Michels releases ‘Drain the Madison Swamp’ lobbying reform plan as GOP primary intensifies

MADISON, Wis. — Tim Michels, the Trump-backed Republican candidate for governor, took a page out of his benefactor’s book, releasing a plan Monday to “drain the Madison swamp.”

The plan would change how and when lobbyists can donate to political campaigns and would prevent retiring legislators from immediately becoming lobbyists.

“That’s a lot of campaigning that’s happening right now, without transparency — where the money’s from, who’s behind these candidates, and people deserve to have answers on that,” Michels said in an interview with News 3 Now.

Michels’ plan did, however, garner the support from those across the political spectrum as well.

“There were two good things in the plan,” said Matt Rothschild, the head of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a left-leaning group that tracks money in politics. “One was going to require a two-year ban on lawmakers from becoming lobbyists… And the other one is the requirement to have campaigns disclose who their donors are January through June.”

Currently, candidates have to file semi-annual campaign finance reports, with some closer deadlines leading up to the election. For example, the Michels campaign, which was announced after the first of the year, will not have to file a campaign finance report until July.

News 3 Now asked the Michels campaign if they would voluntarily supply a campaign finance report for this story, but they did not return that request.

From the last filing period, which occurred in January, only Rebecca Kleefisch’s campaign had a campaign finance report filed with the state’s ethics commission — many of the other major candidates got in the race much later. Tim Ramthun does have a finance report from January for his Assembly campaign.

Michels’ plan would also limit lobbyists making political contributions until after June 1, or whenever the Legislature is done for the year if they go beyond that — he said to encourage the Legislature to stay in session longer and delay campaigning.

While Michels is the only Republican candidate publicly targeting lobbyists, other GOP candidates have released “good government” plans. Almost all have released plans on election security, and Kleefisch has an additional plan for “government reform.”

As to why all this attention now, Rothschild said it could be in an effort to appeal to a wide swath of voters.

“If you look at his ads on TV, his ads are: ‘I’m a right-winger, I’m pro-Trump, I’m horribly anti-immigrant,'” Rothschild said. “So he’s saying that out of one side of his mouth, and then on the other side of the mouth, it’s: ‘Oh my God, I believe in clean government too.’ And so he’s trying to appeal to different crowds.”