Rally Against Court Ruling & New Report on Fundraising

In this update: 1. Hundreds protest Supreme Court ruling on election financing 2. State legislative fundraising declines 3. Take action to overrule the court 4. “Making Change Happen” theme of grassroots festival Saturday 5. Loan sharks dodge interest rate cap in Assembly Rally Against Court Ruling & New Report on Fundraising

Email date: 2/17/10

In this update:
1. Hundreds protest Supreme Court ruling on election financing
2. State legislative fundraising declines
3. Take action to overrule the court
4. “Making Change Happen” theme of grassroots festival Saturday
5. Loan sharks dodge interest rate cap in Assembly

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Hundreds protest Supreme Court ruling on election financing
Despite sub-freezing temperatures and biting winds, several hundred people turned out yesterday for the March to Overrule the Court to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and call on lawmakers to take action to counteract the effects of the ruling. More on this in item 3, but first some breaking news today. . . .

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State legislative fundraising declines
The Democracy Campaign issued a report today summarizing recent campaign finance filings showing that fundraising by state legislators in 2009 was 25% lower than two years ago in the comparable 2007 non-election year. The decline is due to the ban on fundraising during the state budget process that was put in place by the state Assembly, a reform long sought by the Democracy Campaign.

When the rule banning budget-season fundraising was approved a year ago, skeptics openly doubted that it would prove effective, predicting that lawmakers would find ways around the ban and that fundraising would continue to increase. Didn’t happen. The amount raised by legislators in the first half of the year was the lowest in 10 years. Naysayers then predicted that legislators would make up for lost fundraising time and compensate for the effects of the ban by gathering up IOUs from special interest donors and then calling in those promised donations as soon as the budget process was concluded. As today’s report shows, that didn’t happen either.

Some suggest that the poor economy is behind the drop in campaign contributions. The evidence does not support that conclusion, however. What happened to state legislative fundraising in Wisconsin is not consistent with what is happening to political spending nationally, where special interest spending on lobbying was way up in 2009 and unprecedented fundraising was done by House and Senate hopefuls at the congressional level as well.

For audio commentary about our findings, check out our podcast here.

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Take action to overrule the court
After rallying on the steps of the Capitol and marching to the nearby federal courthouse, participants in yesterday”s demonstration then returned to the Capitol and delivered statements in support of reform legislation aimed at closing the single biggest loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, removing the cloak from special interest groups that sponsor campaign advertisements and making those interests stand by their ads.

You can add your voice to those who paid visits to their legislators yesterday. To take action, go here.

To see some photos and video of our event, go here. There are also two videos posted on YouTube, a short version and a longer one that includes footage of the march to the courthouse. To check out Wisconsin Radio Network’s coverage, go here. Wisconsin Public Radio’s coverage is here. And WisconsinEye, the state-level equivalent of C-SPAN, was there too.

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“Making Change Happen” theme of grassroots festival Saturday
Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe will be among the featured speakers at the Wisconsin River Valley Grassroots Festival this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wisconsin Heights High School on Highway 14 between Black Earth and Mazomanie.

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Loan sharks dodge interest rate cap in Assembly
The state Assembly passed legislation yesterday dealing with the payday loan industry, which currently is totally unregulated in Wisconsin. Notably absent from the Assembly bill is any limit on the interest rates that can be charged in these transactions, leading one public interest advocate to call the measure an “industry bill.” The legislation now moves to the Senate.

Speaking of industry bills, AT&T is at it again. After helping to write and then heavily lobbying for the so-called “Video Competition Act” deregulating cable television, the company is now working behind the scenes to do the same thing on phone service.