Thursday, May 28, 2009

Campaign Finance Reform Takes Off...


Press Release
May 28, 2009


CONTACT:

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM IN 2009 IS LAUNCHED


Major, bipartisan campaign finance reform got off to a great start yesterday when both the State Assembly and State Senate Committees that have jurisdiction over campaign finance reform legislation held a rare joint public hearing on two major campaign finance reform measures. These measures are strongly supported by Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) and a number of other organizations -- as well as by many citizens not belonging to any organizations. Further, for the first time ever, the Legislature conducted a hearing simultaneously in two Wisconsin cities -- Eau Claire and Madison -- via teleconferencing, which seemed to work without any glitches.

CC/WI provided testimony at the hearing in support of a measure to require the disclosure of the donors and regulation of the money used to fund currently undisclosed, unregulated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy (better know as "phony issue ads"). We also testified in support of a measure to provide full public financing to qualified candidates for the State Supreme Court who voluntarily agree to abide by spending limits totaling $400,000.

To read CC/WI's testimony, go here.

To hear the Wisconsin Public Radio news story about the public hearing, go here.

To hear CC/WI's analysis of the reform measures and the prospects for meaningful campaign finance reform in Wisconsin in 2009 in a Wisconsin Public Radio interview, go here. (Fast forward RealPlayer to 18:47 for beginning of interview)

It is now up to each of the committees to consider the reform legislation and vote to forward it to the full State Assembly and State Senate for consideration and a vote. CC/WI fully expects this will occur sooner rather than later -- perhaps even before the deadline for completion of the biennial state budget, which is June 30th.
________________________________________________________________________________

Jay Heck
Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson Street, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

Want Good Government? Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
Call 608/256-2686
Website: www.commoncausewisconsin.org
E-Mail Address: ccwisjwh@itis.com


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Common Cause
in Wisconsin
Legislative Testimony




Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin

In Support of

Senate Bill 40/Assembly Bill 65
State Supreme Court Election Financing

And

Senate Bill 43/Assembly Bill 63
Disclosure and Regulation of Campaign Communications
Masquerading as Issue Advocacy

Before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections
and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance
Campaign Finance Reform and Housing

May 27, 2009


Representative Smith, Senator Taylor and Members of Both Committees:

This public hearing today is historic because it is the first time both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature have taken a significant step forward toward accomplishing the long and needed task of reforming and making effective again, Wisconsin’s campaign finance law -- which has been deteriorating and spiraling downward, out of control in almost virtual freefall -- since at least the mid 1980’s. Not even the Legislative Caucus Scandal in 2002, which brought down the top leaders of both legislative chambers in both political parties for felony misconduct in public office related to illegal campaign fund raising, was enough to bring about much needed campaign finance reform. But now, finally, I am encouraged that this long-needed reform can and will happen and today is the first big step forward in restoring citizen trust in what used to be the cleanest and most trusted state government in the nation.

The hearing today on two extremely significant and important campaign finance measures follows in the wake of the most negative, expensive, demoralizing and special interest money-tainted election for Governor--in 2006-- in Wisconsin’s history. That was followed, almost without pause, by the two most negative, expensive, demoralizing and special interest money-tainted elections for seats on the State Supreme Court--in 2007 and 2008. The Supreme Court election earlier this year, while not in the same category in terms of spending and negativity as the previous two, is likely just a brief respite and absent reform, the next one in 2010 is likely to be a replay of 2007 and 2008.

Common Cause in Wisconsin strongly supports both campaign finance reform measures being considered by these two committees today. We have long supported the so-called “Impartial Justice” legislation -- Senate Bill 40 and Assembly Bill 65 -- that would provide one hundred percent public financing for candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who agree to limit their campaign spending to $400,000. Obviously, after the horrendous $6 million or more spent on the Ziegler-Clifford election in 2007 and the Gableman-Butler election in 2008 -- most of it undisclosed and unregulated money -- a dramatic alternative to the current system of financing State Supreme Court elections is needed in Wisconsin before the next one occurs. Enactment of SB 40/AB 65 will provide a new, much cleaner and better way to finance such races. I will leave it to others to talk more about the need for this legislation. I will say that the funding mechanism in these measures is excellent and we support it. But we also stand by, ready and willing, to explore other funding mechanisms and indeed, we believe that public financing of elections ought to rely on several different sources for funding so that in times of economic distress and budget deficits, such as the current one, public financing can stand a better chance of surviving. If funding is provided by several different sources of revenue -- such as the current one hundred percent public financing system in place in North Carolina -- then it will be stronger.

