Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fund Raising for Governor's Race "Out of Proportion"/Disclosure and Redistricting Reform After the Recall Election

Reform Update
May 30, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

  1. Fund Raising for Governor's Race "Out of Proportion"
  2. Special/Extraordinary Session Needed to Pass Disclosure and Redistricting Reform Legislation
  3. Walker and Barrett on Political Reform (Again)
  4. Negative Campaign Advertising -- Does it Work?
  5. Popular Ideas That Go Nowhere

1. Fund Raising figures for the latest reporting period for Governor Scott Walker for the June 5th recall election were reported late yesterday afternoon. Walker raked in about $5.2 million in less than a month -- from April 24th to May 21st. Most of the money was from outside of Wisconsin. That brings Walkers' fund raising total since January, 2011 to over $30 million -- the most ever, and an obscene figure that all Wisconsinites should hope is never repeated again. Walker's challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett raked in about $3.1 million during the same period -- also huge. But his total fund raising figures are far below Walker's and he raised a higher proportion of his campaign funds from within Wisconsin. CC/WI Director Jay Heck commented on the latest figures for this Wisconsin State Journal article.

The seemingly endless recall election process in Wisconsin will finally reach end a week from today -- Tuesday, June 5th. Regardless of who prevails in the contest for Governor and for the four State Senate seats in play, there are two political reforms with bipartisan support that are all set to be considered, passed,and signed into law and it could be accomplished by the end of June. And neither would cost the taxpayers of Wisconsin a dime. In fact, if both of these reforms became law, Wisconsin taxpayers would save millions of dollars.

Current Governor Scott Walker or new Governor Tom Barrett should call the Wisconsin Legislature into Special Session. Or, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and current Co-State Senate Majority Leaders Mark Miller or Scott Fitzgerald should call the Wisconsin Legislature into Extraordinary Session and thereby demonstrate to the citizens of Wisconsin that bipartisan political reform can still happen -- even in a state as bitterly polarized as Wisconsin. In fact, enactment into law of these two reforms before the primary and general elections is exactly the kind of first step that is needed to begin the needed process of ratcheting down the vitriol, hate and resentment that has torn Wisconsin's state government and its citizens apart.

Here are the two legislative measures drafted during the 2011-2012 session that adjourned in March, but which could quickly be reintroduced in Special or Extraordinary Session Bill:

: For years, and most dramatically in 2011 and this year, outside special interest groups have been spending millions of dollars to influence the outcome of Wisconsin elections and the voters have no idea who the donors are behind the mostly negative attack ads. Wisconsin voters deserve to know who the donors to these outside groups are -- and it could be accomplished easily with the right leadership and political will to make it happen. Minnesota has a disclosure law. Even Illinois does. But not Wisconsin. Yet. Let's have disclosure in place for the upcoming August primary and November general elections! The legislation is already written and ready to go.

In February, Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) introduced long-anticipated electioneering disclosure legislation that had bipartisan support. Senate Bill 446 would require outside groups who engage in sending widely-disseminated communications (primarily broadcast ads and mass mailings) that are really campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy during the period 60 days or less prior to an election (primary or general) to disclose their donors. Currently in Wisconsin, outside special interest groups escape state disclosure, reporting and registration requirements by avoiding the use of the "magic words" such as "vote for," "defeat," "support," and the like. Obviously there are many other ways to engage in electioneering without using those express terms. The donors behind these phony issue ads -- which have escaped basic disclosure for years -- would finally be revealed to the public if SB 446 were enacted into law.

The narrowly decided (5 to 4) U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision two years ago opened up the floodgates for unlimited corporate, union and individual money to be used by supposedly "independent" expenditure groups (or individuals) to influence the outcome of federal and Wisconsin elections. But that same Court opined 8 to 1 that Congress and the states ought to strongly consider passing disclosure legislation or administrative rules so that voters would have some idea about who is behind the torrent of special interest campaign cash about to be dumped on them.

CC/WI worked closely with Senator Erpenbach -- with legal advice from the Brennan Center for Justice of New York University and from national Common Cause -- in fine tuning Senate Bill 446 so that it will be effective and constitutional. In addition to Jon Erpenbach, the other State Senate co-sponsors at introduction are: Michael Ellis of Neenah, Tim Cullen of Janesville, Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover, Julie Lassa of Stevens Point, Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Fred Risser of Madison, and Tim Carpenter and Chris Larson, both of Milwaukee. SB 446 was also co-sponsored by Representatives Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton, Sondy Pope-Roberts of Middleton, Kelda Roys of Madison, Fred Clark of Baraboo, Bob Turner of Racine, Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay, Terese Berceau of Madison and Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie.

The Republican co-sponsors are Senators Ellis and Harsdorf. Others would support this legislation too. It is long overdue. Senate Bill 446 can be introduced as part of Special or Extraordinary Session Bill 1.

Redistricting Reform
: Last July, the Wisconsin Legislature passed and Scott Walker signed into law the most partisan, secretive redistricting plan in Wisconsin's history. The majority Republicans in the State Senate and Assembly concocted this monstrosity entirely in secret, utilizing hundreds of thousands of dollars of scarce taxpayer money to pay partisan lawyers. It was introduced on a Friday and given a single public hearing the following Tuesday. There was no alternative redistricting map that had any legislative, editorial or widespread citizen support and no other process to undertake redistricting was considered.

It didn't have to be that way and should not be that way the next time redistricting is undertaken in 2021-22. But to ensure it doesn't happen then, the Legislature and Governor need to act now. It becomes much more difficult to enact non-partisan redistricting with each passing month towards the next Census. Do it now -- right after the June 5th recall -- so that Wisconsin citizens can have confidence that the Legislature and Governor are working toward addressing the best interests of citizens instead of for their own, narrow, partisan, selfish self-interest.

Last year CC/WI worked with Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) and a number of other legislators to construct an alternative, non-partisan redistricting process plan -- Assembly Bill 198 -- that would have a neutral entity like the Legislative Reference Bureau and/or the Government Accountability Board draw the district lines without partisan political considerations but rather according to community interests. The Legislature would simply be able to vote the plan up or down. Such a process has been the law in Iowa since 1980 and has worked incredibly well. Legislative and Congressional elections are far more competitive there and the districts "make sense" and are contiguous and compact -- not full of holes or lizard-shaped. And, it costs next to nothing to accomplish in Iowa and they did it all -- out in the open -- in just a few weeks.

This is the vehicle we need in Wisconsin to reform our disgraceful redistricting process.

Disclosure and redistricting reform before the 4th of July! Contact your legislators and the next Governor (Scott Walker or Tom Barrett) and tell them you want these reforms now. Here is how to contact your legislator. If you are not sure who your State Senator and State Representative are go here.

3. In case you missed it when it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on May 20th, here are the positions of Scott Walker and Tom Barrett on Wisconsin political reform issues, written by CC/WI director Jay Heck last Sunday and today in The Capital Times.

4. Wisconsin has been very fortunate to gain a relatively new and very reputable monitor of money in politics here. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism recently looked into why political campaigns investigate so much money and effort into negative political ads. Center writer Bill Lueders, one of the state's long-time leading investigative reporters, talked to CC/WI's director Jay Heck for his perspective in this recent article. What's yours?

5. Here is yet another thought-provoking essay on politics and the human condition by CC/WI Co-Chair, former Republican strategist, writer, thinker and sage -- Bill Kraus. It is posted on our blog site: A Wisconsin Political Fix.

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

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