Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Statement of Common Cause in Wisconsin Co-Chair Bill Kraus on the Killing of Children and Teachers in Connecticut

Press Release
December 18, 2012


By Bill Kraus

Who thought that last week’s blog post on how parties lost their mojo and the power to slate and fund legislative campaigns moved, however erratically, to the now much more powerful legislative leaders would be followed by the loss of political power by yet another 800-pound gorilla, the National Rifle Association?

The massacre in Connecticut, the law of unintended consequences, and a widespread cry of “Stop! Enough already!” has combined to put a spotlight on what decades of bullying of legislatures everywhere by the vocal leaders and members of that organization have unintentionally but inevitably led to in this country.

By an odd coincidence, a federal court in Chicago had called the people of Illinois to task for not doing what 49 other states had done by failing to allow concealed carry of handguns. What side of the looking glass are we on here? This seemed to me to complete the circle of guns first, foremost, always, and everywhere.

I have always thought that it was sensible, logical, and civilized to confine the possession of weapons the only purpose of which is to kill people to those who police and defend us.

The paranoids at the NRA thought otherwise, and they have unaccountably won the day almost everywhere almost all the time.

So far.

By another odd coincidence this massive, countrywide reaction to what happened to those children in Connecticut came at a time when the legislatures which must be equally horrified and motivated to do something, anything in response have less and less reason to be fearful of the reprisal of this and all the other single-issue bullies who have been playing such a damaging and prominent role in our less-than-representative democratic system.

A lot of people, institutions, causes and organizations no longer threaten the tenure of most legislators anymore. They have districted themselves into seats that are lifetime sinecures if that’s the career choice they want.

I have been bellyaching about this for a very long time. But not this week.

The gods of good government have been overruled by the law of unintended consequences, and this serendipitous development makes something worthy but heretofore unimaginable quite possible.

It is, of course, clear that rationalizing and regulating the use of the kinds of weapons that have raised havoc across the country recently is going to take a very long time. It took a very long time to banish slavery, to contain smoking, and to rid our lives and communities of a lot of other bad ideas.

It is time. It is past time. Do it.

Bill Kraus has been co-chair of the Common Cause in Wisconsin State Governing Board since 1995.

Follow Bill Kraus on:

twitter / wmkraus


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scott Fitzgerald Launches Assault on Government Accountability Board

Press Release
December 4, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald Launches
Nonsensical Attack on the Non-Partisan Government Accountability Board

The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore, vindictive winner.

Don't these people have anything better to do? Like creating the promised 250,000 jobs and improving Wisconsin's economy?

Apparently not.

Yesterday, State Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who will again become the State Senate Majority Leader in January, inexplicably launched a vicious attack on the under-funded and under-staffed Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.). Why? Because he disagreed with some of their rulings and said the non-partisan board, composed of six retired judges (two of whom were at one time Republican legislators and two others who were appointed to the board by Republican Governor Scott Walker), delegated too much authority to the professional staff whom he said issued opinions in favor of Democrats.

What opinions? Name them. Was it the G.A.B. opinion that gave the go ahead for Republicans to run "fake" Democrats in primary elections for the State Senate both in 2011 and 2012? We Doubt it. Kevin Kennedy, the Executive Director of G.A.B. has been angering Democrats and Republicans alike since he was formerly the executive director of the State Elections Board in the late 1970's when Scott Fitzgerald was still a student at Hustisford High School.

The G.A.B. has done a good job of upsetting both political parties and angering Democratic Senate Majority Leaders as well. Just three years ago in 2009, then-State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) tried to weaken the G.A.B because he resented its power to independently investigate possible criminal misconduct of legislators.

The G.A.B also angered the ultra-left partisan, labor funded, pro-Democratic attack organization One Wisconsin Now, when G.A.B. correctly and lawfully promulgated an administrative rule in 2010 requiring disclosure of all campaign communications advocating for the election or defeat of candidates for public office.

That's the whole point. The G.A.B is not supposed to please Republicans or Democrats. It is supposed to be non-partisan and independent. It was the brainchild of Republican State Senator Mike Ellis of Neenah, working closely with Common Cause in Wisconsin, and then, with other legislators of both political parties in reaction to the infamous Legislative Caucus Scandal ten years ago which criminally charged and toppled from power the top legislative leadership of both political parties: State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison), Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield), State Senate Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee Brian Burke (D-Milwaukee), Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti (R-Oconomowoc) and Republican Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig (R-Mount Pleasant). Chvala, Burke, and Foti served jail time. Ladwig served home confinement with an electronic monitoring device. Jensen was convicted of felony misconduct in office and would have served jail time, but his conviction was thrown out on a technicality. His new trial was later moved to the friendly confines of Waukesha County where Jensen was granted a plea deal that barred him from ever running for public office again.

Senator Ellis was also critical of the Fitzgerald announcement yesterday.

The State Elections Board -- which the G.A.B. replaced -- was totally discredited and disgraced and held in contempt because it was composed of partisan appointments from the legislative leadership (and from the Governor and the Chairs of the Republican and Democratic Parties of Wisconsin) which cast a blind eye to the corruption taking place under the Capitol dome by the legislative leaders at the time -- and which brought to Wisconsin its most serious political scandal in its 164-year-history.

And Scott Fitzgerald is proposing that we scrap the non-partisan former judges and return to partisan appointments.This is madness!

Scott Fitzgerald not only voted to establish the non-partisan Government Accountability Board both in 2006 and 2007, he even spoke out in favor of it. But now, because there was a decision or two that didn't favor his party, he wants to undermine and eviscerate it.

Every Wisconsin citizen who cares about fairness and a state government agency independent of partisan legislative leadership control that was established for just that purpose -- should do three things: First, contact/call your own State Senator and State Representative and demand that they oppose any attempt to add partisan political appointments to the Government Accountability Board. Second, contact/call State Senator Scott Fitzgerald and tell him the same thing and to lay off!

You might also tell him to work instead on creating jobs and improving the economy and stop trying to grab more partisan political power.

Please let us know what Fitzgerald said to you if you contact him. Thanks.


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



Saturday, December 1, 2012

In the News - December 2012