Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Goose and gander: WMC and Soglin

Last week, I wondered if Paul Soglin, who wants to know who funds WMC and its election ads, was being paid for his campaign against WMC and by whom. I had a feeling that he had said he was being paid and it turns out that he is. Good for him.

But we still don't know who is paying him and apparently he isn't going to tell us.

But, he says, he is not trying to influence an election. Well, no, not directly, although the controversy around WMC is all about what will happen in future elections. Actual and potential candidates have a great interest in how it comes out. Might, just to throw out a few examples, interests associated with the Democratic Party or persons interested in the reelection of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, choose to fund anti-WMC activities as part of a strategy for the next election cycle? Might Paul Soglin's clients be the same people who funded ads in last spring's Supreme Court race?

Beyond that, if we have some expectation or interest in knowing who is trying to influence us, it's not evident that this should only apply to support for or against a particular candidate. Although there is arguably not as great a possibility for quid pro quo type corruption, i.e., a candidate deciding that she owes a funder favors (but see the preceding paragraph), there is quite a difference of opinion on whether the anti-corruption rationale is a sufficient justification for burdening independent expenditures that don't directly call for the election or defeat of a candidate. (Compare, for example, this case with this one.)Folks arguing for disclosure also say that it helps the public evaluate claims and, if you are Judith Faulkner, it aids in knowing who not to buy things from.

But, you say, why is mere disclosure of who is funding something burdensome? This is where Mayor Soglin's current recalcitrance is instructive. I imagine the reason that he won't identify his clients is that they don't want him to. I can imagine all sorts of reasons for that - some understandable and some less so. Perhaps they fear backlash from the Judy Faulkners of the right. Maybe they don't want their identity to taint Soglin's credibility. Perhaps they are just the private sort. The point is that, when it comes to his own activities, Soglin thinks that the desire for confidentiality ought to be respected.

I don't bring this up to suggest that Paul is engaged in anything untoward. He's not. He is doing political work on behalf of partisans. I don't even think he should be legally obligated to disclose his clients. But, then again, I don't make those claims about WMC either.

When you decide to make a point about someone else taking money in the shadows, shouldn't you take yours in the sun?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Rick. I betcha dollars to donuts that the Chief's supporters are paying Soglin (and maybe others) to go after WMC, which may be their right but certainly conflicts with their public pronouncements.

Dad29 said...

When you decide to make a point about someone else taking money in the shadows, shouldn't you take yours in the sun?

Not if you can get away without it.

John Foust said...

It's all a trick. Next week, Soglin's backers will reveal themselves. Then WMC will reveal their funding sources because they've come to realize that the public should know who is influencing elections.

Right after that, WMC's web-based lackeys will explain how all those kindly anti-Butler ads were all about strengthening the social fabric.

Of course his backers are afraid of WMC's smears. You think WMC's staff is all sweetness and light? Maybe the next round of multi-million "good-natured ribbing" will attack Soglin's backers.

Compare and contrast WMC's spending to the amount of money that those nefarious backers must've thrown Soglin's way to fund all this research. Aren't we talking 1,000:1? You're swatting at gnats.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight -- Soglin is a jerk for not telling who gave him the few bucks he is paid to joust with WMC but you don't think WMC should have to disclose the source of the MILLIONS is spent to "buy" two Supreme Court Justices?

This is hysterical!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:52 -

"Soglin is a jerk for not telling who gave him the few bucks he is paid”

How do you know what he is paid? I assume proportionately speaking, that Soglin is paid quite generously.

I think it would be extremely interesting to know who is funding Soglin and is providing him with the info he appears to have access to.

Soglins campaign against WMC right now is a "do as I say and not as I do" joke.

Jack Lohman said...

I'm retired and not paid by anyone, and I'd like to know why WMC is trying to get judges and politicians elected rather than being a business advocate. I suspect they are paid a lot by their insurance industry members to advocate, say, against health care reform. That's a shame, when their majority of members seek it.

John Foust said...

Soglin wasn't the first to complain that WMC's staff seems to be driving the bus and that members feel like they're along for the ride. Epic's statement didn't advocate for the abolition of WMC. The just said they'll "try" to do business with companies who think WMC needs to undergo a change in direction.

What would a WMC course-correction look like? We can expect those who do not want to change to raise a big stink, to claim they're victims, to claim their free speech rights are being violated because someone else is talking.

Ah, but I'm only summarizing Buchen's latest rant titled "The Price of Free Speech", which as I recall was about three million of WMC member money just for ads in the Butler/Gableman face-off.

And that's not even putting a price on all that CEO time! Surely this has an effect on the success of Wisconsin corporations. To suggest that Wisconsin CEOs aren't worth their seven-figure paychecks and aren't spending 120% of their time on their companies would be sheer heresy.

Marc Eisen said...

Epic's June 25 statement is stronger than Mr. Foust suggests. The managers said: "After careful consideration, we made a decision to try to work only with vendors that do not support WMC with its current management." I take the "current management" qualification to mean that Epic wants regime change at WMC--that folks like James Haney and James Buchen be shown the door.

Jack Lohman said...

And well they should be Marc. Their choice to oppose solid health care reform in opposition to the best interests of their members is not what I'd want my business coalition doing. It keeps the insurance companies happy, but at the expense of their other members.

Anonymous said...

Rick, you said in Sunday's J/S, "The 1980s brought us lower taxes and lighter regulation. What followed was, not withstanding our recent economic difficulties, a generation of growth and prosperity."

However, you failed to mention that what also followed was 20 years of rapidly increasing deficits for the US - 8 years of Reagan, 4 of Bush 1 and 8 more years of Bush 2."

It took 6 years of Clinton to turn the tide after Reagan and Bush 1. Bush 2 had a surplus going into 2001, and it took him and his administration 8 months to squander the surplus and turn us again toward deficits.

Despite what St. Reagan said, deficits do matter and he proved that by cutting taxes while simultaneously increasing spending. We saw deficits occur as a result. Even a fouth grader could figure that one out.

Rick, you may be a good teacher of law but my advice is for you not to go into teaching economics.