* * * *

We are equally if not even more concerned -- and have been for more than twelve years – about the disclosure and regulation of the campaign ads masquerading as issue advocacy -- for not just Supreme Court elections — but for all state elections in Wisconsin.

Senate Bill 43 and Assembly Bill 63 have impressive bipartisan and bicameral support and if enacted into law, would close the single largest, gaping loophole in Wisconsin’s loop-hole ridden campaign finance law. It is a measure that has been in the making since 1997 when Common Cause in Wisconsin first proposed a similar version to the old State Elections Board after Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce first widely utilized phony issue ads to attack incumbent Democratic legislators. Now, as the utilization of phony issue ads has become the common practice of both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning outside special interest groups, it should be an absolute no-brainer for Democrats and Republicans alike, to embrace and support this measure. Furthermore, it won’t cost a dime to the taxpayers when it is enacted into law. There is no fiscal note and it would not have to clear the Joint Finance Committee. It doesn’t violate the first amendment, it doesn’t stifle free speech, and it doesn’t prevent any group from criticizing the government, as its opponents and critics deceivingly claim. It is constitutional and similar laws at the state and federal level have been upheld by the courts—including the nation’s very highest court -- twice since December of 2003. Indeed, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, said in June of 2007 that if a so-called issue ad is the "functional equivalent" of a campaign communication then it can and should be subject to regulation and to reporting requirements -- a statement that was roundly condemned by Justice Antonin Scalia who favors no regulations or reporting requirements.

SB 43/AB 63 would do at the state level what the McCain-Feingold law has accomplished at the federal level which is simply to put teeth back into an existing, more than a century-old law that prohibits unlimited, unregulated and undisclosed corporate soft money to be used – primarily for widely disseminated broadcast ads – to influence the outcome of state elections. The phony issue ads that now proliferate our statewide and legislative elections have undermined a 1906 Wisconsin law that prohibited the use of corporate treasury money to influence elections and SB 43/AB63 would extend that prohibition not only to corporations, but also to the use of union treasury money and money from the general treasuries of Native-American Tribes and other entities. Because these phony issue ads avoid using a few “magic words” such as “vote for” or “defeat:, or “elect” or “support,” they have escaped regulation and disclosure requirements even as they have had the same effect on elections as communications that use such “magic words.” All of us know these ads are a charade and it is well past time that they be brought under control in Wisconsin.

As I said before, this legislation ought to be a no-brainer for Democrats and Republicans alike to embrace and support. You all know that the undisclosed, unregulated phony issue ads not only undermine our elections but they also gravely undermine the public policy-making process that follows elections because the specter of that political money hangs over many of the critical policy decisions made in this building.

SB 43/AB43 simply stipulates that groups that utilize widely disseminated broadcast communications that depict or mention the name of a candidate within 60 days of that candidate’s primary or general election must use regulated, restricted and disclosed “hard” money to pay for the communications – just as candidates must do at all times. A similar provision in the federal McCain-Feingold law was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in December of 2003. And similar phony issue ad regulation and disclosure laws have been on the books at the state level for many years, including in Connecticut and even in corrupt and lawless Illinois. If Illinois can require disclosure and regulation of all of its political ads, then surely Wisconsin can and must do as much.

Twelve years ago, Common Cause in Wisconsin first proposed a measure very similar to SB 43/AB 63 for adoption by the State Elections Board in the wake of the first extensive use of phony issue ads by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce during the 1996 state legislative elections. But the old State Elections Board was too partisan and too divided to do the right thing and could not agree on an administrative rule. The current non-partisan Government Accountability Board, which replaced the State Elections Board, has wisely and prudently written and unanimously passed on to the Legislature an administrative rule that would have essentially the same effect as SB 43/AB 63 in requiring the disclosure and regulation of phony issue ads.

