October 16, 2015 Contact: Rep. Dave Considine
Column: Under new bills, the wealthiest shall control the state
By Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo
Dave Considine represents the 81st District in the State Assembly. The 81st District includes Baraboo, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Portage, and many other communities. He can be reached at (608) 266-7746 or via email at Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov.
Chapter 11 of Wisconsin’s state statutes, which deals with campaign finance, is twenty-three pages long. Assembly Bill (AB) 387, a bill authored by Republican Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, is more than five times as long as Chapter 11, and one of its amendments runs another eighteen pages. This legislation, a total of 142 pages, was introduced on October 8, barely one week ago.
What do these numbers mean? They mean major changes to the way money influences politics, the way money can be traced by the public, and decision-making in our state. They mean that not only will Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws be different if AB 387 passes – they will be unrecognizable.
- For the first time in our state’s history, this bill would allow corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to political parties and campaign committees.
- Individuals would be allowed to spend almost unlimited funds campaigning without having to tell anyone who they are.
And those are just a few of the portions we know about. As this bill is being pushed through the Legislature at lightning speed, it is being constantly changed with virtually no chance for you to give your input. The legislature's non-partisan research team said they were unable to give us a side by side comparison of the changes and additions in AB 387 compared to Chapter 11. It is that complex and yet I am being asked to debate and vote on this proposal less than two weeks after its first release. The bill is too long, the changes are too far-reaching, and the timeline too short. You know a bill is dangerous when even the Legislature’s non-partisan research team needs more time to fully understand it.
But while AB 387 is unique in just how thoroughly it demolishes the rules that allow Wisconsin citizens an equal voice in our state’s decisions, it is not alone. I am extremely concerned about a number of measures that could have serious impacts on our democracy. AB 388/SB 294 would completely dismantle the non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees the actions of Wisconsin legislators and candidates. Another bill, AB 68 (which has been rightly nicknamed the “Corrupt Politicians’ Protection Act”) would prevent people from being held accountable for campaign finance-related crimes via John Doe investigations – which can be the only way to get justice for many smaller communities that cannot afford the alternative grand jury process. AB 373/SB 285 would completely undermine our civil service employment system, which ensures that only the best applicants serve our state.
In short, these campaign finance changes are just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot stand by and watch our state sink deeper into special interest control, non-transparent decision making, and divisive partisanship. Nothing good will come from these bills, especially Rep. Vos and Sen. Fitzgerald’s drastic campaign finance changes. None of this legislation will help our communities in the 81st Assembly District or anywhere else in Wisconsin. I am so strongly opposed to these bills because, generally, these ideas do not originate with hardworking taxpayers. They come from wealthy donors who want to be able to give millions of dollars to candidates in exchange for control over our environment and our children’s education. They come from some legislators who want to make it easier to hide their actions from you - the public they were elected to serve.
Instead of making it easier to shut our fellow citizens out of their own democracy, we need to work together to keep our government open and make it harder for political corruption and deceit to exist. If you have not already reached out to tell legislators you don’t support these attempts to break down Wisconsin’s proud tradition of fair, open government, please do. Your voice is the most valuable asset you have, and it is extremely important to those who represent you. Visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov to find legislator contact information, and let’s start working together to ensure that your government continues to serve you.