Monday, July 20, 2015

Common Cause in Wisconsin Statement on Governor Walker's Call to Dismantle the non-partisan Government Accountability Board



For Release: Monday - July 20, 2015

Governor Scott Walker's call today to eliminate the non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) is completely misguided, self-serving and counter to the interests of all Wisconsinites who value a fair and independent state agency overseeing our elections, campaign finance laws, lobbying and ethics.

The GAB is a model for the nation and the only such entity in the country not under the control of partisan politicians. It was established to be that way in 2007, following the most serious political scandal in Wisconsin in the last century – the Legislative Caucus Scandal of 2001-2002 – after the partisan State Elections Board completely failed to identify and ferret out ongoing corruption in the State Capitol and which ultimately led to the removal from office of top five legislative leaders of both political parties.

Bipartisan legislation to establish the GAB passed with unanimous support in the State Senate and by a 97 to 2 vote in the Assembly in January of 2007. It was a Republican initiative primarily devised by former State Senator Michael Ellis of Neenah that was intended to be non-partisan. A key provision in its creation was for the GAB to have the ability to independently investigate possible wrongdoing by elected officials. That was the whole point.

Walker's call for the elimination of the GAB is simply revenge and retribution for the GAB unanimously approving the investigation of what was clearly a violation of Wisconsin campaign finance law in 2011-2012. The elimination of the GAB will only raise further questions about whether or not Walker and his campaign were involved in illegal activity. And it will be viewed by citizens as another attempt to simply eliminate any entity that puts adherence to the law above partisan fealty.




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, July 16, 2015

Statement of Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin on Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision Ending Walker John Doe Investigation



For Release: Thursday - July 16, 2015

As expected, a highly compromised Wisconsin Supreme Court majority has issued a highly flawed decision today ending the John Doe investigation of possible illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker and his 2011-2012 recall campaign with outside special interest groups. The decision should be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Unless it is successfully appealed, the decision could conceivably now lead to unlimited coordination between outside spending groups with candidate committees and effectively render contribution limits meaningless in Wisconsin. Unlimited money, much or most of it secret and from outside of Wisconsin, could now flow into Wisconsin and be coordinated by candidates with outside groups to influence the outcome of our elections. Wisconsinites would be relegated to the sidelines watching helplessly as unlimited, secret special interest money dictates the outcome of our elections and seizes complete control of our state government.

No federal court decision has ever permitted the type of candidate-outside group coordination that this completely compromised ruling seems to permit. Four of the justices of the court were the beneficiaries of dark money spent in their behalf and which was the heart of this case. They should have recused themselves and did not. The decision can and should be appealed.

Furthermore, by halting the investigation, Wisconsinites and the rest of the American people will never know if Scott Walker and his campaign engaged in illegal activity during 2011-2012 – information that is vital for the future of the state and nation.




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, July 13, 2015

Another Unwarranted Attack on Clean Government in Wisconsin




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Monday July 13, 2015


1.   Wisconsin GOP Attempts to Divert Attention from their Open Records Fiasco by       Launching an Unsubstantiated Assault on the Non-Partisan GAB and its long-time
      Director

2.   New Hope and Opportunity for Ending Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin Before
      2021

3.   CC/WI's Effort to Postpone Campaign Fundraising During Consideration of the State
      Budget Meets with Considerable Success



1. This past Friday afternoon, less than eight full days after trying – and failing – to destroy Wisconsin's Open Records laws, the very same Republican legislative leaders who perpetrated that assault, launched a second, completely unfounded attack on Wisconsin's non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), the nation's only non-partisan state agency that oversees elections, campaign finance law, ethics and lobbying law, and a model that other states aspire to emulate.

This latest attack is based on an opinion piece (not a news account) in The Wall Street Journal, which has long attacked Wisconsin's non-partisan GAB and our longstanding law that bars candidates for statewide and legislative office from coordinating campaign activities (including phony issue advocacy) with outside special interest groups.