In 2000, Common Cause in Wisconsin, working with Senator Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Representative Steve Freese (R-Dodgeville), put forward another measure very similar to SB 43/AB 63. The measure received strong bipartisan support in passing the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules and on January 30, 2001, Senate Bill 2 passed overwhelmingly with a strong bipartisan vote of 23 to 10 in the State Senate. The following month it came within a single vote of passing in the State Assembly.

Now, more than eight years after that near victory for this measure, there have been millions of dollars more expended for undisclosed, unregulated phony issue ads. In 2001, phony issue ads were considered to be primarily a tool utilized to support Republican candidates and against Democrats. Today, the are a plague on both of your parties with groups like the Greater Wisconsin Committee and the Native-Americans just as likely to pour hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of undisclosed, unregulated money into ads attacking Republicans as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is to savage Democrats.

Why would you allow outside groups to continue to use undisclosed and unregulated money for campaign ads when you must utilize only disclosed and regulated money? That’s like preparing to run a race with your feet tied together. This is a simple matter of fairness for candidates running for legislative and statewide office. And it’s a simple matter of fairness for the citizens of Wisconsin to be able to know who is paying for the communications they are forced to endure at election time.

Consideration, passage and enactment into law of both the "Impartial Justice" legislation (SB40/AB 65), and the "Phony Issue Ad Disclosure and Regulation" legislation (SB 43/AB 63) is critical to the process of beginning to restore citizen trust and confidence in Wisconsin’s elections, in our public policy-making process and in state government. I urge you to stand up and face down the tremendous pressure that special interest groups will exert upon you to vote against these long needed reforms. Your children and grand children will be grateful to you for doing the right thing. The prospects for campaign finance reform have not been brighter than they are right now since the late 1970s.

Common Cause in Wisconsin urges you to seize this opportunity and run with it.

Thank you.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Obstacles to health care reform


A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
May 25, 2009

By Bill Kraus


As the protectors of the status quo gather their forces to keep the “it works for me” current system intact and prove again NY Times colmunist Bill Safire's prediction from 30 years ago that we were headed for a political condition best described as hardening of the arteries, one incongruity is evident.

A dramatically changed health care system worries the organized doctors and probably the other organized medical people like nurses, and technicians of all kinds as well.

Hospitals, clinics, and other organizations with physical facilities made their investments assuming that the status quo would pretty much stay intact too.

The pharmaceutical business seems to be thriving--if its advertising expenditures are any indication of how well its doing.

All of these people and companies deliver the health care product.

The insurance companies that are expected to line up with them do not. What they deliver is a payment process for the deliverers and a cost-control function for the organizations and people who pay them to pay the deliverers.

They are in the middle of the process clipping the money as it goes by to its own corporate advantage it appears.

It was not always so. When I got a bleacher seat in an entry-level job in the insurance business several decades ago Harry Truman was president and the British had invented what is now described as socialized medicine. The Brits were having some problems with the demands put on their plan by the worried well, but the idea still had enough bounce to convince President Truman that it would work here and should be enacted.

My recollection is that the opposition to this proposal was led by the doctors’ American Medical Association and the country’s dominant business organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They convinced the insurance industry that to save the country from socialism or worse, companies would have to offer an alternative medical care payment plan based on employer funded health insurance.

I can only speak for the insurance company that I worked for, but I recall that we answered the call reluctantly. We didn’t know anything about this kind of insurance. We even wondered if we were dealing with insurable risks in the traditional sense. Worse yet, we were sure that we would lose money on the deal. Insurance companies at that time kept something like 30 percent of the premiums they collected to do all the things insurance companies do. The way this new health insurance business was being structured, they would get about a third of that. Not enough.

What insurers obviously have figured out in the ensuing 60 years is either a way to get a bigger piece of the pie or to make money at whatever level they are able to charge.

What they have also become, which gives them a seat at the table of the organizations likely to resist major changes in the health care system, is the naysayers. They set reimbursement policy. They decide what to pay and which medical procedures to pay for.

This is something far short of the free market that operates in other sectors of the economy, but since insurers are not government agencies this is not regarded as “socialized medicine,” even though that is what it looks like.

Whatever it is, I do wonder why those who are working on modifications still give the money-shuffling insurance industry a seat at the table and a full say in the deliberations.


