Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Better Together Than Alone

The Democracy Campaign is a founding member of the Midwest Democracy Network, a regional alliance of groups in five Great Lakes states devoted to achieving economies of scale in the reform community that allow groups to do work collectively and regionally that none of them could likely do alone in their respective states. WDC is represented on the network's five-member steering committee. This video tells more of the story. . . .

What is the Midwest Democracy Network? from Midwest Democracy Network on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fundraising Ban Widely Effective, BUT. . .

A review of campaign finance reports filed so far shows widespread adherence to a rule banning campaign fundraising by members of the Assembly during the state budget process.

However, if the reports accurately reflect when the contributions were received, four Assembly representatives violated the ban in effect during legislative action on the 2009-11 budget. The reports filed as of early Thursday cover fundraising and spending activity in the first six months of 2008 by about one-fourth of the Assembly.

The Assembly ban approved in February called on its 99 members not to accept or solicit any campaign contributions for themselves or other campaign committees beginning the day the budget bill is introduced in the legislature, which was February 17, and ending on the date it is presented to the governor, which was June 29.

Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17. Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee accepted $450 in contributions February 17 and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi accepted a $57.80 in-kind contribution June 25.

Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton received $3,025 before the ban and a $50 contribution on June 16 which she returned to the contributor.

A report filed by veteran Democrat Robert Turner of Racine shows he raised $11,065 in individual and political action committee contributions from March 24 through April 24. But the ban allowed Assembly members to accept contributions to run for other elected offices. Turner unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Racine in a May 5 special election.

Republican Kevin Petersen of Waupaca made $1,610 in in-kind contributions and a personal loan to his campaign during the ban.

The Democracy Campaign found numerous Assembly members got contributions before the ban took effect, according to their campaign reports. Democrat Mark Radcliffe of Black River Falls accepted $1,880 in contributions February 13 and 14 and Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville accepted $500 February 2. Republicans Bill Kramer of Waukesha got $500, Robin Vos of Racine got $4,525 and Jim Ott of Mequon and Gary Tauchen of Bonduel each raised $100 - all before the ban.

So far, representatives who reported getting no individual or PAC contributions during the entire six-month period are:

Republican Representatives Dan Meyer of Eagle River, Roger Roth of Appleton, Samantha Kerkman of Genoa City, Richard Spanbauer of Oshkosh, Don Friske of Merrill, Mark Gottlieb of Port Washington and Pat Strachota of West Bend;

Democratic Representatives Jim Soletski of Green Bay, David Cullen of Milwaukee, Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids, Mary Hubler of Rice Lake, Chuck Benedict of Beloit and Joe Parisi and Spencer Black, both of Madison.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hard Times For Fat Cats

Is a recession in the political economy right around the corner? Bill Kraus thinks so.

He might end up being right. Bill's a seasoned political veteran who knows the lay of the land in campaigns as well as anyone. If he looks into his crystal ball and sees belt-tightening for the political class, then it at least has to be considered a plausible scenario.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

I say that for two reasons. First, the overall economy was already in recession in 2008 but political giving and campaign spending were up. Way up. Second, if you count up all the donors to state campaigns in the Democracy Campaign's online database, they amount to only about 1% of Wisconsin's population. If the masses were making campaign contributions, then you'd expect political giving to drop off during an economic downturn. But only 1% does all the donating, and it tends to be the upper crust, the least likely to have been seriously impacted by the recession.

For these reasons, it's my guess that the political economy will remain recession-proof.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Familiar Dodge

The tale of missing travel receipts that was told over the weekend by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a familiar ring to it. What has evidently now become standard operating procedure in at least the upper echelons of the executive branch was once an all-too-common election campaign practice that was exposed and then banned in early 2006.

We started noticing that credit card transactions by campaigns were being reported in a way that made it impossible to determine who was being paid for goods or services rendered. Campaign finance reports would attribute vaguely described expenses to the credit card company and not the vendor who was the actual recipient of the campaign funds. Governor Jim Doyle was among the worst offenders.

The state Elections Board was called upon to prohibit the practice and require meaningful disclosure of how money is really changing hands in campaign business transacted by credit card. In March 2006, the board did just that, adopting a new policy requiring campaigns to disclose the vendor's name and address as well as the date, amount and purpose of any expense over $20.

Doyle evidently didn't take any lesson from that episode because the veil he has been routinely throwing over expenses related to his travel as governor is eerily reminiscent of the one his campaign used to throw over all manner of spending he did while seeking the office in the first place.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Why Do Politicians Really Cry?

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
- Mahatma Gandhi