CC/WI Public Forum on June 5th, 2014 - Racine, WI

L-R: Andrea Kaminski of LWV-WI, Jay Heck of CC/WI, State Sen. John Lehman, State Rep. Cory Mason

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Political Bombshell in Wisconsin: Governor Scott Walker at Center of "Criminal Scheme"



Thursday - June 19, 2014

Political Bombshell in Wisconsin:
Governor Scott Walker at Center of "Criminal Scheme"


Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago ordered the release of numerous documents pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation of possible illegal coordination or collusion between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside special interest groups supporting Walker and/or attacking Democrats during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections in Wisconsin.

This secret "John Doe" investigation commenced two years ago, following Walker's victory in the June, 2012 recall election, and was undertaken by three Democratic district attorneys, two Republican district attorneys, and a Republican Special Prosecutor who said that he had voted for Walker in the recall election.

This is not a partisan "witch hunt" – as supporters of Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth (which spent more than $9 million in support of Walker and Republicans in 2012) have misleadingly charged.

Included in the documents today was a 2012 email from Scott Walker himself to Karl Rove, the former top political adviser to President George W. Bush in which he tells Rove how one of Walker's former top political deputies, R.J. Johnson, was now an adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth and that he would lead the coordination campaign of outside groups with Walker and other Republican campaigns.

In Wisconsin, such coordination is illegal – even if it does not involve express advocacy and only issue advocacy – because such coordination constitutes a political contribution to a candidate. This has been state law for many years and it is the issue at the heart of the investigation.

Today's revelations are the first that directly implicate Governor Walker and the Walker campaign. For more details go here.

Common Cause in Wisconsin has called for the investigation to continue and has been critical of repeated partisan attempts to undermine and block 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...


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform as an Election Year Issue



Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Tuesday - June 17, 2014





CONTACT:
Jay Heck – 608/256-2686





1. Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform as an Election Year Issue
2. 37th and Final CC/WI "Reform Forum" in Racine Draws Near Capacity Audience




1. During the 2013-2014 Wisconsin legislative session that ended in early April, political reform was clearly not a priority for the majority party or the Governor unless you define political reform as making it more difficult for Wisconsin citizens to vote or making it easier for special interest lobbyists to make campaign contributions to legislators, sooner – or at any time – and to completely corrupt the public policy-making process in the State Capitol. But, despite the implementation of this ongoing strategy to take Wisconsin politics back into the Age of the Robber Barons and the Gilded Age that has been underway for the past several years, one positive political reform has gained real traction and captured the attention of thousands of Wisconsin citizens and the editorial support of almost all of Wisconsin's daily newspapers: non-partisan redistricting reform. This issue has received more press attention, editorial support and has generated more citizen letters to the editors and to legislators than any other political reform issue in memory. Our neighbor, Iowa has had non-partisan redistricting in place since 1981, and Wisconsin needs it desperately – and we need to get it in place before the next redistricting process occurs in 2021.

During 2013-2014 pro-reform legislators united behind a single vehicle – Assembly Bill 185 and Senate Bill 163 – identical measures that would keep the responsibility of redrawing state legislative and congressional district lines after each decennial census through an up or down vote of the Wisconsin Legislature, but at the same time, delegate the actual task of drawing the new district boundaries to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, who would utilize decidedly non-partisan criteria in which to do so.

To review all that was done and the progress that was made in advancing non-partisan redistricting reform during 2013-2014, go here. Read veteran state Capitol reporter Steve Walter's sad and sobering commentary about the lack of competitiveness in Wisconsin legislative elections (in which he cites CC/WI) here. CC/WI State Governing Board Chair Bill Kraus also gives his analysis of the 2014 elections in the face of a horribly gerrymandered political map here.

Support for this fundamental reform ought to be a front-and-center election issue this year. CC/WI is urging newspaper editorial boards to make this issue one of their criteria for endorsement of statewide and state legislative candidates – and we urge all citizens to raise it as an issue as well. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) infamously said fairly recently "nobody cares" about redistricting reform. That's a lie, of course. What he really meant to say was that he hoped no one else would care so that he could control the next redistricting process in the same absolute, dictatorial, hyper-partisan, secretive and costly (to you, the taxpayers) way that his predecessor did in 2011.



2. On a beautiful late Spring evening recently, CC/WI held it's 37th and final "Reform Forum" in Racine and more than 75 citizens turned out to hear a lively panel discussion followed by questions and comments with State Senator John Lehman (D-Racine), State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), League of Women Voters of Wisconsin executive director Andrea Kaminski and CC/WI director Jay Heck. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Representative Thomas Weatherston (R-Racine) were also invited to be panelists, but Vos had a scheduling conflict and Weatherston did not respond to our invite.

