Members of the Legislature's budget writing committee voted yesterday to eliminate any public financing of state elections and use the funds instead for implementation of the new law requiring a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin.
In effect, they are handing the keys to elections entirely over to wealthy special interests and using the money from the public financing program to fund the scheme to make it more difficult to vote.
In defending the action, committee chairman Robin Vos said, "I want the money to go through the candidates. I want them to go to the people and ask for $5, $10 or even $100."
Or $500 . . . the maximum amount an Assembly member like Robin Vos can legally accept. The amount Vos got from KochPAC. And from the Tavern Industry PAC. And General Electric PAC. And Pfizer PAC and a bunch of others. Or $250 . . . the amount Vos took from Walmart's WAL-PAC and six other industry PACs.
Everyone – even Luther Olsen, one of the senators facing recall – knows what having money "go through the candidates" gets us.
A quick glance at the list of donors to Robin Vos brings into sharp focus what it really means when it is suggested that he and his colleagues "go to the people" and ask for money.
Opponents of public financing like Vos are fond of saying that taxpayer participation in the income tax check-off that funds the program is a referendum on the system, and that it has been rejected by the citizenry considering that only 4.2% of taxpayers opted to give money to the public campaign fund via their tax returns in 2009.
The likes of Robin Vos don't realize it, but in claiming that check-off participation is a valid measure of support for public financing, they are unwittingly calling attention to how much citizens must despise them. After all, the percentage of people giving money to candidates through the check-off is something on the order of five times greater than the proportion of the population that donates privately to office seekers.