Assembly, Senate Republicans differ on sanctioning campaign coor - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Assembly, Senate Republicans differ on sanctioning campaign coordination with issue groups

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It took just a few weeks for the Wisconsin State Assembly to introduce and pass legislation dismantling the Government Accountability Board and rewriting the state's campaign finance law.

But it's clear neither will go to Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) desk in their current form.

"The Senate is unified on the idea that there needs to be significant change," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

One of the most significant disagreements centers on whether or not the legislature should sanction coordination between candidate's campaigns and third-party issue advocacy groups.

That coordination was at the center of the second John Doe investigation that the Milwaukee County District Attorney conducted with the help of the GAB. In shutting down that investigation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled such coordination to be legal as long as those third-party groups don't engage in expressed advocacy for a specific candidate.

"We want to draw that very bright line between issue advocacy groups where coordination is allowed under court decisions and expressed advocacy where it's not," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

But Sen. Fitzgerald said he doesn't want the responsibility of putting that into state statute.

"Some people think it would create this, kind of, gray area," said Sen. Fitzgerald. "I don't want that and I don't think a lot of elected officials want that at the end of the day."

The Assembly bill would also double the current limits for how much money people can contribute to candidates. Sen. Fitzgerald said Republican Senators might want to lower that amount.

The Assembly GAB bill replaces that entire agency with two separate entities. One would handle elections, while the other would focus on campaign finance and ethics.

But neither agency would be overseen by the former judges that currently rule over the GAB.

Sen. Fitzgerald said a handful of Republican Senators want those judges to keep their oversight powers.

"Even in the original Assembly version of that there were judges included in the ethics side of the newly created two divisions," said Sen. Fitzgerald.

"That was taken out at the request of the Senate," explained Speaker Vos. "So, if they wanted to have a negotiation to talk about it to say how can we make the bill stronger and better - as long as they were productive, positive ideas - of course we'd take a look at it."

Despite the differences, Sen. Fitzgerald said he is confident an agreement can be reached with the Assembly on both bills by the end of November.

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