Assembly committee passes bill that doubles campaign donation li - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Assembly committee passes bill that doubles campaign donation limits


MADISON (WKOW) -- If there's one thing Republicans and Democrats appear to agree on, it's that more campaign money is a good thing.

On a bipartisan 8-1 vote Monday afternoon, the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections passed a thoroughly revamped version of Assembly Bill 225 which increases campaign contribution limits.

"A little give and take. That's what we heard when we ran this last time," said Rep. Kathleen Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), Chair of the Committee. "There has to be a little more compromise and we were able to do that and I'm pretty proud of the product."

The product that now heads to the full Assembly is markedly different that the original version of AB 225 that Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greenfield) introduced less than two weeks ago.

Gone are controversial provisions concerning Voter ID and further recall restrictions, replaced with an increase in campaign contribution limits for the first time since they were established in 1974.

The limits would double, with the logic being that more money would flow to candidates instead of third-party groups that don't have to disclose their donors.

"Let's say you have $1,000. Right now you could give $500 to the candidate of your choice, but you'd probably take the other $500 and you would give it to an organization that doesn't have to report (donors) individually," said Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison).

"I think we're going to see much more money of all kinds, both campaign contributions as well as dark money, because there's nothing in this bill that prevents it," said Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause Wisconsin, a group that advocates for disclosure of all types of political donations.

The other key addition to the bill would allow people to register to vote online.

"This is going to make the list much more accurate and it will reduce the cost on the clerks at the same time," said Kevin Kennedy, Executive Director of the Government Accountability Board.

But it seems apparent the controversial measures removed from this bill will reappear again in the near future.

"I don't necessarily think this bill is a Christmas present to us," said Rep. Berceau. "I totally anticipate that there may be a downside that comes later, we know that."

"I do plan on holding one or two hearings in the summer and get ready for the fall session so that we'll be off and running in September to get some of those initiatives passed," said Rep. Bernier.

The full Assembly is expected to vote on the amended version of AB 225 when it meets Wednesday afternoon.

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