State politicians are owned by the lobbyists and the special interest groups, don't give a whit about what average citizens want or need, and generally seem to rank somewhere between used car salesmen and child molesters in the public's estimation, according to the latest polling by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
A measly 2% of Wisconsin residents believe they can trust state government to do what is right almost all the time. Who determines what state government spends? Eighty-two percent say lobbying groups do and only 12% believe it's the voters. When asked whether the standard of ethics of members of the state legislature has changed over the last decade, only 6% think it has changed for the better, while 44% think it has gotten worse.
WPRI also asked state residents whose interests they think their elected officials represent the most – their interests, special interests or the politicians' own interests. A mere 10% think their elected officials represent the voters’ interests, while 43% think they're working for the special interests and 42% think state politicians are just looking out for their own self-interest.
WPRI concludes that "something extraordinary is happening in Wisconsin." Specifically, the group says: "Years of political neglect by their elected officials are beginning to have a serious toll on the confidence of Wisconsin residents in elected officials and their state government. The lack of optimism is seen in all aspects of life in Wisconsin today, whether it is the state’s economy, the ethics of state government and elected officials or the dominance of lobbying in the political process. Wisconsin residents are extremely unhappy and becoming more and more disconnected from their government and the state’s politics. . . . The issues of lobbying, state ethics and the state’s economy has never been more on the mind of Wisconsin residents. It would not be surprising if, in 2008, Wisconsin voters send a message that will be even louder than the one sent in 2006."
Are state lawmakers listening? Do they even care what the public thinks of them?
They'll answer these questions in January when they decide what to make of the special session on campaign reform.