Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Judicial Recusal Town Hall Public Hearing WEDNESDAY Night - Oct 11th - at Marquette Law School




For Release: Tuesday - October 10, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Please join our distinguished panel of legal experts and me tomorrow evening, October 11th, from 6:30 to 8pm at our Judicial Recusal Town Hall "Public Hearing" in Milwaukee.

This event is free and open to the public and will take place from 6:30PM to 8:00PM in the Marquette University Law School Appellate Courtroom (Main Level) - 1215 West Michigan Street, Milwaukee, WI.

Wisconsinites would be shocked to know that our state is among the four states with the weakest recusal rules for judges receiving campaign contributions. In fact, our current state recusal "non-standard" essentially states that justices may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party who contributed to them. It was written verbatim by a conservative special interest group in 2010!

One of our Wednesday panelists, former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Skwierawski, explains why this is so problematic:

"Imagine you are a party to a court case and the party on the other side spent thousands of dollars to help elect the judge hearing your case. Would you be confident that you would receive your fair day in court?

"In Wisconsin, this is not just a hypothetical."

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up in early 2018 to replace retiring anti-recusal Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is imperative that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Capital Times published this editorial last week on the importance of these events as well.

Please join us tomorrow night at this free event, where you will learn more about this vital issue, can ask questions, share your thoughts – and above all, make your voice heard.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 11th!




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, October 5, 2017

CC/WI to Hold 2nd Judicial Recusal Town Hall Public Hearing: Oct 11th at Marquette Law School




For Release: Thursday - October 5, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Next Wednesday evening, October 11th, Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding its second town hall/public hearing entitled "Access to Justice." This event is free and open to the public, and will take place from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at Marquette University Law School in the Appellate Courtroom (Main Level) - 1215 W. Michigan St, Milwaukee, WI.

You should attend this event because Wisconsin is considered among the four worst states in the nation in terms of the strength of our recusal standards for judges receiving campaign contributions.

Wisconsin's current state recusal “non-standard” was written by ultra-conservative special interest group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, in 2010. It essentially states that judges may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a donor or special interest group who contributed to them!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court discussed in “open conference" a petition by 54 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without any input from the public.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up in early 2018 to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is imperative that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

And then, please join me and my fellow panelists: former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Skwierawski, and Marquette Law Professor Ed Fallone at this free event to learn more about this vital issue. Ask questions, share your thoughts – and above all, make your voice heard.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 11th!




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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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

CC/WI to Hold Judicial Recusal Town Hall Public Hearing October 2nd at UW-Green Bay




For Release: Wednesday - September 27, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

On Monday evening, October 2nd, Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding a town hall public hearing entitled "Access to Justice" from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay in the University Union (Christie Theater) - 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay, WI.

Similar public hearings will be held later in October in Milwaukee and in Madison.

You should attend this event because Wisconsin is considered among the four worst states in the nation in terms of the strength of our recusal standards for judges receiving campaign contributions.

Wisconsin's current state recusal “non-standard” was written by ultra-conservative special interest group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, in 2010. It essentially states that judges may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a donor or special interest group who contributed to them!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court discussed in “open conference" a petition by 54 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without any input from the public.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up in early 2018 to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is imperative that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

Please join me and my fellow panelists: former State Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske and former Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Willis at this free event to learn more about this vital issue. Ask questions, share your thoughts – and above all, make your voice heard.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the UW - Green Bay Political Science Department, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Greater Green Bay and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 2nd!




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, September 26, 2017

Celebrate National Voter Registration Day



For Release: Tuesday - September 26, 2017


National Voter Registration Day is the closest thing to a national voting holiday that we have in this country. So how can we honor and celebrate this day?

First and foremost, make sure you are registered to vote at your current address by going to MyVote.WI.gov/RegisterToVote, and entering your name and date of birth.

If you find out that you are not already registered to vote at your current residence, here are some ways you can register today:

Online. Eligible voters in Wisconsin who have a valid Wisconsin driver license or a Wisconsin DMV-issued ID can now register online at MyVote.WI.gov up to 20 days before the election in which they are planning to vote.

By Mail.
You can start your voter registration form online at MyVote.WI.gov – then print, sign and mail it to your municipal clerk along with a proof of residence (POR) document.

In your Municipal Clerk’s Office. You can also register in-person in your municipal clerk’s office up until the 5pm (or close of business) on the Friday before the election in which you are planning to vote. You'll need to bring a proof of residence document to complete your registration (this document can be shown electronically).

