Can't Relax Yet

In this update: 1. Public outcry making senators leery on more-money-in-politics bills 2. Lessig to headline WDC membership meeting 3. Money in politics on the April ballot in 13 communities Can’t Relax Yet

Email date: 3/7/14

In this update:
1. Public outcry making senators leery on more-money-in-politics bills
2. Lessig to headline WDC membership meeting
3. Money in politics on the April ballot in 13 communities

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Public outcry making senators leery on more-money-in-politics bills
Yesterday it appeared that legislation aimed at cementing in state law a loophole allowing special interest electioneering groups to conceal their donors from the public and another bill allowing lobbyists to hand out political donations from their clients year-round were on the fast track to passage in the state Senate. Today the bills’ fate looks more uncertain. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and the legislative session does not officially adjourn for several more weeks.

The Democracy Campaign strongly condemned the proposed moves, as did many others including the state’s largest newspaper. Yesterday’s committee vote on the schemes did not come off as leaders had planned. Approval of the anti-disclosure bill was put off at least for now, and the checks-from-lobbyists measure was watered down. The bill approved by the Senate committee was stripped of the feature allowing lobbyists to pass along contributions from their clients at any time of the year, including during legislative sessions. But it still eases restrictions in current law to give lobbyists a month and a half more time to make personal donations to state politicians.

Majority Republicans call the shots in the state Senate and six of them – Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Alberta Darling of Milwaukee, Neenah’s Michael Ellis, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Luther Olsen from the Ripon area and Richland Center’s Dale Schultz – would have considerable explaining to do if they vote to enshrine in state law the “magic words” loophole interest groups exploit to evade disclosure. Four years ago the six voted to support legislation that did the exact opposite. The bill they backed in January 2010 would have closed the loophole and created substantially greater transparency in election spending in Wisconsin. That legislation was reintroduced this session with bipartisan sponsorship as Senate Bill 166, which the Democracy Campaign strongly supports.

They had good reason to vote to close this loophole four years ago. They and their colleagues have tens of millions of new reasons to close it now.

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Lessig to headline WDC membership meeting
Harvard University professor and campaign finance reform crusader Lawrence Lessig has agreed to speak at the Democracy Campaign’s annual membership meeting to be held on Friday, May 2. Lessig is the author of Republic, Lost and founder of the national group Rootstrikers. He is well known for his dynamic TED talks, and is the driving force behind the New Hampshire Rebellion.

We are thrilled that Professor Lessig is coming to Wisconsin to share his passion with us. WDC members will have first dibs on seating for his talk, and tickets will be offered to others if there are seats still available.

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Money in politics on the April ballot in 13 communities
Local resolutions asking voters if they support amending the constitution to reverse the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision will be on the ballot in 13 Wisconsin communities on April 1, including the cities of Delavan, Edgerton, Elkhorn, Lake Mills, Waukesha and Wauwatosa, the villages of Belleville, DeForest, Shorewood, Waunakee and Whitefish Bay, and the towns of Waterloo and Windsor.

Voters in those communities will be deciding whether to join 28 other localities in the state that already have gone on record supporting a constitutional amendment.