Senate Poised to Act on Reform

In this update: 1. Senate Committee urged at public hearing to act swiftly on reform 2. Impartial Justice bill clears procedural hurdle, ready for vote in Senate Senate Poised to Act on Reform

Email date: 2/12/08

In this update:
1. Senate Committee urged at public hearing to act swiftly on reform
2. Impartial Justice bill clears procedural hurdle, ready for vote in Senate

The Democracy Campaign testified in favor of four reform bills at a public hearing in a Senate committee today. To read our testimony, go here.

Reform supporters were well represented at this morning’s hearing. Opponents mostly stayed away. Wisconsin Right to Life did send the committee a memo, however. The group makes a number of inflammatory - and false - statements about the proposed legislation, including the claim that groups such as WRTL would be banned from sponsoring advertising that mentions a candidate for state office and could face prison terms for doing so.

This is patently untrue. The proposed legislation does not prohibit any advertising and does not censor any message in any way. It does require interest groups to play by the same rules as candidates and all other participants in elections if they sponsor ads that aim to influence the outcome of an election. They are required to tell the public who they are, where their money comes from and how much they are spending. For ads that identify a candidate but focus on issues and don’t try to convince voters to support or oppose the candidate, groups are free to use corporate treasury funds that cannot legally be used for political purposes in Wisconsin under a state law that dates all the way back to 1906.

The electioneering disclosure language comes straight from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June in the case brought by Wisconsin Right to Life challenging the federal McCain-Feingold campaign reform law.

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The WDC-backed Impartial Justice bill (SB 171) was withdrawn from the Joint Finance Committee yesterday, clearing the way for the judicial reform plan to be scheduled for a vote in the full Senate. It was approved by a Senate committee last May but had been languishing in the finance committee since late October.