Reform Coalition Calls on Finance Committee to Act on Ellis-George Campaign Finance Reform Bill

Use Caucus Money to Pay for Reform, Groups Say

October 23, 2001

Madison - The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee should take prompt action on a bipartisan campaign finance reform bill that already has won approval from two key Senate committees, clearing the way for floor debate during the fall legislative session, a coalition of 43 statewide advocacy groups today urged in a letter to finance panel members.

The legislation - Senate Bill 104 - was approved in July on a bipartisan 4-1 vote by the Senate Judiciary, Consumer Affairs and Campaign Finance Reform Committee, and cleared the Senate Organization Committee earlier this month.

In the letter, the groups said the "money to pay for SB 104 is available now that both houses have voted to eliminate the legislative caucuses.." The letter also notes that voters in finance committee members’ districts overwhelmingly supported campaign finance reform in an advisory referendum (see table).

SB 104’s author, Senator Michael Ellis (R-Neenah), reached agreement with Senator Gary George (D-Milwaukee) in July on a number of changes largely drawn from Senate Bill 62, the Voters First bill. SB 62 was introduced in February by Senators Brian Burke (D-Milwaukee), Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), Peggy Rosenzweig (R-Wauwatosa) and Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), and was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Assembly representatives.

Not only did Ellis and George both throw their support behind the amended SB 104, but it also won the backing of Senator Joanne Huelsman (R-Waukesha), who had supported the original Ellis bill but had not endorsed the Voters First legislation. And earlier this month, it was announced that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala now supports the legislation.

Among the key provisions of SB 104 are:

  • Fully funded public financing grants to candidates who agree to limit their campaign spending. The public financing grants would be equal to 45 percent of the updated spending limits.
  • Matching grants to candidates who abide by the spending limits but have independent campaigns run against them by special interest groups or who face opponents who refuse to agree to the spending limits.
  • A prohibition on campaign fund raising during the state budget process.

In exchange for the public financing grants, candidates for the Senate would have to agree to limit their spending to $120,000 while Assembly candidates would be limited to spending $60,000. Candidate spending in the 2000 elections reached a high of $409,279 for a Senate campaign and $211,071 for an Assembly campaign. Candidates for governor would be limited to spending $2 million under SB 104. Former Governor Tommy Thompson spent $7.1 million in the 1998 election cycle.

"There is no justification for further delay. The Joint Finance Committee should act immediately on Senate Bill 104 so the full legislature can debate it and vote on it before the end of the session," said WDC executive director Mike McCabe. "Now that the caucuses have been eliminated, lawmakers can no longer use the excuse that there’s no money. There is no better use of the caucus money than to fund a wholesale clean-up of our state’s corrupt campaign finance system."


Campaign Finance Referendum Approval BY Counties InDistricts Represented by Joint Finance Committee Members

Joint Finance Committee Member Party District Counties And % Approval
Sen. Brian Burke (co-chair) D S03 Milwaukee - 89.4%
Rep. John Gard (co-chair) R A89 Marinette - 90.6% 
Oconto - 91.6% 
Brown - 88.7%
Sen. Russell Decker D S29 Price - *
Rusk - 90.9%
Taylor - 91% 
Marathon - 92.8%
Sen. Gwendolynne Moore D S04 Milwaukee - 89.4%
Sen. Kevin Shibilski D S24 Wood - 93.4%
Portage - 91.5% 
Waushara - 92.4%
Adams - 92.5% 
Sen. Kimberly Plache D S21 Racine - 88.4%
Sen. Robert Wirch D S22 Kenosha - 89.6%
Racine - 88.4%
Walworth - 89.8%
Sen. Alberta Darling R S08 Milwaukee - 89.4%
Ozaukee - 89.5%
Waukesha - 79.7%
Washington - 93.3% 
Sen. Peggy Rosenzweig R S05 Milwaukee - 89.4%
Waukesha - 79.7%
Rep. Dean Kaufert R A55 Winnebago - 92.3%
Rep. Sheryl Albers R A50 Juneau - 91.8%
Sauk - 93.9%
Richland - *
Rep. Marc Duff R A98 Waukesha - 79.7%
Milwaukee - 89.4%
Rep. David Ward R A37 Jefferson - 90.5%
Dodge - 91.4%
Columbia - 93.3% 
Dane - 93.9%
Rock - 92%
Rep. Michael Huebsch R A94 La Crosse - 92.3%
Monroe - *
Rep. Gregory Huber D A85 Marathon - 92.8%
Rep. Spencer Coggs D A17 Milwaukee - 89.4%

Logo: Voters First!Letter to Joint Finance

October 23, 2001


TO: Members of the Joint Committee on Finance

We write to call on you to promptly consider the substitute amendment to Senate Bill 104 that was approved on a strong bipartisan vote by the Senate Judiciary, Consumer Affairs and Campaign Finance Reform Committee.

The money to pay for SB 104 is available now that both houses have voted to eliminate the legislative caucuses and the Assembly also voted not to use the 12 additional positions authorized in the agreement to abolish the caucuses.

In the last election, the voters in your districts overwhelmingly voiced their support for the very kind of campaign finance reform embodied in SB 104. It’s long past time for the legislature to do the people’s business on this issue. We look to you to promptly act on this legislation so that it can be brought to a vote in both houses this session.

Voters First Coalition Members

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Wisconsin Towns Association
WI Assn. of School District Administrators
Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy
National Farmers’ Organization - WI
Center for Public Representation
Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities
Survival Coalition of Disability Groups
Autism Society of Wisconsin
WI Assn. of Local Health Directors and Boards
Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
Citizens’ Utility Board
Wisconsin Interfaith IMPACT
UCC Social Concerns Commission
Wisconsin Community Action Program Assn.
Mental Health Assn. - Office of Public Policy
New Transportation Alliance
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
Wisconsin County Executives and Administrators
Wisconsin Alliance of Cities
Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group
Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives
Wisconsin Homecare Organization
Wisconsin Council of the Blind
United Cerebral Palsy of Wisconsin
American Lung Association of WI
National Assn. of Social Workers - WI Chapter
Wisconsin Federation of Teachers
Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade
The River Alliance
American Assn. of University Women - WI
Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin
Church Women United
Coalition of Independent Living Centers
Milwaukee County Commission on Aging
Progressive Fox Valley
Door County Environmental Council