Apparently rules don’t matter …

when you’re the Assembly Democrats.  (H/T – Owen)

Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and Majority Leader Thomas Nelson plan to raise money June 15 for fellow Assembly Democrats despite promises four months ago to eliminate fund raising while lawmakers debate the state budget.

Assembly leaders in February passed a rule banning fund raising until the Legislature gives the budget to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Sheridan, of Janesville, and Nelson, of Kaukauna, hailed the ban as groundbreaking.

Nonetheless, they plan to host a $1,000-a-person golf outing at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells for the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee just days after they plan to pass a budget that cuts aid to schools and raises $2 billion in taxes and fees to close a record shortfall. They will send the budget to the Senate for consideration later in the month.

Democrats claim it’s meant for individual committees.

Assembly Democrats said their ban doesn’t apply to raising money for the committee, one of the main tools Democrats will use in next year’s elections to try to protect their thin majority.

Leaders are making “an end-run around their own rule,” Heck said. “It’s like they’re trying to fool themselves and in the process, fooling nobody.”

But Nelson said the ban was effective in barring all 99 representatives from raising money for their own campaigns. He stood by a February comment that the ban was the most significant budget and campaign finance reform in a generation.

“Ninety-nine campaign committees that in previous years were pushing ahead at full steam are shut down and they will be shut down until the governor receives the budget,” he said Friday. “I think that the rule we set forth at the beginning of February has been widely successful, has achieved its stated goal and we’re on track to pass a balanced budget on time for the first time in 30 years.”

But justify their planned fundraiser.

Nelson said the fund-raiser did not conflict with the spirit of the fund-raising ban, which says: “It is the goal of the Assembly to effectively eliminate campaign fund raising during the budget period by members of the Assembly.”

The rule goes on to say members cannot solicit donations, but Nelson said that didn’t apply to fund raising for the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.

Critics see it differently.

Critics lambasted Assembly Democratic leaders for the golf fund-raiser, saying at minimum it violated the spirit of their ban.

“I think it’s hypocritical at best and it further erodes in the minds of the people that politicians are serious about any significant reform,” said Sen. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah). “As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Nelson has to explain why they can go and shake down the interest groups maybe four or five days after they have preliminarily created a budget.”

Nelson said the fund-raiser was no different than a March event Assembly Republican leaders held in Washington, D.C., to raise money for the state Republican Party.

Rep. Mark Gottlieb (R-Port Washington), who attended the GOP fund-raiser, said the ban Assembly Democrats imposed was largely meaningless.

“We’re all playing under the rules that exist,” he said. “They knew there was an enormous loophole in there, and they consciously left it in there.”

Gottlieb said the issue highlights the need to pass his bill to ban fund raising during the budget process that would apply to all legislative campaign committees and the governor.

Wonder what 2nd Assembly Rep. Ted Zigmunt thinks about the holding of this fundraiser?

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  1. Pingback: Where’s the pressure on Legislature Dems? « The Sconz

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