Gavel Grab

WI Senate Votes to Close 'Issue Ad' Loophole

Wisconsin’s state Senate voted 26-7 Tuesday for a bill to close what critics called a loophole in state law and regulate “issue ads” more tightly. The measure moves to the state Assembly.

The bill would require groups running most types of “issue ads” to disclose their money sources and to comply with fund-raising limits in state law, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Issue ads” typically attack or support candidates without explicitly advocating a vote. Last year, Wisconsin passed a bill to curb the influence of special-interest spending in state Supreme Court elections by supporting qualifying candidates with taxpayer funding (see earlier Gavel Grab posts.) That bill did not address issue advertising.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a partner of Justice at Stake, had called passage of the legislation the “single most significant action” that senators could take to improve elections in Wisconsin. You can learn more about disclosure laws for “third-party” campaigns, which have poured millions of dollars into judicial elections, from Justice at Stake’s issue page on the topic.

In another developing news story in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court could finalize Thursday a proposed order saying that campaign donations to judges will not require judges to step aside from hearing cases involving a supporter. The court voted in October to adopt new rules, but the court has to issue a written order to make the rules effective, the Journal Sentinel reported.

To learn more about the recusal rule debate in Wisconsin, click here for other Gavel Grab stories. You can read about recusal reform from Justice at Stake’s issues page.

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