Assembly Democrats propose constitutional amendment to ensure accountability, disclosure in campaign finance changes

Campaign Finance Changes Could Not Take Effect until Next Session 

MADISON – Today members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus proposed a constitutional amendment that would ensure ethics and accountability when legislators make campaign finance changes. The amendment would prevent legislators from changing state law or rules to substantially benefit their campaign committee. Last month, Assembly Republicans passed Assembly Bill 387, which will allow legislators’ campaigns to benefit significantly.

“This bill may as well be called an Incumbent Protection Program because it pads campaign coffers, boosts the role of legislative campaign committees and opens the floodgates for unaccountable, secretive money to flow into our elections,” Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said. “Republicans refused to even consider Democratic efforts to improve the bill, such as requiring meaningful disclosure of where the money comes from to elect legislators. I am disappointed that Republicans did not join Democrats in at least delaying this bill from taking effect until after the next election. This constitutional amendment ensures that Wisconsin legislators can never again vote for bills that will directly benefit their campaign committees.” 

The proposed constitutional amendment echoes existing constitutional language that prohibits legislators from voting themselves immediate pay increases. The original Wisconsin Constitution said that any legislator pay increase could not take effect during that term of office. In 1992, Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly reaffirmed that commitment by passing a constitutional amendment so that any pay increases approved by legislators would not take effect until after the following Assembly election. 

Wisconsin Statute 19.46 says that “No state public official may take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest” … yet Republicans refused the Assembly Democratic amendment to delay campaign finance changes until after the next election. 

“We all should agree that legislators must follow the highest ethical standards,” Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) added. “We hope that Republicans will join us in supporting this constitutional amendment and that communities around the state will follow suit in demanding accountability that they deserve from lawmakers.” 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment - Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau 
This constitutional amendment, proposed to the 2015 legislature on first consideration, prohibits a legislator from taking any official action with respect to any proposal to modify a state law or rule that would result in a substantial financial benefit to a political campaign organization of the legislator during the biennial session in which the legislature considers the proposal. A constitutional amendment requires adoption by two successive legislatures, and ratification by the people, before it can become effective.

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