And don't forget to make sure that every family member, friend – anyone you know who is eligible to vote – is registered, too.

Do you need help registering to vote or more information about how to help others register?


Our partners at the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin have you covered – if you're looking for a registration event, local Leagues are holding voter registration events in areas across the state today and are happy to help!

You can also find National Voter Registration events near you by going here and entering your zip code. A list of Milwaukee County events is here.

Remember, National Voter Registration Day isn't about paying attention for just one day, but rather, it is a day meant to highlight an important step that all eligible voters must take to preserve our democracy.

Register to vote, and help as many people as you can do the same.




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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Friday, September 8, 2017

Stronger Recusal Rules Needed for Wisconsin's Judiciary



For Release: Friday - September 8, 2017


CC/WI Has Organized Three October "Public Hearings" on the Issue:
in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison

Last April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court embarrassed itself and every citizen of our state when it discussed in “open conference,” and then voted 5 to 2, to reject a timely, reasonable and needed proposal that would have established reasonable thresholds for recusal for elected municipal court judges, circuit court judges, state court of appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices in cases where they received campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff appearing before them, or were the beneficiaries of spending by an “outside” special interest group.

We think this issue is far too important to simply be swept under the rug and forgotten. Therefore, Common Cause in Wisconsin has organized three "public hearings" on the issue to occur in October. On October 2nd, we will be in Green Bay and on October 11th in Milwaukee. Finally, we will hold a public hearing on October 24th in Madison, where two current Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices will talk about why more effective recusal rules are essential.

Wisconsinites would be surprised to know that our state is considered among the four worst states in the nation with regard to the strength of our recusal standards for campaign contributions. In fact, we have none, and the current state recusal “non-standard" was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which has spent millions of dollars over the years to elect conservative state supreme court justices. The “standard” was adopted verbatim by a 4 to 3 vote, seven years ago. It essentially says that each justice may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party contributing to her or him.

Since that time, contribution limits to candidates have vastly increased and outside spending has risen exponentially. Public financing for state Supreme Court candidates who voluntarily agreed not to accept campaign contributions was repealed (in 2011) and now more money than ever before dictates the outcome of state Supreme Court elections and, increasingly, elections for state Court of Appeals, circuit court and even municipal court. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker enacted into law drastic changes to Wisconsin campaign finance law in 2015 that legalized campaign coordination between outside special interest groups and candidates. That means that “anything goes” and there is no wall between candidates and their financial backers.

As we said, the April vote and decision to reject the recusal proposal submitted in January by 54 retired judges — including two former Supreme Court Justices — was made without a public hearing. Individuals and organizations, including Common Cause in Wisconsin, were permitted to submit written comments to the court prior to the April vote, but the public was largely unaware that the shocking action by the Supreme Court even occurred because the conservative majority denied a request by the 54 retired jurists for a public hearing.

Here is what they proposed for recusal: For state Supreme Court justices, the threshold amount is $10,000; for judges on the state Court of Appeals, $2,500; for circuit court judges, $1,000; and for municipal court judges, $500. These are reasonable and prudent thresholds. But they were rejected, almost summarily, in one of the last “open conferences” the high court had. They have since voted (5 to 2, of course) to end even open conferences. Democracy dies in darkness.

This recusal issue is not “settled” and is certain to be a big issue in the April 2018 state Supreme Court election in which a successor will be selected to replace retiring Justice Michael Gableman, a “poster child” for the need for a justice recuse him or herself and a leading opponent against sensible recusal standards. Already, two of the three candidates to replace Gableman have declared support for the retired judges’ proposal. Support for recusal will be central in the upcoming campaign.

With the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s highest court refusing to hold a public hearing on this critical issue, Common Cause stepped into the void and organized three public hearings in Wisconsin in October in which the public will hear from former judges and State Supreme Court Justices – and from you, real citizens.
  • At the October 11th public hearing in Milwaukee, panelists will include former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Skwierawski, and Marquette Law Professor Edward Fallone, who was also a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2013.
  • At the October 24th public hearing in Madison, panelists will include Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley, and former Dane County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Nichol, who is also the former Chair of the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which was dissolved in 2016.
Sensible recusal rules are needed to restore public confidence in Wisconsin’s judiciary, once a model for the nation. This issue is too important to allow deep-pocketed special interest groups and their proxies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to simply crush it and attempt to sweep it out of the public eye.

