The legislature hereby reaffirms that a state public official holds his or her position as a public trust, and any effort to realize substantial personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust. This subchapter does not prevent any state public official from accepting other employment or following any pursuit which in no way interferes with the full and faithful discharge of his or her duties to this state. The legislature further recognizes that in a representative democracy, the representatives are drawn from society and, therefore, cannot and should not be without all personal and economic interest in the decisions and policies of government; that citizens who serve as state public officials retain their rights as citizens to interests of a personal or economic nature; that standards of ethical conduct for state public officials need to distinguish between those minor and inconsequential conflicts that are unavoidable in a free society, and those conflicts which are substantial and material; and that state public officials may need to engage in employment, professional or business activities, other than official duties, in order to support themselves or their families and to maintain a continuity of professional or business activity, or may need to maintain investments, which activities or investments do not conflict with the specific provisions of this subchapter.
No state public official may use his or her public position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for the private benefit of himself or herself or his or her immediate family, or for an organization with which he or she is associated. This subsection does not prohibit a state public official from using the title or prestige of his or her office to obtain contributions permitted and reported as required by ch. 11
No person may offer or give to a state public official, directly or indirectly, and no state public official may solicit or accept from any person, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the state public official's vote, official actions or judgment, or could reasonably be considered as a reward for any official action or inaction on the part of the state public official. This subsection does not prohibit a state public official from engaging in outside employment.
No state public official may accept or retain any transportation, lodging, meals, food or beverage, or reimbursement therefor, except in accordance with ss. 13.625 (4m)
and 19.56 (3)
No state public official may intentionally use or disclose information gained in the course of or by reason of his or her official position or activities in any way that could result in the receipt of anything of value for himself or herself, for his or her immediate family, or for any other person, if the information has not been communicated to the public or is not public information.
No state public official may use or attempt to use the public position held by the public official to influence or gain unlawful benefits, advantages or privileges personally or for others.
No state public official, member of a state public official's immediate family, nor any organization with which the state public official or a member of the official's immediate family owns or controls at least 10 percent of the outstanding equity, voting rights, or outstanding indebtedness may enter into any contract or lease involving a payment or payments of more than $3,000 within a 12-month period, in whole or in part derived from state funds, unless the state public official has first made written disclosure of the nature and extent of such relationship or interest to the commission and to the department acting for the state in regard to such contract or lease. Any contract or lease entered into in violation of this subsection may be voided by the state in an action commenced within 3 years of the date on which the commission, or the department or officer acting for the state in regard to the allocation of state funds from which such payment is derived, knew or should have known that a violation of this subsection had occurred. This subsection does not affect the application of s. 946.13
No state public official who is identified in s. 20.923
may represent a person for compensation before a department or any employee thereof, except:
In a contested case which involves a party other than the state with interests adverse to those represented by the state public official; or
At an open hearing at which a stenographic or other record is maintained; or
In a matter that involves only ministerial action by the department; or
In a matter before the department of revenue or tax appeals commission that involves the representation of a client in connection with a tax matter.
This subsection does not apply to representation by a state public official acting in his or her official capacity.
Except in the case where the state public office formerly held was that of legislator, legislative employee under s. 20.923 (6) (bp)
, chief clerk of a house of the legislature, sergeant at arms of a house of the legislature or a permanent employee occupying the position of auditor for the legislative audit bureau:
No former state public official, for 12 months following the date on which he or she ceases to be a state public official, may, for compensation, on behalf of any person other than a governmental entity, make any formal or informal appearance before, or negotiate with, any officer or employee of the department with which he or she was associated as a state public official within 12 months prior to the date on which he or she ceased to be a state public official.
No former state public official, for 12 months following the date on which he or she ceases to be a state public official, may, for compensation, on behalf of any person other than a governmental entity, make any formal or informal appearance before, or negotiate with, any officer or employee of a department in connection with any judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, application, contract, claim, or charge which might give rise to a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding which was under the former official's responsibility as a state public official within 12 months prior to the date on which he or she ceased to be a state public official.
No former state public official may, for compensation, act on behalf of any party other than the state in connection with any judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, application, contract, claim, or charge which might give rise to a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding in which the former official participated personally and substantially as a state public official.
