Last week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) rolled out legislation that will change current campaign finance laws in Wisconsin. While public reaction to the bill is mixed, the bills have been fast-tracked and will likely receive floor votes next week.
The bill, which comes in at over 100 pages and includes an amendment with over 100 revisions, is a complete rewrite of Chapter 11 in Wisconsin statutes. The most significant components include, and are not limited to, the following:
- The bill maintains the prohibition of corporations and other employers from making contributions with the exception of contributions to an independent expenditure group, a referendum committee or a segregated fund established or administered by a political party or legislative campaign committee for purposes other than making contributions to a candidate.
- The bill includes a definition of express advocacy – communication that contains terms such as the following or their functional equivalents with reference to a clearly identified candidate and that unambiguously relates to the campaign of that candidate:
- “Vote for”
- “Cast your ballot for”
- “Smith for … (an elective office)”
- “Vote against”
- “Cast your ballot against”.
- The bill doubles the current contribution limits for candidates. Contributions limits will increase to $20,000 for gubernatorial, $2,000 for state senate, and $1,000 for state assembly candidates.
- The bill removes limits to contributions to a PAC and transfers between PACs, with the exception that PACs can’t contribute more than $12,000 to a legislative campaign committee or political party.
- The bill allows the host of a political fundraiser to pay for invitations, food and beverages for an event in their private residence without the value being included as part of their individual contribution limit.
- The bill clears up the interpretation of furnishing contributions by lobbyists. It clarifies a lobbyist may delivery or discuss contributions to candidates from individuals who are not lobbyists and committees.