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2011 - 2012 LEGISLATURE
February 8, 2012 - Introduced by Senators Erpenbach, Ellis, T. Cullen, Hansen,
Holperin, Lassa, Wirch, Harsdorf, Risser, Carpenter
and C. Larson,
cosponsored by Representatives Bernard Schaber, Pope-Roberts, Roys,
Clark, Turner, Pasch, Berceau
and Hebl. Referred to Committee on
Transportation and Elections.
SB446,1,6 1An Act to amend 11.06 (2), 11.38 (title) and 11.38 (1) (a) 1.; and to create 11.01
2(12v), 11.01 (12w), 11.01 (13), 11.01 (14), 11.01 (16) (a) 3., 11.05 (3) (s), 11.06 (1)
3(n), 11.12 (7), 11.38 (3e) and 11.38 (9) of the statutes; relating to: political
4disbursements and obligations by corporations, cooperative associations, and
5labor organizations and the scope of regulated activity and reporting of certain
6activity under the campaign finance law.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, corporations and cooperatives are prohibited from making
contributions or disbursements (expenditures) in campaigns for state or local office.
Violators are subject to a forfeiture (civil penalty) of not more than $500 for each
violation. Intentional violators are guilty of a Class I felony, which is punishable by
a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for three and one-half years, or
both, except that if a violation involves $100 or less, the violation is punishable as
a misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more
than six months, or both. A recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court has cast doubt
about whether this law is enforceable as it applies to disbursements. See Citizens
United v. F.E.C.
, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010).
This bill provides that if a court with jurisdiction in this state finds in a reported
decision, whether or not applicable in this state, that a prohibition against the
making of political expenditures by corporations or similar entities is not enforceable

for constitutional reasons, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) must
publish a finding to that effect. The bill then provides that, during a period when a
finding of unenforceability is in effect, before a corporation, cooperative, or labor
organization may make a disbursement or incur an obligation to make a
disbursement independently of a candidate, the corporation, cooperative, or labor
organization must obtain the express approval of a majority of the members of the
board of directors, executive council, or other governing body of the corporation,
cooperative, or labor organization by vote of that body taken during the 365-day
period preceding the date on which the disbursement is made or the obligation is
incurred. The bill also requires each financial report filed by the corporation,
cooperative, or labor organization that includes a report of any disbursement made,
or obligation to make a disbursement incurred, by the corporation, cooperative, or
labor organization independently of a candidate to also include a statement that a
majority of the members of the board of directors, executive council, or other
governing body of the corporation, cooperative, or labor organization has expressly
voted to authorize the disbursement or obligation during the 365-day period
preceding the date on which it is made or incurred.
Currently, individuals who accept contributions, organizations that make or
accept contributions, and individuals who or organizations that incur obligations or
make disbursements for the purpose of influencing an election for state or local office
are generally required to register with the appropriate filing officer and to file
financial reports with that officer, regardless of whether they act in conjunction with
or independently of any candidate who is supported or opposed.
With certain exceptions, this bill imposes registration and reporting
requirements, in addition, upon any individual who and organization that, within
60 days of an election, makes any mass communication, including an electronic
communication, a mass distribution, or a mass telephoning, that includes a reference
to a candidate at that election. In addition, the bill requires an individual who or
organization that becomes subject to a registration requirement by making such a
communication to report, upon registration, the information that would have been
required to be reported if the individual or organization had been registered with
respect to any obligation incurred or disbursement made for the purpose of making
such a communication prior to registration. The bill, however, does not require
registration and reporting if the communication is made by a corporation,
cooperative, or nonpolitical voluntary association and is limited to the corporation's,
cooperative's, or association's members, shareholders, or subscribers.
The change in the scope of reportable activity under the bill also applies to
contribution and disbursement (spending) limitations and restrictions by causing
reportable "contributions," "obligations," and "disbursements" to include the cost of
all reportable communications.
The bill also requires a special report by any campaign finance registrant who
makes or incurs an obligation to make a mass communication that becomes
reportable under the bill within 60 days of a primary or other election in an amount
greater than $500 cumulatively since the date of the registrant's last report. The
special report must be made within 24 hours after the date that disbursements or

obligations that exceed $500 cumulatively are made or incurred and must include
the information that would otherwise be reported on the registrant's next regular
report in the form prescribed by GAB.
Violators of registration and reporting requirements are subject to a forfeiture
(civil penalty) of not more than $500 for each violation. In addition, any person who
is delinquent in filing a report is subject to a forfeiture of not more than $50 or 1
percent of the annual salary of the office for which a candidate is being supported or
opposed, whichever is greater, for each day of delinquency. Intentional violators of
the registration requirements and persons who intentionally file false reports or
statements may be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than six
months, or both, if the violation involves less than $100 in amount or value, and may
be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than three years and six
months, or both, if the violation involves more than $100 in amount or value.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
SB446, s. 1 1Section 1. 11.01 (12v) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,3,62 11.01 (12v) "Mass communication" means a message that is disseminated by
3means of one or more communications media, a mass electronic communication, a
4mass distribution, or a mass telephoning, but not including a bona fide poll
5conducted for the purpose of objectively identifying or collecting data concerning the
6attitudes or preferences of electors.
SB446, s. 2 7Section 2. 11.01 (12w) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,3,98 11.01 (12w) "Mass distribution" means the distribution of 500 or more pieces
9of substantially identical material.
SB446, s. 3 10Section 3. 11.01 (13) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,3,1311 11.01 (13) "Mass electronic communication" means the transmission of 500 or
12more pieces of substantially identical material by means of electronic mail or
13facsimile transmission.
SB446, s. 4 14Section 4. 11.01 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,4,2
111.01 (14) "Mass telephoning" means the making of 500 or more telephone calls
2conveying a substantially identical message.
SB446, s. 5 3Section 5. 11.01 (16) (a) 3. of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,4,84 11.01 (16) (a) 3. A mass communication, other than a communication that is
5exempt from reporting under s. 11.29, that is made during the period beginning on
6the 60th day preceding an election and ending on the date of that election, and that
7includes a reference to a candidate whose name is certified under s. 7.08 (2) (a) or 8.50
8(1) (d) to appear on the ballot at that election.
SB446, s. 6 9Section 6. 11.05 (3) (s) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,4,1410 11.05 (3) (s) In the case of a registrant that has made a mass communication
11identified in s. 11.01 (16) (a) 3., a report containing the information specified in s.
1211.06 (1) with respect to any obligation to make a disbursement incurred or any
13disbursement made for the purpose of making such a communication prior to
14registration.
SB446, s. 7 15Section 7. 11.06 (1) (n) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,5,216 11.06 (1) (n) In the case of a corporation, cooperative association organized
17under ch. 185 or 193, or labor organization that makes disbursements or incurs
18obligations to make disbursements without cooperation or consultation with a
19candidate, or any authorized committee or agent of a candidate, and not in concert
20with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate, or any authorized committee
21or agent of a candidate, during a period when a finding of unenforceability under s.
2211.38 (9) is in effect, a statement that a majority of the members of the board of
23directors, executive council, or other governing body of the corporation, association,
24or organization has expressly voted during the 365-day period preceding the date on

