Deafening Silence

While 52 Candidates Pledge ‘Clean Sweep,’ Most Incumbents Take the Fifth on Political Reform Specifics; Challengers 3 Times as Likely to Answer

August 14, 2002

Madison - Most current office holders went into hiding when challenged to go beyond vague statements of support for political reform and take a public stand on key details of campaign finance reform legislation as well as other political reforms, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported today as it released responses to its “Clean Sweep” questionnaire.

Overall, 103 of 271 candidates for the state legislature, governor and lieutenant governor responded to the survey. Of those who responded, 52 - including Democrats, Republicans, independents and third-party candidates alike - pledged to support each and every one of the 12 specific campaign finance changes and other political reforms that make up the Clean Sweep initiative.

Participation in the survey varied widely depending on whether the candidate is currently in office or is a challenger, the WDC analysis shows. While 61 percent of challengers for the state offices answered the questionnaire, only 20 percent of current office holders responded. Of candidates competing for open legislative seats, 36 percent responded.

Challengers also were four times as likely to pledge support for the entire package of Clean Sweep reforms. Among challengers, 32 percent supported all of the reforms. Only 8 percent of current office holders did so. Nineteen percent of open seat candidates committed to support each and every reform.

"The silence of the vast majority of incumbents speaks volumes. It shows just how committed they are to maintaining the corrupt status quo," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "They couldn’t answer 'no' because they don’t want to tell voters who overwhelmingly want reform that they’re against it. But they couldn’t say 'yes’ because they really don’t want to change a system that is rigged in their favor. So they just didn’t respond."

McCabe added, "Their silence also speaks volumes about the arrogance that has taken root in the Capitol. Far too many of the people currently in power think they are above public accountability. Voters have a right to know where candidates stand on these issues, but most of the incumbents see that right as a nuisance they can ignore."

The 52 candidates who pledged to support all of the Clean Sweep reforms include Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tom Barrett, Jim Doyle and Kathleen Falk, as well as Republican challenger Bill Lorge. Green Party candidate Jim Young and independent Alan Eisenberg also pledged to support the entire package of reforms.

Clean Sweep supporters among the candidates for lieutenant governor include Democrats Barbara Lawton and Kevin Shibilski, Libertarian Marty Reynolds and Green Party candidate Jeffrey Peterson.

Senate candidates supporting all of the Clean Sweep reforms include: James Baumgart, Greg Black, Walter Christensen, George Christenson, Patrick Farley, Richard Grobschmidt, Kimberly Plache, Emmett Reilly and Judith Robson.

Clean Sweep candidates running for the Assembly include: Nancy Bartlett, Alan Bosman, Bernard Dalsey, Chuck Dinkel, Dottie Feder, Todd Frederick, Mo Hansen, Tom Hebl, Jim Heinen, Gary Hill, Daniel Katers, Ted Kempkes, Peggy Krusick, Catharine Lawton, John Lehman, Richard Levandowski, Jan Morrow, Terry Musser, Larry Osegard, Bob Preston, Daniel Racette, Trent Rasmussen, Ryan Schroeder, Dan Senglaub, Arlene Siss, Michael Smith, Robert Turner, Sidney Vineburg, Donald Scott Waller, Charles Wolden, Larry Wolf, Jeffrey Wood and Meagan Yost.

McCabe said he hopes the media and voters across the state will continue to grill candidates on the specifics of political reform legislation.

"Unless lawmakers are pinned down on the key details of real reform, they’ll continue to pass legislation designed to allow them to take credit for reforming the system without actually changing anything," McCabe said. "The public shouldn’t believe the politicians have cleaned up the system until they see a clean system."

QuestionnaireClean Sweep ResponsesCandidate Comments