Thursday, February 23, 2012

Redistricting Reform and Election Disclosure Legislation Ought to be Scheduled, Debated and Passed Next Week

Press Release
February 23, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

  1. Redistricting Reform Legislation
  2. Electioneering Disclosure Legislation
  3. One Year Anniversary of Crank David Koch Phone Conversation with Governor Scott Walker

1. The panel of three Federal Judges currently examining the state legislative redistricting plan rammed through the Wisconsin Legislature by majority Republicans last summer continued yesterday to level withering criticism, condemnation and scorn on GOP legislative leaders for the way in which they drew up the new legislative boundaries and for the way in which it was done.

"That's consistently been the biggest problem," Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said. "It's not been in keeping with the tradition of open and transparent government." Stadmueller and the other two judges on the panel have ruled that the Republicans can and should draw up a new redistricting plan and do it with public input and out in the open. But the Majority Republicans and their lawyers have said they can't or won't and so a trial commences today -- at 8:30 AM -- and is expected to last through Friday afternoon. For more on these developments go here, here and here.

What is so abundantly clear to anyone observing this entire sad episode is how much Wisconsin needs to have the redistricting process handled by a non-partisan entity such as the Legislative Reference Bureau or/and the Government Accountability Board instead of by partisan legislative leaders. Wisconsin's redistricting process is currently among the most secretive and partisan in the nation. It doesn't have to be this way. It could be done with public input, and in a way that creates districts that make more sense geographically, keeping communities of interest intact. There could be many more, instead of fewer, competitive districts drawn to give voters more choice and thereby keep legislators more sensitive and attuned to voters. And, the whole redistricting process could be done without high-priced, secretive lawyers and at a fraction of the current cost to taxpayers.

Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and urge them not only to support Assembly Bill 198, but also to have it considered by both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature next week. The 2011-2012 legislative session is scheduled to end in mid-March, so now is the time to get this reform passed so that it will be in place for 2021. If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

2. Similarly, the Wisconsin Legislature ought to expedite consideration and passage of bipartisan legislation that would require outside special interest groups to disclose their donors when making widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy in the period of 60 days or less prior to an election.

With the recall elections of Governor Scott Walker and three or four State Senators, the primary elections in August, and the November general election looming, tens of millions of dollars are likely to be spent just on state elections. Without this disclosure legislation as the law, much and likely most of the money being spent will not be known to Wisconsin voters who have the right to know who is trying to influence their vote and influence the candidates they are supporting. Much of this money could be coming from outside of Wisconsin and even out of the country. Wisconsinites ought to know who is behind that money.

Senate Bill 446 would require outside groups who engage in sending widely-disseminated communications (primarily broadcast ads and mass mailings) that are really campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy during the period 60 days or less prior to an election (primary or general) to disclose their donors. Currently in Wisconsin, outside special interest groups escape state disclosure, reporting and registration requirements by avoiding the use of the "magic words" such as "vote for," "defeat," "support," and the like. Obviously there are many other ways to engage in electioneering without using those express terms. The donors behind these phony issue ads -- which have escaped basic disclosure for years -- would finally be revealed to the public if SB 446 were enacted into law.

Please contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 446 and have it be scheduled for debate and a vote next week. Again, if you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

3. A year ago today, the famous and infamous phone call occurred in which Scott Walker thought he was speaking with billionaire financier David Koch. During this conversation, Walker confessed to the imposter Koch about how he had planned to "drop the bomb" on Wisconsin citizens, initiating unprecedented political turmoil and divisiveness.

But the "real" David Koch continues to bankroll many of Walker's activities and will be a major financial supporter of the Governor in the upcoming recall election. One of his entities has already spent $700,000 in support of Walker recently for issue ads. For more on this go here.

Stay tuned....

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

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