A bill – pushed by the Democracy Campaign for years – making out-of-state political committees comply with the same campaign finance disclosure requirements as in-state committees was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor as 2005 Wisconsin Act 176 last March.
A year after this law was made it has been unmade, the Democracy Campaign has learned, wiped off the books by an "administrative decision" by the state Revisor of Statutes.
Here's what we've been told by legislative attorneys:
On the same day Act 176 became law, another bill – Assembly Bill 428 – was enacted as 2005 Wisconsin Act 177. That bill's purpose was to cleanse state law of the provisions of a sham campaign finance reform plan laced with a poison pill that was enacted in 2002 as part of a budget repair bill but was later struck down in court because the judge found the poison pill unconstitutional as expected.
The official story of the disclosure law's cruel fate is that the lawyers responsible for keeping our state statutes nice and tidy decided that Act 177 trumps Act 176, even though Act 176 reflects the will of the Legislature expressed in 2006 and Act 177 merely cleans up a mess created by the Legislature nearly four years earlier – a mess, by the way, that had nothing to do with making out-of-state donations more transparent.
That's the official story. We aren't so sure. We smell a rat.