Ald. Austin King has proposed 100% public financing of elections for Madison mayor, the Common Council and municipal judge, to help local government "avoid the plague of corruption that has afflicted the state Legislature, governor, and our counterparts in Milwaukee." The council is expected to consider the measure next month.
Meanwhile, the two candidates for Madison mayor are raising lots and lots of money. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has more than $100,000 in the bank, while Ray Allen -- who's loaned $70,000 to his own campaign -- has $80,150.
This week, Isthmus asked the candidates the following question.
Should there be public financing of campaigns? And are you spending too much on your own campaign for a local office?
I am very supportive of campaign reform measures. However, there would need to be comprehensive reform before public financing could be viable. While I did enjoy the forums with Will Sandstrom, I'm not keen on taxpayers funding our campaigns when there are more important areas to fund, such as affordable housing or maintenance of streets infrastructure.
I also believe campaign contributions are a form of free speech. Any public financing measures would have to be balanced so we don't encroach on one of our most fundamental Constitutional rights.
Am I spending too much of my own money on my campaign? Absolutely not. Social/economic justice and fighting poverty have always been just as important to me as trolleys are to Cieslewicz. Somebody needs to raise these issues in this campaign, and somebody needs to make these issues a priority for city hall. If it takes me spending my own money, then I'll be happy to do so. Because by spending my own money on this campaign, I'll be nobody's mayor but yours.
Public financing is more important now than ever. We just witnessed the state's corporations virtually buying the state attorney general's race, spending nearly as much to defeat the Democrat as both candidates themselves spent combined on their campaigns.
I support public financing for city of Madison elections. I'll appoint a committee of community leaders to work out the details in time for the next election cycle.
I'm proud of the fact that 90% of my contributions have come from Madison residents and that the average contribution has been under $100. Contrast that to my Republican opponent, who has raised a fourth of his money in large contributions from developers, who got 34% of his money from outside the city and who has had to loan his campaign $70,000 of his own money because he can't generate grassroots support in the community.
Campaigns do cost too much, at all levels. I have focused my efforts on running a traditional, grassroots campaign. While my Republican opponent has run an extensive and expensive campaign, attacking me with radio ads and billboards all over town, I have run a positive campaign that has yet to air a single radio or TV ad.