June 29, 2011
The most significant campaign finance reform in over 30 years in Wisconsin was effectively gutted by the state budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in late June 2011. It eliminates all funding for public financing of state elections – including state Supreme Court races – and diverts the money to help cover the cost of implementing the new law requiring voters to have a state-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Also buried deep in the two-year budget is a tenfold increase in the limit on campaign contributions to Supreme Court candidates – from $1,000 to $10,000.
At the same time lawmakers are allowing substantially bigger donations to high court hopefuls, they are handing state elections entirely over to private interests by raiding the money from the 34-year-old Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund and the year-old Democracy Trust Fund that is the key funding source for the Impartial Justice Act to pay for a scheme to make it more difficult to vote.
Despite the fact there have been no documented instances of voter impersonation in Wisconsin, the state will be spending millions of dollars on a new state program that will disenfranchise some voters and unnecessarily burden many others. And state officials are paying for this waste of taxpayer money by killing public financing programs aimed at maintaining fair and clean elections. Doing this requires a profound act of disrespect toward Wisconsin taxpayers who checked the box on their income tax form designating some of their taxes to the clean campaign fund. Against their will, these taxpayers will have their money used instead for what amounts to a policy of poll taxation.