These events are free and open to the public. Make plans to attend one of them, now.




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, August 31, 2017

In the News - August 2017



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CC/WI End-of-Summer Reform Review



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Obviously, 2017 has been a tough and difficult time for Wisconsinites like us, who care about honest, progressive, enlightened, open, and transparent state and federal government and politics. With the most dishonest, least qualified person ever to occupy the White House – Donald Trump – and the most regressive, egocentrically hyperpartisan, reactionary Governor in state history – Scott Walker – we have faced some daunting challenges and stinging setbacks: not just since Trump’s election last Fall, but since Walker and an ultra-conservative Republican majority swept into power in 2010 and have been dismantling Wisconsin’s honest, fair, transparent and democratic traditions, ever since.

But CC/WI has not backed down and we will never quit standing up for what we all know Wisconsin was once, should be, and will be again – a model and beacon of light for the rest of the nation, not the shameful political backwater we have been transformed into: somewhere between Alabama and Mississippi.

The very good news is that we are making progress in advancing our core democratic reform agenda during 2017: nonpartisan redistricting reform, curbing voter suppression, campaign finance reform, recusal for judges receiving campaign contributions, and stopping conservatives from destroying democracy by convening an unprecedented “constitutional convention” to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.

Here’s what we are doing:

Fighting Partisan Gerrymandering

CC/WI has led the statewide effort to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process for Wisconsin since 2013, when we united legislators, reform organizations and citizens in support of adopting Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process. We forced the Republican-controlled Assembly to finally hold a public hearing on the issue last year and we have mobilized unanimous support from all the state’s daily newspaper editorial boards. This year, we took the leading role in forcing GOP legislative leaders to cap the amount of taxpayer money they will spend on defending Wisconsin’s unconstitutional 2011 legislative redistrict maps and to disclose the law firms they hired, and we have been all over the state educating Wisconsinites about the pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Gill v. Whitford, which declared Wisconsin’s 2011 maps illegal, and which would, if the nation’s highest court upholds a federal court decision, dramatically curtail hyperpartisan gerrymandering nationwide. New CC/WI State Chair, former State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville, is a leader in the landmark court case.

We have also gathered nearly 4,000 of our target goal of 5,000 signatures in support of redistricting reform legislation – Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44 – which we hope to reach this Fall. If you have not signed the petition yet, or have but know others who haven’t, please go here and do so!

Voting Rights

CC/WI continues to counter the suppressing effect of Wisconsin’s extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law (in full effect since last year) by providing information to eligible citizens about what they need to be able to vote and what documentation they must have to obtain the requisite form of photo ID. We have been the leading resource for college and university students in the state to find out if their student ID is acceptable at polling places and how to get the correct form of ID if it isn’t. CC/WI partners particularly closely with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to get more citizens what they need to vote. This is critically important because the voter photo ID law caused Wisconsin to experience a large drop off in voter turnout in 2016 compared to 2012 and Trump carried the state by just 22,000 votes – in part because of this voter suppression.

Campaign Finance Reform


In June, CC/WI participated in a press conference in the Capitol to support a package of campaign finance reform measures, introduced by State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), which we pointed out would merely restore to Wisconsin some of the laws we had in place 20 years ago and which have all been destroyed by Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature over the past seven years. We have a long way to go to get back to where we were, and educating Wisconsinites about what we need to do is crucial.

Judicial Recusal


In late July, CC/Wisconsin single-handedly reignited the important issue of recusal for judges in the receipt of campaign contributions or benefiting from special interest “outside” electioneering spending, with the recent opinion-editorial in the Sunday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin’s largest newspaper.

The conservative majority (5 of 7) on the Wisconsin Supreme Court last April voted 5 to 2 not to adopt sensible recusal rules for judges at all levels proposed last January by 54 retired state jurists, including two former Supreme Court justices. The majority would not even allow a public hearing on the matter. Wisconsin currently ranks 47th of the 50 states in the strength of its recusal procedures. But the issue is front and center in the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court election in April, 2018 to replace retiring ultra-conservative justice Michael Gableman, the state “poster child” for the need for judicial recusal. CC/WI is organizing public hearings and forums on the issue this Fall in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison and former jurists and you, the citizens of Wisconsin, will participate!

Measures to Amend/destroy the U.S. Constitution


Despite many other pressing state budget issues of great concern to Wisconsin citizens, Republicans in the State Assembly carved out time in June to vote on measures no one is calling for except for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and some other wealthy special interest groups that bankroll the state GOP – such as Wisconsin Club for Growth. Measures to make Wisconsin the 28th state (of 34 needed) to call for an “Article V Constitutional Convention” passed.

