Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Senator Was Against Disclosure Before She Was For It

Republican State Senator Mary Lazich demanded full and immediate disclosure of people who signed the recall petitions against the governor, but she isn't so keen about public disclosure and transparency when it comes to thousands of special interest campaign contributors to her campaign and other state officeholders.

Lazich recently slammed the state Government Accountability Board for not immediately posting the petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker on its website. Media reports say the board decided to post the petitions after consulting with attorneys about whether it was obliged to honor requests not to post the names of petition signers who claimed to be victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking.

In her written statement criticizing the board, Lazich said in part: "Currently Wisconsin law requires you must disclose not only your address, but also your occupation and employer while donating money to a political candidate or party. The information is all readily available online."

But a lot of that information may not be available in the near future. Lazich has sought to sharply reduce the disclosure of occupational and employer information about campaign donors through a legislative proposal - Senate Bill 292 - recommended for passage by the Senate Transportation and Elections Committee she chairs.

The original bill would have changed state law so that candidates for state offices would no longer have to report the employer of contributors who give a candidate more than $100 a year.

But Lazich amended the anti-disclosure measure to make it worse and allow candidates to exclude both employer and occupational information for contributions of more than $250.

The requirement to report general occupation information, such as doctor, nurse, engineer and banker, as well as a large contributor's employer is important because it allows the public to see the real identities - and possibly motives - behind some of the big money that flows to candidate campaigns.

In addition to viewing the actual candidate reports filed electronically with the Government Accountability Board, the Democracy Campaign maintains a public database with a wealth of information about contributors of $100 and up. The database shows the date, name, city, state, occupation, employer and amount of contributions dating back to 1989, and the employer information allows contributions to be batched and viewed by special interest group, such as business, health professionals, lawyer, labor union and natural resources.

Had Lazich's proposal been in effect for the past 20 years, the Democracy Campaign's database would only identify 105,582 contribution records instead of the 673,804 records it currently contains.

Wisconsin needs more disclosure, not less when it comes to elections AND how they are financed.

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