MADISON, WI – Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) will conclude its first year with a substantial set of achievements in the areas of elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying.
“While 2008 has passed quickly, the Board has worked hard and acted in a timely manner on a wide-ranging agenda,” said Kevin Kennedy, G.A.B. Director and General Counsel. “Wisconsin citizens can be assured that the new board and agency are acting to address important public policy concerns.”
Kennedy listed the following major accomplishments for 2008. The Board and its staff:
- Carried out four statewide elections in a smooth, efficient, transparent manner, reinforcing Wisconsin’s reputation for fair and impartial elections. (Wisconsin had the second highest rate of voter turnout in the country for the November 4 election.)
- Created the state’s new Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS), which will make considerably more information available to the public about political contributions in Wisconsin.
- Trained a large number and wide variety of stakeholders, including municipal clerks, campaign finance registrants, statewide Special Registration Deputies, and new Chief Election Inspectors, and launched a new Web-Based Election Training System.
- Voted to amend a state administrative rule to redefine the political purpose of the unregulated, so-called “issue ads” now used in Wisconsin political campaigns, as part of its statutorily mandated review of former Elections Board rules.
- Achieved compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) by completing important parts of the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS), including data interfaces with other Wisconsin state agencies, and launched the Voter Public Access (VPA) website to provide the public with voter registration and polling place information.
- Barred the use of “blind trusts” by state public officials, requiring them to reveal their investments.
- Completed almost all of the work required by the State Legislature for a 12-month review of all former administrative rules, formal opinions, guidelines and internal operating procedures of the former Elections and Ethics boards.
- Organized the new Government Accountability Board and staff.
“When one compares the amount and scope of our work with the size of our Board and staff, it is clear we have accomplished a lot,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a busy year.”
The G.A.B. also implemented a new rule governing election observers in Wisconsin, and is in the midst of carrying out a study to improve the reporting of election data with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Kennedy said. In addition, the agency processed 2596 statements of economic interest for Wisconsin’s state public officials, tracked 697 lobbying organizations, and reviewed nomination papers for 450 candidates for state and federal office.
G.A.B. goals for 2009 include vigorous enforcement of campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying laws, implementation of a legislative agenda to improve core agency responsibilities, and expansion of training for agency clientele.
Another G.A.B. goal will be accomplished very soon: Combining its 40-person staff in one office headquarters near the State Capitol so that the public, election officials, state legislators and lobbyists can access all agency services in one location.
“We hope to be greeting visitors in a new, central office by the beginning of February,” Kennedy said. “Our new headquarters will include space for Board meetings and make ‘one-stop-shopping’ easier for our regular clients.”
The move to new office space will soon be formally announced, Kennedy said. The agency’s current telephone numbers and e-mail addresses will not change.
Reid Magney, public information officer, 608-267-7887