In Wake of Troubling Poll Results, WDC Renews Call for Special Session

An open letter to the Governor

March 21, 2002

Madison - In a letter to Governor Scott McCallum, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign today renewed its request that the governor call the legislature into special session to finish work on the first meaningful reforms in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws in a generation.

WDC’s renewed call for an extended session comes on the heels of a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll showing for the first time since the group started such polling nearly a decade ago that more Wisconsin citizens feel the state is off on the wrong track than believe the state is moving in the right direction.

In the letter to McCallum, WDC executive director Mike McCabe wrote, "Our state’s political leaders and the people of Wisconsin clearly are not seeing eye to eye on the direction of public policy. Nowhere is this disconnect between the people and their elected representatives more pronounced than on the issue of campaign finance reform."

McCabe noted in the letter that 90 percent of voters in an advisory referendum said they support campaign finance reforms that limit campaign spending, restrict political contributions and require full disclosure of all election-related activities.

Both houses of the legislature have passed campaign reform legislation by wide bipartisan margins. The Senate passed SB 104, the comprehensive reform proposal authored by Neenah Republican Mike Ellis and backed by WDC and 46 other advocacy groups, on a 25-8 vote February 26. Later that same day, the Assembly passed its own, less ambitious version of reform (AB 843) on a 87-12 vote.

Despite the strong votes for reform, leaders in the two houses did not agree to convene a conference committee to work out the differences between SB 104 and AB 843 before the regular session ended March 14.

"The people spoke loud and clear," McCabe wrote to the governor, referring to the referendum results, "but their own elected representatives have essentially told them to save their breath."

Letter

March 21, 2002

Governor Scott McCallum

115 East, State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702

Dear Governor McCallum:

Our state’s political leaders and the people of Wisconsin clearly are not seeing eye to eye on the direction of public policy. This disconnect is confirmed by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s recent poll. For the first time since the institute started doing such polling nearly a decade ago, more people feel Wisconsin is going down the wrong path than believe the state is on the right track.

Nowhere is this disconnect between the people and their elected representatives more pronounced than on the issue of campaign finance reform.

Ninety percent of voters said in an advisory referendum that they want campaign finance reforms that limit campaign spending, restrict political donations and require full and prompt disclosure of all election-related activities. The people spoke loud and clear, but their own elected representatives have essentially told them to save their breath. Campaign finance reform legislation has passed in both houses by wide bipartisan margins. But our state’s top political leaders have blocked the final negotiations needed to finish the job and give the people what they want.

You have had numerous opportunities to provide leadership on this issue, and so far you have declined to step up to the plate. You were asked to include funding for campaign finance reform in your budget proposal - as Governor Thompson did - and you refused. You were asked to pledge not to use your partial veto to alter a bipartisan agreement on campaign reform - as your predecessor did and as you have done on other issues - and again you refused. We asked you last week to call the legislature into special session to enact campaign finance reform legislation, and you ignored our appeal.

It is not too late for Wisconsin to restore its once-proud reputation for clean, open and accountable government. And it is not too late for you to reconnect with the voters on this critically important issue.

You have it within your power to stand up to the forces that are corrupting Wisconsin government and stand with the overwhelming majority of our state’s citizens who want the political process cleaned up.

Tough times require courageous leadership. You can provide just such leadership by calling the legislature into special session to enact comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation.

Sincerely,

Mike McCabe
Executive Director