Both parties react after campaign finance bill passes Assembly late Wednesday

by Larry Lee, Wasau Daily News




MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Assembly's vote to change campaign finance guidelines shows just how far apart Republicans and Democrats are on this issue.


The majority Republicans passed Assembly Bill 388 and it's updates to campaign finance laws, and reflects changes made at the national level.

Democrats all recused themselves from the vote, which in a bizarre twist of politics, gave a bill Democrats strongly dislike a rare unanimous approval.


Assembly Minority Leader Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) issued a statement after the vote, saying, “Under the Republican campaign finance bill, Wisconsin is open for corruption. Corporations and out-of-state billionaires will be able to give unlimited amounts of money to influence elections in Wisconsin. While the people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly support campaign finance reform and getting money out of politics, this bill only amplifies the volume of spending on elections. This is the end of an era of clean government and a democracy with integrity.“  


Shankland goes on to say, "The people of Wisconsin deserve a government of, by, and for the people, not wealthy special interests. But this bill drowns out the voices of ordinary people and preserves only the free speech of billionaires. Our middle class is diminishing, and we hear every day from people who work hard and struggle to make ends meet. Middle class families do not have thousands or millions of dollars to give to politicians, and they are the ones being silenced as more out-of-state money flows into Wisconsin. This bill will only benefit politicians, not the people of Wisconsin. Since this legislation could directly impact politicians’ campaign committees, including mine, I believe I have a substantial financial interest in this matter, and must recuse myself from voting on this bill.”
Republicans also commented after the vote. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said, “In an act of true political theatre, this evening we saw Assembly Democrats abdicate their duties as elected officers of the state. Rather than casting a vote based upon their personal convictions or constituent’s wishes, my Democrat colleagues sadly opted to make false accusations and abstained from a final vote.  Performing the strangest of stunts, our Democrat colleagues effectively shut out their constituents by failing to vote. If their argument for abstaining from a vote on this bill is because they ‘benefit personally’ from campaign funds than they are already breaking the law. Indeed, if this argument were valid, then Democrats should refuse to vote for tax increases or decreases or state budgets for that matter. If they object to this bill, then they would have the decency to cast a vote. Instead, they have shamefully refused to represent their constituents by refusing to vote. Wisconsinites deserve better.”
The bill has been sent to the State Senate, where some Republicans have already said they want some changes. If they change it before passing it, the Assembly will have to vote on it again, meaning Democrats might skip voting on the bill twice.