Another Hill to Climb

In this update: 1. With court election reform done, closing "issue ad" loophole is next 2. Campaign contributions and the cable TV con 3. Groups ask to amend judicial ethics rules they wrote Another Hill to Climb 

Email date: 12/4/09

In this update:
1. With court election reform done, closing "issue ad" loophole is next
2. Campaign contributions and the cable TV con
3. Groups ask to amend judicial ethics rules they wrote

______________________________________________________________

With court election reform done, closing "issue ad" loophole is next
After calling it the Impartial Justice bill for the last decade, it’ll no doubt take awhile to get used to saying Impartial Justice Act. Or, officially speaking, 2009 Wisconsin Act 89.

With the bill’s signing on Tuesday, Wisconsin took an important step toward cleaning up state Supreme Court elections. Candidates for the high court will be able to seek this office without having to raise large sums of private special interest money to do so. And along with the basic public grants they will receive to pay for campaign expenses, they will be eligible for additional funds if the political action committees (PACs) run by interest groups make independent expenditures against them.

While that goes a long way toward cleansing Supreme Court elections, it does not solve every problem plaguing these contests. The Impartial Justice Act will be even more effective if state lawmakers act to close the "issue ad" loophole special interest groups use to secretly spend unlimited amounts of money to influence state elections.

If this loophole is closed, issue ad groups would have to fully disclose their activity and abide by limitations on campaign contributions as candidates and registered PACs must do. And publicly financed Supreme Court candidates would receive additional public funds to combat these special interest attacks under the Impartial Justice Act.

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to make this happen, and committees in both houses have approved it, setting the stage for floor debate and final votes in the Senate and Assembly. During last month’s debate on the Impartial Justice bill, Senate leader Russ Decker promised that his house would take up this reform after the first of the year. Decker also issued a statement at the beginning of the year pledging action on the legislation.

The gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance regulations allowing wealthy interests to operate outside the law has become the single greatest ill in our elections. The votes are there to cure this ailment. In the coming days and weeks, state lawmakers need to hear from citizens about the importance of keeping their promise to deal with this problem. To take action, go here.

______________________________________________________________

Campaign contributions and the cable TV con
When AT&T and other cable TV interests pushed for deregulation legislation they dubbed the "Video Competition Act" in 2007, a central feature of their pitch was that enactment of their bill would lead to lower cable TV rates. It hasn’t happened. Cable rates keep going up, as does the amount of campaign contributions from the industry to state officials who supported the legislation. That’s the subject of a post yesterday by WDC’s research director on our Big Money Blog.

______________________________________________________________

Groups ask to amend judicial ethics rules they wrote
In late October the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved ethics rules written by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association allowing judges to rule on cases involving their biggest campaign supporters. Now the groups would like to amend the rules they wrote. The high court has scheduled an "open administrative conference" to consider the groups’ request for Monday at 2 p.m.