February 12, 2016

A push for campaign finance reform

With record campaign spending in the past year on recall elections, state lawmakers are being urged to tackle the difficult issue of reforming the system.

Campaign spending in the 15 recall elections held over the past year is expected top $130 million. For much of that total, Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the public has been left largely in the dark about who is providing the money and there’s “just this bottomless well from which these special interests draw this money and pour it into these advertising campaigns.”

With the memory of the recall election against Governor Walker still fresh in the minds of voters, McCabe and other government watchdog groups say now is the time to change the system. They’re calling on lawmakers to hold hearings this summer on campaign finance reform and to schedule a special session.

Reforms groups are calling for include broadening disclosure laws for campaign donations and for tracking how that money is spent on advertising. There’s also a push to close a loophole that allows those targeted by a recall to raise unlimited campaign cash, which McCabe says should never be allowed to happen again. That provision in state law allowed Governor Walker to collect over $37 million to defend against a recall.

McCabe says these are issues lawmakers could find common ground on, although he admits the chances of it happening are unlikely. He says “there’s been bipartisan agreement among legislators not to do anything” because they are fine with the status quo and benefit from things staying the way they currently are.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:04)

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