September 11, 2012
At events in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison, clean government advocates and non-profit groups announced an initiative to end the legal bribery of Wisconsin politicians. Decades-old Wisconsin ethics laws designed to prevent wealthy special interests from corrupting the legislative process have not been updated to take into account the huge amounts of money coursing through the electoral system.
“The way the money game in politics has evolved has made our state ethics code obsolete,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “Politicians and their big donors are mocking longstanding protections against corruption that once made Wisconsin a beacon of clean, open and honest government. Laws should not be humored. Our state's once-proud reputation should not be mocked. Bribery should be a crime, not standard operating procedure.”
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said: “It is profoundly threatening to our democracy that we have allowed our laws on political wrongdoing to become so lax that it is now perfectly legal for a handful of millionaires and billionaires to buy our elected officials through lavish campaign spending. The system of legalized bribery we have allowed to develop over the past four decades undermines the bedrock American value of government by and for the people. Bribery is not speech; it is a crime. Our state and federal laws need to reflect this by adapting to the modern method of political bribery.”
The effort to end legal bribery is led by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Voices. It is also supported by 9to5 (Milwaukee), Working America, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Citizens Utility Board, Sierra Club, Madison-area Urban Ministry, United Council of UW Students, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, ABC for Health, WISPIRG and South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend.