Victory for Free Speech
Assembly Bill 226, a campaign finance “reform” measure, appears to be dead. This measure was yet another attempt by some legislators to make it virtually impossible for citizens and citizen organizations to disseminate objective information about the positions and voting records of those who hold public office and those who seek public office. As such, this legislation was an affront to our system of democracy and to those citizens who wish to exercise their constitutional right to freely participate in the political process.
For years, Wisconsin Right to Life has been in the forefront in opposing campaign finance “reform” measures that trample on the constitutional rights of citizens and citizen organizations. We shall continue to vigorously oppose future legislation that runs counter to our system of democracy.
Assembly Bill 226 was a nasty piece of legislation designed to curb the free speech rights of organizations close to elections even if they were not expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.
From the Legislative Reference Bureau analysis:
With certain exceptions, this bill imposes reporting requirements, in addition, upon any individual who or organization that, during the period beginning on the 30th day before a primary election for an office to be filled at a general, special, or spring election and the date of that general, special, or spring election or, if no primary is held, during a similar 60-day period preceding a general, special, or spring election and by means of a printed advertisement, commercial billboard, radio or television advertisement, mass mailing, telephone call, or similar means, makes any expenditure independently of a candidate for the purpose of making one or more communications which include the name, photograph, or drawing of, or an unambiguous reference to, a candidate for a state office other than court of appeals judge, circuit judge, or district attorney to be filled at that election. This requirement applies to expenditures to finance what is commonly referred to as “issue advocacy” and to certain independent disbursements by individuals other than candidates and organizations that are not primarily organized for a political purpose that are exempt from reporting under current law. The reporting requirement does not apply unless the individual or organization makes one or more expenditures for these communications exceeding $500 cumulatively with respect to an election. In addition, the reporting requirement does not apply to bona fide news or editorial coverage, or to a communication made by a corporation, cooperative, or nonpolitical voluntary association that is limited to the organization’s members, shareholders, or subscribers.
My own take on campaign finance reform is in today’s Waukesha Freeman.