September 21, 2020

Volume X, Number 265

September 18, 2020

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Campaign Contribution Limits for Local Candidates in Wisconsin

The 2017 Wisconsin spring primary will be held on Feb. 21 and the spring election on April 4. Judges, school board members and municipal and non-partisan county officers are elected in the spring election. For information about specific offices or candidates to appear on the spring ballot in a particular community, contact the local clerk or election commission.

All state and local candidates in Wisconsin must abide by source restrictions and contribution limits, in addition to registration, reporting and other regulatory requirements. Corporations, cooperatives, labor organizations, federally-recognized Indian tribes and independent expenditure committees may not contribute to candidates. A political party may make unlimited contributions to candidates for state or local office, but contributions from individuals (which includes sole proprietorships, partnerships and some limited liability companies), candidate committees and political actions committees (PACs) are limited. Contributions include in-kind contributions i.e., personal property or services provided to a candidate committee at no charge or at a discounted rate. 

Contribution limits were increased in 2016 when the state legislature rewrote Wisconsin’s campaign finance law. Limits for candidates for state office, district attorney and circuit court judge are set in statute while limits for all other local offices are calculated using a statutory formula. For those local offices, the limits are calculated as follows:

  • Contributions from individuals and candidate committees:

  • 2¢ multiplied by the population of the municipality, county or district or $500, whichever is greater. However, the limit is capped at $6,000.

  • Contributions from PACs:

  • 2¢ multiplied by the population of the municipality, county or district or $400, whichever is greater. However, the limit is capped at $5,000.

The applicable limit applies during the term of office, which may be either a two or four-year term. For a candidate running for re-election, the term begins on the day he or she took office and ends on the day before the next term begins. For a candidate who does not hold elective office, the term begins on the day he or she becomes a candidate and ends on the day before the term begins for the office he or she is seeking. In general, an individual becomes a candidate when he or she files nomination papers, receives contributions or makes expenditures to further his or her candidacy or is nominated by a caucus or political party.

Following are the current contribution limits for candidates for local office in the cities of Madison and Milwaukee and in Dane and Milwaukee counties.

