'Public Telling' Draws Overflow Crowd

Top State Leaders’ Silence on Corruption, Political Reform Speaks Volumes

January 23, 2006

Madison - A standing-room-only crowd jammed a State Capitol hearing room today for a “public telling” by the People’s Legislature to shine the spotlight on political corruption in state government and challenge the state’s political leaders to answer pointed questions about the way the public’s business is being conducted and the need for political reforms.

The multipartisan citizen assembly heard impassioned testimony by national reform advocate Doris “Granny D” Haddock, retiring Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, legislative whistleblower Lyndee Woodliff and utility and UW watchdog Nino Amato. Then a parade of People’s Legislature members offered their own ideas and personal observations.

Photos of government leaders at the Public TellingThe session began with People’s Legislature members posing questions to photographs of Governor Jim Doyle, Assembly Speaker John Gard and Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz, all of whom declined to appear in person or answer the multipartisan citizen assembly’s questions in writing. Asking the questions were lifelong Republican Carol McKy, UW student Kelly Egan and citizen activists Carol Lobes, Judy Adrian and Joe McClain. (See picture at right.)

The likenesses of Doyle, Gard and Schultz were asked:

  1. Do you believe Wisconsin government is corrupt? If not, why not? If so, what are you going to do about it?
  2. What do you believe individuals and groups making large campaign contributions expect in return for their donations? Are they “paying to play?”
  3. According to the recent Wisconsin Policy Research Institute citizen survey, only 6 percent of state residents believe elected officials are representing them. Do you agree with the vast majority’s belief that Wisconsin citizens are not being represented by elected officials? If not, why not? If so, what will you do to restore public confidence in state leaders?
  4. Do you support campaign finance reform that includes public financing of state election campaigns and full disclosure of all electioneering activity and all political donations that restores the state’s ban on corporate campaign contributions? If not, why not? If so, what will you do to make it the law of the land?
  5. Specifically, do you support Assembly Bill 626, the bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation modeled after the systems already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently enacted in Connecticut? If so, what specific steps will you take to make sure it is enacted into law this session? If you do not support AB 626, on what grounds are you opposed?
  6. Nearly half of state legislative races are uncontested and all but a handful are uncompetitive. Do you support Assembly Joint Resolutions 22 and 41, which would move Wisconsin toward the establishment of more competitive elections through reform of legislative redistricting to end partisan gerrymandering? If you do not support either or both of these reform measures, what is the basis of your opposition? If you do support them, what will you do to make sure they are approved by both houses this session?

WDC Executive Director speaking“The silence of our state’s top political leaders speaks volumes,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe, one of the event’s organizers. “But these are questions that need answering and we are going to keep asking.”

People’s Legislature members from across the state were urged to replicate today’s public telling in their communities, posing the same questions to the state legislators representing those communities as well as candidates for the state senate and assembly. People’s Legislature organizers also are urging reporters, editors and editorial boards to ask similar questions when they interview state elected officials and candidates for state office for stories or editorial endorsements.

The first-of-its-kind public telling came just over a year after the People’s Legislature held its first statewide citizen assembly, which drew more than 1,100 people.