At issue is an emergency rule the State Elections Board promulgated in January 2005 prohibiting the transfers of money from a federal campaign to a state campaign. The a committee of the state legislature then suspended the rule, introduced legislation that contradicts the rule and then failed to get that legislation passed by the time the legislative term ended in July of this year. The question then becomes what is the effective date of the rule prohibiting the conversion of federal funds to a state campaign.
The State Elections Board said February 2005 is the answer and the result is that only one candidate in Wicsonsin, Mark Green, who is leading in the race, is affected. The Elections Board own attorney, George Dunst argued that such an application is fundamentally unfair, but admitted he lacked any precedent or authority to justify his feeling.
Green's campaign manager, Mark Graul, had this to say about the ruling:
Today's decision is emblematic of the corruption that has invaded state government under Jim Doyle. Under Jim Doyle government decisions are made to benefit his campaign interests - while the taxpayers get the short end of the stick.Meanwhile, the ruling appears to fly in the face of previous Board precedent. This from the Wisconsin GOP: In 2002, the State Elections Board unanimously allowed Democrat Tom Barrett to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in PAC money to his state account. The fact that they have singled out Mark Green and not demanded that Tom Barrett return his cash shows how vindictive Doyle's appointees to the Elections Board has become.
Jim Doyle's allies on the State Election Board defied their own attorney's legal advice, state law and basic principles of fairness in their effort to help the struggling campaign of Governor Doyle. The Election's Board action is literally trying to change 25 years of rules two months before Election Day - to affect only Mark Green.
Mark Green has followed the letter of the law that has been in place since 1977.
Wisconsin Senator Mike Ellis (R)issued this statement:
"Mark Green did nothing wrong," Ellis said. "He was treated unfairly by a partisan decision in the middle of a partisan election."The decision is likely to be appealed by Green.
"The fact is, Mark Green conducted all his affairs legally according to the relevant laws that were in effect at the time," said Ellis. "The Board’s own legal analysis prepared by its nonpartisan legal counsel says as much. Instead, acting along partisan lines, the Board in effect overruled its own counsel to make this decision."
This incident clearly illustrates the current trend of using campaign finance complaints and regulatory agencies for offensive purposes. Green's campaign is now tainted with the idea that he somehow violated the law, when in fact he did not. In order to clear the matter up, Green will have to spend time and money on a legal challenge to a ruling that is essentially an ex post facto law that applies only to him.
I am not fully familiar with Wisconsin campaign finance law, but the quick research I have done on the matter points to a very timely reversal for Gov. Jim Doyle. Previous federal candidates had been allowed to convert their funds as Green had done. Nor were the funds Green converted, particularly the PAC funds at issue (which are limited under Wisconsin law), in violation of the law according to Elections Board counsel George Dunst. Dunst, clearly outlines the problem in his brief to the Board:
The legislature, by not acting on the suspended rule, has done both campaigns a disservice. By not repealing the rule, the legislature effectively lent its imprimatur to a rule that says that Congressman Green should not have had the benefit of contributions he could not have taken under Wisconsin law (estimated to be in the $400,000 - $500,000 range), thereby casting an onus on the Congressman’s expenditure of that money; while at the same time, by its inaction, the legislature countenanced the expenditure of that very same money during the period of suspension thereby denying Governor Doyle’s campaign the benefit of the rule that the legislature’s inaction allowed to go into effect.The fact that the State Board of Elections wished to change the law is, of itself, not a problem, but changing the rules this close to the election, after the money has been spent and the previous law on the books followed, smacks not of good regulation, but of politics.
Given that the ruling occured yesterday, it seems likely that a petition for an injunction will be filed today.
Ann Althouse notes the furious spinning by both camps.
Lots of Links to various statements here.
Press coverage here, here, here, and lots more here.
Teegan Goddard and RedState also weigh in.