The attorney general may not engage in the private practice of law during the period in which he or she holds that office. No justice of the supreme court and no judge of any court of record may engage in the private practice of law during the period in which he or she holds that office. No full-time district attorney may engage in the private practice of law during the period in which he or she holds that office, except as authorized in s. 978.06 (5)
This section does not prohibit a legislator from making inquiries for information on behalf of a person or from representing a person before a department if he or she receives no compensation therefor beyond the salary and other compensation or reimbursement to which the legislator is entitled by law, except as authorized under sub. (7)
The legislature recognizes that all state public officials and employees and all employees of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority should be guided by a code of ethics and thus:
The director of the bureau of merit recruitment and selection in the department of administration shall, with the commission's advice, promulgate rules to implement a code of ethics for classified and unclassified state employees except state public officials subject to this subchapter, personnel in the University of Wisconsin System, and officers and employees of the judicial branch.
The board of regents of the University of Wisconsin System shall establish a code of ethics for personnel in that system who are not subject to this subchapter.
The supreme court shall promulgate a code of judicial ethics for officers and employees of the judiciary and candidates for judicial office which shall include financial disclosure requirements. All justices and judges shall, in addition to complying with this subchapter, adhere to the code of judicial ethics.
The board of directors of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority shall establish a code of ethics for employees of the authority who are not state public officials.
No state public official or candidate for state public office may, directly or by means of an agent, give, or offer or promise to give, or withhold, or offer or promise to withhold, his or her vote or influence, or promise to take or refrain from taking official action with respect to any proposed or pending matter in consideration of, or upon condition that, any other person make or refrain from making a political contribution, or provide or refrain from providing any service or other thing of value, to or for the benefit of a candidate, a political party, any committee registered under ch. 11
, or any person making a communication that contains a reference to a clearly identified state public official holding an elective office or to a candidate for state public office.
If a state public official receives an item that the official is not permitted to accept or retain under this subchapter or subch. III of ch. 13
, the official shall do one of the following:
Give the item to the official's agency to use or sell, except that the agency may not sell the item to any government employee or official.
Give the item to another state agency or to a public institution, such as a local school, library, or museum, that can use the item.
Give the item to a charitable organization, as defined in s. 11.0101 (4)
, not including a charitable organization with which the official or his or her immediate family is associated.
If the donor is neither a lobbyist, as defined in s. 13.62 (11)
, nor a principal, as defined in s. 13.62 (12)
, purchase the item at its full retail value and keep the item.
History: 1973 c. 90
; Stats. 1973 s. 11.05; 1973 c. 334
; Stats. 1973 s. 19.45; 1977 c. 29
; 1977 c. 196
s. 130 (2)
; 1977 c. 223
; 1977 c. 418
s. 923 (14)
; 1977 c. 419
; 1979 c. 120
; 1983 a. 27
, 2200 (15)
; 1983 a. 166
; 1985 a. 332
s. 251 (1)
; 1987 a. 365
; 1989 a. 31
; 1991 a. 39
; 1995 a. 27
; 1997 a. 27
; 2001 a. 109
; 2003 a. 33
; 2003 a. 39
; 2007 a. 1
; 2011 a. 32
; 2013 a. 20
; 2015 a. 55
; 2015 a. 118
s. 266 (10)
; 2021 a. 266
See also ch. ER-MRS 24
, Wis. adm. code.
A county board may provide for a penalty in the nature of a forfeiture for a violation of a code of ethics ordinance but may not bar violators from running for office. A violation is not a neglect of duties under s. 59.10 [now s. 59.15] or an ipso facto cause for removal under s. 17.09 (1). 66 Atty. Gen. 148. See also 67 Atty. Gen. 164.
The ethics law does not prohibit a state public official from purchasing items and services that are available to the official because the official holds public office. If the opportunity to purchase the item or service itself has substantial value, the purchase of the item or service is prohibited. 80 Atty. Gen. 201
Discounts at certain stadiums.
No person serving in a national, state or local office, as defined in s. 5.02
, may accept any discount on the price of admission or parking charged to members of the general public, including any discount on the use of a sky box or private luxury box, at a stadium that is exempt from general property taxes under s. 70.11 (36)
History: 1991 a. 37
Conflict of interest prohibited; exception. 19.46(1)(1)
Except in accordance with the commission's advice under sub. (2)
and except as otherwise provided in sub. (3)
, no state public official may:
Take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.
Use his or her office or position in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit, direct or indirect, for the official, one or more members of the official's immediate family either separately or together, or an organization with which the official is associated.