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Campaign Finance Reform Gets Serious This Week!


Press Release
May 23, 2009


CONTACT:

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


PUBLIC HEARING IN MADISON AND EAU CLAIRE

State Capitol cynics, political insiders and defenders for the corrupt status quo like to claim (falsely) that real citizens don't really care about clean, honest government and political reform. They say that if citizens really cared, why do they tolerate special interest group domination of our elections and public policy-making and the scandals and corruption that seem to have become the norm rather than the exception in our once pristine state politics?

This upcoming Wednesday, you will have an opportunity to prove the cynics and insiders wrong by weighing in on the side of substantive and meaningful campaign finance reform at public hearings being held simultaneously in Madison and in Eau Claire. CC/WI has learned this is the first state legislative hearing that will ever have been conducted by teleconference from two different locations.


***On Monday morning, Memorial Day - May 25th, CC/WI Director Jay Heck provided a preview of the reform legislation and the public hearing over the statewide network of Wisconsin Public Radio with host Joy Cardin and State Capitol reporter Shawn Johnson. See top of sidebar for more details.


At the the Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI)-organized campaign finance reform forum in Eau Claire on April 20th, State Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns & Elections, told the more than 100 attendees that his committee would hold this public hearing on ASSEMBLY BILL 65-- the so-called "Impartial Justice" legislation. This measure, introduced by Rep. Gordon Hintz (D - Oshkosh), would provide 100 percent public financing to qualifying candidates for the State Supreme Court who agreed to abide by a voluntary spending limit of $400,000. State Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), who also spoke at the April 20th Eau Claire event, is the primary Senate author and sponsor of the legislation, which has also been introduced as Senate Bill 40

Rep. Smith, who decided to schedule the public hearing on May 27th prior to the Eau Claire Forum -- and used that event to announce it -- has also added ASSEMBLY BILL 63, bipartisan legislation that would require the disclosure and regulation of widely-disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy. It would apply only to communications that run 60 days or less prior to an election. Rep. Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire) was also a participant at the Eau Claire reform forum and provided concrete examples of these phony issue ads. She is the chief Assembly sponsor AB 63. Identical legislation was introduced in the State Senate as Senate Bill 43, and the chief sponsor there is Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

CC/WI first proposed this reform back in 1997, and we have been relentlessly pushing for its enactment into law since then. If enacted, AB 63/SB 43 would close the single largest loophole in Wisconsin's outdated and ineffective campaign finance laws. In 2000-2001, CC/WI led an effort to pass similar legislation that passed in the State Senate and came within one vote of passing in the Assembly. This time, the votes are there for passage in both the Assembly and State Senate and Governor Jim Doyle would almost certainly sign it into law.

The May 27th public hearing will be a joint hearing of Rep. Smith's Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing - chaired by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). It will be held simultaneously in Eau Claire (at the Old Library on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus) and in Madison (at the State Capitol in Assembly Hearing Room 411 South). During the hearing, the two sites will be linked via teleconferencing. So, those who wish to testify can do so in either city. Rep.Smith, Rep. Dexter and Sen. Kreitlow will be in Eau Claire and Sen.Taylor and the other members of the two committees will be in Madison. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2:00 PM.

This will be an historic event. It will mark the first time in almost two decades that major, bipartisan and sweeping campaign finance reform legislation has had a public hearing in the Assembly. And, as stated earlier, it marks the Legislature's first attempt at holding a dual-city public hearing linked by teleconference.

Try to attend one of these upcoming public hearings. If you cannot, please be sure to inform both your State Senator and your State Representative that you support these reform measures and insist that they do so as well. And let Governor Doyle know how you feel as well. This is no time to be quiet and sit on the sidelines!



Jay Heck
Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson Street, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
Want Good Government? Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
Call 608/256-2686
Website: www.commoncausewisconsin.org
E-Mail Address: ccwisjwh@itis.com

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Old thinking in a new economy


A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
May 17, 2009

By Bill Kraus

The state’s responses to the great recession, or whatever label one chooses to apply to the current malaise, is predictably bureaucratic. Hunker down. Cut fat, maybe a little muscle. Keep the process intact. Protect the system. Assume that this too shall pass and that there will be a return to most of the status quo ante later if not sooner.

