Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Campaign Finance, Disclosure, Redistricting & Other Political Reform Issues at UW-La Crosse on Monday - October 22nd

Press Release
October 17, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Monday Evening, October 22nd

6:00 - 7:30 PM

University of Wisconsin at La Crosse
Student Union - Port 'O Call Room
1725 State Street, La Crosse, WI

Before watching the third and final presidential debate next Monday night, join us for a 90-minute discussion about vital campaign and election reforms needed right here in Wisconsin. Common Cause in Wisconsin held a similar forum this past Monday night at UW-Green Bay where a large turnout of over 120 students, area citizens, members of local advocacy groups and the press engaged in a passionate, yet civil discussion of these important issues. (For more on this event, go here.)

Why is it so important that we talk about campaign finance, voter photo ID, redistricting and disclosure of money in politics right now?

Because we are in the midst of the most expensive: 1) U.S. Presidential; 2) U.S. Senate; 3) Congressional; and 4) State Legislative Elections in the history of the United States and in Wisconsin. These contests, to be decided on the 6th of November, follow the most expensive (Wisconsin) recall elections in the history of the nation earlier this year and last year. All of these elections are also among the most secretive in history – with millions of dollars of special interest money being spent to influence voters without the voters having the slightest idea who was providing the huge sums of campaign cash.

Over the last two years, Wisconsin – a state once known as the “laboratory of democracy” – has undergone tumultuous change in the way it conducts elections and considers public policy. As a result, the core political fabric of Wisconsin – once heralded as a national model – has been dramatically transformed.

Are these changes detrimental to our state’s political process or were they needed and will they improve it?

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent by outside interest groups on advertising leading up to this year's general election. But the citizens of Wisconsin are still in the dark about who is really behind much of this avalanche of “outside” campaign spending and the constant barrage of interest group “phony issue ads” we're seeing during this election season.

Is this lack of disclosure a protection of "free speech" or is it a perversion of democracy? Do citizens have the right to know who is paying for these ads?

In 2011, Wisconsin experienced the most secretive, partisan redistricting process the state has ever seen – resulting in dramatically less competitive voting districts. Should redistricting be taken out of the hands of partisan legislators and put into the hands of a non-partisan entity to draw congressional and legislative voting districts?

And what about Wisconsin’s photo voter ID law – the most extreme and restrictive such measure enacted into law in the nation? It has been blocked by the courts and is not in effect for the upcoming November election. Is it needed? Is there really voter fraud or is this a voter suppression measure?

Prior to 2011, public financing of statewide and legislative elections helped ensure that our legislators and our state’s highest court were beholden to the public rather than private interests with deep pockets. Yet last year, Governor Walker opted to gut the state’s public financing system, while at the same time, increasing the limit on individual campaign contributions to Supreme Court candidates from $1,000 to $10,000!

With so much outside money flowing into Wisconsin's Supreme Court races, should we continue to elect or consider appointing our State Supreme Court Justices?

And finally, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission allows corporations, labor unions and other interest groups (and their "Super PACs") to use unlimited money from their general treasury coffers to flood our airwaves with negative messages, giving them far greater influence on the outcome of elections. How has the Citizens United decision affected Wisconsin and does it matter?

These vital reform issues will be the focus of discussion in La Crosse this coming Monday evening during one in a series of "reform forums" held across the state by Common Cause in Wisconsin:

"What Ever Happened to Good Government
in Wisconsin?
And How Can We Fix It?"
Panelists will include:

State Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse)
State Representative Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska)
Former Republican State Representative & Former Candidate for Lt. Governor David Martin
Executive Director Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin

Professor Jeremy Arney of UW-La Crosse will serve as Moderator.

Please join us at this free public forum for what we anticipate will be a lively discussion.

Full details can be found here.

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

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