If the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) allows this mistake to stand, it would be the greatest thing to ever happen by mistake:
In attempting to loosen campaign finance rules earlier this year, lawmakers may have inadvertently toughened them by barring lobbyists from passing on campaign donations from their clients, according to state election officials.In short, Wisconsin Republicans intended to enact legislation to loosen campaign finance restrictions on lobbyists, but, due to the way that the new statue was worded by those who drafted the legislation (presumably either the right-wing bill mill ALEC or Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature), the legislation could have the legal effect of prohibiting lobbyists from donating to candidates for public office, donating to political action committees (PACs), and/or discussing fundraising with elected officials.
Others disagree with that view and are urging the Government Accountability Board to come up with a different interpretation now that campaign season is underway. Before all is said and done, the matter could wind up in court.
The issue goes back to a long-standing law that prohibits lobbyists from “furnishing” campaign contributions to political candidates most of the time. The accountability board, which administers Wisconsin’s elections laws, has long interpreted that to mean lobbyists cannot make personal donations to lawmakers, hand off campaign checks to them from political action committees or even discuss such fundraising with them.
For years, that ban was in place during the legislative session, but fell away on June 1 of election years — giving lobbyists about five months that allowed them to drum up campaign cash for legislators, the governor and other candidates.
This year, lawmakers looked at loosening the law in two ways — by allowing lobbyists to pass on checks from others at any time and by moving up the deadline when they could make personal contributions to April 15 of election years.
Soon after introducing the bill, senators backed off and decided to change the date but not other aspects of that law. The rewritten version of the measure got through both houses of the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker signed it in March.
But in putting together the legislation, lawmakers appear to have written it so that lobbyists could never furnish campaign contributions from others, according to Kevin Kennedy, the director of the Government Accountability Board.
If the GAB interprets the new law as banning lobbyists from helping with political fundraising in any capacity, Wisconsin Republicans will have accidentally done the right thing.