Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On the Passing of National Common Cause President Bob Edgar

Tuesday - April 23, 2013

BOB EDGAR 1943-2013

The sudden passing this morning of Bob Edgar comes as a shock to all of us and saddens us. He was just shy of celebrating his 70th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife, Merle. On behalf of the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin and our more than 2,500 members in the state, I extend our sympathy and sorrow to Merle and to his family and loved ones and to all who knew him and were touched by him.

Bob was in Wisconsin less than two weeks ago and spent a very busy and energetic 24 hours doing interviews and talking to citizens about the challenges that we have to confront in order to reclaim our country. He was optimistic about our chances in the current fight for democracy, for fairness, and for equal opportunity. Bob was a dedicated and committed President and leader of national Common Cause, an exemplary public servant, and a loving father, grandfather and husband. He was just a good man.

The editor of The Capital Times, Paul Fanlund, interviewed Bob on April 12th and this profile really captured, I think, the essence of the man.

On a personal note, I first met Bob Edgar 31 years ago when he was a U.S. Representative from the 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania and had been since 1975. I was working on the political campaign of a candidate for Congress from the adjoining district, Peter Kostmayer. Bob was more than happy to help, despite facing a tough re-election himself. Both Bob and Peter won and served in the U.S. House together until Bob ran for the U.S. Senate, unsuccessfully, in 1986. He was a fearless political warrior in victory and in defeat.

Twenty one years later I got a call from Bob telling me he was hoping to be President of Common Cause and he asked me for my support. Since then he has done a tremendous job. He brought energy and vitality to the organization and did much to save it from financial ruin. In 2008, he came to Wisconsin to help us celebrate two of our great reform leaders and prominent figures in Common Cause in this state -- former Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Earl and former Republican strategist and current CC/WI Chair Bill Kraus. A teetotalling Methodist Minister, Bob Edgar even had a beer with us -- understanding how important that was to do in Wisconsin.

He was back here briefly, two weeks ago and as I dropped him off at the Dane County Airport I told him I hoped he could come back soon and next time spend longer than 24 hours here and maybe do so when the weather was a bit warmer. He smiled and said "gladly."

That won't happen now. And Wisconsin and the nation will miss him.

Farewell, Bob.


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



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Redistricting Reform Moves Forward/CC National President in Wisconsin

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update - April 17, 2013

1. "Iowa" Plan Redistricting Reform Measure Gains Bipartisan Support
2. National Common Cause President Bob Edgar Barnstorms Wisconsin Against Citizens United

1. Changing the secretive, expensive and hyper-partisan way Wisconsin redraws its state legislative and congressional district boundaries after each decennial Census is one of CC/WI's very highest reform priorities. We have been working with pro-reform legislators in both the Wisconsin State Senate and the Assembly and of both political parties. We have insisted on a united measure with bipartisan support because to do otherwise would be an act of utter futility. And we like how they do redistricting in our neighboring state of Iowa.

Last week, this united effort finally got off the ground when Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wausau), Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) and others unveiled legislation that would "de-partisanize" the redistricting process by stipulating that the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau draw the new district boundaries without regard to partisan considerations and consider only things such as keeping communites of interest intact as well as the compactness of the districts -- with rectangular-shaped districts considered better than lizard-shaped gerrymandered districts. This is the plan long favored and advocated by CC/WI. It is the same plan that State Senate redistricting reform leaders have all coalesced around now. These leaders are State Senators Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).

CC/WI is grateful to all of these redistricting reform legislative leaders and their staffs for communicating and uniting behind one effective measure that is needed for Wisconsin and that will -- with significant citizen support -- be enacted into law and in place for the 2021 redistricting process.

CC/WI Executive Director Jay Heck spoke at a State Capitol press conference last week in support of the united redisticting reform measure. For television coverage go here. For Wisconsin Public Radio's report go here and for Wisconsin Radio Network coverage, go here. Wisconsin Eye filmed the entire press conference (Jay's comments appear at 10:17). For newspaper coverage go here.

CC/WI will be in touch shortly with what action citizens ought to be taking to advance this reform.

