A pair of campaign-related bills are on a fast track at the Capitol this week. New Berlin Republican Senator Mary Lazich is the author of both measures, which were introduced on Monday, received a public hearing on Wednesday, and are scheduled for a committee vote on Thursday.
One bill from Lazich would exempt political groups behind issue ads from disclosing who pays for the ads.
“The courts have ruled it’s a free speech issue,” Lazich said. “All we’re really doing is taking a GAB (state Government Accountability Board) rule, as a result of court rulings, and we’re codifying it as a statute, so that there’s clear definition here, and we don’t have people confused, and we’re not squelching speech.”
But Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin says the whole premise of such issue ads is flawed. “This fine distinction that unless it utilizes the so-called ‘magic words,’ that it is issue advocacy is a fiction. Nobody believes it,” Heck said.
A second bill from Lazich would allow lobbyists to deliver donor checks to lawmakers throughout the year, even when the Legislature is in session. Heck said no one outside the Capitol thinks that’s necessary.
“I don’t know anybody outside of this building, or outside of the law offices around the square, who have been clamoring to figure out a way for lobbyists to contribute more frequently or with any more regularity than they do,” he said.
The bills would have to pass both chambers of the legislature before the end of the session before going to the governor. Asked about the bills Wednesday in Madison, Governor Scott Walker indicated that they were not something he had been pushing for.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is a co-sponsor of the bills. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he was assessing them.