Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Inc.

We are dedicated to clean and open government and a full democracy, where everyone has an equal voice.

aka Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   |   Madison, WI   |  wisdc.org

Mission

Mission Statement The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog that tracks and exposes money in politics in Wisconsin. We provide the premiere searchable database of campaign donations in the state. We are the only group that systematically tracks election spending by outside groups. We post original stories on money and politics on our website, and work with the media to convey our information and educate the public. We advocate for transparency and for reforms that level the electoral playing field. We defend our civil rights and liberties. We offer a vision of a democracy with equal participation, racial equity, and economic justice.

Ruling year info

1998

Executive Director

Matthew Rothschild

Main address

203 S Paterson St Suite 100

Madison, WI 53703-3689 USA

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Formerly known as

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Education Project, Inc.

EIN

39-1911104

NTEE code info

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

We're a nonpartisan watchdog group that is working to get the money out of politics and to strengthen our democracy. We believe in clean and open government, where everyone's voice is heard and everyone's vote counts.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Individual Campaign Contributions Searchable Database

Provides the only searchable database of state campaign donors and recipients. Issues press releases and reports about campaign finances in Wisconsin. Provides media support with campaign finance reform specialists.

Population(s) Served

Build public support for banning gerrymandering in Wisconsin and adopting independent, nonpartisan redistricting. Almost half the state’s population had little or no choice about who represents them in the Assembly or Senate on Election Day 2016. The reason is the lack of competitiveness in elections -- only 10 of the 99 Assembly seats were anywhere near competitive in 2016. This lack of competitiveness in elections leads to hyper-partisanship. When incumbents are in safe districts, they don’t need to listen to those constituents who disagree with them. As a result, compromise becomes nearly impossible. On top of that, incumbents are threatened within their own parties if they dare to stray from the party line; they are told they will be “primaried” by a candidate who is more in lockstep with the leadership. Wisconsin needs to establish the “Iowa Model” of fair, nonpartisan, and transparent mapping of electoral districts. For the past 35 years, career civil servants in Iowa – and not the leaders of the party in power – have drawn the district maps there, with specific criteria that guard against partisanship and favoritism. It works well there, and it would work well in Wisconsin, too.

Population(s) Served

Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision; ban corporate contributions; lower individual donation levels; incentivize small donor campaign finance programs; advocate for full public financing; require full disclosure of contributions, including employer information; ban coordination between candidates and so-called “issue advocacy” groups; and require disclosure of donors to “dark money” groups.

Population(s) Served

Repeal the voter ID law; expand early voting; retain same-day registration; adopt automatic voter registration like 18 states and the District of Colombia already have done. We want every citizen to vote, and to be able to do so without hardship or inconvenience.

Population(s) Served

In Wisconsin, people can’t vote even after they are let out of jail or prison – not until they are no longer on probation, parole, or supervision. This has disenfranchised more than 45,000 people in Wisconsin. We need to at least restore the franchise to prisoners in Wisconsin as soon as they are no longer behind bars.

Population(s) Served

Local democracy, or “home rule,” is enshrined in Wisconsin’s state constitution, and for good reason: Because citizens have the most contact with, and potential control over, their local officials than any other elected officials. It is at the local level where we have our truest democracy. And so long as local officials don’t impinge on people’s rights under the U.S. Constitution or Wisconsin’s Constitution, and so long as they don’t usurp the authority of the state government, they ought to be able to run their local towns as they and their constituents see fit.

