Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sen. Kapanke, facing recall pressure, perpetuates long-debunked myth

GOP senator wrongly claims protests caused millions in damages

Republican State Sen. Dan Kapanke recently sent an email to Tea Party followers in hopes of gaining financial support for his upcoming recall campaign against Democratic challenger Jennifer Shilling, who currently leads Kapanke by 14 points in the latest polling data available.

Kapanke took to the offensive in his email, blasting protesters who occupied the Capitol earlier this year for damaging the building. In a political campaign where issues should matter above what protesters did, this tactic is clearly about associating Shilling with "vandals," something the protesters certainly were not.

Besides trying to push aside the issues facing his campaign, however, Kapanke also exaggerated the amount of damage done to the Capitol, using figures released earlier by Department of Administration head (and Gov. Walker ally) Mike Huebsch. The damage, Kapanke claimed, was over $7.5 million dollars.

But in reality, the damage was much smaller than that -- only about $260,000.

To put Kapanke's claim against that pesky thing called "reality," it may help to provide a visual. Let's suppose one "|" character is equivalent to $250,000 in state government spending. With that in mind, the actual costs of cleaning up the Capitol building would be as follows:


Now consider the claim that Dan Kapanke's email to Tea Party supporters is making regarding costs for repairs:


I'm no statistician, but I can tell you this: making a claim that is 30 times greater than what it really is -- a claim that was refuted nearly four months ago -- is bad politics.

In response to their carelessness, the Kapanke campaign stated that they had referenced an incorrect estimate that had been published previously, but that "any costs to the taxpayers that are unnecessary such as damages to public property or recall elections hurt Wisconsin."

That, too, is troubling for Kapanke and the Republican Party in general. Criticizing the protests is one thing: stating that recall campaigns are unnecessary is totally wrong. When constituents -- real-life citizens from Kapanke's own senate district -- desire a recall, it's not up to the candidate involved to scoff them off and state that they're "unnecessary." Rather, it's up to that candidate to plead his case, to convince his constituents that he is indeed the right man for the job after all. If he can't do that, then surely the recall was warranted.

Republican candidates like Kapanke can't even make the fiscal conservative argument anymore without being complete hypocrites -- by running "zombie" candidates against Democrats, Republicans are costing taxpayers more than $428,000 through prolonging the recall process.

Again, I'm no statistician -- but last time I checked, $260,000 was a lot less than $428,000.

Kapanke was wrong to make the assertion to supporters that protesters caused millions of dollars in damage, months after that claim was completely debunked. It's great of his campaign to have retracted that statement, but they're still wrong to assume that the recalls are unnecessarily placing financial burdens on the taxpayers, especially since Republicans are making the process more costly. His own constituents wanted a recall -- and on August 9, they'll get their chance to let him know how they really feel about him.

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