All are misguided measures written for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but which would take us well beyond even that draconian, disastrous outcome. A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history since the first and only Constitutional Convention establishing the nation in 1787 and it could be a very destructive and dangerous event. It could extend well beyond a balanced budget measure and go on to alter or eliminate citizen rights currently protected by the Constitution. Voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, an end to democracy and freedom itself. The possibilities are endless.

Seven Assembly Republicans joined all the Assembly Democrats in voting against the call for a convention. Public opposition and pressure by CC/WI played a big role in their opposition. Fortunately, prospects for passage in the State Senate appear much less certain at this time. GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has expressed grave reservations about the matter, as have other State Senate Republicans. But we will have to work hard to make sure it is not passed in that chamber because Walker is very supportive of it.

Now, let me get straight to the point on a related issue: CC/WI needs your financial assistance – as soon and as generous as possible to continue and to build on this body of work. Please send your check or credit card payment (Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover) today. We need it. Period, end of story. Here is our address:

Common Cause in Wisconsin
P.O. Box 2597
Madison, WI 53701-2597


If you would prefer to make a contribution to CC/WI online, go here. Or, you can call the CC/WI office in Madison to make a credit card payment/contribution: 608/256-2686. I will likely answer the phone and would be delighted to talk with you!

Thank you for caring about democracy in Wisconsin. I am grateful to you.

Sincerely,
Jay Heck – Wisconsin Director (since 1996!)






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, August 10, 2017

What College & University Students Can Do NOW to Be Ready to Vote in Wisconsin



For Release: Thursday - August 10, 2017


With just a few short weeks before students return to their public universities and private colleges in the state, this is a good time for them to make sure they are ready to vote in Wisconsin.

Remember, everyone needs a specific type of photo ID to vote in Wisconsin.

The next opportunity to cast a ballot is approaching sooner than you might think.

Wisconsin's Spring Primary is on February 20, 2018 – followed by the Spring Election on April 3, 2018 – when we will choose a new State Supreme Court Justice, two Court of Appeals Judges, and Circuit Court Judges.

If you value the integrity of our state's judicial system, mark your calendar with these two important dates, and then get ready to vote now so you're not scrambling later.

The Spring judicial elections will be followed soon by elections for Governor of Wisconsin, the State Legislature, U.S. Senator, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Go to our webpage now:

Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

Students will find straightforward information on registering to vote and voter photo ID. If students have a Wisconsin driver's license or Department of Transportation-issued Wisconsin ID card, then they already have an ID acceptable for voting. But, if they don't have one of these forms of ID, we provide information on alternative IDs for voting, including if the standard student ID at their school can be used to vote – and if it cannot be used at the polls, how and where to get an acceptable school-issued "voter ID" if their school offers one.

We will continually update this resource as new information is received or changes. So please check back often. And share this link widely with anyone you know who is attending a college, university or technical school in Wisconsin!

Get this done now, so you won't have to worry about it later.




Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

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, August 1, 2017

Tim Cullen Assumes Chairmanship of Common Cause in Wisconsin



For Release: Tuesday - August 1, 2017


Former State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville, formally assumed the duties of Chair of the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) today. CC/WI is the state's largest non-partisan citizens political reform organization with more than 6,000 members and activists throughout the state.

"This is a dark and deeply troubling period in Wisconsin's long, proud history with the power of organized, outside special interest and millionaire money never greater, voter suppression never more evident, and hyper-partisan gerrymandering of our state legislative districts never more deliberate," said Cullen, a Democrat, who served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1975 to 1987 (Majority Leader, 1982-87) and then again from 2011-2015.

"We are re-committing our reform work to unite Wisconsinites of all political views towards the re-establishment of open, accountable and transparent state government and clean politics, and to rebuilding a state where the concerns of real citizens trump the power of monied interests and vicious, polarizing partisanship.

"Wisconsin was, not long ago, a model that every other state wanted to emulate. No longer. We need to get back there," Cullen added.

Cullen served as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services in 1987-88, an appointment of former Republican Governor Tommy G. Thompson. Currently he co-chairs the Wisconsin Fair Elections Project, with former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz, with whom he frequently travels and speaks about the need to end partisan gerrymandering.

