NOT LONG AGO in this space we seconded a call from Common Cause Wisconsin for Sen. Alberta Darling — the powerful Republican co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee — to refrain from holding a campaign fund-raising event in the middle of the state budget process. It looked too much like a shakedown of lobbyists and others with an interest in the budget outcome. Darling postponed her event, and we give her credit for doing the right thing.
But, clearly, questionable judgment is a bipartisan affliction.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, has scheduled a fund-raising event for June 18, a date also expected to bring the budget process into play. Common Cause has asked Lassa, like Darling, to postpone. We strongly agree.
THESE DAYS, BIG MONEY plays an increasingly vital role in politics. Trying to seek or retain elective office without it has become a near impossibility. Thus, politicians spend an inordinate amount of time chasing the buck.
It is unseemly. And it often gives off a strong whiff of corruption.
Meanwhile, the most important piece of legislation each session is the budget. It adopts priorities, sets the state’s direction for the next two years and, most significantly, allocates billions of dollars. Special interests swarm the process like locusts.
Legislative fund-raising in the midst of that should be prohibited, but it’s not in Wisconsin. So citizens must rely on politicians to exercise good judgment.
Most do have enough common sense not to grub for dollars during budget deliberations. And some, like Darling, gather their wits once reminded. We hope Lassa does the same thing. Then, in a more perfect world, legislators would move to close off the option by restricting fund-raising in the budget timeline. We can always hope.