A Win in the Senate, a Setback in the Assembly

In this update: 1. Senate unanimously passes electioneering disclosure bill 2. Assembly committee rejects budget-season fundraising ban 3. ’Statehouse Crock’ airing on YouTube 4. Money trumping public’s wishes on issue after issue 5. Ohio Supreme Court chief justice urges Wisconsin reform A Win in the Senate, a Setback in the Assembly

Email date: 3/6/08

In this update:
1. Senate unanimously passes electioneering disclosure bill
2. Assembly committee rejects budget-season fundraising ban
3. ’Statehouse Crock’ airing on YouTube
4. Money trumping public’s wishes on issue after issue
5. Ohio Supreme Court chief justice urges Wisconsin reform

The state Senate today gave unanimous approval to Senate Bill 463, a bipartisan plan to close a gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws that has led to the formation of a massive underground political economy. At least $15 million passed through this pipeline and was spent secretly by special interest groups to influence state elections in 2006, and at least another $3 million was spent in a way that sidestepped both disclosure requirements and campaign contribution limits in the April 2007 state Supreme Court race.

As is the case with the Senate-passed Impartial Justice bill that overhauls the way Supreme Court races are financed, the fate of SB 463 now rests with the state Assembly. Republicans who control the Assembly frequently voice their opposition to public financing of election campaigns and emphasize their belief that all that is needed in the way of campaign reform is full disclosure of the money in politics. Their sincerity on disclosure is about to be tested. The loophole that SB 463 closes has made a mockery of our state’s campaign finance disclosure laws. If Assembly Republicans now refuse to act on SB 463, they will have proven themselves to be colossal hypocrites on this issue.

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Another reform the Democracy Campaign supports - a ban on campaign fundraising during the state budget process - already has been approved by a state Senate committee and today was voted on in the Assembly Elections and Constitutional Law Committee. The committee rejected Assembly Bill 61 on a party-line 5-3 vote. Although AB 61’s lead Assembly sponsor is Republican Representative Mark Gottlieb and the bill is co-sponsored by the committee’s GOP chair Sheryl Albers, all of the Republicans on the committee voted against the measure, including Albers who voted against her own bill.

Joining Albers in shooting down AB 61 were Representatives Robin Vos, Phil Montgomery, Bill Kramer and Jim Ott. Voting for the fundraising ban were Democrats Frederick Kessler, Annette Polly Williams and Louis Molepske.

The full Assembly voted last week to thwart an attempt to pull AB 61 from committee and bring it up for a vote. The 50-47 vote to keep the bill bottled up in committee followed party lines.

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The Democracy Campaign’s "Statehouse Crock " video is now airing on YouTube. YouTube viewers can rate it, comment on it and share it with others. And for those with Web sites and blogs of their own, YouTube allows you to embed the video directly on your site.

Check it out. Oh yes, "Statehouse Crock" made the paper too.

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You would think that politicians of every stripe could find common ground on the issue of insurance for autistic children. Think again. A Big Money Blog posted yesterday sheds light on why state lawmakers can’t even agree on this.

Autistic kids are in the same boat as public health advocates pushing for a statewide ban on smoking in public places and environmentalists trying to prevent the draining of the Great Lakes and reformers who want the Supreme Court rescued from growing partisan and special interest influence.

This is why the People’s Legislature is assembling again next Thursday at the Capitol. Please join us. And if you can’t make it, find someone to go in your place.

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A new voice has chimed in on the topic of rescuing our Supreme Court from growing partisan and special interest influence. But this is not just any voice. It belongs to Ohio’s Supreme Court chief justice, a Republican, who has written a commentary about how Wisconsin still has an opportunity to head off at the pass problems that are increasingly plaguing courts across the country.