A bill that has passed the Assembly and could be considered by the state Senate as early as Tuesday would make it much harder for citizens to learn the background of who is financing candidates’ campaigns and codify a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision allowing candidates to work closely with issue groups that don’t have to disclose where they get their money. The Republican legislation would also allow unions and corporations to give money to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders. And wealthy donors would be free to give as much as they wanted to those entities, which could then pass them on to candidates. As passed by the Assembly, the bill includes a provision championed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) that would end a requirement that donors disclose where they work, making it harder for the public to know when companies are investing heavily in certain politicians.
In 2011, Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. CEO William Gardner was convicted of two felonies for exceeding campaign finance limits and giving personal and company funds to railroad employees so they could make political donations to Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans at Gardner’s direction. Identifying those donations was made easier because donors had to disclose they worked for the railroad company when they gave the money.
The requirement to list employers also made it possible for the public to learn payday lenders had flooded Democrats’ and Republicans’ campaign accounts with a combined $75,000 in 2009 as they tried to thwart efforts to regulate them. Vos said ending the requirement that donors disclose their employers would help prevent business boycotts or other forms of protest.
The move comes three months after Vos, Walker and other Republican leaders spearheaded an effort to eviscerate Wisconsin’s open records law on the Fourth of July weekend. They abandoned that attempt in the face of fierce public opposition.
Full Article: Bill puts veil over campaign funding in Wisconsin.