Marquette Warrior: “Non-Partisan” Virtually Never Is: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

“Non-Partisan” Virtually Never Is: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign claims to be a “non-partisan watchdog group” in the politics of the state. But the truth about the organization is revealed by Dan Bice in yesterday’s Journal-Sentinel.
When there’s an ethical question about elected officials and campaign money, you’ll almost always hear from Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


Over the years, the nonprofit group has made a name for itself by speaking out on questionable campaign spending and donations.

But what happens when the watchdog runs into its own potential conflict of interest?

That happened this year.

One critic says the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign fared no better than the pols it often criticizes. Specifically, the group failed to file a formal complaint over a disputed campaign matter, the critic maintains, because it might have hit some of its financial supporters.

“I’d be shocked if that didn’t have an impact,” said Ryan Murray, spokesman for state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican from Juneau. “They’ve never had a problem filing complaints even when it was obvious the Elections Board wasn’t going to do anything about it. I find it curious this is the one issue where they decide to stay hands off.”

This year, two Democratic lawmakers - Sens. Judy Robson and Jon Erpenbach - came under fire for joining with interest groups to bankroll a poll on a universal health care plan called Healthy Wisconsin. Robson and Erpenbach each contributed $3,000 in campaign funds.

Republicans and state officials suggested that the pair might have violated campaign rules by getting to see the full results of the survey, which must have cost much more than three grand a piece. Plus, the pair might have received a financial benefit from interest groups not permitted to give to pols under campaign laws.

Kinda technical stuff, but you get the idea.

Despite his qualms about the poll, a top elections official said his office wouldn’t look into the matter unless someone filed a formal complaint. Fitzgerald called on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to do just that, and McCabe responded by saying he thought regulators should investigate.

That was four months ago.

Since then, this is what has happened: Exactly nothing.
The group offers an excuse, so how do we know this is an example of ideological bias?

Well . . . we might look at the company the organization keeps.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has at least seven “coalition organizations” that also are members of the Wisconsin Health Care Reform Campaign, the primary funding source for the poll.

Among the organizations that belong to both groups are the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin and the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, all of which also have a rep on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s 14-member board.

Murray said this explains the watchdog group’s inaction. Otherwise, he said, the issues surrounding the controversial poll are right down McCabe’s alley.

“That’s his bread and butter,” Murray said. “And now he’s saying that doesn’t interest him anymore.”
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, in other words, is a liberal lobby group. The are no more a nonpartisan watchdog than the ACLU is a protector of the Bill of Rights, or the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee represents a broad spectrum of religious believers.

None of this is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism. But how soon do you think we’ll see some reporter describe the The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign as “nonpartisan?”


Kathy Carpenter at Stepping Right Up does a little research on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and shows how wide and how deep its ties to the state’s leftist political network are. And the ties are not merely to “mainstream” liberal groups, but to the scruffy activist fringe.

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Blogger James Pawlak said...

Quis custodiet ispos custodes?

3:27 PM  
Blogger Jack Lohman said...

Oh come on guys. As a WDC supporter I see them favoring the Democrats because the Republicans are most responsible for blocking election reform and most supporting our corrupt political system. I support the Dems as well – but only at the moment -- even though I consider myself a center-right Republican. But if the tables turn and the Dems fail to pass reform, I’ll support the Republicans instead. Or better, a strong independent party. I’m guessing that WDC will as well.

It takes a real blockhead to support one party or the other regardless of how corrupt they are.

One thing you can be assured of, is that WDC rarely -- if ever – represents the side of Big Money and virtually always supports the little guy, and health care falls into that category. If you want to know who is against the public, follow the private donations. And I mean BIG private donations, not the piddly ones coming from Labor.

7:40 AM  
Blogger K. Carpenter said...

I guess that is up to the rest of us, James.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More like "whiny, liberal, everything that is bad and wrong and smacks of anything and everything where the little guy is perceived to be held down, even if the little guy's choices are bad, and the unwashed protest, we should bend over backwards to bail their sorry behinds out." Mike and his Pravda-inspired gang of jaw-flapping thugs, who, by the by, we have no idea who is funding them, but a $20 campaign contribution to someone else is likely a federal crime in their view. It's high time the people of Wisconsin wake up, see these "people" for what they are, and exert all needed pressure for them to pack up and go away.

12:38 PM  
Blogger krshorewood said...

Guess they are as non-partisan as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance -- so they are referred to by the MJS.

5:44 PM  

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