By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Nothing stirs passionate political debate in Wisconsin like Act 10.
Now, it seems, nothing so quickly mobilizes campaign begging like the controversial collective-bargaining law.
Within hours after Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down major portions of Act 10, making the law “null and void” as far as local public employees were concerned, Democratic Party politicians used the ruling to go after campaign cash.
Case in point, state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point.
In an email to potential supporters, Lassa lobbies for money, pointing out that she was one of the so-called Wisconsin 14, the Democratic senators who fled the state in winter 2011 to stall a vote on Act 10.
Lassa said she wasn’t surprised when the judge overturned Gov. Scott Walker’s law that “stripped public employees of their workers’ rights.”
“You stood with me and my 13 Senate colleagues when Governor Walker and his allies began their attack on Wisconsin workers. Will you stand with me again?” Lassa asks, noting that a donation of $10, $25, $50 “or whatever you can afford today will help me continue the fight against the Walker agenda.”
For good measure, she repeats her plea, asserting that she will defeat Walker’s “rubber stamp candidate.”
Lassa’s 24th Senate District is among many districts the Republicans tweaked during the majority-led redistricting process, making the 24th a little more amenable to the GOP. Her challenger, Scott Kenneth Noble, is a Richfield Republican active in the central Wisconsin conservative moment. He led an unsuccessful recall campaign against Lassa last year.
Lassa’s cash call was followed by liberal group and Scott Walker detester One Wisconsin Now, under a campaign fundraising appeal headlined in bold, “Unconstitutional.”
“You and I always knew Scott Walker’s attack on workers’ rights was a violation of our values. And now a judge has ruled late Friday it was a violation of our rights and our laws,” writes Scot Ross, the group’s executive director.
“We have fought Scott Walker’s radical agenda every step of the way. Can you chip in $10 – to celebrate a judge overturning his Act 10 – and so that we have the resources to keep fighting every single day?” Ross asks.
Walker, too, used the judge’s ruling as a fundraising catalyst.
In a letter titled, “This Isn’t Over,” Walker wrote that a “liberal activist judge in Madison” overturned the will of the people and imposed his personal beliefs on all of us.
“Sadly, this is what liberals do when they can’t win at the ballot box – they legislate from the bench to achieve their goals.”
That sort of thing can be prevented, the governor asserts, with “your generous contribution of $100, $50, $20 or whatever you can afford.”
While the speed of the fundraising campaign might be remarkable, Mike McCabe says politicians using a hot-button issue to spur donations isn’t all that surprising.
“Anything that is an opportunity to raise donations leads to those kinds of solicitations on both sides,” said McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a liberal-leaning group that tracks campaign spending in the state and pushes for campaign finance reform.
“If it’s a hot-button that they can press, the hotter the button the better as far as they’re concerned,” McCabe added.
And issues don’t come any hotter in Wisconsin than Act 10, the law led by Walker and a Republican-controlled Legislature that curbs collective bargaining for most public employees in the state.
The act’s controversial provisions, including limiting wage negotiations to the rate of inflation and requiring employees to contribute to their pensions and contribute more to their health insurance, set off a firestorm when it was first introduced in February 2011. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the Capitol to rally against it, and unions and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin launched a campaign to recall Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and several Republican senators. Walker, Kleefisch and all but one of the senators survived the recall, with support from voters who rallied around Walker and the passage of Act 10.
Colas’ ruling, for many Democrats, came as validation of what they believed all along, that Act 10 is unconstitutional. The celebration could be short-lived, however. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Tuesday asked for a stay of the judge’s ruling, that Act 10 remain in force while the case moves into the appeals system.
Act 10, McCabe says, falls under the category of health-care reform, wars, battles over birth control and any other issue that churns political emotion: They’re good for the campaign pocketbook.
“Unfortunately it becomes standard operating procedure that if you are on the winning side, you say, ‘We won, give us money.’ If you’ve lost, you say, ‘It’s not over yet, give us money,” McCabe said. “If it’s a button they can press that creates an emotional response, they will do it.”
Contact Kittle at [email protected]