There are certainly times when not disclosing information makes sense: ‘Where did those worrisome-looking stains came from?’ or ‘why did I wake up covered in glitter and hot sauce?’ Political campaign contributions though? Not so much.
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend — ever the defender of all that is upstanding and proper — is working on legislation that would do away with the requirement to disclose an individual’s employer information for donations of more than $100. This is the man who noted our nation’s “war on men” and that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is merely another day off for state workers. Surely his legacy of measured and moderate comment informs his legislating ability.
Once again, not so much.
Drawn up in response to Sen. Lena Taylor’s (D-Milwaukee) call for a boycott of Koch-affiliated Georgia-Pacific, Grothman’s intention, at least on the surface, appears to be good. Taylor’s call for a boycott of Georgia-Pacific was irresponsible, plain and simple. To advocate against a company that employs hundreds, if not thousands, of Wisconsin residents is bad representation and misguided activism.
Democratic activists and a few legislators are seeing Koch brothers beneath every rock, behind every tree, lurking, waiting to unleash their conservative agenda through some sneaky legislative loophole. I get it: They’re rich and right-leaning. But that’s no excuse for knee-jerk political theater.
Grothman was right to call out Taylor’s stunt. This is no time to play with the livelihoods of Wisconsinites, even if it does score you some points with the gadfly protesters still frequenting the Capitol.
But rather than merely denounce Taylor’s call for a boycott, Grothman opted to use it as an opportunity to put forth another equally bad idea: relaxing campaign finance disclosure laws. As noted above, his proposal would eliminate the requirement for donors giving more than $100 to disclose their employer information. The idea behind Grothman’s plan is to prevent employees and employers from being discriminated against for political backing. Great, there’s been far too much political animosity in places it doesn’t belong, from the state Supreme Court to grocery store aisles. But the admiration for Grothman’s plan ends there.
The main problem here is not that disclosure opens up the possibility for discrimination against employees for political reasons. It’s that our campaign finance laws are being eroded so as to limit the voice of the average Wisconsin resident.
It was not the guy operating a machine that makes paper plates, trying to put his kids through school that was the target in the case of the boycott. He may have indirectly been the victim, but it’s the executives at the helm fronting the money. Not that Grothman would necessarily be swayed by this, or any, logic.
The last thing this state needs is a measure that lessens governmental transparency. How much it actually does so may depend on how much Capitol rotunda air you’ve been breathing lately, but we’d all do better to shine a little light on things.
Jake Begun ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and journalism.