Friday, September 01, 2006

Conservatives, are you sitting down?

Hi there conservatives. Are you sitting down? Hopefully so, because this next bit of information may surprise you.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board is taking Mark Green's side in the debate over funds transferred from his federal campaign to his state campaign.

Here's the part of the chronology voters need to understand when they consider whether Rep. Mark Green did anything wrong when he transferred money from his congressional campaign to his gubernatorial race.

He transferred the money a day before the state Elections Board put limits on money from such transfers. It had previously allowed such a transfer, however, for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett when he was running for governor in 2001. The rule permitting that was the one Green had every reason to expect was still in force.

Jim Doyle's campaign protested the Elections Board action in Barrett's case. It didn't get the ruling it wanted then but did now. Doyle can thank rank partisanship.

Understand, the Elections Board was quite correct in banning the transfer of funds from congressional campaign funds to state campaigns, a rule already in effect for state campaign money going to federal campaigns. If people are going to run in Wisconsin, they should abide by the rules in effect for Wisconsin candidates, including the limits on political action committee money.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, in protesting the Green transfer, was correct to highlight what such transfer of funds meant to state limits on political action committee money in state campaigns.

Some argue that the rule allowing transfers from federal to state campaigns always contained the caveat that they must abide by Wisconsin law, on PAC limits for instance. All right, but there should be no double standard on enforcement - good for Barrett and hurting Doyle when that suits a board in 2001 but not good for Green and aiding Doyle when Democrats have more votes on the board.

This is yet another reason the Legislature should revisit Senate Bill 1, which passed overwhelming in the Senate but which Assembly leadership didn't allow to have a floor vote. This bill would have merged the state Elections and Ethics boards into a stronger Government Accountability Board.

In the Green case, four Democrats on the board were joined by the Libertarian to compel Green to return $467,844 from political action committees not registered in Wisconsin. Two Republicans on the nine-member board voted against it, with one Republican not voting because of a conflict of interest. The board member appointed by the state chief justice was absent.

The current board's members are selected by elected officials and the heads of the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. It's a system tailor-made for partisanship.

SB 1, as passed by the Senate, would have severely limited the potential for such partisanship. This new board would have four members, appointed by the governor but nominated by a committee comprised of Wisconsin's chief justice and the deans of the Marquette University and University of Wisconsin law schools. These nominees couldn't be lobbyists or members of a political party, political committee or have been a political candidate for one year before the appointment.

The Elections Board's decision was wrong. But it is one thing to bemoan this ruling and quite another to ignore it.

The board says Green must give back $467,844 of the $1.3 million he transferred. The Green campaign said initially that it has spent the money. It is launching a fund-raising effort to raise nearly the lost amount in 72 hours, even as a campaign lawyer says Green will fight in court to undo the ruling.

A court challenge is Green's right, and his fund-raising blitz indicates he recognizes an opportunity to tap anger over this ruling or that he intends to repay the money. There's nothing wrong with either. But ignoring the board's decision can't be an option.

I have highlighted a few points-

1. The rule that forces Mark Green to return the money was written the day after Mark Green transferred his funds from congressional account to his gubernatorial account.

2. Those folks arguing that their were rules already in effect before Green transferred his funds need to ask themselves a simple question- If there was already a rule that stated Green could not transfer these funds, why was it necessary for the State Elections Board to write a new rule the day after the funds were transferred?

3. If the Green camp had any intention of ignoring the ruling by the board- why would they currently be raising funds to replace the money that may be taken from them? This is a ridiculous assumption.

4. Congratulations to the Democrats- you and Jim Doyle have succeeded in firing up the base of the Republican Party in Wisconsin.

Hat Tip- Boots and Sabers

1 comment:

BBG said...

Ok so the subject line caught my eye.

No only are conservatives siding down they are mostly siding on their hands (or thumbs if you get my meaning) they seem to have gone away altogther.

We NEED the Green camp to come out swinging instead of playing nice guys.

I have heard comments like Tim Micheals all over again. I am begining to think that is correct.