Assembly Republicans on Wednesday approved legislation to loosen campaign finance restrictions and to split the state ethics and elections agency in two, but the measures face an uncertain future in the GOP Senate. Democrats declined to vote on the campaign finance legislation, contending lawmakers were ethically prohibited from taking up a measure that would help their campaigns. Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ refusal to vote as a stunt, and the bill passed 61-0. On a nearly party-line 58-39 vote, the Assembly voted to disband the state Government Accountability Board and replace it with an elections commission and an ethics commission. The accountability board consists of six former judges, while the new commissions would each be made up equally of Democrats and Republicans selected by the state’s most powerful politicians. The bills next go to the Senate, but Republicans who control that house don’t yet have the votes to approve them, lawmakers said.
The campaign finance bill would double contribution limits, allow corporations and unions to give money to political parties and key campaign committees, and permit candidates to work closely with advocacy groups that don’t have to disclose where they get their money.
The legislation would make Wisconsin one of the few states that allow such close collaboration between candidates and groups, campaign finance experts said.
Both measures will likely need changes to pass the upper house. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) declined to say what tweaks may be in the works.