Population(s) Served

Promote fair and impartial courts in Wisconsin; build awareness of growing special interest influence over state Supreme Court elections; tighten the recusal rule for judges; support a basic disclosure requirement that if a lawyer in a pending case makes a sizable donation to the presiding judge while the judge is sitting on the case, then the lawyer on the other side of the case must be notified of the donation; reinstate the tradition of open administrative hearings at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Population(s) Served

Open and transparent government is a crucial to democracy. Elected officials and administrators work for us – not the other way around. Whether it’s legislative leadership rigging the voting district maps in private meetings with pledges of secrecy, or whether it’s the Wisconsin Supreme Court takings its administrative meetings private, or whether it’s committee chairs not giving adequate public notice of hearings, or whether it’s individual elected officials or agencies not being responsive to open records requests, our democracy suffers.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We aim to make real the promise of democracy so that everyone has an equal voice.
We aim to curb big and dark money.
We aim to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
We aim to make voting easier, not harder.
We aim to reenfranchise formerly incarcerated people.
We aim to clean up Wisconsin’s courts.
We aim to educate the people of Wisconsin.
We aim to agitate for pro-democracy reforms.
We aim to help bring about racial equity and economic justice.

We run a unique and indispensable database of Wisconsin campaign donations and we track spending by outside groups.
We publish several original articles a week on our website, and we share those on social media and with news outlets in Wisconsin.
We write op-eds that are published by Wisconsin news outlets.
We provide quotes to reporters on a regular basis.
We appear on radio stations in Wisconsin about once a week.
We give dozens of public speeches in Wisconsin every year.
We testify at the State Capitol.
We work cohesively in coalition with other pro-democracy organizations.

Our executive director, with 40 years of experience in progressive nonprofits, is one of the leading pro-democracy voices in Wisconsin. An award-winning author and a much sought-after speaker, he also has shown agility in working with coalition partners. Our outreach and advocacy director, with 20 years of experience in Wisconsin pro-democracy nonprofits, is an expert on the gerrymandering issue and on the legislative process and on grassroots organizing. Our research director is a former reporter for the AP in Wisconsin, and he writes articles and reports for our website on a regular basis. Our data manager has been with the organization from the outset; he built and still runs our database of campaign donations.

We have been successful in affecting positive legislative changes in the past, including the creation of the Government Accountability Board and public financing for candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. While both of those landmark reforms have since been rescinded, they pointed the way to cleaning up our political system.

We created and run this indispensable database on political donations in Wisconsin, and we track the political spending by outside groups. We do this so accurately that the media rely heavily on us for this solid information.

We’ve also helped to galvanize the grassroots in Wisconsin on two crucial issues:

1. Overturning Citizens United. Working with Wisconsin United to Amend, which has done the heavy lifting on this issue, we’ve given dozens of talks around the state in support of referendums and resolutions to amend the U.S. Constitution to proclaim, once and for all, that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech. We’ve played a part in getting these passed in 146 communities in Wisconsin.

2. Banning gerrymandering in Wisconsin. We play an instrumental role in the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition. We published a handy toolkit on the subject, which has been very useful for grassroots groups. We came up with the color-coded map that shows the counties that have passed resolutions or referendums to ban gerrymandering. On an ongoing basis, we provide updated information on which communities are considering such resolutions or referendums. We testify on this issue. We hold press conferences on it. And our executive director gives dozens of speeches on it all over the state. As a result of our efforts and those of our coalition partners and grassroots activists, 50 out of the 72 counties of Wisconsin have now passed resolutions urging the Legislature to adopt nonpartisan redistricting.

In addition, we continue to work closely with other coalitions of pro-democracy nonprofits, including Community Shares of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Voices, the Money Out, Voters In coalition, and the effort to get a full and accurate Census count in Wisconsin.

In the “what’s next?” category, our executive director is writing a book on “Ten Ways to Make Wisconsin’s Democracy Work Better.” And we are expanding our coalition work in a number of ways. We are shedding light on the money behind the policies in Wisconsin that have endangered our environment and contributed to global warming. And we are co-writing op-eds on racial equity and economic justice with other leaders in the pro-democracy sector in Wisconsin.

Financials

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 02/24/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Peter Skopec

Pines Bach LLP

Term: 2019 - 2020


Board co-chair

Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran

Susan Lloyd

Wisconsin League of Women Voters

Peter Cannon

At-large

Bill Franks

Retired

Tom Hecht

At-large

Mary Rouse

Retired

Peter Skopec

WISPIRG

Angie Trudell Vasquez

Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Diane Welsh

Pines Back LLP

Abby Swetz

At-large

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No