I just got off the phone with Mike McCabe, the executive director of the the lawsuit One Wisconsin Now and the Club for Growth have filed against the Government Accountability Board over a new financial disclosure rule.
McCabe says he is not surprised that attorney Mike Wittenwyler, one of the leading Wisconsin representatives of political groups on both sides of the ideological spectrum, has sought out two very distinct plaintiffs for the suit. But he can't figure out what Ross' group is doing by joining in.
In particular, he refuted a series of specific charges Ross made earlier, including Ross' allegation that groups like the League of Women Voters and the Democracy Campaign would be subject to the same rules because they mention candidates in their emails and press releases.
Since WDC and the League of Women Voters are organized under Section 501 c3 of the IRS code, they are forbidden from "electioneering" in any capacity. According to McCabe, the information the League puts out on candidates does not meet the definition of "electioneering" that Chief Justice John Roberts laid out in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC.
Roberts expanded upon the previous definition, in which ads were deemed non-political as long as they did not use a series of "magic words," such as "vote for" or "vote against." The current definition includes any paid communication that could "not reasonably" be interpreted to be anything but advocacy for or against a candidate.
Although McCabe noted that One Wisconsin Now "has shown more and more interest in skirting campaign finance laws," by running youtube videos against Scott Walker, he also believes that most of what the organization does is not deemed electioneering and will not be subject to financial disclosure.
For instance, posting on a website is not electioneering because the author has not paid for an audience the audience has to come to the author. Herein lies the distinction between blog posts and TV ads.
Finally, McCabe emphasized that in no way does the rule restrict free speech. He compared it to existing lobbying restrictions which require those who contact legislators on multiple occasions to register and report the liaison for the sake of transparency.
"They're obviously scared of something," he said in reference to the various political interests opposing the disclosure rules.
He said Wisconsin should seek to emulate Minnesota, where recently imposed strict disclosure rules outed Target as a major donor to a Republican political campaign. Since then LGBT rights supporters have called for boycotts of the retailer because of the strong anti-gay positions the candidate has taken.