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Wisconsin Speaker Sheridan Needs To Cancel Attendance At Fundraiser During Budget Process

June 6, 2009

Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Sheridan should not attend a fundraiser set for June 15th, in the midst of the legislative review and work on the state budget.

This is why.

I have long argued, even while I was working in the Wisconsin State Legislature that there should be NO fundraisers held while the budget process was underway.    I was at odds with most everyone on this issue, but I felt I was right then, and still correct now.

After all, should an elected official hold a fundraiser to collect political cash while crafting a state budget?  Or put another way, do we have so much faith that our elected officials are all so honorable that we have nothing to fear from these fundraisers while millions of dollars in program decisions are voted on in the budget process?

With that in mind comes word that Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheridan is going to appear at a fundraiser on June 15th, smack dab in the middle of the floor action on the state budget. 

Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan is scheduled to appear at a campaign fundraiser in two weeks despite pledges Assembly members would forego fundraising during state budget deliberations.  

Sheridan, a Janesville Democrat, is set to appear at an Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee golf outing June 15.  

The Assembly has a rule that states the body’s goal is to eliminate campaign fundraising during state budget negotiations.  

Sheridan’s spokeswoman said the rule is meant to ban contributions to individual candidates, not the Democrats’ general campaign committee.

I am sure that Speaker Sheridan would say that this fundraiser in no way will impact his thought process about the budget, or influence decisions he needs to make.  I do not know the Speaker personally so have no way of truly discerning how he feels, or will act on this matter.  But therein lies the problem of the perception this fundraiser creates, and the slippery road we embark on when fundraisers are held during the work on a state budget.  Speaker Sheridan may be totally unswayed by the campaign cash, but the system should not operate in such a way as to make the public raise the question of the potential conflict of interest.

The fact that our political process ‘requires’ so much money is an issue that can be debated endlessly.  But I think we can all agree that the timing of this fundraiser, which just happens to fall smack in the middle of the budget process, should raise red flags.  

We want to assume each of our legislators is a ray of democracy striving to do what is right.  For me, and I suspect for the bulk of my readers, we understand the reality of the political process.  We want to think the best, but know better.

People should contact Speaker Sheridan and urge him not to attend this fundraiser while the budget process is under way in the Statehouse.

His office phone number is (608) 266-7503  or (888) 947-0044

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