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Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are greeted by the governor's cabinet and staff at the state Capitol on June 6, 2012, a day after they won recall elections. (AP photo) Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are greeted by the governor's cabinet and staff at the state Capitol on June 6, 2012, a day after they won recall elections. (AP photo)

Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are greeted by the governor's cabinet and staff at the state Capitol on June 6, 2012, a day after they won recall elections. (AP photo)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 4, 2015

Historic recall elections in Wisconsin cost "tens of millions of dollars," Scott Walker says

One of the accomplishments that made Scott Walker a leading Republican presidential contender was becoming the nation's first governor to survive a recall election -- one of three gubernatorial races he won in four years.

The 2012 recalls of Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three GOP state senators were brought on by Walker's Act 10 -- a 2011 law that sharply curtailed collective bargaining powers for most public employees in Wisconsin. The measure drew massive protests in Madison.

While on an April 27, 2015 trip to Massachusetts, Walker touched on those events during in an interview with Howie Carr, a talk show host who is syndicated on more than 20 radio stations in New England.

"They caused damage to the Capitol," Walker said of the protesters, "(and) the recall elections cost tens of millions of dollars to run -- the impact on the taxpayers. It was just -- what we found is the Left never stops."

We rated as Pants on Fire a 2011 claim by Mike Huebsch, then Walker's secretary of administration, that damage by protesters to the Capitol building would cost $7.5 million to repair. The actual estimate was $347,500.

So, what about the governor's claim that the recall elections cost tens of millions of dollars to run?

It suggests at least a couple of tens of millions -- or $20 million -- was spent.

But the actual total falls short of that.

In September 2012, there were news reports on an announcement by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections, that the recalls cost more than $14 million -- $6.3 million for the primaries plus $7.2 million for the recall elections.

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The largest costs were poll workers salaries and staff wages. They were borne by local taxpayers, since municipalities administer elections.

In addition, the Government Accountability Board itself spent $663,000, primarily to process petitions signed by more than 931,000 people in order to get the governor’s recall on the ballot.

The state board also had previously announced that a separate round of Senate recall elections, in July and August of 2011, cost state and local taxpayers $2.1 million.

So that's a total of nearly $16.3 million, which is sizable, particularly since it hadn't been budgeted. But it's short of tens of millions.

Our rating

Walker said "the recall elections" that aimed to remove him, the lieutenant governor and several state lawmakers from office "cost tens of millions of dollars to run."

His claim suggests at least $20 million was spent, but the tally was $16.3 million. That's more than a single ten, but less than "tens of millions."

For a claim that has only an element of truth, our rating is Mostly False. 

To comment on this item, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s web page.

Our Sources

Howie Carr Show, Gov. Scott Walker interview (quote at 16:50), April 27, 2015

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin officials claim cleaning up the state Capitol will cost $7.5 million," March 8, 2011

Email exchange, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board public information officer Reid Magney, May 1, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recalls this year cost taxpayers more than $14 million," Sept. 14, 2012

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, news release, Sept. 14, 2012

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick, May 1, 2015

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Historic recall elections in Wisconsin cost "tens of millions of dollars," Scott Walker says

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