Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GOP Legislative Leaders Spending Taxpayer Funds for Unconstitutional, Rigged Voter Maps in Secret?



For Release: Wednesday - March 22, 2017


Last month, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), authorized – without public input, or even a vote in the Legislature – the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds to defend the 2011 state legislative district maps drawn in secret. Those maps were struck down by a federal court three-judge panel in November and in January, the same court ordered that the current maps must be redrawn, according to criteria stipulated by the court, before November 1, 2017.

To date, Fitzgerald and Vos have not begun taking action (that the public has been informed about) to comply with that court order. There have been no announcements about when the redrawing of the state legislative district lines will begin, what process will be utilized to do so, when public hearings will be held, and if the public will be "allowed" to play a role in the process.

The GOP leaders have also not revealed how they are spending taxpayer dollars and to whom those funds are being paid, in the defense of the unconstitutional, rigged 2011 voter maps.

Also late last month, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel formally appealed the November federal court decision to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Schimel, and his cohort of state Justice Department lawyers, are paid with taxpayer dollars – so the lawyers Fitzgerald and Vos have hired amount to a double hit on the wallets of Wisconsin taxpayers to defend unconstitutional, hyper-partisan voter maps.

At the very least they owe us a public accounting of how our money is being spent. But thus far? Nothing. No timetable for redrawing the voter maps and no disclosure of how taxpayer dollars are being (or will be) spent.

In the meantime, citizens have been very active contacting state legislators in support of redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44) and in demanding that taxpayer dollars not be utilized to defend the 2011 maps. Further, in just the last several weeks, more than 700 new Wisconsinites have signed our online petition in support of redistricting reform, boosting our total to over 3,400! Our goal is lofty, but doable – 5,000. If you haven't signed it yet, please do so. If you have, urge others to do so.

Citizens ask us all the time what they can do to advance the adoption of fair voter maps and end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. The answer is that there is plenty that citizens can do. Start with these five things. Then, educate others about the need for redistricting reform and write letters to newspapers like this excellent one from a Wausau resident. Further educate yourself on this issue. Read this excellent, recent op-ed written by CC/WI State Governing Board member Tom Frazier on this issue and consider writing one yourself.

Even if you have contacted your own State Senator and State Representative already, do so again! They need to be reminded. Continually. And if you haven't contacted Fitzgerald and Vos about scheduling a public hearing for Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 (they have the power to order public hearings, or to block one from being scheduled), or to tell them you resent and oppose the use of your tax dollars to defend the unconstitutional, rigged legislative district maps that they hold so dear, contact them now! Here's how to reach those two:

Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

(608) 266-5660

Rep.Vos@legis.Wisconsin.gov

(608)266-3387

We must keep the pressure on. And we must – and will – never give up. On Wisconsin!

(That applies to the "Sweet Sixteen" NCAA basketball games this weekend as well).

Go Badgers! :-)






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, March 9, 2017

Wisconsin Judiciary Should Adopt Strong Recusal Standards for Campaign Contributions / Keep Independent WI Judicial Commission



For Release: Thursday - March 9, 2017


Two months ago, in January, 54 retired judges – including two former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices – unveiled a strong proposal that would establish 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. The full petition from the retired jurists is here.

Wisconsinites would be surprised to know that our state is considered among the five worst states in the nation with regard to recusal standards for campaign contributions. In fact we have none – and the current state recusal "standard" was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, one of the state's most powerful special interest groups that has spent millions of dollars over the years to elect conservative state supreme court justices. It was adopted verbatim by a 4 to 3 vote, seven years ago.

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 raise 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.

What can citizens do?

For starters, learn about this issue and then contact the seven current members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and tell them that you believe they ought to adopt the threshold limits for recusal proposed by the 54 retired jurists. 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.

On a related matter, Governor Scott Walker has proposed, in his 2017-19 budget proposal, eliminating the 40-year-old independent Judicial Commission and handing over its independent oversight and discipline functions to the State Supreme Court Justices themselves. This is a terrible idea that was thwarted two years ago when Walker first proposed it. This recent editorial from the Racine Journal Times makes the case as to why this proposal should never see the light of day.

Here is what you can do: contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them you want this awful proposal removed from the state budget (where it really has no business being included for in the first place). Then, contact Governor Scott Walker and tell him the same thing:

Office of Governor Scott Walker
State Capitol
115 East
Madison, WI 53707
Tel:(608) 266-1212
Email: governor@wisconsin.gov

Make your voice heard! It's all you have and it's more powerful than you think. Utilize it!




CONTACT:

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




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

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



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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Citizens Need to Keep Pressure on as Gerrymandered Legislative District Maps Lawsuit to be Considered by U.S. Supreme Court



For Release: Thursday - March 2, 2017


As expected, last Friday Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) appealed the November Federal three-judge Court panel ruling that the 2011 Republican gerrymander of Wisconsin's state legislative districts was unconstitutional. And as we have been detailing for the last month, Republican legislative leaders have, without your permission or public input, decided to utilize your tax dollars to defend the rigged, unconstitutional 2011 maps and that bill will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That, on top of the fact that Schimel and a cohort of Wisconsin Department of Justice lawyers are already defending the maps on your dime and that more than $2.1 million taxpayer dollars have already been spent defending the unfair, uncompetitive and now, unconstitutional 2011 redistricting process.

It may be some time before the Supreme Court of the United States actually accepts and decides to act on the Whitford case. But in the meantime, there are important actions that any Wisconsin citizen can and should take in order to block the use of taxpayer dollars for the rigged voter maps and advance genuine redistricting reform legislation that has strong support in the Legislature and bipartisan co-sponsorship.

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



Last week, on February 22nd, an incredible event occurred in Madison.



There was an "Empty Chair" Town Hall Meeting with Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who was a no-show. Nearly 500 Wisconsinites (479 was the "official" tally and thousands watched on live stream) gathered and asked important questions of Sen. Johnson about their concerns – respectfully and eloquently.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck had the privilege of addressing this powerful gathering for a few minutes about the "Assault on Democracy in Wisconsin" and the need for ending hyper-partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin (and the nation) and adopting a non-partisan redistricting process to draw voter maps modeled after our neighbor, Iowa.

It was an inspiring and exhilarating evening and it is happening all over America! It's organic, grass-roots, and is not underwritten by any special interest groups like the 2009 Tea Party "demonstrations," which were orchestrated by "Americans for Prosperity," a Koch Brothers-funded creation.

Go here to watch the entire town hall meeting. (Jay's remarks begin at 58:18)



Thanks to the incredibly talented organizers: Stephanie Kurtz, Ann Jamison, Adam Wood and others who made this happen in a week!




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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