Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bad Package of Campaign Finance and Election "Deforms" About to be Unleashed on Wisconsin Voters

Press Release
May 29, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Bad Package of Campaign Finance and Election "Deforms"
About to be Unleashed on Wisconsin Voters

Today at Noon is the "deadline" State Representative Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) has given to his colleagues to sign on to and co-sponsor hyper-partisan legislation that would do further damage to Wisconsin's already greatly damaged campaign finance, voting and election laws.

This package of bad public policy will likely be quickly introduced, put on the "fast track" and an attempt will be made to ram it through the Legislature and have it signed into law by Governor Scott Walker before Wisconsinites know what hit them. And, as is usually the case with horrible public policy like this, that's the whole point of this expedited exercise.

We strongly advise legislators who are truly concerned about real political reform and openness in state government to ignore this deadline today for co-sponsoring this soon to be-introduced legislation. Instead, we urge Representative Stone to start over and work with reform-minded legislators on both sides of the partisan divide and craft a bipartisan package that could really fix Wisconsin's many campaign finance and election problems instead of make them worse. Together, they should craft bipartisan reform that doesn't provide political advantage for one political party over another and that instead, benefits all of the citizens of Wisconsin. Only bipartisan campaign finance and election reform is effective and long-lasting.

Here are some of the "low lights" of the campaign finance and election "deform" package about to be unleashed on unsuspecting Wisconsin citizens:

* Codifies into law the use of undisclosed money from outside groups by stipulating that only communications with "express advocacy" need be registered and reported. That means that unless a communication uses terms like "vote for" or "defeat" or "support" or "elect" a candidate, the donors who paid for the communication do not have to be disclosed. Undisclosed phony issue adds would multiply and Wisconsinites would know even less about who is trying to influence their vote than they do now.

This measure goes in exactly the opposite direction as does Senate Bill 166, the bipartisan electioneering disclosure legislation introduced on April 30th by State Senators Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) which would require the disclosure of the donors of phony issue ads and similar communications within 60 days of an election. Stone and all other legislators ought to embrace this measure instead.

* Extends the time that lobbyists may make political contributions to partisan candidates to prior to the current June 1st (of an election year) date which currently is the earliest date that lobbyist contributions can be made. Again, this measure goes exactly in the wrong direction. There ought to be less time in which to raise special interest money -- including the banning of all campaign fundraising during consideration of the state budget bill.

* Attempts to modify the current Wisconsin voter photo I.D. law that is currently not in effect because it has been blocked by the courts because it is the most extreme and restrictive voter I.D. law in the nation and is almost certainly unconstitutional. The modest modification in this measure allows for a voter to cast a vote without the proscribed form of I.D. in the current law if the voter submits a signed affidavit swearing he or she is "indigent" or for some other humiliating reason. There should be an affidavit option available without condition as there is in other states. This provision simply attempts to make the current photo voter I.D. law "more acceptable" to the courts without making it less onerous. Almost no one would submit to the demeaning conditions that this measure presents to a voter who cannot obtain the limited forms of I.D. proscribed in the current law.

* Eliminates the ability of a citizen attempting to register to vote to be able to provide electronic documentation to election poll workers. For many citizens -- particularly college students -- this is the only form of proof of residency or identification that they may possess. Fewer Wisconsin citizens would be able to register and vote if this becomes law.

* Eliminates early "in-person" voting by citizens on weekends before an election, except "by appointment" (with only the city, town or village clerk -- not another poll worker). So early voting would be curtailed even further than the current photo voter I.D. law curtails it now.

* Doubles the number of candidates from which the Governor can choose to fill vacancies on the six-member Government Accountability Board. The current process for appointment to the G.A.B. has worked fine since 2007 when the G.A.B..was established. This is an attempt to find more "partisan-friendly" possibilities to fill any of the six G.A.B. seats because some don't like the way the G.A.B. decided some of the matters that have come before them. Leave the G.A.B. alone! It is doing just fine without further partisan interference.

There are other items of concern in this package as well as some very minor improvements to current law such as raising the current dollar threshold (which has been $25 for decades) before reporting requirements are triggered. But that tiny bit of good is so overwhelmed by all the harm that this package would cause that the entire legislation ought to be scrapped.

As soon as we know it, we will pass the bill number on to you so that you can contact your legislators and urge them to kill this bill.

In the meantime, please do contact both your State Senator and your State Representative in support of the bipartisan electioneering disclosure, Senate Bill 166, introduced by Senators Ellis and Erpenbach, and Representative Kaufert.

To contact your legislators, go here. If you are not sure who your legislators are, please go here.


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


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