WDC Condemns Campaign Finance Bill Changes to Hide More Information from the Public

October 16, 2015

Statement by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign condemning a legislative committee’s action Thursday to further weaken campaign finance regulation and disclosure by scrapping a longstanding requirement in state law that candidates identify the employer of contributors who give them more than $100 in a calendar year:

“It was bad enough that the original Assembly Bill 387 gives wide latitude to candidates and phony issue ad groups to coordinate their election activities because these dark money groups do not have to publicly disclose the millions of dollars in special interest cash they raise and spend.

Now, the newly rewritten bill severely cripples the public’s ability to identify the special interests who give directly to candidates to influence Wisconsin legislative and statewide elections. Whether Democrat or Republican, someone always wins an election and these contributions ultimately affect the public policy and spending decisions the winner makes, and those decisions affect everyone’s lives.

The latest change to eviscerate one of the longstanding public disclosure requirements in campaign finance law was made to the bill after a public hearing. If approved by the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate in the coming weeks, the bill blind folds the public to the identities of many of the powerful special interests that make large, direct contributions to elected officials.

Further, the anti-disclosure provision would hinder law enforcement and make criminal activity easier. In more recent years Wisconsin has seen wealthy campaign contributors – both major Democratic and Republican donors – convicted of money laundering. The Democracy Campaign has been contacted by law enforcement officials who asked for our assistance in identifying employees of their companies who made campaign donations. This provision would make such investigations much more difficult than it need be.

Given that the bill also dramatically doubles the individual and political action committee contribution limits, any changes in disclosure laws should seek to increase, not decrease the information the public gets about who contributes to the candidates.”