Investing in Goofy Ideas

At a public hearing earlier this year, a state senator called me a "goof" for doing what I do nearly every day. Investing in Goofy Ideas

Email date: 3/27/12

At a public hearing earlier this year, a state senator called me a “goof” for doing what I do nearly every day.

I’ve been called much worse. But what did the senator think is so goofy? Tracking the money in Wisconsin politics. And opposing legislation that would blind voters to the financial interests of campaign donors.

We won that fight. Our efforts to block this assault on the public’s right to know were successful. The anti-disclosure bill died when the Legislature adjourned the week before last.

We need your help to win more fights like this one. They take time. They take people power. They cost money. We need you to support goofy ideas like full disclosure of political contributions.

In honoring the Democracy Campaign as “Citizen Openness Advocate of the Year” for 2012, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists had this to say about us:

“No one has done more than this nonpartisan watchdog group to hold public officials accountable by demanding transparency, not only in campaign financing but in the operations of government, and no one has taken more heat for it, especially this year. Special mention goes to the group’s opposition to a bill...that would in most cases end the requirement that political donors identify their primary employer.”

The Capital Times recently counted the Democracy Campaign among the country’s “premier campaign finance reform watchdog groups” and said we operate “one of the best state-based money-tracking databases in the nation.”

Building that database was a mammoth undertaking. Keeping it up to date is hard work. It takes time. It takes people power. It takes technology. It costs money. The end product of this painstaking day-in, day-out effort is a gold mine for journalists and concerned citizens who want to see how campaign donations influence the decisions our elected officials make.

No doubt there are more than a few politicians who would like to see our database go away. And at least one who sees following the money in politics as downright goofy. We hope you appreciate its value and will make a tax-deductible gift today to help us keep this invaluable resource available to all who want to make use of it.

If all the Democracy Campaign did was enable people to follow the money in Wisconsin politics, work for reforms that make democracy healthier and fight backward legislation like the anti-disclosure bill, we would have our hands full. But that’s not even close to all we do.

The Democracy Campaign recently filed formal complaints asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether three nonprofit groups violated their tax-exempt status by playing electoral politics while masquerading as “charitable” organizations. And we filed complaints against state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman for accepting tens of thousands of dollars worth of free legal services, keeping the arrangement a secret, and then refusing to stand down from cases involving the law firm that provided the gift.

These kinds of actions take time. They take people power. They cost money. We need your help to keep doing what we do. Please take a minute right now to show us that you support what the Democracy Campaign is doing every day to make Wisconsin government as clean, open, honest and accountable as possible.


Mike McCabe