Last Monday, the Associated Press did a tendentious report on Scott Walker's "Brown Bag Guide to Government" campaign. To add a little context, Walker's Brown Bag message stresses the importance of frugality with government spending. Walker said that his own family criticises him for being thrifty. After all, he drives a 12 year old Saturn with over 100,000 miles on it. And when he arrives at work, he unpacks his lunch from a brown paper bag. Why? Ostensibly because it's cheaper than buying a lunch.
As soon as his advertisement hit the air, the Associated Press looked into his campaign finances and saw that they spent over $24,000 since mid-2008. In other words, Walker's campaign out-spent the other two gubernatorial campaigns on meals and fundraisers, which according to the AP, demonstrates a contradiction.
But the AP is missing the point. Walker's advertisement is a Brown Bag Guide to Government, not a Brown Bag Guide to Campaigning. The former involves taking taxpayer money and spending it frugally as if it were their own. This demonstrates the basic principle that the county government shouldn't spend more than it has. The latter involves taking money from donors - supporters who want him to spend their money in order to get elected. The implication of the AP story is that they don't expect a frugal man to run for governor because it requires some healthy spending. As Walker's spokesperson said, the AP's expectations are plainly absurd.
This is just my opinion, but Walker doesn't need a lecture from the AP about spending. In each of the last 7 years, Walker provided a budget with no property tax increases, improved the bond rating of Milwaukee County as the State's bond rating fell, and ran a $7 million surplus in 2007 while neighboring counties dealt with significant budget setbacks. Walker practices what he preaches and his administrative legacy shows it.
The AP stated that Walker's campaign outspent both Mark Neumann's and Tom Barrett's campaigns in 2008. And admittedly, they reported that both candidates entered the race later than Walker. But what the AP neglects to say is that when the spending is averaged out daily, Walker's campaign spent $44 a day while Barrett's campaign spent $54 a day. Neumann's campaign, due to it's anemic nature and lack of support, spent far less. (Remember, this is a candidate who used the Internet to announce his bid for governor rather than traveling the state to meet real people.) Another issue to consider is that Walker's campaign schedule is far more active than his opponents, which requires frequent inter-county traveling, more meals for his volunteering staff, and more funds for room accommodations. The plain truth is if you want to win an election, you better outwork your opponents.
The AP also noted that Jay Heck, the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, called the level of Walker's spending "highly unusual". They said that Jay Heck has tracked Wisconsin campaigns for years, so the implication is that he is a type of expert in campaign spending. What the AP neglected to say is that the Common Cause in Wisconsin is a liberal organization that promotes liberal sites like the "Brennan Center for Justice", which believes that terrorists have constitutional rights and the "Midwest Democracy Network", which promotes more FCC (big government) interference into radio and television broadcasting.
Common Cause in Wisconsin also promotes the decline of "Talk Radio", which oddly enough is predominantly conservative. Their parent organization "Common Cause" is an advocacy organization whose president, Robert Edgar, is a former Democrat Congressman from Pennsylvania. This organization opposes conglomerates like Clear Channel Communications, which again, is known for their conservative programming such as the Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity shows.
So it should be no surprise that Mr. Heck believes that Walker's campaign spending is "highly unusual" while Barrett's spending (which averages more than Walker's) does not merit a brief comment.
The sole purpose of campaigning for governor is self-promotion. A successful candidate must sell himself to the public as an individual that possesses the ability to solve problems and lead the state in the right direction. This requires gathering a competent campaign team, traveling the state, organizing fundraising events, and running radio and television advertisements in targeted areas. And of course, all of this requires money - yes, even from a frugal candidate.
The great thing about campaigning is that supporters want and expect you to spend their money. In fact, they want you to spend ALL of their money! Taxpayers, on the other hand, don't want politicians to spend all of their money. This leads me to make one of two possible conclusions. Either the AP is stupid enough to believe their analogy between government and campaign spending is a good one, or they are partisan enough to write a "gotcha piece" against a candidate who represents a hazard to their liberal agenda.