Referendum to limit political contributions
Question on Fremont ballot
By Angie Landsverk
There are no contested races in the village of Fremont this spring, but voters will see a referendum on the April 4 ballot.
Village voters will be asked if they are in favor of candidates for village offices being able to accept donations only from their constituents – the village residents they represent.
If the voters approve the referendum, candidates for village offices will not be able to accept contributions from political parties, lobbyists and political action committees.
When the Fremont Village Board met on Jan. 10, it unanimously voted to place the referendum on the spring ballot.
The village received a Petition for Direct Legislation from Dmitri Martin.
Wisconsin’s Direct Legislation Statute allows voters to require a common council or village board to pass a proposed ordinance or resolution or put it before the public for a popular vote.
Martin and his campaign volunteers circulated these petitions in area communities last year as they went door to door to promote Martin’s candidacy for Wisconsin’s 40th Assembly District.
The Democratic candidate ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Kevin Petersen in the Nov. 8 election.
Martin supports campaign finance reform, and petitions for direct legislation related to this topic are being submitted in local municipalities.
Attached to Martin’s petition was a proposed ordinance.
Dawn Krause, Fremont’s village clerk, said the petition calls for adopting the following ordinance:
1. Contribution Limits. All candidates running for elected Village office may only accept campaign contributions from the people that are eligible to vote for them in the district of the Village office for which they are seeking election.
2. Definition Of Contribution. Contributions include in-kind and money in all forms including (but not limited to) cash, check and digital payments.
3. Definition Of People. People means living human beings in the first order and not derivatives or groups. People are not to be construed to include political action committees, corporations, candidate committees or political party committees.
The state’s Direct Legislation Statute requires a petition to have the signatures of city or village electors equal to at least 15 percent of the votes cast for governor during the last general election.
The petition is then filed with the clerk, requesting the attached proposed ordinance or resolution (without alteration) either be adopted by the local governing body or be referred to a vote of the electors.
Once a clerk certifies a petition, the common council or village board must pass it within 30 days of the date of the clerk’s final certificate or submit it to the voters at the next spring or general election.
Krause said 58 signatures were deemed acceptable, which exceeded the 50 signatures needed per the state statute.
At the recommendation of Village Attorney Erik Forsgren, the village board voted to put it before the voters as a referendum, she said.
Under the Direct Legislation Statute, when a majority of electors vote in favor of adopting a proposed ordinance or resolution, it then takes effect when it is published.
Publication must occur within 10 days after the election.
Voters in the village of Iola will also see this as a referendum question on their spring ballot.