August 31, 2006

The politics of campaign finance law.

Mark Green, the Republican candidate for governor has to somehow divest his campaign of $468,000:
The state Elections Board today ordered Mark Green to divest his campaign of any contributions from PACs that were not registered in Wisconsin when the donations were made....

The board, on a 5-2 vote, gave Green 10 days to comply with its order....

"The State Elections Board confirmed today what we knew all along – that it was wrong for Congressman Mark Green to violate state law and transfer his dirty $1.3 million to use in his bid for Governor," [Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Joe] Wineke said. "There is no doubt that Green’s transfer violates Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws – and the State Elections Board confirmed that once again today."

Since Green converted the funds, the Elections Board has passed a rule to prohibit future transfers from federal accounts to state funds.
Any campaign finance experts out there who can explain this? Did the Board get it right?

Here's Green's statement:
Today's decision is emblematic of the corruption that has invaded state government under Jim Doyle. Under Jim Doyle government decisions are made to benefit his campaign interests - while the taxpayers get the short end of the stick.

Jim Doyle's allies on the State Election Board defied their own attorney's legal advice, state law and basic principles of fairness in their effort to help the struggling campaign of Governor Doyle. The Election's Board action is literally trying to change 25 years of rules two months before Election Day - to affect only Mark Green....
Doyle's statement:
Congressman Green has been caught violating Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. He should own up to it, and he should do exactly what the State Elections Board has instructed him to do – which is to get rid of this dirty money.

What this ruling shows is that Congressman Green will do just about anything to further his personal ambition, even violating the letter and the spirit of our campaign finance laws.
So now this becomes a campaign issue, with both sides spinning it, and what citizen understands campaign finance law enough to do anything but respond instinctively as each candidate tries to make the other guy look dirty?

IN THE COMMENTS: Icepick says, "Ugh. Why is it that everytime we get more 'Campaign Finance Reform', the more corrupt everyone involved looks?"


MadisonMan said...

From what I, the non-expert have heard, Rep. Green transferred the money just before the law went into effect. So he doesn't violate the letter of the law, just the spirit. I confess I was half asleep as I listened to this story, however.

I'm also sure Mark Green is happy to harp about this subject. It means he doesn't have to talk about his extremist views on, say, abortion, that are so out of sync with most Wisconsin voters. I wonder how much of the money he's supposed to return is from Abramoff.

Those cheap shots aside :), it does seem like the deck is stacked against him. I'm not shedding any tears, however. A politican whining "It's not faaaair" doesn't get much sympathy from me.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but if the new rule was adopted by Doyle cronies precisely because the opponent had transferrable money, that's not "spirit" worth honoring. Coming within the letter of the law should be enough. Doyle looks like the bad guy here to me. (And I've been assuming I would vote for Doyle, because, like you, I don't like the social conservatism.)

MadisonMan said...

There's an article on this in the Journal Sentinel here. It wasn't a law that was broken, but a rule. , as you say. The story also notes the money was moved around the day before the rule went into effect. I vaguely recall hearing that a law to cover all this died in the Republican Legislature (I think it passed the Senate) earlier this year.

As for who looks bad? I'll say both of them. I was surprised, though, that Green issued a statement "Under Jim Doyle government decisions are made to benefit...taxpayers" I wonder if Doyle's campaign will use it -- it would be in keeping with his creative line item vetoing.

AJ Lynch said...

Madison Man:

I re-read the quote and it Green was quoted as saying ...Doyle makes decisions that benefit his campaign interests ...NOT taxpayers".

MadisonMan said...

The ellipses I added trim out all the anti-Doyle sentiment. As I said, considering how Doyle line-item vetoes things, it seemed apt, but I guess it was poorly done.

Boy, nothing kills a joke like explaining it!

Icepick said...

Ugh. Why is it that everytime we get more "Campaign Finance Reform", the more corrupt everyone involved looks?

AJ Lynch said...

And another thing...don't you hate it when politicians come up with these lame-ass gimmicks in an attempt to win office?

I equate this type of esoteric campaign regulation to gerrymandering which in my opinion is almost criminal because it devalues my vote.

XWL said...

You can hate these lame-ass tricks politicians use to maintain their incumbency, but rarely do these tricks back fire.

Voters are responsible for whom they vote.

I made a modest proposal awhile ago that would fix this kind of problem, though.

Rather than politicians buying votes with tricks and campaign ads, let the free market solve this problem by allowing willing parties to sell their votes.

Revenant said...

Why is it that everytime we get more "Campaign Finance Reform", the more corrupt everyone involved looks?

Laws create criminals -- and the more unreasonable the law is, or the more profit there is in breaking it, the greater the number of criminals created.

So it is little surprise that making up nonsensical laws designed to make it harder to win one of the most powerful political positions in the country inspires people to violate that law.

wheels said...

Green got caught with his pants down. Pay up!! There was a bill in the Assembly that the conservatives (Gard, Huebsch, etc.) killed awhile ago that would have prevented such a thing. Tell Green to thank his cronies for that one.

Eli Blake said...

We've pretty much ended campaign corruption at least in state races in Arizona with our clean elections law. Collect enough $5 contributions from voters in your district, and you qualify for state matching funding. Then there is no point in trying to raise large amounts of money out of state because whatever you raise is matched from the clean elections fund. Matt Salmon, a former Congressman and Republican candidate for Governor learned it the hard way in 2002. He declined to run as a 'clean' candidate and raised a considerable amount of money from wealthy special interests and traditional Republican donors 'inside the Beltway.' His opponent, Janet Napolitano ran clean and ended up matching all of his considerable warchest from the state coffers. Salmon was visibly angry over it, thinking he could just raise enough cash to 'buy' the election. He ended up losing by 12,000 votes.

But let me tell you, it works. Anyone can now run for office, you don't have to be rich, and it's been several years since we've had anything like the kind of corruption scandals that go on regularly in other states.

CMCE Reformer said...

More campaign finance reform doesn't have to create criminals if it is done right. The way Arizona does it is with full public funding of campaigns, at $5 per taxpayer per year, but the $5 doesn't come from taxpayers, it is a surcharge on traffic tickets. If you don't want to contribute, don't speed. Maine just uses tax money, but that is how the voters elected to do it.

It is also fully voluntary. The candidate can opt in or opt out, though about 70% of them opt in. And it works beautifully.

See more at