Saturday, October 24, 2015

Campaign finance bill is defintiely scummy, probably unconstitutional

You've probably heard about the campaign finance bill that passed the Wisconsin Assembly on Wednesday night. In addition to doubling direct contribution limits, there are a number of provisions that further encourage dark-money and third-party interests to exert even more control over state elections, and all Democrats in the Assembly recused themselves from voting on the bill, claiming that this was a conflict of interest to slant the field before their next election.

GOPs in the Assembly called the Dems' move a "stunt" and derided the tactics. Well of course it was a stunt, since EVERY ASSEMBLY GOP VOTED FOR THE BILL to allow it to pass, so the outcome wasn't changed. But it was a good stunt, because this is not a bill that is in the best interests of anyone other than big money and their puppets in the Legislature, and the bill is not likely to stand if challenged in the courts.

In addition to increasing the amount of direct contributions, the Assembly-passed bill also allows open coordination between candidates and third-party interests, as long as those third-party interests don't say "magic words" such as "vote for/against candidate _____," allowing for obvious corruption and money-laundering without having to put the candidate's name behind it. Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos tried to argue that this bill simply codified the decision by the WMC's 4 judges in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the John Doe case, and didn't go further than what was already settled at the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Matt Rothschild shows the flawed reasoning that Wisconsin Republicans gave in their claim that these changes fit 2010's Citizens United decision. Because as naïve as the reasoning in Citizens United was (claiming that candidates wouldn't be corrupted by what SuperPACs did or said), it openly called for disclosure of information to the public, and wanted to keep a wall of separation between special interests and a candidate. I'll add bolding for emphasis.
First, nowhere in Citizens United does it say that candidates can coordinate with so-called outside or independent groups. In fact, the entire distinction in Citizens United (and in the landmark 1976 case, Buckley v. Valeo) between “independent expenditures” and direct campaign contributions rests on precisely the fact that there is no coordination.

“By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate,” the Court noted in Citizens United. It maintained this distinction on the grounds that “independent expenditures,” because they are not coordinated with the candidate, do not pose a significant problem of quid pro quo corruption....

Second, far from limiting disclosure of expenditures, the Supreme Court in Citizens United went out of its way to endorse disclosure.

It said: “Disclosure is a less restrictive alternative to more comprehensive regulations of speech.”...

And it saw disclosure as a way to mitigate corruption:

“Prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”
Hiding who a donor works for is the exact OPPOSITE of this, and Robbin' Vos and other Republicans openly said that provision was put in to protect a business from public blowback resulting from the people knowing which candidates their owners and employees were paying off.

So it seems likely that this bill would be struck down if it was ever signed into law, unless the federal courts and Supreme Court of the United States completely reverses what they said 5 years ago. Which makes it an arrogant and pointless exercise, in addition to the obvious scumminess behind the bill and its supporters.

But this is the Wisconsin GOP's SOP- to gain political advantage and remove any checks on their power, and claim "liberal activism" if anything gets in the way of that steamroller (you know, things like LAWS AND COURT DECISIONS). This pattern was summed up in an excellent floor speech by State Rep. Gordon Hintz, who added up all of the GOP's election-slanting and abuses and expansion of power since the start of 2011, and showed how this mentality has failed the people of Wisconsin, both morally and economically.


  1. So any citizens' rights group challenging the "reform bill," would have to be using private financial resources to go up against the fully taxpayer funded GOP controlled state DoJ partisan effort to protect their GOP passed and probably unconstitutional legislation.

    And if the state DoJ would lose on any grounds to a citizen challenge, taxpayers again could likely pay the costs of the successful citizen challenge if the citizen group was allowed to recover costs of their challenge.

    1. Very good observation. Much like with the suits against marriage equality, this administration is using taxpayer dollars to waste time and effort to further their own selfish goals, and to suck up to narrow GOP interests.

      It's pretty despicable, when you put it that way

  2. Gordon's speech really lays it out. Share it widely.