December 21, 2014

Assembly lifts ban on budget-time fundraising

Republican leaders in the state Assembly have lifted a ban on campaign fundraising while the state budget is being considered.

The Republican-controlled Assembly Organization Committee voted Thursday to lift the ban in a 5-3 party line vote. Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the change is a step backward for the legislature and calls it “an invitation to shakedowns that will inevitably create the appearance that budget favors can be bought.”

AUDIO: Mike McCabe, WDC (:44)

McCabe says the fact that the vote was done through a paper ballot shows Republicans were likely not proud of the move. He says it used to be seen as bad form for lawmakers to engage in fundraising during the budget, which was why lawmakers adopted the rule in 2009. However, McCabe says Thursday’s vote signals a return to “standard operating procedure.”

The Senate does not have a similar prohibition in place, although McCabe notes that fundraising in that chamber also dropped off since the Assembly adopted its rule in 2009.

The rule does ban lawmakers from fundraising in Dane County, unless they are running for a non-Assembly office or their district reaches into the county. McCabe calls that an empty gesture, since all lawmakers need to do is send out fundraising letters or hold events back in their districts.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ office did not respond to a message seeking comment on the vote.