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Federal judge strikes down most of Wisconsin's campaign finance law


CHICAGO (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A federal appeals court has struck down much of Wisconsin's campaign finance law. But the impact is not as drastic as it sounds, because the state had agreed in 2010 to stop enforcing major campaign ad regulations anyway. Yesterday's ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Right-to-Life, which challenged limits on so-called "issue ads" -- the ones which highlight a candidate's position on issues but does not tell people who to vote for-or-against.

The Club for Growth and One Wisconsin Now also challenged the rules -- and in those cases, the Government Accountability Board had agreed not to enforce key parts of them. That included a requirement to say who put up the money for the ads in many cases.

Appellate Judge Diane Sykes said Wisconsin's laws are hard to interpret without having a legal background in campaign finance. Sykes said the state laws had not kept up with U-S Supreme Court decisions in recent years which limited the government's power to regulate campaign ads. Among other things, the appellate court ruling said Wisconsin's long-time ban on political spending by corporations was unconstitutional. That, too, had not been enforced since 2010 after a similar national ban was struck down by the justices in Washington.