2. National Common Cause President Bob Edgar was in Wisconsin last week for a whirlwind schedule that culminated in his keynote speech at a conference to advocate how to take action against the infamous Citizens United vs. F.E.C. U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010, which transformed American and Wisconsin politics in the worst way by allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited general treasury funds to influence the outcome of federal and state elections.
Edgar spent about an hour on the Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network "At Issue" program talking and fielding questions about Citizens United. He was the subject of an interesting profile in The Capital Times by editor Paul Fanlund and was interviewed by both the Wisconsin Radio Network and WISPOLITICS.COM. There were other media events as well that we will post for you as they become available.

Thanks for visiting Wisconsin, Bob Edgar. Stay a little longer next time!

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

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Public Forum at UW-Whitewater to Focus on Redistricting Reform & Other Political Reform Issues

Press Release
April 18, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Monday Evening, April 22nd

6:30 - 8:00 PM

UW-Whitewater - University Center - Summers Auditorium
800 West Main Street, Whitewater, WI

Over the last two years, Wisconsin has undergone tumultuous change in the way it conducts elections and considers public policy. The core political fabric of Wisconsin – once heralded as a national model – has been dramatically transformed.

Are these changes detrimental to our state’s political process or were they needed and will they improve it?

In 2011, Wisconsin experienced the most secretive, partisan redistricting process the state has ever seen – resulting in dramatically less competitive voting districts for both the U.S. House of Representatives and for the Wisconsin Legislature. Should redistricting be taken out of the hands of partisan legislators and put into the hands of a non-partisan entity to draw congressional and legislative voting districts before the next redistricting process in 2021?

Tens of millions of dollars were spent by outside interest groups on advertising leading up to last fall’s general election. But the citizens of Wisconsin are still in the dark about who was really behind much of this avalanche of “outside” campaign cash and the constant barrage of interest group “phony issue ads” we saw during the election season.

Is this lack of disclosure a protection of "free speech" or is it a perversion of democracy? Do citizens have the right to know who is paying for these ads?

And what about Wisconsin’s photo voter ID law – arguably the most extreme and restrictive such measure enacted into law in the nation in 2011? For now, it has been blocked by the courts. But is it needed? Is there really voter fraud or is this a voter suppression measure?

Prior to 2011, public financing of statewide and legislative elections helped ensure that our legislators and our state’s highest court were beholden to the public rather than private interests with deep pockets. Yet last year, Governor Walker opted to gut the state’s public financing system, while at the same time, increasing the limit on individual campaign contributions to Supreme Court candidates from $1,000 to $10,000!

With so much outside money flowing into Wisconsin's Supreme Court races, should we continue to elect or consider appointing our State Supreme Court Justices?

And finally, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission allows corporations, labor unions and other interest groups (and their "Super PACs") to use unlimited money from their general treasury coffers to flood our airwaves with negative messages, giving them far greater influence on the outcome of elections. How has the Citizens United decision affected Wisconsin and does it matter?

These vital reform issues will be the focus of discussion in Whitewater this coming Monday evening during one in a series of "reform forums" held across the state by Common Cause in Wisconsin:

"What Ever Happened to Good Government
in Wisconsin?
And How Can We Fix It?"
Panelists will include:

State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson)
Republican Strategist and Common Cause in Wisconsin Board Chair Bill Kraus
Anita Loch, Vice President of the Whitewater-Area League of Women Voters
Communication Department Chair Kim Hixson of UW-Whitewater
Executive Director Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin

Political Science Department Chair Susan Johnson of UW-Whitewater will serve as Moderator.

Please join us at this free public forum for what we anticipate will be a lively discussion.

Full details can be found here.

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


Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Redistricting Reform Legislation Could Advance With Bipartisan Support

Press Release
April 11, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


(Madison) – Bipartisan redistricting reform legislation expected to be unveiled this week would transform Wisconsin’s current secretive and expensive redistricting process to emulate Iowa’s non-partisan approach.

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) strongly supports the legislation and believes it could be passed in the Wisconsin Legislature with bipartisan support and be in place for the next statewide redistricting process of state legislative and congressional districts in 2021.

