Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Much Needed Bipartisan Electioneering Disclosure Legislation Introduced

Press Release
May 1, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Bipartisan Electioneering Disclosure Legislation Introduced

Support for this Common Sense Measure is a No-Brainer
and Ought to be Overwhelming

Much anticipated and sorely needed legislation that would require the disclosure of the donors to outside spending groups trying to influence the outcome of state elections, was introduced yesterday in the Wisconsin Legislature. The measure -- which CC/WI has been pressing to have enacted into Wisconsin law since 1997, was authored by State Senators Michael Ellis(R-Neenah) and Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and co-sponsored by State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah). This is a bipartisan reform that ought to be embraced by everyone of all political ideologies.

Senate Bill 166 would require outside groups who send 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 what are known as "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 Senate Bill 166 were enacted into law.

Three years ago, the narrowly decided (5 to 4) U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision opened up the floodgates for unlimited corporate and union treasury 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.

There was a torrent of this outside money dumped in Wisconsin during the recall elections of 2011 and 2012 and the 2012 general election. Most of the multi-million dollars spent was by entities that did not disclose their donors and Wisconsinites were largely left in the dark about who was trying to influence their votes. Millions of dollars poured in from outside of Wisconsin -- to decide our elections. And to this day we have no idea who was behind that money.

Candidates are required by law to tell us who their donors are. Senate Bill 166 is necessary so that outside special interest groups -- who now vastly outspend the candidates -- tell us the source of their campaign cash. This reform is simple, straight forward and would not cost an additional dime to enact into law and put into effect. Powerful special interest groups oppose the legislation but there is not a single voter or legislator that ought to.

It is important that you inform both your State Senator and your State Representative of your strong support for Senate Bill 166. Write them a letter and "snail mail" it with a stamp! Call them! E-mail them!

Better yet, do all three!

To find out how to contact your State Senator and State Representative go here. If you are not exactly sure who your State Senator and/or your State Representative is go here.

It is up to we the people to make this happen. So let's do it.


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


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