31 Groups Back Reform Agenda

5-part package aims to combat corruption, revitalize democracy

Posted: February 22, 2005
Updated: March 8, 2005

Madison - A coalition of more than two dozen public interest groups collectively representing hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens today issued a renewed call for political reforms restoring competitive elections, clean campaigns and vigorous ethics enforcement.

Organizations supporting the "Power to the Voter" agenda include: AARP, American Association of University Women of Wisconsin, AFT-Wisconsin, Associated Students of Madison, Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin, Citizens’ Utility Board, Clean Water Action Council, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Coalition for Wisconsin Health Economic Justice Institute, Four Lakes Green Party, Lake Winnebago Greens, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, League of Wisconsin Municipalities*, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, National Association of Social Workers-Wisconsin, Progressive Dane, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Survival Coalition**, United Council of UW Students, Wisconsin Citizen Action, Wisconsin Council of the Blind, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Green Party, Wisconsin Homecare Organization; Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group and Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association.

The five-part reform agenda includes:

  • Truth in campaigning - legislation or administrative rules requiring full and prompt disclosure of all election-related activities.
  • Voter-owned elections - comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation creating a level playing field for candidates, limiting special interest influence and putting voters back in control of state election campaigns.
  • Unleashed watchdogs - independent ethics and campaign finance law enforcement by reforming the state Elections Board and Ethics Board.
  • Tamper-proof voting districts - more competitive elections and less partisan rancor among lawmakers by ending partisan gerrymandering through the creation of an independent authority in charge of drawing legislative district lines.
  • Free choice voting - election reform allowing rank-order voting to give voters more choices, discourage negative campaigning and eliminate "wasted votes" or "spoiler" candidates.

More information on the reform agenda is available here.

The 1,100-member People’s Legislature that was convened on January 4 passed resolutions supporting several core political reforms, including:

  • Comprehensive campaign finance reform including public financing of state election campaigns and full disclosure of campaign contributions that restores Wisconsin’s ban on corporate campaign contributions.
  • Independent ethics enforcement through reform that combines the state Elections Board and Ethics Board into one enforcement agency under the direction of a politically independent board.
  • Competitive elections through reform of the way legislative redistricting is done, modeled after a system used in Iowa, to end partisan gerrymandering and create competitive voting districts; and restoration of the Fairness Doctrine requiring broadcasters to give equal time to candidates and competing points of view.
  • Preservation of local control to prevent arbitrary and centralized budgetary limits on local units of government.

Legislation has been introduced this session as Senate Bill 1 addressing ethics and campaign finance law enforcement. Campaign finance reform legislation introduced as Senate Bill 46 is scheduled to receive a public hearing on March 2, but the bill does not currently require full disclosure of campaign funds and does not include a workable system of public financing of state election campaigns (see analysis). A soon-to-be-introduced Assembly resolution will direct the Joint Legislative Council to study and recommend legislation providing legislative and congressional redistricting by an independent citizens commission.

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*Does not endorse free choice voting

**Does not endorse reforming the state Elections Board and Ethics Board