Sandhill Crane at UW-Madison Arboretum, Dane County

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wisconsin Campaign Finance Deregulation/John Doe II Case Before State Supreme Court/Walker's Campaign Finance Views




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Thursday - April 16, 2015


1.   Starkly contrasting visions about what state campaign finance laws should look like.
2.   Passage of constitutional amendment to demote current Chief Justice of Wisconsin
      Supreme Court is part of a larger partisan plan.

3.   "John Doe" investigation of illegal campaign coordination between Walker 2012       campaign against recall, with Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), to be decided by a
      majority of state supreme court justices who are beneficiaries of support from WCG.

4.   Scott Walker's shifting views on campaign finance reform (from very bad to worse).
5.   Needed: The Constitutional right to vote.



1. One thing that everyone in Wisconsin can agree on is that our campaign finance laws are seriously outdated and need major revision. But there are stark differences of opinion about what campaign finance law ought to look like. Late last month, CC/WI Director Jay Heck was invited to appear before the combined State Senate and Assembly committees with jurisdiction over campaign finance law in order to tell legislators what CC/WI thinks ought to be included in a rewrite of state campaign finance law. Jay's testimony is here. You can also see the entire hearing on Wisconsin Eye (Jay's testimony begins at 01:38:54) and read the Associated Press article about the hearing here.

Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism wrote this excellent article about the hearings, which appeared in many newspapers around the state in recent weeks. What the new campaign finance law will look like is not yet known, but when it is ready, it will likely be quickly unveiled and then rammed through the Legislature – which is increasingly how the majority party in the Legislature "gets things done," when they want to get something quickly behind them. Stay tuned for that.



2. On April 7th, Wisconsin voters re-elected Ann Walsh Bradley to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in one of the less expensive elections for a seat on the high court in recent years. Big outside money largely stayed out of the Bradley contest with Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley. Instead, most of it, including more than half a million dollars from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), went to pass a constitutional amendment to change the way the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court is selected, primarily to demote current Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The amendment passed fairly narrowly and it is part of a much broader partisan political agenda that has been playing out over the last four years on a wide array of issues.

Mary Bottari
, of the Center for Media and Democracy, wrote this excellent analysis of this ongoing partisan plan to dominate Wisconsin politics, with plenty of input from CC/WI.



3. On April 17th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will begin to consider whether or not the "John Doe II" investigation of possible illegal campaign coordination between Governor Scott Walker's campaign and WCG and WMC during the 2012 recall election, ought to continue or not. There will be no oral arguments in open court, which is highly unusual. The case is further complicated by the fact that four of the seven justices were the beneficiaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars of outside spending by WCG and WMC.

Recently, Jay Heck spent an hour on The Kathleen Dunn program on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network to talk about and explain what the John Doe investigation is all about, and to discuss money in politics in general.



4. When Scott Walker was first elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1993, one of the first committees he chaired was the Campaigns & Elections Committee, with jurisdiction over campaign finance law. Back in that era, Walker proposed and backed some measures that would not be viable today because of more recent court decisions and also because he has moved even further to the right and now opposes disclosure, for example. Walker has been consistent in always backing and pushing campaign finance measures that provided his political party a partisan advantage and/or weakened the Democrats. He has never been a supporter of meaningful bipartisan campaign finance reform – the only kind that really matters.

Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published this article about Walker's campaign finance views then and now, which includes Jay Heck's observations. Jay also appeared on The Devil's Advocates radio program on Monday to talk about Walker's shifting positions on this issue.



5. Do you have a constitutional right to vote? Most Americans probably think that they do (or should). But the right to vote is not explicitly stated anywhere in the U.S. Constitution and many citizens (including us) think it needs to be.

Wisconsin U.S. Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would accomplish this and here are the details.





CONTACT:

Jay Heck

608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)



Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703


Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Common Cause Wisconsin Governing Board Urges "No" Vote on Constitutional Amendment to Select Chief Justice



For Release: Thursday - April 2, 2015


The State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) voted unanimously Wednesday to urge Wisconsin citizens to vote against the constitutional amendment question on the April 7th ballot that would change the way in which the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected.

“This measure is clearly directed at one individual – the current Chief Justice – and as such we believe it is overtly personal and partisan and ought not be the basis for a fundamental change in the Wisconsin Constitution,” said Bill Kraus, the Chair of CC/WI.

Kraus noted that the current method in which the most senior member of the Supreme Court is named the Chief Justice has been in place for 126 years. “Amending the Wisconsin Constitution in the middle of the term of the current Chief Justice in order to be able to select someone else for that position undermines the choice of the significant majority of Wisconsin citizens who voted to re-elect the current Chief in 2009. If this were a serious, non-partisan proposal to alter the current selection process, the effective date of this measure would be in 2019 – after the current term of the Chief Justice ends.”

“We urge Wisconsin voters to reject this partisan, personal assault on the current Chief Justice,” Kraus said. “Amending the Wisconsin Constitution ought not be undertaken simply to remove a single individual. Wisconsinites deserve better than that.”





CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

National and State Organizations Urge Governor Scott Walker to Support Keeping the GAB As Is: Non-Partisan and Independent




For Release: Tuesday - March 17, 2015


A significant number of national and state advocacy organizations have sent a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, urging he oppose – and veto if necessary – any changes to the operation or structure of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), the state agency that oversees election, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying law.