Any individual, either personally or on behalf of an organization or governmental body, may make a request of the commission in writing, electronically, or by telephone for a formal or informal advisory opinion regarding the propriety under ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, or this subchapter of any matter to which the person is or may become a party. Any appointing officer, with the consent of a prospective appointee, may request of the commission a formal or informal advisory opinion regarding the propriety under ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, or this subchapter of any matter to which the prospective appointee is or may become a party. The commission shall review a request for an advisory opinion and may issue a formal or informal written or electronic advisory opinion to the person making the request. Except as authorized or required for opinions specified in s. 19.55 (4) (b)
, the commission's deliberations and actions upon such requests shall be in meetings not open to the public. A member of the commission may, by written request, require the commission to review an advisory opinion.
To have legal force and effect, each formal and informal advisory opinion issued by the commission must be supported by specific legal authority under a statute or other law, or by specific case or common law authority. Each formal and informal advisory opinion shall include a citation to each statute or other law and each case or common law authority upon which the opinion is based, and shall specifically articulate or explain which parts of the cited authority are relevant to the commission's conclusion and why they are relevant.
No person acting in good faith upon a formal or informal advisory opinion issued by the commission under this subsection is subject to criminal or civil prosecution for so acting, if the material facts are as stated in the opinion request.
At each regular meeting of the commission, the commission administrator shall review informal advisory opinions requested of and issued by the administrator and that relate to recurring issues or issues of first impression for which no formal advisory opinion has been issued. The commission may determine to issue a formal advisory opinion adopting or modifying the informal advisory opinion. If the commission disagrees with a formal or informal advisory opinion that has been issued by or on behalf of the commission, the commission may withdraw the opinion, issue a revised formal or informal advisory opinion, or request an opinion from the attorney general. No person acting after the date of the withdrawal or issuance of the revised advisory opinion is exempted from prosecution under this subsection if the opinion upon which the person's action is based has been withdrawn or revised in relevant degree.
Except as authorized or required under s. 19.55 (4) (b)
, no member or employee of the commission may make public the identity of the individual requesting a formal or informal advisory opinion or of individuals or organizations mentioned in the opinion.
The commission may authorize the commission administrator or his or her designee to issue an informal written advisory opinion or transmit an informal advisory opinion electronically on behalf of the commission, subject to such limitations as the commission deems appropriate. Every informal advisory opinion shall be consistent with applicable formal advisory opinions issued by the commission, statute or other law, and case law.
Any individual may request in writing, electronically, or by telephone an informal advisory opinion from the commission under this paragraph. The commission's designee shall provide a written response, a written reference to an applicable statute or law, or a written reference to a formal advisory opinion of the commission to the individual, or shall refer the request to the commission for review and the issuance of a formal advisory opinion.
Any person receiving an informal advisory opinion under this paragraph may, at any time, request a formal advisory opinion from the commission on the same matter.
Any individual may request in writing, electronically, or by telephone a formal advisory opinion from the commission or the review or modification of a formal advisory opinion issued by the commission under this paragraph. The individual making the request shall include all pertinent facts relevant to the matter. The commission shall review a request for a formal advisory opinion and may issue a formal advisory opinion to the individual making the request. Except as authorized or required for opinions specified in s. 19.55 (4) (b)
, the commission's deliberations and actions upon such requests shall be in meetings not open to the public.
Any person requesting a formal advisory opinion under this paragraph may request a public or private hearing before the commission to discuss the opinion. The commission shall grant a request for a public or private hearing under this paragraph.
Promptly upon issuance of each formal advisory opinion, the commission shall publish the opinion together with the information specified under s. 19.55 (4) (c)
on the commission's Internet site.
If the commission declines to issue a formal advisory opinion, it may refer the matter to the attorney general or to the standing legislative oversight committees.
This section does not prohibit a state public official from taking any action concerning the lawful payment of salaries or employee benefits or reimbursement of actual and necessary expenses, or prohibit a state public official from taking official action with respect to any proposal to modify state law or the state administrative code.
The office of the commission shall be in Madison, but the commission may, after proper public notice and in compliance with subch. V
, meet or exercise any of its powers at any other place in the state.
The commission shall appoint an administrator in the manner provided under s. 15.62 (1) (b)
. The administrator shall be outside the classified service. The administrator shall appoint such other personnel as he or she requires to carry out the duties of the commission and may designate an employee of the commission to serve as legal counsel of the commission. The administrator shall perform such duties as the commission assigns to him or her in the administration of ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter.
Statements of economic interests.
All members and employees of the commission shall file statements of economic interests with the commission.
Any action by the commission, except an action relating to procedure of the commission, requires the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of its members.
