Saturday, July 31, 2021

In The News - July 2021



Is ALEC helping Republicans campaign in violation of its tax status?
July 27, 2021 - Melanie Conklin, Wisconsin Examiner

Here’s What Key Republican Legislatures Are Plotting Next On State Voter Restrictions
July 17, 2021 - Travis Waldron, HuffPost

Editorial: Evers should never hesitate to uncap the veto pen in defense of fair maps and democracy
July 14, 2021 - The Cap Times Editorial Board,The Cap Times

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CCWI Redistricting Reform - Ending Gerrymandering in WI Webinar with Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. Deb Andraca - August 17th

Wednesday – July 28, 2021


Register Now to Participate with Legislators, Experts and Your Questions


In 2011, Wisconsin state legislative and congressional districts fell victim to one of the most partisan gerrymanders of any state in the nation. Legislative leaders, in a locked law office across the street from the Capitol, supervised the drawing of new legislative districts and made them as unfair and as partisan as was possible and accomplished this completely in secret, with no public input or inspection, in order to lock up partisan control of the Wisconsin Legislature, by rigging the outcome of elections, for a decade. They succeeded beyond even their own wildest dreams and expectations. And Wisconsin is still reeling as a result.

Now, ten years later, the redistricting process is underway again -- as the U.S. Constitution directs must occur every decade to adjust for population changes and shifts in every state legislative and congressional district in the nation. The population of every district must be adjusted and equalized to reflect those changes.

Can we in Wisconsin adopt a redistricting process that is non-partisan, fair and puts voters before politicians? And what does the redistricting process, now underway, look like?

Our special guests and speakers include the two chief legislative sponsors of redistricting reform legislation Senate Bill 389/Assembly Bill 395, which is based on our neighboring state of Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process which has been successful and in place since 1980. They are State Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) who was elected in 2018 but who also served in the Wisconsin Assembly from 2007 to 2011, and State Representative Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay), who was elected in 2020.

Also speaking will be Melody Barnes, an attorney and legal expert with Law Forward who will brief us on redistricting in the courts and former State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton who will talk about the critical importance of activism at the local level. I will moderate the discussion.

You, the voters and citizens of Wisconsin, will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Join this statewide CC/WI webinar that features leading state legislative reform leaders, policy and legal experts and you -- for what we hope will be a lively 90 minutes of interesting discussion and your questions. Go here to register, which you must do in order to participate in the webinar on August 17th.

Also, if you have not already done so, consider assisting the effort to draw your own voting map of your local community to submit to the Governor's non-partisan Peoples Maps Commission. These maps could then be used as alternatives to the partisan voting maps Republicans in the Legislature have vowed to draw -- and are using your taxpayer money to defend. Here is how you can participate in this important effort. The deadline for submitting a voter map to the Peoples Maps Commission is Friday, July 30th, so act now!

CC/WI looks forward to having you be with us on the evening of August 17th. This is our first attempt to conduct a statewide webinar of this scope and if it "works" we look forward to trying it again in the future. Your participation would be welcome and appreciated.

On Wisconsin!

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

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Monday, July 26, 2021

CMD and Common Cause Wisconsin File Complaint Against ALEC and ALEC Legislators for Illegal Campaign Scheme

Monday – July 26, 2021


Complaint to Wisconsin Ethics Commission alleges that ALEC illegally gave sophisticated voter management campaign software linked to the RNC worth $3,000 to its state chairs, Sen. Steve Nass and Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, ALEC legislative members Sen. Mary Felzkowski and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, and other ALEC members. Similar complaints are being filed with the IRS and in 14 other states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause Wisconsin filed a campaign finance complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission today against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Sen. Steve Nass, Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, Sen. Mary Felzkowski, and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch for illegally giving and receiving valuable campaign software linked to the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The full complaint and supporting exhibits can be viewed here.

By making the sophisticated partisan voter management and campaign software to its 2,000-plus members across the country, ALEC illegally provided in-kind campaign contributions worth more than $6 million in the 2020 election cycle, in violation of its 501(c)(3) charitable tax-status, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) charged in a separate submission to the IRS Whistleblower Office on July 20.

The software, dubbed “ALEC CARE” and valued by ALEC at $3,000 per legislator, is owned and operated by VoterGravity, a Republican voter data company conceived and run by Ned Ryun. Ryun is the founder and president of a right-wing candidate training operation, American Majority, and its voter mobilization affiliate, American Majority Action, which are closely allied with the Tea Party. American Majority Action’s latest available IRS filing shows that it owns 84 percent of Voter Gravity, and both list a post office box in Purcellville, Virginia as their address.

“As a benefit of their membership in ALEC, ALEC gave, and Sen Nass, Sen. Felzkowski, Rep. Vorpagel, and Rep. Kuglitsch received, free sophisticated voter management and campaign software for the 2020 election cycle worth thousands of dollars, despite ALEC’s status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation barred from engaging in electoral activity under federal law and in violation of Wis. Stat. §§11.0103 and 11.1112,” the complaint states.

