was punishment along with fines). I will try to find some documentation. .................. Jay Sykes 6:18am on Monday, September 26, 2011 @Morninmist... I googled 'who started collecting the first WI recall petition', when the 'who started the recalls' question was proposed, on an earlier post, and I can't confirm it either way;it did lead me to a site that called for a Walker recall on January 18th, just two weeks after inauguration day. Can you definitively clear this up?
John Pokrandt September 26, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Bob, when a political party so completely overreaches be they Republicans or Democrats I think having the right to recall them is just fine. I am a huge fan of checks and balances and recall elections are part of that protetction. I would much rather we focus on limiting campaign spending both by candidates and outside interests. If you want our democracy to mean anything we need to prohibit people from buying elections.
Randy1949 September 26, 2011 at 04:17 PM
@Bob McBride " Some people will sign anything to get you off their front stoop." In that case, you need to blame the potential voters who were happy with Alberta Darling but signed the petition simply to get someone off their front porch. And it wasn't 'all for naught' in two districts. I consider it money well spent. I pay taxes too, you know.
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Again, the overreaching is an opinion. To go back to the same example I used with Randy, I know a lot of people who feel Obama overreached considerably by taking over GM. We can't continue to have a system that essentially allows for open-ended do-overs. The privilege was abused at an enormous cost to taxpayers, and that privilege needs to be curtailed so that we don't go through this foolishness in the future. The whole concept of elections being bought assumes a stupidity on the part of the electorate that, frankly, I don't believe exists to a degree such that it can sway elections. Frankly, it's a bit of an elitist attitude. For instance, I'm going to guess you don't feel you're much influenced by the partisan advertising, where a good portion of that money is spent. Do you assume others are? You're not going to eliminate the money by attempting to regulate it away. Instead, you'll essentially drive it underground or make its sources less transparent, as has happened as a result of McCain-Feingold. Again, it's this attitude of "I'm smart, other people apparently aren't and can be easily influenced by advertising done by special interests, otherwise they'd vote like I do". Just because someone doesn't think like you do, doesn't make them wrong and you right.
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 04:31 PM
And yet, Randy, you're okay with a system that can force a recall by simply annoying people to the point where they sign something to get you to go away. Any means to an end for you as long as you get your way. Which in this case amounts to two seats that change nothing in the overall picture and still leave you complaining about Walker and the Republicans. If you got any lumps of coal from Santa as a kid, I'll bet it's because you put them on your list.
Randy1949 September 26, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I know people who feel Obama overreached simply by running for President. Or that he overreaches by putting on his pants in the morning. I try to ignore people like that.
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 05:28 PM
Randy, according to your logic both those reasons would be perfectly justifiable ones for launching a recall effort against him. Then again, if folks did that and showed up on your doorstep repeatedly, interfering with your ability to ignore them, you could probably just sign their petition to get them to leave you alone.
Brian Kiser September 26, 2011 at 05:53 PM
I am surprised there is this much discussion about this topic. Having a recall election doesn't say anything in particular to me. However, having a SUCCESSFUL recall says quite a bit. Obviously, the politician did not do what was expected. He said one thing, then did another once in office. There has to be accountability for this, and a recall election is strong accountability. I am not surprised politicians want to make them go away. Very much in the same vein as voting themselves raises and getting retirement for only a few years of service, making recall elections just makes politicians lives easier, and at the same time, gives the people less power.
Keith Schmitz September 26, 2011 at 05:55 PM
The question is, what do the GOP have against democracy?
Randy1949 September 26, 2011 at 05:59 PM
No, I'm quite capable of holding my own against people who show up on my doorstep and try to persuade me to do something I don't agree with.
John Pokrandt September 26, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Bob, I'm politically involved, deeply politically involved, so no I am not swayed by special interest advertising. I would assume that you are also politically involved and not swayed by said advertising. Now can you tell me when many people walk around parrotting things they hear on talk radio or repeating falsehoods from any given political ad that the general electorate is informed? That's not being elitist, that's being honest. The more money a candidate can use to put out ads and spin, the more they can frame the debate even when they are misleading the public. That goes for both sides of the aisle, you don't have to go to far to find people who voted based on some exagerated claim put forth in a political attack ad. Yes people are swayed by these ads whether due to apathy or intellect and that's a fact. If you don't like the idea of controlling the money, how about we controll the content? We could fine campaigns for false or mis-leading ads or better yet force them to run "retraction" ads when they're caught.
