Last week, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would dramatically reduce voters’ ability to know which corporations, unions and wealthy individuals are funding state campaigns. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion bill (SB 292) shortly. Supporters of the measure say these changes are required by recent court decisions. Don’t believe it. If passed, SB 292 would radically change the law, not comply with it. As we explained in a letter to legislators this week, the Senate should vote it down.
SB 292 breaks sharply from Wisconsin’s tradition of openness and transparency, allowing big donors to influence government without public scrutiny. Current law requires all outside groups (such as super PACs) that raise or spend over $300 for political purposes to register and report their spending. Under the proposed law, in most cases only groups whose “major purpose” is to produce ads that explicitly ask viewers to vote for or against a candidate would be required to register and report their spending.
And who gets to decide a group’s major purpose? Why, the group itself. According to SB 292, a group’s “major purpose” is determined by its own organizational documents or statements to the government. It will be child’s play for political operatives to get around these transparency protections.
Full Article: Wisconsin Legislature should reject secrecy bill.