Next Steps in the Fight for Campaign Finance Reform in Wisconsin

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

October 5, 2016

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to take the appeal of the John Doe Case, here are possible next steps in the fight for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin.

--DA Ismael Ozanne could file charges against Scott Walker for alleged felonies that the John Doe prosecutor didn’t focus on, as 16 legislators are recommending (unlikely).

--A federal prosecutor conceivably could open a racketeering case against Walker & Co. (unlikely).

Stacks of Cash Under a Prohibited Symbol

--The IRS could, on the basis of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s complaint, go after Wisconsin Club for Growth (possible).

--The US Supreme Court could revisit the campaign finance issue and essentially overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling (possible within 3 years).

--The US Supreme Court could also overturn Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo and recognize that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech (possible within 3 years, especially on Citizens United, which allowed unlimited outside spending by corporations and other groups).

--An enlightened Wisconsin Supreme Court could revisit its own decision legalizing coordination between candidates and outside groups (probably won’t happen for at least a decade).

--An enlightened legislature and an enlightened governor could require full disclosure of those who are funding outside groups engaged in electioneering (could happen in the next 6-9 years).

--An enlightened legislature and an enlightened governor could enact public financing of elections (could happen in the next 6-9 years).

--An enlightened legislature and an enlightened governor could pass “small donor empowerment,” whereby the state would multiply your gift to your favorite candidate by a factor, say, of five if you gave $150 or less (could happen in the next 6-9 years).

--The federal judges weighing the redistricting case could throw out the rigged maps that Fitzgerald & Co. drew in 2011 (very possible in the next couple of months).

--An enlightened legislature and an enlightened governor could pass a law that turns the map drawing over to career civil servants, as they’ve successfully been doing in Iowa now for more than three decades (could happen in the next 6-9 years).

--The fundamental solution: The movement to amend the US Constitution to proclaim that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech is gaining ground and could eventually prevail (possibly in 10-15 years). Already in Wisconsin, 78 communities have gone on record to vote, by lopsided margins, in favor of such an amendment. It’s on the ballot on Nov. 8 in 19 more Wisconsin communities.

We’re in a long battle. We’ve lost one skirmish. But when we make our demands loud enough and clear enough for clean, transparent, and accountable government, where everyone has an equal voice in the process, our elected officials will be forced to respond.

That’s how we’ve always moved forward—in Wisconsin and around the country. And that’s how we’ll do it again.

WDC Executive Director Matthew Rothschild
Matthew Rothschild
WDC Executive Director

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