Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Tuesday October 8, 2013
1. Nation's Highest Court Takes Up "Citizens United II" for September?
2. Speaker Vos Says Rep. August Should Not Hold Public Hearings on Redistricting Reform Legislation
3. Wisconsin Needs Electioneering Disclosure And More Transparency, Not Less
1. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that will determine whether or not the corrupting influence of money in politics will be expanded, as it was in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.
Citizens United overturned more than a century of settled law and precedent and opened up federal and state elections to be influenced by unlimited (and largely undisclosed) corporate and union "outside" money. McCutcheon would strike down current limits on the aggregate total a wealthy individual could give to multiple candidates during an election cycle and greatly enhance the corrupting influence of wealthy donors. Many legal experts surmise that if McCutcheon is upheld then it is only a matter of time before individual contribution limits to candidates are eviscerated and federal and state elections will be subject to virtually no limitations and will evolve into lawless contests where anything goes at any cost.
Steve Spaulding, the staff counsel for national Common Cause, has written this excellent opinion-editorial which explains the case and what is at stake.
Former national Common Cause Presidents Fred Wertheimer and Don Simon, two of the leading experts in campaign finance law in the nation, have provided this excellent Q & A on the McCutcheon case that will help you understand the significance of this critical issue.
2. For several months now, CC/WI, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and most of Wisconsin's newspapers have been relentless in calling on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) to direct or allow committee chairs, State Representative Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) and State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) to hold public hearings on non-partisan redistricting reform legislation -- Assembly Bill 185 and Senate Bill 163. The question about public hearings is being asked of Vos and Fitzgerald much more frequently. Last week, veteran journalist Steve Walters of Wisconsin Eye asked Vos about public hearings at the outset of his program "Civil Dialogue." Vos said that while he hasn't ordered August not to allow a public hearing, he hopes August doesn't hold one. Talk about a difference without a distinction! To see Vos' misleading dodge to this question, go here. It is the very first topic of the interview.
3. Last week, the same State Senate committee with jurisdiction over redistricting reform and chaired by Mary Lazich, held a hearing on a terrible legislative measure -- Senate Bill 282 -- proposed by State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) that would greatly raise the threshold at which a candidate would have to report to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the occupation of a donor to his or her campaign. In short, this would weaken disclosure of campaign money and it is exactly the opposite direction that Wisconsin ought to be headed. And while thousands of Wisconsinites have now contacted Lazich and other Republican leaders demanding public hearings on redistricting reform legislation, who -- other than Grothman and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce -- had even requested Senate Bill 282 be introduced, let alone be given a public hearing?
Instead of less disclosure of campaign cash, Wisconsin needs more disclosure -- particularly of outside groups who spend millions of dollars to influence statewide and legislative elections, but dodge the disclosure of their donors because they utilize campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy. These "phony issue ads" would be disclosed if bipartisan legislation introduced by State Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), and State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) -- Senate Bill 166 -- were enacted into law.
How about a public hearing on this measure Mary Lazich? (and Scott Fitzgerald?) There are actually many Wisconsin citizens who want to know more about who is influencing our elections, not less.
Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
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