Common Cause in Wisconsin was founded in 1972 and the CC/WI State Governing Board was most recently chaired by Bill Kraus, a former Republican strategist and advisor to Governors Lee Dreyfuss and Warren Knowles. Other recent co-chairs include former Democratic State Representatives Maxine Hough and Mary Lou Munts.





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...


Monday, July 31, 2017

Sensible Judicial Recusal Rules for Campaign Contributions Needed for Wisconsin Judges at All Levels



For Release: Monday - July 31, 2017


This Issue is Central in Upcoming Supreme Court Election

Note: This release appeared in the Sunday, July 30, 2017 "Crossroads" Section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the form of an opinion editorial.

Last April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court embarrassed itself and every citizen of our state when it discussed in “open conference,” and then voted 5 to 2, to reject a timely, reasonable and needed proposal that would have established reasonable thresholds for recusal for elected municipal court judges, circuit court judges, state court of appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices in cases where they received campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff appearing before them, or were the beneficiaries of spending by an “outside” special interest group.

Wisconsinites would be surprised to know that our state is considered among the four worst states in the nation with regard to the strength of our recusal standards for campaign contributions. In fact, we have none, and the current state recusal “non-standard" was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which has spent millions of dollars over the years to elect conservative state supreme court justices. The “standard” was adopted verbatim by a 4 to 3 vote, seven years ago. It essentially says that each justice may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party contributing to her or him.

Since that time, contribution limits to candidates have vastly increased and outside spending has risen exponentially. Public financing for state Supreme Court candidates who voluntarily agreed not to accept campaign contributions was repealed (in 2011) and now more money than ever before dictates the outcome of state Supreme Court elections and, increasingly, elections for state Court of Appeals, circuit court and even municipal court. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker enacted into law drastic changes to Wisconsin campaign finance law in 2015 that legalized campaign coordination between outside special interest groups and candidates. That means that “anything goes” and there is no wall between candidates and their financial backers.

The April vote and decision to reject the recusal proposal submitted in January by 54 retired judges — including two former Supreme Court Justices — was made without a public hearing. Individuals and organizations, including Common Cause in Wisconsin, were permitted to submit written comments to the court prior to the April vote, but the public was largely unaware that the shocking action by the Supreme Court even occurred because the conservative majority denied a request by the 54 retired jurists for a public hearing.

Here is what they proposed for recusal: For state Supreme Court justices, the threshold amount is $10,000; for judges on the state Court of Appeals, $2,500; for circuit court judges, $1,000; and for municipal court judges, $500. These are reasonable and prudent thresholds. But they were rejected, almost summarily, in one of the last “open conferences” the high court had. They have since voted (5 to 2, of course) to end even open conferences. Democracy dies in darkness.

This recusal issue is not “settled” and is certain to be a big issue in the April 2018 state Supreme Court election in which a successor will be selected to replace retiring Justice Michael Gableman, a “poster child” for the need for a justice recuse him or herself and a leading opponent against sensible recusal standards. Already, two of the three candidates to replace Gableman have declared support for the retired judges’ proposal. Support for recusal will be central in the upcoming campaign.

With the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s highest court refusing to hold a public hearing on this critical issue, Common Cause will step into the void and organize two or three public hearings in Wisconsin in late summer and early fall.

Sensible recusal rules are needed to restore public confidence in Wisconsin’s judiciary, once a model for the nation. This issue is too important to simply allow deep-pocketed special interest groups and their proxies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to simply crush it and attempt to sweep it out of the public eye. Stay tuned.

Jay Heck is executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.





CONTACT:

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




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

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



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Saturday, July 1, 2017

In the News - July 2017



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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gerrymandering, Campaign Finance Reform, Constitutional Convention - Reform Update




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Wednesday June 28, 2017

1.  Wisconsin Anti-Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit Goes to the U.S. Supreme Court
2.  Package of Campaign Finance Reforms to Restore Wisconsin to 1997-98
3.  Unnecessary, Unwanted, Dangerous Measure Calling for a "Constitutional Convention"
     Passes the Assembly

4.  CC/WI's Fiscal Year Ends June 30th. Can You Help Support Our Work?



1. Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Takes Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case - Decision Likely Not Until 2018: As expected, the SCOTUS decided earlier this month to hear the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford, and both sides say they are glad.


