February 24, 2006
Misappropriation? Irony? Whatever.
By Bill Kraus
In June of 1978, after the delegates to the Wisconsin Republican Convention had voted not to endorse him as their candidate for governor, Lee Dreyfus gathered his adherents in Stevens Point. He wanted to know if they were ready to work on an uphill, impoverished primary campaign anyway.
Since his opponent would not only have the party organization’s backing but was known to have a considerable campaign war chest for that time, many in the crowd felt he should abandon what they figured was a hopeless exercise.
Never one to come up short when he needed a dramatic phrase, Dreyfus asked the gathering, “Who is to decide, people or money?”
And the campaign was on.
Eventually during the course of the campaign this question morphed into a slightly different slogan, which appeared on the few billboards the campaign could afford, as “Let The People Decide.”
Now, 28 years later, the forces behind legislative abdication--including, incredibly, a surprising number of legislators--have appropriated this slogan to rally support behind a proposal to limit the power of the people we elect to represent us to make the decisions we elect them to make.
We shoulda copyrighted the slogan.
February 18, 2006
Let us now praise—Are you ready for this?—lobbyists
By Bill Kraus
A longtime friend and survivor of the Nixon Administration has come up with a radical idea. “Why not,” he suggests, “Try to get the lobbyists to join the campaign finance reform battle?”
He makes several cogent points.
“We tend,” he says, “to only hear about the crooks.” Certainly this is true this year when the notorious Jack Abramoff is making news every day it seems as the press and prosecutors detail his largesse in behalf of his clients. But for every Abramoff there are tens, more likely hundreds, of lobbyists who dispense advice and information that leads to sound legislation, regulation events—believe it or not—better government.
Do these worthy participants in the democratic process want to get out of the business of hustling money from their clients, from being bag men for their clients, from buying access and worse? He believes they do, and I agree.
“Most,” he asserts, “really want good government and realize what money is doing to hurt good government. They know, as do most legislators, that democracy needs good lobbyists.”
Among the provisions of the exemplary campaign reform legislation enacted in Connecticut recently is one that prohibits lobbyists from making or soliciting campaign donations.
Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air in Wisconsin?
Anybody out there ready to sign the pledge?
Only if everybody is?
Okay. Everybody out there ready to sign the pledge?
February 9, 2006
Guns and their laws
By Bill Kraus
It seems that concealed carry is going to be a perennial agenda item in Wisconsin for reasons that completely baffle me.
I thought we left Dodge City behind a couple of centuries ago.
Despite widespread non-public support and almost unanimous non-editorial support, the idea keeps surging through the Legislature.
This will continue until and unless the terms of the contest are changed.
What the opponents of this idea need to do is turn it from a cowboy issue to a health issue. We are now busily outlawing smoking in public places because of the health dangers of secondary smoke. It seems to me that the health dangers of handguns are at least more dramatic and immediate.
So let’s outlaw handguns.
I know. I know about the slippery slope argument. It’s phony. This is not about animal-hunting rifles. This is about people-hunting pistols.
They are dangerous. We don’t need them. Let’s outlaw the sale of new ones and buy up the existing ones.
It’s good for our health.
And it will put the National Rifle Association instead of the Legislature on the defensive.
February 3, 2006
Funding, public and otherwise
By Bill Kraus
Professor Ken Mayer hosted a two-day conference at the University of Wisconsin recently. He brought together scholars and reformers from near and far to talk about the public funding of election campaigns.
Almost all the participants favored some variety of public funding of campaigns. Many favor full funding, including Wisconsin Congressman David Obey, an important non-participant, who comes lately but strongly to this view.
They do this despite the consistent specter of polls which indicate that while more than 60 percent of the citizens support campaign finance reform, more than 60 percent also oppose putting tax money into campaigns.
The more surprising revelation was that a majority of the participants have pretty much given up on spending limits. They would use public funding competitively (and generously, which it would have to be to be effective) but have pretty much decided that the the Supreme Court and the widespread, often tacit, support of free speech free-for-alls are not going to relent, and the loopholes are large and widening.
What they believe is that a candidate who is granted a threshold amount ($1 million in campaigns for the House of Representatives) has the wherewithal to run a successful campaign. Spending beyond that is marginal at best, annoying at worst, and pretty much wasted.
It is obvious that legislative leaders and independent campaigners who have been putting multi-millions into swing districts in Wisconsin state legislative campaigns clearly do not share this view.
The proof, of course, is in the pudding, and there will be no pudding to offer up as proof until and unless legislators are willing to come up with significant public funding legislation.
Any bets on this happening?