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Govt. Accountability Board changes rules on issue ads

An attorney for groups that put out issue ads at election time says he'll sue the state to prevent having to say who pays for those ads.

The state's Government Accountability Board voted unanimously Tuesday to require those who take out issue ads to say who pays for them.

But Madison attorney Mike Wittenwyler calls it unconstitutional attack on free speech.

The ads praise or attack candidates' stands on issues, but stop short of telling people how to vote.

They do not have to follow the same disclosure laws as candidates who put out their own ads.

Tuesday's board action is the first step toward making issue-ad buyers register with the state and not use corporate money in those announcements.

Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign calls it a victory for the public's right to know.

The accountability board is made up of six retired judges.

R.J. Johnson of the Coalition for America's Families calls it a dangerous trend for members of the judiciary to "create law out of whole cloth." He says it should worry defenders of the First Amendment.

Johnson's group is the same one that had campaign ads taken off the air for two days in western Wisconsin earlier this month.

That was after a state Assembly candidate told a judge they misrepresented his views on tax-funded health care.