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Wis. Campaign-Funding Limits Struck Down

MILWUAKEE (CN) - Striking down several Wisconsin campaign-finance laws as unconstitutional, a federal judge found that corporations can discuss candidates as long as they do not expressly tell citizens how to vote.

U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert Jr. granted permanent injunctions to Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. and the Wisconsin Right to Life State Political Action Committee, and required the state to post links to his ruling on the website of its Government Accountability Board (GAB).

Language in the laws that the plaintiffs challenged, including the phrase "to influence elections," is unconstitutionally vague, according to the ruling.

Relying heavily on the 1976 Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo, Judge Clevert determined that the accountability board can enforce its campaign-finance laws only when corporations are involved in "express advocacy" - or telling people how to vote.

"Buckley holds that government may trigger political-committee or political-committee-like burdens only for 'organizations' that (a) are 'under the control of a candidate' or candidates in their capacities as candidates, or (b) have the 'the [sic] major purpose' of express advocacy under Buckley," the ruling states

Judge Clevert also struck down the state's campaign law limiting what organizations like Wisconsin Right to Life can spend to solicit contributions to their PACs.

The ruling comes on remand from the 7th Circuit, which swatted down the state's campaign-finance laws in May.

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