So who's rewriting history?
This Elections Board stuff can be confusing.
Congressman Mark Green's campaign, incensed that the board told him this week to follow state law, keeps complaining that then-Congressman Tom Barrett was allowed to transfer his federal money, and Democrats thought that was fine, the Greenies say.
Actually, a check of the record shows:
(1) that George Dunst, the board attorney Green's people now cite as the authoritative source (because he seems to agree with them), said in 2000 exactly what the Elections Board said to Green this week:
You can transfer the money, but it has to comply with state law, and that means the PACs have to be registered in Wisconsin.
(2) that the Doyle campaign, including yours truly, took the same position about Barrett's money as it has taken about Green's money.
Here's the Journal Sentinel report from Nov. 30, 2000. I'll note the pertinent parts for you.
U.S. campaign fund use allowed in state racesIt appears that no one worried about what Barrett's lawyer called "minor details," and followed up to require that the PACs either were registered in Wisconsin or the money was returned. It appears that Barrett transferred the money anyway, with no enforcement action against him.
Elections Board ruling could be a boost for Barrett
Madison - Politicians may use their federal campaign war chests to run for state office, the state Elections Board ruled Wednesday.
But George Dunst, board legal counsel, warned that he believed candidates using the money would have to follow state law in moving the funds from federal to state campaigns.
The ruling reiterated a 1977 opinion that approved converting federal campaign funds for use in a state campaign.
Two Democrats - Attorney General James Doyle and U.S. Rep. Tom Barrett - wrestled over the issue in advance of the 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Doyle has announced that he will run for governor, and Barrett is considering it.
Doyle's forces questioned whether federal funds should be used for a state campaign, in part hoping to blunt Barrett's ability to use more than $691,000 that was in his federal account as of mid-October.
Bill Christofferson, a Doyle strategist, opposed the wholesale movement of campaign funds, questioning whether the money could be raised under federal law and spent under state law.
Susan Goodwin, another Doyle adviser, told the board that allowing unrestricted movement of the funds would be a "gigantic loophole around state election laws."
She said it runs contrary to state election laws that require full disclosure of contributions from political action committees, some of which might be registered on the federal level but not with the state.
"It allows special-interest money raised in Washington to be transferred to a state race," said Goodwin, whose candidate had $471,892 in the bank on the last reporting date in late July.
But Dunst said the movement of PAC money from federal to state campaign coffers, in his opinion, would require the PACs to be registered in Wisconsin.
Goodwin said the board at least clarified how the funds may be used.
"They seem to be clear that federal money can be transferred in, and any money that is transferred must conform to state law," Goodwin said. "We think the state has good laws that should be applied to state races."
Gregory Everts, an attorney for Barrett, said he was pleased with the ruling.
"We got what we wanted, an affirmation of existing law that's been in effect for 23 years," Everts said.
But Christofferson said that Barrett's ability to convert his federal funds for use in a state campaign could be hampered, if PACs that donated to Barrett choose not to register and report their contributors in Wisconsin.
"I don't believe these PACs are going to want to do that. They'll have to file reports under Wisconsin law, and I'm not sure they'll want to do that so Tom Barrett can convert some money," Christofferson said.
Everts minimized the effect of PAC registration.
"The main finding is that conversion is allowed," Everts said. "I'm not going to worry about minor details."
The decision could affect other federal officeholders of either major party who aim for state office. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.), for example, has been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate.
Board member Don Millis tried to put in writing limits on campaign fund transfers, but a majority of the board decided to let the 1977 ruling stand and decide challenges and related issues as they arise.
That does not change the law.
What has changed is the membership on the Elections Board, which has taken a tougher posture.
Green screams politics, but it's not unusual at all for a public body to change its stance over a five-year period.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court has been known to reverse itself on occasion.
And George Dunst certainly has. Basing their refusal to comply with the law and the board's order on an advisory memo from Dunst means the Greenies are clutching at a very frail reed.