Wisconsin Working Families Party Could Face Legal Challenge for Late Filing

2015 WI law states once $300 is accepted, obligated or disbursed, registration is required

By Chris Johnson, KINGFISHmke and Robert Miranda, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

January 28, 2016

The political season brings with it many opportunities and many challenges.  So when groups show up in the African-American and Latino communities in Milwaukee to announce they’re going to be organizing to run candidates under a “fusion voting” model and seeking political alliances with communities to get candidates they endorse elected, these groups should be vetted, and they should be familiar with state laws regulating their political activities—especially laws that relate to finances being obtained or spent.

Wisconsin State Legislature Chapter 11 Campaign Financing
11.05 Registration of political committees, groups and individuals
Committees and groups. Except as provided in s. 9.10 (2) (d), every committee other than a personal campaign committee which makes or accepts contributions, incurs obligations, or makes disbursements in a calendar year in an aggregate amount in excess of $300, and every political group subject to registration under s. 11.23 shall file a statement with the appropriate filing officer giving the information required by sub. (3). In the case of any committee other than a personal campaign committee, the statement shall be filed by the treasurer. A personal campaign committee shall register under sub. (2g) or (2r).

On July 15, 2015, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced that the Working Families Party was going to start a chapter here in Wisconsin. On July 31st, the Wisconsin Working Families Party (WWFP) announced that Sup. Marina Dimitrijevic was stepping down as Chairwoman of the Milwaukee County Board to become State Director of WiWFP. On October 20, 2015, the WWFP officially opened their headquarters in Milwaukee by throwing a “big party,” which asked party goers to purchase tickets at $50 and $25 or to become a “sustainer” by making donations on a monthly basis to Wisconsin Working Families Party and then they would receive a ticket for “free.”  Donations have been available on the WWFP website in denominations ranging from $3 to unlimited since the website was active. 

With all of the WWFP activity that we know of, it is impossible to believe that during the period from which it was announced that the WWFP, which launched on July 15, 2015, and stayed active through December 31, 2015, did not accept contributions, incur obligations, or make disbursements in an aggregate amount in excess of $300, which requires the WWFP to submit their Campaign Registration Statement in 2015 and file a campaign finance report by January 15, 2016.

The law allows for WWFP to not have to report who their contributors and donors are as an independent expenditure committee, which they did not file until January 20, 2016; however, the law is very clear that WWFP should have reported their expenditures once they received, spent, or incurred obligations of $300 or more.

By not filing their Campaign Registration Statement in 2015 and subsequently their campaign finance report, in particular the 2016 January Continuing Report, they appear to have violated Wisconsin State Election Law, unless they did not “receive, spend, or obligate” $300 or more.

Even if everything the WWFP had received or given away was donated, those donations would be considered as “In-kind” donations and would require WWFP to file their Campaign Registration Statement after the $300 threshold in 2015, thus triggering submissions for a campaign finance report.

WWFP is not being transparent

WWFP made transparency one of their main objectives, especially as they contrasted themselves to Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. However, to date, WWFP has proven to be less transparent than Walker and Abele. At least the Governor and the Milwaukee County Executive filed their campaign finance reports.

At the very least, WWFP appears to be intentionally delaying reporting where their funds have been spent until after this upcoming election cycle, as reports do allow for amendments to correct “mistakes.”

Once again, does this not warrant some kind of investigation?

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on January 28, 2016

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