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Questions Raised About Hudson Lawmaker Rep. Dean Knudson Starting PAC

Knudson Transferred $21,000 From Campaign Account To Wisconsin Liberty Fund

Wisconsin state Capitol
Rob Chandanals (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A group that tracks campaign spending has filed a complaint against a state lawmaker who set up his own political action committee, saying that if a legislator is allowed to run his own PAC, it would “make a mockery” of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.

Hudson Republican Rep. Dean Knudson is retiring from the Legislature. He says he set up the Wisconsin Liberty Fund PAC to roll over his unused campaign funds and intends to use the PAC to campaign for free markets, limited government and individual freedoms.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, contending that the PAC sets a bad precedent.

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“If this one is allowed to stand, what’s to prevent the next person who actually isn’t retiring but is running for re-election from setting up their own PAC and fundraising through the PAC to get around (limits on) campaign contributions,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Matt Rothschild.

Knudson says his PAC is clearly allowed under state law, noting that his original campaign account is now empty and he’s in the process of shutting it down.

“There’s no violation of law, there’s nothing in law that prevents this, it’s all completely legal and transparent,” Knudson said. “And so I think you’re just seeing partisan games being played.”

Knudson transferred nearly $21,000 into the Wisconsin Liberty Fund PAC from his campaign account.

The complaint references debate on the floor of the state Senate from last November when the Legislature voted to overhaul Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. At the time, the prospect of legislators running their own PACs was discussed and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said it would be prohibited.

“You cannot set up a separate committee and then say ‘I’m going to raise money into that pot as well,’” Fitzgerald said at the time.

Republicans defeated an amendment by Democrats that would have specifically banned legislators from running their own PACs.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with original reporting from WPR.