Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Coalition Pushes for "Mobile DMV" Program to Help Voters Obtain Required ID to Vote



For Release: Tuesday - June 30, 2015


A coalition of 13 Wisconsin advocacy and research organizations have sent a letter to Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mark Gottlieb urging that the DOT establish a "Mobile DMV" program to serve the many communities who currently have limited access to Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, which issue the state identification now required in order for Wisconsin voters to cast a ballot at their polling places on and before Election Day.

Currently, Wisconsin has just 92 DMV service centers – 60 of these centers (65 percent) are open just two days per week or less.

After being enacted into law in 2011, the state voter photo ID law will now be in effect in Wisconsin beginning in 2016, after the United States Supreme Court earlier this year decided not to consider an appeal to strike down the law. The organizations calling for the new program and many election experts are concerned that the required form of ID may be very difficult for many Wisconsinites to obtain.

They point to other states that have enacted voter photo ID laws and have established mobile DMV programs such as Alabama, Indiana, Texas and Virginia in order to make required DMV-issued identification more easily available to voters who need it. Wisconsin ought to establish a similar program if it is serious about wanting to make the required forms of state-issued identification accessible and available to those Wisconsinites who currently lack it and who want to be able to continue to vote, or vote for the first time.

If Alabama, Texas and Virginia – states which have a history of making it difficult for certain segments of their citizens to be able to vote – can provide a mobile program to serve those citizens who seek required forms of ID, then surely Wisconsin must do at least as much. The fact that such a program has not yet been established here thus far is surprising and troubling. It is time to correct this significant oversight.

The letter to Secretary Gottlieb is here.




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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Monday, June 29, 2015

These State Legislative Campaign Fundraising Events Tonight and Tuesday Should Be Postponed



For Release: Monday - June 29, 2015


As the state budget impasse between the Republican State Senate, Assembly and Governor Scott Walker continues, it is obvious that the new budget, in whatever form, will not be signed into law by the statutory deadline – which is Tuesday. This, then, is hardly the time to be shaking down lobbyists, special interest groups, and constituents for campaign cash. However, CC/WI has identified three such events, scheduled for this week (including two this evening), that should be postponed. The organizers of these three events know darn well that they should not be engaging in fundraising until after they complete the primary job they have as legislators – namely, to finish work on the state budget bill. But they have gone ahead anyway. Tone deafness, evidently. More on who they are a bit later.

In late May, CC/WI called on Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), to postpone a Madison fundraising event that she had scheduled with her special guest, State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), her fellow JFC Co-Chair. To Senator Darling's credit, she did postpone the event, and she also postponed another event she had scheduled for last week.

Earlier this month, CC/WI called on State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) to postpone an event she had scheduled in Plover, and Senator Lassa also graciously agreed to postpone her event until the budget was done.

Similarly, the State Senate Democrats just very recently agreed to postpone a campaign fundraising event they had scheduled for tomorrow evening that CC/WI had called on them to postpone.

However, in just the past few days it has come to our attention that three more campaign fundraising events have been scheduled for this week, when work on the budget ought to be very intense. All three should be postponed immediately and rescheduled for after the business of the citizens is completed.

Tonight, Milwaukee-area Assembly Democrats have a campaign cash shakedown scheduled in Milwaukee.

Also tonight, State Representative John Maaco (R-Green Bay) is hosting a relatively low-dollar event at his home. While special interest groups and lobbyists are not likely to be attending, Maaco should still put getting the state budget finished ahead of raising money for his next campaign. Postpone it!

Likewise, tomorrow night, also in Milwaukee, State Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) scheduled a budget-period fundraising event that he knows should be postponed yet again. Let's hope he does so.

Senators Darling, Lassa and the State Senate Democrats wisely did the right thing by postponing their fundraising events while the state budget is still under active consideration. The Assembly Democrats and State Representatives Maaco and Riemer need to do the right thing and postpone their events scheduled for tonight and tomorrow evening.

