Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wisconsin Assembly and State Senate Must Act and Pass Campaign Disclosure Legislation on Thursday!!!

Press Release
April 22, 2010


Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Today is the last day of the 2009-2010 legislative session of the Wisconsin Legislature. This is likely the last opportunity to pass and enact into law a long-needed measure to require outside groups who are attempting to influence Wisconsin elections to make public the amount of money they are spending and who they are. The State Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to do this in January but it needs to be modified and passed in the Assembly and the State Senate again to be in place for the upcoming 2010 elections. And it must be done Today - Thursday!

On January 19, 2010, the Wisconsin State Senate debated and then overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 43, bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation requiring disclosure of the donors and regulation of the money utilized by outside special interest groups and individuals that run widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy during the period of 60 days or less prior to an election.

The huge, bipartisan pro-reform vote was 26 in favor and only 7 opposed. Eight Republicans joined all eighteen Democrats to pass this sweeping reform measure. This electioneering disclosure and regulation legislation mirrors 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 on Campaign Reform and Elections in June of 2009 on a bipartisan 6 to 1 vote. The Assembly would have considered and passed the measure soon after the Senate action -- and Governor Jim Doyle, who has repeatedly said he supported this measure, would have signed it into law.

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) was the first state reform organization to recognize the critical importance of this reform and we first proposed a version of this measure back in 1997 -- and have been a leader in the effort to get it enacted into law ever since.

But then, on January 21st, a hugely destructive volcano erupted in the nation when the United States Supreme Court issued one of the worst decisions in American legal history -- in a critical, landmark case: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In this bitterly divided 5 to 4 decision, the hypocritically activist majority needlessly and recklessly opened the floodgates to allow corporations and unions to spend vast sums of general treasury money to buy federal and state elections. In one misguided stroke, a one-vote majority reversed more than 100 years of settled law under which federal and state governments could prohibit corporations and unions from spending their general treasury funds to directly influence federal and state elections -- in order to deter corruption and the appearance of corruption by corporations and unions. Chief Justice John Roberts and the disingenuous majority on the court equated corporations with real, individual people and in doing so they have given these new “corporate persons” the ability to influence and even control the outcome of elections through unlimited, unregulated campaign spending.

Roberts and company defied the century-old wisdom and logic of pro-reform champions like President Teddy Roosevelt and Wisconsin’s “Fighting Bob” La Follette who long ago recognized the inherent danger and inequality in allowing corporations to have the same rights as citizens in elections. They had led the way toward the enactment into law of legal, solidly-grounded and reasoned reforms in the early 1900’s to safeguard the nation and this state from total corporate hegemony and domination.

Now, those safeguards have been swept away.

But while we can no longer prohibit corporations and unions from spending on campaigns from their general treasuries – we can and must require the disclosure of the donors funding outside election-oriented expenditures. By providing citizens with knowledge of who may be behind all of the increased outside spending in our elections, they will at least have some idea who is influencing and even buying our elections. This is information citizens are currently missing in Wisconsin when groups run campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy. Under current law, these groups are not required to disclose their donors.

CC/WI has been working with reform leaders in both the State Senate and the Assembly to adjust Senate Bill 43 to bring it into compliance with the horrendous U.S. Supreme Court decision - Citizens United. Now they must act.

The Wisconsin Legislature needs to consider and pass revised Senate Bill 43 today!. Enactment into law of this major campaign finance reform measure would close the single largest loophole in Wisconsin's loophole-ridden campaign finance laws. And it is absolutely necessary to counter the numerous cancerous and anonymous campaign communications that have undermined legislative, gubernatorial and other statewide elections and, more recently and alarmingly, Wisconsin State Supreme Court elections.

State legislators need to hear from the citizens of Wisconsin ASAP about this issue.

Please contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them to demand that the revised campaign disclosure legislation SB 43 be considered and passed on Thursday so that it will be in effect for the upcoming 2010 elections.

To contact your legislators go here.

If you are not sure who your State Senator and State Representative are, go here

Your voice is crucial and will have a big impact on whether or not this important reform is accomplished!


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

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