From the reformers' point of view, review of the hyper-partisan, secretive, expensive (to Wisconsin taxpayers) 2011 Republican-controlled redistricting process – struck down by a three-judge panel of federal judges last November – needed to end up before SCOTUS to hopefully end the kind of partisan gerrymandering that occurred, not just in Wisconsin, but in many states in the nation in 2011. This was done by both the GOP in states like Wisconsin and Michigan and by Democrats in states like Maryland and Rhode Island. Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed the November federal court decision to SCOTUS and says he is confident the conservative majority will uphold his "partisan politics as usual" argument. Oral arguments before SCOTUS could begin as early as this October. The vote of the key "swing" justice on the SCOTUS, Justice Anthony Kennedy, will determine the outcome of what is expected to be a 5 to 4 decision.

CC/WI had this to say about the SCOTUS decision to take the Wisconsin case, which was published in The Progressive magazine.

New CC/WI State Governing Board Chair Tim Cullen, a former Democratic State Senator and Majority Leader, teamed up with former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz to write this excellent column published in the Washington Post, about what is at stake in Gill v. Whitford and why the decision made in the case will be so critical to the future of Wisconsin and the nation.

For more about gerrymandering in Wisconsin, the case and related matters, read this article published in the Dunn County News about CC/WI Director Jay Heck's recent talk about all of this. A video of the presentation is here. Additional information can be found here, here, and here.

The "remedy" against further hyper-partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin is enactment into law of legislation to establish a non-partisan process of redistricting such as was adopted in Iowa in 1980. Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 are identical measures that would accomplish this and they have bi-partisan support. Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand that they support and co-sponsor these measures. If you are not sure who your legislators are, go here.

Finally, if you have not done so already, please sign this petition to the Wisconsin Legislature (and get your family and friends to do so as well). Our goal is to gather 5,000 Wisconsinite signees and we are almost at 4,000. We want to be able to deliver the petition to the State Capitol this Fall at about the time the SCOTUS hears oral arguments in the Gill v. Whitford case.



2.
Campaign Finance Reform "Re-Introduced" at the Capitol: Earlier this month, CC/WI joined State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), other legislators and reformers in support of a number of comparatively modest but important campaign finance reform measures – many of which were once the law in Wisconsin but have been repealed by Republicans and Governor Scott Walker, primarily in 2015 – when they decimated almost all regulation and disclosure of special interest political money in Wisconsin.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck is speaking here in support of the reforms at a Capitol press conference. More on these measures are here and here.

We will be providing further information about these and other needed reform measures soon.



3.
Completely Unnecessary and Unwanted Measure to Amend the U.S. Constitution in a Dangerous Way Passes in the Wisconsin Assembly: Despite many other pressing state budget issues of great concern to Wisconsin citizens, Republicans in the State Assembly carved out time on Flag Day - June 14th, to vote on a measure no one is calling for except for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and some other wealthy special interest groups that bankroll the state GOP – such as Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Measures to make Wisconsin the 28th state (of 34 needed) to call for an Article V Constitutional Convention are AJR 20, AJR 21 and AB 165 – all misguided measures written for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but which would take us well beyond even that draconian, disastrous outcome.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history (since the first and only Constitutional Convention establishing the nation in 1787) and it could be a very destructive and dangerous event. A convention of this type could go well beyond a balanced budget measure and go on to alter or eliminate citizen rights currently protected by the Constitution. Voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, an end to democracy and freedom itself. The possibilities are endless.

Seven Assembly Republicans joined all the Assembly Democrats in voting against the call for a "Con Con," which is a good nickname for this abomination. Public opposition played a big role in their votes against it. Fortunately, prospects for passage in the Republican-controlled State Senate appear much less certain at this time. GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has expressed grave reservations about the matter, as have other State Senate Republicans. No action is expected in that chamber this Summer. But we will have to work hard to make sure it is not passed in the State Senate because Gov. Scott Walker is very supportive of it.

Jay Heck appeared recently on statewide Wisconsin Public Television's Here and Now program recently, in opposition to the Article V Constitutional Convention measures. He was also a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin program on the same subject which you can hear here. For more on this, go here, here, and here.



4. Our Fiscal Year Ends June 30th. Your Support and Assistance is Needed and Would be Much Appreciated: Enough said. If you are willing and able to help support our ongoing reform work, please mail a check or your credit card information (Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover) to Common Cause in Wisconsin, P.O. Box 2597, Madison, WI 53703-2597. Or, you can call Jay Heck at the CC/WI office with your credit card information at 608/256-2687. Thank you very, very much. We are very grateful to you.





CONTACT:

Jay Heck

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


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

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