Legislature Needs to Work Overtime on Campaign Finance Reform

Posted: March 13, 2002

Madison - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign today called for an extended session of the legislature to finish work on campaign finance reform legislation and urged legislative leaders and Governor Scott McCallum to agree to the final negotiations needed to reach bipartisan agreement yielding the first meaningful reforms in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws in a generation.

Both houses of the legislature have passed campaign reform legislation by wide bipartisan margins. The Senate passed SB 104, the comprehensive reform proposal authored by Neenah Republican Mike Ellis and backed by WDC and 46 other advocacy groups, on a 25-8 vote February 26. Later that same day, the Assembly passed its own, less ambitious version of reform (AB 843) on a 87-12 vote.

The two houses have not agreed to convene a conference committee to work out the differences between SB 104 and AB 843. The legislature’s regular session ends Thursday and it is clear there is not enough time to complete the remaining stage of negotiations on the campaign finance issue.

Legislative leaders can call the legislature into extraordinary session or the governor can call a special session of the legislature. Either way of extending the legislature’s calendar to accommodate the additional work needed on the campaign reform issue would be fine, WDC executive director Mike McCabe said.

"Enough games. Enough stall tactics. Sit down at the negotiating table and don’t get up until the people’s will has been done on campaign finance reform," McCabe said, noting that 90 percent of voters in an advisory referendum supported campaign finance reforms that limit campaign spending, place tighter restrictions on political donations and require full and prompt disclosure of all election-related activities.

"Despite the criminal investigations of apparent illegal campaign activity in the Capitol, the state’s top political leaders have spent their time shaking down special interests for campaign donations while dragging their feet on reform legislation. It’s time they put in a little overtime to clean up the corruption that has taken root in Wisconsin government," he said.