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WI Watchdog: Election Awash With Hidden Money

November 3, 2010

MADISON, Wis. - A large number of special interest groups spent millions to influence Tuesday's elections in Wisconsin. Three-quarters of these groups were able to keep their funding sources secret, says Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"By our count there were 43 different interest groups that were spending loads of money trying to influence voters and affect the outcome of the 2010 elections, just at the state level here in Wisconsin."

McCabe does not single out either party's political ads.

"Both parties have their shadow parties, their fronts that are doing this kind of advertising, and doing it with anonymous money."

He says these groups are able to control the dialog.

"If there are issues that voters want to hear from candidates on, sometimes the voters are just out of luck because it's these interest groups that are doing all the talking."

McCabe believes Wisconsin should adopt a measure similar to Minnesota's new law, which requires that political donors be disclosed. He adds if Wisconsin - and the federal government - adopted such a law, when attack ads are run, we can at least know who's writing the checks, and where the claims are coming from, like the people of Minnesota do.

"In federal law and in state law, we need to know who the donors are, and there is a model out there -- it's right across the border from us, that we can look to, to create the kind of disclosure laws we need."

McCabe says many of the political interest groups are short-lived organizations that disappear right after the election. Of the 43 groups active in the state-level races just concluded, only 14 were around in 2008.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI