11.38   Contributions and disbursements by corporations and cooperatives.
11.40   Special privileges from public utilities.
11.60   Civil penalties.
11.61   Criminal penalties; prosecution.
11.64   Defense fund authorized.
11.65   Donations to charitable organizations or school fund.
11.66   Elector may compel compliance.
Ch. 11 Note NOTE: 2005 Wis. Act 451, which made major revisions to the election laws, including to Chapter 11, contains an extensive prefatory note explaining the changes.
Ch. 11 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See definitions in s. 5.02.
Ch. 11 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also chs. GAB 1 and 6, Wis. adm. code.
11.001 11.001 Declaration of policy.
11.001(1) (1) The legislature finds and declares that our democratic system of government can be maintained only if the electorate is informed. It further finds that excessive spending on campaigns for public office jeopardizes the integrity of elections. It is desirable to encourage the broadest possible participation in financing campaigns by all citizens of the state, and to enable candidates to have an equal opportunity to present their programs to the voters. One of the most important sources of information to the voters is available through the campaign finance reporting system. Campaign reports provide information which aids the public in fully understanding the public positions taken by a candidate or political organization. When the true source of support or extent of support is not fully disclosed, or when a candidate becomes overly dependent upon large private contributors, the democratic process is subjected to a potential corrupting influence. The legislature therefore finds that the state has a compelling interest in designing a system for fully disclosing contributions and disbursements made on behalf of every candidate for public office, and in placing reasonable limitations on such activities. Such a system must make readily available to the voters complete information as to who is supporting or opposing which candidate or cause and to what extent, whether directly or indirectly. This chapter is intended to serve the public purpose of stimulating vigorous campaigns on a fair and equal basis and to provide for a better informed electorate.
11.001(2) (2) This chapter is also intended to ensure fair and impartial elections by precluding officeholders from utilizing the perquisites of office at public expense in order to gain an advantage over nonincumbent candidates who have no perquisites available to them.
11.001(3) (3) This chapter is declared to be enacted pursuant to the power of the state to protect the integrity of the elective process and to assure the maintenance of free government.
11.001 Annotation Campaign finance in Wisconsin after Buckley. 1976 WLR 816.
11.002 11.002 Construction. This chapter shall be construed to impose the least possible restraint on persons or organizations whose activities do not directly affect the elective process, consistent with the right of the public to have a full, complete and readily understandable accounting of those activities intended to influence elections.
11.002 History History: 1979 c. 328 ss. 9, 11.
11.01 11.01 Definitions. As used in this chapter:
11.01(1) (1) "Candidate" means every person for whom it is contemplated or desired that votes be cast at any election held within this state, other than an election for national office, whether or not the person is elected or nominated, and who either tacitly or expressly consents to be so considered. A person does not cease to be a candidate for purposes of compliance with this chapter or ch. 12 after the date of an election and no person is released from any requirement or liability otherwise imposed under this chapter or ch. 12 by virtue of the passing of the date of an election.
11.01(2) (2) "Charitable organization" means any organization described in section 170 (c) (2) of the internal revenue code, and also includes the United States, any state, territory or possession, the District of Columbia and any political subdivision thereof, when a gift is made exclusively for public purposes; but does not include any private organization conducting activities for political purposes.
11.01(3) (3) "Clearly identified", when used with reference to a communication in support of or in opposition to a candidate, means:
11.01(3)(a) (a) The candidate's name appears;
11.01(3)(b) (b) A photograph or drawing of the candidate appears; or
11.01(3)(c) (c) The identity of the candidate is apparent by unambiguous reference.
11.01(4) (4) "Committee" or "political committee" means any person other than an individual and any combination of 2 or more persons, permanent or temporary, which makes or accepts contributions or makes disbursements, whether or not engaged in activities which are exclusively political, except that a "committee" does not include a political "group" under this chapter.
11.01(5) (5) "Communications media" means newspapers, periodicals, commercial billboards and radio and television stations, including community antenna television stations.
11.01(5m) (5m) "Conduit" means an individual who or an organization which receives a contribution of money and transfers the contribution to another individual or organization without exercising discretion as to the amount which is transferred and the individual to whom or organization to which the transfer is made.
11.01(6) (6)
11.01(6)(a)(a) Except as provided in par. (b), "contribution" means any of the following:
11.01(6)(a)1. 1. A gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, except a loan of money by a commercial lending institution made by the institution in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business, made for political purposes. In this subdivision "anything of value" means a thing of merchantable value.
11.01(6)(a)2. 2. A transfer of personalty, including but not limited to campaign materials and supplies, valued at the replacement cost at the time of transfer.
11.01(6)(a)3. 3. A contract, promise or agreement, if legally enforceable, to make a gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, except a loan of money by a commercial lending institution in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business, for a political purpose.
11.01(6)(a)4. 4. A transfer of funds between candidates, committees, individuals or groups subject to a filing requirement under this chapter.
11.01(6)(a)5. 5. The purchase of a ticket for a meal, rally or other fund-raising event for a purpose under subd. 1., whether or not actually utilized.
11.01(6)(a)6. 6. The distribution of any publication or advertising matter for any purpose under subd. 1. other than by a registrant under s. 11.05, or as provided in s. 11.29.
11.01(6)(a)7. 7. A gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, except a loan of money by a commercial lending institution made by the institution in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business, or a contract, promise or agreement, if legally enforceable, to make the same, made by a committee for a purpose authorized under s. 11.25 (2) (b), or by an individual for a purpose authorized under s. 11.25 (2) (b) if deposited in a campaign depository account.
11.01(6)(b) (b) "Contribution" does not include any of the following:
11.01(6)(b)1. 1. Services for a political purpose by an individual on behalf of a registrant under s. 11.05 who is not compensated specifically for the services.
11.01(6)(b)2. 2. The use of real or personal property and the cost of invitations, food, and beverages, voluntarily provided by an individual to a candidate in rendering voluntary personal services on the individual's residential premises for a purpose under par. (a) 1. if no funds are raised with the knowledge of the host.
11.01(6)(b)3. 3. Any unreimbursed payment for travel expenses made by an individual who on his or her own behalf volunteers his or her personal services for political purposes.
11.01(6)(b)4. 4. The costs of preparation and transmission of personal correspondence, provided that the correspondence is not reproduced by machine for distribution.
11.01(6)(b)5. 5. Compensation or fringe benefits provided as a result of employment by an employer to regular employees or pensioners who are not compensated specifically for services performed for a political purpose, and not in excess of that provided to other regular employees or pensioners of like status.
11.01(6)(b)6. 6. The reuse of surplus materials or utilization of unused surplus materials not exceeding $400 in value at the time of original receipt, in the aggregate, acquired in connection with a previous campaign for or against the same candidate, candidates, party or referendum in connection with which the materials are utilized, if utilized by the same registrant previously acquiring the materials and previously reported by that registrant as a contribution under s. 11.06.
11.01(6)(b)7. 7. A gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of anything of value received by a committee or group not organized exclusively for political purposes that the group or committee does not utilize for political purposes.
11.01(6)(b)8. 8. Any cost incurred to conduct Internet activity for a political purpose by an individual acting in his or her own behalf, or acting in behalf of another person if the individual is not compensated specifically for those services, including the cost or value of any equipment and services identified in s. 11.06 (13), but not including professional video production services purchased by the individual.
11.01(6)(b)9. 9. Any cost incurred for covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by a broadcasting station, cable television operator, producer, or programmer, Internet site, or newspaper or other periodical publication, including an Internet or other electronic publication except the cost of a news story that appears in a medium that is owned or controlled by a candidate, personal campaign committee of a candidate, support committee of a candidate that is authorized under s. 11.05 (3) (p), or a political party.
11.01(6L) (6L) "Corporation" includes a limited liability company.
11.01(7) (7)
11.01(7)(a)(a) Except as provided in par. (b), "disbursement" means any of the following:
11.01(7)(a)1. 1. A purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value, except a loan of money by a commercial lending institution made by the institution in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business, made for political purposes. In this subdivision, "anything of value" means a thing of merchantable value.
11.01(7)(a)2. 2. A transfer of personalty, including but not limited to campaign materials and supplies, valued at the replacement cost at the time of transfer.
11.01(7)(a)3. 3. A contract, promise, or agreement, if legally enforceable, to make a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money or anything of value, except a loan of money by a commercial lending institution in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business, for a political purpose.
11.01(7)(a)4. 4. An expenditure authorized under s. 11.25 (2) (b) made from a campaign depository account.
11.01(7)(a)5. 5. Any payment for a communication to the general public for a political purpose by means of any broadcast, satellite communication, newspaper or other periodical publication, outdoor advertising facility, mass mailing, or mass telephoning to the general public, or any other form of advertising to the general public, except communications over the Internet by an individual acting in his or her own behalf, or acting in behalf of another person if the individual is not compensated specifically for those services, including the cost or value of any equipment and services identified in s. 11.06 (13).
11.01(7)(a)6. 6. Any payment for the purchase or rental of an electronic-mail address list made at the direction of a registrant for a political purpose.
11.01(7)(a)7. 7. Any payment for an electronic-mail address list that is transferred to a registrant for a political purpose.
11.01(7)(b) (b) "Disbursement" does not include any of the following:
11.01(7)(b)1. 1. The use of real or personal property and the cost of invitations, food, and beverages, voluntarily provided by an individual to a candidate in rendering voluntary personal services on the individual's residential premises for a purpose under par. (a) 1. if no funds are raised with the knowledge of the host.
11.01(7)(b)2. 2. Any unreimbursed payment for travel expenses made by an individual who on his or her own behalf volunteers his or her personal services for political purposes.
11.01(7)(b)3. 3. The costs of preparation and transmission of personal correspondence, provided that the correspondence is not reproduced by machine for distribution.
11.01(7)(b)4. 4. Compensation or fringe benefits provided as a result of employment by an employer to regular employees or pensioners who are not compensated specifically for services performed for a political purpose, and not in excess of that provided to other regular employees or pensioners of like status.
11.01(7)(b)5. 5. The reuse of surplus materials or utilization of unused surplus materials not exceeding $400 in value at the time of original receipt, in the aggregate, acquired in connection with a previous campaign for or against the same candidate, candidates, party or referendum in connection with which the materials are utilized, if utilized by the same registrant previously acquiring the materials and previously reported by that registrant as a disbursement under s. 11.06.
11.01(7)(b)6. 6. A communication or Internet activity by an individual acting in his or her own behalf, or acting in behalf of another person if the individual is not compensated specifically for those services, including the cost or value of any equipment and services identified in s. 11.06 (13), but not including professional video production services purchased by the individual.
11.01(7)(b)7. 7. Any cost incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by a broadcasting station, cable television operator, programmer or producer, Internet site, or newspaper or other periodical publication, including an Internet or electronic publication, except the cost of a news story that appears in a medium that is owned or controlled by a candidate, personal campaign committee of a candidate, support committee of a candidate that is authorized under s. 11.05 (3) (p), or a political party.
11.01(7)(b)8. 8. A nominal fee paid for a communication to the general public.
11.01(8) (8) "Filing officer" means the official or agency determined in accordance with s. 11.02.
11.01(9) (9) "Filing requirement" means the continuing duty to file reports of contributions, disbursements or incurred obligations with the appropriate filing officer.
11.01(10) (10) "Group" or "political group" means any person other than an individual and any combination of 2 or more persons, permanent or temporary, which makes or accepts contributions or makes disbursements for the purpose of influencing the outcome of any referendum whether or not engaged in activities which are exclusively political.
11.01(11) (11) "Incurred obligation" means every express obligation to make any contribution or disbursement including every loan, guarantee of a loan or other obligation or payment for any goods, or for any services which have been performed or are to be performed in the future, incurred by a candidate, committee, individual or group for political purposes.
11.01(12) (12) "Intentionally" has the meaning given under s. 939.23.
11.01(12m) (12m) "Internet activity" includes sending or forwarding an electronic message; providing a hyperlink or other direct access on a person's Internet site to an Internet site operated by another person; blogging; creating, maintaining, or hosting an Internet site; payment by a person of a nominal fee for the use of an Internet site operated by another person; or any other form of communication distributed over the Internet.
11.01(12s) (12s) "Legislative campaign committee" means a committee which does not file an oath under s. 11.06 (7) organized in either house of the legislature to support candidates of a political party for legislative office.
11.01(15) (15) "Personal campaign committee" means a committee which is formed or operating for the purpose of influencing the election or reelection of a candidate, which acts with the cooperation of or upon consultation with the candidate or the candidate's agent or which is operating in concert with or pursuant to the authorization, request or suggestion of the candidate or the candidate's agent.
11.01(16) (16) An act is for "political purposes" when it is done for the purpose of influencing the election or nomination for election of any individual to state or local office, for the purpose of influencing the recall from or retention in office of an individual holding a state or local office, for the purpose of payment of expenses incurred as a result of a recount at an election, or for the purpose of influencing a particular vote at a referendum. In the case of a candidate, or a committee or group which is organized primarily for the purpose of influencing the election or nomination for election of any individual to state or local office, for the purpose of influencing the recall from or retention in office of an individual holding a state or local office, or for the purpose of influencing a particular vote at a referendum, all administrative and overhead expenses for the maintenance of an office or staff which are used principally for any such purpose are deemed to be for a political purpose.
11.01(16)(a) (a) Acts which are for "political purposes" include but are not limited to:
11.01(16)(a)1. 1. The making of a communication which expressly advocates the election, defeat, recall or retention of a clearly identified candidate or a particular vote at a referendum.
11.01(16)(a)2. 2. The conduct of or attempting to influence an endorsement or nomination to be made at a convention of political party members or supporters concerning, in whole or in part, any campaign for state or local office.
11.01(16)(b) (b) A "political purpose" does not include expenditures made for the purpose of supporting or defending a person who is being investigated for, charged with or convicted of a criminal violation of state or federal law, or an agent or dependent of such a person.
11.01 Note NOTE: The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland, 751 F. 3d 804 (2014), held that the definition of "political purposes,"in sub. (16), is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and requires a narrowing construction.
11.01(17g) (17g) "Public access channel" means a PEG channel, as defined in s. 66.0420 (2) (s), that is used for public access purposes, but does not include a PEG channel that is used for governmental or educational purposes.
11.01(17r) (17r) "Public access channel operator" means a person designated by a city, village, or town as responsible for the operation of a public access channel.
11.01(18m) (18m) "Registrant" means an individual or organization registered under s. 11.05 with a filing officer.
11.01(19) (19) "Salary" means the highest salary to which any candidate for a particular office would, if elected, be entitled during the first year of incumbency.
11.01 Annotation It may be appropriate to consider context in determining whether a communication "expressly advocates" within the meaning of sub.(16) (a) 1. The Elections Board's attempt to apply a context-based standard of express advocacy was an unfair attempt at retroactive rule-making, without any express statutory grant of authority, and thus, a violation of due process. Elections Board v. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, 227 Wis. 2d 650, 597 N.W.2d 721 (1999), 98-0596.
11.01 Annotation The term "political purposes" is not restricted to acts of express advocacy, but encompasses many acts undertaken to influence an election, including making contributions to an election campaign. Contributions may be in-kind, as well as in cash, and campaign organizations are required to report the receipt of in-kind contributions. Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation, Inc. v. State Elections Board, 231 Wis. 2d 670, 605 N.W.2d 654 (Ct. App. 1999), 99-2574.
11.01 Annotation The definition of "political purposes," which triggers PAC duties and other requirements and restrictions, is vague and overbroad in the sense meant by Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, and requires a limiting construction. As applied to political speakers other than candidates, their committees, and political parties, the statutory definition of "political purposes" in section 11.01(16) is limited to express advocacy and its functional equivalent. Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland, 751 F. 3d 804 (2014).
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2011-12 Wisconsin Statutes updated through 2013 Wis. Act 380 and all Supreme Court Orders entered before Sept. 3, 2014. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after Sept. 3, 2014 are designated by NOTES. (Published 9-3-14)