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Assembly's top leaders bow out of fundraiser until after budget debates

The Wisconsin Assembly's two top leaders have done an about-face and now say they will not attend a major campaign fund-raising event while the state budget's being debated.

Speaker Mike Sheridan and Democratic Majority Leader Tom Nelson were planning to attend a golf outing next Monday put on by the Assembly's Democratic Campaign Committee. Special interests were planning to pay $1,000 a head.

But the outing drew heavy criticism after Assembly leaders promised in February not to hold campaign fundraisers at budget time when special interests could be perceived as buying items they want and don't want right before the budget passes.

Last week, Sheridan said the fund-raising ban applied only to individual members, and not the committee which raises money for all Democratic Assembly candidates.

In a statement last night, Sheridan and Nelson said they still felt that way.

But they don't want the effectiveness of the new ban to be questioned so they asked that the event be re-scheduled after the budget is finished. A new date has not been set.

Jay Heck of the watchdog group Common Cause praised the postponement, saying the Democratic leaders realized the timing was bad politics.

Senators and Gov. Jim Doyle have not imposed similar fund-raising bans at budget time.