We have within our power the ability to shine light on all money spent in political campaigns. Citizens United, the infamous decision by the US Supreme Court that declared corporations as people, set a clear path encouraging states to enact reporting requirements for money spent in elections.
Generally money spent in elections is reported to the Government Accountability Board and that information is available to the public. That reporting however is limited to “express advocacy” in a campaign. Ads that don’t mention an election date and don’t say “vote for” or “vote against” don’t have to report. But we all know that every dollar spent before an election on advertisements is intended to influence the outcome of an election. We call these ads “so called issue ads”. We should shed sunlight on the money used to influence the outcome of an election, even if that spending is not express advocacy for an election but clearly is intended to help or hurt one candidate or another.
The problem with reform that directly affects elected officials has been that once a person is elected they soon lose interest in fixing the election system. They are afraid that if sunlight is shown on who paid for the television ads in their election, people may not be happy anonymous money was spent electing their legislator. That assumption might be right, people may not tolerate bought and paid for by……. “So called issue ads” are run on both sides of the isle. They use union money, international money and corporate funds to pay for television, phone calls, mail and radio ads.
I have worked through the years and through the changing court decisions trying to get this legislation passed in both houses of the Legislature. The Senate has passed it twice. For many years this was a bipartisan bill; one I co-authored with Senator Mike Ellis and Representative Dean Kaufert. Both have left the Legislature. But the issue remains and is in the right thing to do so we will move ahead, partnered with the likes of Common Cause and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
We may never be able to stop the flow of money into elections in Wisconsin but we can account for every dollar spent through a comprehensive reporting requirement 60 days before every election. Sunshine on money spent will hold everyone accountable in a fair and transparent way.
You too can make a difference in how election spending is reported. Contact your Legislators today. For more information on the Erpenbach proposal for sunshine in elections please contact my office at 608-266-6670 firstname.lastname@example.org