We will let you know if they did or not.




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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Monday, June 15, 2015

Postponed: Another campaign fundraising event during state budget consideration!




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Monday June 15, 2015


1.   Senator Julie Lassa Postpones her June 18th Campaign Fundraising Event in Plover
2.   Misguided Proposal to Destroy the Non-Partisan Legislative Audit Bureau Under
      Withering Assault

3.   Russ Feingold Proposes "Badger Pledge" for 2016 U.S. Senate Election Re-Match
      Campaign with U.S. Senator Ron Johnson to Discourage Outside Money From
      Drowning Out the Voices of the Candidates



1. Last Tuesday, CC/WI called for State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) to postpone her campaign fundraising event, scheduled for June 18th in Plover after we successfully persuaded State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) to postpone her event at the end of May.

On Thursday, June 11th, Senator Lassa agreed to postpone the June 18th event and she sent out this tweet.

As was the case with the Darling event, we want to thank those of you who contacted Julie Lassa, urging her to postpone her event, as well as the assisting push from the media.

These are small but significant reform victories because they demonstrate that citizens can raise their voices and be heard and that elected officials can be persuaded to do the right thing! We simply have to keep at it and never give up.



2. Last week's incredibly stupid, awful, hyper-partisan proposal to eviscerate the highly-respected, long established non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) by State Representative David Craig (R-Big Bend) was immediately attacked by CC/WI and other state reform groups.

The Wisconsin State Journal issued this powerful editorial against this Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack, citing CC/WI.

It even earned the scorn of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). At least in its current form.

Last Friday, on Wisconsin Public Television's Here and Now Program, CC/WI Director Jay Heck explained why the Craig proposal is yet another attack on good government and on the few remaining objective, non-partisan and scrupulously honest state government watchdog agencies like the Legislative Audit Bureau, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (scheduled for destruction soon) and other entities such as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the Legislative Reference Bureau – which could be next.

You need to make your voice heard on this one too! Please contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them to oppose the Craig proposal to destroy the Legislative Audit Bureau and to leave the Legislative Audit Bureau as is! While Speaker Vos says he supports keeping the LAB, it could be altered, possibly in the state budget bill, to make it more compliant to the whims of partisan legislative leaders. We cannot let that happen.

Tell your legislators to just leave the LAB alone.



3. Also last Friday, former Wisconsin U.S. Senator Russ Feingold challenged current U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who defeated Feingold in 2010, to join him in signing what Feingold is calling "The Badger Pledge." The proposal, which is modeled after one that both current Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her opponent in the 2012 election, former U.S. Senator Scott Brown agreed to, would discourage outside special interest spending groups from drowning out the voices of the candidates in the election in Wisconsin. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

We like the idea and hope Senator Johnson will agree to it. What do you think? Please let us know.

Hope you are enjoying the start of Summer 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


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

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Leading Good Government Groups Denounce Measure to Destroy Non-Partisan Legislative Audit Bureau




For Release: Tuesday - June 9, 2015

Madison - Three leading good government groups in Wisconsin today are condemning a proposed bill in the State Assembly that would do away with the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and the bipartisan Joint Audit Committee.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Common Cause in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign say that the draft bill, co-sponsored by Rep. David Craig and Rep. Adam Jarchow, would destroy the best watchdog the state has, and for no good reason.

“With all the money in politics lately, the last thing we need is to lose our nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which has no bias but simply investigates and reports the facts about how our government agencies and officials function,” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

“This is an obvious and nakedly partisan attempt to eliminate any independent entity that can effectively identify and investigate political corruption in Wisconsin and shield the political party in power from prosecution and even criticism," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.

The proposal’s sponsors acknowledge that “most, if not all, legislators believe the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) does a tremendous job of executing audits of state agency books.”

So why the need for this bill?