What if these assumptions are wrong?

What if we not only have moved into a needs economy instead of the prior wants economy, but we’re going to stay there for a very long time?

The signs pointing to the future are never particularly clear, but they exist, and it would be hard, even foolish, to ignore them. A few come to mind:

This is not going to be an automobile-driven economy. Cars and trucks will be purchased because we need them not because of fashion or even technology.

It is unlikely that we can afford our free-market health care system. The results aren’t all that spectacular. The costs are non-competitive in a global economy. We’ve all known for a very long time that General Motors’ Blue Cross bill is larger than its bill for steel. The reality is that we have universal health care. We just have it in the most inefficient, costly form imaginable.

Even after we recover from a seriously overbuilt housing market (Milwaukee is a shrinking city, which is part of the problem, but anyone trying to sell a condo there is told that it will take seven years to clear the current inventory) it is hard to believe that we will ever buy and sell houses like we buy and sell stocks and bonds again.

While a lot of the troubles in the financial sector are due to the ineradicables of greed and stupidity, it is hard to imagine a return to the kind of unregulated fiscal adventures that suborned so much of the unconscionable debt that the feds are trying so desperately to detoxify or demolish.

The world, in short, seems to have changed in major ways, and the response to those changes has to change as well.

The governor and Legislature are reducing outlays to established programs and trying to not add to the citizens’ economic troubles by adding to their taxes.

Not easy. Not enough. Worse yet, maybe not responsive.

One of the things that has distinguished Wisconsin throughout most of its existence, and particularly early in both the 20th century and the New Deal, is creativity, imagination, and the daring to innovate when faced with novel problems.

I assume and hope that we have not lost those attributes and that the creative juices are flowing on both ends of State Street.

We’re all waiting.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update - May 11, 2009


Press Release
May 12, 2009

By Jay Heck

1. Major Campaign Finance Reform Legislation to Get Public Hearing May 27th in Eau Claire and at State Capitol in Madison

2. Still Awaiting a New Trial for Felony Misconduct in Public Office -- Former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen Reportedly Active in Wisconsin Politics

3. Check out CC/WI's newly designed website!




1. At the Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) - organized campaign finance reform forum in Eau Claire on April 20th, State Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, told the more than 100 attendees that his committee would hold a public hearing on ASSEMBLY BILL 65, the so-called "Impartial Justice" legislation. This measure would provide 100 percent public financing to qualifying candidates for the State Supreme Court who agreed to abide by a voluntary spending limit of $400,000. State Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), who also spoke at the Eau Claire event, is the primary Senate author and sponsor of the legislation.

Rep. Smith, who decided to schedule the public hearing on May 27th prior to the Eau Claire Forum -- and used that event to announce it -- has also added ASSEMBLY BILL 63, legislation that would require the disclosure and regulation of widely disseminated campaign communications masquerading as issue advocacy. It would apply only to communications that run 60 days or less prior to an election. Rep. Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire) was also a partipant at the April 20th Eau Claire reform forum and provided concrete examples of these phony issue ads. She is the chief Assembly sponsor AB 63.

CC/WI first proposed this reform back in 1997 and we have been relentlessly pushing for its enactment into law since then. If enacted, AB 63 would close the single largest loophole in Wisconsin's outdated and ineffective campaign finance laws. In 2000-2001, CC/WI led an effort to pass similar legislation that passed in the State Senate and came within one vote of passing in the Assembly. This time, the votes are there for passage in both the Assembly and State Senate and Governor Jim Doyle would almost certainly sign it into law.

The May 27th public hearing will be a joint hearing of Rep. Smith's Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing - chaired by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). It will be held simultaneously in Eau Claire and in the State Capitol in Madison, and linked via teleconferencing. So, those who wish to testify on AB 65 and AB 63 can do so in either city. Rep.Smith will be in Eau Claire and Sen.Taylor in Madison. The hearing is tentatively scheduled to begin at 2:00 PM. More details (and changes, if any) will be made public closer to the hearing date.

This will be an historic event. It will mark the first time in almost two decades that major, bipartisan and sweeping campaign finance reform legislation has had a public hearing in the Assembly. And, it marks the Legislature's first attempt at holding a dual-city public hearing linked by teleconference. Stay tuned!



