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Nearly $44 million spent on Wisconsin recall elections

by
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson

By Jeff Mayers

MADISON, Wisc (Reuters) - A record of nearly $44 million was spent this year to persuade voters in nine Wisconsin state Senate recall elections that resulted in no change to the political status quo, an independent group said on Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tabulates spending on elections, said the recall election spending by special interests, candidates and political committees was more than twice the previous record for a legislative election. It also topped the most expensive race in state history -- the 2010 governor's race where $37.4 million was spent.

The recalls were sparked by a fierce fight over a new law championed by Republican Governor Scott Walker to curb the power of public sector unions.

Angered by the law, unions and Democrats sought to recall six Republican senators who voted for it, and Republicans countered by attempting to recall three Democrats who opposed it.

Seven of the incumbents, four Republicans and three Democrats, survived the recalls and retained their seats. Two incumbent Republicans were recalled.

But the net result of the elections was the status quo, with Republicans continuing to control the majority in the state Senate.

Democrats outspent Republicans $23.4 million to $20.5 million on the recalls, the group said. Outside political groups accounted for $34.5 million of the spending.

The pro-Democratic We Are Wisconsin was the biggest spender among outside groups at $10.75 million, while the pro-Republican Club for Growth spent $9 million.

A state agency estimates that holding the recall elections cost the state $2.1 million this summer. A Republican lawmaker has said this was a waste of money and has introduced a proposed law to make it harder to hold recall elections in the state.

(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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