Assembly Republicans “Stand in Schoolhouse Door” on Campaign Finance Reform

GOP Caucus Votes to Remove Funds Earmarked for Campaign Reform from Budget Bill

June 17, 1999

Madison - Today’s vote by Assembly Republicans to remove $750,000 from the 1999-2001 state budget for public financing grants for legislative candidates amounts to a partisan attempt to kill campaign finance reform, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The Assembly GOP caucus rejected the recommendation of Governor Tommy Thompson and reversed the April 27 action by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee endorsing the governor’s proposal. The budget-writing finance committee approved the funding for campaign reform on a bipartisan 12-4 vote.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Gail Shea said the governor’s decision to include funding for campaign finance reform in his proposed budget was a major breakthrough that opened the door to a possible bipartisan agreement on campaign finance reform. She also pointed to the proposal made by Senator Mike Ellis calling for more than $3 million in public financing as further evidence that leading Republicans are willing to search for common ground that could yield a bipartisan accord on reform legislation.

“Unfortunately, the Assembly Republicans are turning their backs on the statesmanship of Governor Thompson and Senator Ellis,” Shea said. “This vote makes it clear that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent campaign finance reform.”

Campaign reform is not possible without public financing, Shea said.

“Public grants are the linchpin of any comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation. The only way spending limits can be enforced is if they are linked to public grants which provide a powerful incentive for candidates to voluntarily abide by the limits,” Shea said. “Opposition to the use of public funds for campaigns is opposition to campaign finance reform.”