JOHN NICHOLS: Scott Walker's ton of cash can't counter people power

December 21, 2011
John Nichols

If money is speech, as the crooked courtesans of our high court would have it, then Gov. Scott Walker might imagine himself well-positioned for the recall election he is now all but certain to face.

Last Thursday the United Wisconsin movement announced that its thousands of volunteers had in less than a month gathered more than 500,000 signatures on petitions demanding that the agonizingly inept governor of Wisconsin be held to account for an agenda that just cost the state another 14,000 jobs. On the very same day, Walker was touting the news that his campaign had raised more than $5 million.

Surely, in the calculus of the corrupt, 5,000,000 dollars should carry 10 times the political power of 500,000 signatures.

But Walker is more of a fool than even his most consistent critics imagine if he thinks that money, especially money raised in substantial portions from out-of-state interests that see his governorship as an investment in anti-labor, anti-public education and anti-democratic policies, will be sufficient to trump a popular movement that has already attracted the support of half a million Wisconsinites.

Almost 10 percent of Walker's money came from Texas — including a $250,000 check from Bob Perry, the Lone Star conservative who warped American politics by attacking Vietnam veteran John Kerry with "swift boat" lies.

Almost 10 percent more of Walker's money came from Illinois.

To be fair, Walker did raise money in Wisconsin. But of his total take, $2,390,000 came from outside the state.

Wisconsinites know that those out-of-state interests are not sending money to Walker in order to help the people of Burlington or Beloit or Beaver Dam or Bayfield. They are giving Walker money because he is more interested in helping them than he is in doing right by Wisconsinites.

And that is why Walker's money is unlikely to carry him to victory.

Money is a powerful force in our politics, to be sure. But it will take a lot more than millions of imported dollars to convince Wisconsinites they should vote for more job losses, more slashing of services and more cuts to education.

Indeed, if any additional evidence was needed to confirm that Walker has been spending too much time at the Reagan Ranch in California — his recent hangout — and too little time talking to Wisconsinites, it came when he tried to counter recall numbers with a cash count.

There are points in politics when doomed incumbents cannot seem to get anything right — think Herbert Hoover in 1932 or George H.W. Bush in 1992. It would appear that Scott Walker has arrived at one of them.