Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Files Ethics Complaint against Democratic Groups

February 4, 2020

On the morning of Feb. 4, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed formal complaints with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission against the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

The complaints all concern corporate contributions from the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) in 2019 to the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

First of all, the DLCC appears to have contributed more than it was allowed.

State campaign finance laws allow a corporate contributor to make up to $12,000 a year in corporate contributions and $12,000 a year in PAC contributions to each party and legislative campaign committee.

The DLCC has no state or federal PAC, so it is limited, as a corporation, to giving $12,000 a year to a legislative campaign committee. But in 2019, the DLCC gave three $12,000 donations to the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee for a total of $36,000 – three times the allowable limit.

Secondly, donations from corporations like the DLCC, by law, must be placed in segregated funds by the recipients, who can’t give the funds to candidates or use the funds for express advocacy.

But it appears that two of the contributions from the DLCC to the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee went into the its regular campaign account instead of a segregated account. The third one was reported as a corporate contribution and was placed appropriately in a segregated account.

Lastly, the DLCC also gave $12,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that donation appears to have been misreported as a PAC contribution and appears to have gone into the party’s regular campaign account instead of a segregated account.

The DLCC also gave $12,000 to the Wisconsin Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, but this one was handled appropriately.

“One of the primary missions of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is to track and expose money in politics,” says Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the group. “We don’t care if it’s a Democratic group or a Republican group that is not following the rules. We’ll blow the whistle no matter who it is.”

Rothschild added: “Corporate contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees are an invitation to corruption. That’s why the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign opposed the horrendous change in our campaign finance laws in 2015 that allowed corporations, for the first time in 100 years, to donate to political parties and legislative campaign commitees.”

Compaints (All PDFs)

Democratic Legislative Campaign CommitteeState Senate Democratic CommitteeDemocratic Party of Wisconsin