Fate of Campaign Finance Reform in 2008 is in the Hands of the Assembly Republican Leadership

CONTACT: Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

FOR RELEASE: February 29, 2008

Fate of Campaign Finance Reform in 2008 is in the Hands of the Assembly Republican Leadership

The fate of campaign finance reform in 2008 now is now almost solely in the hands of the Assembly Republican leadership –specifically Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) and (to a lesser extent) Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon).

Governor Jim Doyle did his part to advance it by calling the Wisconsin Legislature into a Special Session on Campaign Finance Reform last November 30th — at the behest (and year-long badgering) of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI). He has barely uttered a word about political reform since then, nor has he put the weight of his office behind the Special Session legislation. Nevertheless, Doyle did as we requested by calling for the session.

The State Senate has made progress. Last week they passed SENATE BILL 171 known as the “Impartial Justice bill” that would provide 100% public financing to candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who limit their campaign spending to $400,000.The measure also provides some limited matching funds to Supreme Court candidates who are the targets of outside, special interest spending. The vote was an overwhelming and bipartisan 23 to10 margin in favor of Senate Bill 171.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Campaign Finance Reform, Rural Issues and Information Technology passed SENATE BILL 1, December 2007 Special Session the comprehensive reform plan that combines the “Ellis-Erpenbach bill” that provides sweeping reform of campaign finance laws dealing with legislative campaigns as well as statewide races with the so-called “Impartial Justice bill” that reforms state Supreme Court elections. It also passed separately SENATE BILL 12 , the bipartisan, comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation — which is the Ellis-Erpenbach Bill measure, first devised by Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) with CC/WI back in 1999. Senate Bill 12 is now in its fifth reincarnation. The committee also passed SENATE BILL 25 , a bipartisan measure that would ban campaign fundraising while the biennium state budget is under consideration. CC/WI first proposed this reform and had it introduced back in 1997.

Very early Wednesday morning, Assembly Democrats called for a “pulling motion” to bring the State Supreme Court campaign finance reform measure, Assembly Bill 250 — the identical Assembly version of Senate Bill 171, from the Assembly Committee on Elections where it is languishing, to the floor of the Assembly for a vote. This procedural motion failed on a largely party-line vote (with Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, a Democrat from Manitowoc and ardent foe of campaign finance reform, joining all the Republicans to block it). The roll call vote is here.

Assembly Bill 250/Senate Bill 171 still needs to get a public hearing in the Assembly Committee on Elections. So does Senate Bill 12. But the fate of campaign finance reform legislation is ultimately in the hands of Assembly Speaker Huebsch and Majority Leader Fitzgerald. If they want to move the legislation it could be brought to the floor of the Assembly next week. So it is up the Assembly G.O.P leadership. If they decide to sit on the reform legislation and thereby kill it, then they will be held responsible and will be held accountable. Huebsch thus far, has expressed opposition to any and all campaign finance reform — even for Supreme Court races which have deteriorated into a political cesspool. Listen to: CC/WI’s brief analysis: Public financing for Supreme Court races? ( Wisconsin Radio Network).

Meanwhile, Wisconsin newspapers are weighing in and calling for the Assembly to move on reform–specifically Senate Bill 171. Read these excellent editorials written in consultation with CC/WI: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Capital Times. and Editorial: Leibham wrong to oppose public funding of court races in The Sheboygan Press.

Your State Representative needs to hear from you! Tell them to support Senate Bill 171 and December 2007 Special Session Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 25! You can either call the Legislative Hotline (toll-free 800-362-9472 or 266-9960 in Madison ) or send an e-mail. E-mail addresses for members of the Assembly can be found here. If you aren’t sure who represents you in the Assembly, go here. We need to put the Assembly on notice that they cannot adjourn for 2008 without passing campaign finance reform. And make no mistake–if any and all of these reform measures were to be scheduled for a fair vote in the Assembly, they would pass.

If Huebsch and Fitzgerald begin to feel pressure from other members of the Assembly — particularly Republican members — they will be moved to act–unless they are as politically tone deaf as was the former Assembly Speaker, John Gard who then ran for Congress and lost. But all members of the Assembly need to hear from their constituents. CC/WI was able to persuade the Governor to elevate campaign finance reform by calling the Special Session. The State Senate has passed one measure and may move to pass others soon as well. But the Assembly has done nothing thus far. Please help us to change that!