Local Indicator Of The Need For Campaign Finance Reform

Full Disclaimer: I have endorsed Common Council President and Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson for Mayor of Milwaukee and will continue my support through this election cycle.

A few days ago, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Daniel Bice wrote about a ‘shadowy’ third party organization that has purchased television advertising in support of Cavalier Johnson’s candidacy for Mayor of Milwaukee. I have not seen these ads so I don’t know the content. But that is neither here nor there.

Essentially a 527 organization…a non-profit organization…organized under current IRS rules…is running these ads. They are granted non-profit status and are allowed to engage in political activity. Corporaions and individuals are permitted to make unlimited contributions. Here’s a snippet from Mr. Bice’s article:

A secretive group — led by a Fordham University law school student — is paying big bucks to air a television ad in Milwaukee promoting Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson

“Mayor Cavalier Johnson, working to change Milwaukee for the better — higher wages, safer streets,” says the commercial with video of Johnson walking through City Hall and with his family. “Cavalier Johnson is adding 200 new cops this year. Taking action for a safer Milwaukee, Mayor Cavalier Johnson.”

The group behind the ad, Fair Future Action, has spent more than $120,000 to air the TV spot, which first began running Tuesday on network and cable stations.

(Note that the group’s ad talks up Johnson but doesn’t mention the mayor’s race. Since it’s not a political committee, the organization can’t engage in “express advocacy,” meaning it can’t explicitly recommend election or defeat of a candidate.)

These 527 groups can run this type of advertising with limited disclosure of their contributors. In the case of Fair Future Action they won’t be required to make their next quarterly disclosure of contributors or expenditures until after the April general election. Mr. Bice’s article goes into this in more detail.

In my opinion, this type of an organization and this type of activity is a crock of shit. If you have read my positions on campaign finance you would know that I would be opposed to this arrangement.

My campaign finance stance on any Milwaukee Mayoral race would be as follows: only voters eligible to vote for Milwaukee Mayor may contribute directly to any or all candidates for mayor. Any amount but only directly to a candidate’s campaign account. No businesses, no unions, no PACs, no Super Pacs, No 527 organizations…no outside money of any kind.

Milwaukee tends to keep its mayors until the mayor loses interest in the post…so this special election without an incumbent on the ballot is particularly interesting to any number of constituencies. But if we truly want fair elections, we need fair election financing.


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