What McCutcheon Could Do to Wisconsin

In this update: 1. WDC analysis shows potential impact of high court ruling in Wisconsin 2. Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s voter ID law 3. State Supreme Court justices conflicted in John Doe case 4. The place to be this Friday evening What McCutcheon Could Do to Wisconsin

Email date: 4/30/14

In this update:
1. WDC analysis shows potential impact of high court ruling in Wisconsin
2. Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s voter ID law
3. State Supreme Court justices conflicted in John Doe case
4. The place to be this Friday evening

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WDC analysis shows potential impact of high court ruling in Wisconsin
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in McCutcheon v. FEC that a federal limit on the total amount of campaign contributions an individual can make is unconstitutional. This aggregate limit was put in place to guard against money laundering. The law prevented wealthy donors from getting around the individual limit on donations to a specific candidate by giving to many other candidates and political committees who then could reroute the money to the candidate the donor intended to aid, thereby enabling the donor to supply that candidate with financial support far surpassing the legal limit.

Wisconsin has an aggregate limit on political donations in state law whose fate is now uncertain because of the McCutcheon decision. At a Capitol press conference this morning the Democracy Campaign revealed findings from an analysis of how McCutcheon could affect state and local elections if Wisconsin’s overall annual limit of $10,000 on political donations is invalidated as many expect.

At the federal level, the aggregate limit was slightly more than $123,000. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down that limit, wealthy donors could give as much as $3.6 million to federal candidates and political committees. At the state and local levels in Wisconsin, the Democracy Campaign found the ability of a few wealthy donors to influence elections would be expanded even more than at the federal level. To see how much more, check out the full report and the podcast.

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Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s voter ID law
A federal judge in Milwaukee ruled yesterday that Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to have a photo ID in order to cast a ballot violates both the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. In passing the law in 2011, Republican legislators and Governor Scott Walker argued it was needed to guard against voter fraud. But Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in his decision that those defending the law in court “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”

In an editorial published today, the state’s largest newspaper says Judge Adelman got it right.

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State Supreme Court justices conflicted in John Doe case
Citing Democracy Campaign data, legal ethics experts are raising questions about whether four of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices can hear challenges to a criminal investigation into whether a conservative group illegally coordinated with Governor Scott Walker’s campaign.

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The place to be Friday evening
We’re looking forward to having WDC members from across the state gather on Friday for our annual meeting, and we’re excited to hear Lawrence Lessig speak. Non-members are invited too. Member or not, we hope to see you there.