Dane County Farmers' Market

Photo Courtesy Sydne Trapp Photography

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Sudden and Sad Farewell to Senator Mike Ellis



Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Tuesday - April 15, 2014





CONTACT:
Jay Heck – 608/256-2686





1. Mike Ellis Retires from Wisconsin Politics
2. Redistricting Reform, Voting Rights and Campaign Finance Reform Draw a Full House in Eau Claire




1. The sudden and sad end of the political career of Senate President Michael G. Ellis (R-Neenah) ought to bring joy to no one – although there are plenty of folks on both the right and the left who are no doubt very happy. We're not. We worked closely with him for many years because he was, for many years, the "go to" legislator on political reform. And he understood the necessity of reaching bipartisan compromise to achieve effective, lasting political reform. This is a concept far too many on both sides of the political divide don't even comprehend, let alone do. And we are the poorer for it. And we are more polarized and distrustful and uncivil than ever. So the loss of Mike Ellis is huge.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck knew Mike Ellis very well and CC/WI Board members Bill Kraus and Dave Martin, even better. We worked closely with him on political reform issues for more than a decade. Here are Heck's reflections on last week's incredible chain of events – a combination of public and personal observations. And here are Bill Kraus' thoughts on Ellis' departure.

There was a lot of media coverage about the unexpected Ellis exit from Wisconsin politics and therefore considerable comment from CC/WI because of the close working relationship we had with him for many years.

For reaction from Jay Heck in The Capital Times go here.

For television coverage go here, here, and here. For Wisconsin Public Radio coverage, go here. For additional radio coverage, go here, here and here.




2. A capacity audience of approximately 130 citizens – a great mix of people from Eau Claire and outlying areas, as well as students turned out for a lively forum discussion of political reform issues at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire last week. Panelists included State Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and former State Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), as well as Jay Heck. Four other area legislators were also invited to be panelists but declined our invitation. UWEC Political Science Professor Rodd Freitag ably moderated the event and helped organize it.

The dire need for non-partisan redistricting to be in place by 2021, as well as renewed efforts to make it more difficult for Wisconsin citizens to be able to vote, and the most recent and misguided U.S. Supreme Court decision on money in politics, McCutcheon vs. F.E.C. were the "hot" topics of discussion. There were also suggestions about what citizens can do to advance reform and to fight back against voter suppression measures and the increasing and corrupting money in our politics.

For media coverage, go here and here; the forum was filmed in its entirety by Chippewa Valley Community Television and will be available to watch later this week on their website here and then will be posted on our website.

Another CC/WI reform forum is being planned now – perhaps in a community near you – so check our website often for details.




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

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Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Common Cause in WI Statement on SCOTUS McCutcheon Decision





CONTACT:

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




For Release: April 2, 2014

Again, U.S. Supreme Court Decides Against Democracy

McCutcheon ruling allows individuals to donate millions per election cycle,
further drowning out voters’ voices

The Roberts Court today continued its drive to give Americans a government of, by and for big money.

“Today’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is Citizens United round two, further opening the floodgates for the nation’s wealthiest few to drown out the voices of the rest of us,” said Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause.

“This decision lays out a welcome mat for corruption here in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “This opens the door for each member of our congressional delegation and every candidate for Congress to solicit multi-million dollar gifts from ultra-wealthy donors. Common sense tells us that people who can give that kind of money are going to want something in return.”

Thanks to today’s decision, a politician can solicit from a single donor a $3.6 million check for party committees and federal candidates, consigning to background noise the hundreds of millions of Americans who can’t afford to give more than $5, $10 or even $100 to parties or the candidates of their choice.

“This is a return to the ‘soft money’ era, in which donors could hide six- and seven-figure gifts to individual candidates by donating the money to joint committees or party committees that simply passed it to the intended recipient. It is na├»ve to think that such vast sums of political money do not buy special access and favors,” said Rapoport.

Whether in Washington, at the State Capitol in Madison, or at city hall, major donors routinely get major access to the officials their money helps elect; their lobbyists are invited to help write and amend laws that impact their businesses, and they are rewarded with government jobs, contracts and tax breaks. This system already has helped produce economic inequality unlike any seen in America since before the Great Depression; the court today almost certainly made it worse.

“Today’s ruling makes it clear that, with the current U.S. Supreme Court, the only way to get meaningful campaign reform is by passing a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress and the states to limit campaign spending,” said Rapoport.

