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For Immediate Release September 26, 2011

Contact: Rebekah Sweeney (608) 266-3790

Jorgensen on Republican Raid of Fair Elections Fund: Put It Back!


MADISON State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) today unveiled a plan to restore monies raided in the Republican budget from the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund (WECF) and renew the program before the next election cycle. When Governor Walker and Republicans ran for office, they railed against raids of segregated funds. But, when they were faced with the task of balancing the states budget, they swiped $1.1 million in monies set aside by Wisconsin taxpayers specifically for the public financing of elections, said Jorgensen. They werent true to their word or to the will of the people, and I wont stand for it. Jorgensens legislative proposal provides $1.1 million of general purpose revenue to the reestablishment of the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund, setting parameters identical to what was in place prior to the passage of the state budget. Under this plan, candidates for state offices who agree to limit their campaign expenditures and contributions, fulfill all reporting requirements, win the primary with at least 6% of the vote and have an opponent would be eligible for public financing dollars. State Senate candidates could receive $15,525 and State Assembly candidates could receive $7,763. The plan would also allow taxpayers to continue to check-off $1 on their state income tax returns, money which sponsors the WECF. "When people checked that box on their tax forms, they were directing their money for one thing and one thing only, to help regular folks run for office, said Jorgensen. It was up to them to decide how their money would be spent, not the Governor. He should put the money back." "The majority party in the Legislature has -- either deliberately or unwittingly -- seriously undermined an almost 35-year-old tradition of honest, open and accountable state government with this change," said Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "Rep. Jorgensen's proposal restores funds that were designated by Wisconsin taxpayers for public financing of state elections which we all know can and should be improved, not destroyed." Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin taxpayers designated some of their taxes to go for public financing of elections. Disregarding this clear expression on taxpayer intent and using this money for another purpose was an act of profound disrespect to those taxpaying citizens, said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe. That disrespect was magnified when they not only eliminated the income tax check-off and redirected the funds, but they used the money for something many if not most of these taxpayers find repugnant -- implementation of the new law requiring voters to have a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. -OVER-

Jorgensen notes that, while he has not accepted public financing in elections past, current state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have participated in the WECF program. According to information provided by the Government Accountability Board, the list includes Reps. Barca, Bernier, Clark, Cullen, Hintz, Kessler, Krusick, Loudenbeck, Steineke and Senators Carpenter and Lasee. Fundraising is one of the biggest disadvantages for challengers running against incumbents. In my first campaign, public financing allowed me the opportunity to be competitive and actually talk with voters instead of raising money," said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh). After forcing their ideological agenda on the state, Republicans seem to believe the only way they can win in 2012 is to game our election system to their advantage. Wisconsinites believe in the little guy, the underdog and in order to give candidates of modest means a chance to run for elected office, they have supported our public financing for more than 30 years, said Rep. Jorgensen. My plan aims to continue that tradition, and I hope to have bipartisan backing. Jorgensen is now asking his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to sign on to his plan to restore the WECF; he plans to formally introduce the bill next week. ###