A bill introduced less than a month ago would lessen the disclosure requirements for financial contributors to political campaigns for the 2014 elections.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, would amend current statute that requires anyone contributing $100 or more to a political campaign to disclose both their occupation and employer. With the new bill, the minimum contribution amount requiring disclosure is $500.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, a bill sponsor, favors the alterations the bill would implement into Wisconsin’s elections. Mike Mikalsen, Nass’s spokesperson said the current disclosure policy is unfair, exposing contributors to harassment and professional damage.
“We’ve seen attempts to boycott businesses, to harass individuals who give money,” Mikalsen said. “This [bill] is about fairness and protecting participation in the electoral system.”
After Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 recall election campaign included contributions from M&I bank executives, many Wisconsinites began boycotting the bank, in addition to other companies who donated to the campaign.
Mikalsen added those opposed to the bill only want disclosure to be used to punish and intimidate those who contribute to campaigns.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said the bill sponsors not do not want businesses to be boycotted, but regulating information allowed to the public through the bill will not change what people do with the information.
“Grothman doesn’t want people boycotting, but who’s here to dictate what people do with their information?” Heck said. “Withholding information makes people more suspicious.”
Others view the bill as a potential threat to public awareness and fair politics, Heck said. The $400 increase would mean less information for those interested in the source of campaign funds, he said.
Heck added changing the campaign finance laws is the opposite way of where the state should be headed because it can enable secretive money and corruption.
Some opponents of the bill, such as Mike McCabe, are concerned the bill will make political corruption and secret money transfers more viable.
“[The proposed bill] makes illegal activity easier by making investigations of money laundering difficult, if not impossible,” Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said in an email to The Badger Herald.
According to Heck, access to information is not a decision for the government to make. The fact the bill is supported by Republicans, historically bent toward smaller government, is hypocritical, he said.