It is time to return to the excellent commentary that Pulse Editor Jim Lundstrom wrote in August about the ads we saw before the Primaries.
For example, I just watched one that claims Tony Evers would raise tolls on our roads. Problem is, we don’t have toll roads in Wisconsin. So, maybe it was written for a state with toll roads and sent here with a changed name and photo? Who sponsored it? I couldn’t read the fine print at the end, but if I could, I still wouldn’t know who is really responsible for it. Since PACs do not have to reveal their membership or the sources of their funds, this one might have only one member and it might be a multinational corporation—not a human being at all!
This tactic for influencing elections is documented in a new film about its effects in Montana, titled Dark Money, featuring reporter John Adams from Door County. You can view the trailer at pbs.org/pov/darkmoney or see the whole film at fmovies.film/movie/dark-money-2018. NB: the number and emotional hype of such ads is likely to increase as we get to the last week before the election!
Dark money often amplifies the “swift boat” tactic, whereby if your opponent is strong where you are weak, a PAC attacks his reputation and you then claim that strength for yourself. Thus, a dark ad finds a “dangerous” mistake in Superintendent Evers’ long career in education while candidate Walker claims in a parallel ad to champion education—despite having made damaging cuts to all levels of public education over eight years. Another ad seeks to make Brad Schimel into a hero for finally addressing the huge backlog of rape test kits while it vilifies Josh Kaul who brought the issue to public scrutiny.
Then, consider the amount of money being spent. The Koch brothers just pledged another $1.4 million to Walker, so of course you see him on television every night as in his previous elections. But what are the Kochs getting in return? A record $14 million is being spent against Senator Tammy Baldwin! Who gave this money? What kind of power do they seek? By contrast, the Friends of Tammy Baldwin, like those who gathered here for her rally in August, are real people contributing what they can afford with only the expectation that she will continue to vote responsibly and sponsor legislation that matters in Wisconsin.
So, please! Look carefully at the name of the organization at the end of all the ads and if you don’t know anyone in it, discard its message. Watch for ads that try to turn a noted weakness into a strength and give them a wide berth. Don’t let dark money contaminate Wisconsin’s election results. If you are on social media, watch out for the bots—Russian or not. Then vote.
Fish Creek, Wis.