Proposed changes to contribution limits in Wisconsin mean more money could be rolling into this year’s political campaigns.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling last month about donation limits. A Racine man also sued the state over the issue.
The man’s attorneys and the state reached a deal that was announced Thursday.
There are still limits for how much you can donate to individuals running for state office, but the state plans to stop enforcing a cap on the total amount you can donate to multiple candidates each year. That limit had been $10,000.
The deal still has to be signed by a federal judge.
If it goes through and campaign donation regulations are loosened, Attorney Rick Esenberg says it’s a victory for free speech rights.
“Convey a message to the public,” said Esenberg.
Esenberg is the attorney in the Wisconsin case brought forward by Fred Young of Racine. Young has donated thousands to Governor Walker’s campaign.
“Reducing the ability of people that have money to participate in the political process is not a valid reason for restricting the First Amendment,” said Esenberg.
Mike McCabe is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. His group opposes the change, believing it will reduce the voice of average citizens in elections.
“Effectively, the ‘r’ is being removed from free speech,” said McCabe. “Speech has become so blasted expensive.”
According to McCabe’s organization, there were only 299 individuals who gave $10,000 or more to Wisconsin candidates in 2010 and 2012. That’s about .0052 percent of the state’s 2013 population. The Democracy Campaign says 173 of those people live outside Wisconsin.
Without the $10,000 cap, people could give state political parties or political action committees whatever amount of money they want. Those donations can be spent on individual candidates.
Mark Becker, the chair of the Brown County Republican Party, thinks the change would benefit Republicans and Democrats.
“It gives people a little bit more flexibility with their money, and yeah, the wealthy will have a little bit more of a role in it,” said Becker. “But like I said, there’s wealthy people both as a Democrat and a Republican.”
Wisconsin Democrats say while they don’t support the amount of money that’s involved in politics, they do support the proposed rule changes.
In a statement, state Democratic chair Mike Tate said it “will likely force more money into the sunshine and provide greater transparency.”
There’s no word on when the judge will make a decision on the change.
Esenberg, the attorney suing the state, said he believes the judge will sign off on the changes. A spokeswoman for the state had no comment.