More glossy political flyers in the mailbox. More half-true ads on television. More robo-calls and opinion surveys. More money for politics and politicians. Two bills now in the Wisconsin Senate and one already signed by Gov. Walker “muzzle” the elections watchdog (the GAB). Judging from his opinion letter and radio remarks this Monday, Rep. Quinn thinks that is just fine. So does the Tea Party. They sweep away the concerns that Democrats and moderate Republicans are voicing.
These bills are held up in the Senate, where, fortunately, six Republican senators are holdouts. One of these, Sen. Luther Olson, worries about replacing six nonpartisan former judges on the GAB with political appointees. A board composed of three Democrats and three Republicans will probably deadlock, preventing investigations from moving forward.
Senate leadership has signed on but express doubts. Sen. Scott Fitzgerald is hesitant to allow campaign coordination between issue advocacy groups and a politician’s campaign. He says the bills create “gray areas.” Sen. Tiffany said he wants more discussion about allowing unlimited corporate contributions to political parties.
The six Senate Republican holdouts are now the targets of Tea Party robo-calls. Tea Party ads attacking these legislators frame it as a free speech issue, a point of view that got support with the Citizens United decision. That group taps the Koch billions, and their need to make the most of their most powerful tool, money, is obvious. It is common sense, however, that our democracy is damaged when there are no limits to the amount and the manner of political spending. We are all sick of it.
There is room in the Republican Party, obviously, for a more balanced view than that of the Tea Party. Rep. Quinn’s opinion and supporting vote in the Assembly is unfortunate, but there is still time for thoughtful and moderate Republicans in the Senate to join Democrats and do the right thing.