Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hintz calls for end to phony issue ads, introduces campaign advertising disclosure bill

[we have received the following press release and are pleased to publish it here...]

MADISON – State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) joined eight other freshman Democratic members of the State Assembly at a press conference at the Capitol calling for an end to the unregulated phony issue ads that have come to influence recent elections. Hintz and Representatives Cory Mason (D-Racine), Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), Kim Hixson (D-Whitewater), Ann Hraychuk (D-Balsam Lake), Phil Garthwaite (D-Dickeyville), Andy Jorgenson (D-Fort Atkinson), Steve Hilgenberg (D-Dodgeville) and Jim Soletski (D-Green Bay) introduced a bill requiring full financial disclosure of these phony so-called “issue ads” used by groups to avoid current campaign finance reporting laws.

“It is time the legislature closes this loophole that allows individuals and groups to spend unlimited amounts of unregulated money to influence elections. The public deserves to know who is spreading some of the dirtiest negative ads and where their money comes from,” said Representative Hintz.

Under this proposed bill, groups who run advertising that identifies a specific candidate or otherwise identifies a specific electoral office within 60 days of a primary or general election would be treated the same as regulated independent campaign ads. These groups would be required to register with the State Elections Board, file reports that disclose the source of their funding, and unable to take illegal corporate contributions.

“The one thing the nine of us completely agree on is the need to clean up how we run elections in Wisconsin. Almost all of us were subjected to the same negative attacks in our 2006 campaign by outside groups who did not have to disclose who or how much they paid for their ads. You can only contribute $500 to an Assembly candidate. However you can contribute $50,000 to an organization that will use phony issue ads against a candidate. We are committed to restoring accountability to our elections process,” said Hintz.

An estimated $15 million was spent on phony “issue ads” in last fall’s legislative, attorney general and gubernatorial races including some of the dirtiest negative ads. Outside groups have combined to spend an estimated $1.7 million on phony issues ads in an increasingly negative Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Without regulation, the funding sources of these ads will remain obscured from public view.

“In his State of the State address, Governor Doyle asked the legislature to pass this reform and I hope the legislature will take this crucial step to ending these ads that plague our current campaign system,” concluded Hintz.


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