For Immediate Release Campaign Finance Reform Measures to Get Committee Vote Next Week

Posted on June 9, 2009

Contact: Jay Heck, (608) 256-2686

Campaign Finance Reform Measures to Get Committee Vote Next Week

Assembly Shows Responsiveness in Acting on Reform and Postponing A Major Campaign Fund Raising Event

June 9, 2009: The Wisconsin State Assembly is demonstrating commendable initiative and responsiveness in considering and moving forward major campaign finance reform legislation strongly supported by CC/WI. On May 27th, the Assembly Elections and Campaign Reform Committee held a public hearing on the measures and will vote next Tuesday, June16th, on the measures. The Chair of the Committee, Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) has been a strong and responsive supporter of campaign finance reform.

The first measure to be voted on is ASSEMBLY BILL 63, introduced by Rep. Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire), that would require the disclosure of donors and regulation of money used in currently undisclosed, unregulated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy, better known as "phony issue ads." These measures would apply only to widely disseminated communications that run 60 days or less prior to an election. This legislation, first proposed and devised by CC/WI in 1997, would close the single largest loophole in Wisconsin's currently loophole-ridden campaign finance laws.

The second measure to be voted on is ASSEMBLY BILL 65, introduced by Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and Rep. Steve Hilgenberg (D-Dodgeville), which is better known as the "Impartial Justice" bill. It would provide full public financing to qualified candidates for the State Supreme Court who voluntarily agree to abide by spending limits totaling $400,000.

To read CC/WI's written testimony on AB 63 and AB 65, or to watch video excerpts of the testimony, go here.

CC/WI has learned that if consideration of the state budget is not complete by next Tuesday, the committee votes on the two measure may have to be postponed. Consideration of the reform measures by the full Assembly would likely occur in September, when the Assembly will hold its next floor session after completion of the state budget.

The Assembly leadership also demonstrated commendable responsiveness in its reaction to intense criticism in scheduling a fund-raising golf outing for the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee next week while the budget is still under consideration in that chamber. This past Friday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the fund raiser in this front page article on Saturday: Assembly Democrats to hold fund-raiser during budget deliberations ...

Yesterday, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson made the wise decision to postpone the golf outing until after the Assembly was finished with the budget, which led to another front page article in this morning's Journal Sentinel: Assembly Democrats postpone golf fund-raiser.

CC/WI, which first proposed banning all campaign fund raising while the budget is being crafted back in 1997, is very pleased and grateful to Assembly leaders for doing the right thing and postponing their event.

Finally, the United States Supreme Court on Monday, ruled for the first time that elected judges must disqualify themselves from cases involving people who spend large amounts of money to put them on the bench. The Court said that the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution does play a role in judging the influence of money in judicial elections, and that money can lead to "actual bias." The ruling has tremendous implications for the role of money in Wisconsin's Supreme Court elections--which ought to boost even further the prospects for passage and enactment into law of Assembly Bill 65, the "Impartial Justice" measure.

For more on the federal decision and its Wisconsin implications click here.

To read the joint statement issued by CC/WI, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, go here.

Office: Common Cause Wisconsin

Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

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