Progressive Dane says Soglin's attempt to reveal political spending didn't go far enough

By The Cap Times, published June 19, 2013, Reporter Pat Schneider 

Madison needs to increase scrutiny and reporting of political spending beyond what Mayor Paul Soglin was proposing in an ordinance aimed at city contractors that was narrowly defeated Tuesday by the City Council, Progressive Dane says.

"Requiring city contractors to disclose their political contributions would help ensure that the political process isn't being corrupted by entities with a financial stake in the outcome," Matt Kozlowski, treasurer of Progressive Dane, said Wednesday in a post on the local political party’s website.

koz.jpg"Disclosure sheds light on potential corruption and undue influence in our political system and allows the public to determine if our ordinances and contracts are being bought, not based on merit," Kozlowski said in the statement that applauded Soglin for his attempt.

Progressive Dane went on to name all the City Council members who voted against the proposal in the 11-9 tally: City Council President Chris Schmidt; east-side alders Lauren Cnare, Larry Palm; west-siders Steve King, Matt Phair, Paul Skidmore, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Maurice Cheeks, and Mark Clear; south-sider John Strasser and north-sider Anita Weier.

Soglin was requiring that prospective city contractors be required to disclose contributions to advocacy groups, including SuperPacs and nonprofit 501c4s, which lobby on specific social welfare issues. His ordinance specified that such disclosures were not to be weighed in awarding contracts, although he admitted that they might prompt some contractors to curtail their donations.

Progressive Dane says the city needs to go take steps beyond what Soglin proposed, suggesting some largely technical changes in the manner in which campaign spending reports are filed, but also suggesting more frequent audits and reports on campaign committees and advocacy groups.

"These common sense solutions can be implemented at little to no cost to the taxpayer and would greatly increase the effectiveness of our campaign finance system here in Madison" says Kozlowski in a statement.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce previously went on record against Soglin’s disclosure proposal. The Wisconsin Reporter quoted Scott Griskavich, president Badger Welding Supply Inc., as commenting before the vote Tuesday that what he supports through political contributions, is "none of their damn business."

On Tuesday, Andrew Disch, lobbyist for the Madison Area Builders Association, told City Council members that the ordinance would chill political activity and "sets a tone of picking favorites among those who wish to do business with the city."

He speculated that qualified bidders may choose not to participate in city contracts to protect their "very, very  private, constitutionally  protected expression."