Few things are as important in a representative democracy as the integrity of our campaigns and elections, and the ability of people to participate freely in the electoral process - especially exercising their right to vote. Unfortunately, bad actors have utilized the contentious nature of the 2020 election to cast doubt on our institutions, and to justify election laws that disenfranchise voters. Meanwhile, big-money groups continue to influence elections by near-unlimited campaign spending, often without true transparency as to who is funding these operations or the candidates they support. The bills below all seek to change this, and to protect the integrity of our elections and electoral process.
Relating to: ranked-choice voting, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation
This bill would introduce instant-runoff ranked-choice voting (RCV) in most Wisconsin elections. It would ensure any candidate who wins office has the support of a majority of voters, and would save taxpayers money by eliminating the need for a February primary in local, nonpartisan elections.
Relating to: campaign contribution limits
Also known as the "Campaign Contribution Limits Act," this bill makes various changes to the campaign contribution limits in Wisconsin law. First, it eliminates the loophole which currently allows unlimited contributions from political parties to candidate committees. It also reduces the maximum allowable contribution to statewide candidates from $20,000 to $10,000, and significantly reduces the amounts that PACs can spend in legislative races, and that individuals can give to certain PACs. Finally, it eliminates the "Segregated Fund" loophole that allows unlimited contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees for certain purposes.
Relating to: the definition of political action committee for campaign finance purposes
Also known as the "Close the PAC Loophole Act," this bill would close a loophole that currently allows virtually unlimited spending by certain groups WITHOUT the requirement that they register as a PAC, so long as they spend more than half of their budget on things other than express advocacy or electioneering. Under the bill, any individual or group that spends at least $1,000 in a calendar year on express advocacy or electioneering would need to register as a PAC, which would greatly increase transparency in campaign spending in our state.
Relating to: coordination of mass communications
Also known as the "Coordination Control Act," this bill would place the same financial limits on coordinated expenditures between candidates and groups as are currently in place for direct contributions, and would make changes in the definition of coordination and mass communications to better reflect the current state of campaigns in Wisconsin.
Relating to: contributions by corporations, cooperative associations, labor organizations, and federally recognized American Indian Tribes
Also known as the "No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act," this bill would prohibit the groups mentioned above from donating to the "Segregated Funds" of political parties or legislative campaign committees, which cannot be used for donations to candidate committees or for express advocacy, but can be used for other political purposes under current law.
Relating to: reporting a contributor's place of employment
Also known as the "Contribution Sunshine Act," this bill would repeal a Walker-era law change that removed the requirement to report the place of employment for political donors of more than $100. Currently, there is no requirement to report the employer of ANY donor, and occupation is only required for donors of more than $200. This bill would re-instate employer reporting and reduce the threshold back to $100 for reporting occupation and employer.
Relating to: reporting of mass communications
Also known as the "Communications Transparency Act," this bill would require certain groups who may not have otherwise had to register with the state to do so if they make a mass communication for or against a candidate for office. It would also require that the specific expenditures be listed in that group's finance report. Finally, it would require private individuals who spend at least $500 to engage in mass communications for or against a particular candidate within 60 days of an election to report those expenditures within 24 hours.
Relating to: expressly prohibiting a foreign national from making a contribution to a referendum committee
Wisconsin defers to federal law when it comes to prohibiting foreign contributions in elections. According to a recent FEC ruling, contributions by foreign nationals to referendum committees are not illegal, as referendums are not technically elections. This bill would close this loophole and ensure that only Americans are able to spend money influencing referendums in Wisconsin.
Relating to: going armed at a polling place and providing a penalty
People upset at the outcome of the 2022 election have resorted to intimidation tactics to express their displeasure, culminating in a violent insurrection in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. There is no good reason people should bring a weapon to their polling place, and this bill is intended to ensure that they don’t.