Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Assembly Campaign Finance & Election Bill Should Add Ellis-Erpenbach-Kaufert Electioneering Disclosure Measure

Press Release
June 12, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Assembly Campaign Finance & Election Bill to Get Vote Wednesday

Electioneering Disclosure Measure (Senate Bill 166)
Should be Added to Make AB 225 Worthy of Citizen Support

On Monday, the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections voted 8 to 1 to pass a significantly-revised campaign finance and elections measure -- Assembly Bill 225 -- that Common Cause in Wisconsin had vigorously opposed.

After a televised exchange between the author of Assembly Bill 225, State Representative Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) and Jay Heck of CC/WI late last week, the legislation was revised and made less onerous -- and it was this revised version that won bipartisan support. Some of the provisions that CC/WI had pushed hard to have removed were taken out, but a new provision was added that doubles all political contributions to candidates for the Legislature and for statewide office and to the political parties -- and most alarmingly -- to the four legislative campaign committees controlled by the Speaker and Minority Leader in the Assembly and the State Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.

Doesn't anyone in the Capitol remember the 2001-2002 Wisconsin Legislative Caucus Scandal other than Dee Hall, the Wisconsin State Journal reporter who broke the scandal in May of 2001? This was the most serious political scandal in Wisconsin's history. We talked about it on Monday at the Executive Session for Assembly Bill 225.

The special interest money that flows to the legislative campaign committees that are controlled by the legislative leadership was one of the primary causes of that scandal 12 years ago. Doubling the amount of special interest money -- from the current $150,000 every two years to $300,000 -- that can flow to the legislative campaign committees as a result of this bill will only enhance the possibility of another campaign finance scandal -- such as the one that brought down Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield), State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti (R-Oconomowoc), State Senate Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee Brian Burke (D-Milwaukee) and Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig (R-Mount Pleasant) in October 2002.

Doubling campaign contributions to candidates and to the political committees is not going to stop or even decrease the avalanche of undisclosed, secret money that flows to outside special interest front groups. If anything, that dark money will increase to combat the increased disclosed money that candidates will raise to combat them. To make the revised version of Assembly Bill 225 worthy of the support of the citizens the Legislature represents, the bill ought to be amended to add the electioneering disclosure measure introduced at the end of April by State Senators Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) that would, for the first time, shine light on the donors to the outside groups that increasingly dominate Wisconsin elections. The bipartisan measure -- Senate Bill 166 -- is sorely needed so that Wisconsin voters can know who all the players in our elections are and can see where the money is coming from that is trying to influence their vote.

For more on the Ellis-Erpenbach-Kaufert legislation, go here.

There was heavy media coverage of Monday's legislative action on the revised campaign finance and election bill in which CC/WI provided comment and analysis:

For television coverage, go here and here.

For radio coverage, go here, here, and here.

Newspaper articles include: Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press.

Revised Assembly Bill 225 is expected to pass fairly easily and with bipartisan support in the Assembly today. Then it is on to the State Senate where we will see if it can be improved.

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


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