Friday, October 16, 2009

Campaign Finance Reform Activity in Wisconsin Beyond Madison

Press Release
October 16, 2009


Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


On October 6th, Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, announced at a Capitol press conference that his committee would be holding a series of public hearings focused on public financing of Wisconsin elections for statewide and legislative candidates--beyond just State Supreme Court candidates.

Why? Because the current campaign finance system is completely outdated, ineffective, full of loop-holes, and not worth the paper the law is printed on. It has been thirty years since Wisconsin last addressed its public financing system in any meaningful way and significant reform is long overdue.

These "Clean Election" Hearings are being held to get public input for the construction of a new, comprehensive campaign finance reform measure which would be developed during the remainder of 2009, and then introduced in either late 2009 or early 2010.

On Wednesday, October 14th, the committee journeyed to the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin to hear from citizens of southeastern Wisconsin about the need for campaign finance reform and public financing/ There was a large turnout of citizens for the public hearing - larger than any Madison hearing in recent years. And those who testified were passionate, articulate, and well-informed about both the problems Wisconsin's broken campaign finance system has caused - and about what can and should be done to reform it.

One of the most compelling speakers at the hearing was E. Michael McCann, the former long-time District Attorney of Milwaukee County, who described in detail what he found as he investigated the campaign finance-related crimes of then-State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala. He spoke of how shocked, horrified and dismayed he was to discover the rotten underbelly of the corrupted campaign finance system that contributed mightily to the germination and growth of the most serious political scandal in Wisconsin's history. McCann expressed dismay that the system has not yet been reformed--pleading with committee members to pass effective public financing and disclosure laws to avert future scandal in the campaign finance arena. McCann became a member of the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin last year.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck also testified and answered questions from committee members for quite a while at the Franklin hearing. His testimony is here.

Another public hearing in front of the same Assembly Committee was held yesterday in Eau Claire.

And on Monday evening, October 26th, CC/WI will hold a "reform forum" at the Waukesha County Technical College (800 Main Street, Pewaukee) to address Wisconsin's disgraceful elections for the State Supreme Court and what we can do to reform them. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks will be on a panel with former Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow and CC/WI Director Jay Heck from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. The pubic is invited to attend and participate in this free event and refreshments will be served. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and the Wisconsin Nurses Association are co-sponsoring the forum.

Then starting next week, rallies will be held in four locations around the state to push for final action on the Impartial Justice bill reforming state Supreme Court elections. Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton will be joined at the events by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske and by current CC/WI Co-Chair and longtime Republican strategist Bill Kraus, who served as press secretary for Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus (1979-83).

The first stop in the "Impartial Justice Roadshow" will be on Monday, October 19 at 2 p.m. at the County Courthouse in Milwaukee at 901 North 9th Street.

The second will be held on Thursday, October 22 at 2 p.m. outside the Supreme Court chambers in the State Capitol in Madison.

The final two rallies will be on Tuesday, October 27 at 9:30 a.m. in La Crosse at the County Courthouse on 333 Vine Street, and at 1 p.m. in Eau Claire in the County Courthouse at 721 Oxford Avenue.

Attend if you can and spread the word to others to do so as well.

With all this activity occurring in the weeks ahead, the voices calling for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin will be difficult to ignore. Make sure yours is among them.

And remember, while there will always be some who resist fixing our broken campaign finance system, the number of reform "deniers" is decreasing every day. The momentum is now with those who want to see a return to clean, honest and accountable government in Wisconsin.

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

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