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Wisconsin government forum: Are the campaigns clean enough for you?

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
September 16, 2009
— Sick of mud-slinging half-truths in campaign ads? Suspicious that special interests are hijacking elections? Wonder if Wisconsin is still politically superior to Illinois?

Then this forum is for you.


Common Cause of Wisconsin is sponsoring the event Monday, Sept. 21, in Janesville. A panel will comprise local politicians, longtime state political reporter Stan Milam of WCLO Radio's "The Stan Milam Show" and Jay Heck, executive director of the sponsoring organization, Common Cause in Wisconsin.


Politicians on the panel will be Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit; Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater; former state senator and current Janesville School Board member Tim Cullen.


WCLO radio news director Stan Stricker will moderate.


Heck is particularly excited about Hixson's participation because of Hixson's race against Republican Debi Towns in 2008.


"It's really a poster child for the stuff we're talking about, the need for disclosure (of campaign spending)," Heck said.


The law requires candidates to disclose their spending, but the Hixson-Towns race attracted advertising blitzes from groups not controlled by the candidates, Heck said. Such issue ads are one of the evils of the system, as Heck sees it, because those groups are not required to divulge who pays for the ads.


The ads came from groups with names such as All Children Matter and Greater Wisconsin Committee, Heck said, "but the money could come from China, and you wouldn't know it."


Heck said the Hixson/Towns race attracted a lot of money because it was in one of the few Assembly districts that is still competitive.


Most other districts have become "safe" for either a Democrat or Republican because of redistricting, Heck said.


Heck said he tried to get other local Assembly representatives, Republican Brett Davis and Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, to attend, but they had calendar conflicts.


In addition to campaign finance reform, the forum is scheduled to address how money corrupts public policy, how to clean up "our disgraceful supreme court elections" and "how reform measures stop corruption and return power to citizens," according to a Common Cause news release.


"We're going to make the case that unless we have reform, we're never going to get a fair hearing on any issues in the state Legislature," Heck said.


Co-sponsors of the event are the Wisconsin Nurses Association and the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups.


If you go


"What Ever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin? And How Can We Fix It?" is a forum set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at the Janesville School District's Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville. Admission is free. Light refreshments will be served.



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