Monday, May 21, 2012

Walker and Barrett Differ on Key Political Reform Issues

Reform Update
May 21, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

  1. Walker and Barrett Disagree on Political Reform Issues
  2. ALEC Makes Mockery of Wisconsin Lobby and Tax Laws
  3. To Understand the Infamous Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision -- Read This Article!

1. As is the case with almost every other issue in the upcoming gubernatorial recall election, there are stark differences in the positions of incumbent Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett on how to reform (or not) the political process in Wisconsin. As most Wisconsinites know, issues like knowing what special interest groups are trying to influence your vote, how political campaigns are financed, how the boundaries of state legislative and congressional boundaries are drawn, and access to the polling place -- all underlie how state government works (or doesn't) and what issues of concern to voters will be addressed (or not) during the public policy-making process that follows elections.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette asked Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) director Jay Heck to delineate the Walker and Barrett positions on political reform in this Sunday guest editorial. Read it and determine which candidate's position most closely mirrors yours.

2. Last Thursday, CC/WI joined the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy at a Capitol press conference to call on Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to investigate possible tax violations by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a large and influential nationwide corporate lobbying umbrella organization that wines and dines state legislators in posh resorts in places like New Orleans and Phoenix, who then utilize ALEC "model" legislation (not of Wisconsin origin) of all kinds to ram through the Legislature past an unsuspecting public.

ALEC claims it is a "charity" and does not lobby and therefore reaps tremendous tax benefits by hiding behind this fiction. CC/WI and CMD sent this letter to Van Hollen asking him to look into the lobbying activities of ALEC. CMD also released this detailed, comprehensive report about ALEC's huge influence and involvement with Wisconsin legislators, of whom 49 of our state's 132 state legislators are dues-paying members of ALEC.

There was extensive media coverage of the CMD and CC/WI press conference, including on television here, radio here and here, and in print here and here. The press conference was also carried in its entirety by Wisconsin Eye.

3. As unprecedented sums of corporate wealth and individual campaign cash inundate the recall elections in Wisconsin, as well as the upcoming elections for state and federal office -- and particularly for the U.S. Presidency, it is very important that citizens have a good sense of how this sad state of affairs came to be where it is today. Many of us have a vague sense of the Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision by the U.S. Supreme Court issued on January 21, 2010 -- which literally opened up the floodgates that for 100 years had blocked unlimited campaign spending by corporations and other entities in the name of staving off some of the gravest excesses of the corrupting influence of money over our federal and state elections and in the public policy-making process that follows elections.

This most excellent article, "Money Unlimited," by Jeffrey Toobin that appears in the May 21st issue of The New Yorker, is an excellent overview of how the decision was made and for what reasons, and why it must and (many, including us, believe) will be overturned and relegated to the trash bin of history. The future of American democracy depends on it -- and as soon as possible.

If you read nothing else about money in politics this year, do read this!

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

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