The editorial board of The Journal, together with Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), have taken this position because of the illegal coordination alleged to have occurred between WCG and Governor Scott Walker and his campaign during the 2011-2012 recall elections. Both entities were the subject of a bi-partisan, "John Doe" investigation by five Wisconsin county district attorneys and a Republican Special Prosecutor, which was halted by two judges last year and is now pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin Club for Growth and Walker adherents call it "free speech." It's anything but that and it is not constitutionally protected. Others, including CC/WI, believe it very well could be "illegal campaign activity" and "corruption." The GAB correctly and unanimously authorized the John Doe investigation into this matter in 2012 and The Wall Street Journal and the exteme right wing have been misleadingly screaming bloody murder and seeking retribution against the GAB ever since. For no legitimate reason whatsoever.

This is their latest coordinated attack, timed to occur right before Scott Walker announces for the Presidency today in Waukesha.

Obviously, it is intended to draw attention away from the role Walker and the Republican leaders played during last week's budget fiasco where they were called out for attempting to completely destroy Wisconsin's Open Records law.

One of the leading proponents of eviscerating the Open Records law, State Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) is also leading the attack (and writing the legislation) to destroy the non-partisan GAB and make it a partisan instrument under strict Republican control. Knudson, a North Dakota veterinarian, issued this release on Friday, together with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), hoping that your attention would be diverted from the key role both played in the open records destruction plot. It won't be.

Also Friday, the two Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee who engineered the July 2nd open records-destroying vote in their committee, State Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), issued their own "bait and switch" release calling on long-time and nationally-respected GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy to resign based on the totally biased, unsubstantiated and highly speculative Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Perhaps they would have been a bit more circumspect had they been called upon to resign for their disgraceful and substantiated role in trying to undermine our open records law. But we didn't and they weren't.

GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy issued a very appropriate response to the attack on the GAB and on him.

Should there be an investigation into what transpired between former IRS official Lois Lerner and Kennedy? Sure. But it's another right-wing smokescreen. The so-called "IRS Scandal," in which Lerner and others were accused of targeting only conservative organizations for possible illegal tax activity, has proven to be just another largely bogus, unsubstantiated and highly partisan attack on the Obama Administration, much like the incessant partisan Benghazi hearings and other imagined plots.

Make no mistake. The Wall Street Journal editorial, and the Wisconsin GOP attacks on the GAB and Kennedy were timed right before the Walker announcement for the Presidency to help "clear the deck" of the ongoing, very "troublesome" John Doe investigation – as well as to pave the way to make illegal campaign coordination legal in Wisconsin, and to quickly change the subject away from the Open Records law fiasco.

The Wisconsin State Journal laid it all out and nailed it in their Sunday editorial.

CC/WI's Director responded to the surprise attack on the GAB and Kennedy on Friday.

Obviously, there will be much more on all of this. And we will be on it.



2. Almost lost in all of the attention surrounding the state budget disaster and other outrages was some good news (beyond stopping, for now, the assault on the Open Records Law). On the heels of a recent and excellent U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 29th – which stipulated that citizens, not partisan legislators, have the ultimate power to determine state legislative and congressional boundaries following the Census every ten years – a federal lawsuit was launched last week in Madison aimed squarely at the extremely partisan, highly secretive and shockingly expensive (for taxpayers) 2011 redistricting process which resulted in only 10 percent of all state legislative general elections being even remotely competitive in 2014.

Some legal experts believe this lawsuit could be decided favorably yet this year and the 2011 maps would be thrown out and ordered redrawn prior to the 2016 elections. This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial makes a compelling case about why redistricting reform is so needed in Wisconsin, now.

Jay Heck was on "The Devil's Advocates" radio program on Friday to discuss the implications of the lawsuit, the lack of competition in Wisconsin general elections, and why that's a huge problem.

You can do something right now to help solve this problem. Sign our online petition TODAY urging the Wisconsin Legislature to support non-partisan redistricting reform. If you've already signed this petition, grab five friends or family members and have them sign this, too!



3. In late May, CC/WI got wind of a big Madison fundraising event being held by Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), with "special guest" JFC Co-Chair, State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), right when the JFC was still making important decisions about the then-unfinished state budget. We called on her to postpone the May 28th event. And, to Darling's credit, she responded affirmatively and postponed her event and another one in June.

