State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The state Senate Tuesday approved a bill that creates new requirements for groups that broadcast or publish issue ads within 60 days of an election. One state Senator said on the floor of the state Senate Tuesday that the legislation does not suppress speech. Ironically, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the legislation would “sharply limit anonymously funded ads.”
I voted against Senate Bill 43 (SB 43) because I have serious concerns about any infringement of the First Amendment, including fears that this bill and future campaign finance legislation could result in some ads being banned altogether. When government stifles speech during elections, that is the fox guarding the hen house.
Here is what is most troublesome. A senior staff attorney with the Wisconsin Legislative Council informs that under current state statutes, corporations are unable to use corporate money for campaigns. If a union is incorporated, the union would likewise face the same prohibition. However, if the union is not incorporated, state statutes would not apply to that union.
SB 43 fails to correct what I believe is a stunning disparity that treats businesses and unions differently. Why should unions have an advantage in political campaigning?
While the state Senate’s action on SB 43 is potentially unconstitutional, the vote was premature. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two days later to strike down government restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations during elections. Fewer restrictions mean greater participation in the electoral process with more voices being heard. Yes, those messages can be nasty and negative. However, government should not be inflicting controls on speech. The voters must sort out the numerous messages coming their way around election time. Government should not and must not take on the role of controlling election messages.
As I stated about my opposition to having state Supreme Court judges appointed rather than elected by the voters, “Let the noisy elections and public vetting be thorough and plentiful!”