Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reform Update - March 31, 2009

By Jay Heck

1. "Phony Issue Ad" Reform Measure Clears Government Accountability Board and Legislative Approval Would Appear To Be Likely

2. Government Accountability Board Proposes Reforms That Would Bring "Good Government" Back to Wisconsin

3. Outside Special Interest Groups Weigh In On State Supreme Court and Dane County Executive Elections

1. A major campaign finance reform measure that Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) first proposed and has been pushing for since 1997, cleared the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) on Monday and its fate is now in the hands of the Wisconsin Legislature. Both State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) have expressed support for disclosing the donors and regulating the funds for campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy (as has Governor Jim Doyle) and so it would appear that the rule promulgated by the G.A.B. will (or should) survive legislative review. If and when it does, it will close the single largest loophole in Wisconsin's outdated and ineffective campaign finance laws and would be in effect for the 2010 elections in which the Governor, Attorney General, other statewide offices, the entire Assembly and half of the State Senate will face the voters of Wisconsin.

For newspaper coverage of this significant development (with CC/WI's comment) go here: Amended rule to regulate issue ads on its way to Legislature.
For radio coverage click here: GAB forwards issue ads rule.
For more background and in-depth explanation and analysis of this reform measure go here: ·Common Cause in Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board adopts rule to require more transparency and regulation of campaign-type ads

2. Also yesterday, the G.A.B. made public a number of reform proposals that have long been supported by CC/WI that would help to make state government in Wisconsin "good" again. Here is the Board's legislative agenda and you can read analysis and CC/WI's comment about these proposals in this Wisconsin State Journal article: Comprehensive overhaul of ethics, lobbying laws considered in ...

3. Finally, if there is any remaining doubt that the Phony Issue Ad Disclosure and Regulation measure is really needed by conservative, right -of -center groups and some (but not all) Republican legislators who have opposed it in the past, then the cuirrent elections for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court and for the Dane County Executive ought to help dispel that doubt. The left-leaning "Greater Wisconsin Committee" has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of incumbent Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson or against her opponent, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick in the form of undisclosed, unregulated communications. Likewise in Dane County, the same group has weighed in to support incumbent County Executive Kathleen Falk and to attack her opponent, former Madison School Board Member and Republican candidate for the Wisconsin State Senate Nancy Mistele.
To date, no outside spending by conservative groups of any consequence had occurred for Koschnick or for Mistele or against Abrahamson or Falk. So much for the widely-held, but completely erroneous perception that requiring the disclosure and regulation of phony issue ads would hurt Republicans and Conservatives more than Democrats and Progressives. These insidious, under-the-radar, sneaky communications have been a plague on everyone's house in Wisconsin for years and it is time for those ouside groups to play by the same rules that candidates must play by: disclosure and regulation in order to provide transparency for Wisconsin voters of all political persuasions.

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