The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill that requires disclosure on political issue ads. They blanket the airwaves during election season: ads paid for by undisclosed special interest groups. “There are groups out there . . . who tend to come in, on both sides of the isle, Democrat and Republican groups doing the same thing, raising a tremendous amount of money in a short period of time and then coming in and bombarding the airwaves and them leaving, just as quickly as they come,” said the bill’s author, state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee).

State Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said up to sixty percent of expenditures on campaigns in Wisconsin are now raised by those third parties, and candidates are losing control of their own elections. “It’s a sad commentary on our democracy when the candidate isn’t even held accountable for his or her election, but the third parties are driving it,” said Ellis. “And most of the third parties are driven by special interest groups.” 

But Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said those third parties have become preeminent because the legislature in the past has restricted how much can be contributed to individual campaign committees. “When you over regulate anything that thing shrinks, and we have over regulated what individual campaign committees can do, and as a result we have forced money into independent groups,” said Grothmann.

Ellis’ argument carried the day as the Senate passed the measure 26-to-6. The bill (SB-43) requires full disclosure on ads running within sixty days of an election. The bill still needs to pass the Assembly before going to Governor Jim Doyle, who’s expected to sign it.

AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:12 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:12 MP3)

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