Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Elections Board dismisses complaint

The state Elections Board Thursday dismissed a complaint filed against an independent political group for allegedly coordinating illegally with political candidates.

Two Wisconsin watchdog organizations, Common Cause and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, filed the complaint against Todd Rongstad, head of Project Vote Informed.

The complaint accused Rongstad of illegal collusion with caucus Assembly Republicans.

With a seven-to-one vote, the Elections Board dismissed the complaint on the grounds that no evidence of illegal activity was found.

“This decision was primarily dealing with the person who made independent expenditures on candidates’ behalf, and the evidence that our investigation uncovered did not support the allegation,” said Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Elections Board.

The lone dissenter was Jeralyn Wendelberger, a Board designee from the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Wendelberger thought more investigation was necessary and therefore the complaint should not be dismissed.

Common Cause executive director Jay Heck said he was not surprised by the decision, because the composition of the board makes it impossible to reach a lawful decision.

“It wasn’t totally unexpected, because the Elections Board has been unable to really investigate it thoroughly, and [the board] is designed to fail, because of the eight members, four are appointed by legislators,” Heck said.

Kennedy said the complaint was difficult to investigate because of the manner in which it was filed.

“Their complaint related to the entire caucus investing and things they had read in the [Wisconsin State Journal]; they had no personal knowledge or talked to any one with any knowledge,” Kennedy said.

The investigation stemming from this complaint was based on Elections Board efforts, Kennedy said. Following the investigations, the Board found no evidence of illegal activity, so it was dismissed.

In a statement released Wednesday, Rongstad said he expected the result.

“[I] expected this exoneration from the beginning,” he said.

Despite the dismissing of the claim, Heck said the matter was not complete.

“While the Elections Board dropped investigation, it’s more important the District Attorney is taking it up because the Elections Board is kind of a toothless tiger,” Heck said.

Elections Board gives approval to political parties to run issue ads

The Elections Board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow Wisconsin political parties to spend unlimited amounts on issue ads to support candidates.

Heck said there is no clear definition of what constitutes a campaign ad versus an issue ad, which makes it difficult to regulate issue ads.

“Common Cause led the effort in the Wisconsin legislature to pass an issue-ad bill, which would have regulated issue ads. It failed by one vote in assembly, so Wisconsin is left without a clear definition of what constitutes a campaign ad as opposed to issue ads,” Heck said.

Under the new provision, issue ads are permitted. However, sponsors are required to identify themselves in the ad.
“The public will benefit from the Board’s decision because they will know where money came from,” Kennedy said.

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