Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hypocrisy Unlimited

To justify their stonewalling of campaign finance reform legislation that would reestablish public financing of state campaigns in Wisconsin, the mantra of the bosses at the Capitol is that it is wrong to spend taxpayer money on election campaigns when there are so many other pressing needs and so little money to meet them.

Forget for a moment that the state is invariably out of money when the powerless need help but there always seems to be plenty of cash on hand when a big campaign donor is looking for a perk or lawmakers want a pay hike. Hypocrisy at the Capitol runs much deeper than that.

As one of the Democracy Campaign's founding members and first executive director so aptly describes, legislators never raised a stink about using taxpayer money on election campaigns when they were paying state employees to run their campaigns on the taxpayer's dime in the corrupt legislative caucus offices.

One budget after another crafted by the very same legislators who ridicule public financing of elections as "welfare for politicians" contained $4 million a year for the state offices that were used as election headquarters for current office holders and were eventually abolished when they became the focal point of criminal investigations that yielded nearly four dozen felony charges against legislative leaders who oversaw their operation.

Ironically, $4 million is the annual cost of the public financing provisions of the leading campaign finance reform bill before the Legislature. When that same sum was spent year after year on illegal electioneering by state employees on state time, the bosses who run the Capitol vigorously defended it. But when it is proposed that the money be given to any qualified candidate for state office and not just those already in power, suddenly it is fundamentally wrong.

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