- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014
Court: Wis. campaign finance laws went too far

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday declared major portions of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law unconstitutional in a decision that experts said would have little immediate effect but would make it clear that the rules must be rewritten.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that objected to rules governing so-called issue advocacy, in which groups express political opinions but don’t advocate for or against specific candidates. The lawsuit, however, also challenged a host of other rules governing how outside groups spend during elections.

The strongly-worded decision from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Wisconsin regulators had overstepped their bounds in banning spending by corporations, setting limits on how much they could raise for affiliated political committees and establishing burdensome rules for groups that merely mentioned candidates’ names in ads.

“Like other campaign-finance systems, Wisconsin’s is labyrinthian and difficult to decipher without a background in this area of the law,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the court.

Part of the problem, she said, was that state law had not kept up with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions limiting the government’s power to regulate political speech. She went on to detail its flaws.

James Bopp, an Indiana attorney representing Wisconsin Right to Life, compared the law after Wednesday’s decision to “the Titanic after hitting the iceberg.”

“There have been so many holes blown into this campaign finance law that I don’t know what you could do other than have the Legislature rewrite the whole thing,” Bopp said.

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Farming groups launch tractor safety campaign

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A coalition of agricultural groups has launched a campaign to encourage parents to keep children off tractors after numerous youngsters were killed or severely injured in accidents in the past year.

Public service announcements, posters and other materials distributed by the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network warn parents to “keep kids away from tractors” because “it’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”

The campaign follows a fierce fight two years ago over proposed child labor law changes that ended when the U.S. Labor Department backed off a plan to require paid farm workers to be 16 to use tractors and other power equipment. Few argue with the campaign’s goal of keeping children safe, but it takes aim at long-standing practices in rural communities, where many parents grew up riding and driving tractors.

Marsha Salzwedel, an agricultural youth safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Marshfield, said the latest effort is not meant to deter children from working on farms.

“We think it’s beneficial for kids to work in ag,” said Salzwedel, whose center is a leading partner in the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network. “What we’re saying is that if you have a child working anywhere, you need to assess them and make sure they have a job they are capable of handling.”

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