December 2, 2010 •
Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Campaign Finance Case
At the heart of the controversy is the Government Accountability Board’s (G.A.B.) rule which took effect August 1, 2010. The rule says advertisements broadcast in the weeks before an election must disclose their funding sources even if they do not expressly advocate a vote for or against a party or candidate.
Prior to the amendment, groups could evade disclosure requirements by running advertisements disguised as issue advocacy, so-called “phony issue ads”. Such ads were not considered political in nature as they did not contain what G.A.B. spokesperson Reid Magney calls the “magic words”: specific calls for viewers to vote for, elect, or approve a given candidate. The G.A.B.’s rule was meant close the “phony issue ad” loophole.
The Wisconsin legislature, for its part, permitted the G.A.B. rule to come into force on August 1, 2010. Since the rule’s effective date, however, groups across the state have claimed the rule infringes on their First Amendment rights to free speech. Several lawsuits, including two in federal court, have been filed challenging the rule’s constitutionality.
The judges in both federal cases have stayed the suits filed in their courts pending a resolution in the state case. Oral arguments begin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on March 9, 2011.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.