“This issue is too important to be utilized as a partisan political weapon. Democrats refused to enact reform when they controlled the Wisconsin Legislature in 2009-10, prior to the last redistricting. In the last session, Democrats in Illinois and Republicans in Wisconsin took full advantage of their control to pass partisan, uncompetitive district maps, as has too often been the case across the country,” said Jay Heck, CC/WI’s executive director.

“Now, we are encouraged to see Wisconsin Republicans and Democrats joining together to support a non-partisan process like Iowa’s, that stipulates that a non-partisan legislative entity draws new state legislative and congressional district boundaries every ten years. The Iowa process produces many more competitive elections and enjoys the strong support of legislators and the full confidence of the citizens of Iowa – in an open, transparent process and at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers of Wisconsin’s current process,” Heck added.

The “Iowa Plan” has already received the support of Wisconsin newspapers such as the Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Beloit Daily News and others. It also has the support of a growing number of former Republican and Democratic legislators and other public figures in Wisconsin. Citizens are supporting this reform in growing numbers as they learn more about it.


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



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National Common Cause President Bob Edgar in Madison This Week for "All About Citizens United"

Press Release
April 10, 2013

Common Cause President Bob Edgar in Madison this Friday and Saturday
To Fight Back Against Misguided 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Decision

National Common Cause President Bob Edgar will be in Wisconsin this Friday and Saturday and will keynote a one-day event/conference on Saturday in Fitchburg entitled "All About Citizens United."

Edgar, Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck, Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves, Wisconsin Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca and others will speak at the conference about the ramifications of the January, 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. F.E.C. and what citizens can do to fight back.

Citizens United -- one of the worst decisions ever issued by the nation's highest court -- was narrowly decided by a bitterly-divided, razor-thin 5 to 4 margin. Reversing over a hundred years of settled law and three previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Citizens United opened the floodgates of corporate and labor union general treasuries and allowed outside special interest groups and billionaires to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of federal and state elections.

As a result of this decision, campaign spending in the 2012 elections increased dramatically at the federal and state levels. American elections and public policy-making is awash in special interest campaign cash like never before.

Edgar has been the President of national Common Cause since 2007, was a former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1987, and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1986. He will also speak for an hour on Friday, April 12th at 3:00 PM on the statewide Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network (AM 970 in Madison) about Citizens United. You can tune in and ask him questions on the program.

For more information, contact Jay Heck at 608/256-2686


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



Thursday, April 4, 2013

CC/WI Public Forum on Campaign & Election Reform Issues at UW-Whitewater on 4/22

                    Redistricting Reform
                 Disclosure of Money in Politics 
                       The Citizens United Decision
                 Public Financing of Elections
                               Voter Photo ID

"What Ever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin?
And How Can We Fix It?"

Monday, April 22, 2013
6:30 – 8:00 PM

University of Wisconsin at Whitewater
University Center - Summers Auditorium
800 West Main Street

Whitewater, Wisconsin 

 ** Event is Free... and so are the cookies! **

Panelists: State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson)
Bill Kraus, Republican Strategist and Common Cause in Wisconsin Chair
Anita Loch, Vice President of the Whitewater-Area League of Women Voters
Professor Kim Hixson, UW-Whitewater Communication Department Chair
and CC/WI Executive Director Jay Heck

Moderator:  Professor Susan Johnson, UW-Whitewater Political Science Department Chair

Please come join in the discussion and learn more about:
  • Redistricting/Gerrymandering reform in Wisconsin – how do we do it?
  • Disclosure of interest-group “phony issue ads” and other “outside” spending – is this necessary or would it stifle “free speech”?
  • How is the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United vs F.E.C affecting Wisconsin?
  • Will the new Voter Photo ID suppress voter fraud or voters?
  • Is Public Financing of our state elections needed?
  • Should we Elect or Appoint Wisconsin's Supreme Court Justices?
Presented by Common Cause in Wisconsin   
Underwritten by

              Co-Sponsored by:




Monday, April 1, 2013

In the News - April 2013