June 12, 2002
Madison - Remarks made in a Cross Plains restaurant in the presence of two newspaper reporters by veteran legislator Rick Skindrud about clandestine campaign activities in the legislative caucuses underscore the hypocrisy of state lawmakers who supported the use of taxpayer money for illegal campaigning by state employees to ensure their own re-election but oppose campaign reforms featuring public financing of election contests that would level the playing field for all candidates, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said today.
Skindrud’s admission that he knew about the illicit campaigning by the caucuses not only contradicted statements he made before his re-election in 2000 about his knowledge of caucus activities, but also spoke volumes about the code of silence his legislative colleagues have maintained through the criminal investigation, WDC executive director Mike McCabe said, noting that Skindrud said anybody at the Capitol who says caucus electioneering didn’t happen "is either a fool or a liar."
Skindrud called the caucuses that helped him get re-elected "public financing" but condemned campaign finance reform proposals that provide public financing grants to all qualified candidates. He and his Assembly Republican colleagues have steadfastly opposed using tax money from the state’s general fund for the public financing called for in all the major campaign finance reform proposals, but they all supported using $4 million in general fund taxes annually to fund the caucus operations, McCabe said.
"It is the most foul form of hypocrisy to spend $4 million of the taxpayers’ money year after year to fund an illegal campaign operation that benefited only Capitol insiders, and then turn around and oppose campaign finance reform on the grounds that it’s unacceptable to have taxpayer money used for campaigns," he said. "The difference between the public financing Skindrud and his colleagues supported all those years and the public financing they oppose is that the caucuses only helped candidates who were in the good graces of the leaders who ran them. Legitimate public financing goes to all qualified candidates, whether or not they've taken the leaders’ loyalty oath."
McCabe said Skindrud’s remarks are indicative of the corrupt culture that has taken root at the Capitol and are further evidence of why campaign finance reform is so sorely needed but is being resisted so strenuously by current office holders.