Madison, Dane County

Monday, February 9, 2015

Plan to Destroy Wisconsin's GAB Attracting National Attention as Governor Walker Goes Presidential




For Release: Monday - February 9, 2015

Plan to Undermine and Destroy Wisconsin's GAB
Attracting National Attention

as Governor Walker Goes Presidential

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has received considerable national "buzz" as a result of his "suit-coat-off, abandon-the-lectern" performance in Iowa last month. But with that buzz comes increased nationwide scrutiny as Walker takes the early lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire polling in the nascent 2016 Presidential "run for the roses" on the Republican side.

An issue in Wisconsin that has been the subject of considerable controversy and debate has been the future of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees our elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying laws – and which is now under attack from partisans who want to bring it under their control.

And now, as Walker seeks the Presidency, this issue has "gone national" as well.

Karen Hobert Flynn, the Senior Vice President of national Common Cause,
has written this opinion piece, which appeared nationally in The Daily Beast over the weekend, warning Scott Walker to part company with the Republican leadership in the Legislature (Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitizgerald) and, instead, support and fight to keep the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board as is – non-partisan and independent of partisan, self-interested control by either major political party.

Yes, Common Cause has a stake in this fight. CC/WI worked closely with former Republican State Senate Majority Leader and President Mike Ellis in devising the GAB after the tumultuous Legislative Caucus Scandal in 2002. And we led the effort to pass – in a split-party controlled Legislature – and enact into law, the legislation that created the GAB in early 2007. The GAB has done the job it was created to do. Admirably and independently.

As Scott Walker campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere around the nation about the virtues of Wisconsin, he ought to include the Wisconsin GAB as one of the unique Badger State reforms he fully embraces. Every Republican in the Legislature in 2007 voted to create the GAB. Walker should reaffirm that support and affirm good government in Wisconsin, not destroy it.

If he does not, citizens and the media all over the nation will wonder why.





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...


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Opposition Mounts to Partisan Attack on Non-Partisan G.A.B./More


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


Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Tuesday January 27, 2015


1.   Opposition Mounts to Partisan Attack on Non-Partisan G.A.B.
2.   Partisan Anti-Abrahamson Measure Advances to April Ballot
3.   Reform Groups to Lay out Our Democracy 2020 Agenda
4.   Wisconsin Association of Retired Americans Seeking Common Cause Member
      for its Board




1. Shortly after last November's elections, Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), announced they planned to eviscerate the independent Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees the state's election, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying law, ostensibly because they don't like the G.A.B. not doing what they want it to do and because they want to control it. They are particularly outraged because the six judges on the G.A.B. Board voted unanimously in 2012 to authorize an investigation into possible illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker's 2012 recall campaign and outside special interest groups Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

CC/WI and others have denounced this transparently obvious partisan attack and the rationale for trying to destroy an entity that was established in 2008 and passed with almost unanimous bi-partisan support in January, 2007 (with support of Vos and Fitzgerald) and was purposely created to be non-partisan and independent. It is shocking that Vos, Fitzgerald and other Republican legislators would try to make the G.A.B. more partisan and less independent, given the rationale for creating it. And two retired judges currently serving on the G.A.B. and one who served on the G.A.B. for six years, but is now no longer doing so, have all made powerful arguments for leaving the G.A.B as is. These powerful statements from current G.A.B. chair Gerald Nichol, Thomas Barland and Michael Brennan ought to carry enormous weight in this battle with Vos and Fitzgerald. Please read them!

The Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other Wisconsin newspaper editorials have denounced the partisan attacks on the G.A.B. – as have other good government organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Voices and others who have joined CC/WI in calling for protecting the integrity of the G.A.B. You can and should add your own voice by contacting both your State Senator and your State Representative and telling them that you support the G.A.B. as it is – non-partisan and independent!



2. Along partisan political party lines, the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly both passed identical measures that would strip the title and power of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who has served in that capacity since 1996 because of her status as the longest serving member on that court. The measure, which goes to the voters for approval (or rejection) in the form of a constitutional amendment, would allow the seven justices to decide who the Chief Justice ought to be – and the outcome of such a vote is obvious with four conservatives and three moderates (including Abrahamson) currently comprising the makeup of the Court.

CC/WI opposed this measure and testified against it at a public hearing in the Capitol. If you would like to watch/listen to the entire public hearing, go here (CC/WI's testimony is in Part 1 at 1:59:20). This measure will be on the April ballot statewide – which also features the State Supreme Court election between incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and challenger, Judge James Daley of Rock County. CC/WI urges a vote against the question. We do not endorse candidates for public office and so have no position in the Bradley-Daley contest.



3. CC/WI is part of a broad coalition of organizations that are committed to strengthening democracy in Wisconsin and opposing efforts to concentrate political power and influence in the hands of the few and powerful.

On Wednesday, this coalition will launch its "Our Democracy 2020" Initiative in a press conference in the State Capitol at 10:00 AM in the Assembly Parlor. CC/WI Director Jay Heck will speak about why Wisconsin needs to end partisan gerrymandering and enact non-partisan redistricting reform legislation before the next redistricting process occurs in 2021.



4. For many years, CC/WI has worked with the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans in promoting political reform, particularly in helping to boost attendance at the many "reform forums" CC/WI sponsored and organized all over the state. WIARA wants to keep political reform a vital part of its agenda and is seeking a current Common Cause in Wisconsin member to serve on its board of directors. This is a wonderful opportunity for a motivated senior to combine their interest and concern for democracy issues with important issues of concern to the senior community throughout Wisconsin.

