CAP TIMES: How to stop WMC from hijacking our democracy

November 6, 2013
Dave Schwab

If the people of Wisconsin want to enjoy true democracy and shared prosperity in the 21st century, we must first do something about the corporate special interests that have hijacked our state government.

Behind this takeover is Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliate and largest corporate lobbyist organization. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, since 2006 WMC has spent roughly $16.8 million on political campaigns and over $3 million on lobbying expenditures. This money has been spent to advance an agenda of attacks on workers' rights, rollbacks of environmental protections, and deep budget cuts to education, health care and other vital social programs. These policies, designed to further enrich WMC's largest corporate members, have been devastating to Wisconsin's communities and the small businesses that depend on them. Ironically, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Wisconsin 44th of 50 states in overall economic performance and dead last in short-term job growth in a report this summer, reinforcing Bureau of Labor Statistics reports showing steep falls in job growth and weekly wages in Wisconsin since 2011.

Undeterred, WMC has recently been running TV spots intended to mislead the public into believing that their economic agenda has helped, rather than harmed, Wisconsin’s economy. Revealingly, they even flaunted their lobbyists’ influence over the current administration by titling one ad “Our reforms are working: Thanks Governor Walker.” While small business owners struggle through Wisconsin’s weak economy, WMC has little to offer but spin.

Fortunately, we are seeing the rise of forward-looking business alliances with a different vision for our state. One is the Wisconsin Business Alliance, whose members spoke at a July press conference about how the influence of corporate money in politics creates an unequal playing field that disadvantages small-business owners. Another is the American Independent Business Alliance, which counts Dane Buy Local and Local First Milwaukee as affiliates. Both of these associations aim to connect independent businesses to build dynamic local economies that keep economic and political power in their communities.

We know from the surging movement to overturn Citizens United that most folks in Wisconsin are eager to take our own economic and political power back from corporate special interests. That’s why Wisconsin Wave is organizing Wisconsinites to urge local businesses to join our growing “WMC Free” business coalition, and to consider joining business alliances that do support strong communities. Joining the WMC Free business coalition is a simple way for business owners to show that they stand for strong local economies that support — and are supported by — healthy, sustainable communities. And when you spend your hard-earned money at a WMC Free business, you can rest assured knowing that your purchasing power is strengthening your local economy, not feeding WMC’s lobbying and disinformation campaigns.

By shifting power from corporate special interests back to our communities, we can move Wisconsin forward toward an economy that works for everyone and a democracy that represents us all.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5 — one year before Election Day 2014 — Wisconsinites concerned about the state of our democracy will stand together in Madison at the Rally to Shine a Light on Big Money in Politics. At 5 p.m., we will meet at the State Street side of the Capitol and march with flashlights to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. In front of WMC, speakers will discuss how pay-to-play politics has given corporate interests undue influence over our government, and how people can organize to take power back from the forces of big money in the coming year. For more information, see www.WisconsinWave.org.

Dave Schwab is the outreach director for Wisconsin Wave. He can be reached at Schwab@WisconsinWave.org.

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For more information about Wisconsin Wave’s WMC Free initiative and how to get involved, check out www.WisconsinWave.org.