Public financing of Wisconsin elections may be due for an overhaul. State Representative Jeff Smith chairs the Assembly Elections and Campaign Finance Reform Committee, which held three hearings on the issue. “Almost all of us in elected office hear time and again that people are pretty tired of what they see and hear during campaigns, and they would like to see some major changes,” says Smith.
One area that may see major changes is the state’s one dollar tax form check off for public financing of elections, which Smith says is inadequate. One idea, increasing it, as Minnesota has done. “Minnesota’s check off is now five dollars,” Smith notes. “Another suggestion we had . . . would be even changing the language of the check off, so that you would check it off only if you did not want to contribute five of your tax dollars towards campaigns.”
Although the hearings were supposed to be about public financing, Smith says they also got a lot of complaints about third party issue ads, something Smith says may be difficult to address. “We certainly heard the frustrations of voters, when it comes to . . . the rhetoric that they hear all around the campaigns from outside interest groups.”