With another round of recall elections set for Tuesday in Wisconsin and some $30 million already spent on both sides in the battle for control of the state legislature, the recall business appears to be booming. Once rare, recalls are on the rise. And with the potential for local contests to be thrust into the national spotlight, the money is pouring in. Estimates of the campaign spending surrounding the effort to repeal a slew of Wisconsin state lawmakers top $30 million—an astounding number for local races in August of an off year. The spending is even approaching the $37 million spent on last year’s gubernatorial race, in which Republican Scott Walker narrowly defeated Democrat Tom Barrett. It translates into the very real potential that the recent recall trend may spread, opening up new avenues for political consultants and complicating life for state lawmakers across the country. “I think wherever you see a fight that can be nationalized, the outside groups will come in and once that happens, you have more openings for consultants who might otherwise be working for statewide or federal candidates,” says one Democratic consultant involved in the recent spate of recall races in Wisconsin. Outside interests from the left and right have spent heavily in Wisconsin, including Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and We Are Wisconsin, a coalition of organized labor groups. The Tea Party Express and Organizing for America have also been involved with some on the ground organizing and phone banking efforts. The result has been an unprecedented television media campaign waged by both sides with hundreds of thousands spent on the airwaves. According to public filings, We Are Wisconsin has spent close to $10 million alone and has employed D.C.-based consultancies like Envision Communications and The New Media Firm. Two Democratic state Senators are up for recall in Wisconsin Tuesday, but the next stop on the recall train could be Ohio or Michigan. And progressive groups are already gearing up for a shot at recalling Walker next year. “Recall is most probable when Republicans declare war on working families,” says Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “I’ve heard rumors of Michigan recalls,” he adds, but says, “The next big fight is likely going to be in Ohio.” Organizers in that state are gearing up for a ballot measure fight over a new state law that restricts collective bargaining rights.
With some millions already spent on both sides in the off-year battle for control of the Wisconsin state legislature, the recall business appears to be booming.