As lawmakers fast-track legislation that would overhaul Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, Governor Scott Walker signaled on Tuesday that he does expect some changes to the bill before it lands on his desk.
The bill, introduced last week, would double contribution limits to candidates, require more frequent filing of finance reports, and make clarifications on corporate contributions to political parties and committees. It would also remove restrictions on candidates coordinating with outside issue advocacy groups, which Republicans argue is needed to bring the state in line with a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
During a stop in Madison, Walker said it’s important to make changes that will reflect some of the numerous court rulings over the years that have impacted the state’s campaign finance laws. He also said it’s a good idea to give more attention to political parties participating in elections, which the bill aims to do by increasing contribution limits to candidates and requiring more frequent reporting of campaign finances.
“I think, probably one of the best things they can do is put more attention on the political parties, as opposed to special interests,” Walker said. “People can see a difference between a Republican, a Democrat, or other political party participant…that will shift more power to the parties and less to special interests.”
Walker did express some concerns when asked about a provision in the bill that some experts believe would lift restrictions on how candidates spend their leftover campaign funds. Current law only allows candidates to direct that money to other campaigns, political groups, or charities, but Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said Tuesday that the bill could end that prohibition. Kennedy later walked back that comment at a legislative hearing, saying GAB staff may have misunderstood the provision.
If the bill would make that change, Walker said he would hope lawmakers would revert back to the original restrictions. “I don’t have any interest in doing that on my own level,” Walker said. “For me, I think those funds should be used for the purposes they were intended.”
The campaign finance bill was the subject of a hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday. It’s expected to make its way through the Legislature quickly this fall.