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Wisconsin agencies would be barred from business with Chinese government under GOP proposal

Institutions including the Universities of Wisconsin would also be barred from contracting with state-operated companies from Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela

guy on computer
powtac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Wisconsin state agencies — including the Universities of Wisconsin — would be barred from doing business with certain government-run companies under a GOP bill circulating in the Capitol.

The bill would bar the state from contracting with state-operated companies from China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela and is aimed at enhancing information security, said the bill’s co-author, Rep. Alex Dallman, R-Green Lake.

“This bill has been put out there to try to protect the state of Wisconsin from infiltration or technology being stolen, or research or financial data being stolen from countries of concern,” he said.

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Under the proposal, Wisconsin state entities could not contract with businesses run by governments of those countries, or “organized under the laws or rules” of those governments. The focus is particularly on purchasing certain technologies that could be used to steal data, said Dallman.

For example, he said, the federal Department of Defense has deemed products by Lenovo and Lexmark — China-based companies best known for manufacturing computers and printers — to have cybersecurity vulnerabilities. But several Wisconsin state agencies have purchased technology from those companies, he said.

“This is just trying to let Wisconsin bring up our security standards and make sure that our technology and our equipment is safe,” said Dallman.

A prohibited entity that does enter into a contract with Wisconsin could face steep fines tied to the value of the contract, and could be prohibited from working with the state for five years. The person or entity could also be liable to court action.

Several other states including Idaho, Arkansas and Indiana have similar laws in place.