Coalition Urges Senate to Reject ‘More Big Money in Politics’ Bill

Legislation Doubles Contribution Limits to Wisconsin Political Campaigns

September 5, 2013

A statewide coalition of 15 citizen and public interest organizations including the Democracy Campaign is calling on the state Senate to reject Assembly Bill 225, a measure that would double campaign contributions limits in Wisconsin and allow big money to further drown out the voices of state voters.

As amended and passed by the state Assembly, AB 225 would increase individual contribution limits for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, state superintendent and Supreme Court justice from $10,000 to $20,000; for state senate from $1,000 to $2,000; and for state assembly from $500 to $1,000. Some have lauded this bill because it contains a provision to implement an online registration system, but this provision comes nowhere close to making this bill worth passing.

Groups signing the letter include Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, WISPIRG, Wisconsin Business Alliance, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, United Wisconsin, Menomonie Move to Amend, Move To Amend Rock River (Jefferson and Walworth County), South Central Move to Amend, Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens, Madison Area Urban Ministry, People for the American Way, Door County Environmental Council, Progressive Dane and Southwest Wisconsin Area Progressives.

“This legislation couldn’t be more out of touch with what the people want – citizens of every political stripe believe money is playing too great a role in our elections. This bill takes the position that there is not enough money in politics and even larger contributions are needed,” Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe said.

In 2010 the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed a new era of unprecedented spending on our elections. Election spending in Wisconsin has tripled since the Citizens United decision. Increasing contribution limits will only worsen this problem.

“This bill embraces big money donors drowning our political process with more big money contributions,” WISPIRG director Bruce Speight said. “Our democracy should be of, by and for the people – not of, by and for big money donors.”

Already, wealthy contributors and big money contributions are increasingly drowning out the voices of average voters. Just 32 billionaires and corporations giving an average of $9.9 million apiece matched the money 3.7 million small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns combined for the 2012 presidential election. If money equals speech as the U.S. Supreme Court currently believes, then those 32 megadonors spoke with more than 115,000 times the volume of the millions of small donors.

In July, the Money Out, Voters In coalition of 32 organizations committed to the principle of “one person, one vote” joined with a bipartisan group of 35 state legislators to introduce Assembly Joint Resolution 50, which would allow the voters of Wisconsin to have their say on whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

“Before allowing more big money in politics, state legislators should support Assembly Joint Resolution 50 and let the people of Wisconsin decide through statewide referendum whether that is the democracy that ‘we the people’ want,” Speight said.

The letter signers strongly encouraged state leaders to endorse measures that protect our democracy by empowering the average citizen, while reducing the corrosive influence of big money, including Republican U.S. Representative Tom Petri’s proposal to reinstate a $50 federal tax credit for campaign contributions, a program that would boost public participation in the campaign finance process, the use of matching public funds to encourage state level candidates to depend on small donations from their constituents and not wealthy out-of-state interests, and lowering the donation limit to $100, a level that all citizens—not just the wealthy few—can realistically afford.

Coalition Letter