Hearing on Senate Bill 292 – Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections
January 12, 2012
Senate Bill 292 is a really bad idea. It would blind voters to the financial interests of campaign donors. It would be a dagger to the heart of Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure laws. I speak of the damage this legislation would do from direct personal experience. The Democracy Campaign created the state’s only searchable online database of contributions to candidates for state office and has managed this database for 15 years. This tool is 100% dependent on the disclosure law that SB 292 would cripple. Passing this bill would be an act of violence against the public’s right to know what interests are behind campaign donations.
The second reason this proposal is an extraordinarily bad idea is that it would make criminal activity easier. Wisconsin has seen two recent instances of major campaign contributors – one a major Republican donor and the other a major Democratic donor – being convicted of felony money laundering. In both instances, we were contacted by criminal investigators who asked for our assistance in identifying employees of their companies who made campaign donations. If SB 292 is enacted, such investigations would be difficult if not impossible.
We need more disclosure, not less. This committee should reject this legislation and turn its attention to enhancing disclosure of election financing. For starters, you should close the magic words loophole that enables interest groups to play word games to dance around disclosure requirements and thwart the public’s right to know.