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Scott Walker campaign tops list of committees failing to report donor employers

Scott Walker's campaign has failed to provide employer information for thousands of campaign donors.

Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign failed to submit required employer information for nearly 6,000 contributors last year — by far the most of any committee and 27 times more than his Democratic opponent, according to the Government Accountability Board.

But the agency hasn’t penalized the campaign or any other committee that failed to report missing information because officials say they have made good-faith efforts to comply with the law.

State law requires campaigns to report the employer of donors who give more than $100 to a campaign committee during a calendar year, although that requirement would be eliminated under a provision in a sweeping campaign finance bill that passed the Assembly, but has stalled in the Senate.

The GAB began annual audits of the employer reporting requirement in 2012 in response to several complaints against committees with missing information, according to GAB ethics division specialist Kyle Kundert.

In 2014, Walker’s campaign didn’t report employer information for 5,906 out of the 21,801 contributors (27 percent) who gave more than $100, according to the GAB audit conducted in June.

The Walker campaign was one of 29 committees that received a GAB warning notice in June because more than 10 percent of donors of more than $100 didn’t have an employer listed.

Of the 29 committees that received warnings, 15 were affiliated with Democrats, 11 were affiliated with Republicans, one was for the state Libertarian Party and two were for corporate PACs.

All of the campaigns that received warning notices submitted additional information and are now below the 10 percent threshold, Kundert said. The Walker campaign has submitted about 4,800 corrections, and is expected to fall below the threshold once the information is updated in the state’s campaign finance database, Kundert added.

Of the roughly 1,500 committees required to submit reports, 188 had missing employer information for at least one donor who gave more than $100.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s campaign had the second-highest number of donors with missing employer information last year with 217, or 2.6 percent of donors who gave more than $100. But it did not receive a warning notice because it did not meet the 10 percent threshold, Kundert said.

In 2013, there were 66 committees with missing employer information and six received warning letters. In 2012, there were 184 committees with missing employer information and 17 received warning letters.

The Walker campaign had the most missing employer information in both years, according to GAB data. In 2013, when he wasn’t running for office, Walker had 155 donors with missing employer information, or 2.25 percent of his donors who gave more than $100 that year.

In 2012, Walker had 5,467 donors with missing employer information (25.5 percent), compared with 247 (4.6 percent) for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom he defeated in the recall election.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the agency has never sought a financial penalty against a committee for failing to report employer information.

“The (Walker campaign) committee is regularly filing amended reports, and we believe they are making a good-faith effort to comply with the law,” Magney said.

Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said the campaign is constantly gathering information from donors and is engaged with the GAB to ensure compliance.

“Our campaign will always do whatever is necessary to comply with state law,” Evenson said.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Matthew Rothschild said the significant difference in compliance between the Walker and Burke campaigns last year “raises eyebrows,” but he’s not surprised the agency hasn’t penalized the Walker campaign because it typically works with committees first to encourage compliance.

“Certainly it shows that it wasn’t out to get the Walker campaign,” Rothschild said.

Republicans have said the employer reporting provision should be eliminated because it could result in a public backlash against an employer. Democrats and other critics of the change have said it helps police employers who illegally funnel donations through employees.

Under the bill, donors who give more than $200 would be required to report their occupation, but not their employer.

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Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.