Coming Soon...The “Govern Without Public Support Act”

Email date: 5/28/13

In this update:
1. Soon-to-be-introduced legislation a sweeping assault on democracy
2. WDC research in the news
3. What’s lost in the IRS scandal
4. Did PBS abandon documentary in hopes of keeping big donor happy?

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Soon-to-be-introduced legislation a sweeping assault on democracy
Wisconsin once had some of the nation’s best protections against political corruption. These laws have grown hideously deformed by the hand of court rulings like the infamous 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, legislative acts like the 2011 repeal of the Impartial Justice Act and the 34-year-old public financing system for state elections, and lack of enforcement of what few rules remain.

Draft legislation that is being circulated among state lawmakers seeks to cement these deformities in place. If enacted, it would serve to thwart the expression of the public’s will by suppressing voting and ensuring that money power reigns supreme over people power. The proposal extends the war on voting by restricting early voting and resuscitating the discriminatory and unconstitutional policy of requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot. The legislation also institutionalizes the dark-money game in campaign finance by expressly legalizing corporate election spending in Wisconsin and by reinforcing the “magic words” loophole, thereby nullifying state disclosure rules closing that loophole that were approved in 2010.

This sweeping measure, which has not yet been formally introduced or assigned a bill number, does not stop there. It expands opportunities for lobbyists to make campaign donations, threatens the independence of the state Government Accountability Board by giving the governor greater ability to stack the GAB with sympathetic appointees, limits the citizenry’s power of recall, and much more.

If there’s any truth in advertising, this monstrosity will be named the “Govern Without Public Support Act.”

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WDC research in the news
The Democracy Campaign’s efforts to follow the money in Wisconsin politics have been making the news a lot lately. Our latest report on the growing influence of sand mining interests in state elections has been the subject of extensive newspaper, radio and television coverage. And new dimensions to the story are coming to the surface almost daily, like today’s reporting about the billionaire Koch brothers’ interest in Wisconsin’s sand.

The commercial radio news service Wisconsin News Connection today distributed a story to stations throughout the state based on the action we took three weeks ago after revelations that a national group pushing private school voucher programs underreported its election activities in Wisconsin by more than $2 million.

And the director of the money in politics program at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism last week penned a column inspired by our mid-April report about the sudden influx of money into Wisconsin elections from advocates of private school vouchers.

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What’s lost in the IRS scandal
As the independent nonprofit journalism center ProPublica reported recently, there’s a real scandal that has been obscured by the debris from the aftermath of revelations that the IRS gave applications for tax-exempt status from “tea party” and “patriot” groups special scrutiny. Such as why are political groups of any stripe exempt from paying taxes and why are all other taxpayers thus forced to subsidize these outfits’ efforts to influence American elections?

And why hasn’t the IRS cracked down on the ways groups are gaming the system to avoid having their exclusive focus on electioneering exposed? Such as the shape-shifting being done on the national level by groups devoted to influencing federal elections, a phenomenon the Democracy Campaign has shined light on at the state level here in Wisconsin.

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Did PBS abandon documentary in hopes of keeping big donor happy?
The latest post on our Big Money Blog focuses on the story behind public television’s self-censorship in a case involving one very conspicuous billionaire who has donated $23 million to PBS and is a subject of a documentary film that PBS had committed to funding and airing.