Among the many remarkable things about the defeat of the proposed overhaul of the Wisconsin Public Records Law over the July 4 weekend last summer was the way the media, open government groups, advocacy organizations on the left and right, and the public coalesced to point out how ill-conceived the idea was.
Chapter 11 of the state statutes, governing campaign financing, clearly needs a rewrite. Court rulings have blown huge holes in the law, which dates to 1974. One lawyer called the result “a confusing mess.” But there is vast disagreement over what changes should be made.
A manifesto for a populist change aimed at a national audience, it focuses largely on Wisconsin, portrayed as a fetid swamp of corruption, where lobbyists and campaign donors provide the soundtrack to which policymakers dance.
“No one outside of the Capitol Square in Madison has been clamoring for increasing the ability of lobbyists to make campaign contributions to legislators,” declared Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin.
In some newsrooms, reporters and editors fondly welcome odd-numbered years.
That’s because these are election-lite: No races for president, governor, attorney general or the state Legislature. No glut of partisan candidates trying to open new orifices in each other’s anatomies. Hooray.
But in covering a beat like money and politics, there is no break in the action. A glance back through a year’s worth of weekly columns confirms it.
A lot of folks — perhaps too many — are spouting off about the John Doe probe launched by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office into the campaign of Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and more than two dozen conservative groups, among others.
Gov. Scott Walker’s new book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge,” has been faulted for what it omits. Attention is also due to what it delivers: a vast portal into the mindset of Wisconsin’s most controversial politician.
Grothman’s bill would raise the threshold for when donors to state and local campaigns must disclose their occupations and eliminate the requirement that the donor’s principal place of employment be disclosed.
Wisconsin’s last redistricting, after the 2010 Census, was done in secret and cost taxpayers more than $2 million. Ruling Republicans strategically carved districts to maximize their electoral prospects, much as Democrats would had done had they been able.