Kids Making Big Campaign Donations

In this update: 1. Students give big to state campaigns 2. Budget deal finally reached . . . action needed to prevent repeat performance 3. Court ethics, politics in the spotlight 4. New feature on wisdc.org focuses on your right to know 5. Stop big media Kids Making Big Campaign Donations

Email date: 10/22/07

In this update:
1. Students give big to state campaigns
2. Budget deal finally reached . . . action needed to prevent repeat performance
3. Court ethics, politics in the spotlight
4. New feature on wisdc.org focuses on your right to know
5. Stop big media

The financial struggles of many students living on ramen noodles and Kraft mac and cheese must be alien to the few dozen kids who are making astonishly large campaign contributions to candidates for state office. A report issued by the Democracy Campaign today shows these contributors identified as students have given more than $86,000 to candidates for statewide office and the legislature over the last five and a half years.

Many of the donations were made on or around the same day as large donations made by a parent. The contributions were often the same or similar amount and were made to the same candidate. Curiously, more than a third of the 31 students who contributed $1,000 or more made their donations after one or both of their parents reached the legal limit on donations to a candidate.

This suspicious pattern of giving raises questions about whether wealthy donors are funneling money to children to get around the law limiting campaign donations, something Kenosha businessman and former casino developer Dennis Troha was accused of doing in a federal indictment handed down earlier this year. Troha ultimately pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of exceeding campaign contribution limits.

State law prohibits making contributions in the name of another person or reimbursing someone for making campaign contributions.

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The agreement in principle on a new state budget reached by the legislative leaders and the governor will soon go to the full Legislature for approval. Now that it appears the budget stalemate is finally about to end, attention should shift to preventing a repeat performance. A commentary by the Democracy Campaign’s director published in several state newspapers last week offers some suggestions for reforming the budget process.

Attention also should shift to the promise the governor made to call the Legislature into special session this fall to act on campaign finance reforms. Take action today to remind the governor of his promise and urge him to keep it.

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Responding to a three-judge Judicial Conduct Panel, the state Judicial Commission says Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler’s misconduct showed "inexcusable neglect." Blogger Cory Liebmann makes a compelling case that Ziegler was more than just neglectful.

The Judicial Commission continues to cleave to precedent and defend its recommended reprimand for Ziegler. In a commentary published in the Wausau Daily Herald last week, the Democracy Campaign’s director makes the point that it’s strange to try to apply precedent to an unprecedented situation and counts the ways the process for determining Ziegler’s punishment has left much to be desired.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson went public recently with her misgivings about increasingly politicized and pricey campaigns for seats on the high court, and repeated her call for judicial campaign reforms to maintain "public trust and confidence in the judiciary."

Reform will have to come quickly to salvage the next Supreme Court race. Signs of partisanship in the supposedly nonpartisan election are already starting to emerge, as a recent Big Money Blog pointed out.

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The newest feature of the Democracy Campaign’s Web site is a section called Your Right to Know. It focuses on the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting and defending access to public records and public meetings so citizens have the information they are entitled to in a free and democratic society. Democracy Campaign research director Michael Buelow is a member of the council.

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The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has hatched plans to push through new rules removing longstanding protections preventing undue consolidation of media ownership, and he’s been keeping his plans a secret. To take action to stop the FCC from making decisions behind closed doors and stop big media, go here.

To see what’s at stake and have fun seeing it, go here.

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Legendary farm labor organizer Cesar Chavez said "the only way I know how to organize people is to talk to one person, then talk to another person, then talk to another person." Please take this American hero’s advice and help us spread the word.