Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wisconsin Electioneering Disclosure Law Needed Now -- More Than Ever

Press Release
May 16, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Wisconsin Electioneering Disclosure Law Needed
Now -- More Than Ever

Even Illinois and 19 Other States Unveil Outside Campaign Spending

The introduction at the end of April of bipartisan electioneering disclosure legislation in Wisconsin has received some media notice. But this critical measure has not yet received the public attention that it deserves. Disclosure of the donors to outside organizations who are influencing Wisconsin elections has been a top CC/WI reform priority since 1997. And it is particularly critical in Wisconsin and at the federal level since the disastrous, narrowly decided (5 to 4) U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. F.E.C. opened up the floodgates to allow corporation and union general treasury money to inundate federal and state elections and drown out the voices of citizens in elections.

Moreover, many other states -- including ILLINOIS -- have moved forward, either before or since Citizens United, and have enacted effective electioneering laws so that the citizens of those states at least have the ability to find out who is behind the tsunami of outside campaign cash that is now being spent to influence elections in their states.

Yes, even our neighbor to the south -- Illinois -- has enacted into law electioneering disclosure!

So has Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and to a lesser extent -- but still better than Wisconsin -- Connecticut and Maine.

In 2010, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) promulgated a disclosure administrative rule that would require disclosure of phony issue ads (electioneering) and other similar communications. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court first blocked it (so that is was not in effect during the April 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election between incumbent Justice David Prosser and challenger Joanne Kloppenburg), and later dropped it's hold on the rule, but it has not been effective in requiring the disclosure of outside groups at election time. One reason is that without an actual electioneering law (like the 20 states listed above have), the rule is unwieldy and continuously under legal assault. Hence the need for electioneering disclosure legislation Senate Bill 166. While CC/WI supported the 2010 G.A.B. rule, we have always maintained that an actual law was needed in order to attain the type of electioneering disclosure that Wisconsin needs, and which would more effectively address problems like this.

A tough electioneering disclosure law in Wisconsin and the enactment into law of the federal DISCLOSE Act by the United States Congress for federal elections would also help strip away the mystery surrounding many of the so-called "social welfare" organizations that have engaged in secret electioneering in elections since the Citizens United decision in 2010, and which are now the subject of recent controversy as a result news that the Internal Revenue Service engaged in very close scrutiny of some of these organizations supporting Republicans and conservatives. Very close scrutiny ought to be applied to any and all fake "social welfare" organizations engaged in electioneering -- regardless of their partisan stripe or ideology. For more on this, go here and here.

If you have not yet done so, it is important that you inform both your State Senator and your State Representative of your strong support for Senate Bill 166.

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.

Thanks for caring about good government in Wisconsin.


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


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