Decker and Huebsch Hold Fate of Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform

Contact: Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

For Release: March 28, 2008

Decker and Huebsch Hold Fate of Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform

This week, Wisconsin’s legislative leaders and Governor Jim Doyle have been hustling to come to an agreement to address the state’s more than half billion dollar budget deficit and reports out of the Capitol suggest that an agreement may be forthcoming very soon.

When (and if) the Special Session on Budget Repair is completed, there will still be one major unfinished piece of the public’s business that must be addressed before lawmakers can go home and devote full time to their re-election bids, or those of others: The Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform, called by Governor Doyle last November 30th after a year of badgering by Common Cause in Wisconsin.

While there was a flurry of activity in the State Senate earlier this month on campaign finance reform, including clearing the Special Session reform package (Special Session SB-1.) for consideration by the full State Senate for action, the Assembly did nothing before the 2007-2008 Legislature adjourned for the rest of the year. But the Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform remains very much alive. But in order for anything to happen, State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) must take action. Will they?

An article “Legislature Fumbles Campaign Finance Reform” in this morning’s Green Bay Press Gazette.< provides more details about where they are and where they are going regarding this huge piece of unfinished, must-do business. If Decker, Huebsch and — for that matter Doyle — think that they are “done” for the year without addressing campaign finance reform — they are badly mistaken and they will all shoulder the blame for preserving the corrupt status quo in Wisconsin.

Louis Butler and Burnett County Circuit Judge Michael Gabelman. Most of these ads are undisclosed, unregulated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy–and as such, have escaped even basic disclosure laws so that Wisconsinites have no idea who is spending millions of dollars to influence the outcome of this and so many other elections.

For ten years, Common Cause in Wisconsin has been fighting to force organizations like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and other shadowy groups to tell the public who is paying for their demoralizing, disgusting advertising and after listening to compelling testimony by one of the leading experts on campaign finance law in the nation testify that the GAB could and should regulate and force disclosure from the groups running these ads, the GAB voted to move ahead. The expert, Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center for Justice of New York University, came to Wisconsin at the suggestion of Common Cause in Wisconsin and the case she made for regulation and disclosure of these sham communications — particularly in judicial elections — simply overwhelmed the frankly laughable defense for the continued shrouding in secrecy of the donors of these ads made by an attorney representing the special interest groups. For more on this encouraging development read this front page article, “Board May Regulate Issue Ads” in the Wisconsin State Journal.

If the Legislature fails to deal with sham issue ads in the Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform, the GAB, through administrative rule may be able to get the job done. Common Cause in Wisconsin is pushing on every front possible to force action on campaign finance reform.

For more on this development and on the nasty State Supreme Court race tune in to this:

For Program On: Monday, March 31, 2008 at 7:00 AM

Today after seven, Joy Cardin and her guests look first at the state budget then turn to regulation of issue ads and a proposed amendment to appoint rather than elect judges. And we’ll remind listeners to vote tomorrow. Guests: – 7 a.m. Shawn Johnson, State Capitol Reporter – 7:30 a.m. Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.