Evidently, because the Legislative Audit Bureau, now in its fiftieth year in existence, is too nonpartisan. “In many instances,” the sponsors wrote, “by the time an audit has occurred, the political will (or new legislative composition) necessary to change a state program has diminished.”

But we shouldn’t want our watchdog to be concerned with “the political will” or the composition of the legislature. All it should be concerned with is waste, fraud, abuse, inefficiencies, and cronyism.

“That may be the problem,” said Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “The Legislative Audit Bureau may have done too good a job exposing the waste and cronyism over at WEDC (the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), so now some legislators want to get rid of it.”

The proposal would also disband the Joint Audit Committee and hand over auditing powers to committee chairs in the State Assembly and State Senate, as well as jointly to the Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader. When those positions are held by one party, as they are today, this would give enormous additional power to partisans of that party.

The proposal would also empower the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, now run by Speaker Robin Vos and Senator Mary Lazich, to appoint an inspector general in each large state agency for a six-year term. This would further consolidate partisan power.

"Does anyone seriously believe that partisan-appointed inspectors general would objectively assess and evaluate agency work directed by their partisan masters? This proposal is ridiculous on its face and ought to be rejected outright by the Assembly Speaker, the State Senate Majority Leader and the Governor immediately," Heck added.

What’s more, the inspector general for the Department of Justice would be authorized to audit the records not just of state agencies and programs but also those of “any county, city, village, town, or school district.” This could tie up the democratic processes of local governments.

“It’s an invitation to a statewide partisan witch hunt,” said Rothschild.

The bill would also give the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader the extraordinary authority to contract out the work of the Department of Justice’s inspector general to “some other person or entity” who would “audit the records or the programs of the legislature, legislative service agencies, the Office of the Governor, or the courts,” according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

On top of everything else, the bill would offer enormous power to any single individual who may claim to be bothered by some state agency. “An inspector may review claims by any person that an agency action or order has adversely a substantial interest of the person,” the Legislative Reference Bureau notes. “Under the bill, an inspector general may reverse an agency action…An agency may not appeal a determination of the inspector general.”

“If you thought cronyism was a problem right now, wait until this bill passes,” Rothschild said. “Then every big donor to the party in power will complain to the inspector general about any enforcement action an agency has begun against this person, and the action could be stopped, even if the person was a tax cheat or a major polluter.”

The Legislative Audit Bureau is working very well today. There is no good reason to monkey with it. Its recent audit of the Government Accountability Board, for instance, was thorough and fair, and its recommendations have led to improvements there.

The Legislative Audit Bureau is a pillar of nonpartisanship and good government in Wisconsin. It should not be knocked down.

“We don’t need more partisan politics in our government,” said Kaminski. “We need the objective checks and balances our forebears put into the system to protect us from partisan politics.”





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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CC/WI Calls for State Senator Julie Lassa to Postpone Her June 18th Fundraising Event



Tuesday - June 9, 2015



Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) today is publicly calling for State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) to postpone her fundraising reception, scheduled for Thursday, June 18th in Plover, until after the currently pending state budget bill is signed into law.

Late last month, CC/WI called on State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) to postpone a fundraising reception she had scheduled in Madison because the state budget bill was still under consideration. Darling complied and postponed the event. CC/WI and many newspaper editorial boards have long favored prohibiting state elected officials from holding campaign fundraising events while the budget is being considered because it looks as though these events could be an opportunity for special interest groups and lobbyists to influence legislative decisions about the budget and they feed the public perception that state government is for sale. Since 1997, CC/WI has sought to prohibit such events, as Minnesota, Kansas, Georgia and a number of other "blue" and "red" states have done.

While such events are not illegal, they should be.

Accordingly, we call on State Senator Lassa to postpone her event until after the budget is signed into law.

And, if the budget is still in play on June 30th, we further call on the State Senate Democrats to postpone the fundraising event they have scheduled for June 30th in Madison.

We will monitor further developments in this situation and report back soon.




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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