Public Financing Measure More Critical Than Ever After Wisconsin High Court Adopts New Recusal Policy and U.S Supreme Court Stands Poised to Roll Back Restrictions on Outside Corporate and Union Campaign Money
The Fall legislative floor session is scheduled to end next week on November 5th. This session will be the last opportunity this year for the Wisconsin Assembly and State Senate to vote on two major campaign finance reform measures -- which are waiting to be scheduled and ought to be passed and signed into law before Thanksgiving.
Pending is 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. These measures have already cleared the Assembly and State Senate Committees with jurisdiction over campaign finance reform.
This legislation is headed for the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance for consideration this Monday, November 2nd, where a final determination about the funding mechanism for the measure will be made. It should then be sent to the full Assembly and the State Senate for a vote.
The other measure pending is 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 of 2008. An identical Assembly version of the legislation is Assembly Bill 63. Both measures are ready to be considered by the full Assembly and State Senate. 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.
The Capital Times agrees with CC/WI that the Legislature needs to act now on both of these reform measures. To read their October 28th editorial, go here.
There is no word on when the Phony Issue Ad Disclosure and Regulation measure will be considered by the full Wisconsin Legislature. Next week the United States Supreme Court may hand down a widely-anticipated decision on a case called Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which may tear down a hundred years of precedent with regard to the ability of Congress and state legislatures to limit corporate and union money in elections. For more on the case, go here. If the nation's highest court decides to destroy existing safeguards against unlimited corporate influence in elections, then Senate Bill 43/Assembly Bill 63 may be untenable in Wisconsin. But the Impartial Justice measure would not be undermined by the expected decision, and indeed, its enactment into law will be even more important.
And that fact was made very clear yesterday when the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to adopt a change to Wisconsin's Judicial Code of Ethics written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association that says endorsements, campaign contributions and independently run ads in themselves are not enough to force a judge off of a case. For more about this troubling development, go here.
In adopting this change, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a proposal made by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin that would have required recusal of a judge who received a campaign contribution of $1,000 or more - either directly or that was spent by an outside group in support of the judge or against the judge's opponent. CC/WI supported the League's position on this matter.
But no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides in the Citizens United case and despite the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision on recusal, it is critical that Wisconsin citizens tell their legislators to support both the Impartial Justice legislation and the Issue Ad Disclosure and Regulation legislation. They need to hear that voters and not wealthy special interest groups should be in charge of elections and the public policy-making process that follows.
To contact both your State Representative and your State Senator go here.
If you are not sure who your State Representative and your State Senator are, go here
This past Monday evening in Pewaukee, CC/WI sponsored a "reform forum" at the Waukesha County Technical College entitled "How do we..... Sandra fill in the correct title?" Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks and former Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow joined CC/WI executive director Jay Heck in a discussion about how to reform the current method of electing Supreme Court justices in Wisconsin. More than thirty citizens turned out on a cold and rainy evening to be part of the discussion. For more on the forum, go here
Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
Stay informed - Follow CC/WI on Twitter!