Special Interests Making Their Lists and Checking Them Twice

A Revised Version of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’

December 22, 1998

Madison - As Wisconsinites head out for last minute holiday shopping, special interests are busy drawing up wish lists for the Legislature and the governor. "Santa isn't the only one getting special requests this time of year," said Gail Shea, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

With that in mind, the WDC again called on the governor and the Legislature to give Wisconsin citizens the gift of meaningful campaign reform in the coming year. To highlight what special interests have received and some of the "gifts" they will be seeking in the upcoming legislative session, the WDC has written a parody of the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Many of the items sought by special interests could take a bigger slice out of a person’s paycheck or hurt the environment. For instance:

  • Real estate interests want a change in state wastewater treatment rules that would allow them to role the bulldozers and build on hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural and pristine forest lands throughout Wisconsin. They also want the state to pass rules that would relax construction site erosion controls that are designed to protect water quality.
  • The tavern industry plans a hard push to legalize video gambling after recent state-tribal gaming compacts created the possibility of expanded gambling at Indian casinos.
  • Business groups intend to oppose any increases in the minimum wage. They want to end fees they pay to fund municipal recycling programs. And they want tax breaks on equipment, storage costs and other items.
  • The state’s largest teachers union has a number of proposals that could increase local school costs and tap state coffers for more tax dollars. It plans to use its considerable political muscle to exempt local school costs for technology, health and safety projects and other items from state-imposed school spending limits. It also advocates increasing retirement pay for teachers and spending more than $4 million for parent-teacher meeting centers in every public school building.
"Special interests don’t care whether their proposals are naughty or nice to the average, hard-working Wisconsin citizen. They have stuffed legislative campaign stockings with millions in contributions to grease the legislative sleigh and make lawmakers feel beholden to deliver their presents," said Shea. "This has to stop. By funding campaign finance reform, the governor would be seizing a key opportunity to reduce special interest influence on health care, education and other important matters in the upcoming session and beyond."

Recommendations in a 1997 report by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Campaign Finance Reform would cost an estimated $4 million a year - about $1 per eligible voter. But Shea said the return on the dollar would be well worth it to Wisconsin citizens. "Lawmakers would feel less pressured by special interests, and they would have more time and energy to develop policy that caters to the needs of the general public."

In addition to action from the governor and the Legislature on campaign finance reform, Shea said it is critical that all Wisconsin citizens - from Ashland to Monroe and from Manitowoc to La Crosse - keep an eye on these special interests and the work that their elected representatives will begin next month. "The public must urge their lawmakers to ignore these special interests and do the job they were elected to do - construct and pass public policy that improves the lives of the citizens of this state. That could be made easier if the governor and legislators approve meaningful campaign finance reform that would reduce special interest influence on election campaigns and allow them to stop playing Santa Claus for the special interests," Shea said.

Twelve Days of Christmas