The highest priority in preserving the integrity of elections is not necessarily to reform election laws, though reforms are surely needed. Rather, the highest priority is to demonstrate seriousness about enforcing the laws that exist. Absent such seriousness, needed reforms will be robbed of meaning.
So it was good news last week when the Republican Party of Wisconsin moved to hold accountable the state AFL-CIO for its actions in a special legislative election last December, evidently heedless of lawful disclosure requirements.
Democrats parachuted Milwaukee Liberal activist Elizabeth Coppola into a South Milwaukee district just in time to campaign for a vacant Assembly seat, and she got right down to business making deceptive statements such as, “I am not a special interest backed candidate who has to answer to out-of-state donors.” It takes a special kind of chutzpah to say that in a flyer paid for by the AFL-CIO which, last we heard, was not known for deviating from the party line spelled out by national unions—but that’s not even the issue here.
The issue, according to the GOP’s complaint to the Government Accountability Board, is that the AFL-CIO bankrolled multiple activities on behalf of Coppola’s failed campaign, and simply ignored its disclosure obligations.
This is important on more than on level. During the winter 2011 Siege of Madison, national unions took up half the parking spaces around the Capitol Square for days on end with mobile command posts. Unions are known to be planning hundreds of millions in spending to turn this year’s elections. And new IRS rules designed to gag Conservative organizations leave Big Labor free to conduct its big money operations with impunity.
Accountability for one union group at the state level won’t be decisive, but it’s a necessary start in breaking up a rigged game.