Campaign Gifts Work Their Magic

In this update: 1. State budget bursting with favors for special interest donors 2. Assembly passes legislation doubling political donation limits Campaign Gifts Work Their Magic

Email date: 6/13/13

In this update:
1. State budget bursting with favors for special interest donors
2. Assembly passes legislation doubling political donation limits

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State budget bursting with favors for special interest donors
With votes coming on the two-year state budget in the Legislature next week, the Democracy Campaign today issued a report examining close to three dozen items inserted into the proposed budget that benefit a vast array of special interests. The cost to taxpayers is not known for each and every item, but those with a readily discernible price tag cost a total of $1.67 billion. Interest groups benefiting from the measures have donated $32.9 million to the governor and legislators who are shaping the budget bill.

A podcast posted this morning provides additional reflections on the report’s findings.

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Assembly passes legislation doubling political donation limits
On a bipartisan voice vote, the state Assembly yesterday passed an amended elections bill that doubles Wisconsin’s longstanding limits on campaign contributions. The original version of the legislation sought to resuscitate the state’s voter ID law and restrict early voting, but these and other controversial features were removed as part of a bipartisan deal that ushered in the 100% increase in donation limits. Members from both parties clearly did not want their votes on the amended legislation recorded, and were successful in avoiding a roll call vote.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made it clear that the apparent setback for supporters of the voter ID law and other voting restrictions will only be temporary, as he promised that he and his colleagues will bring those measures back as separate legislation and resume their push to enact them this session.

The agreement by Republicans and Democrats to boost the limits on political donations prompted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to ask in an editorial: “This is what passes for bipartisanship?” The Capital Times also editorialized against the deal, reminding its readers that Wisconsin once was a place that rewarded politicians who refused to succumb to big money’s pull.

Legislators who were afraid to have their votes on the bill recorded offered all manner of lame justifications for supporting it. Some claimed increasing the donation limits would enhance transparency in political giving, while others insisted it would level the political playing field. The Senate’s presiding officer bizarrely argued that allowing bigger donations to flow to candidates would enable them to “not be beholden to these blood-sucking interest groups.”

Academic research provides a more rational explanation of why Democrats and Republicans can agree on next to nothing but are of one mind on the idea that bigger is better when it comes to campaign contributions. It shows that low contribution limits enhance electoral competition and high limits on donations favor incumbents.

TAKE ACTION: With the Assembly approving AB 225, the bill now moves on to the Senate. Please take the time to let your senator know how you feel about doubling Wisconsin’s limits on campaign donations.