The state Senate voted early Saturday morning to approve sweeping changes to the state’s election and campaign finance systems, ending weeks of uncertainty surrounding the bills’ fates. One bill would alter state campaign finance law by increasing contribution limits for campaign donations and loosening restrictions on political action committee giving. That measure passed 17-15 with state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, voting with the Democratic minority to oppose the measures. The second bill, designed to split the state’s nonpartisan election board into two entities comprised equally of Republicans and Democrats, passed on a party-line vote.
The Senate voted to approve several key amendments to the bills, both of which passed the state Assembly last month. Under the Senate version, two former judges would be added to the next election board, a compromise among Republicans.
In addition, the body altered the campaign finance bill to limit political action committees from coordinating with candidates on issues.
Proponents of the measures argue they increase free speech and are sufficient enough to do away with the Government Accountability Board, the agency that oversees elections in Wisconsin and which Republicans argue is non-partisan in name only. … But critics of the bills maintain they would destroy an agency that has been called a model for the nation and open the floodgates for outside money in state elections.