WDC Calls for New Vote on Disclosure Rule

Letters to Governor, State Democratic Party Chair and Elections Board Member

September 2, 2004

GovernorState Democratic Party ChairBoard Member Martha Love

Letter to Governor Doyle

September 2, 2004

Governor James Doyle
P.O. Box 7863
Madison, WI 53707

Dear Governor Doyle:

As you are aware, the state Elections Board again rejected the proposed truth-in-campaigning rule requiring full disclosure of special interest campaign ads and the unlimited and anonymous soft money donations that pay for them. And as you know, your party’s appointee to the board cast the key vote against this reform after previously voting three times - once in January and twice more in March - to move forward with the rulemaking.

If Martha Love had not flip-flopped on this issue, the Elections Board would have approved what easily qualifies as the most important campaign finance reform in well over 25 years. You have said on numerous occasions that you support issue ad regulation, yet you told reporters after the Elections Board vote that you did not call your party’s appointee to the board, Martha Love, to ask her to support reform that you have called a "top priority" and a "sacred commitment."

I urge you to make that call now. Specifically, I call on you, as leader of your party, to ask the party’s designee to offer a motion for reconsideration of the vote on the proposed issue ad rule at the Elections Board’s next meeting.

Sincerely,

Mike McCabe
Executive Director

Letter to Democratic Party Chair Honold

September 2, 2004

Linda Honold, State Chair
Democratic Party of Wisconsin
222 W. Washington Avenue, Suite 150
Madison, WI 53703

Dear Linda:

I was bitterly disappointed but sadly not surprised when the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s appointee to the state Elections Board cast the key vote rejecting the proposed truth-in-campaigning rule requiring full disclosure of special interest campaign ads and the unlimited and anonymous soft money donations that pay for them.

Your appointee’s vote against reform was especially frustrating since she previously voted three times to move forward with this rulemaking. The people of Wisconsin deserve an explanation of why she flip-flopped and what happened to change her mind since she obviously thought this disclosure rule was a good idea for several months.

The people of Wisconsin also deserve an explanation from your party of why you continue to oppose this important reform, especially considering that the highest ranking Democratic state official claims to support it. Back in May, you said the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is "100 percent committed to campaign finance reform." But you went on to say it was "simply the wrong time for the Elections Board to promulgate an emergency rule." You argued then that "to pass an emergency rule mere months before an election is unfair to all parties involved because it changes the rules in the middle of the game."

This argument clearly is no longer valid. At Wednesday’s meeting, both the Elections Board’s executive director and legal counsel made it abundantly clear that a rule adopted now could not possibly apply to the 2004 elections and, given the Legislature’s review process, it is unlikely it could be in place for the spring 2005 elections. Even opponents of the proposed rule agreed that it would not be in effect until the 2006 elections.

In May, you also argued that the Elections Board "should not jump headlong into something that could impact the 2004 election" when the board’s attorney, George Dunst, thinks that this rule might be unconstitutional. You know as well as I do that since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of issue ad regulation last December in McConnell v. FEC, Mr. Dunst’s long held view is not reflective of current judicial thinking on this matter. The Legislature’s own attorneys also disagree with Mr. Dunst, as do leading legal scholars specializing in campaign finance law. Enclosed is a memo from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s Law School, whose attorneys helped write the McCain-Feingold law and defended it all the way to the Supreme Court. This memo makes it clear that neither the Elections Board’s legal counsel nor your party has a leg to stand on in arguing that this rule is unconstitutional.

The fact that your major objections to moving forward with this rulemaking have dissolved begs two important questions: Why is your party still opposed to this reform while claiming to be "100 percent committed" to campaign finance reform? And who is your party listening to - 90 percent of the voters who demanded full and prompt disclosure of all election-related activities in the 2000 referendum on the subject or one special interest group whose lawyer was the only person to speak against the proposed rule at Wednesday’s Elections Board meeting?

It is time for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to live up to its stated commitment to campaign finance reform and support a motion for reconsideration of the vote on the proposed issue ad rule at the Elections Board’s next meeting.

Sincerely,

Mike McCabe
Executive Director

Letter to Board Member Martha Love

September 2, 2004

Martha Love
Wisconsin State Elections Board
P.O. Box 2973
Madison, WI 53701-2973

Dear Ms. Love:

I am writing to express my profound disappointment in your vote to reject the proposed truth-in-campaigning rule requiring full disclosure of special interest campaign ads and the unlimited and anonymous soft money donations that pay for them.

Your vote against reform was particularly frustrating in light of the fact that you previously voted three times - once in January and twice more in March - to move forward with this rulemaking. You owe the people of Wisconsin an explanation of what happened to change your mind since you obviously thought this was a good idea for several months.

Especially offensive was the fact that you came to Wednesday’s Elections Board meeting with a prepared statement explaining your vote, meaning that you did not consider an hour and a half of public testimony and discussion by your colleagues on the board. In your statement, you claimed that the Legislature’s attorneys consider the proposed rule to be unconstitutional. These words were put in your mouth before you had an opportunity to see two memoranda I distributed to members of the board at the meeting from Legislative Council attorneys Robert Conlin and Ron Sklansky. These memos can fairly be described as saying exactly the opposite of what you claimed.

You also claimed that the rule stood "no chance" of taking effect because legislative leaders would surely block its implementation. Such an excuse for inaction is both lame and wrong. The fact that legislators and the governor have failed to provide leadership on this critical reform issue is no reason for the Elections Board to shirk its duty to responsibly interpret and enforce Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. And while legislators could object to the rule, permanently preventing its implementation would require lawmakers to enact legislation reversing it - a tall order considering how many legislators are on record supporting campaign finance disclosure.

You further said that the mere fact the board took up the issue was "shameful." What happened was shameful alright. But you are quite likely the only person in the state who believes merely considering this issue is what made yesterday’s events fit that description.

I call on you to take your obligation to serve in the public’s interest seriously and offer a motion for reconsideration of the vote on the proposed issue ad rule at the Elections Board’s next meeting.

Sincerely,

Mike McCabe
Executive Director

GovernorState Democratic Party ChairBoard Member Martha Love