Crossroads' Wisconsin Endgame: Painting Baldwin as "Extreme"

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The endgame is beginning in one of the most crucial Senate races in the nation, between former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin. With the race a virtual tie and Thompson trailing badly in fundraising ($5.7 million to Baldwin's $11 million), Karl Rove's dark money group Crossroads GPS has stepped in to massively subsidize Thompson's campaign, painting Baldwin as "too extreme" for Wisconsin in a pounding rotation of TV, radio, and direct mail.

Crossroads GPS is by far the largest outside player in the Wisconsin ad wars, spending $4.6 million in anti-Baldwin ad buys. The group, founded by Republican kingmaker and former Bush adviser Karl Rove, is backed by hundreds of millions in completely anonymous donations. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit "charitable" organization, Crossroads GPS does not disclose its donors and can spend freely to influence elections so long as "direct electioneering" is not its primary focus. It is hard to see the group's activities in Wisconsin as anything less than electioneering.

In a new $1.2 million ad buy, Crossroads GPS attacks Baldwin for voting "yea" on a budget proposal that "would raise 5 trillion more in taxes than President Obama's budget." The ad claims that this budget would take "more from Wisconsin's families to spend trillions in Washington," and labels Baldwin as "too extreme" for Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

The budget in question was proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus in response to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which made extreme cuts in government programs but raised no revenue to offset those cuts. The "People's Budget" does indeed raise $5 trillion more in revenue than the Democratic plan offered that same year, but hardly from Wisconsin families.

The Economic Policy Institute, which examined the this budget along with the budgets put forward by President Obama and Rep. Ryan, concluded that the budget would raise the majority of its revenue by allowing the Bush-Era tax cuts to expire on those making $250,000 a year or more, taxing capital gains (the loophole for Wall Street investors) as ordinary income, enacting a progressive estate tax, and establishing new, higher tax brackets on millionaires and billionaires. The proposal spurs infrastructure and job investment, strengthens Medicare and Social Security, and transforms the budget deficit into a budget surplus by 2021, far faster than either the Obama or Ryan budgets. The proposal was called the most "fiscally responsible" alternative by the Washington Post and the New Republic.

Far from being "extreme," many of the revenue raising policies are quite popular: A poll conducted earlier this year by the Pew research center found that, by a two to one margin Americans believe letting the Bush tax cuts expire on those making $250,000 a year or more would help the economy, and numerous polls show that the vast majority of Americans do not feel the wealthy are paying their fair share. Not surprisingly, raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires is supported by supermajorities, 75 percent of average Americans, and even 68 percent of millionaires.

Similarly, Crossroads earlier attacked Baldwin for her "extreme" views on healthcare reform, slamming her for her support of a universal "single payer" health care reform plan. Yet, at the height of the health care reform debates in 2009, 59 percent of Americans preferred a national health care program run by the government over private insurance.