2. He's back! Or maybe he has never really been away. In any event, former Assembly Speaker (1997-2002) Scott Jensen appears to be still very much on the scene in Republican and conservative political circles. Jensen was criminally charged with three felony counts for misconduct in public office in October of 2002, and then was convicted by a jury in March of 2006. But a new trial was ordered for Jensen because the presiding judge issued improper instructions to the jury. That trial is still pending. But Jensen has been active in the school choice movement, and now, appears to be a major political strategist again (or perhaps he never stopped being one). This front page article in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal provides more details (and CC/WI's comment): New Wisconsin Prosperity Network group would push GOP causes



3. CC/WI's website: www.commoncausewisconsin.org has been redesigned and updated by CC/WI Director of Information Services and Outreach, Sandra Miller. It has a blog that features the wit and wisdom of CC/WI Co-Chair Bill Kraus, and we have just added a beautiful photo of a Wisconsin Dairy Farm in Rock County taken by CC/WI Co-Chair Maxine Hough. Oh, and there is information about campaign finance reform and more, too! You can also see photos and video of the April 20th Reform Forum in Eau Claire.




Jay Heck
Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson Street, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

Want Good Government? Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
Call 608/256-2686
Website: www.commoncausewisconsin.org
E-Mail Address: ccwisjwh@itis.com


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Wedge reform


A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
May 11, 2009

By Bill Kraus

To steal from an old song title, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Italy” in Wisconsin.

We have the Wedgers’ GOP, which operates on the absurd premise that if they stack up enough single-interest groups they will get the general interest. Lately they don’t even get a majority which will win elections.
We have the anti-taxers, who are really anarchists in disguise.

We have the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, which does what the Republican Party was organized to do but does it independently, outside of, alongside of, and in competition with the party or something.

And, of course, we have the party itself which, despite the energetic efforts of its new chairman, seems to have been abandoned to or taken over by the pro-life, anti-gay, pro-gun sideshows.

This rush to fragmentation seems to have been inspired by misreading the success of the Democrats with their One Wisconsin Now, Greater Wisconsin Committee and Advancing Wisconsin organizations.

A couple of things seem to have been overlooked.

First, the Republicans longest recent run in power was under the aegis of Big Tent Tommy Thompson, who welcomed all the interests and was beholden to none.

Second, the Democrats’ success in 2008 was clearly due to the ability of Barack Obama to unite the incompatibles within that party and to attract large numbers of unaffiliated newcomers plus a lot of the disaffected, unorganized “former Republicans” who felt they were not leaving the party but the party had left them.

My suggestion to the GOP was to rebuild the big tent party, reunite the factions, support their new pragmatic centrist leader, and marginalize the sideshow single social-issue groups.

To do this on a scale large enough to put the party in its once dominant position it will be necessary to get the money flowing back to the proprietors of the big tent.

A way to do this was proposed in 1980.

1. Prohibit political action committees from contributing directly to individual campaigns.

2. Reduce the limit that individuals (including the candidates themselves) can contribute to candidates.

3. Raise the limit that political action committees can contribute to political parties.

Is there a candidate or a potential candidate who wants to unify instead of segment the voters?

If so, please step forward before the Wisconsin Republicans are divided into so many camps that they make Italy look monolithic.

Footnote: the speech outlining the reasoning behind these 1980 proposals and what enacting them was intended to do can be found in the State Historical Library. I also have a copy, and will forward it to anyone who can show me how to scan it into my computer.


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Saturday, May 9, 2009




Common Cause in Wisconsin - In the News
May 2009

  • Joint audiences of lawmakers review campaign finance legislation

    Hear an excerpt from CC/WI tesimony at May 27th public hearing on campaign finance reform
    May 28, 2009 - Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio News


  • WPR's Joy Cardin talks to the director of Common Cause in Wisconsin about a campaign finance hearing coming up this week


    Listen to what CC/WI Director Jay Heck had to say about the historic public hearing on campaign finance reform in Madison and Eau Claire on May 27th and what Wisconsin can expect in the way of needed reform in the near future.
    (Fast forward RealPlayer to 18:47 for beginning of interview.)
    May 25, 2009 - Wisconsin Public Radio News


  • New Wisconsin Prosperity Network group would push GOP causes

    May 9, 2009 - Mark Pitsch, Wisconsin State Journal


    Federal and state law allows certain tax-exempt organizations to influence elections by getting voters to the polls, conducting public opinion polling and paying for thinly veiled campaign ads called “issue ads” — so long as they don’t coordinate their work with candidates or political parties.

