MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Marquette pollster Charles Franklin has never seen anything like it here.”20-three million dollars,” he says. “20-three million. Wisconsin has never been accustomed to anything like this.”
The $23 million to which Franklin is referring is the amount of outside money that has been spent on the Wisconsin Senate race. That is a direct result of the highly controversial 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It allowed for the starting up of third-party groups that could participate and funnel money into prominent races, as long as they didn’t directly coordinate with the actual campaigns.
Arizona Sen. John McCain has always been the harshest critic of this ruling. He recently called it the “worst decision ever.”
But McCain’s dilemma comes in the effect the new rules have had on campaigns. Exhibit A was here on Thursday, where McCain campaigned with fellow Sens. Ron Johnson and Lindsey Graham for the candidacy of Tommy Thompson.
“I am deeply disturbed about the effects of Citizens United,” McCain said in an interview Thursday. “But I predicted it. It doesn’t change how I support Gov. Thompson.”
It’s likely that Thompson is still competitive in the race because of the help he has seen from outside groups. Franklin estimates that apart from outside groups, Baldwin has outraised Thompson by more than 50 per cent.
But the help has come in the form of so-called super PACs, most prominently the Karl Rove-led Crossroads GPS. The group’s most recent ad buy funneled $5 million into seven states’ Senate races, including Wisconsin.
Being in Wisconsin brings even more relevance to the topic for McCain, because of his landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act with former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold in 2002.
McCain noted the significance, and he again painted future campaign finance reform as a crucial issue that needs to be tackled.
“The court said money is free speech. Money is simply not free speech,” McCain said.
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