Thursday, May 22, 2008

Special Session on CFR is Only Remaining Legislative Business - Must Act Now!

Press Release
Friday, May 30, 2008
By Jay Heck

The Wisconsin Legislature, in a rare flurry of activity last week, completed action on the Special Session on Budget Repair and on the Special Session on the Great Lakes Compact.

The "regular" session of the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Legislature adjourned for the year in early March.

That means there is now only one unfinished piece of business still pending for the Wisconsin Legislature--however much they wish it would just go away--The Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform, called by Governor Jim Doyle last November 30th at CC/WI's insistence. It is still very much alive, even if nothing has happened thus far.
But now, with all other legislative business out of the way, (apart from some possible attemtps to override some of Governor Doyle's budget repair vetoes) there is no excuse whatsoever to any longer put off the consideration of Special Session SENATE BILL 1 which is strongly supported by CC/WI. This sweeping reform measure would force special interest groups running the nasty phony issue ads that dominated the recent election for State Supreme Court, to disclose the names of the donors to those groups. Currently they do not have to. It would also provide full, 100% public financing to candidates for the State Supreme Court who agree to limit their campaign spending to $400,000 and additional funds if the complying candidate is the target of an outside special interest group communication (or his or her opponent is the beneficiary of same). It would also clean up legislative and other statewide elections, ban campaign fundraising during the state budget process, eliminate the legislative leadership special interest slush funds known as legislative campaign committees, restrict out of state money from pouring into Wisconsin and much, much more.

With another State Supreme Court election early next year, the Legislature can no longer stall. They must act now in order for their to be any possibility that reforms will be in place for the upcoming State Supreme Court election in which the Chief Justice, Shirley Abrahamson, will stand for re-election in what is expected to be the most costly and nasty election ever in Wisconsin, without reform in place prior to the April, 2009 election.

CC/WI has learned that there are at least some discussions occuring in the State Senate and at a CC/WI forum held at UW-Madison late last month, the Legislature's leading campaign finance reform advocates -- Senators Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) and Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) both called for immediate action on the Special Session legislation put forward by the Governor.

Unfortunately, the two individuals in the position to make the Special Session happen -- Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) and State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) have been silent on the subject thus far. CC/WI will invite both (or their designees) to attend a CC/WI State Governing Board Meeting in the Capitol in Madison on Thursday, June 5th to shed some light on their plans for campaign finance reform in 2008. We also will invite the Governor (or his designes) to attend to express his "disappointment" about the lack of action thus far on his Special Session call.

In the meantime, you can call/contact Speaker Huebsch and Senate Majority Leader Decker and ask when they will commence action on the Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform.

Rep. Mike Huebsch: 608/266-3387, toll-free: 888/534-0094, e-mail: Rep.Huebsch@legis.wisconsin.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Sen. Russ Decker: 608/266-2502, toll-free: 877-496-0472, e-mail: Sen.Decker@legis.wisconsin.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

If you get an answer from either, please let us know.............

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nonstop Town Meeting on Reform — with Common Cause In Wisconsin

Blog Post
Saturday, May 10, 2008

By Bill Kraus

How do you ruin a perfectly good Bar Association convention? Invite Bob Williams and me to talk about the sad state of judicial politics and what can and can’t be done about fixing them.

We told them that nobody likes what Supreme Court campaigns have become.

We also told them that since nobody who dislikes what they have become likes any proposal to fix them–except perhaps their own–better than the current mess, the current mess is going to survive.

We told them that the forces of the status quo, which are always a three-touchdown favorite, are powerful and set in concrete and are major reasons no change is in the offing.

The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, would have to turn 180 degrees from its recent past to even take a look at the collateral damage that its decisions have caused.

The incumbents, even though they are wearing out their index fingers dialing for dollars, are afraid to change for fear they might become less invincible than they are.

The interest groups that are now the major players in the money race and who are getting what they seem to want—a biased instead of a disinterested judiciary—are not interested in giving up what they have spent a lot of good money to get.

The hired guns who are making the tasteless, misleading attack television ads and the television stations that are selling the time to run them are getting rich. They are going to give this up? Get real.

The only hint of good regulatory news we were able to dig up was the prospect of getting some transparency into the funding sources of the groups who are hijacking the campaigns. We know who is coughing up the dough for the manufacturers and the teachers generally if not specifically. But all we know about the Club for Growth, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, One Wisconsin, and the Coalition for Families is that their names are as unrevealing as are the names of the people who are sending them the money they are able to scarf up to denigrate the candidates they dislike.

The special session, we told them, is still alive. The disclosure bill which the senate passed unanimously ended up in a trash can in the Speaker’s office on its way to the floor of the Assembly despite the fact that this has always been the Republican preference over regulation and spending limits and the fact that the speaker is on the record in favor of the idea.


But the special session is still alive and transparency is part of the big reform bill that is gasping for breath and which could be passed [ha!] or modified down to a skeletal disclosure version..if someone, like all of the lawyers in the audience would call their Assembly Reps and raised something approaching hell.

Easy but perhaps a forlorn hope. We’ll see.

What we really asked them to do is a lot harder. We told them to get back into politics as candidates, as campaigners, as contributors, as citizens. They could start, we suggested, with their mouths, because judicial campaigns are still places where word of mouth counts.

Bob Williams closed this plea with two questions for all the 15,000 members of the Wisconsin bar who live in Wisconsin by asking:

If not now, when?

If not you, who?

Just what they wanted to hear. Or not.