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Defaming Wisconsin, desecrating democracy

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Mike McCabe
June 29, 2011

After exterminating any and all public election financing in the state budget and thus handing state elections over entirely to private interests, legislators took steps last week to make it harder for the public to see how special interests are funneling money into political advertising campaigns.


The Legislatureís Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) voted to approve legislation nullifying what little campaign finance disclosure the state Government Accountability Board had put in place. Republicans who control the committee didnít stop there. In addition to rolling back existing GAB rules, they handcuffed the agency, prohibiting any future rulemaking requiring disclosure of corporate electioneering.


They have no problem letting the wealthiest interests buy all the politicians and take ownership of our government.


But even they understand that disaster awaits them if these transactions are on public display. So they are conspiring to keep them secret.


This would be despicable if done in isolation, but there is nothing isolated about it. It is part of a deeply disturbing pattern.


Wisconsin is defamed by a state budget that amounts to Robin Hood in reverse, one that provides tens of millions of dollars in new tax breaks for the rich and powerful while raising taxes on the working poor by scaling back the Earned Income Tax Credit. This in a state where the progressive income tax was invented.


This budget is a monument to vending machine politics. Huge cuts for schools. Big cuts in health assistance for seniors and the poor and the disabled. Huge spending increases and other favors for the big donors in the road building industry. A gift for the bankers. One for the big brewers, too. And for the school privatization crowd. It goes on and on.


Democracy is desecrated when public elections are turned into private auctions. And when public involvement in the affairs of state is treated as an unwelcome intrusion. It is desecrated when the rights of working people to organize and collectively bargain are taken away and then again when a state Supreme Court justice writes in a majority opinion that a circuit court judge who threw out this illegally passed bill was wrong to rely on laws that ďapply to the Legislature except when the Legislature says they do not.Ē


Our state has been taken over for the moment by zealots who are enemies of civil society and are disgracing our state. What becomes of Wisconsin depends on how long this moment is allowed to last.


Mike McCabe is director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks the money in state politics and works for clean, open and honest government. WDCís website is www.wisdc.org. Email McCabe at mccabe@wisdc.org.

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