Friday, December 9th, 2016

Paying for someone else’s political campaign

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Mike Nichols, writing for The Wisconsin Interest:

Legislators have passed the so-called Impartial Justice Act—that increases the check-off to $3 and directs some of that money to the new “Democracy Trust Fund” for state Supreme Court candidates. At press time, Gov. Jim Doyle was expected to sign the bill.

The new fund for Supreme Court races differs significantly from the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund—the check-off alone is unlikely to provide anywhere near the money Supreme Court candidates could qualify for, up to $1.2 million apiece.

Indeed, the percent of people checking the box on their income taxes has decreased from a high of 20% in 1979 to less than 5% in 2008. Check-off programs alone simply don’t produce much revenue, meaning legislators who want to increase public financing would have to find cash elsewhere—and lots of it.

Wisconsin taxpayers, as a result, might need to kick in millions from the state’s General Fund for a single contested state Supreme Court race under the Impartial Justice Act—and they would be doing it at a time when public support for taxpayer-financed campaigns has diminished. A 2006 Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll found that 65% of Wisconsinites oppose using tax dollars to finance political campaigns.

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