Lovely Greta, meter maid | WisCommunity

Lovely Greta, meter maid

Let's go ahead and stipulate that Greta Van Susteren's heart is in the right place when she writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial forum to decry the influence of out-of-state money upon Wisconsin politics.

But then let's also note how her argument is only the latest in the news media's increasingly common flirtation with false equivalency.

Sustern, a Wisconsin native and host of a Fox News pundit show about the law, writes that the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker on June 5 "has been hijacked by `out-of-staters.` " She objects, adding:

But others from out of state disagree and are seeking to make it their business and thus hijack the election. They are flooding the state with money (political contributions). Both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, are guilty of receiving - and even aggressively hustling -money from out of state.

She's got a point, but misses the news. Van Susteren's comments are rather like saying that a guy who has a cold and a guy who has lung cancer are both ill.

Van Susteren then engages in some data cherry-picking, channeling the Journal Sentinel's earlier transgression:

Ahead of the May 8 primary, the Milwaukee Journal 
Sentinel found that out-of-state contributions 
accounted for 57% of Walker's campaign funds and 
about 48% of former Dane County Executive 
Kathleen Falk's funds. Out-of-state money 
accounted for 13% of Milwaukee Mayor Tom 
Barrett's campaign funds.

Again, true, but misleading insofar as that goes. After all, Walker has raised 25 times as many campaign dollars as Barrett, who last week won the Democratic Party nomination to run in the recall. Nearly sixty percent of Walker's $25 million in fundraising -- i.e., nearly $15 million -- has come from out of state, whereas only 13 percent of Barrett's total of about a million dollars came from out of state contributors.

Thus, Van Susteren speaks as if an eight-figure sum is equivalent to a six-figure sum. If that's so, I'll be happy to trade salaries with her. Look at this pair of charts to see why this is, indeed, a false and misleading comparison:

"Wisconsin voters have done all right for more than 100 years without being treated like some national political petri dish," Van Susteren writes. Yeah? Well, don't tell us. Tell that to GOP strategist Karl Rove and the billionaire Koch brothers, who are among the right wingers flooding the Wisconsin campaign lanes with cold cash.

After all, when Walker gathers the out-of-state equivalent of 50-mm cannons and rocket launchers, and Democrats in turn accept out-of-state slingshots, it's a bit over the top to regard the latter as "hijackers." But beyond that, let's not forget that the American revolution would not have been possible without the "out of state" indulgence of the French government in the colonialist cause against England.


May 13, 2012 - 12:53pm