Boots & Sabers

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0736, 17 Oct 15

Listing Employer on Campaign Donations

What do you think?

An Assembly committee signed off on an overhaul of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws after amending the bill to no longer require donors to disclose their employers.

The bill cleared the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee along party lines 6-3 as Dems complained the bill would open the door to more corruption in Wisconsin.

But Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, questioned the relevance of “dragging an employer into an employee’s personal activity.”

“I think it’s irrelevant, and I don’t know what purpose it serves,” he said.

There is a purpose for it. It is illegal for a corporation to give money to a campaign. The purpose of donors listing their employer is to make it easier to spot a business that violates that law by funneling campaign donations through their employees. For example, GM could give $1,000 to each of its employees and instruct them to donate to their favorite local Democrat.

So there is a purpose, but it is a weak one. Under current law, corporations can participate in the political process in other ways even if they can’t give money directly to candidates. There isn’t much incentive for them to participate in that kind of fraud. Furthermore, people can fill out whatever they want as their employer when they donate to a campaign. There isn’t any kind of verification. We end up having a process that relies on people being honest in self-reporting their employer in order to catch them lying about campaign donations. It’s flawed from its conception.

The down side of people reporting their employer on campaign donations is that it unnecessarily involves an employer in the private, constitutionally protected, activities of their employees. The employer does not have any right or responsibility to control or influence its employees’ political contributions, so why should they be pulled into it at all?

The Democrats, as usual, are reflexively opposing this idea because it is being proposed by a Republican, but it is a good idea that should pass.



0736, 17 October 2015


  1. John Foust

    Wis. Stat. 11.06(1) describes that it is the responsibility of the campaign treasurer, in the finance report, to represent the employer of any individual donating more than $100. Wis. Stat. 11.06(5) says the treasurer “shall make a good faith effort to obtain all required information.” In my experience, candidate handlers of both parties take this duty seriously when they accept your contribution. Then 7(c) says if the treasurer make false oaths, it’s a violation, and Wis. Stat. 11.60 describes the civil penalties for violations while 11.61 describes criminal penalties. Meanwhile Wis. Stat. 11.24(1) describes how you can’t hand money to someone else to contribute, which is quite separate from the individual reporting requirements, and this is where corporate shilling can be prosecuted, along with 11.38. Wis. Stat. 11.30 has a host of other ways the law intends to prevent in-kind anonymous contribution.

    Although I don’t know the motives of those who created this law regarding listing a contributor’s employer, it could be they wanted to prevent company owners from pressuring their employees, or it could be they wanted a perhaps more unique identifier to differentiate between several “John Smiths.”

    Our campaign finance laws, love ‘em or not, exploitable or not, have revealed situations where company owners have handed money to employees to contribute. For whatever reason, they felt compelled to attempt to circumvent the limits. Perhaps we can examine those actual situations to determine their incentives to do so. Perhaps it’s as simple as their hope that the Governor will tour their facility someday and they’ll get some good local PR. Perhaps they’ll hope it’ll lead to a WEDC loan. I think it would be naïve to think that any Governor’s coterie would be unaware of the extent of the contributions made by a company owner and his employees when they consider making a factory tour.

    If you’re concerned about the pure liberty aspect of this, their motives shouldn’t matter to you. I think you need to reveal if you believe there is any civic benefit at all in campaign finance laws. If you’re concerned about revealing my name and contribution amount to the public as well as my employer, shouldn’t you argue that there should be no record of my contribution at all? If you don’t believe it there is a benefit from the ban on corporations giving money directly to campaigns, that there should be no concern about companies attempting to buy influence or favors, just say so. If you don’t believe that company owners have many ways they might attempt to unnaturally compel their employees to vote or contribute, and that there’s no use in attempting laws to prevent this, just say so.

  2. Who cares?

    Fuck you, banned boy.

  3. insagtman

    The new campaign finance legislation will deal with an couple of issues revealed after years of practice. One, lefties will harass employers of employees who exercise their first amendment rights by donating to a candidate. Stopping the reporting of employers will deter this a little. Another inequity in the law was the ability of labor unions to finance campaigns, but the businesses being affected by the actions of those unions being banned from participation. Once the law is reformed, those businesses will now be able to participate in the electoral process the same as their sometime adversary, the labor unions.


  4. John Foust

    Jeremy, people of all political stripes have raised the objection that public information will cause harassment. It happened with the recall petitions, it happens with CCAP, it happens with all sorts of public records of government doing its business, whether it be email, letters, constituent contacts, drafting notes on bills, etc. If you think that kind of harassment is bad, then speak up against it when you see it.

    I like Wisconsin’s open records and open meetings laws. I like to keep an eye on government. I like it when reporters can help me do that. I don’t want to see those in government abusing the power and resources available to their offices. I think the public has a right to know. If the public and the press can’t see what the government is doing, who benefits?

  5. Mark Maley

    Rep Gannon , we prefer to be called Socialist
    Destroyers of the Universe and all that is Holy , not Leftys

    If you must post under a not hard to figure out name , please address us as such .

    Funny how guys who hate government , freedom and liberty can’t wait to get involved in my personal business .

    Another stupid solution to a non problem

  6. I'm

    Transparency is the foundation of a people’s government; secrecy = dictatorship, facism, etc. People who are agianst transparency are unamerican. People who are embarassed to be mentioned as the employer of someone of a “controversial” poltical stripe are unamerican cowards.

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