Common Cause-backed resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment have been approved by voters, state legislatures or local governments in 16 states and hundreds of localities coast-to-coast.

In addition, Common Cause will continue to push for public financing of campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, as well as improved disclosure of political money.




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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UWEC Reform Forum to Feature Redistricting Reform And Voting Rights
 Issues



For Release: Wednesday - April 2, 2014

UW-Eau Claire Reform Forum on April 7th to
Focus on Redistricting Reform
and Voting Rights Issues

State Reps. Dana Wachs, Chris Danou and State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout Among Panelists

Next Monday night, Common Cause in Wisconsin will bring together Eau Claire-area State Legislators and Wisconsin citizens at a free public forum at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The event will run from 6:30 to 8 PM and will include a lengthy Q&A with the audience.

With the adjournment on April 1st of the 2013-2014 session of the Wisconsin Legislature, CC/WI invited all of the legislators from the Eau Claire area to UWEC to be panelists at a political reform forum. State Representatives Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) and Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) accepted our invitation and will be panelists, along with CC/WI Director Jay Heck. State Representatives Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Warren Petryk (R-Eleva) and State Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) all either declined CC/WI’s invitation or failed to respond.

Citizens from Eau Claire and surrounding communities are urged to attend this issues forum.

Why?

In 2011, Wisconsin experienced the most secretive, partisan and expensive (over $2 million) redistricting process in state history – resulting in dramatically less competitive State Legislative and Congressional districts. We'll talk about why a measure that takes redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislators and puts that process into the hands of a non-partisan entity should be put into place as soon as possible – for the next redistricting process that will occur in 2021.

We will also discuss Wisconsin’s 2011 photo voter ID law – one of the most extreme and restrictive such measures in the nation. It has been blocked by the courts, but will likely return in a new form soon. Is requiring a photo ID at the polls needed? Is there really voter fraud or is this a voter suppression measure? We will also talk about other voting restrictions that were rammed through the Legislature in March at the end of the 2013-2014 legislative session.

We will also talk about the fact that tens of millions of dollars were spent by outside interest groups on largely negative advertising leading up to the 2012 recall and general elections. But the citizens of Wisconsin are still in the dark about who was really behind much of this avalanche of “outside” campaign cash and the constant barrage of special interest group “phony issue ads” during those elections.

Panelists and audience members will explore whether this lack of disclosure of these anonymous communications is a form of protected "free speech" – or if citizens should have the right to know who is trying to influence their vote.

And, we will look at the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 decision Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission which allows corporations, labor unions and other interest groups (and their "Super PACs") to use unlimited money from their general treasury coffers to flood our airwaves with negative messages, giving them far greater influence on the outcome of elections. How has the Citizens United decision affected Wisconsin and does it matter?

These and other vital reform issues will be the focus of discussion this coming Monday, April 7th from 6:30 to 8pm at UW-Eau Claire in Hibbard Humanities Hall (Room 102). This event is the latest in CC/WI's continuing series of "reform forums" around Wisconsin.

As noted earlier, the panelists will be State Representatives Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) and Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau), State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and CC/WI executive director Jay Heck. And if any of the Republican legislators decide to attend between now and then, they will be welcome as panelists too.

Political Science Professor Rodd Freitag of UW-Eau Claire will moderate the event.

For all of the details about this forum, go here. The event is free and you are encouraged to attend and participate!




CONTACT:
Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

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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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Governor Walker, Veto These Bills



Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Wednesday - March 26, 2014





CONTACT:
Jay Heck – 608/256-2686





1. Enhanced Lobbyist Contribution Measure and Early Voting Restrictions Ought to be Vetoed by the Governor This Week
2. Attempts by Far Right Wing, Out-of-State Special Interest Group to Quash Second Jon Doe Investigation is Manufactured Outrage
3. Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity Out-of-State Money Seeks to Influence School Board Elections in Kenosha



1. Last Thursday's all night session – the last, mercifully, of the Wisconsin State Assembly – produced a number of very bad measures that passed along partisan lines and were sent to Governor Scott Walker after having earlier cleared the State Senate. The two that are particularly onerous would, when taken together, make it easier for lobbyists to make campaign contributions to legislators and candidates earlier, while making it much more difficult for all Wisconsinites to be able to cast early ballots before election day. Both measures appeared out of nowhere in early March and were fast-tracked through the Legislature.

