Thursday, September 07, 2006

State Elections Board Decision About Use of Funds, Not Conversion

The GOP is trying desperately to convince the world that the state Elections Board retroactively applied a law to the Green Team in its recent ruling that the Green campaign must divest itself of $460K in unregistered PAC money.

This PR storm even convinced me on this blog to express my distaste for applying a law to a campaign that wasn't actually a law at the time the incident took place. I still feel that way.

But reading the recent motion by the Elections Board demanding that Green divest the money within 10 days sheds some new light on the situation -- at least for me.

The GOP argument hinges on the assertion that the actual conversion of funds from Green's federal campaign coffers to his state campaign coffers is what's at issue. This, however, doesn't appear to be the case.

As the Elections Board motion makes clear, the issue is over the use of those funds, not merely the conversion of them. ElBd 1.395 states (emphasis mine):

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Funds which have been converted by a federal campaign committee to a Wisconsin state campaign committee may not be used for political purposes in Wisconsin if the contribution of those funds to the federal campaign committee would not have complied with Wisconsin law if the contribution had been made directly to a Wisconsin campaign committee. The state campaign committee shall divest itself of such money in compliance with s.11.26 (11), Stats.

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So regardless of the fact that Green converted the money one day before ElBd 1.395 was enacted, the real issue is that he used the funds after the ruling. In fact, the ruling takes into account funds that have already been converted, and it states very clearly that those are restricted, too.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer, so this could be read differently when it gets into the courts.

But the actual language of the ruling is important because, if read directly, it demonstrates that when the conversion of funds took place is irrelevant when it comes to the application of ElBd 1.395, which negates the "retroactive is wrong" argument being pushed by the GOP.

This helps explain why Jacob Burns, the Libertarian member of the Elections Board, asserted that the vote against Green was not partisan, but rather "a matter of obvious law."

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