First Cable, Now Phones

Email date: 4/6/10

In this update:
1. AT&T quietly coaxes lawmakers to deregulate phone service
2. Two paths to better campaign finance disclosure
3. UW Law School forum to focus on high court election finance ruling
4. Census 2010: The importance of being counted

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AT&T quietly coaxes lawmakers to deregulate phone service
A couple of years ago, AT&T persuaded Wisconsin lawmakers to approve legislation the company’s lobbyists helped write deregulating cable television services in the state. The telecommunications giant is back at it, this time pushing for legislation it has had a hand in writing that would deregulate telephone service in Wisconsin.

Considering the sweeping changes the legislation would make, it is nothing short of amazing how the issue has flown under the radar, virtually escaping detection by most Capitol watchers. The bill is on a fast track, receiving hearings in Senate and Assembly committees on February 9 and committee approval in the Senate on March 23 and in the Assembly on March 30. Both houses could now take final action on the measure in the final floor period of the session this month.

Among other things, the bill would give telephone companies the option to no longer be considered telecommunications utilities, meaning they could raise their rates without receiving approval from the state Public Service Commission. The legislation also frees phone companies from having to submit profit and expense information to the PSC, and strips the agency of the authority to deal with consumer complaints about phone service.

For more on this, check out our latest Big Money Blog.

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Two paths to better campaign finance disclosure
For years the Democracy Campaign has spoken out against phony election-season “issue advocacy” that keeps the public in the dark about who is trying to influence the outcome of state elections. And for years, WDC has fought for legislation closing the issue ad loophole, while simultaneously working for new administrative rules accomplishing the same thing.

While it remains uncertain where the legislative path will lead as the 2009-2010 session winds down, following the second path to success on this issue led to a breakthrough when the state Government Accountability Board approved new rules and sent them to the Legislature. The rules take effect in 30 days unless both houses pass legislation blocking them.

In a just-published editorial, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel applauded the recent action by the GAB to bring cloaked special interest electioneering out into the open. The newspaper called on state legislators to cement the new rules in state law. We echo that call. To add your voice to the chorus, go here.

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UW Law School forum to focus on high court election finance ruling
The cover story in this month’s edition of The Progressive examines the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning century-old laws and decades-old court precedents to allow unlimited corporate spending in elections. The article begins with a nod to the February 16 March to Overrule the Court that the Democracy Campaign helped organize.

The high court’s ruling will be the subject of a forum on Friday, April 16 at the University of Wisconsin Law School. The forum, entitled “We the Corporations? Life and Law in the U.S.A. after Citizens United v. FEC,” will be held from 2:30 to 7 p.m. in Room 5240 in the Law School, which is located at 975 Bascom Mall. The UW-Madison National Lawyers Guild is hosting the event sponsored by the Democracy Campaign, Center for Media and Democracy and Liberty Tree Foundation. Among the co-sponsors is the A.E. Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change at UW-Madison.

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Census 2010: The importance of being counted
So far, Wisconsin is ahead of the curve in responding to the U.S. Census. If you haven’t yet filled out and returned the census questionnaire sent to your household, it’s not too late to mail it in. Getting an accurate count is critically important. Who returns the form this month, and who doesn’t, will determine the distribution of federal funding for our communities, political representation, locations for schools, stores, hospitals and more for the next 10 years.

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Spread the word by sending this message to people you know. To support the Democracy Campaign’s efforts to make people matter more than money, go here.

E-Lert

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