Wisconsin Ethics Commission to update rules for anonymous political donations



(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’ Ethics Commission spent a lot of time Thursday talking about what to do about $20 bills.

The commission plans to update its guidance for anonymous political donations and has run into a issue about $20s.

Wisconsin law limits anonymous political donations to $10. Often that money comes in as cash at fundraisers in a pickle jar at a fundraising table.

The commission on Thursday wrestled with how to handle any $20 bills found in those jars.

“The statute is very clear. It says that if an anonymous contribution exceeds $10, the [campaign] committee shall donate the contribution to the Common School Fund or to a charitable organization and report the donation,” Ethics Commission Administrator Dan Carlson said. “So, it’s very clear under the statute that it says that the contribution must be returned. And unlike situations where, you know who the contributor is and if they exceeded the contribution limits you could return the amount that they exceeded the contribution, here we don’t have those safeguards. We don’t know who the contributor was. If there’s a $20 bill with somebody making change out of the jar, you know what protections are there?”

Carlson said campaign committees need to know the rules, so they don’t inadvertently break the law.

He said there are two options for that guidance.

“There are two [options]. One example says under the statute the committee is required to donate the entire $20 to either the Common School Fund or charitable organization,” Carlson said. “The alternative example says that the committee may donate $10 to either the Common School Fund or charitable organization.”

Commissioners asked Carlson to come back with guidance that says campaigns have to donate the entire $20, instead of the extra $10.

That guidance will likely be made official at the commission’s December hearing.



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