Thursday, December 21, 2017

Common Cause in Wisconsin: Political Reform Year in Review

Thursday, December 21, 2017

After nearly a year of the most dishonest, destructive and incompetent President of the United States in history – and another year of the most anti-progressive, least ethical, most secretive and anti-democratic Governor and State Legislature in state history – the United States, Wisconsin and CC/WI all still stand!

That is no small achievement in the current political atmosphere and power alignment – both in Washington, D.C. and in Madison, WI. In Wisconsin, we have even advanced the cause of redistricting reform and judicial recusal, and have not lost any further ground in voting rights and campaign finance reform. Yet.

Here is a summary of our work in these areas this year:

Fighting Partisan Gerrymandering

CC/WI has been a leader in 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 nonpartisan redistricting process. We forced the Republican-controlled Assembly to finally hold a public hearing on the issue in 2016 and we have mobilized unanimous support from all the state’s daily newspaper editorial boards.

The Capital Times cartoonist, Mike Konopacki, recently created this cartoon with CC/WI as the subject.

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 district 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 hyper-partisan 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 in early 2018. If you have not signed the petition yet, or have but know others who haven’t, please go here and do so!

For more on this issue:

Plain Talk: Full-time state legislators don't have time for us
December 6, 2017 - Dave Zweifel, The Capital Times

VIDEO: Gerrymandering in Wisconsin: The Issues Before the Supreme Court
November 28, 2017 - UW Oshkosh American Democracy Project

VIDEO: Interview with CC/WI Dir. Jay Heck on Gerrymandering & Voter ID in Wisconsin
December 4, 2017 - Senior Beat

Voting Rights

CC/WI continues to counter the suppressing effect of Wisconsin’s extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law (in full effect since 2016) 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 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 the information 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 Donald Trump carried the state by just about 22,000 votes – in part because of this voter suppression.

For more on this issue:

Study: Black voter participation plummeted in 2016
November 7, 2017 - Bob Hague, Wisconsin Radio Network

Campaign Finance Reform

During the summer, CC/WI participated in a press conference in the Capitol to support a package of campaign finance reform measures, 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. Included in the package is a measure advanced by CC/WI that would once again prohibit campaign coordination between candidates and outside special interest groups running phony issue advocacy communications, and one that would require disclosure of the donors to all electioneering communications, not just those that explicitly state “vote for,” or “defeat.”

For more on this issue:

Wisconsin Democrats join good-government groups in push for campaign finance reform
June 8, 2017 - Louis Weisberg, Wisconsin Gazette

Wisconsin Democrats Propose Tougher Campaign Finance Laws
June 7, 2017 - Hope Kirwan, Wisconsin Public Radio

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 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 organized well-attended public hearings and forums on the issue during October in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison, and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices (Janine Geske and Louis Butler), current Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, and other prominent jurists participated. CC/WI must and will continue this critical work in early 2018.

For more on this issue:

Judicial Recusal
October 31, 2017 - Greg Stensland, "Between The Lines," Radio Plus - WFDL, Fond du Lac

VIDEO: Common Cause Wisconsin Town Hall Meeting on Judicial Recusal
October 24, 2017 - WisconsinEye

CC/WI has continued to call out Gov. Scott Walker and the anti-reform, reactionary Wisconsin Legislature on other issues as well and we will never give up pushing for the common sense, effective political reform measures that once made this state a model for the nation.

We will continue to educate Wisconsinites about, and mobilize citizen support for, these reforms until we prevail. We need your end-of-the-year support, as soon and as generous as possible, so that we can carry the fight into 2018 – a critical election year in Wisconsin with a pivotal State Supreme Court contest in April and Gubernatorial, State Legislative, and U.S. Senate and House elections. Please help us now so that we can continue our mutual quest to increase the number of Wisconsinites advocating for change and the achievement of genuine, progressive reform.

"Snail mail" your check or credit card payment (Visa, MC, American Express, Discover) to Common Cause in Wisconsin, P.O. Box 2597, Madison, WI 53701-2597, or you can make a contribution online to CC/WI here.

With best wishes for the Holiday Season and for a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.


Jay Heck – CC/WI Director

P.S. For the past two decades, CC/WI has been one of Wisconsin’s most respected political reform advocacy organizations. One reason may be our doggedness and persistence. Please read this newspaper editorial from earlier this year that details how CC/WI just won’t give up. Neither can you. Wisconsin’s state motto is “Forward!” Let’s go that way. Help us now!

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

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