The discussion centered on the gerrymandered mess made of Racine and what was once part of one of the most competitive state senate districts in Wisconsin. As a result of the hyper-partisan 2011 redistricting process, Racine is now in a "safe" Democratic State Senate district, with the city of Kenosha and the communities around Racine combined with those outside of Kenosha to form a safe Republican State Senate district and more safe Republican Assembly districts there. What happened in 2011 to Racine, Kenosha and the communities nearby is almost a textbook example of why the current partisan system of gerrymandering controlled by Robin Vos is such a raw deal for voters. There were other issues raised at this animated forum which was covered in the Racine Journal-Times here.

Racine was our final "reform forum" as CC/WI will begin to do other types of events beginning later this year and in the future. Our very first such forum was held in Green Bay in January of 2007 and since that time we have been in almost every population center in Wisconsin – some of them more than once as we attempted to help educate the thousands of Wisconsinites who attended and participated in these events. We brought legislators of both political parties together with academic experts, other reformers, opponents of reform, newspaper editorial page editors and others on panels to discuss and debate campaign finance reform, judicial independence, voting rights, electioneering disclosure, an independent state elections and ethics entity, public financing of state elections, corruption in state government and, of course, redistricting reform. CC/WI was the only political reform organization that invited panelists to our forums who did not agree with our positions and, while they did not always come (as in Racine), we at least tried. The CC/WI director has yet to be invited to any similar type of forum by those who oppose our positions on political reform.

Our forums were held primarily on university and college campuses in order to attract some students – the next generation of political participants to be involved in our democracy. In addition to going to Green Bay (twice), we also had forums in the Milwaukee area (4 times), Oshkosh (twice), Pewaukee, La Crosse (twice), Eau Claire (twice), Appleton (twice), Sheboygan, Baraboo, Kenosha, Janesville (twice), Madison (4 times), Sturgeon Bay, Whitewater, Beloit, Stevens Point (twice), Wausau, Middleton, Spring Green, Green Lake, Menasha, Greenfield, Mazomanie, and River Falls.

We had many wonderful panelists – elected officials and others from all over the political spectrum, including current and former State Senators Rob Cowles, Dave Hansen, Carol Roessler, Julie Lassa, Dale Schultz, Jon Erpenbach, Mike Ellis, Tim Cullen, Jim Sullivan, Peggy Rosenzweig, Walter John Chilsen, Bob Wirch, John Lehman, Tim Carpenter, Tim Weeden, Jennifer Shilling, Dan Kapanke, Margaret Farrow, Jessica King, Mordecai Lee, Kathleen Vinehout, Fred Risser, Pat Kreitlow, Cal Potter, and current or former State Representatives Peter Barca, Jeff Stone, Jeanette Bell, Donna Seidel, Jill Billings, David Martin, Dean Kaufert, Penny Bernard Schaber, Steve Doyle, Andy Jorgenson, Jon Richards, Spencer Black, Bert Grover, Dick Spanbauer, Gordon Hintz, Jim Soletski, Jeff Smith, Fred Clark, Dana Wachs and Kristen Dexter. Also, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Patrick Crooks and Ann Walsh Bradley, and former U.S. Congressman David Obey. And many wonderful academic experts, journalists and reform colleagues such as Andrea Kaminski of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the legendary Bill Kraus, our CC/WI Chair.

Thanks everyone! It was a great run and we did a lot of good, we hope.



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...


Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the News - June 2014



Read More...


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Redistricting Reform, Voting Rights and "Dark" Money at Racine Forum on June 5th



For Release: Thursday - May 29, 2014

Reform Forum in Racine on June 5th to
Focus on Redistricting Reform, Voting Rights
and "Dark" Money in Our Elections

State Rep. Cory Mason, State Sen. John Lehman,
Andrea Kaminski of the League of Women Voters-WI Among Panelists

Next Thursday night, Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding a free public forum at the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church entitled: "Political Reform in Wisconsin: Where Things Stand." The event will run from 6:30 to 8 PM and will include a lengthy Q&A with the audience

We urge citizens from Racine and surrounding communities to attend this important 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'll also discuss Wisconsin’s 2011 extreme and restrictive photo voter ID law, the far-reaching implications of Federal Judge Lynn Adelman’s sweeping decision striking down that law in April – and the likelihood of a voter ID law returning in a new form in the near future. We will also take a closer look at other voting restrictions that were rammed through the Wisconsin Legislature in March at the end of the 2013-2014 legislative session.

And what about all that dark money flowing into Wisconsin?

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 still don't know 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.

Another issue we plan to cover is the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 decision Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission allowing 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. We'll discuss how Citizens United has affected Wisconsin.

