Is $50 Million Governor's Race in our Future?

In this update: 1. Price tag for governor’s office climbing 2. Proposed legislation would open up government 3. Regional reform alliance seeks to create strength in numbers Is $50 Million Governor's Race in our Future? 

Email date: 7/24/09

In this update:
1. Price tag for governor’s office climbing
2. Proposed legislation would open up government
3. Regional reform alliance seeks to create strength in numbers

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Price tag for governor’s office skyrocketing
The Democracy Campaign recently reported on record spending in 2008 state Assembly and Senate elections. What’s coming in 2010 will make that pale by comparison. If the exponential growth in spending in recent elections for governor is any indication of what the future holds, better brace yourself. In 1998, $8 million was spent in the governor’s race. In the next election for the state’s highest office in 2002, the overall cost of campaigning was $23 million. In 2006, spending reached $32 million.

If the past is indeed prologue, Wisconsin could be looking at a $40 million to $50 million contest for governor. The Democracy Campaign’s director talked with Milwaukee Public Radio earlier this week about what 2010 might hold. You can listen to the interview here.

One of the announced candidates, Republican Scott Walker, unwittingly put his finger on one of the fundamental political truths of our time when he enthused that raising $1.1 million in the first half of this year shows his campaign is "for real." It’s not ideas that make a candidate for real nowadays. It’s not qualifications. It’s not life experience. It’s fundraising ability, period.

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Legislative proposals aim to open up government
With signs pointing to action in September on initiatives like the Impartial Justice bill and electioneering disclosure reform, the chances of major campaign reform are better than they’ve been in at least 30 years.

There also are several less prominent reform proposals that deserve to be debated and voted on, including two that promote more open government. Assembly Bill 143 eliminates the exception to state open meetings laws for partisan caucuses in the Assembly and Senate. These strategy meetings, often held behind closed doors, are where much of the horse trading and arm twisting is done in the lawmaking process. For more on why AB 143 is needed, go here.

Assembly Bill 322 makes a key change in the law to make records showing the economic interests of state officials more accessible to the public. For more on this proposed reform, go here.

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Regional reform alliance seeks strength in numbers
A collection of reform groups in five Great Lakes states have banded together to form the Midwest Democracy Network in hopes of making a more muscular reform movement by taking advantage of economies of scale allowing work to be done that none of the member groups could accomplish alone. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a founding member and serves on the network’s five-member steering committee. A new video tells more of the story.