On Friday, May 31, Republican Rep. Jeff Stone introduced AB 225, a comprehensive (and in my opinion reprehensible) piece of legislation that would drastically impact elections and political campaigns here in Wisconsin, and most certainly not for the better.
Brendan Fischer of PR Watch has posted a very comprehensive post outlining the full impact of Rep. Stone’s legislation, but here’s a few key tidbits that I felt were worth mentioning specifically.
Rep. Stone’s legislation starts off by severely weakening current prohibitions on independent campaign contributions by corporations, while also shielding corporations from having to report those contributions. Put plainly, corporations in Wisconsin would be free to spend money in support of or opposition to candidates, without having to disclose the monies spent.
This bill deletes the current prohibition on disbursements by corporations and cooperatives. The bill permits a corporation, cooperative, or other entity that is not organized exclusively for political purposes to make independent disbursements. Under the bill, a corporation, cooperative, or other entity that makes independent disbursements is not subject to periodic reporting requirements on account of such activity.
Rep. Stone’s legislation would also make it easier for lobbyists to make campaign contributions to their “favorite legislators” while the legislature is in session.
urrently, a lobbyist may make a campaign contribution to a partisan elective state official or candidate for partisan elective state office in the year of the official’s or candidate’s election between June 1 and the day of the election. This bill extends the time during which a lobbyist may make such a contribution to between the first day authorized by law for the circulation of nomination papers as a candidate and the day of the election.
After all, lobbyists sure do need more time to make contributions to the legislators they’re hoping to influence with all those campaign contributions, especially if there’s a key piece of legislation coming up for a vote that said lobbyists have a vested interest in seeing passed or voted down.
Rep. Stone also wants to make it much harder to recall elected officials.
Under current law, a petition for the recall of a city, village, town, town sanitary district, or school district officer, in addition to other requirements, must indicate a reason for the recall that is related to the officer’s official responsibilities. Under this bill, any person who wishes to circulate a petition for the recall of a city, village, town, town sanitary district, or school district officer must include with the person’s registration under the campaign finance laws a statement indicating that the officer for whom the recall is sought has been charged with committing a crime or violating a code of ethics law applicable to local officials. The person must also include a copy of the criminal or civil complaint alleging the crime or violation.
Tomorrow there will be a public hearing on Rep. Stone’s bill at 10:00 a.m. in room 417 North in the Capitol.