And just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down yet another horrendous decision in McCutcheon vs F.E.C. (or as some call it: “Citizens United, Part 2), allowing wealthy individuals to donate to many more candidates per election cycle, further expanding the corrupting influence of money in our political system, while drowning out the voices of non-wealthy voters. We’ll talk about McCutcheon and how it will affect Wisconsin – and we will explain a couple of other recent federal court decisions concerning Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.

These and other vital reform issues will be the focus of discussion next Thursday, June 5th from 6:30 to 8pm at the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine. This event is the latest in CC/WI's continuing series of "reform forums" around Wisconsin.

As noted above, the panelists will be State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), State Senator John Lehman (D-Racine), League of Women Voters executive director Andrea Kaminski, and CC/WI executive director Jay Heck.

Public Policy Chair Cheryl O'Brien of the American Association of University Women-Racine Branch 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

Read More...


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Judge's Order to Shut Down John Doe Probe Demonstrates Need to Close Phony Issue Ad Loophole





CONTACT:

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




For Release: May 7, 2014

New Urgency to Close Phony Issue Ad Loophole in Wisconsin
in Wake of Federal Judge's Order to Halt Investigation


U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa yesterday issued a decision to halt a secret "John Doe" investigation by five county district attorneys that began in 2012 to investigate possible illegal campaign coordination between Governor Scott Walker's campaign in the recall election of 2011-2012 and outside conservative special interest groups who supported Walker. The decision will almost certainly be appealed to the Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago. But Randa's decision underscores the continued and urgent need for Wisconsin to enact into law effective electioneering disclosure legislation.

Randa ruled that Wisconsin Club for Growth and other outside special interest groups such as Wisconsin Right to Life and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin were not in violation of Wisconsin law prohibiting coordination between such groups and a candidate's campaign because they did not engage in "express advocacy" in their efforts for Walker. Instead they utilized issue advocacy – or in reality – "phony" issue advocacy, which is express advocacy masquerading as issue advocacy. Randa said in his decision "the (Wisconsin Club for Growth and its treasurer) have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws . . . "

In Wisconsin, express advocacy is subject to registration, regulation and disclosure requirements. Phony issue advocacy is not – yet, but should be.

Express advocacy has been defined by Courts since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision as communications that utilize terms such as "vote for," or "defeat," or "support." But for years, the way to get around that definition and the requisite disclosure requirements was to avoid the express advocacy terms referred to as "magic words." And obviously it is easy to do and still be able to influence the outcome of an election.

An example of express advocacy that would trigger disclosure and would make it illegal for there to be any coordination between a group utilizing it – and the campaign of the candidate they were supporting – would be: "Scott Burke would be a wonderful Governor for Wisconsin and you should vote for Scott Burke on Tuesday." It contains a "magic word term" – vote for.

An example of issue advocacy – really phony issue advocacy, not subject to disclosure – would be: "Scott Burke loves Wisconsin and wants to eliminate your taxes, make your schools better and clean up your environment. Call Scott Burke and tell him you agree with his plan." No magic words.

Obviously in the period before an election there is no difference in the effect that either communication would have in the minds of someone seeing or listening to it. Both advocate for the election of Scott Burke. But only the first one triggers disclosure. The second one does not under current Wisconsin law. That is an obvious loophole in Wisconsin's law the size of Siberia. But it is exactly that loophole that outside special interest groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth have utilized for years to spend millions of dollars to influence the outcome of elections in this state, but have escaped disclosure. And it was this very loophole that Judge Randa cited in his decision to stop the John Doe investigation, presumably because he believes that coordination between outside special interest groups utilizing phony issue ads and candidate campaigns is not illegal.

Wisconsin Club for Growth spent over $9 million on behalf of Walker in 2011-2012, but Randa seems to be saying that because the communications utilized were largely (or completely) phony issue ads and not express advocacy, then there was not illegal coordination. That defies logic – but whether it is illegal or not will be determined by the Federal Court of Appeals.

Since 1997, Common Cause in Wisconsin has advocated closing this phony issue ad loophole and requiring outside groups that run widely-disseminated communications that no reasonable person could otherwise interpret as attempting to influence her or his vote for or against a candidate (even if it does not contain one of the so-called "magic words"), be subject to registration and disclosure – if it is run in the period of 60 days or less prior to the election.

This is not an infringement of free speech. This is common sense. And even the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority who "gave" us the Citizens United V. F.E.C. decision in 2010 told Congress and the states that they really ought to require disclosure and regulation of the massive amount of outside money they were unleashing on our elections.

In 2013-2014, CC/WI helped initiate and promoted such electioneering disclosure legislation with bipartisan co-sponsorship – Senate Bill 166. Clearly after Judge Randa's decision yesterday, it is needed even more urgently than ever.

For more on this developing story go here, here and here.




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...