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Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

WI Lobbyists Get Shut Out

Lobbyists will not be able to make contributions to political campaigns because of a legislative maneuver by Republican legislators. This was never the intended result of the action, but a mistake by the Ethics Board has resulted in lobbyists being shut out of contributing...
The situation unfolded in part because of bad advice from the state Ethics Board, which told legislators last year that a parliamentary maneuver would not affect ethics rules. But after lawmakers acted, the Ethics Board reported that, in fact, legislators would be prohibited from soaking up lobbyist money.
Last year, in the midst of a fight over raising the state's minimum wage, Republican legislators extended the legislative calendar - which normally ends in the spring of election years - through December 2006, more than a month after the Nov. 7 election. As long as the Legislature remains in session, lawmakers can block administrative rules, including those that would set a new minimum wage; after the session, the Democratic governor can impose such rules without legislative oversight.
This move does block Doyle from raising the minimum wage, but it also keeps the legislature in session. Under Wis. Stat. 13.625(1)(c), lobbyists are allowed to make contributions during a window, usually from June 1 to election day. June 1 is usually when the legislature is finished with its floorperiod.

When the Republicans decided to extend the session, they asked the Ethics Board if this would affect the lobbying rules. That call fell to Jonathan Becker, legal counsel for the Ethics Board...
Becker said a lawmaker's staffer - he wouldn't say who - contacted him last year to ask whether the calendar change would have any implications on lawmakers under the state's ethics code. Becker wrongly told the staffer no.

"I just whiffed it," he said.
Haha. Well, at least he's not trying to make up excuses.

This does create an interesting issue though. The lobbyists could bring a claim that their Constitutional rights are being violated by shutting them entirely out of making political contributions. The courts have allowed certain restrictions to be made on the lobbyists (for example, the window), but totally shutting them out doesn't seem like it would jive with Buckley v Valeo. If a challenge comes, it will probably come sooner rather than later. The election is not that far off...

Are you taking a class on elections law? I wouldn't mind being pointed in the direction of some solid elections law resources.

I'm taking (well, "took" when I turn in my take home tomorrow) Legislation, which covered a lot of election law. My professor is pretty interested in the subject.

We're using the Legislation casebook by Eskridge, Frickey, and Garrett. It has a lot of information on electoral structures, campaign finance, ballot access, lobbying, the bribery and gratuities statues, etc.

It reads more like a textbook than a casebook. The major cases are there, but there is a lot of analysis, policy discussion, and typical "notes" stuff that you would see in other casebooks. It's a solid overview of the major election law areas.

We've been using that and supplementing it with news articles like the one in the post. That's probably not a lot of help, but we didn't use a lot of traditional outside sources like treatises, etc. The casebook is good though.

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