1which the disbursement is made or the obligation is incurred to authorize the
2disbursement to be made or the obligation to be incurred.
SB446, s. 8 3Section 8. 11.06 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:
SB446,5,144 11.06 (2) Disclosure of certain indirect disbursements. Notwithstanding
5sub. (1), if a disbursement is made or obligation incurred by an individual other than
6a candidate or by a committee or group which is not primarily organized for political
7purposes, and the disbursement does not constitute a contribution to any candidate
8or other individual, committee, or group, and the disbursement is not made or the
9obligation is not incurred for the purpose of making a mass communication specified
10in s. 11.01 (16) (a) 3.,
the disbursement or obligation is required to be reported only
11if the purpose is to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified
12candidate or the adoption or rejection of a referendum. The exemption provided by
13this subsection shall in no case be construed to apply to a political party, legislative
14campaign, personal campaign, or support committee.
SB446, s. 9 15Section 9. 11.12 (7) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,6,1116 11.12 (7) If any registrant makes or incurs an obligation to make a
17disbursement of more than $500 cumulatively for the purpose of making a
18communication specified in s. 11.01 (16) (a) 3. later than 60 days prior to a primary
19or other election without cooperation or consultation with any candidate or agent or
20authorized committee of any candidate who is supported or opposed, and not in
21concert with or at the request or suggestion of any such candidate, agent, or
22committee, the registrant shall, within 24 hours after making the disbursement or
23incurring the obligation to make the disbursement, inform the appropriate filing
24officer of the information required under s. 11.06 (1) in such manner as the board may
25prescribe. The registrant shall also include the information in the next regular

1report of the registrant under s. 11.20. For purposes of this subsection,
2disbursements and obligations cumulate beginning with the day after the last date
3covered on the registrant's immediately preceding report and ending with the day
4before the election. If a registrant has not filed a previous report, disbursements and
5obligations cumulate beginning on the date of the registrant's registration. A
6disbursement that was previously reported in a report under this subsection as
7obligated to be made shall not be included in the cumulative total. Upon receipt of
8a report under this subsection, the filing officer shall, within 24 hours of receipt,
9transmit a copy of the report to all candidates for any office in support of or opposition
10to one of whom a disbursement identified in the report is made or obligated to be
11made.
SB446, s. 10 12Section 10. 11.38 (title) of the statutes is amended to read:
SB446,6,14 1311.38 (title) Contributions and disbursements by corporations and,
14cooperatives and labor organizations.
SB446, s. 11 15Section 11. 11.38 (1) (a) 1. of the statutes is amended to read:
SB446,6,2016 11.38 (1) (a) 1. No Except as authorized in sub. (9), no foreign or domestic
17corporation, or association organized under ch. 185 or 193, may make any
18contribution or disbursement, directly or indirectly, either independently or through
19any political party, committee, group, candidate or individual for any purpose other
20than to promote or defeat a referendum.
SB446, s. 12 21Section 12. 11.38 (3e) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,7,722 11.38 (3e) Each corporation, cooperative association organized under ch. 185
23or 193, or labor organization that wishes to make disbursements or to incur
24obligations to make disbursements without cooperation or consultation with a
25candidate, or any authorized committee or agent of a candidate, and not in concert

1with, or at the request or suggestion of any candidate, or any authorized committee
2or agent of a candidate, during a period when a finding of unenforceability under sub.
3(9) is in effect may do so only if a majority of the members of the board of directors,
4executive council, or other governing body of the corporation, association, or
5organization expressly votes to authorize the disbursements to be made or the
6obligations to be incurred during the 365-day period preceding the date on which the
7disbursement is made or the obligation is incurred.
SB446, s. 13 8Section 13. 11.38 (9) of the statutes is created to read:
SB446,7,169 11.38 (9) If a court with jurisdiction in this state finds in a reported decision,
10whether or not applicable in this state, that a prohibition against the making of
11political expenditures by corporations or similar entities is not enforceable for
12constitutional reasons, or if any such court later finds in a reported decision that such
13a prohibition is enforceable, the board shall promptly publish a finding to that effect
14in the Wisconsin Administrative Register. The prohibition against disbursements
15under sub (1) (a) 1. does not apply whenever a finding of unenforceability is in effect
16if the corporation or association making a disbursement complies with sub. (3e).
SB446, s. 14 17Section 14. Initial applicability.
SB446,7,2118 (1) The treatment of sections 11.01 (12v), (12w), (13), (14), and (16) (a) 3. and
1911.06 (2) of the statutes first applies with respect to contributions received,
20disbursements made, and obligations incurred on or after the effective date of this
21subsection.
SB446,7,2222 (End)
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