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Assembly committee expected to stop fundraising during budget time

The state Assembly's Organization Committee is expected to act Wednesday to stop members from raising campaign money while the budget is debated.

For years, lawmakers have held fundraisers where special interests made donations, while budget items for their industries were still pending.

Watchdogs say it gives the appearance of government for sale.

Now, Democratic Majority Leader Tom Nelson says the proposed fundraising ban at budget time is the most significant campaign reform in a generation.

But it includes no penalties for violators and it only affects individual members and not the two parties' fundraising arms.

Also, it would not apply to senators who have shown no interest in changing the status quo.

And Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle who's been raising millions for a 2010 re-election bid he may or may not seek says it's unfair to have one house have different rules than the other.

Speaker Mike Sheridan says an Assembly rule is the fastest and surest way for his house to get a fundraising ban in place before Doyle proposes his new budget Feb 10.

Otherwise, it would have to be a more cumbersome bill which also requires approval from the Senate and the governor.

Nelson says he's confident lawmakers will abide by the new rule, so sanctions are not needed.

An earlier version "strongly encouraged" representatives not to raise campaign cash at budget time. But that wording was changed to make it mandatory.