Less than one week until six Republican incumbent senators face recall

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August 3, 2011

By Greg Janetka and Geoff Pallay

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2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timelineElection Results

MADISON, Wisconsin: While the latest estimates project spending on the recalls could top $30 million[1], a recent court ruling could bump those figures even higher.

On Monday, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that Wisconsin could not enforce the state's $10,000 limit on contributions to "super PACs" while a lawsuit challenging the limit is pending.[2] The suit was brought by the Wisconsin Right to Life PAC, which is arguing that the limit is a restriction on free speech and therefore unconstitutional. Following the decision, WRL's attorney said they will immediately begin soliciting large donations to help Republicans facing recall elections.[3]

Whether the court ruling will bump donations higher is unclear. It's possible that while the contribution limit was in place, donors were simply resorting to give to organizations that did not fall under the jurisdiction of limits.

In a related note, The Presidential Coalition, an affiliate of Citizens United entered the recalls, saying they are spending $300,000 on an ad supporting Sen. Luther Olsen (R) as well as polling and robocalls.[4] Citizens United was a major player in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance case last year which held that independent political broadcasts cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.[5]

Darling sued

The organization One Wisconsin Now filed suit against Sen. Alberta Darling (R) in Dane County Circuit Court yesterday for allegedly ignoring an open records request. The group made the original request on June 8, seeking any communications between Darling and private school voucher groups receiving state funding. After receiving no response, OWN says they contacted Darling a second time on July 13, but to no avail.[6]

Scot Ross, Executive Director for OWN, said, "Wisconsin deserves to know what Sen. Alberta Darling is hiding about her deals with the private school industry. She has repeatedly ignored a reasonable open records request and we have been forced to file this lawsuit because Sen. Alberta Darling thinks the laws of Wisconsin do not apply to her."[7]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said One Wisconsin Now was facing criticism over block parties. The organization facing the criticism is Wisconsin Jobs Now. We apologize for the error.

Group calls for hand counts

Representing the organization Wisconsin Citizens for Election Protection, attorney Jim Miller raised concerns over vote integrity in the upcoming recalls. WCEP is asking county clerks to hand count the ballots, and if they do not agree too, WCEP is asking to be able to observe the process for any possible issues, especially having to do with electronic tabulating equipment. GAB staff council Mike Haas said the agency followed up with clerks, asking them not to do anything out of the ordinary on election night in order to avoid confusion. He pointed out that hand counts are regulated by state statute, explaining, "There's a statute saying that municipalities over 7,500 in population are required to tabulate ballots by electronic equipment unless they seek and obtain approval from the board. So it's not as if we can, even if we wanted to, willy-nilly tell everyone to go ahead and hand count your ballots."[8]

WCEP formed after the April state Supreme Court recount. According to the group's website, it is setting up a network of volunteers in all of the recall districts to "observe and verify the integrity" of the elections.[9]


  • Following weeks of accusations over why they were not debating, incumbent Sen. Robert Cowles (R) and challenger Nancy Nusbaum (D) have finally scheduled a debate. Their one and only debate took place August 8, one day before the recall. It will be hosted by the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and moderated by the League of Women Voters of Greater Green Bay.[10]
  • Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) and challenger Jennifer Shilling (D) met for their first and only scheduled debate yesterday. Kapanke said the recall is happening because of one vote, while Shilling said it was about Gov. Scott Walker's entire agenda and leadership.[11]

See also


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