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State Supreme Court hears campaign disclosure challenge

by
Wisconsin State Supreme Court
Wisconsin State Supreme Court

MADISON (WRN-WSAU) The state Supreme Court is being asked to decide if a rule written by the Government Accountability Board violates the First Amendment. Justices heard arguments Tuesday in a case brought forward by a number of groups, who argue the rule that requires third party groups running ads that advocate for or against a candidate for elected office to report their funding.

Attorney Richard Esenburg, who represents the challengers, says it’s a broad requirement that could impact just about any political speech. Esenburg says it’s an overreach of power that will impose registration, reporting, and many other requirements on speakers who spends at least $25 to comment on the behavior of a public official.

Under its current wording, Esenburg argues the rule could have applied to any of the protesters who sing in the Capitol rotunda each day or marched on the lawn of the building earlier this year.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bellavia says the rule meets the requirements set forth in a state law directing the GAB to identify who is attempting to influence elections in Wisconsin. He says the people of the state have a compelling interest in finding out who is spending money to impact the outcome of an election.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case, although multiple lawsuits are still pending in federal court as well.

This was also the first time the state's highest court was in session since an investigation into an physical altercation between justices Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser. A special prosecurtor decided against filing charges. The two sat next to each other during oral arguments.

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