Living on a corner block on Madison’s isthmus is one of the best places to have political conversations. Granted the demographics are more likely to be college-educated and liberal. (Some of my conservative friends would say I just repeated myself.) But when it comes to the folks who walk my area and stop to talk there is one topic where they do not differ from the perspectives of my friends who live in rural Wisconsin. There is a consensus about the need to have tough campaign finance laws.
There has never been one single time in years of front-yard conversations in Madison or ones back home in Waushara County where I was born that anyone ever suggested what would better serve our political process or allow for more insightful policy ideas to be considered would be less knowledge about how we fund our political campaigns. Not one person in my whole life has suggested that less control of the process or knowledge of what happens in our election cycles would be a benefit to the citizenry.
But that does not stop the brain-trust in power under the statehouse dome.
One of the latest boondoggles that we confront concerns recipients of political contributions no longer being required to report their contributors’ employers when donations are made. At a time when everyone fully understands that there is too much money in politics, and more and more of it is dark money the last thing voters need is more of the same. But Republican legislative leaders think otherwise and are working feverishly to undo the limited safeguards that are now law.
It is not so much a mystery as to why the Republicans are undermining so many common-sense ideas and laws this fall in their thirst to get a better control on the campaign process. Everything since ACT 10 has been all about political control and placing partisanship above the higher interests of the state.
But what they are missing is the fundamental right of the electorate to know in full who is petitioning their government. After all, political donations, and especially a concerted effort from a business or industry to sway the electorate is something that the voters do have a right to know. Just like affixing one’s name to an actual petition over an issue so it also should be expected that requiring full openness needs to occur when making a political donation. Our process always works better when we all know who is applying pressure–in whatever form–on candidates and elected officials.
The only ones who think differently are the ones who have something to hide or those who attempt to pull the wool over the voter’s eyes.
By hamstringing good government types from amassing the data to show where huge chunks of money comes from only underscores why the average man and woman on the street feels distanced from those they elect. It makes voters even more unsure if the needs they talk about at the dinner table will register with candidates who have one more means to amass money with fewer requirements to show where it came from.
Editorial page writers and folks who walk along my sidewalks are one in hoping for better government with cleaner and more transparent elections. Meanwhile the Republicans in power in the statehouse only have it as their mission to amass power and hold on tight.
Voters, be damned!