Remarks at the People’s Legislature Rally for Reform

Delivered at the Capitol October 27, 2005 by Mike McCabe, Executive Director

Posted: November 7, 2005

We wanted to hold our rally in the Capitol rotunda. They wouldn’t let us do that. No problem. But I’ll say this…. The people in charge of this building sure know symbolism. Make the people stand outside.

We wanted to take our brooms into the Capitol. They won’t let us do that. No sticks, they say. No problem. We’ll pile them up outside and go on in and do what we came to do today. But just one hint to the Capitol police. The people committing crimes in there ain’t carrying sticks. They’re carrying checkbooks. They’re carrying water. But no sticks.

We wanted to pass the hat to cover the costs of the rally. We were told you can’t solicit donations on the Capitol grounds. And you can’t sell anything on the grounds. Another hint to the police. The people who are doing the selling at the Capitol ain’t doing it on the front steps.

To the members of the Lobbyists’ Legislature . . . unwrap yourself from that lobbyist’s embrace and let me introduce you to the People’s Legislature!

(To audience): Thank you all for coming. Republicans. Democrats. Independents. Libertarians. Greens. To all of you who feel politically homeless. Too many of us have retreated from public life for too long. If ever there has been a time to reengage in public life and reenter the public square, this is it.

The bosses at the Capitol keep saying nobody cares about the corruption scandal. Another day, another convicted felon.

Nobody cares about all those campaign donations. Nobody cares about campaign finance reform.

To them, I say: Look at all these nobodies!

This hopelessly divided Legislature doesn’t represent the people of Wisconsin. The bosses at the Capitol are obsessed with who’s right and who’s left. If they’d spend half as much time thinking about what’s right and wrong, we wouldn’t be in the midst of the biggest political corruption scandal in our state’s history.

The truth is, what divides us is not whether you are on the right or the left, or whether you are red or blue. It’s whether you are on the top or the bottom. What matters at the Capitol is whether you can make $10,000 campaign donations or have $200-an-hour lobbyists prowling the halls on your behalf.

People see right through this game. That’s why only 6% of Wisconsin residents believe our elected state officials are representing them.

Six percent!

We all see the money flow in and the favors and perks flow out. And we all see there’s no debate on health care reform when there are 600,000 people in this state who have no health insurance. We all see there’s no serious debate on access to higher education even when tuition has increased more than 50% in just four years and countless families are being priced out of the higher education marketplace. More than half of African American men in Milwaukee are unemployed and there’s no discussion of black unemployment in the lobbyists’ Legislature. We notice these things.

We understand. We know that the uninsured and the unemployed and the uneducated don’t make big campaign donations. Neither do all but a handful.

That’s why 6% trust the Capitol bosses. And that’s why the rest of us are ticked off.

When asked about that poll released last week, the Assembly majority leader said it shows his colleagues need to do a better job of communicating to their constituents all the good things they are doing for the state.

Mr. Majority Leader, you do not have a communication problem. You have a corruption problem. This is not a cosmetic challenge. This is a cancer.

There is a cancer growing in state government, and the powers-that-be want to treat it with the political equivalent of acne cream.

We need a full-strength cure.

Real campaign finance reform. Arizona and Maine style. As long as we have a system that forces you to take out a second mortgage on your soul to seriously compete for public office, there will be more scandals. There will be more indictments. There will be more felony convictions.

Vigorous ethics enforcement. Replace the foxes guarding the chicken coop with an independent enforcement authority that will take the job of enforcing our ethics code and campaign finance laws seriously.

Competitive elections. In a democracy, voters are supposed to choose their representatives, not the other way around. In Wisconsin, it’s the other way around. End partisan gerrymandering. In a democracy, elected officials serve us best when they serve in fear.

(To Lobbyists’ Legislature): Hear us loud and clear. We speak for the vast majority of the people of Wisconsin. You are not representing us.

The corrupt way you are conducting the state’s business does not represent the honest, hardworking people of this state. Extortion and bribery do not represent us. Sweetheart deals on state contracts do not represent us. Kickbacks and bid rigging do not represent us. The parade of lawmakers into courtrooms does not represent us. All the convicted felons do not represent us. We deserve better than that. Wisconsin is better than that.

We see right through the game you are playing. And we know that the problem is not a half dozen people who lost their way. We know the problem is a system that is rotten to the core.

OPEN THESE DOORS! Throw the money changers out of the people’s temple. Give us back our house. Give us back our democracy. Give us back the state we know and love.


WDC Executive Director Mike McCabe
Mike McCabe
WDC Executive Director

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