Both ought to be vetoed by the Governor without hesitation.

The first – Senate Bill 655 – would eliminate the current date of June 1st in an election year when lobbyists can first make a campaign contribution to a candidate up for election that year. The June 1st date has been in place for decades. SB 655 allows lobbyists to make a campaign contribution as early as April 15th of an election year. No one but lobbyists and greedy candidates called for or desired this change in the law – which is of no benefit to a single non-lobbyist or non-candidate for state office. CC/WI testified against this measure both before the State Senate and the State Assembly Committees on Elections – and made the case against it here, here, here and here.

The other horrific measure – Senate Bill 324 – further restricts in-person-absentee voting by eliminating all weekend voting before the election and capping the number of hours a week any county, regardless of its population, can offer early voting. Thousands of citizens would likely be unable to cast their votes because they would not be able to get to the polls on election day and would only be able to vote on weekends because of work, family or for many other reasons. That's democracy?

To paraphrase the late President Ronald Reagan, this Governor's inspiration and hero, "Governor Walker, Veto These Bills."

Contact
Governor Walker now and urge him to veto both SB 655 and SB 324 – in the name of sanity and fairness for all of the citizens of Wisconsin. Lobbyists, legislators and those interested in suppressing the vote ought not to prevail now – or ever.



2. In 2012, a secret "John Doe" investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney into wrongdoing by employees of then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker – when he was running for Governor in 2010 – resulted in criminal convictions of five Walker employees and one campaign donor. In 2012, a second John Doe investigation was launched looking into possible illegal coordination between Walker's campaign in the 2012 recall election with outside special interest groups supporting Walker. These outside groups have moved aggressively to try to discredit the Milwaukee County D.A., as well as to allege that Walker political opponents have engaged in possible illegal coordination themselves. This very thorough analysis of the bogus charges and false attacks being made by the Walker allies is revealing in how it shows what lengths the far right will go to assert its power. Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy has written a number of in-depth pieces on this developing story and includes commentary from CC/WI.



3. The infamous Koch Brothers of New York have long been involved in American politics and, in recent years, very prominently in Wisconsin politics. The infamous "fake Koch" call that Governor Walker took during the turmoil of 2011 – as well as the millions of dollars spent by the Kochs and their proxy outside special interest groups such as "Americans for Prosperity" for Walker and for Republican legislative candidates in 2010, 2011, 2012 – have currently become the "norm" in Wisconsin. Last week it was revealed that AFP was trying to influence the outcome of local elections for county supervisor in Iron County. And this week, the Kenosha News reported that AFP is spending money in Kenosha in an attempt to influence the outcome of school board elections. The Kochs are literally trying to have it all in Wisconsin – at every level of government. CC/WI comments in the article.




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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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

State Senate Makes It Harder to Vote and Easier for Lobbyists to Make Campaign Contributions






CONTACT:
Jay Heck – 608/256-2686






For Release: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Restrictions on Absentee Voting/Enhanced Lobbyist Contributions Pass Narrowly in State Senate This Morning

The Wisconsin State Senate just voted 17-16 for Senate Bill 324 to restrict absentee voting,
including eliminating weekend voting and capping the hours that polling places can be open for in person absentee voting.

State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) joined all 15 Democratic State Senators in opposition to SB 324.

Yesterday, the State Senate voted to make it more difficult to register to vote and more difficult for people in nursing homes to vote.

Also today, the State Senate just passed Senate Bill 655 on a 17-16 vote. Senator Mike Elllis (R-Neenah), who opposed the measure last week according to WHBY Radio in Appleton, flipped and voted with the majority. Senator Dale Schultz joined the Democrats in opposing the legislation. This outcome was preordained apparently because yesterday, Senate Bill 655 was scheduled for a public hearing today before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns & Elections so that it could be rammed through and then passed in the Assembly and sent to Governor Scott Walker and signed into law. Had SB 655 not had the votes to pass, it would not have been sent to the Assembly or likely even have been scheduled for a vote in the State Senate today.

So we knew something was "up." Now we know what.

No one outside of the Capitol Square in Madison has been clamoring for increasing the ability of lobbyists to make campaign contributions to legislators. But who cares what the public wants. This benefits lobbyists and the legislators who take their campaign contributions.

A giant step backwards for Wisconsin today.




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...