How Big Money Ruined Public Life in Wisconsin

30 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2017

See all articles by Lynn Adelman

Lynn Adelman

U.S. District Court - Eastern District of WI

Date Written: June 16, 2017


This Article discusses how Wisconsin fell from grace. Once a model good government state that pioneered many democracy-enhancing laws, in a very short time, Wisconsin became a state where special interest money, most of which is undisclosed, dominates politics. This Article identifies several factors as being critical to Wisconsin’s descent. These include the state’s failure to nurture and build on the campaign finance reforms enacted in the 1970s and both the state’s and the United States Supreme Court’s failure to adequately regulate sham issue ads. As evidence of Wisconsin’s diminished status, this Article describes how several of the state’s most progressive laws have been undermined and how each of the three branches of the state’s government has been beset by scandal related to the increased importance of special interest money. Finally, this Article suggests that major change will come about only in the long term; such change will require both new campaign finance reforms and a shift in approach by the United States Supreme Court.

Suggested Citation

Adelman, Lynn, How Big Money Ruined Public Life in Wisconsin (June 16, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Lynn Adelman (Contact Author)

U.S. District Court - Eastern District of WI ( email )

United States Courthouse
517 E. Wisconsin Avenue Room 364
Milwaukee, WI 53202
United States

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