Where does the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association get off trying to predetermine for the voters who their candidate for governor should be?

That’s exactly what the WBA is doing by announcing that it will arbitrarily limit the Democratic Party gubernatorial debate to a maximum of four contenders.

This is an outrageous intrusion into the electoral process at a time when the Democratic Party has a historically competitive race under way, with 10 candidates qualifying for the ballot—and many of them within an arm’s reach of each other.

To make matters more obscene, the WBA has attached fundraising requirements for candidates who want to qualify for the debate. The group says that a candidate must have raised $250,000 to get in. And it adds that if there is a tie for fourth place, the candidate who has raised more than the other one gets to be in the debate and the other one does not.

Fundraising prowess should not be a prerequisite to getting in a debate. This tips the scales in favor of wealthy and well-connected and promiscuous candidates—not candidates with the most experience or candidates with the best ideas or candidates who make the problem of big money in politics an issue.

By making money a litmus test, the WBA is only underscoring how distorted our campaign process has become by big money.

And what’s more, the WBA has a glaring conflict of interest in making money a condition of entry because most of the money candidates raise goes to pay for TV and radio ads. No wonder the WBA wants the candidates with the deepest pockets to be the ones on stage!

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association should immediately reverse its decision and allow all 10 qualified Democratic candidates to appear in the debate, which is scheduled for July 27.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has already asked it to do so, which should count for something.

And U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the most prominent Democrats in Wisconsin, has said it best: “Reversing this decision is essential to maintaining free and open discourse in our electoral process. Restricting debate only serves to damage the fairness of our elections—and for both the candidates and voters.”

Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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