    But Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, called the involvement of Jensen and Block “shocking and brazen.”

    “If the conservative movement is looking for a new start, going back to guys like Jensen and Block doesn’t seem to be the right direction,” Heck said.


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Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting the Party started


A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
May 4, 2009

By Bill Kraus
The Republican Party has to deal with two barriers to revival. One is shared by the Democratic Party.

The parties both need to get a major role in the election process. Due to a series of miscalculations compounded by the immutable law of unintended consequences, the power to slate, fund, and run elections has become the province of legislative leaders at that level and of entrepreneurs at the executive level.

The activists who might be attracted to politics are not going to put out the time and money to win a game that isn’t worth the candle. So the parties play a diminished role.

There are ways to restore them to their previous eminence. No one who has the power to do this seems to be interested.

The other barrier, the one that gets most of the rhetoric and attention, is the image that has been part and parcel of the tactics the wedge-addicted mercenaries have brought to the recent campaigns, particularly Republican campaigns.

Like it or not, true or not, the Republican image is that the party is a creature of or led by the anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun factions that are said to be its base.

If this is so, if this is what being a Republican is all about, it is a major departure from the traditional core values of the party--frugality, competence, free markets, personal responsibility, opportunity.

A young woman at the recent Wisconsin Republican convention was quoted as saying it would be a mistake for the party to move away from the anti-abortion anti-gay marriage voters who are the party’s biggest voting group.

What she overlooks is that this voting group has not and cannot win elections, and cultivating those causes and that image repels the moderates and independents who could otherwise be attracted to the traditional core values of the party. They might even come in large enough numbers to win elections.

Too risky?

Never been done?

Except in 1948, when Harry Truman won an election against three opponents, two of whom--Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond--led major factions within his own party.


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Friday, May 1, 2009




Common Cause in Wisconsin
Urges You to Take Action!


Sign our online petition urging State Legislators to reform our current partisan redistricting process:



And then:


1.   Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand they support redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 13 & Assembly Bill 44), which would take the drawing of state legislative and congressional districts out of the hands of partisan legislators and entrust that task to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. This is what they do in Iowa and it is respected and trusted by everyone. Reform organizations and pro-reform legislators are united in support of the “Iowa Model.”

2.   Contact State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in support of Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44 and demand that they schedule a public hearing and vote on the reform legislation.

    Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
    (608) 266-5660

    Rep.Vos@legis.Wisconsin.gov
    (608)266-3387

3.   Contact both your State Senator and State Representative and Fitzgerald and Vos and demand that no additional taxpayer money be used to pay legal fees to defend the unconstitutional, rigged 2011 voter maps that Fitzgerald and Vos have authorized when the current lawsuit is appealed and considered by the Supreme Court of the United States.

4.   Vote! Make sure you have one of the required forms of photo ID in order to vote in Wisconsin and take responsibility for 10 friends/family members to ensure that they have what is required to vote as well.



Contact Your Legislators Directly about other Democracy Issues

Sometimes, the best way you can be involved is to be aware of what's going on at the Capitol and to stay in touch with those who represent you.

Write to them, call them, tell them what you think!

And don't forget to tell them when they do something good! Legislators often say that the best way to get through to them is with a personal letter. Phone calls are also good. Email is generally not effective, because there are so many coming in.

For addresses, phone numbers and other contact information, click here.

Who are they?

The easiest way to find out who your legislators are is to follow the link below to the Wisconsin Legislature website.

Just click on your home area on the Wisconsin map, and the site will tell you who your state representatives are.

It's that easy.

Wisconsin Legislature Representative Lookup



Volunteer for Other Projects

Thinking of getting more involved with Common Cause in Wisconsin?

We have lots of projects and would be grateful for any help you're able to give. Please contact Sandra Miller at smiller@commoncause.org.

Thanks!


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