On October 21, 2004 my first blog, Reflective Musings, was born on the West Side of Madison. A reminder this week on my calendar alerted me to the anniversary, and also to the fact I have been blogging for 16 years. I was penning my thoughts many years prior to Musings, but decided to enter the 21st century and place my views online. It has been a fantastic journey!
I was looking at some of my writings from my Musings phase and came across this post from January 2006 which strikes a chord as it connects with a point I feel strongly about. Our politics and governing should be about big issues and also about finding ways for Democrats and Republicans to come together. As a liberal I felt strongly about campaign finance reform and understood the issue to be a root cause of dysfunction in our electoral system, which then creates havoc in our legislative process. I was sincere in my desire to see then-State Senator Mike Ellis, a conservative Republican, champion the issue. Reading the post again underscores the fact there is no one in the current Republican Party under the statehouse dome who deserves the same sentients. That is truly sad.
The number one issue facing the State of Wisconsin is not property taxes, crime, better jobs, education, or gay marriage. The number one issue is not sexy, nor does it rank among the top issues voters talk about when listing their concerns about the future course of the state. Yet this issue affects every other issue, and by not correctly addressing it everything else suffers. The issue is, of course, campaign finance reform.
Republican State Senator Mike Ellis understands the problem, and has been adamant about the need to address it, and fix it. It is time for those who care about the process to take a stand. Today I encourage Ellis to seek the office of Governor in Wisconsin.
Our state once boasted about our clean government, but over the past several years we have had to hang our collectives heads in shame as leaders from both parties, and in both legislative houses, have faced criminal charges for undermining the oaths they took to serve the public. Each indictment was grounded in the over-reaching and never-ending search for campaign dollars, and the unethical and illegal use of state employees conducting political work on state time. Every piece of legislation is tainted and tarnished with lobbyist’s dollars and deal-making which ill-serves the public. From bills dealing with transportation, gaming compacts, abortion, guns, and health care the underlying chase for dollars and campaign contributions has made policy captive to the special interests. This is absolutely no way to conduct the people’s business.
Every elected official is driven by the needs of ever-increasing costs of campaigns and the relentless search for dollars to fund them. When JCRAR (Joint Committee For Review Of Administrative Rules) conducted some hearings on plastic pipes in home construction I served as the Committee Clerk. The committee has great power and has the option to review rules for everything found in State Statutes. When the Chairman of the Committee asked me to call a lobbyist and request a check to be made out to his campaign, before a hearing that would decide the issue, I was at first embarrassed and then I found myself literally speechless. (Not a common reaction for me) The lobbyist was the principal player for one side of the debate. I let the order slide and did nothing. Soon the Chairman had moved onto other things and forgot about the check, or perhaps found some other avenue to extract the money. Either way, I did not forget that incident, or others that I witnessed firsthand, and know it paints the picture of reality under the Statehouse dome more often than not.This practice infects and poisons the deliberative process that should be at the core of creating legislation.
Mike Ellis can be cranky and difficult. He has a bad hairpiece and is mostly not on the correct side of social policy. I know all that. I accept all that. But the supreme issue of campaign finance reform now confronts the foundations of state government and needs to be solved.
While some from both parties pretend the 800-pound gorilla of campaign corruption is not in the Statehouse, there are those that have actually become best friends with the beast. When caught they make feeble and embarrassing pleas as to their innocence and spew ‘rationale’ as to why they had to act in the fashion they did. Only when confronted with jail time and fines do they find the words to finally convey their sorrow at undermining the political process.
While Mike Ellis has not made the decision yet to run for Governor (and may not run) I at least wanted to be on record as a real Democrat who embraces reform. My party has not been pro-active in Wisconsin and Governor Jim Doyle has shown no leadership ability on this matter. The issue is far too important to pretend that it doesn’t exist, or that the “other party” is more to blame for the problem. Enough already.
One man has stood up and led on the issue. He deserves a chance to solve the problem once and for all. He will have statewide support from newspaper editorial boards and independents who seem to care more about this issue than partisans.
I hope Mike Ellis runs for governor in 2006.