- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Retiring politicians should not be able to keep leftover money in their campaign funds to spend on whatever they want after leaving office, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker’s comments came as two legislative committees were holding a joint hearing on a bill rewriting the state’s campaign finance laws in reaction to a series of recent court rulings that found several portions of it to be unconstitutional.

Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board that enforces campaign finance law, testified at the hearing. He said that his staff’s interpretation of the bill was that it would allow for politicians leaving office to spend their leftover campaign donations on whatever they want.

An attorney with the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau disagreed with Kennedy’s interpretation, saying during the hearing that the bill would retain the ban on using campaign money for personal gain.

After that exchange, Kennedy told reporters there was confusion about the bill “that has to get worked out.”

“Obviously it’s not clear,” Kennedy said.

Walker was asked about the issue during a break in his tour of the Madison veterans hospital.

“I would hope they would change that,” Walker said when asked about the bill possibly allowing politicians to spend campaign money on personal expenses. Walker said he had no intention of using his campaign money for personal gain once he leaves office.

Under current law, politicians are not allowed to spend their campaign money for personal gain. They are allowed to give the money to other candidates, political groups or to charity.

The Republican-sponsored bill considered at Tuesday’s hearing would allow third party issue advocacy groups to coordinate with political candidates, double political campaign contributions and permit political action committees to accept unlimited contributions.

The bill would also put into law a provision from a court ruling last year saying that there are no limits on how much money can be given to political parties and campaign committees. That money can then be turned over to candidates, which is a path to getting around the contribution limits those running for office must abide by.

The bill also makes clear that campaigns can coordinate with groups that do not expressly advocate for the election of a particular candidate. That is in line with the state Supreme Court ruling that said such coordination between Walker and issue advocacy groups during the recall was legal.

Campaigns would still be barred from coordinating with groups that call for voters to elect or defeat a certain candidate. Those express advocacy groups, which include political parties, legislative campaign committees and other similar organizations, would still be required to register with the state.

Opponents say that is a distinction without a difference, and argue the changes will only open Wisconsin elections to more money hidden from public view. Issue advocacy groups are not required to disclose their donors.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP .

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