‘Impartial Justice’ Measure Passes Senate 23-10

For Release: February 19, 2008

Contact: Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

‘Impartial Justice’ Measure Passes Senate 23-10

Campaign finance reform in Wisconsin took a big step forward this afternoon when the Wisconsin State Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 171, a measure that would provide 100 percent public financing to candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who voluntarily agreed to abide by spending limits of $400,000 and who would also be eligible to received limited matching funds if they are the targets of outside special interest group campaign spending.

The margin was impressive: 23 to 10 with five Republican Senators joining all 18 Senate Democrats to support the so-called “Impartial Justice” legislation despite the active opposition of powerful special interest groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 171, got it exactly right in his statement today:when he said, “When you have the two biggest bullies on the playground united agaiinst a reform like this, you know you’re on the right track.”

Wisconsin Right to Life and other special interest groups were also fiercely opposed to the measure because they do not want an independent, impartial Supreme Court — or Legislature or Governor for that matter.

Senator Sheila Harsdorf ( R-River Falls ), a strong and consistent supporter of campaign finance reform over the years said today: “Ensuring the integrity and independence of our State Supreme Court is imperative. It should be clear that justices are accountable to the citizens of Wisconsin .” Amen. Enactment of Senate Bill 171 would make that happen.

Here is the final roll call on passage of Senate Bill 171 today:

FOR: Roger Breske (D-Eland), Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee), Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Russ Decker (D-Schofield), Michael Ellis (R-Neenah). Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), John Lehman (D-Racine), Mark Miller (D-Monona), Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), Jell Plale (D-South Milwaukee), Fred Risser (D-Madison), Judy Robson (D-Beloit), Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa), Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), Bob Wirch (D-Pleasan Prairie).

AGAINST: Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield), Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse), Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), Alan Lasee (R-DePere), Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) and Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh).

The votes against Senate Bill 171 by Senators Cowles, Kapanke and Lasee were particularly disappointing as all three had been very supportive of campaign finance reform in the past. On the other hand, the vote for the measure by Senator Darling was significant as she had been opposed to many campaign finance reform measures in the past. Senator Olsen has emerged now as a strong Republican supporter of campaign finance reform which is gratifying.

This was a significant victory that ought to provide momentum and a great deal of pressure on the leadership of the State Assembly to quickly call a public hearing and then a vote on Senate Bill 171 in that chamber.