Third party ads dominate recall campaigns in Wisconsin
By Greg Janetka
MADISON, Wisconsin: With in-person absentee voting for the August 9 recalls underway, third party TV ads are dominating the airwaves, few of which have to do with collective bargaining, the original issue that set off the recalls. As we previously reported, spending by these organizations has dwarfed spending by the candidates.
Just how much has been spent is impossible to tell, but it is clear that totals are in the millions and climbing. A story on Monday in the Washington Post reports that the right-leaning organization Club for Growth Wisconsin has spent at least $1.5 million on TV ads, while union-backed We Are Wisconsin has produced the most ads out of all the third parties, leading left-leaning organizations in spending.
Many of the third party ads have been negative, with several stirring controversy. Recent ads by Wisconsin Family Action attacked Fred Clark (D) for his driving record and accused him of saying making child support payments to his ex-wife was not a priority. Meanwhile, an ad supporting Sheila Harsdorf, paid for by Citizens for a Strong America, uses a voice-over which sounds very similar to actor Morgan Freeman. State Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate sent letters today to stations airing the ad, asking them to remove what he referred to as "a dangerous deception, meant to confer legitimacy to false, dishonest attacks." A representative for Freeman confirmed the narration is not his voice.
The issue of limiting the influence of third party ads has come up in at least one campaign. Fred Clark stated last week that he would sign a statement asking interest groups to stop running attack ads. His opponent, Luther Olsen (R), refused, saying it would be discouraging free speech. Olsen has also been the victim of an attack ad, his coming from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, alleging that he is responsible for the closure of an elementary school.
Third party groups that have produced ads include:
- In support of Democrats
- Planned Parenthood
- People for American Way
- We Are Wisconsin
- Progressive Change Campaign Committee
- Democracy for America
- Emily’s List
- In support of Republicans
- Club for Growth
- Citizens for a Strong America
- Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
- American Federation for Children
- Sen. Luther Olsen (R) and Rep. Fred Clark (D) met in a debate for the first time last night. Issues addressed included whether the recalls should be happening, education funding, and the influence of out-of-state money on the campaigns.
- Nancy Nusbaum (D) accused Sen. Robert Cowles (R) yesterday of avoiding a debate on the issues. Nusbaum stated, "The people of the 2nd Senate District deserve to hear from their Senator, rather than face an empty podium. Whether Senator Cowles chooses to join me or not, I will hold forums around the state to ensure voters have the opportunity to hear directly from me, despite his cowardly actions." Cowles said that Nusbaum never responded to a letter about debates he sent her over a month ago, and that she has purposely accepted a debate on August 1 when he will be in a special legislative session and unable to attend.
- The first forum between Sen. Jim Holperin (D) and challenger Kim Simac (R) has been scheduled for August 9. It will be broadcast live on WRJO.
- Recall of Wisconsin State Senators (2011)
- Wisconsin State Senate
- Laws governing recall in Wisconsin
- Redistricting in Wisconsin
- LaCross Tribune, "Absentee voting starts in Senate recall," July 26, 2011
- Washington Post, “Right wing money pours into Wisconsin recall wars,” July 25, 2011
- Channel 3000, “Reality Check: Ad Targets Recall Challenger’s Driving Record,” July 19, 2011
- Portage Daily Register, “No joint statement by Clark, Olsen asking interest groups to butt out,” July 25, 2011
- Twin Cities, “Wis. Dems ask stations to pull attack ads featuring “Morgan Freeman” voice,” July 27, 2011
- Huffington Post, “Morgan Freeman Interested In Wisconsin Recalls? New GOP Ad Has Narrator Who Sounds Like Actor,” July 26, 2011
- Channel 3000, “Candidates in 14th District Recall Race Debate,” July 27, 2011
- WisPolitics, “Nusbaum Campaign: Nusbaum demands Senator Cowles explain refusal to address issues facing northeast Wisconsin residents,” July 26, 2011
- WBAY, “Nusbaum Accuses Sen. Cowles of Dodging Debate,” July 26, 2011
- WisPolitics, “Simac Campaign: Jim Holperin agrees to Simac proposed forum,” July 27, 2011