Spending Topped $2 Million In Spring Supreme Court Race

One special interest group outspent the five candidates in the state school superintendent’s race

July 21, 2009

Madison - Spending by outside smear groups and the two candidates in April’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race topped $2.1 million, and the state’s largest teachers union spent substantially more than the five candidates vying for state school superintendent combined, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Statement on Passage of Impartial Justice Bill

November 6, 2009

The Impartial Justice bill passed by the Assembly and Senate easily qualifies as the most significant campaign reform in Wisconsin in more than 30 years. Not since 1977 has a reform approaching this magnitude been achieved in this state.

Testimony in the Matter of Amendment of the Judicial Code of Conduct's Rules on Recusal

Before the Wisconsin Supreme Court

October 28, 2009

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Mike McCabe and I am the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. On behalf of the Democracy Campaign, I applaud you for undertaking the task of examining when the financing and conduct of judicial campaigns should result in a judge’s disqualification from hearing and ruling on a case.

14 Big Donors Exceeded Contribution Limit In 2008

Three payday lenders among those who gave more than $10,000

October 15, 2009

Madison - Three payday lenders and a veteran lobbyist were among 14 individuals who exceeded the $10,000 annual limit on total contributions to state and local candidates and political committees in 2008, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Testimony at Informational Hearing on Campaign Finance Reform

Before the Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform

October 8, 2009

Wisconsin used to have some of the strongest campaign finance laws in the country. We used to have an election financing system that was a model for the nation. We used to have enforceable spending limits on state election campaigns. We didn’t have the campaign arms race we have today. Candidates used to have access to a source of funds that enabled them to get their message out to voters without being either independently wealthy or dependent on the financial support of special interest groups. We didn’t have the scandals that have visited our state in recent times.

Payday Lenders Shell Out Record Cash To Kill Regulation

State is one of few to allow loan sharks’ high interest rate

September 9, 2009

Madison - Payday lenders contributed a record $140,200 to the governor and legislative candidates in 2008 when it looked like Democrats, who favor capping the industry’s controversial loan rates, would capture full control of the legislature, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

Testimony of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on the Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS)

Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform

September 1, 2009

We have as much experience using the state’s online Campaign Finance Information System as anyone. One of the members of our staff uses it every day, another uses it nearly every day and two others use it regularly.

Doyle's DNR Flip-Flop Attuned With Big Contributors

Opponents of DNR secretary plan have given millions, supporters only thousands

September 1, 2009

Madison - Powerful special interests that oppose a legislative proposal to return control over the Department of Natural Resources secretary to a citizen board have contributed $4.14 million to Governor Jim Doyle since 2003 versus $17,175 by supporters of the plan, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

Legislative Fundraising Plummets In First Half Of 2009

Assembly ban sets pace for lowest six-month legislative fundraising since 1999

August 4, 2009

Madison - For the first time in 10 years legislators raised less than $1 million in a six-month period between January and June 2009 due to the Assembly’s decision to ban fundraising during consideration of the 2009-11 state budget, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

WDC Joins 19 Groups in Filing Supreme Court Brief in Election Spending Case

August 3, 2009

Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign joined 19 legal and civic groups and a former Georgia Supreme Court justice in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday arguing that allowing corporations to pour even more into the flood of special interest money in judicial elections “would have a profound and negative effect on the selection of state court judges and could damage the integrity of the judiciary.” The brief says a negative ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could cement in place and aggravate problems that have surfaced in recent years in Wisconsin where businesses, unions and other groups can tap directly into their treasuries to secretly fund unlimited campaign spending. It also would spread such activity and the election arms races it fuels to other states.

Midwest Reform Groups Urge President Obama to Support Federal Public Financing Legislation

Make Elections about Voters and Volunteers, Not Big Money Donors

March 31, 2009

Chicago - In a letter sent to President Obama today, Midwest Democracy Network partner organizations called on President Obama to "use the full powers of the White House" to make much-needed public financing reforms of congressional and presidential elections a reality.

President Obama Pushed on Campaign Finance Promises

Midwest Democracy Network Presidential Questionnaire Documents Vow

Released: July 9, 2009
Posted: July 14, 2009

Chicago - Today, a New York Times editorial, “Promises to Keep,” calls on President Obama to make good on the vow to overhaul election financing he made when opting to run his campaign outside of the federal public financing system. It asks President Obama to make certain his nominees to fill three vacant positions on the Federal Election Commission are dedicated to upholding and enforcing election law, rather than undercutting it.

Special Interest Sugar Daddies Buy Elections

Top-spending candidates almost always win unless smear groups tip the scales

July 9, 2009

Madison - Raising and spending more money than your opponent practically guarantees a legislative candidate a job in Wisconsin unless a special interest group with deep pockets takes an interest in you and your future, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Legislative Races Cost Record $20 Million In ’08

Complete 2008 campaign records for 18 candidates still unavailable

June 22, 2009

Madison - Legislative candidates and special interest groups that sponsored mostly smear ads and mailings spent a record $20.2 million in last November’s elections, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review.

Supreme Court Ruling and Important Step in Reform

June 8, 2009

Logo: League of Women Voters Logo: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Logo: Common Cause in Wisconsin

Madison - Any citizen who has to appear in court should have absolute confidence that the judge will be fair and impartial. But campaign spending in recent Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin and other states has left the public wondering if the judges they elect will deliver justice based on the law, or on who made the biggest campaign gift.

Candidate Finance Reports Still Unavailable To Public After Four Months

WDC files open records request for nearly two dozen reports

June 1, 2009

Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed an open records request Monday for campaign finance reports for 22 legislative candidates and officeholders that are still unavailable to the public four months after they were due.

