Memo to Budget Conferees

Campaign Finance Reform in Budget Repair Bill

April 17, 2002

TO: Budget Conferees
FROM: Mike McCabe, Executive Director, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
DATE: April 16, 2002
RE: Campaign Finance Reform in Budget Repair Bill

We are heartened by indications that the conference committee will be dealing with campaign finance reform after both houses passed comprehensive campaign finance reform bills on a bipartisan basis.

It is appropriate - and, indeed, essential - that campaign finance reform be part of the negotiations on a budget repair package. Wisconsin’s broken campaign finance system is a primary cause of the fiscal mess the state now encounters. Without campaign finance reform, there can be no true budget reform.

For reform to be legitimate and meaningful, the conference committee negotiations must yield an agreement that does what 90 percent of referendum voters said they want - limited campaign spending, stricter limits on contributions, and full and prompt disclosure of all election activities.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and 46 other statewide public interest advocacy organizations that make up the Voters First Coalition support Senate Bill 104. This bipartisan legislation contains the critical elements that a final agreement must contain, including:

  • Effective and enforceable spending limits;
  • An honest and reliable source of funding that fully covers the cost of the public grants that candidates receive if they agree to limit their spending;
  • Disclosure of issue ads and a mechanism that truly gives all candidates the means to respond to independent expenditures and issue ads run against them;
  • A prohibition on fundraising during the budget process.

Unless these key components are incorporated into any agreement you reach on campaign finance reform, the major problems plaguing our elections will not be remedied and the forces corrupting the state budget process will go unchecked.