In what has been described as “a dagger to the heart of Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure laws”, Senator Glenn Grothman has introduced a bill that would make it more difficult to track donations from businesses and industry in state elections.
At a time when many in Wisconsin are calling for increased transparency, Grothman is doing the opposite, attempting to allow those donating more than $100 to avoid disclosing their employer. By effectively masking campaign contributors, Grothman looks to further blur the line between the legislature, the private sector, and lobbyists.
This is yet another in a long list of backwards steps pushed by Grothman. The man who referred to Madison protesters as “slobs” has also called for state employees to work on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, according to the Wisconsin State Journal:
“Let’s be honest, giving government employees off has nothing to do with honoring Martin Luther King Day and it’s just about giving state employees another day off,” he said.
He has also tried to warn his constituents about the dangers of Kwanzaa.
Fortunately, there are reports Kwanzaa is losing popularity among black Americans. It is intellectually dishonest of the mainstream media to mention this holiday without its odious roots.
The rest of us should treat Kwanzaa with the contempt it deserves before it becomes a permanent part of our culture.
Now, Grothman the Ridiculous is trying to provide cover for the dirty Wisconsin GOP’s money trail ahead of the state’s tenuous recall elections. The ALEC member has said that the new law is intended to prevent his opponents from using donations against him.
Grothman says he decided to introduce his plan after activists called for boycotts of businesses that supported Walker. And he is no fan of Mike McCabe.
“It’s entirely misleading and inappropriate to sit there and put that employer down there, so some goof like a Michael McCabe, sort of can publicize that I’m taking money from an employee of, say, West Bend Insurance Company, because of where I stand on insurance issues,” Grothman said during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections.
McCabe reminded the Senate committee during debate over Grothman’s original bill that there is broad outcry for more campaign disclosure, not less. “This bill would blind voters to the financial interests of campaign donors,” McCabe said. “This would be a dagger to the heart of Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure laws.”
On top of making it harder to investigate campaign abuses, Grothman’s new law would “shield” major industry donors who gave large amounts of money to the Walker Recall Campaign:
Applied to the biggest fundraiser in the state, Grothman’s bill would mask large amounts of special interest money destined for the coffers of Governor Walker. Walker has raised more than $12 million since taking office in January 2011. Due to a quirk in Wisconsin’s campaign finance statute, Walker can collected unlimited sums of money from individuals pending the scheduling of a recall election, rather than being limited to $10,000. While most public attention has focused on the fact that Walker is pocketing $250,000 checks from out-of-state billionaires, Walker still raises a large amount of money in contributions under $250.
While donors with ties to manufacturing and distribution are currently Walker’s top industry donors, accounting for more than $1.7 million of his funding, 40 percent of those donors gave between $100 and $249. In the banking and finance industry, which accounts for more than $1.3 million of Walker’s campaign funds, 41 percent gave at least $100 but less than $250. These streams of special interest money would be masked under Grothman’s bill.
The new movement of keeping your political contributions secret is also endorsed by the Koch Brothers’ right-wing activist group, Americans For Prosperity. Their work on behalf of the Walker campaign has been kept largely in the dark, hiding behind the “paywall” granted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC:
AFP’s pro-Walker activity seems to push the envelope on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules about nonprofit participation in elections. It also comes as nonprofit organizations — which are not required to disclose their donors — are playing an increasingly important role in the 2012 campaign season.
The Washington Post reports that nationally, “more than a third of the advertising tied to the presidential race has been funded by nonprofit groups that will never have to reveal their donors.”
Super PACs must disclose to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) the source of their funding by name and amount, as well as their spending on ads. Nonprofits — groups organized under Section 501(c) of the IRS tax code — have no such obligation. Nonprofits must file annual tax returns (which are often not available until the middle of the following year), but need not report the identities of their donors, nor do they need to get into much illuminating detail about how their funds were spent.
Much of the public outcry that led Time Magazine to mark 2011 “the year of the protest” has come out of people’s desire for both transparency in Government and removal of corporate money from politics. Grotham’s bill looks to exacerbate one more than the next, however, while silencing those who hold constituents’ interests the most dear. As a result, legislators like Mike McCabe and the “slobs” whose organizational skills and hard work have led to a historic recall in Wisconsin will be forced to pump up the volume once more.