Data Explanation for Wisconsin

Data Acquisition

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) provides access to campaign finance reports through their website. There are four search interfaces:

  • Filed Reports – Search for reports and view them in PDF format here.
  • Receipts – Search for transactions where money was received by a filer.
  • Expenses – Search for transactions where money was spent by a filer.
  • Registrants – Search for registered filing committees.

All of these interfaces allow users to either page through the search results 25 records at a time, or export the results to files with 65,000 records at a time.

Transparency USA uses all four of these interfaces to export all available WEC data. The search interfaces do not show when a complete new data set is available, so Transparency USA regularly searches and scrapes the available reports after each reporting deadline.

Reported Data

Schedules 1A, 1B, and 1C – Contributions

Contributions are reported to the WEC in three distinct schedules:

  1. Contributions (Including Loans) from Individuals
  2. Contributions from Committees (Transfers-In)
  3. Other Income and Commercial Loans

Even though organizations report these three categories of income separately, Wisconsin’s transaction search does not distinguish among them.

When possible, Transparency USA prefers to display the kind of data reported in Schedules 1A and 1B as contributions, and to categorize loan reports and non-contribution income separately. Because the WEC receipt search shows no distinction for Schedule 1C data, Transparency USA displays all three categories as contributions for Wisconsin.

Schedule 2A and 2B – Disbursements

Disbursements are reported in two distinct schedules:

  1. Gross Expenditures
  2. Contributions to Committees

Similar to schedules 1A and 1B, Transparency USA does not distinguish between these two categories, and reports them all as expenditures.

Schedule 3A and 3B – Additional Disclosures

Additional disclosures are reported in two distinct schedules:

  1. Incurred Obligations Excluding Loans
  2. Loans – Individual, Committee, or Commercial

Wisconsin doesn’t appear to make transactions included  on Schedules 3A and 3B  available for download, so Transparency USA does not import or display this data.

Even if we could acquire and import this loan data, doing so could result in double-counting dollars from loans since loans are also reported as income on schedule 1A. The consequence is that Transparency USA must report loans as contributions with no way to identify them as loans.

PACs and Advocacy Organizations

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission requires “unregistered expenditure advocacy organizations” to report expenditures. These organizations are not political action committees and are not subject to the same requirement to disclose their donors.

At this time, Transparency USA does not have a separate category in the database for non-PAC organizations. In order to include these expenditures in the overall data set, they are included in the PAC category, but are labeled with a banner identifying them as “unregistered expenditure advocacy organizations” on their page.

Party Information

Transparency USA displays the current party affiliation for active candidates and officeholders. The party information displayed may not be accurate:

  • For candidates who are not actively running for or serving in state-level office
  • When accessing candidate or officeholder data from previous election cycles

Party affiliation for active candidates and officeholders is provided by Ballotpedia.