WisGOP: Responds to Barnes Complaint Over Illegal Campaign Donations


[Appleton, WI] – In response to a complaint filed by RPW with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission showing that Mandela Barnes and Brad Pfaff accepted illegal campaign donations, the Barnes campaign tried to say that federal law allowed them. Instead of simply returning the illegal donations, Barnes says he (and Pfaff) are not bound by state ethics law, even if the donations were made while the legislature was in session, a violation. clear of state law.

To prevent state officials from “paying to play,” state law prohibits lobbyists from making contributions to state office holders outside of a designated window, which the state office holder whether or not the state is running for federal office. In general, lobbyists are permitted to make donations to public office holders from the start of the circulation of candidacy materials until Election Day, regardless of the level of office they seek next. State law does not prohibit federal campaign contributions, so there is no conflict with federal law, but contributions must be made during this window.

  • There is a WINDOW between the circulation of nomination papers and Election Day when lobbyist donations are permitted.
  • The window applies to all levels of campaign committees, including at the federal level, for incumbent, elected and partisan state office holders.
  • The donations of the lobbyists in question are indisputably illegal under state law (13,625).
  • Barnes and Pfaff accepted the illegally made donations and will not return them.

Wisconsin Republican Party complaints filed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission call on the Commission to take decisive action to defend Wisconsin’s anti-corruption laws and call on Mandela Barnes and Brad Pfaff to divest themselves of their campaign illegal donations or the Ethics Commission to refer charges to the appropriate court system.

“Mandela Barnes and Brad Pfaff may think Wisconsin’s anti-corruption laws don’t apply to them, but Wisconsin’s statutes, state code of ethics and ethics committee advice are clear. . Barnes and Pfaff are flouting the law and refusing to comply,” said Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “It’s high time for Mandela Barnes and Brad Pfaff to make their contributions illegal and start playing by the rules like everyone else.”

# # #Background (emphasis added):

  • WisconsinStat. § 13.625 (1m) — Regulation of lobbying, prohibited practices
  • Wisconsin Ethics Commission Guideline—ETH-1250 Contributions and Activities of Lobbyists and Lobbying Officials
  • There are no restrictions on when lobbyists can make personal contributions to the candidate and/or a candidate’s committee of candidates at a local or state nonpartisan office, a partisan county-level office, a district attorney or national office if and only if the nominee is not a current partisan elected public office holder. WIS. STAT. §§ 5.02(9), 5.02(12), 13.62(11p), 13.625(1m)(b).

Wisconsin Ethics Commission Notice – 2020 ETH 04 Lobbying – Contributions to State Supporting Elected Officials

  • The Commission is of the view that a lobbyist may contribute to elected government officials and candidates for elected government office during the period in which the “contribution window” is open, whether the whether or not individual is on the ballot for that position. election. Accordingly, all of the following lobbyist contributions to partisan elective state officials and candidates for partisan state elective office are permitted under applicable law:
  • 1. To the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, or Attorney General or the nominating committee of a candidate for any of these positions during the contribution window that opens before a general election, that whether or not he is on the ballot.
  • 3. To the federal campaign committee of a partisan elective state official during the contributing window that opens for a general or special election, whether the federal election or partisan official is on the ballot.

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