January 6, 2006
This week in reform
By Bill Kraus
Well, it wasn't all bad.
Governor Doyle finally showed up with some proposals on campaign and ethics reform and sort of put his support of the Ethics and Election board merger in writing.
Most of the other stuff was old or peripheral.
State Senator Mike Ellis, who was the reformers' favorite candidate because he was the only hoped-for candidate for major office who might have run against money instead of on money, did not grab the brass ring as it passed.
The Republican candidates for governor do not seem to think that the corruption of money-driven politics is important enough to make their short lists of compelling issues. They are giving Abramoff-tainted money back or away on the assumption that the issue will go away as well.
And, of course, the Doyle proposals almost entirely dodge the money issue as well. Almost. The governor did propose full public funding for supreme court races. This may be a bone intended to shut the reformers up. As an irrational optimist in these matters, I prefer to think of it as a probe.
Those of us who reside within the Wisconsin version of the beltway know that the only way to get spending limits on campaigns is to put significant public money ”tax dollars” into candidates campaigns. It is possible that we are the only ones who do know this.
If you ask a normal citizen-voter whether putting tax money into campaigns is a good idea, the most likely response is going to be, "Are you nuts?"
The distaste for this idea somehow does not extend to judicial races. The idea of lawyers giving money to judicial candidates raises more eyebrows than lobbyists giving money to legislative and state office candidates does. Don't ask me why. Politics is only occasionally rational.
So let's put the best possible face on the week. The governor is testing the voters appetite for public financing with this proposal for supreme court elections.
If it proves to be robust, he will propose (in the second term which he is busily in the process of trying to buy) an extension of public financing to partisan races for state and legislative offices.
Or am I inhaling the smoke that he is blowing in our direction?
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