Monday, October 5, 2009

Campaign Finance Reform in Wisconsin Moves Back into Spotlight This Week

Press Release
October 5, 2009


Jay Heck – 608/256-2686



After a relatively quiet September, the Wisconsin Assembly will turn its attention back to campaign finance reform this week.

Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, announced last week that his committee would be holding a series of public hearings focused on public financing of Wisconsin elections for statewide and legislative candidates--beyond just State Supreme Court candidates.

The current campaign finance system is completely outdated, ineffective, full of loop-holes, and not worth the paper the law is printed on. It has been thirty years since Wisconsin last addressed its public financing system in any meaningful way and significant reform is long overdue.

The three "Clean Election" Hearings are being held to get public input for the construction of a new, comprehensive campaign finance reform measure which would be developed during the remainder of 2009 and then introduced in either late 2009 or early 2010. The hearing schedule is as follows:

Oct. 8th - simultaneously in Madison and Green Bay

Oct. 14th - in Franklin

Oct. 15th - in Eau Claire

Tomorrow, Rep. Smith and other pro-reform legislators will hold a press conference at 11:00 AM in the Assembly Parlor of the State Capitol Building to announce these public hearings and provide more detail. They have asked Common Cause in Wisconsin to attend and we will be there.

Above and beyond these important hearings, both the Assembly and the State Senate will consider two critical campaign finance reform measures during this Fall legislative floor session -- which runs from October 20th through November 5th.

On September 15th, the State Senate committee with jurisdiction over campaign finance reform voted to approve Senate Bill 43, a bipartisan proposal requiring disclosure of the donors and regulation of the money utilized by outside special interest groups that run widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy during the period of 60 days or less prior to an election. This electioneering disclosure and regulation legislation mirrors new rules approved by the state Government Accountability Board in November 2008. An identical Assembly version of the legislation, Assembly Bill 63 was passed in the Assembly Committee in June on a bipartisan 6 to 1 vote. Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI), the first state reform organization to recognize the critical importance of this reform, proposed a version of this measure back in 1997 -- and has been leading the effort to get it enacted into law ever since.

That State Senate committee action now means that the next step for both the State Senate and the Assembly is to schedule the phony issue ad disclosure and regulation legislation for a vote -- where the measure is expected to pass and then, to be signed into law by Governor Jim Doyle.

In addition, the Joint Finance Committee is currently exploring funding options for the so-called "Impartial Justice" legislation: Assembly Bill 65 and Senate Bill 40 -- identical measures that would provide full public financing for qualifying candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who voluntarily agree to abide by a spending limit of $400,000. It has already cleared both the Assembly and State Senate Committees with jurisdiction over campaign finance reform. So, it too could and should be brought to the full Assembly and State Senate very soon for a vote. Governor Doyle has indicated he will sign this measure into law as well.

For CC/WI testimony on these two measures, go here.

Finally, CC/WI is happy to pass along this information from our reform collegues at the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

You are invited to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund's Issues Briefing on Saturday, 10/10/09, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Madison. Keynotes will address judicial selection, health care reform and clean energy policy. Breakout sessions will offer valuable information for advancing the League mission. Register for the entire day or the luncheon only. The agenda:

• Update on Healthcare Reform, with Robert Kraig, Program Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin
• Breakout Sessions (choose one):
  1. Using the Internet for League Visibility & Mission with Katie Krueger, owner of
  2. Crafting Questions That Differentiate the Candidates with Ellen Rosborough, voter service chair, LWVWI Education Fund Board
• Luncheon and Panel, sponsored by The Joyce Foundation
- Judicial Selection: What Works in Other States with Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel, Missouri Supreme Court, & Damon Circosta, Executive Director, North Carolina Center for Voter Education
• A Path to a Clean Energy Economy, with Ryan Schryver, Grassroots Energy Organizer, Clean Wisconsin

The deadline for registration is Tuesday, 10/06/09. Please click here for the registration form which includes the full agenda, speaker bios and hotel contact information. To register online, please click here.

Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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