Statement of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
on campaign finance reform legislation
Senate Bill 12
March 3, 2004
The new version of Senate Bill 12 is no compromise, and it is not reform. The original SB 12 was bipartisan, something any sincere and meaningful effort at reform must be. The new version is not. The new SB 12 also fails an even more important test. The wealthy special interests who control our government had good reason to fear the original version of the bill. They love the new one.
No wonder. The original Senate Bill 12 prohibited corporate contributions to influence state election campaigns. Under the new SB 12, unlimited corporate contributions are permitted.
Senate Bill 12 as it was originally written put strict limits on contributions from special interest conduit committees. The new SB 12 allows unlimited contributions from conduits.
The original SB 12 was devoted to full disclosure of all election-related activities, including the source of all campaign contributions made to influence elections. The new SB 12 keeps the public in the dark about the source of "soft money" donations that amounted to an estimated $4 million in 2002 and will most assuredly surpass that amount in future elections. Despite an unambiguous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that soft money may be regulated, the new bill goes to extreme lengths to protect this gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws - even to the point of expressly prohibiting the state Elections Board from adopting rules requiring full disclosure of this special interest money.
SB 12 in its original form guaranteed that candidates who agree to limit their campaign spending would receive public grants enabling them to communicate with voters without taking out a second mortgage on their souls. The new SB 12 removes this guarantee, ensuring that full grants will not be made available to candidates and leaving them with no choice but to continue to grovel before the wealthy special interests for financial support.
The new version of SB 12 allows the behavior that has brought scandal and shame to the Capitol and resulted in criminal indictments of leading lawmakers to continue unabated.
The Legislature should pass the real Senate Bill 12, not this phony facsimile.