Details of elections board, campaign finance changes delayed

  • Details of elections board, campaign finance changes delayed

Details of elections board, campaign finance changes delayed

Senators voted shorty before midnight Friday to pass a major rewrite to campaign finance law in Wisconsin, and passed a measure to dismantle the Government Accountability Board a few two-and-a half hours later.

The Senate voted to approve several key amendments to the bills, both of which passed the state Assembly last month. They finished crafting an amendment late Friday afternoon that would place two retired judges on the ethics commission, according to a memo from the Legislature's attorneys. That also is a break from the Assembly version. It also retains the Assembly's ban on employer disclosures and forbids legislative campaign committees from using corporate and union donations for express advocacy, communications and advertisements that specifically call for a candidate's election or defeat.

The vote was 51-44 for the bill, short of the 60 votes required under Senate rules to move ahead. The measure bogged down, though, after Senate Republicans questioned whether to retain employer disclosure on a few level.

Rounds says it's not going to be friendly issue to dicuss between Democrats and Republicans for the next couple of weeks. It also would do away with a requirement that people who give more than $100 to campaigns disclose their employers. All four areas now are overseen by the GAB.

The GAB, created in 2007 with bipartisan support, has come under increased scrutiny for its part in a 2012 John Doe investigation into alleged violations during Gov. Scott Walker's recall campaign. The state Supreme Court halted the probe this summer; Republicans say the investigation was a political witch-hunt.

The other bill simplifies the application process for former police officers who worked in other states. There would be no change to the elections board makeup.

Fitzgerald said the bill "draws a bright line" between campaigns and issue advocacy groups - an assertion that Democrats challenged. The bill doubles contribution limits to candidates and clarifies limits on corporate contributions to political parties and committees.

The state Assembly has scheduled its own extraordinary session for November 16, at which point it likely would take up the bills as amended by the Senate.