If you are interested or want more information, please contact WIARA executive director Billy Feitlinger by email or by phone at 414-771-9511.




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

Read More...


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Common Cause in Wisconsin Opposes Measure Designed to Take Down Chief Justice Abrahamson



Statement of Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin

In Opposition to

Senate Joint Resolution 2
Directing the Wisconsin Supreme Court to
Elect its Chief Justice Every Two Years

Before the Wisconsin State Senate Committee
on Judiciary and Public Safety

January 15, 2015


I am Jay Heck, the director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, one of the state’s largest non-partisan, non-profit political reform advocacy organizations with approximately 2,300 members. We oppose Senate Joint Resolution 2 because it is so transparently ideologically partisan and is obviously designed to remove from the position of Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court one specific individual: the current Chief Justice, Shirley Abrahamson.

Common Cause in Wisconsin strongly believes that there are already far too many partisan political considerations surrounding and infusing the current deliberations and elections of our state’s highest court and that this measure will only exacerbate, rather than decrease and diffuse ideological differences. We are concerned that citizen confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has already fallen considerably in recent years according to public opinion polls, will plummet still further if this proposal is passed in the Wisconsin Legislature and then sent to statewide referendum in what will almost certainly be a very politically ideological and divisive statewide campaign, as early as this April. All of us can readily predict the outside special interest groups that will spend hundreds of thousands, and likely millions of dollars primarily in the form of nasty, negative attack communications on the airwaves and in the mail on top of the millions likely to be spent on the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court election this Spring.

It is also a certainty that this proposal, which passed in the 2013-2014 legislative session, and which is again before you today, would never have been devised or proposed if the current Chief Justice was named David Prosser, or Patience Roggensack, or Annette Ziegler, or Michael Gableman. But because the Chief Justice is named Shirley Abrahamson, and many members of the State Legislature simply cannot abide her views or philosophy, she has become the specific target of this ill-advised and ill-timed measure. If that were not the case and if the proposal was being made for non-ideological or non-personal reasons, it would contain a provision that would make this measure effective after the next election of Justice Abrahamson in 2019. But this proposal contains no such provision. It is targeted specifically at the current Chief Justice.

This measure also constitutes an obnoxious and intrusive assault by the Legislature on the separation of powers of the three branches of state government in Wisconsin. Dictating how the Wisconsin Supreme Court ought to select its Chief Justice is not something the Legislature ought to be deciding any more than the Wisconsin Supreme Court ought to be determining how the legislative leadership is selected.

This joint resolution, if it passes and if it is sent to referendum, ought to be seen by the citizens of Wisconsin as a partisan, petty measure that will further politicize an already far-too politicized State Supreme Court. It is not worthy of their consideration, much less their support. Senate Joint Resolution 2 ought not be advanced by this committee or by the Wisconsin Legislature, either.

Thank you.





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...


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Not Such "A Wonderful Life" as Vos Now Agrees With Fitzgerald About How to Destroy the Non-Partisan Government Accountability Board



For Release: Wednesday - December 17, 2014

Vos Now Agrees With Fitzgerald About How to Destroy the
Non-Partisan Government Accountability Board

Legislative Leaders Emulate Henry Potter in Attempt to Take Over The G.A.B (The Bailey Building & Loan)


Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has made no secret of his misplaced disdain for the effective, non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the only non-partisan state agency in the nation that oversees state elections, campaign finance, lobbying and ethics. Hailed as a national model by national election experts, the G.A.B. is under attack by Vos and by State Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) because it makes decisions based on the facts and merits of the issues it considers by six non-partisan retired judges. Vos and Fitzgerald want the G.A.B. making partisan decisions that favor the Republicans. They control everything else in state government and it irks them to no end that they do not yet control the G.A.B.

This is very much like how Henry Potter felt about George Bailey and the Building and Loan in the seasonal classic It's a Wonderful Life.

On Monday, Vos said he no longer favored only keeping the six non-partisan retired judges that constitute the G.A.B., but would be very open to doing what Fitzgerald has advocated – making the G.A.B. a partisan entity stacked with political appointments, including those by Fitzgerald and Vos. So now, the two Republican legislative leaders are in agreement about how to eviscerate the G.A.B., which was established less than eight years ago as a significant political reform devised by retiring State Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) with CC/WI and which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, including the support of both Vos and Fitzgerald.

Vos is using the pretext of a recent Legislative Audit Bureau of the G.A.B. which uncovered some issues that need to be addressed and corrected, but which in no way suggested that the G.A.B. needs to be destroyed and brought under legislative control as Vos and Fitzgerald and others seek to do.

This is an offensive and terrible initiative on the part of Vos and Fitzgerald. This past Sunday, the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized about why. Let's hope that those who seek to destroy the G.A.B., read this editorial, pause and rethink their current position before they act rashly and recklessly.

You need to add your voice to this coming debate by contacting both your State Senator and your State Representative and telling them to support the integrity and independence of the G.A.B. in its basic current form and that you oppose the effort by Vos and Fitzgerald to make it a partisan puppet agency. If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

* * *

Common Cause in Wisconsin does an online "ask" for your financial support only at this time of year in order not to irritate you with constant, year-round pleas of support.

If you value our work and are able to help support us so that we can continue to be pro-active and effective, please consider making a year-end contribution to CC/WI. We would be very grateful to have your support! Here is how you can do so.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at
Common Cause in Wisconsin!







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...