9 Get ‘Nero Award’ for Blocking Reform

5 Election Board Members, 4 Repeat Winners Cited

October 19, 2004

Madison - Five partisan appointees on the state Elections Board joined Wisconsin’s governor and three top legislative leaders in receiving "Nero Awards" handed out today by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign for ignoring public demands for reform and failing to provide leadership needed to clean up a Capitol engulfed in political scandal.

The awards are named for the 1st Century Roman Emperor Nero, who was famously said to have "fiddled while Rome burned."

The Elections Board members - Democrat Martha Love, Republicans John Schober, John Savage, Patrick Hodan and Libertarian Kirby Brant - earned the award for rejecting proposed truth-in-campaigning rules requiring full disclosure of special interest campaign ads and the unlimited, anonymous "soft money" donations that pay for them.

Also among the 2004 Nero Award recipients are four repeat winners - Assembly Speaker John Gard, Governor Jim Doyle, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Freese and recently ousted Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer. They each were in unique positions to advance reform in the 2003-2004 legislative session but stonewalled it instead.

Gard and Freese are three-time winners of the award. Doyle and Panzer are receiving the dishonor for the second time. This is the third year WDC has given out the award. Other past recipients include indicted current or former lawmakers Scott Jensen, Chuck Chvala, Brian Burke and Steve Foti.

In a 2000 referendum, 90 percent of Wisconsin voters supported campaign finance reform. Four years later, state officials continue to block political reforms despite a criminal investigation that has yielded state and federal charges against six of the state’s most powerful political leaders, including nearly four dozen felonies ranging from extortion and money laundering to kickbacks and bid rigging. One of the indicted lawmakers, former Senator Gary George, has been convicted and sentenced to four years in federal prison. The other cases still are pending more than three years after the investigation was launched and over two years after the first charges were filed. Four of the lawmakers have filed repeated pre-trial appeals in state courts in an effort to get charges thrown out or reduced.

"Four years ago, Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly said they want campaign finance reform. Four years later, the voters still are waiting for the Capitol to be cleaned up. The state officials who were best positioned to provide leadership failed the people of Wisconsin again in 2004," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said of the award recipients.

To Nero Awards