Email date: 1/17/14
In this update:
1. Corruption in fashion in Wisconsin
2. Citizen groups to call the question on Citizens United anniversary
3. Court ruling clouds the Internet’s future
Corruption in fashion in Wisconsin
Sometimes political corruption is in your face and hard to miss, and sometimes it is more understated and barely is noticed. Wisconsin saw both varieties in recent days. A wealthy divorced developer being allowed to play a key role in writing legislation aimed at reducing his child support payments by a state lawmaker who received large campaign contributions from the businessman has caused a huge stir. In an editorial commentary aired this week, WISC-TV called this sordid affair “the worst combination of stomach-turning and heartbreaking abuse we’ve seen in a legislature that is good at both.”
Less attention was paid to a state senator’s uncustomary intervention on behalf of a Hudson company that is claiming the state owes it more than $200,000 in a dispute over a contract for the installation of a call system at a state veterans home. The state Department of Administration rejected the company’s claim, and the state claims board sided with DOA, leaving the company to decide whether to pursue the matter further in court. But then River Falls Republican Sheila Harsdorf took the unusual step of introducing legislation to override DOA and the claims board and pay the business the full amount it is seeking. The full Senate quietly passed her bill. The Democracy Campaign’s online donor database came in handy again, revealing that the company’s owner has made sizeable donations to Harsdorf in recent years.
Citizen groups to call the question on Citizens United anniversary
Next Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of the notorious Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that opened the door to unlimited election spending in American elections by corporations and other interest groups. A legislative resolution authorizing a statewide referendum on whether the constitution should be amended to effectively overturn Citizens United has been bottled up in committee since August. On the anniversary of the ruling, a coalition of citizen groups including the Democracy Campaign will be calling for the measure to be withdrawn from committee and brought to a vote. The press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Tuesday in the Assembly parlor at the State Capitol.
Corporations are not using the license to buy elections granted by the Citizens United decision to sponsor their own election advertising. Rather, they are funneling huge sums of money from their treasuries to political nonprofits that campaign on their behalf, and getting a handsome return on their investment. The true origins of the money spent by these political front groups often remains a secret, especially at the state level in places like Wisconsin. Elected officials, meanwhile, are adjusting to post-Citizens United realities by spending most of their time raising money for their own campaigns.
Court ruling clouds the Internet’s future
We all need to pay attention to this. If we don’t, we could wake up one day and find that the Internet as we’ve known it up to now is no more.