The complaint asks the Commission to investigate the scheme and use its subpoena powers to determine the full list of ALEC state legislators receiving the voter software and whether the software was used by legislative staff on state time or in state offices.

CMD and Common Cause are also filing campaign finance complaints with the appropriate oversight agencies in 14 other states.

“It is crystal clear from CMD’s investigation and internal ALEC sources that the CARE program provided by ALEC is just a repackaging of VoterGravity’s highly partisan campaign software, designed to help Republicans win and retain elected office,” said Arn Pearson, CMD’s executive director. “ALEC CARE is a brazen scheme to help ALEC’s overwhelmingly Republican members win reelection.”

“The people of Wisconsin deserve to know who is trying to influence our elections,” said Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause Wisconsin. “Without tougher transparency and disclosure laws that allow voters to follow the money, illegal schemes like ALEC’s will continue unabated. We hope this complaint moves the state legislature to take a renewed focus on strengthening Wisconsin’s transparency and disclosure laws so our government is accountable to the people, not special interests.”

“ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status for a decade or more,” said Eric Havian, a prominent whistleblower attorney at Constantine Cannon who filed the IRS claim on CMD’s behalf. “I can only hope that we have not become too accustomed to fraud in plain sight, and that the IRS will finally take action to stop taxpayers from subsidizing ALEC’s partisan electioneering and lobbying.”

Marcus Owens, former Director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, told CMD, “The fact that ALEC’s constituent management program typically costs ‘thousands of dollars,’ but it is being provided free of charge to selected legislators, would constitute a contribution to the legislator.”

“The fact that there may well be sub rosa links between databases created by the management program and organizations engaged in partisan political activity suggests another potential electioneering event,” Owens said.

ALEC’s disclaimers and transparent repackaging of a powerful campaign tool as “constituent communications” do nothing to reduce its campaign value. The RNC-integrated software comes fully loaded with all campaign data and functions, and data entered by ALEC members get added to the RNC’s database, thereby directly benefiting the Republican Party. ALEC’s promotional pitch that, “With the opportunities afforded by CARE, our members can be ahead of their colleagues,” is just coded language for what VoterGravity says to its users at its demo page: “Ready to win?”

ALEC has abused its non-profit status for many years. Common Cause filed a separate whistleblower submission to the IRS in collaboration with CMD in 2012—and supplemented in 2013, 2015, and 2016—detailing ALEC’s extensive underreporting of lobbying activity and activities to promote the private interests of its corporate sponsors, including ExxonMobil, in violation of its 501(c)(3) status.

To view the complaint, click here.

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

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Monday, July 12, 2021

Take Action this Week for Fair Voting Maps in Wisconsin

Monday – July 12, 2021




This week, July 11-17, the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition (of which Common Cause WI is a member) is hosting a MAP MAKING WEEK OF ACTION and offering opportunities to use the power of the people to forward and amplify needed reforms to the Wisconsin redistricting process and to end gerrymandering.

Mapmakers need to hear loud and clear that We the People will not be excluded from the redistricting process or silenced by gerrymandering. And we need representation of our districts that reflects communities of people rather than the politicians' desires to retain power with rigged maps.
 
Here are a few ways you can participate in this week’s Map Making Actions:


  • Educate yourself and share resources with your friends.
 
Lawrence University junior, Ben Depasquale, interviewed a few experts in Wisconsin about gerrymandering and how it hurts Wisconsin. The episode linked here includes Penny Bernard Schaber, CC/WI Board of Directors member and former state legislator, talking about what citizens can do to end gerrymandering.


  • Make a map.
 
This month marks your last chance to submit maps and written comments to the People’s Maps Commission before the portal closes. Right now, there’s no better way to have your voice heard in the redistricting process than to submit a community map of your own!
 
<<< Event today! >>>

In fact, attend a virtual workshop today (Monday, 7.12) at 3:00 p.m. via Zoom to learn how to make and contribute your map. Sign up here.


  • Contact your state legislators.
 
Tell your legislators to listen to the people, do what's right for democracy, and pass redistricting reform. Tell them about why you support fair maps and why they should support the current redistricting reform bills, SB 389 and AB 395.
 


  • Mark your August calendars now!

On Tuesday evening, August 17th, CC/WI will conduct a statewide "Town Hall Meeting" via Zoom on redistricting reform and how to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. State Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the lead Senate sponsor of the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation SB 389/AB 395 is confirmed to speak. We will have other guest speakers as well and would love to have you participate too! Stay tuned for more details about what we hope will be an interesting and informative evening about all things redistricting. SAVE THE DATE: Tuesday evening, August 17th for this virtual gathering. Watch for your invitation and see you there!

We can and will eliminate partisan gerrymandering and get fair voting maps for Wisconsin! Participate this week in support of Fair Maps.
 
Get involved and check out the Fair Maps Coalition website for more opportunities for actions you can take this week!

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...