July 29, 2002
Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign today asked candidates for the state legislature, governor and lieutenant governor to take a public position on specific campaign finance changes and other reforms as part of a "Clean Sweep" campaign WDC is launching.
The pledge campaign comes on the heels of Governor Scott McCallum approving a campaign finance reform plan passed by the legislature as part of the state budget repair bill. That plan won’t fix the problems that plague Wisconsin politics, WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.
"They fool no one. The public won’t believe politicians have cleaned up the system until they see a clean system," McCabe said. "Even in the event the new law stands, it is deeply flawed and will need to be repaired before it takes effect next July. More likely, none of it will be allowed to take effect and the next legislature will have to start over."
In the pledge questionnaire, candidates are asked to support comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation mirroring 2001 Senate Bill 104 and commit to 12 specific campaign reform features. Among the 12 are provisions addressing weaknesses in the plan McCallum signed. These include a guaranteed source of revenue for public financing grants, a legally sound approach to disclosure, matching grants steered directly to candidates rather than funneled through the political parties, and a "severability" clause so that if any part of a reform law is found unconstitutional the whole law is not void.
Candidates also are asked to commit to Elections Board reform, changes to strengthen the state ethics code and lobbying law, and the creation of a nonpartisan citizen commission to reapportion legislative districts. Two questions relate to the legislative caucus scandal - candidates are asked to oppose the use of public funds to defend elected officials or legislative employees who are under criminal investigation or have been criminally charged, and support the elimination of remaining positions from the now-defunct caucus offices.
"Any political reforms that are enacted won’t be effective unless the laws are enforced. Right now, we’ve got the fox guarding the hen house," McCabe said.
The need for reform of how legislative districts are drawn also is clear, he said, noting that in half of this year’s legislative races - 57 of the 116 contests - candidates face no major party opposition. The huge war chests amassed by incumbents go a long way toward explaining the lack of competition, McCabe said, but the lack of competitively drawn districts also is a major factor.
"Long before the voters get to choose their representatives, the representatives choose their voters," he said of the reapportionment process.