Lawmakers Work Little, Fundraise A lot

In this update: 1. Legislators rarely met in session, but held boatload of fundraisers in ’07 2. Assembly leaders employing run-out-the-clock strategy Lawmakers Work Little, Fundraise A lot

Email date: 2/20/08

In this update:
1. Legislators rarely met in session, but held boatload of fundraisers in ’07
2. Assembly leaders employing run-out-the-clock strategy

Wisconsin legislators raised more campaign money in 2007 than any previous non-election year, a new Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

State lawmakers met in session to do the public’s business an average of about once every three weeks last year, but held campaign fundraisers just about every other day. They were four months late in passing a state budget and did nothing of note after that, but busied themselves collecting a record $3.9 million in campaign contributions.

If ever there is further need for evidence of why legislation banning campaign fundraising during the budget process should be promptly enacted into law, look no further than the numbers in today’s report.

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Now that state Supreme Court races in Wisconsin have come to eerily resemble John Grisham’s new novel, the case for the Impartial Justice bill has become clear. But those who don’t want to see it become law are saying there’s not enough time to get this done before the Legislature adjourns.

This is the lamest of lame excuses. Legislative leaders did indeed establish a calendar that has both houses wrapping up their regular business several weeks earlier than last session. In the 2005-2006 session, the last floor period dealing with regular legislative business ended on May 4. The last floor period for regular business in the 2007-2008 session is scheduled to end on March 13.

But March 13 is by no means a deadline for dealing with campaign finance reforms such as the Impartial Justice bill. A special session of the Legislature on campaign finance reform has been convened, and this session can continue through the end of the year if necessary. The bottom line is that there is plenty of time to act on Impartial Justice and other campaign reforms. If the Legislature does not act it will be because of a lack of political will, not a lack of time.

Impartial Justice has broad bipartisan support, as evidenced by yesterday’s 23-10 vote in the Senate. The margin would have been even wider if three Senate Republicans - Alan Lasee, Carol Roessler and Robert Cowles - who voted for Impartial Justice the last time it came to a vote in the Senate back in 2000 had not flip-flopped and voted against it this time.

If Assembly leaders allow a vote on the bill, it will pass. But even though a former Republican Assembly speaker - Supreme Court Justice David Prosser - has joined all six of his high court colleagues in calling for this kind of reform, the current Assembly speaker seems bent on running out the clock.

Take action. And please forward this message to friends, neighbors or co-workers and ask them to take action too.

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