Reform Coalition Asks Chvala to Allow Vote on Ellis-George Campaign Finance Reform Compromise

Groups to Majority Leader: If You Schedule It, It Will Pass

September 10, 2001

Madison - A broad coalition of statewide advocacy groups today called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala to clear the way for the full Senate to debate a campaign finance reform bill that won bipartisan approval from a key Senate committee in July. 

The legislation - Senate Bill 104 - is the product of an agreement struck by Senator Gary George (D-Milwaukee), chairman of the Senate Judiciary, Consumer Affairs and Campaign Finance Reform Committee, and Senator Michael Ellis (R-Neenah), a leading GOP reform advocate. The compromise passed Senator George’s committee on a bipartisan 4-1 vote. 

In a letter to Senator Chvala, 44 groups that are part of the Voters First alliance said SB 104 "provides the only opportunity for bipartisan agreement on reform legislation" this session and added that "if a vote is permitted on the floor of the Senate, it will pass."

SB 104’s author, Senator Ellis, reached agreement with Senator George 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 have Ellis and George thrown their support behind the amended SB 104, but it also has won the backing of Senator Joanne Huelsman (R-Waukesha), who had supported the original Ellis bill but had not endorsed the Voters First legislation. 

During the 2000 election campaign, Senator Chvala signed a pledge committing to "work to ensure introduction, legislative consideration and passage of the reform concepts in the Voters First plan."

The key elements of the Voters First plan were incorporated into the compromise engineered by George and Ellis, said WDC executive director Mike McCabe. Among the Voters First provisions included in the new version of SB 104 are:

  • A guaranteed source of funding for public financing grants that candidates receive if they agree to limit their campaign spending. (The public financing grants would be equal to 45 percent of the updated spending limits, as called for in Voters First, up from 33 percent in the original Ellis bill. The grants would be funded by a $5 check off on the state income tax form, up from the current $1, supplemented with general tax revenue if needed. The funding mechanism, modeled after Minnesota’s successful public financing system, is the same as that in Voters First.)
  • 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.
  • The elimination of leadership-controlled legislative campaign committees.
  • Restrictions on contributions from special interest conduit committees.
  • A ban on the bundling of money from different special interest political action committees to create "SuperPACs."

In exchange for the public financing grants, candidates for the Senate would have to agree to limit their spending to $120,000 while the limit for Assembly candidates would be $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. 

"This is strong reform legislation and it has broad bipartisan support. Only political games can stop it from passing," McCabe said, alluding to the procedural maneuvering and poison pill amendments the McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan reform bills at the federal level have been subjected to.

Logo: Voters First!Letter to Senator Chvala

September 10, 2001

Senator Charles Chvala
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882

Dear Senator Chvala:

We are writing to urge you to ensure that the amended version of Senate Bill 104 that was approved on a strong bipartisan vote by the Senate Judiciary, Consumer Affairs and Campaign Finance Reform Committee is brought to the floor of the Senate for debate in the October session.

SB 104 doesn’t do everything we'd like, but it does a lot and we believe it is the best vehicle to advance the campaign reform debate in the Senate. In fact, it is clear at this point in the session that SB 104 provides the only opportunity for bipartisan agreement on reform legislation. We are impressed by the broad bipartisan support it has attracted - indeed, it’s obvious that if a vote is permitted on the floor of the Senate, it will pass.

We ask you to use the power of your position to make sure SB 104 is scheduled for debate.

Voters First Coalition Members

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