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.