Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Common Cause in Wisconsin
Public Forum - Eau Claire

Significant Gathering in Eau Claire is Encouraged, Optimistic About Chances for Enactment of Campaign Finance Reform This Year

Approximately 100 citizens from all over the Chippewa Valley gathered at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Monday evening for Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) organized public forum, "Whatever Happened to Good Governmet in Wisconsin? How Can We Fix and Why is it so Important During a Recession?"

Panelists included State Reperesentatives Kristen Dexter and Jeff Smith, both of Eau Claire, State Senator Pat Kreitlow of Chippewa Falls, Tom Giffey, the editorial page editor of the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, and yours truly. The forum was ably moderated by the Chair of the UWEC Political Science Department, Professor Rodd Freitag. The large audience consisted of Common Cause members, members of the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters of the Eau Claire area, members of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, students and faculty from UW-Eau Claire, and other area residents interested in seeing Wisconsin regain clean, honest and accountable state government.

Rep. Dexter is the primary Assembly sponsor of legislation that would require the disclosure of the donors and regulation of the money behind widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy. These "phony issue ads" have undermined and demoralized the election process in Wisconsin since the mid 1990's and CC/WI has been seeking to require their disclosure and regulation since 1997 - the first reform organization in Wisconsin to do so.

Sen. Kreitlow is the primary State Senate sponsor of legislation to provide full public financing to qualifying candidates for the State Supreme Court who agree to abide by revised spending limits. The "Impartial Justice" legislation, like the phony issue ad legislation, has the stated support of the leadership of both the Wisconsin Assembly and the State Senate, as well as that of Governor Jim Doyle.

At the forum last night, Rep. Smith, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns & Elections and a strong supporter of both of these and other campaign finance reform legislation, announced that a public hearing on the two reform measures will be held on or about May 27th, most likely in Eau Claire.

For more on these very encouraging developments and on Monday night's forum, go here: Forum tackles election funding, and for Tim Giffey's column on campaign finance reform written right before the forum, go here: Column: Has time for reform finally arrived?

- Jay Heck

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