United States (TFC)— Throughout the last election cycle, money in politics became a prominent talking point. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, in their own ways, highlighted the corrupting influences of fortunes on legislation.
US campaign finance laws are notoriously flexible for big-money donors to prop up candidates of their choosing. Whereas some funds are traceable, others form illegal dark money networks. Blasting the problem either for awareness or votes is one thing, solutions are another. That’s where Wolf PAC, a determined campaign finance reform movement, comes in.
During the primary, Wolf PAC was plugged by numerous progressive outlets and shows including TYT Network, and the David Pakman Show. Wolf PAC’s goal is to reform campaign finance laws to remove huge single-donor cash dumps from American politics.
In theory, politicians do only what their constituents–those who pay them–want them to do. Unfortunately, the whims of American taxpayers are diluted into nothing by contributions by multi-national corporations, wealthy families, or other entities. Although the Koch brothers often take center stage, they’re far from alone in Washington’s halls.
Wolf PAC prides itself on not depending on federal entities or national elections to get the job done. Instead, using grassroots volunteer activism, Wolf PAC pushes to get local finance reform resolutions passed on the state level.
Ultimately, the movement envisions a constitutional amendment passed to dry up the endless funds flood. It’s difficult to influence candidates with donations when they’re from the average citizen, say a few dollars. That’s Wolf-PAC’s vision which, state by state, is gaining momentum and making noise. The Fifth Column News contacted Wolf PAC’s volunteer force in Wisconsin to learn what’s currently going down, and where we go from here.
Questions answered by Erin Tracy, a Wisconsin Wolf PAC state organizer:
Q– 1) Although not necessary, it’s always nice to have backing for a movement by political figures. Will Wolf PAC have to adapt given the current presidential climate, and if so how? Could it’s momentum have been affected by either presumptive nominee or their followings?
A– Trump and Sanders brought campaign finance to the forefront of the debate. Since the election, we’ve had an influx of new volunteers, many of whom are conservatives. This is a non-partisan issue and is not exclusively connected to any political party or movement.
Q– 2) WolfPAC is covered in some alternative media outlets, though is largely overshadowed. Whether this was due to Sanders coverage or, for a short time, Democracy Spring. How closely affiliated with WolfPAC are these other movements, specifically Democracy Spring, and does WolfPac feel it’s being overshadowed?
A– Wolf PAC works with other groups that have a shared interest. One of our volunteers organized a protest in Madison for Democracy Spring (though it was unfortunately rescheduled because of a blizzard). We occasionally collaborate with similar organizations that want the same outcome but by different means. Sometimes they’re volunteers make calls supporting our resolution; sometimes we show up in support of their events. We all want to get the money out and fix the system to work better for the average American.
Q– 3) What’s it looking like for WolfPAC on the front lines of campaign finance reform in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Are there recent developments or victories to report?
A– We are very optimistic because our resolution is likely to be introduced early in the Wisconsin session and then we will have two years to fight for a vote. Our resolution most recently passed in Rhode Island (unanimously in the senate!). We have volunteers organizing in all 50 states. This year our resolution has already been introduced in 6 states! Wisconsin is about to be number 7.
Q– 4) How many volunteers does Wisconsin’s WolfPac have and how do its numbers compare to those in other states?
A– We have more volunteers in Wisconsin than we’ve ever had. The election has really inspired people; I think our society has reached a point where problems in the system are undeniable. We’ve also got some people on our team that are a little more tech-savvy and our Facebook page has taken off.
Q–5) What kind of pushback, if any, has Wisconsin’s WolfPAC seen from Walker’s government? Has progress in Wisconsin been surprising quick, unexpectedly slow, or anything in between?
A– We are making some progress in Wisconsin. Last year our resolution was introduced late in the session so it didn’t go anywhere. This year we’re going to get introduced in the first couple months and we will have a long time to work on it. We’ve met some resistance but we’ve got a strong group of patient volunteers that are committed to seeing this resolution passed in Wisconsin.
Q– 6) How concerned was WolfPAC about the presidential outcome? If not, then what is of more concern to the movement?
A– Wolf PAC was not concerned about the presidential outcome because we focus on state legislators.
Q– 7) What are ways that people who want to help but can’t volunteer can help?
A– A simple call has so much impact at the state level. I would say that calling their state representatives and telling them that they support Wolf PAC’s Free and Fair Elections Resolution is a great way to show support. Even leaving a message really means something to a state legislator when it comes from one of their voters. That or donating some money to Wolf PAC.
Q– 8) How’s Wolf-PAC’s morale post-Trump? Where does the movement go from here?
A– We have never been stronger. We are ready to fight for our cause and there is definitely a sense of urgency. Overturning verdicts like Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo is increasingly unlikely, making our resolution (which calls for an Amendment convention by way of Article V of the US constitution) the best and strongest solution for campaign finance reform. Many of our volunteers are Sanders supporters who want to get rid of the corruption or Trump supporters who want to “drain the swamp”.
Q– 9) How critical is youth participation? What would you say to youthful former Bernie supporters?
A– People don’t know their power. There is a lot of focus in our culture on the presidential race, but I would tell young people that getting involved on a local level is so much more fulfilling. You can make an appointment and sit down with your actual representative and tell them what issues are important to you. I’ve met both my state Senator and Representative in person, and this January I sat down with over 15 legislators to talk about free and fair elections. If you’re looking for real, palpable change then start in your own community.
Q– 10) Has Wolf-PAC’s number of volunteer spiked or dipped according to specific events? Like the primary? Or the Trump election?
A–There have been small spikes before, like when The Guardian released the leaked John Doe papers revealing apparent pay for play corruption in Wisconsin, but nothing has compared to when Trump was elected. As an organizer who brings in new volunteers, I have never been busier.
Since this interview, Wolf PAC’S Wisconsin team has introduced it’s resolution to state legislators. This continues a daunting trek involving meeting after meeting, tireless protest, and grassroots efforts. Wolf PAC has also marked recent victories in other states despite Trump seizing power. The movement, however, is continuously undermined by lobbyists, sometimes from both ends of the political spectrum.
“Money in politics” is a phrase that’s been thrown around ever since the presidential primaries. Then-candidate Bernie Sanders highlighted this and built a campaign from small money donations. But while money in politics certainly affects campaigns, the rabbit hole goes deeper than that.
Erin Tracy, of Wisconsin Wolf PAC, made it clear that money in politics is a dynamic issue. Everything from police departments to drug companies, to hospitals and schools, are susceptible to the corrupting dollar. Wolf PAC’s interest, although in campaign finance laws, stretches beyond the ballot box.
Wolf PAC is championed as a movement for the people, capable of bridging the cavernous gaps separating America’s political communities. As Tracy explained, it’s not whether you’re conservative or liberal that limits Wolf PAC. Rather, it’s the same big money donors seeking to dominate the political arena with their own candidates, and agendas.
Money is powerful, but has proven to not be the impervious iron grip donors often imagine. Wolf PAC is always recruiting volunteers in every state, and encourage anyone willing to join. With enough hands on deck, Wolf PAC teams in Wisconsin and elsewhere are confident victories will continue mounting.
If you’re interested in volunteering in your state, please visit Wisconsin WolfPac’s website for more info. Just visit this link.