State Elections Board, August 30, 2006
September 1, 2006
The issues before you are clear cut. State law limits the amount of money candidates for governor can take from special interest political action committees (PACs) to $485,000. State law also says PACs that give to candidates for state office in Wisconsin must be registered in Wisconsin. The Elections Board’s own rule (ElBd 1.395) says that money transferred from a federal campaign account to a state campaign committee can only be spent on a campaign for state office if the funds comply with all of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.
Congressman Green has accumulated $667,545 from PACs to help finance his campaign for governor. That is $182,545 over the $485,000 state limit.
Of the $511,405 in PAC donations Mark Green raised as a member of Congress and then transferred from his federal committee to the state account he is using to run for governor, $467,845 was donated by PACs not registered in Wisconsin.
These are illegal campaign donations. These laws need to be enforced. Congressman Green should not be allowed to spend this money on his campaign for governor.
We'd like to respond to a couple of arguments discussed in the board counsel’s memo, one of which also has been publicly raised by Congressman Green’s campaign.
First, regarding the carryover argument. Green had no money in a state campaign committee to carry over from a 2004 race to the 2006 race. The board counsel is treating the money Green raised as a member of Congress for his 2004 federal race as if it were sitting in his state campaign committee waiting to be spent on a 2006 race. It had to be transferred from his federal campaign committee to the state account he is using to finance his run for governor. And Elections Board rule 1.395 says funds converted by a federal campaign committee to a state committee may not be spent on a state campaign unless the funds comply with Wisconsin campaign finance laws.
Furthermore, counsel’s comparison of Green’s situation to the fund balances in the campaign accounts of state legislators like Mike Ellis and Spencer Black is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The money Ellis and Black hold in their state campaign accounts was collected by their state campaign committees and complied with state campaign finance laws at the time it was raised. Green’s money was not raised for a state campaign and was deposited in a federal campaign account, not a state account.
Second, both counsel and Congressman Green’s campaign manager, Mark Graul, say the money in question was spent while Elections Board rule 1.395 was suspended. The Legislature’s Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules objected to the rule on February 9, 2005 but the full Legislature never enacted legislation reversing it before adjourning on July 12 of this year, as it is required to do to nullify a rule.
The bigger reason we object to this argument is that the Green campaign is essentially arguing that they broke the law while the breaking was good. Instead of looking for a window of opportunity to get around longstanding protections guarding against special interest ownership of our government, candidates for our state’s highest office should set a higher ethical standard and show respect for these laws.
We also remind you that the Green campaign used this same argument regarding money Congressman Green received from indicted former House leader Tom DeLay. For months, the Green campaign maintained the DeLay money already had been spent and was "long gone." As media scrutiny and public pressure mounted, the already spent DeLay money resurfaced. Some of it was given to charity and the rest was returned to DeLay’s committee.
The Elections Board erred once before on these same issues during the last race for governor. The Democracy Campaign strongly opposed the decisions you made then and said so. The question today is whether you will enforce our laws now or whether you will compound those previous errors by making the same mistake twice.