The chair of a state agency that oversees Wisconsin’s election laws says a controversial court ruling shows a review of the state’s campaign finance system is needed.
In a statement, Judge Gerald Nichol said the decision by the state Supreme Court to stop a John Doe investigation “reverses a longstanding interpretation and application of campaign finance law” that has been in place since before 1976. Nichol said it also reverses a 1999 Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruling, which had backed the state’s interpretation of campaign finance laws.
The ruling in question stems out of a probe into what prosecutors had argued was illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and outside conservative groups during the 2012 recall elections. Prosecutors had argued the activity, which included discussions about messaging and fundraising, was part of a vast “criminal scheme.” The Supreme Court ordered an end to the probe Thursday in a 4-2 decision, with the majority saying there was nothing illegal about the activity.
In light of the ruling, along with other recent federal court decisions on campaign finance, Nichol renewed calls for the state Legislature to “undertake a comprehensive review and revision of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law” by appointing a Legislative Council study committee.
For now, Nichol said the GAB is ready to work with lawmakers to “bring clarity to the campaign finance statutes consistent with the Court’s decision.”