The commission shall submit an annual report under s. 15.04 (1) (d)
and shall include in its annual report the names and duties of all individuals employed by the commission and a summary of its determinations and advisory opinions issued under s. 19.46 (2)
. Except as authorized or required under s. 19.55 (4) (b)
, the commission shall make sufficient alterations in the summaries to prevent disclosing the identities of individuals or organizations involved in the decisions or opinions. The commission shall identify in its report the statutory duties of the administrator of the commission, together with a description of the manner in which those duties are being fulfilled. Notwithstanding ss. 19.50
and 19.55 (3)
, the commission shall also specify in its report the total number of investigations conducted by the commission since the last annual report and a description of the nature of each investigation, including whether the investigation related to campaign finance, ethics, or lobbying. The commission may also include in its annual report any information compiled under s. 11.1304 (14)
. The commission shall make such further reports on the matters within its jurisdiction and such recommendations for legislation as it deems appropriate.
The joint committee on legislative organization shall be advisory to the commission on all matters relating to operation of the commission.
Guidance following binding court decisions.
Within 2 months following the publication of a decision of a state or federal court that is binding on the commission and this state, the commission shall issue updated guidance or formal advisory opinions, commence the rule-making procedure to revise administrative rules promulgated by the commission, or request an opinion from the attorney general on the applicability of the court decision.
The commission has standing to commence or intervene in any civil action or proceeding for the purpose of enforcing the laws regulating campaign finance, ethics, or lobbying or ensuring their proper administration.
Annually, the commission shall adopt written policies and procedures in order to govern its internal operations and management and shall annually report such policies and procedures to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature under s. 13.172 (3)
Notwithstanding par. (a)
, the commission may reconsider at any time any policy or procedure adopted as provided under par. (a)
. If, upon reconsideration, the commission revises a previously reported policy or procedure, the commission shall report the revision to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature under s. 13.172 (3)
The commission may reconsider at any time any written directives or written guidance provided to the general public or to any person subject to the provisions of ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter with regard to the enforcement and administration of those provisions.
All employees of the commission shall be nonpartisan.
The commission may accept payment by credit card, debit card, or other electronic payment mechanism for any amounts owed pursuant to the administration of ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, or this subchapter, and may charge a surcharge to the payer to recover charges associated with the acceptance of that electronic payment.
Duties of the ethics commission.
The commission shall:
Promulgate rules necessary to carry out ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter. The commission shall give prompt notice of the contents of its rules to state public officials who will be affected thereby.
Accept and file any information related to the purposes of ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter which is voluntarily supplied by any person in addition to the information required by this subchapter.
Preserve the statements of economic interests filed with it for a period of 6 years from the date of receipt in such form, including microfilming, optical imaging or electronic formatting, as will facilitate document retention, except that:
Upon the expiration of 3 years after an individual ceases to be a state public official the commission shall, unless the former state public official otherwise requests, destroy any statement of economic interests filed by him or her and any copies thereof in its possession.
Upon the expiration of 3 years after any election at which a candidate for state public office was not elected, the commission shall destroy any statements of economic interests filed by him or her as a candidate for state public office and any copies thereof in the commission's possession, unless the individual continues to hold another position for which he or she is required to file a statement, or unless the individual otherwise requests.
Upon the expiration of 3 years from the action of the senate upon a nomination for state public office at which the senate refused to consent to the appointment of the nominee, the commission shall destroy any statements of economic interests filed by him or her as a nominee and any copies thereof in the commission's possession, unless the individual continues to hold another position for which he or she is required to file a statement, or unless the nominee otherwise requests. This paragraph does not apply to any individual who is appointed to state public office under s. 17.20 (2)
Except as provided in s. 19.55 (2) (c)
, make statements of economic interests filed with the commission available for public inspection and copying during regular office hours and make copying facilities available at a charge not to exceed actual cost.
Compile and maintain an index to all the statements of economic interests currently on file with the commission to facilitate public access to such statements of economic interests.
Prepare and publish special reports and technical studies to further the purposes of ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter.
Report the full name and address of any individual and the full name and address of any person represented by an individual seeking to copy or obtain information from a statement of economic interests in writing to the individual who filed it, as soon as possible.
Administer programs to explain and interpret ch. 11
, subch. III of ch. 13
, and this subchapter for state public officials, and for elective state officials, candidates for state public office, legislative officials, agency officials, lobbyists, as defined in s. 13.62
, local public officials, corporation counsels and attorneys for local governmental units. The programs shall provide advice regarding appropriate ethical and lobbying practices, with special emphasis on public interest lobbying. The commission may delegate creation and implementation of any such program to a group representing the public interest. The commission may charge a fee to participants in any such program.