Thursday, June 3, 2010

Campaign Finance & Other Reforms Move Forward But Further Action Needed - Find Out Why at Reform Forum in Middleton - June 7th

Press Release
June 3, 2010


Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Find Out Why at Middleton Reform Forum on June 7th

Campaign finance and political reform was a major focus in the Wisconsin Legislature and in the media during 2009-2010 and while some significant progress was achieved -- further action is needed this year.

On December 1st, the most significant, substantive campaign finance reform in Wisconsin in 30 years became law when the Governor signed the “Impartial Justice” Bill after the Wisconsin Legislature passed it in November. This new law will provide full public financing to qualifying candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who voluntarily agree to abide by a spending limit of $400,000. Within weeks of its enactment, opponents of campaign finance reform launched counterattacks in the form of two separate lawsuits against the “Impartial Justice” Law.

But momentum remained on the side of continued, meaningful campaign finance reform in Wisconsin. On January 19th, the State Senate passed a bill that would require the disclosure of the donors and regulation of the money utilized by outside special interest groups running widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy 60 days or less prior to an election. Senate Bill 43 (SB43) was passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan 26 to 7 margin.

An identical Assembly version of this legislation -- Assembly Bill 63 (AB63) -- passed 6 to 1 in the Assembly Committee on Campaign Reform and Elections in June of 2009, and was well on the way to passage in a full Assembly vote. Further, Governor Jim Doyle indicated that, once passed, he would sign SB43/AB63 into law.

But then, on January 21st -- just two days after SB43 passed in the State Senate -- the U.S. Supreme Court issued a shocking, bitterly divided 5-4 decision in the landmark case: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Court's decision -- reversing over 100 years of settled law -- equated corporations and outside interest groups with real individuals, and in doing so, gave these entities the ability to influence the outcome of elections through unlimited, unregulated campaign spending.

On April 23rd, the Wisconsin Legislature adjourned for the year without passing needed legislation (Senate Bill 43) to require outside special interest groups who make widely-disseminated communications intended to influence the outcome of an election, reveal who their donors are.

That same day, Common Cause in Wisconsin called on Governor Jim Doyle to call the Legislature into Special Session or for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker to call the Legislature into Extraordinary Session to pass disclosure legislation so that it will be in place for the upcoming 2010 elections.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted our call the very next day: Legislative job left undone. Then, on April 29th, the Janesville Gazette - in Speaker Sheridan's hometown - endorsed our call for a Special/Extraordinary Session on disclosure: Legislators must return and expose phony issue ads followed by the Sheboygan Press and Oshkosh Northwestern.

But thus far, there has been nothing but deafening silence from Doyle, Sheridan and Decker on this matter -- which requires their leadership in order for it to be accomplished.

How will the Citizens United decision affect Wisconsin? What is the future of the now revised versions of SB43/AB63 - disclosure legislation and why is it needed this year? Can the "Impartial Justice" Law withstand the lawsuits filed against it? What happened to a major, comprehensive election reform measure that failed to get consideration in the Legislature this year? Will there be reform for the current, disgraceful redistricting process before it begins in 2011?

These major reform developments and others will be the focus of discussion in Middleton this coming Monday during a "Reform Forum" organized by CC/WI entitled:

What Ever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin?
**And How Can We Fix It?**

Panelists will include:

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee)
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Executive Director Andrea Kaminski
Republican Strategist and CC/WI Co-Chair Bill Kraus
Executive Director Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin

Gail Shea, a former State Elections Board Official and the Founder of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign will serve as Moderator.

Please join us for what we anticipate will be a lively discussion.

Full details can be found here.


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

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