Wednesday, March 27, 2013

State Supreme Court Election: Less Spending But More Partisan/Legislators Should Cool Off Before Cashing In

Reform Update
Wednesday March 27, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update

Wednesday March 27, 2013

Happy Easter, Passover and Spring!

1. Spending Down but Partisanship Up for April 2nd State Supreme Court Election
2. Legislators Need to Cool Off Before Cashing In/Power & Influence in School Voucher Fight
3. Consensus on Redistricting Reform and Disclosure at Beloit Forum
4. Two Pro-Reform Former Legislators Join CC/WI State Governing Board

1. Total Spending for next Tuesday's election for the State Supreme Court between current Justice Patience Roggensack and challenger Ed Fallone, a Marquette University Professor of Law, is not expected to reach the $5-6 million spent in Wisconsin Supreme Court elections in 2007, 2008 and 2011. But the partisan political divide -- including the outright endorsement of one of the candidates by a state political party in what is supposed to be a non-partisan and impartial office -- has never been more pronounced.

Bill Lueders
of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, has this analysis of the Roggensack-Fallone contest. The Brennan Center for Justice reported earlier this week that outside spending in the race had broken heavily in favor of Roggensack.

2. Louisiana does it. Alabama does it. Even Oklahoma and New Jersey do it. Let's do it. Let's require Wisconsin legislators to refrain from lobbying their former colleagues for a couple of years before cashing in. (With apologies to the late, great Cole Porter).

Most states have realized the wisdom of passing laws that require legislators to refrain from lobbying and strong arming their former colleagues immediately after leaving office and for a period of one or two years. Why? Because not doing so feeds the public perception that some legislators utilize their positions of power and influence in elective office to then, "cash in" on their former position and contacts as lobbyists. Even worse is the perception that some legislators may actually adopt a particular position on an issue while in office and then be rewarded later with a better paying lobbyist position. Even the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives require a cooling off period before ex-Senators and ex-Congressmen or women can lobby their former colleagues. In Wisconsin, the Legislature some years ago passed a law requiring a year cooling off period for top executive branch agency officials.

But the law exempted legislators.

The issue was first highlighted when former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald left office in January and almost immediately registered as a lobbyist for School Choice Wisconsin. It has flared up again with the state budget proposal by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to expand the voucher program that would force Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for more non-public schools. Fitzgerald joins two other former Republican Assembly Speakers who have lobbied for the school choice forces -- John Gard and Scott Jensen.

For more on this intersection of power, influence and campaign cash in Wisconsin politics, read this article and view this TV report.

3. Approximately 100 citizens and students braved snow and the cold to attend CC/WI's most recent reform forum, in the beautiful Science Center Atrium at Beloit College. Panelists at the forum included State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), former State Senators Tim Weeden (R-Beloit) and Judy Robson (D-Beloit), Beloit Daily News Editor Bill Barth and CC/WI Director Jay Heck.

The evening was moderated by Beloit College History Professor Beatrice McKenzie and welcoming remarks were made by Beloit College President Scott Bierman.

The discussion among the panelists and audience was spirited and, at times passionate, as a variety of different views about political reform were aired and debated. There did seem to be a consensus among almost everyone who attended that Wisconsin needed redistricting reform for 2021 and that it ought to be based on how Iowa does redistricting. There was also agreement about the need for disclosure of the donors to outside spending groups that now dominate state and federal elections as a result of the Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, which reversed a century of settled law and precedent and opened the floodgates for corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to be able to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of state and federal elections. Other issues aired were Wisconsin's extreme and overly restrictive photo voter ID law, whether we should elect or appoint Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices and public financing of state elections.

For more on the forum, read this news report.

4. At the most recent meeting of the CC/WI State Governing Board last month, two pro-reform former legislators who left the State Assembly in January, were elected to the Board: Donna Seidel of Wausau and Kelda Helen Roys of Madison were Democratic lawmakers. A former Republican Cabinet Secretary and former Republican State Senator will join the CC/WI Board this Spring and Summer. For more on this, go here.

Also at the February 21st CC/WI Board Meeting in the Capitol in Madison, State Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), the Chair of the Assembly Campaigns & Election Committee addressed the board about her plans for the 2013-2014 legislative session. Also addressing the board were State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Representative Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) who discussed their soon-to-be introduced redistricting reform legislation -- which CC/WI strongly supports.

To watch a video of the comments of all of the legislators and questions from board members, go here.

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

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