“527s” Clean Up in Wisconsin

In this update: 1. Wisconsin donors give record amounts to Astroturf groups 2. National voices join chorus in favor of Impartial Justice 3. Senate committee to vote on six WDC-backed reform bills Thursday 4. Obama dominated TV airwaves before Wisconsin primary “527s” Clean Up in Wisconsin

Email date: 2/26/08

In this update:
1. Wisconsin donors give record amounts to Astroturf groups
2. National voices join chorus in favor of Impartial Justice
3. Senate committee to vote on six WDC-backed reform bills Thursday
4. Obama dominated TV airwaves before Wisconsin primary

An elite cadre of Wisconsin political donors gave a record $1 million in 2007 to so-called "527" groups, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code under which they are organized, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Fans of these shadowy outfits like to claim that they are grassroots citizen groups providing voters with one-stop shopping when they are looking for ways to support candidates they favor. In reality, 527s provide elite donors with a way to give more than they legally can give directly to candidates. Evidence of how they are hardly reaching out to the masses can be found in the numbers in the report the Democracy Campaign issued today. A grand total of 302 Wisconsin donors gave to these groups in 2007 and 17 of them gave $859,130 – or 85% of the total contributions.

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Yesterday three national groups held a Capitol press conference to speak out in favor of publicly financed state Supreme Court races in Wisconsin. The groups included the Committee for Economic Development, a national business group with a supporter list that reads like a who’s who of corporate America. CED’s presence reinforced questions Dave Zweifel raised about whether Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce speaks for a united business community in its attack ads in high court races and its opposition to reforming Supreme Court elections.

These national voices join an in-state chorus calling for the Assembly to act on the Impartial Justice bill, including a flurry of editorials in newspapers like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wausau Daily Herald and The Capital Times.

A blog we posted last Friday added to the list of reasons why reform of the way Supreme Court justices are selected is so sorely needed. It seems the people behind the Swift Boat smear tactics are involved in this year’s high court race in Wisconsin.

The descent of judicial politics into the gutter is making some wonder aloud whether Wisconsin should do away with court elections altogether. A commentary by the Democracy Campaign’s director in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal says not so fast. (Blog post equivalent.)

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A state Senate committee has scheduled a vote for Thursday on a half dozen reform bills supported by the Democracy Campaign. On the committee’s agenda are Special Session Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 12, Senate Bill 25, Senate Bill 160, Senate Bill 182 and Senate Bill 463.

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Presidential candidates spent more than $2 million to air TV ads over 8,000 times leading up to Wisconsin’s February 19 primary election, a report by the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project shows. The biggest spender by a long shot was Senator Barack Obama, who won the Democratic primary going away.