Taking the Right Road to Reform

In this update: 1. The right way for special session on reform to proceed 2. Anti-reform message gets stale 3. National poll says ethics issue may decide congressional elections Taking the Right Road to Reform

Email date: 12/5/07

In this update:
1. The right way for special session on reform to proceed
2. Anti-reform message gets stale
3. National poll says ethics issue may decide congressional elections

The special legislative session on campaign finance reform doesn’t begin until next Tuesday, but already some are suggesting the session is off to a slow start. What’s likely behind this perception is the expectation that the Legislature can and should be ready to vote on reform legislation next Tuesday. That is most assuredly not the way the special session should unfold.

What should happen is the reform plan the governor is asking the Legislature to consider should be ready to be formally introduced. But once the plan is put on the table, the public should be given an opportunity to see it and become familiar with what’s in it. Citizens also should be given the chance to provide feedback at a public hearing.

It is not reasonable or acceptable to expect the Senate or Assembly to vote on reform next Tuesday or anytime next week. That would be a sure recipe for keeping the public in the dark and cutting citizens out of the process. What is reasonable to expect is that legislators spell out by next Tuesday how the special session will be conducted and outline a schedule for public hearings and legislative action. What’s also reasonable to expect is that the special session conclude by the end of January.

It’s clear that legislators were caught off guard by the governor’s surprise announcement last Friday. But in the end what counts is how lawmakers respond to this challenge and ho w the governor works with legislators to bring the special session to a successful conclusion. Please take a few minutes to contact both the governor and your legislators to implore them to reach agreement on strong reform measures . . . and do it in full view of the public with plenty of citizen input. To take action, go here.

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In our last E-Lert, we said everyone should expect to hear anti-reform politicians disparage proposals to publicly finance state election campaigns with bumper sticker slogans like "welfare for politicians" and "socialized campaigning." On cue, the shots rang out. The first volley came from a legislator who’s famous for proposing that all teachers be armed and that all state funding for the UW Law School be eliminated. His broadside was quickly followed by another from a right-wing blogger.

What never ceases to amaze is how defenders of the corrupt status quo stick to the same tired old script, no matter how nakedly hypocritical their argument is.

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We’ve previously pointed to the latest state polling showing that the approval rating of the Legislature is in a freefall, dropping 18 percentage points just since this spring. A big reason is that when the pollsters asked state residents to identify the biggest problem facing Wisconsin, the second most common answer was government ethics and politics.

The growing concern over political corruption is not limited to Wisconsin. A national Rasmussen poll on what the biggest issues will be in the 2008 congressional elections shows government ethics and corruption is at the top of the public’s list.