October 20, 2016
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, has hailed all of the nearly seven dozen GOP legislators for voting in favor of the group’s pro-business policy and spending wish list during the 2015-16 legislative session.
WMC is a heavyweight among the hundreds of special interests groups that push their agendas at the State Capitol. The group refuses to disclose how much it spends on most of its activities, which usually consist of negative broadcast ads to smear Democratic candidates and support Republicans and conservatives. But the Democracy Campaign estimates the group has spent more than $26 million since 2006 to elect governors and lawmakers who will support WMC’s core agenda of lower business taxes, more local control, weaker environmental and consumer protections, and reduced worker rights, protections and pay.
WMC’s legislative scorecard showed that 65 of the legislature’s 82-member GOP majority voted WMC’s way 100 percent of the time on 47 issues. The remaining 17 Republicans voted with WMC 87 percent to 96 percent of the time. All of the legislature’s 50 Democrats scored low ratings, between 5 percent and 21 percent.
WMC spent about $1 million on lobbying state policy and spending bills between January 2015 and June 2016.
Among the WMC-backed legislative proposals that the legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker approved were:
- Right-to-work legislation, which prohibits requiring workers to make payments to unions as a condition of employment;
- Sweeping changes to state campaign finance laws that allow corporate contributions to parties, reduce disclosure about wealthy donors and double contribution limits to state candidates;
- Elimination of the bipartisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), which was replaced by two partisan Ethics and Elections commission to oversee state campaign finance, ethics and election laws;
- Overhauling the state civil service system to loosen the firing process for thousands of state workers and open up hiring to patronage.
In addition to voting for measures it supported, WMC also congratulated GOP lawmakers for successfully killing items it opposed, including:
- An increase in the state’s minimum wage, and allowing local governments to set their own minimum wage;
- Requiring all employers to provide paid sick leave;
- Repealing the state’s controversial school-voucher programs;
- Allowing Wisconsin residents to vote on a statewide referendum to make special interest influence on elections more transparent and to reduce the influence of money in politics.