By John Nicholsheldon Adelson won't have Newt Gingrich to write campaign checks for anymore, so the Las Vegas billionaire has found a new politician to lavish with money love: Scott Walker.
Adelson, whose $20 million in super PAC donations kept Gingrich's sinking presidential campaign afloat through the long months preceding the former House speaker's decision to face reality and quit the competition, is now one of the embattled Wisconsin governor's biggest donors.
Walker, who faces a recall election June 5, is fighting for his political life in a state where close to 1 million citizens signed petitions that forced the governor to face the voters. The Wisconsinite's political star has become so tarnished that his only hope for prevailing is to overwhelm the opposition with massive spending.
And Walker has turned to Adelson and other out-of-state millionaires and billionaires, as well as corporate special interests, to keep himself in the running. Adelson's response? A $250,000 check to the Walker campaign, which was allowed to raise unlimited funds during the period when the recall was qualifying.
On Monday, Walker's campaign reported that the governor raised an unprecedented $13 million in the quarterly reporting period that ended in late April.
That's not just more money than any Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate has ever before raised in a single quarter. That's more than any Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate has ever before raised in an entire campaign.
Walker's total fundraising for the recall race - $25 million - equals the amount of money that all the candidates combined spent in the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial race, which until now was the most expensive in Wisconsin history.
Where's all that Walker money coming from?
Folks like Adelson. He's one of several dozen millionaires and billionaires, most of them from outside Wisconsin, who have been the definitional backers of Walker's campaign. In the last spending report by the governor, a mere 33 donors accounted for roughly half of all the money Walker had raised. This time, according to the advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, 39 "mega donors" giving in excess of $10,000 each, accounted for $2,430,000 of Walker's haul.
And there aren't that many billionaires in Wisconsin.
by Mike Nichols
Norm Sonju is a Texan who has no real connection to Wisconsin other than the fact he used to spend some time in Williams Bay during the summer back when he was a little kid. He's also a Scott Walker supporter who recently sent the governor $1,000.
Saul Halpert is a 90-year-old Californian who used to be a TV reporter in Los Angeles. He has sent two different donations to Tom Barrett that amount to a modest but important $43.
They're just two of the countless Americans — including many who couldn't have told you a year ago if Madison was in Minnesota or Montana — with their eyes trained on our once quiet, demure little state. Walker has already raised an astounding $25 million for his recall campaign. The Democrats have far less money but every bit as much deeply entrenched support.
Halpert says he donated because Wisconsin is a "focal point" and defeating a governor like Walker "would have repercussions all over." Sonju, a former general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, casts the election in big-picture terms as well. He is "very concerned about where we are going financially, the debt we are accumulating."
Walker has become a nationwide symbol of something far bigger than Act 10, which scaled back collective bargaining rights. He has become the center of a historic clash over the size of government and what it means to be a democracy.
May Day was a success, but Occupy needs to rethink itself if it wants to change America.
—By Josh Harkinson
By most estimates, the Occupy movement's May Day protests were a resounding success, with demonstrations held in more than 100 cities and a march in Manhattan that drew some 30,000 people—more than any Occupy event last fall. But if the movement is going to sustain the kind of momentum that captured the nation's attention six months ago, it must begin to evolve in a different direction. Occupy's much-hyped Phase 2, the "American Spring," suggests an end game that's virtually impossible in today's America: the toppling of a corrupt political system under the sheer weight of its own repression. Unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, the only real revolutions in our comparatively affluent nation have ultimately been won or lost at the ballot box.
For months I've devoted myself to reporting on Occupy Wall Street, but I haven't shared many of my own views of the movement until now. I see myself foremost as a reporter, not a pundit, and I also thought that other observers were too quick to judge. I have the utmost respect for original OWS organizers such as Marissa Holmes, Sandy Nurse, Amin Husain, Nicole Carty, and Jason Ahmadi, to name just a few, who took the art of calling bullshit on the political system way further than the chattering classes thought it could go. Instead of handing over the movement to the Professional Left, they effectively gave the reins to anyone who felt disenfranchised. Their famously nonhierarchical General Assembly and working groups might have been unwieldy, but they're also what lent OWS its legitimacy as a true movement of and for the 99 percent.
In the early days of the General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street seemed poised to grow in any number of directions. There were people who wanted to make concrete political demands or get involved in electoral politics, and people who didn't. Yet the meetings were long and tedious, and those who slogged through them all winter more often than not tended to be the same kind of people who'd first slept in the park, which is to say, radicals, often anarchists, who believed that engaging with the political system would only legitimize it. Still, many of them were happy to collaborate with more mainstream groups, such as labor unions, on protests against common enemies like Wall Street.
For a while I believed that this kind of limited partnership could be enough to keep the Occupy movement relevant. The thinking goes that the protests will gradually win over more Americans, growing in size and frequency to the point that corporations and elected leaders, whoever they are, will somehow be forced to respond. This has certainly happened to a degree, with Occupy protests arguably playing a role in extending a millionaire's tax in New York state and helping to convince the shareholders of Citigroup to vote against a cushy pay package for CEO Vikram Pandit. Still, that's pretty small potatoes compared to all the press Occupy got this fall, which could be why the press and most Americans have mostly stopped paying attention since then.
Why aren't Democrats running against Scott Walker's union reforms?
Remember the Greek-style protests in Madison, the union sit-ins, the lawmakers who fled to Illinois to avoid voting on Scott Walker's collective-bargaining law last year? Now that the recall election of Mr. Walker is in full swing, Big Labor must be wondering where the outrage went.Since last summer, unions have been throwing millions at defeating the man who reformed collective bargaining for government workers and required union members to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums, modest contributions compared to the average in private business. As the May 8 Democratic recall primary nears to determine who will run against Mr. Walker on June 5, this should be their rhetorical moment ne plus ultra.
So, let's see. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front-runner, has focused his campaigns on jobs, education, the environment and "making communities safer." One of Mr. Barrett's ads singles out "Walker's War on Women," with nary a mention of collective bargaining. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by union groups, but even her issues list makes only passing reference to collective bargaining.
No wonder. Since Mr. Walker's reforms went into effect, the doom and gloom scenarios have failed to materialize. Property taxes in the state were down 0.4% in 2011, the first decline since 1998. According to Chief Executive magazine, Wisconsin moved up four more places this year to number 20 in an annual CEO survey of the best states to do business, after jumping 17 spots last year.
The Governor's office has estimated that altogether the reforms have saved Badger State taxpayers more than $1 billion, including $65 million in changes in health-care plans, and some $543 million in local savings documented by media reports. According to the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, Mayor Barrett's city of Milwaukee saved $19 million on health-care costs as a direct result of Mr. Walker's reforms. Awkward turtle.
Some of the good news has been in the schools, because districts have been able to avoid teacher layoffs and make ends meet because of flexibility created by the changes. In the Brown Deer school district, savings created by pension and health-care contributions from employees allowed the school to prevent layoffs and save some $800,000 for taxpayers.
In Fond du Lac, school board president Eric Everson says the district saved $4 million as a result of last year's reforms, including $2 million from the changes in employee contributions to their pensions.