Those on the left who decry the outcome of the Citizens United campaign contributions case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said “corporate speech” was protected by the First Amendment, seldom note that “corporate” doesn’t just mean “corporations.”

The other large group that benefited from the ruling was the union movement: Big Labor also has a free hand to spend as it wishes in political campaigns, and one of its first tests came on Tuesday in a half-dozen state Senate recall elections in Wisconsin.

Much of the commentary on the results of those races has focused on their meaning for Gov. Scott Walker and his effort to return his state to fiscal soundness. (Other reactions dealt with the results’ usefulness as a harbinger of voters’ reactions to Republican and tea party campaigns for spending cuts and tax reductions, which we’ll get to shortly).

But there’s a point that needs to be made first. We have had to endure immense amounts of whining from the left about how business groups will pour tons of money into races, overwhelming local resources and tipping the electoral scales toward favored candidates.

Yet, one of the first tests of the big-money theory directly contradicts that fearsome scenario — no doubt to the great disappointment of the liberals who promulgated it.

The issue in Wisconsin, long dominated by Democrats, was whether state employees’ collective bargaining privileges (not “rights”) were costing taxpayers too much.

After all, when a private union bargains with an employer, the two need to compromise to reach an agreement. But a state employee union bargaining with politicians can even have contributed to their campaigns, and no one is present to represent the taxpayers, who end up paying the bill.

That’s why even Democrats like Franklin D. Roosevelt said public workers shouldn’t be allowed to organize into unions.

So, when Republicans took over both branches of the Wisconsin Legislature and the governor’s office in 2010, they tried to pass laws limiting the union’s coercive power and bringing a $3.6 billion budget deficit under control.

We all remember what happened. Enough Democratic senators fled the state to deny the Senate a quorum (earning them the title of “fleebaggers”), while state employees packed the state Capitol in Madison in an effort to stymie any action by GOP lawmakers. Some of the Republicans received open threats from demonstrators and, in one case, a death wish from an opposition lawmaker on the floor of the House.

Republicans finally resorted to a parliamentary tactic to pass their budget bill, and opponents sued. With the suit on its way to the state Supreme Court, liberals mounted a challenge to a Republican justice, David Prosser (judges are elected there), but the challenge fell short of success — and the suit failed, too.

In a parallel move, both parties launched recall campaigns against eligible lawmakers (some freshmen were protected because they had to be in office for a minimum time before they could be recalled).

And in preparation for Tuesday’s vote on the six GOP senators subject to recall, unions poured in an estimated $14 million to $20 million to influence the outcomes.

With a 19-14 split in the Senate, Democrats needed to win three seats to switch control — and only won two, one in a district President Obama had carried by more than 20 points and the other where the GOP incumbent had left his wife to live with his girlfriend.

Though polls showed the other races to be close, and Obama had won in each of the districts in 2008, in each one the incumbent Republican prevailed by a comfortable margin.

Though Democrats have tried to spin the outcome as having “sent a message” to Walker, the only message is that they failed. In fact, the total vote in all six districts broke 53-47 for the GOP, hardly a “warning” about future contests.

Oh, and all the moaning about deep-pocketed money-grubbers being able to buy elections regardless of the merits of the candidates turned out to be wrong. You’d think liberals would be pleased.

In fact, things could get worse for the Democrats. Recall votes on two Democratic senators are coming up next Tuesday, with at least one of the contests, which features one of the absconders, rated as a toss-up. Will dispirited Dems stay home? Or will Republicans figure they don’t have anything at stake now?

Either way, the results, which if they had yielded a Democratic victory would have been touted as a national Republican defeat, have hardly been mentioned by the major media because the races went in the GOP’s favor.

There’s still a recall effort pending against Gov. Walker, who has been rebuffed in his efforts to find compromise on continuing budget issues, so this controversy isn’t over yet.

But Walker has a couple of things going for him.

One is that many communities report that negotiations with unions under new health insurance rules are resulting in huge savings, with Milwaukee reporting an annual $11 million net reduction, and Appleton saving $3 million. The state accounted for more than half the jobs created in the nation in June, with 9,500 added that month and 39,300 since Walker took office in January. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is 1.5 points below the U.S. average.

That appears to be a record anyone would be happy to take to the voters.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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