Testimony of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on Senate Bill 40/Assembly Bill 65 and Senate Bill 43/Assembly Bill 63

Assembly Elections and Campaign Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing Committee

May 27, 2009

Thank you for holding this hearing. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign strongly supports both the Impartial Justice bill (SB 40/AB 65) and the Electioneering Disclosure bill (SB 43/AB63).

Smear Groups Spend Nearly $1.3 Million In High Court, School Super Races

Outside groups greatly outspend school superintendent candidates

April 28, 2009

Madison – Special interest groups spent an estimated $1.27 million mostly on negative television advertising in the two statewide races for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and state school superintendent, according to a preliminary tally of total spring election spending by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, and the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee, a secretive Milwaukee group that backs Democratic candidates in partisan races, spent an estimated $1.03 million mostly on television ads to support the eventual winners of the two supposedly nonpartisan races. WEAC spent $564,993 to help elected state school superintendent candidate Tony Evers and Greater Wisconsin spent an estimated $465,000 to help elect incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Advancing Wisconsin, a group organized in 2008 to campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Wisconsin candidates for state and local offices, spent an estimated $200,000 distributing fliers that supported Abrahamson and Evers.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity doled out an estimated $25,000 for a 60-second radio ad to support school superintendent candidate Rose Fernandez.

The three other outside groups that spent money in the races backed Abrahamson and Evers including $15,129 by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, $448 by Madison Teachers Incorporated and $129 by the Kenosha Education Association Council. The two local teachers unions spent their money on newspaper ads and Planned Parenthood sponsored automated phone calls and mailings.

One individual, Randy Melchert, a communications consultant and former Republican Assembly candidate from Brookfield, spent $306 on signs to support Fernandez and Abrahamson’s challenger, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick.

By race, outside phony issue ad and independent expenditures totaled about $694,000 in the state school superintendent race and an estimated $577,000 in the Supreme Court race.

Spending by Abrahamson and Koschnick totaled $1.26 million through March 23 – two weeks before Election Day – including $1.2 million by the chief justice and $62,932 by Koschnick. The five state school superintendent candidates spent a total of $243,411 through March 23 led by Evers at $124,160.

The total cost of the two races will not be known until late July when the seven candidates file campaign finance reports to disclose fundraising and spending through June 30, including the final two weeks of the race before the April 7 election.

However, it is already apparent that this will be record spending by outside groups in a state school superintendent race and the first time outside special interests, namely WEAC, outspent the candidates – and by a considerable amount. The previous record for outside spending in a state school superintendent race was 2005 when four political action committees spent $347,205 on independent expenditures compared to candidate spending of nearly $390,000.

This year’s Supreme Court race will be the first in the last three where the candidates will spend more on their race than outside special interest groups. Abrahamson’s $1.2 million in spending as of March 23 already more than doubles what outside groups spent on her behalf. However, Greater Wisconsin and the other special interests spent nearly nine times more than Koschnick as of March 23.

For more details about the spending and outside electioneering by these groups, please visit our Hijacking Campaign 2009 feature.

Phony issue ad groups are not required to disclose where they get their money, even if it is from corporation or labor union’s treasury which are prohibited under Wisconsin law to make direct contributions to candidates. Phony issue ad groups like the Greater Wisconsin Committee do not have to report their sources of fundraising and spending like candidates, political parties and independent expenditure groups because their negative ads, mailers and other activities do not explicitly tell people who to vote for even though their smear tactics clearly spell out the candidate they want voters to support.

Independent expenditure groups like WEAC must publicly disclose their fundraising and spending because their advertisements and other outside electioneering activities clearly say who to vote for.

Flaw in Wisconsin Open Government Laws Can Lead to Costly Litigation, Study Finds

State Sunshine Laws Lack Appeals Process

March 18, 2009

Citizen Advocacy Center Midwest Democracy Network









Groups requesting public information are often forced into expensive and cumbersome litigation against public bodies because of rigidities within Wisconsin’s public disclosure laws, according to a study released Wednesday by the Citizen Advocacy Center in celebration of Sunshine Week (March 15-21).

New Campaign Finance Reporting System Shows Erroneous Reports For Doyle, Others

March 4, 2009

Madison - Campaign finance reports posted on a new state electronic reporting system for Governor Jim Doyle and other statewide officeholders, legislators and political action committees are riddled with erroneous information, a review by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows.

WDC Launches impartialjustice.org

February 9, 2009

Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign went online today with a new web site, www.impartialjustice.org, devoted to identifying and combatting threats to the independence of Wisconsin’s justice system – and the state Supreme Court in particular. Among its features are informational brochures that can be downloaded and printed from the site, videos, an online petition, and a "take action" page providing a to-do list for getting involved in the fight for fair and impartial courts.

New Campaign Finance Reporting System Hurting Public Access to Accurate Information

February 5, 2009

Madison - A new electronic campaign finance reporting system is generating inaccurate fundraising and spending reports for some state candidates and political committees, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has found.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Statement on Assembly Fundraising Ban During the State Budget Process

February 4, 2009

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign applauds state Assembly leaders who approved a rule today to ban campaign fundraising by members of the Assembly during the upcoming state budget process.

New Guidelines Help Judicial Candidates Resist Special Interest Pressures

September 19, 2008

Justice at Stake Campaign Midwest Democracy Network






Civic groups in five Great Lakes states are calling on more than 700 judicial candidates to follow new campaign conduct guidelines that help them steer clear of special interest pressures and political agendas.

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