Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sen. Darling's State Budget Campaign Cash Shakedown this Thursday Near the Capitol



For Release: Tuesday - May 26, 2015


Wisconsin State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) has been in the Wisconsin Legislature for a quarter of a century and a State Senator since 1993. She is currently the Senate Co-Chair of the budget-crafting "powerful" Joint Committee on Finance (JCF), which is finishing up work on the 2015-2017 biennium budget submitted earlier this year by Governor Scott Walker. That budget proposal, which is fraught with controversy and opposition – even by many Republicans – is more a document designed to appeal to far right wing primary voters in Iowa and South Carolina than it is for Wisconsinites, as Walker traverses around the country in a highly questionable quest to be President of the United States. Everyone in Wisconsin knows and acknowledges this.

But Darling, who, in the distant past, has demonstrated at least some common sense about what is appropriate and acceptable to avoid corruption, or the appearance of corruption in Wisconsin, has apparently abandoned any such former ethical scruples and is utilizing her position as Co-Chair of the JCF to shake down lobbyists and others with an interest in the budget process for $1,000 (to be a "host") or, at least $500 (to get in the door), this Thursday evening at 5:30 PM at The Madison Club, a block from the State Capitol, just as the JCF is making final decisions on the state budget.

And to add insult to injury, the Republican Assembly Co-Chair of the JCF, State Rep, John Nygren (R-Marinette), will be there on Thursday as well to add increased pressure for special interest lobbyists to open their checkbooks to pay tribute to Darling.

Really Alberta Darling and John Nygren? Is this what the Wisconsin budget process has become to you now? Those who pony up and attend this fundraiser will be able to plea for last minute changes by the JCF in the budget to protect, or to try to obliterate something, in order to preserve their own special interest in that document before it is sent to the Republican Caucuses in the State Senate and Assembly. The message Darling is sending is obvious. Pay up on Thursday and you may still have her ear. If you don't, then your ability to influence changes will be diminished.

How else can any reasonable person interpret the timing of this "reception"?

Darling should stop this event from proceeding immediately and we call upon her to do so. Contact Alberta Darling and tell her to cancel her special interest shakedown at the Madison Club on Thursday night by calling her office, and/or by emailing her. She knows better than to do this (or should). Tell her you resent her trying to use a bad budget to raise money for her next campaign for re-election and that the citizens of Wisconsin deserve better than this.

Other states (including Minnesota, of course) prohibit the practice of legislators conducting fundraising events like this one while their state budgets are being formulated. The conflict of interest in allowing these types of events to occur is obvious and damaging and feeds into the public perception that state government is for sale.

CC/WI has long advocated for ending all campaign fundraising while the state budget is in play. This should include all state legislators and all statewide elected officials including the Governor. The most effective and far-reaching measure to accomplish this was a Republican proposal, Assembly Bill 42, which CC/WI strongly supported, that was introduced in 2009 by then State Representative Mark Gottlieb (R-Point Washington), who currently serves as the Secretary of the Department of Transportation in the Walker Administration. And guess who supported and co-sponsored the Gottleib legislation to ban campaign fundraising during consideration of the budget just six years ago? Why it's none other than State Representative John Nygren, who, unless he comes to his senses before Thursday evening, will be helping Alberta Darling shake down lobbyists for campaign cash in the midst of the budget process.

Why was it not okay to have events like this six years ago, but now it is, Mr. Nygren? The answer, of course, is that it has never been okay. Darling, Nygren and every member of the Wisconsin Legislature know this.

They just hoped you wouldn't notice.




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

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Just One in Ten State Legislative Elections were Competitive in 2014



For Release: Wednesday - April 29, 2015

Democracy is in dire trouble when voters in a state have only one in ten state legislative districts that are even remotely competitive in a general election. Wisconsin was such a state in 2014. CC/WI conducted an analysis of last Fall's general election results, identifying the State Senate and State Assembly districts in which voters had a real choice that wasn't already preordained by the 2011 redistricting process.

Legislation to end hyper-partisan gerrymandering, Senate Bill 58, was introduced earlier this year. To see a list of the current co-sponsors of this legislation go here. If your State Senator and/or State Representative are not yet co-sponsors and supportive of non-partisan redistricting reform please contact them and tell them to co-sponsor and support Senate Bill 58. If you are not sure who your State Senator or State Representative is, go here (type in your home address under "Find My Legislators").

Finally, you can be among the first Wisconsinites to sign this on-line petition in support of non-partisan redistricting reform. We need to demonstrate that many citizens in this state want elections in which voters choose their representatives, not the inverse – which is what we have now in this state. Please urge your friends and family to sign the petition as well.




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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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



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