Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Election finances could change

Future campaigns for city office could be seeing a major change if a new initiative becomes policy in Madison this year.

City Council President Austin King, District 8, plans to introduce a proposal at Tuesday night's council meeting that would make full public funding of city elections for mayor, alder and municipal judgeships city policy.

"I think it's much better to have elected officials who are only accountable to their constituents and not to special interests that write their campaign checks," King said.


King's position as alder, which he has held since 2003, will end this April. He is not seeking re-election this year in order to pursue a law degree.

"I'm never going to benefit from this as a politician, but I will benefit from it as a citizen," King said.

The proposal has already received support from state advocacy groups, including the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Common Cause in Wisconsin, which believe this policy could help create a more diverse group of candidates for city elections.

"It would attract a much larger and more diverse population to run for office, because it wouldn't require an individual to have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to raise the money to run for office and whether or not he or she had political connections in order to raise that money," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause, the state's largest nonpartisan reform advocacy group.

Heck said cities that have adopted similar policies, such as New York and Albuquerque, N.M., have seen increases in the number of women, minorities and low-income people seeking office.

The Democracy Campaign said they would support King in his initiative, and they hope a similar initiative is proposed on the state level.

"It would definitely open up the process to more people to run for office, [and] give people a greater voice on issues that are important to the public rather than special interests," said Beverly Speer, advocacy director for the Democracy Campaign.

King said the proposal, which is not nearly finalized, would be sent to a Blue Ribbon Committee, consisting of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, for further research and discussion.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who is seeking re-election this April, is also in favor of King's proposal and is expected to co-sponsor it.

"Although city elections are still relatively affordable compared to state or federal elections, they are starting to get more expensive," said George Twigg, communications director for Cieslewicz. "And before we get to the point where they are so expensive that people are discouraged from taking part, the mayor feels this is a good step for us to take."

Cieslewicz will face Ray Allen in the mayoral election April 3. During last week's primary, Cieslewicz garnered 58 percent of the vote and Allen received 30 percent.

Semmi Pasha, spokesperson for Allen, said although Allen does support campaign-finance reform, he believes this particular proposal needs some work before it can be adopted.

"He believes that campaign contributions are a form of free speech," Pasha said. "So any public financing measures would have to be balanced so we don't encroach on one of our foremost constitutional rights."

Pasha added Allen has questions about how this policy would be funded and how the city will determine which candidates are serious in their run for office.

However, King said this proposal is something the city needs.

"It will prevent the city of Madison's government from sliding into the cesspool that the Legislature and the governor's office are currently in," King said.

King said he hopes to have this policy enacted sometime early this year.

If passed, the policy would not be in effect for the current city campaigns, but would take effect for the next campaign season.

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