People’s Legislature to Hold ‘Public Telling’

Top State Leaders Invited to Address Corruption, Political Reform Jan.23

Posted: January 5, 2006

Madison - In the absence of public hearings to get citizen input on campaign finance reform legislation and other reform measures, the People’s Legislature announced it is holding a “public telling” on Monday, January 23 to give the governor and legislative leaders an opportunity to tell the public where they stand on the issues.

The meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. in the GAR Hearing Room (417 North) at the Capitol.

Governor Jim Doyle, Assembly Speaker John Gard and Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz have been invited to answer the multipartisan citizen assembly’s questions.

National reform advocate Doris “Granny D” Haddock, retiring Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann and legislative whistleblower Lyndee Woodliff have agreed to take part in the forum.

At the age of 90, Granny D completed a 14-month, 3,200-mile walk across the country in 2000 to demonstrate her concern over government corruption and her support for political reform. McCann won convictions in prominent criminal cases ranging from serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer to former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala over the course of a 37-year career. Woodliff, known as Lyndee Wall before her recent marriage, was an administrative assistant in the Assembly Republican Caucus before she quit her job and blew the whistle on illegal campaigning in the taxpayer-funded office.

Doyle, Gard and Schultz have been asked to respond to the following questions:

1. Do you believe Wisconsin government is corrupt? If not, why not? If so, what are you going to do about it?

2. What do you believe individuals and groups making large campaign contributions expect in return for their donations? Are they “paying to play?”

3. According to the recent Wisconsin Policy Research Institute citizen survey, only 6 percent of state residents believe elected officials are representing them. Do you agree with the vast majority’s belief that Wisconsin citizens are not being represented by elected officials? If not, why not? If so, what will you do to restore public confidence in state leaders?

4. Do you support campaign finance reform that includes public financing of state election campaigns and full disclosure of all electioneering activity and all political donations that restores the state’s ban on corporate campaign contributions? If not, why not? If so, what will you do to make it the law of the land?

5. Specifically, do you support Assembly Bill 626, the bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation modeled after the systems already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently enacted in Connecticut? If so, what specific steps will you take to make sure it is enacted into law this session? If you do not support AB 626, on what grounds are you opposed?

6. Nearly half of state legislative races are uncontested and all but a handful are uncompetitive. Do you support Assembly Joint Resolutions 22 and 41, which would move Wisconsin toward the establishment of more competitive elections through reform of legislative redistricting to end partisan gerrymandering? If you do not support either or both of these reform measures, what is the basis of your opposition? If you do support them, what will you do to make sure they are approved by both houses this session?

“Wisconsin is in the midst of the biggest political corruption scandal in our state’s history, and state lawmakers continue to stonewall political reforms. They don’t want to hear what the public has to say about the way the people’s business is conducted at the Capitol. They won’t hold public hearings, so we’re going to hold a ‘public telling’ and ask them questions that need answering,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe, one of the organizers of the People’s Legislature. “We’re all ears.”

A recent St. Norbert College Survey Center poll showed that political corruption is now one of the most common answers people give when asked to identify the most important problem facing Wisconsin. Corruption at the Capitol was cited as often as gas prices, and corruption ranked ahead of health care, crime, poverty and the environment as the top concern of state residents, according to the survey.

The St. Norbert College poll came on the heels of a public opinion survey released in late October showing that only 6 percent of Wisconsin residents believe elected officials are representing voters’ interests. Almost half of respondents to the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute survey think elected officials are just advancing their own political careers, while over 40 percent say public officials are doing the bidding of special interests.

After the January 23 public telling, People’s Legislature members across the state are being asked to hold similar meetings in their communities, where the same questions will be posed to the state legislators representing those communities as well as candidates for those offices.

People’s Legislature organizers spent most of last year enlisting the state’s growing ranks of “politically homeless” citizens into a statewide grassroots reform movement, before holding a rally for reform on the steps of the Capitol on October 27. More than 400 participants – many of them wielding brooms symbolizing the need to sweep out the Capitol – showered the governor’s office and their legislators’ offices with fliers calling for a special legislative session on reform.

Less than a week after the rally, the state Senate approved ethics reform legislation, Senate Bill 1, on a bipartisan 28-5 vote. SB 1 embodies one of four reforms endorsed by the People’s Legislature at its inaugural assembly on January 4, 2005 and was among the reform bills included in the call for a special session issued by participants in the October 27 rally.

Leading up to the October march on the Capitol, the People’s Legislature held a series of citizen assemblies around the state. The first held in Madison on January 4 drew more than 1,100 people. Regional forums were then held in La Crosse, Cable, Milwaukee and the Green Bay-area town of Luxemburg. The People’s Legislature convened again on September 10 in Baraboo at Fighting Bob Fest, attended by more than 5,300 people, making it the largest political convention in the state.

The People’s Legislature is co-sponsored by Fighting Bob Inc., Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Center for Democratic Action and Latinos United for Change and Advancement. Leading the effort is a politically diverse group of reform-minded citizens, including business executive and former University of Wisconsin Regent Nino Amato; Green Bay area business executive Paul Linzmeyer; Libertarian Party of Wisconsin chairman Ed Thompson; Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe; FightingBob.com editor Ed Garvey; community activists Judy Adrian and Carol Lobes; Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran of Latinos United for Change and Advancement, and longstanding Republican Party member Carol McKy.