Wisconsin Democracy Campaign statement on Government Accountability Board action closing “issue ad” loophole

March 23, 2010

The state Government Accountability Board today struck a long overdue and decisive blow for the public’s right to know and for accountability in election advertising with its unanimous approval of new rules closing the “issue ad” loophole special interest groups have long exploited to avoid disclosure of election-related activity and operate outside Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.

This is a reform the Democracy Campaign has sought for years and is an important step toward repairing the damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The board approved the rules last year and submitted them to the Legislature for approval before asking lawmakers to return them to the board pending the outcome of the Citizens United case. The court ruled on the case in January and while a bare majority held that corporations may not be prevented from spending treasury funds on election advertising, eight of the nine justices upheld disclosure of that spending, clearing the way for the GAB to reapprove its rules and resubmit them to the Legislature. Lawmakers will have 30 days to act on the new rules, and they will take effect unless legislation blocking their implementation is introduced and passed. That is unlikely since a majority of members in both houses are on record in favor of closing the issue ad loophole.

The GAB also voted unanimously to develop new rules creating registration, reporting and disclaimer requirements for election spending done by corporations and associations. WDC applauds all six members of the board for taking the initiative on this sorely needed countermeasure to the Citizens United ruling.