Gutter Politics in High Court Race Prompts Calls for Reform

In this update: 1. Trashy new ads unleashed, retiring Supreme Court justice calls for reform 2. Freshmen lawmakers propose truth-in-campaigning legislation 3. State’s largest newspaper issues plea for redistricting reform 4. National bill mill behind AT&T-backed cable TV scheme Gutter Politics in High Court Race Prompts Calls for Reform

Email date: 3/29/07

In this update:
1. Trashy new ads unleashed, retiring Supreme Court justice calls for reform
2. Freshmen lawmakers propose truth-in-campaigning legislation
3. State’s largest newspaper issues plea for redistricting reform
4. National bill mill behind AT&T-backed cable TV scheme

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race has been pockmarked by TV ads featuring everything from howling werewolves to charges of softness on sex crimes. As hard to believe as it seems, the campaigns seem poised to take a turn for the worse in the final days leading up to the April 3 election as a flurry of new negative ads began airing.

The smear campaigning and heavy involvement of special interest groups and partisan operatives in the race became too much to stomach for the sitting justice who Linda Clifford and Annette Ziegler are bidding to replace on the state’s highest court. Retiring Justice Jon Wilcox yesterday called for reform of the way judicial races are financed.

______________________________________________________________

Wilcox was not alone in proposing reform yesterday. Nine freshman members of the state Assembly announced they are introducing legislation to close a gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws that interest groups exploit to engage in electioneering under a cloak of secrecy and skirt longstanding state laws restricting campaign contributions.

Support is clearly building for this kind of truth-in-campaigning reform aimed at ensuring full disclosure of all election related activities. Even Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch says he now is open to it. This is significant because the Senate has previously passed legislation to close the disclosure law loophole, only to have it blocked in the Assembly.

______________________________________________________________

Last Sunday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel again highlighted another area in dire need of reforming - the way state legislative and congressional districts are drawn.

Along with truth in campaigning, more competitive elections through the creation of tamper-proof voting districts is among the five reform steps the Democracy Campaign recommended in 2004 in its Power to the Voter agenda.

______________________________________________________________

Thanks to a contentious public hearing this week, some light is finally being shined on a controversial cable TV bill being pushed by telecommunications giant AT&T.

There’s much more to the story of this bill’s origins, and that’s the subject of our latest Big Money Blog.