WISCONSINREPORT.COM (12/1/07) - Governor Jim Doyle has issued a call for a Special Session of the Wisconsin Legislature to take up campaign finance reform. The Special Session is set to convene on December 11th. The Governor is basically calling for the enactment of the bipartisan Ellis-Erpenbach legislation, Senate Bill 12, with a few "tweaks." The Common Cause organization supports both Governor Doyle's decision to call the Special Session, and, the bill itself.
Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI), which has been calling for this to occur for months, congratulates the Governor for taking this forceful action and we are grateful to him for listening. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature during the weeks ahead to secure the first major reform of Wisconsin's broken campaign finance laws since their enactment in the late 1970's.
Here are the major components of Senate Bill 12:
- Increases the current and inadequate $1 check off for public financing on the state income tax form to $5 with a partisan option to make checking off the money more attractive. (It would not increase tax liability or decrease the refund by $5)
- Creates an additional source of public funding for candidates through the creation of a Public Integrity Endowment (PIE) to be set up and administered through the State Elections Board. Individuals, unions, corporations, foundations and anyone else interested in cleaning up state government could contribute to the PIE and be eligible for a 100 percent tax credit. (There is currently no additional source of public funding--only the $1 check off).
- Provides candidates with increased funding for public grants if they agree to abide by revised spending limits ($4 Million – Governor; $700,000 – Attorney General; $150,000 – State Senate; $75,000 – State Assembly) and provides complying candidates with additional public funding equal to the amount over the spending limit that their non-complying opponent spends--up to three times the spending limit. (There is currently no such provision in place).
- Provides candidates who are the targets of outside spending by independent expenditure groups or those who run so-called "issue ads" (that depict a candidate 60 days or less before the general election or 30 days or less before the primary) with public funding matches -- up to three times the spending limit. (There is currently no such provision in place).
- Provides General Purpose Revenue from the General Treasury to be utilized to fully fund candidate and matching grants for the amount not covered by revenue generated by the income tax check off and the PIE.
- Requires the disclosure by issue ad groups of how much they are spending and who the donors to the organization are. (Currently no disclosure whatsoever is required of these groups).
- Requires that the funds used by issue ad groups for widely disseminated communications made 60 days prior to the general election and 30 days prior to the primary election come from regulated sources with limits. (Currently issue ad groups can utilize unlimited amounts of undisclosed money from virtually any source).
- Prohibits campaign fund-raising by legislators and statewide elected officials from the date the biennial state budget is introduced until it is enacted into law. (Currently fund raising is rampant during the budget period).
- Abolishes legislative campaign committees, which legislative leaders have utilized to decrease the independence of legislators and which have created, at the very least, the appearance of corruption through the solicitation for campaign contributions in return for the consideration of pending legislation. (Currently, LCCs collect hundreds of thousands of dollars of special interest money).
Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton applauds Governor Doyle's leadership in calling the legislature into special session to address meaningful campaign finance reform.
"I share that determination to improve Wisconsin’s system of financing campaigns. We
must ensure public confidence in clean elections and clean government at every level," Lt. Governor Lawton says.
"The governor rightly puts at the top of his agenda provisions to fully fund campaigns for
the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and includes a request for an outright ban on fundraising
by incumbents and challengers alike during the budget process," Lawton continued.
"I ask the legislature, in their thoughtful deliberation, to aim high – aim to strike a balance between the need for candidates and political organizations to communicate effectively with voters, and the need for our elections to embody the fundamental principle of political equality that underlies our constitution. I ask the legislature to support clean elections with full public financing of campaigns for the Supreme Court and for all constitutional and legislative races," Lt. Governor Lawton stated.
"Governor Doyle gives us an opportunity to restore our status as a leader of all states in clean government. The good people of Wisconsin deserve it: take advantage of this
opportunity for all of us to check our partisan histories at the door and pass meaningful campaign finance reform that puts our state’s citizens first. It will be a proud legacy,” Lawton pointed out.