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Audit: 14 Percent Of Lobbyists May Be Engaging In Unauthorized Lobbying

Report: 78 Of 539 Wisconsin Lobbyists Licensed In First Half Of 2017 May Be Unauthorized

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Wisconsin state Capitol
Justin Kern (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Roughly 14 percent of Wisconsin lobbyists were working without authorization early last year, according to a new audit from Wisconsin’s Ethics Commission.

According to the Ethics Commission, it conducted the audit to be proactive about the state’s record keeping systems, but staff said they discovered unauthorized lobbying was a bigger issue than expected.

Out of 539 lobbyists registered in the first half of 2017, seventy-eight of them were unauthorized.

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Mike Wittenwyler, an attorney for the Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists, told the Ethics Commission on Thursday that this was likely due to confusion and that they didn’t intend to mislead the state.

“I’ve heard this described as stealth lobbying, I’ve heard this described as some kind of intentional, nefarious activity,” Witttenwyler said. “And I just personally don’t see it that way because the vast majority of lobbyists out there are trying to comply.”

The Ethics Commission hasn’t said yet whether it will seek fines from lobbyists who worked without authorization.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, with original reporting by WPR.

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