Supreme Court campaign finance ruling spurs wild ride in Wisconsin

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WRTL declined to explain. “Everything we have done is above board and in accordance with Wisconsin election law and that’s my only statement and I won’t go more than that,” said Susan Armacost, Wisconsin Right to Life’s legislative director.

AFP-Wisconsin apologized that its flier indicated the form must be received by a date after the election. “Due to a mistake during printing, all applications were sent out with the August 11th date,” director Matt Seaholm said in a statement.

James Bopp, who represented WRTL in a case that won a ruling from a federal appeals court on Monday allowing it to collect unlimited donations, said there was nothing unusual about a group collecting absentee ballot requests.

“It’s quite common,” he said.

Supremely unexpected consequences

Mr. Bopp is no mere Wisconsin lawyer. He is an architect of the case that dismantled long-standing campaign finance regulations in the highest court in the land, leaving the states to stop enforcement or wait until a challenge appeared to carry the precedent down to each lower court.

“In Wisconsin, they said ‘Go to hell, we’re going to enforce them.’ “

He is also the man behind a new super-political action committee expressly designed to capture money from Republicans who already have given the maximum to the national party and candidates.

The newly formed Republican Super-PAC is closely aligned with the official party and allows donors to earmark funds for specific races. Mr. Bopp recently won a Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling that allows these groups, which can sidestep campaign donation caps because they are independent of campaigns, to have candidates appear at fundraising events to solicit donations.

“It’s coordination on fundraising, but so what?” he said, adding that independence in expenditures — like the Wild West-style ads running in Wisconsin — is the important criteria.

While all eyes have been on the effect that corporate and union money will have on national races, what has gone overlooked is the proportionately larger role it could play in the statehouses.

“Ten thousand dollars can be the total amount that someone raises” in a state-level campaign, said Mr. Bender. “That’s chicken feed to someone who wants to mount a serious independent expenditure campaign. At the federal level, where groups are spending millions, that amount doesn’t do anything. If those same entities were to take a very concentrated look at states, invest in incumbents in a targeted way, that million or two million could have a tremendous result on the control of legislatures and could bring a tremendous tide.”

The libertarian line on campaign finance, which the Supreme Court espoused, has always frowned on monetary caps but praised disclosure, arguing that regulation drives money to underground channels and that knowledge about influence is the best defense.

But state disclosure laws are antiquated or nonexistent, and most states have adapted to the new contribution limits without updating disclosure systems.

Mr. McCabe said Wisconsin law, like in many other states, has allowed unrestricted expenditures for years, and the Citizens United ruling has simply caused groups to restructure with more freedom. “All they have to do is report their spending, not their donations.

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