In June, we also called on State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) and Lassa, likewise, complied and postponed her event.

The State Senate Democratic Committee likewise postponed an event they had scheduled for June 30th.

We were concerned about legislative fundraising events scheduled to occur before or on the statutory deadline for the legislature to complete their work on the state budget, which is June 30th.

To that end we called on three other events at the very end of June to be postponed: a Milwaukee Assembly Democratic fundraiser, and events scheduled by State Representative John Maaco (R-Green Bay), and State Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee).

All apparently thumbed their noses at us and held their campaign cash grabs anyway. To their discredit.

Still, it was gratifying to force the postponement of a number of campaign cash grabs at a time when legislators should be solely focused on sound fiscal policy for the citizens of Wisconsin, and not on their own campaign accounts.

Thanks to all of you who called and wrote legislators and expressed your opinions on this matter. We forced some change for the good for a change!




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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Monday, July 6, 2015

Tell Your Legislators and the Governor What You Think of Their Attempt to Blind You Last Week



For Release: Monday July 6, 2015


Odious Open Records-Destroying Provision is Gone,
But Not Forgotten

The brazen, vicious Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack on your right to know what the heck is happening in your state government, by legislative Republicans and Governor Scott Walker last Thursday night, has been repulsed.

But it should not be forgotten or forgiven.

These editorials from the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have it exactly right.

Numerous groups on the political right and left joined together on this one to help stem the tide. Late Thursday evening, CC/WI was active on social media telling citizens what was happening in the Joint Finance Committee and urging them to contact their legislators.

There simply cannot be anyone stupid enough to believe that this open records-destroying provision did not have the prior approval of Governor Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Otherwise, it simply would not have been included in the 999 motion made and passed by all 12 Republican legislators in the Joint Finance Committee.

Nothing like this happens by chance.

The votes were all lined up and everyone was on the same page before this was poured on all of the citizens of Wisconsin like a vat of poisonous toxic waste late last Thursday. It was so outrageous and disgusting that no Republican would say who was the "brains" behind it.

Particularly odious were the comments of North Dakota veterinarian Dean Knudson, who was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly as a Republican from Hudson in 2010. On Thursday evening he actually said: "I think that this serves to clarify and make it easier for us all to stay on the right side of the law and the rules." He also said the "hyperbole" regarding the changes was "overblown." Incredible. Knudson, who is also leading efforts to eviscerate the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), is obviously ignorant of, or is simply contemptible of the long history and tradition of open, accountable state government we have had in Wisconsin for more than a century. His comments may fly in North Dakota, but the veterinarian needs to know that dog won't hunt in Wisconsin.

There is a "sucker punch" aspect of this entire episode, that has been used in the past, that makes it doubly despicable. The now dead open records issue was so completely outrageous and unexpected that it served its intended purpose – to draw attention away from the many other very contentious and controversial aspects of this budget. And that was exactly what Walker and the majority Republicans wanted to happen. But they expected that we should all be "grateful" that they have removed this provision and be thankful that they didn't do more damage. And that citizens would be less loud about expressing their opposition to the other parts of the budget.

Wrong. We are not grateful.

We are mad as hell.

The arrogance of their power has never been more evident. They will continue down this road in the weeks ahead as they move to destroy the GAB, alter the Legislative Audit Bureau, rewrite the campaign finance laws to advantage only them, try to end election day voter registration, and God knows what else. We must fight back with all of the energy and determination that forced them to retreat on this wholesale assault on transparency and open government.

It is absolutely imperative that you let both your State Senator and your State Representative, and Governor Walker know just how you feel about this issue. They need to hear from you and make protecting what remains of open, accountable and transparent state government in Wisconsin their priority. Without that, nothing else matters, really.

Contact information for your state senators is here; and for your state representatives, here.

Contact information for Governor Walker is here.

Without your voice being heard, we lose. When we make our voices heard and act with conviction, we can win.




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, 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

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



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