The GAB was established in 2008 after being passed in the Wisconsin Legislature in early 2007 by a nearly unanimous vote and signed into law. It is the only non-partisan such agency in the nation and is considered a national model by election and campaign finance experts.

Legislative leaders have been critical of the GAB since before the 2014 election and have vowed to make changes that would make the agency more partisan and less independent. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

A poll
released Monday shows that 62 percent of Wisconsinites favor keeping the GAB independent, impartial and non-partisan with only ex-judges serving on the board. Only 12 percent favored changing the board to one that has some partisan members.

Support for keeping the GAB the way it is now was very high among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Democratic voters: 61% to 13%, Republicans: 57% to 14%, and Independents: 67% to 9%.

The letter to Governor Walker and the organizations signing it
.




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Monday, March 16, 2015

"Political Corruption Protection" Legislation to Gut John Doe Investigation Advances in State Senate/More




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Monday March 16, 2015


1.   Bill to Kill John Doe Investigation of Scott Walker and Investigate Any Political
      Corruption Passes Senate Committee on 3 to 2 Vote

2.   Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform Legislation Introduced with Bipartisan Support
      and Has 47 Co-Sponsors Already

3.   Wausau Talk on The Advance of Corrupting Money in Wisconsin Politics
4.   Forum on Legislative Caucus Scandal and Need to Preserve and Protect the
      Wisconsin G.A.B. in Madison Tuesday Evening



1. Legislation that would severely cripple the long-established "John Doe" process for investigation of many crimes, including political corruption, in Wisconsin, Senate Bill 43, received a public hearing last Wednesday before the State Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. We have coined this measure the "Political Corruption Protection Act of 2015," or the "PCP" bill, for short. Like the PCP drug, this legislation is toxic, dangerous, mind-altering and ought to be avoided and made illegal. How ironic that it was considered before a committee dealing with "public safety." This measure is anything but safe.

Former Milwaukee County District Attorney and current CC/WI Board Member E. Michael McCann, who utilized the John Doe process to prosecute former State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) and ultimately convict Chvala of two felonies during the 2001-2002 Legislative Caucus Scandal, said enactment of this legislation will permanently end the John Doe investigation of the 2012 recall election of Gov. Scott Walker and the nation will want to know why Walker allowed that to happen as he runs for President. It would also prevent the John Doe process to be used in the future to investigate political corruption in Wisconsin.

For other news accounts of McCann's comments and of the hearing go here and here. Earlier, CC/WI said this.

To view (on Wisconsin Eye) the public hearing, McCann's testimony (starts at 01:33:30) and the questioning by Committee Senators, go here – and to read McCann's written testimony, go here.

On the day after the hearing, the State Senate Committee passed Senate Bill 43 on a party-line vote with Republican Senators Van Wanggaard of Racine, Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa and Frank Lasee of DePere voting for this misguided measure. Democratic Senators Fred Risser of Madison and Lena Taylor of Milwaukee voted no. The measure could be scheduled for a vote by the full State Senate at any time. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said last week he was inclined not to consider the measure in the Assembly until after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on whether the John Doe investigation of Walker's 2012 recall campaign could proceed. If the Court were to vote for the John Doe to proceed (unlikely but possible), you can be sure that Vos will ram this measure through the Assembly and send it to Walker for signature in record time. The national fallout that would ensue if that happens would likely be tumultuous.



2. Legislation with bipartisan support that would replace Wisconsin's current hyper-partisan, secretive and expensive redistricting process with a widely heralded non-partisan, fair and cost-effective redistricting modeled after Iowa, was introduced two weeks ago. Senate Bill 58 is identical to the anti-gerrymandering measures that gained substantial support during the 2013-2014 legislative session, including the endorsement of 19 daily Wisconsin newspapers. The main author of Senate Bill 58 is State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and the measure already has 47 co-sponsors! CC/WI has a listing of all the co-sponsors on our website, which you can view here. We will constantly update that listing, so check back often to see who is on and who isn't.

There will be much more on the redistricting reform legislation in the weeks ahead when it is officially "rolled out." Senate Bill 58 also appears to be immune from a constitutional challenge now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is a great relief. For more on this, go here.

In related news, at the federal level, Wisconsin U.S. Representative Reid Ribble (R-DePere) introduced bipartisan congressional redistricting reform legislation last week. Ribble has been a strong supporter of ending gerrymandering and faults it for increasing the bitter partisanship and polarization that overwhelms Wisconsin and national politics today.



3. Last Thursday evening, CC/WI Director Jay Heck was in Wausau at the UW Center for Civic Engagement to talk about how campaign money has ruined Wisconsin elections and the public policy-making process over the years. There was a great turnout of many concerned and engaged citizens who were looking to find out what happened in our state, which not long ago, was a national model for clean, honest accountable state government.

The Wausau Daily Herald covered the event and you can read about it here. Thanks to former State Representative Mandy Wright and her colleagues for organizing a great event!



4. This Tuesday evening, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day!) Jay will be part of a panel discussing the 2001-2002 Wisconsin Legislative Caucus Scandal and how that led to the creation of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) in 2007. The GAB is now under assault by the Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature. The panel, which also includes former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager (2003-2007), will discuss why the GAB must be protected and preserved and not be brought under the thumb of partisan legislative leaders and political hacks. Matt Rothschild, the director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, will moderate. For details go here.

If you are in Madison, we hope to see you there!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck

608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org

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