State Not Enforcing Key Disclosure Law

Required disclosure still missing for hundreds of contributions to Walker in 2009

December 5, 2011

Madison – More than seven weeks after filing an open records request with the state Government Accountability Board for evidence it enforces a law requiring disclosure of the occupation and employer of campaign donors who give more than $100, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign received a reply indicating the agency “has no records responsive to your request.”

The Democracy Campaign has thus learned that no candidates have been fined for failing to disclose required employment information about their contributors. WDC’s own review of campaign finance reports shows that candidates are not being required to amend their incomplete reports to supply missing information. And candidates are not being required to return donations that have been improperly reported.

“This law is the heart and soul of campaign finance disclosure,” WDC director Mike McCabe said. “It allows citizens to see the financial interests of big campaign donors.”

In June the Democracy Campaign filed complaints for failing to disclose the occupations and employers of major donors against two Republican senators and a Democratic senator facing recall. The advocacy group One Wisconsin Now filed a similar complaint with the GAB against Governor Scott Walker in September 2010. No enforcement action was taken by the GAB in these cases.

To date, required information has yet to be disclosed for nearly $3,800 worth of contributions cited in the Democracy Campaign complaints.

One Wisconsin Now’s complaint cited four campaign finance reports filed by Walker in 2009 and 2010 that lacked required employer information for 659 donations totaling $234,920. A Democracy Campaign review of one of those reports that is now more than two years old covering contributions to Walker from January through June 2009 found the employer information required by law had still not been supplied for 176 of the governor’s contributions totaling $57,159.

“The GAB is dutifully enforcing a new law making it harder to vote, but is not enforcing a law upholding the public’s right to know the financial interests of those trying to influence elected officials with large campaign contributions,” McCabe said. “Talk about your misplaced priorities.”

WDC has repeatedly called attention since 2001 to contributions lacking the required employment information to a large number of candidates for state office.