July 31, 2014

Bill tackles campaign disclosure rules

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent election officials from passing rules that require third party groups to report the money they spend on political advertising.

The bill is in response to a Government Accountability Board rule that would have required corporations spending over $25 on a political message to report the expense. A legislative rules committee recently blocked it from taking effect, which state Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) says was necessary because they believed the proposal went “way beyond” current campaign finance laws.

State government watchdog groups argue the proposal is overkill. Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin says lawmakers could have just raised the threshold for triggering a report, rather than making it so corporations can completely hide their political spending. He says the proposal is a “surface to air missile” that will keep the public from knowing where large third party expenditures are coming from.

Supporters of the bill say the previous rule could have been interpreted to mean a person who spends their own money to put up a large sign for a candidate or prints flyers to pass around their neighborhood could have been required to register with the state. Heck and others say the rule was specifically targeted at large special interest groups that spend millions on ads and direct marketing campaigns during election season, and the move by Republicans is meant to prevent the GAB from passing rules again. Heck says it will just to keep the public in the dark during the recall and general elections later this year.

The proposal is being considered by the Assembly elections committee.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:03)