By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican state senator promised Thursday to update Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws in the wake of several court rulings that major portions of the statutes are unworkable.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday the state’s ban on corporate political spending and cap on how much businesses can raise for affiliated political committees are unconstitutional.
Last week the state agreed to stop enforcing a cap on individual contributions to candidates to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The justices voted to strike down the overall federal limit on individuals’ contributions. Also last week a federal judge in Milwaukee ruled independent groups that don’t disclose their donors can coordinate with candidates.
Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin, chairwoman of the Senate’s elections committee, said she plans to start working on legislation updating the state’s laws accordingly for introduction next session. She called the rulings victories for free political speech.
“I hope Democratic and Republican colleagues will join me in recognizing the importance of the First Amendment and updating state law to guarantee protection of all speech,” she said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement lamenting the 7th Circuit’s decision, calling it a “harsh blow” to freedom and democracy. The statement didn’t address Lazich’s announcement and Larson’s spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
Asked for comment on Lazich’s pledge, Laura Smith, a spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, sent an email to The Associated Press saying the court rulings make Wisconsin’s elections more vulnerable to special interest influence. The email didn’t mention Lazich, however. Smith said the message was her office’s response.
A spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, the agency that oversees elections, said in an email the board is willing to work with legislators to update the laws.