File photo: WRN

The state Assembly is set to vote today on bills overhauling the Government Accountability Board and campaign finance laws, with passage in both chambers expected to send both bills to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.

One of the bills would eliminate the current GAB, which oversees elections in the state, replacing it with two six-member partisan commissions that would oversee ethics and elections issues separately. The campaign finance changes include doubling contribution limits to candidates, clarifying limits on corporate contributions to political parties and committees, and codifying in state law the ability for candidates and third-party issue advocacy groups to coordinate their efforts.

The chamber approved both measure in October, but changes made in the state Senate earlier this month will require agreement from the Assembly.

Republicans say both bills are about making needed updates to campaign finance and elections oversight…a claim disputed by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Matt Rothschild. He argues upping contribution limits and reducing reporting requirements will simply allow large donors to have more influence over elections. “This new campaign finance bill will let corruption and criminality breed like maggots in the Capitol. It will be something the like of which we’ve never seen.”

Rothschild says that’s because money can be funneled to third-party groups that are not required to disclose their supporters, but will be able to coordinate with candidates. “We will know less and less about who is influencing these elections…we’re going to be reduced to mere spectators, and blindfolded spectators at that,” he warns.

The Assembly is scheduled to begin debating the legislation later this afternoon.

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