On Campaign Finance Bill, the Intro Says It All

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

October 28, 2015

The Wisconsin State Senate is currently stalled on SB 292, the hideous new campaign finance bill.

To give you an idea of how backward this bill is, just contrast the introduction to the existing statute with the introduction to this new bill.

The old introduction to the existing statute underscored the high purpose of campaign finance legislation. The new introduction completely trashes the old language.

To illustrate, here are three sentences from the old introduction that are now gone:

Number one: “The legislature finds and declares that our democratic system of government can be maintained only if the electorate is informed.”

Can’t have that! Who needs an informed electorate?

Number two: “Excessive spending on campaigns for public office jeopardizes the integrity of elections.”

Who cares about the integrity of elections?

Number three: “The state has a compelling interest in designing a system for fully disclosing contributions and disbursements made on behalf of every candidate for public office, and in placing reasonable limitations on such activities.”

Disclosure, who needs disclosure?

In the place of the old introduction, the new introduction states, in its entirety:

“This chapter shall be construed to impose the least possible restraint on persons whose activities do not directly affect the elective process, consistent with the right of the public to have a full, complete, and readily understandable accounting of those activities expressly advocating for or against candidates for office or for or against referendums. Nothing in this chapter may be construed to regulate issue discussion, debate, or advocacy; grassroots outreach or lobbying; nonpartisan voter registration or turnout efforts; or the rights of the media.”

Gone is any mention of “our democratic system” or “excessive spending,” or “the integrity of elections.”

It’s not surprising, then, that the new bill greatly increases the influence of the wealthiest individuals and richest corporations over our election process, while at the same limiting disclosure so the electorate will actually be less informed.

It doubles the amount of direct contributions so that someone could now give $20,000 to a candidate for governor. And who has that kind of dough to throw around?

It allows individuals to give unlimited donations to political parties and campaign committees.

It allows corporations, for the first time ever, to give to political parties and to give in unlimited amounts.

It allows coordination between candidates and outside groups doing phony issue ads, which is a complete end-around campaign contribution limits and disclosure requirements, since the outside groups won’t have to disclose who is giving them money.

And it erases the donor’s employer identification.

In short, the citizens of Wisconsin will be reduced to the role of mere spectators – and blindfolded spectators, at that.

Several Republican senators are on the fence on this horrible campaign finance bill.

It is absolutely vital that you contact their offices right now! Urge them to vote against SB292. And if you are one of their constituents, please identify yourself as such. It matters.

Senator Cowles (Senate District 2) --View map here.
(608) 266-0484

Senator Olsen (Senate District 14) -- View map here.
(608) 266-0751

Senator Harsdorf (Senate District 10) -- View map here.
(608) 266-7745

Senator Marklein (Senate District 17) -- View map here.
(608) 266-0703

Senator Petrowski (Senate District 29) -- View map here.
(608) 266-2502

WDC Executive Director Matthew Rothschild
Matthew Rothschild
WDC Executive Director

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