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Report: Many State Lawmakers “Public Enemies” of Clean Government

April 30, 2008

Madison, WI – A number of state campaign finance and clean government bills fell by the wayside this last legislative session, and a new report from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign calls a core group of lawmakers "public enemies" of clean government. The report ranks lawmakers by their sponsorship and votes on reform laws, and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe says the majority of them actively opposed reform or stood on the sidelines.

"All these reforms are bipartisan; they have been pushed by both Democrats and Republicans; and they all enjoy very broad public support, but there are just too many legislators who have been willing to stand with the special interests and resist this kind of reform."

McCabe says that without reform, Wisconsin's reputation will continue to plummet.

"We were looked to as a shining beacon of clean and open government, across this country we were known for that, and now we've descended into this political cesspool."

McCabe says a number of bills in the last session would have helped restore Wisconsin's good reputation, but most of them didn't pass.

"We have state representatives who are standing with special interests and serving those special interests at the expense of the public interest."

He says key bills that were shot down last session include efforts to ban campaign fund raising during budget negotiations, a waiting period for ex-lawmakers to work as lobbyists, and public financing for Supreme Court races. McCabe says public financing for Supreme Court campaigns is particularly important, after two very costly and negative court contests.

Critics say some of the election and campaign finance reforms would limit political free speech.

To view the full report online, visit

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WI