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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

 9:43 PM 

Roys takes veiled shots at Pocan in final 2nd CD Dem debate

Kelda Roys took several veiled shots Wednesday night at fellow Madison state Rep. Mark Pocan over his campaign fundraising in the race for the Dem nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

"It is time to stop funding our campaigns with the same tainted sources that fund our political opponents," Roys told members of the Dane County Democratic Party at a forum at Madison's Concourse Hotel, the final meeting of the four Dem primary candidates before Tuesday's primary.

Roys and Pocan have waged an increasingly contentious campaign over the last several weeks, while two underfunded candidates -- Madison attorney Matt Silverman and Janesville consultant Dennis Hall -- will join them on the ballot. The winner will be heavily favored over GOP candidate Chad Lee in the Dem-leaning seat, which is being vacated by Dem Tammy Baldwin, who’s running for the U.S. Senate.

Roys did not criticize Pocan by name during the forum -- during which each candidate provided a single, two-minute response to questions -- but repeatedly said voters need to elect "leaders who lead by example."

"Too many players on both sides of the aisle are content to just play along with business as usual," Roys said. "In this district, we don't have to have a leader that is willing to do that."

Pocan fired back that he's been a consistent supporter of public financing of both legislative and judicial campaigns and helped spearhead a ban on Assembly fundraising during the state budget process.

"I have led by example," Pocan said, vowing to fight for 100 percent financing of elections on the federal level.

Pocan also charged "just because it doesn't come in the form of a corporate PAC check" doesn't mean his opponents are free from potential conflicts of interest in the House, saying they've likely all accepted contributions from company officials, lobbyists or attorneys.

Silverman said he'd continue to not actively solicit donations, joking, "I can beat Chad Lee with zero dollars." But he said if candidates in other districts rated either safely Dem or GOP -- 222 seats overall, he said -- took similar action, the country could move forward on campaign finance reform.

Hall said he hopes to continue down the path of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and that the current system means that "people like myself and Matt don't have any chance."

"If you're not a millionaire, and you're not well-funded, you don't have a chance, a lot of people say," Hall said. "We'll find out on Tuesday."

Roys also took a shot at Democratic leadership during the 2009-2010 legislative session, when Pocan served as co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee. She said Dems had a "once in a generation opportunity" to set a new vision for the state, but instead, "We said, 'We're going to make further cuts to education. We're going to furlough public employees.'"

Pocan mentioned his role in writing the budgets several times in reference to an expansion in health care for children and childless adults. He also said he and then-Senate JFC co-chair Mark Miller raised taxes on the top 1 percent of earners in the 2009 budget.

"Imagine if we did that in Washington," Pocan said.

Pocan said he hopes to eventually serve on a financial committee in the House to help impact the district through earmarking.

"I don't think anyone supports pork earmarks ... (but) sometimes we do need to make sure we get funding for the district," Pocan said.

Hall and Silverman each said although Baldwin helped the district through earmarks, the current system needs to be changed.

"Just because your congressman happens to be doing the right thing doesn't mean all congressmen are doing the right thing," Silverman said.

Roys agreed that the earmarking process isn't perfect, citing corruption in Washington -- something that "goes back to how we elect our leaders."

"The problem is that that whole system can be rigged against our interests ... by the most powerful and wealthy interests in our society," Roys said.

All four candidates found plenty of places to agree during the forum as well, including support for the Senate version of the Farm Bill, the requirement that Congress have input on military intervention and the need to eventually move to a single-payer health care system.

-- By Andy Szal

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