State Lawmakers to Voters: Save Your Breath

Legislature Spends First 100 Days in a Stall on Campaign Reform

May 9, 2001

Madison - In the first 100 days of the 2001-02 legislative session, both houses of the state legislature have refused to act on comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation that does what voters overwhelmingly called on their elected representatives to do, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said today.

In the advisory referendum that was on the ballot in 57 counties on November 7 and in Brown County on April 3, 90 percent of voters urged state lawmakers to pass reform legislation that limits campaign spending, requires stricter limits on contributions and requires full and prompt disclosure of election-related activities.  (Click here for referendum results in counties represented by legislative leaders.) 

"So far, state politicians have told their constituents to go to hell. The results of the referendum have been ignored," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.

"Our lawmakers haven’t been able to find the time to do the people’s business on this issue, but they've found plenty of time to raise money," he said, noting that at least 37 fund-raisers have been held since the beginning of the year.

Reform proposals like the "Voters First" bill do exactly what the voters demanded be done - reinstate campaign spending limits, tighten restrictions on campaign donations and ensure disclosure of all electioneering activities, McCabe said.

Voters First is the first and only comprehensive reform proposal to have legislative sponsors from both parties in both houses and has the support of a coalition of public interest groups that has now grown to 45 groups, he added. The measure, which has been introduced as Senate Bill 62 and Assembly Bill 155, remains bottled up in committee in both houses, as are other comprehensive campaign reform proposals.

"Release the hostages," McCabe said, calling for SB 62 and AB 155 to be promptly reported out of committee and scheduled for floor debate.

As comprehensive campaign reform bills languish in committee, the only sign of activity has been early indications that members are crafting amendments to the reform measures to create a partisan advantage, McCabe said.

"Both sides will do everything they can to turn Voters First into Voters Third," he said. "The changes they have in mind are aimed at putting their interests and those of their big donors ahead of what’s best for ordinary citizens and the health of our democracy."

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM REFERENDUM RESULTS
IN COUNTIES REPRESENTED BY LEGISLATIVE LEADERS
AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Name - Party - Title Counties Within District
and Percent
in Favor of Referendum
Sen. Charles Chvala - D - Senate Majority Leader Dane - 94%
Columbia - 93%
Sen. Mary Panzer - R - Senate Minority Leader Dodge - 91%
Washington - 93%
Ozaukee - 90%
Sen. Gary George - D - Chairman, Judiciary, Consumer Affairs and Campaign Finance Reform Committee Milwaukee - 89%
Sen. Fred Risser - D - Judiciary committee member Dane - 94%
Sen. Robert Wirch - D - Judiciary committee member Kenosha - 90%
Walworth - 90%
Racine - 88%
Sen. Joanne Huelsman - R - Judiciary committee member Jefferson - 91%
Rock - 92%
Walworth - 90%
Waukesha - 80%
Washington - 93%
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald - R - Judiciary committee member Columbia - 93%
Dodge - 91%
Waukesha - 80%
Jefferson - 91%
Rock - 92%
Rep. Scott Jensen - R - Assembly Speaker Waukesha - 80%
Rep. Steven Foti - R - Assembly Majority Leader Waukesha - 80%
Jefferson - 91%
Dodge - 91%
Rep. Spencer Black - D - Assembly Minority Leader (as of May 1, 2001) Dane - 94%
Rep. Steve Freese - R - Chairman, Campaigns and Elections Committee Lafayette - 91%
Iowa - 91%
Sauk - 94%
Rep. Bonnie Ladwig - R - Campaign committee member Racine - 88%
Rep. Jeff Stone - R - Campaign committee member Milwaukee - 89%
Racine - 88%
Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald - R - Campaign Committee member Dodge - 91%
Columbia - 93%
Rep. Dave Travis - D - Campaign committee member Dane - 94%
Rep. Mark Pocan - D - Campaign committee member Dane - 94%