CITY OF MADISON

Office

Individual

Candidate Committee

PAC

Alder

$500 

$500 

$400 

Municipal Judge

$4,664 

$4,664 

$4,664 

Mayor

$4,664 

$4,664 

$4,664 

MMSD School Board

$4,526 

$4,526 

$4,526 

CITY OF MILWAUKEE

Office

Individual

Candidate Committee

PAC

City-wide Offices

$6,000 

$6,000 

$6,000 

Alder District 1

$770 

$770 

$770 

Alder District 2

$834 

$834 

$834 

Alder District 3

$790 

$790 

$790 

Alder District 4

$772 

$772 

$772 

Alder District 5

$779 

$779 

$779 

Alder District 6

$790 

$790 

$790 

Alder District 7

$801 

$801 

$801 

Alder District 8

$792 

$792 

$792 

Alder District 9

$775 

$775 

$775 

Alder District 10

$789 

$789 

$789 

Alder District 11

$816 

$816 

$816 

Alder District 12

$826 

$826 

$826 

Alder District 13

$794 

$794 

$794 

Alder District 14

$787 

$787 

$787 

Alder District 15

$782 

$782 

$782 

School Board District 1

$1,461 

$1,461 

$1,461 

School Board District 2

$1,481 

$1,481 

$1,481 

School Board District 3

$1,460 

$1,460 

$1,460 

School Board District 4

$1,461 

$1,461 

$1,461 

School Board District 5

$1,599 

$1,599 

$1,599 

School Board District 6

$1,404 

$1,404 

$1,404 

School Board District 7

$1,484 

$1,484 

$1,484 

School Board District 8

$1,482 

$1,482 

$1,482 

DANE COUNTY

Office

Individual

Candidate Committee

PAC

County Supervisor

$500 

$500 

$400 

County Executive & Constitutional Officers

$6,000 

$6,000 

$5,000 

Circuit Court Judge

$6,000 

$6,000 

$6,000 

District Attorney

$6,000 

$6,000 

$6,000 

MILWAUKEE COUNTY

Office

Individual

Candidate Committee

PAC

County Executive, County Comptroller & Constitutional Officers

$6,000 

$5,000*

$5,000 

Circuit Court Judge

$6,000 

$6,000 

$6,000 

District Attorney

$6,000 

$6,000 

$6,000 

County Supervisor District 1

$1,038.82 

$1,038.82 

$1,038.82 

County Supervisor District 2

$1,047.90 

$1,047.90 

$1,047.90 

County Supervisor District 3

$1,055.34 

$1,055.34 

$1,055.34 

County Supervisor District 4

$1,059.90 

$1,059.90 

$1,059.90 

County Supervisor District 5

$1,048.68 

$1,048.68 

$1,048.68 

County Supervisor District 6

$1,045.74 

$1,045.74 

$1,045.74 

County Supervisor District 7

$1,031.78 

$1,031.78 

$1,031.78 

County Supervisor District 8

$1,050.56 

$1,050.56 

$1,050.56 

County Supervisor District 9

$1,087.78 

$1,087.78 

$1,087.78 

County Supervisor District 10

$1,050.42 

$1,050.42 

$1,050.42 

County Supervisor District 11

$1,078.28 

$1,078.28 

$1,078.28 

County Supervisor District 12

$1,015.50 

$1,015.50 

$1,015.50 

County Supervisor District 13

$1,029.70 

$1,029.70 

$1,029.70 

County Supervisor District 14

$1,052.22 

$1,052.22 

$1,052.22 

County Supervisor District 15

$1,069.10 

$1,069.10 

$1,069.10 

County Supervisor District 16

$1,073.74 

$1,073.74 

$1,073.74 

County Supervisor District 17

$1,073.90 

$1,073.90 

$1,073.90 

County Supervisor District 18

$1,045.26 

$1,045.26 

$1,045.26 

*The Milwaukee County Election Commission website indicates that the limit on contributions from candidate committees is $5,000. This is in conflict state statutes which place the cap at $6,000. Nonetheless, a candidate committee should consult the Election Commission before accepting a contribution from a candidate committee in excess of $5,000.

Copyright © 2020 Godfrey & Kahn S.C.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 51

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About this Author

Jodi Jensen, Administrative Attorney, Godfrey & Kahn Law Firm
Associate

Jodi Jensen is an administrative and regulatory attorney and a member of the firm’s Political Law Practice Group. Each day, Jodi helps clients navigate and comply with campaign finance, ethics and lobbying laws. She also guides clients through the administrative rulemaking process, advises bidders seeking government contracts during the procurement process, provides associations and businesses with research and analysis related to a variety of public policy issues and represents clients in administrative and regulatory matters before state agencies, boards and...

608-284-2263
Mike Wittenwyler Administrative and regulatory lawyer Godfrey Kahn
Shareholder

Mike Wittenwyler is an administrative and regulatory attorney at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., and the lead attorney in the firm's Political Law Group. Splitting his time between Madison, Wisconsin and Washington D.C., he advises businesses, trade associations and other organizations on their interactions with government - local, state and federal.

Mike works with clients each day on campaign finance, election law, ethics and lobbying regulation, and the tax regulation of political and lobbying activities. He performs legislative planning, analysis and drafting for business and industry groups. His work on administrative and regulatory matters includes responding to agency investigations and enforcement actions as well as the review of and challenge to agency actions. He often participates in litigation on these matters on behalf of coalitions of individuals, businesses and trade associations. Many of Mike's clients are tax exempt organizations and he specializes in the tax regulation of lobbying and political activities as well as other tax-exempt legal matters.

Through his work, Mike has a comprehensive understanding of the regulation of alcoholic beverages under Wisconsin law. He is a member of the National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Attorneys and currently serves on the Wisconsin Legislative Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement. He works with businesses in all three-tiers of the alcohol beverage industry – suppliers, wholesalers and retailers.  He serves as counsel to both the Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association.

Many of the matters Mike works on are controversial, high-profile and involve the courtroom of public opinion.  He is skilled at explaining legal issues in compelling but accessible language and frequently interacts with the media.

608-284-2616