Bob McBride September 26, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Sorry, John, not buying it. I'd rather let the ads run as is without some watchdog group deciding whether or not to pursue a particular candidate or group based on a "falsehood". That's the problem. Who decides the degree of falsehood, who decided whom is taken to tasks for these presumed falsehoods? You, because you're politically "involved"? A panel of the "politically involved"? Welcome to never ending litigation. I have more faith in folks than you do. In fact, I'd say most of the people I've met who fall into the "not involved" category are more capable of evaluating an issue based on what it's truly about than are those who are so involved and so partisan that they can't see the forest for the trees. You worry about people spouting talking points - those tend to be people who are already predisposed to be on one side of the equation, and they have counterparts on the opposite side of the equation doing the same thing. It all balances out. You'll never get the money out of it. You'll never be able to temper the message for very long, particularly with all the different venues for those messages now available. Effectively censoring a message because someone has decided it might incorrectly influence the less "involved" or those defined as apathetic or intellectually challenged is not a path I think we should be going down.
David Tatarowicz September 26, 2011 at 07:50 PM
@ BOB And JOHN In regards to censoring political ads, or punishing those that are distortions or lies --- let's not forget the "Gableman Rule" --- as long as you say true things within the ad, it is permissible for the ad itself to be a lie.
BassGreat September 27, 2011 at 08:57 PM
If they're concerned about the costs of recalls, why not the costs for the unnecessary added security for those scared-of-their-own-shadows legislators who knew they were pushing an ideology that the majority of Wisconsonites would be against. How about legislation for the Republicans to grow a spine - we'd save quite a bit of cashola.
CowDung September 27, 2011 at 09:30 PM
You don't think that additional security is necessary for the Republicans being stalked and threatened by those opposing their politics? I'd favor increased security for members of any party who were being treated like that...
Keith Schmitz September 27, 2011 at 10:14 PM
For god's sake every politician gets death threats, including a lot of liberal bloggers. They're just not being drama queens about it.
Jeff Klass September 28, 2011 at 04:35 PM
You don't recall politicians because you disagree with them. Ther should be tougher standards. Don't care about the party, unlike so many others on here. It's just retarded to waste so much time on recalls. Don't agree with whomever is in office? Get off your ass & make sure YYOUR guy gets elected next time. As long as it's not that twit Lena Taylor. That chick is insane.
BassGreat October 17, 2011 at 02:27 PM
I feel that there probably wouldn't be any such suggestion had two Republican seats not been lost? I don't believe the citizens of Wisconsin are going to continue seeing these tactics as purely coincidental and okay. Besides, is this not more government interference?
Morninmist Same October 21, 2011 at 12:04 PM
Of course it is more government interference, it is the Republicans trying to make it more difficult to vote. We have very little voter FRAUD in Wisconsin and Republicans know this but continue to LIE as do the Walker fans on this site and other comment sites. From the article: Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate called Vos’ involvement to change recall elections hypocritical. “Robin Vos supported the recall election of Democratic senators, raised money for Republican candidates, campaigned for Scott Walker’s 'Darling' and said nothing while his party ran phony candidates as Democrats, which drove up the costs of recall election, which all of a sudden seem to bother him," Tate said.
Dances With Fascists November 15, 2011 at 03:53 PM
@Bob McBride a functioning democracy should include every possible mechanism to ensure that the wishes of the PEOPLE are represented by the people they elect. INCLUDING RECALL ELECTIONS and the ONLY people qualified to judge whether their wishes are being met or not are the ELECTORATE. Your efforts to make it harder for them to recall crappy politicians are manipulative, demeaning to the electorate, and frankly DISHONEST. Almost every comment on this page is reasonable except for yours. WE SEE THROUGH YOU, and YOUR ARROGANT MENTALITY is the reason why the bar should be EVEN LOWER IF POSSIBLE for recall elections to proceed because people like you have NO BUSINESS being in politics at all and it is important to remove you and your kind when you do sneak in.
Bob McBride November 15, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Temper, temper there DWF. If this recall succeeds and you get all your cronies in, you'll be calling for the same changes I am yourself. Cut the crap.
Dennis Allen November 15, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Actually you teapublicant's started the recall talk,and ran fake candidates which drove up the cost. Now you're worried about the cost in time and money ? If Walker hadn't started this nonsense in the first place this would be a non issue.
AWD November 15, 2011 at 05:18 PM
If the Progressives succeed in recalling Governor Walker I fear Wisconsin will see the beginning of an age of darkness the likes of which we have never seen before. Although our state will likely not explode all at once into chaos, it will likely rot into chaos. With radical Progressives in charge Wisconsin will look like a festering fruit abandoned in the muck and rain, once plentiful, ripe, and full of life under Scott Walker leadership, it will now become unpalatable.
Dennis Allen November 15, 2011 at 08:00 PM
What was accomplished was the fact that Darling got a wake up call, along with other R's. She's afraid to rubber stamp anything Walker pushes now. That's a victory in itself. The recalls also brought into the state around 44 million dollars. That's good for the state. Walker all of a sudden started talking about working with the Dems, which he wasn't willing to do before. Again , thanks to the recalls. I would say that the money was well spent.
Dennis Allen November 15, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Great post Ray.
Dennis Allen November 15, 2011 at 08:38 PM
AWD: What a crock.

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