Tuesday July 16, 2019

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Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan nonprofit political watchdog group now in it's third decade of working for clean, open and honest government and reforms that make people matter more than money in politics.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 203 South Paterson Street, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703-3689, 608-255-4260

Waupaca County Joins Effort to Ban Gerrymandering

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 29 April 2019
in Wisconsin

voter-primariesPressure grows Statewide for referendums, as 72 percent of Wisconsinites want to ban gerrymandering, including 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.


MADISON - On April 16 the Waupaca County board became the 46th county board to pass a resolution urging our state legislators to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin and to adopt nonpartisan redistricting.

Waupaca is conservative territory, and the passing of the referendum there is yet more confirmation that this is an issue that’s popular across the board. A Marquette Law School poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want to ban gerrymandering, including 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents. Like Waupaca County, which Donald Trump carried with 63 percent of the vote, 34 of the 46 Wisconsin counties that have passed this resolution went for Trump in 2016.

The momentum keeps building. In addition to Waupaca County, three other county boards passed the resolution this month: Buffalo County, Iowa County, and Fond du Lac County.

What’s more, on April 2, county-wide referendums passed by overwhelming margins in La Crosse County and Vernon County. (Also that day, the Town of Newbold, near Rhinelander, held a referendum on the issue, and it passed with 69 percent approval.)

Here are the eight counties that have passed the referendum so far, along with the lopsided votes in favor:

  • Dane: 4/1/2014, 82% in favor46 Counties Have Passed Fair Maps Resolutions
  • Eau Claire: 11/6/18, 74% in favor
  • La Crosse: 4/2/2019, 77% in favor
  • Lincoln: 11/6/18, 65% in favor
  • Outagamie: 4/3/2018, 72% in favor
  • Sauk: 11/6/18, 72% in favor
  • Vernon: 4/2/2019, 71% in favor
  • Winnebago: 11/6/18, 69% in favor

This is one of the most underreported stories about grassroots activism in Wisconsin.

This powerful effort is the result of some great coordinated organizing by Citizen Action Cooperatives, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the Fair Elections Project, Grassroots North Shore, Indivisible, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Our Wisconsin Revolution, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Voices, and a few other groups.

matt-rothschildIt’s also the result of some inspired leadership by Lincoln County board member Hans Breitenmoser, who galvanized the county-by-county effort. And it’s the result of years of talks, all around the state, by former State Senators Tim Cullen and Dale Schultz (Cullen was Majority Leader for the Democrats at one point, and Schultz was Majority Leader for the Republicans).

Last, but by no means least, it’s the result of spontaneous organizing by local citizens who are just sick and tired of the rigging of our political system!

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Sen. Larson Leads on Campaign Finance Reform

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 07 February 2019
in Wisconsin

chris_larsonSen. Larson’s bills would limit the role of the super wealthy and corporations, and bring some more transparency to our politics.


MADISON - Sen. Chris Larson, Democrat from Milwaukee, is taking the lead in the Wisconsin State Senate on the urgent issue of campaign finance reform.

He is introducing what he calls the “2019-2020 Campaign Integrity Package,” which consists of nine bills. These bills would go a long way toward rectifying the damage that was done when the GOP leadership disastrously rewrote our campaign finance law back in 2015.

“Powerful special interest groups and wealthy corporations continue to have an overwhelming and growing effect on elections across Wisconsin and nationwide,” Sen. Larson says. These bills “address our most damaging campaign finance problems.”

mta-milwaukeeOne of the bills, which is entitled the “No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act,” would ban corporations, labor unions, tribes, and other groups from donating to political parties and legislative campaign committees. In the last session, such donations amounted to $1.7 million. For more than 100 years prior to the 2015 rewrite of our campaign finance law, corporations and other groups were not allowed to make such donations. (The Legislative Reference Bureau draft number for this bill is LRB-1094. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Jonathan Brostoff is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

Another bill, the “Communications Transparency Act,” would lift the lid on the dark money that has flooded into Wisconsin elections. It would require so-called “issue advocacy” groups to disclose the names of any donors who gave them $100 or more in the preceding 12 months. Now we’d know who is paying for the mud that’s splattering on our screens at election time. The bill would also require the reporting, within 48 hours, of any mass communication that costs more than $500 and is made within 60 days of an election. (Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate.)

Another important bill, the “Coordination Control Act,” would prohibit unlimited donations to “issue advocacy” groups that are coordinating with candidates. Instead, those donations would not be able to exceed the limits on direct contributions to candidates. Under the 2015 law, a candidate may coordinate with these outside groups, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from their donors, thus making a mockery of the limits on direct contributions to candidates. The bill also redefines “coordination” to mean that the candidate or candidate’s agent “exercises control over or engages in substantial discussions or negotiations” with the outside electioneering group. The 2015 law made it almost impossible to convict someone of illegal coordination because it defined coordination much more narrowly. (This bill is LRB-1093. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Jimmy Anderson is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

Four bills would lower donation limits.

One of them, “The Sensible Limits Act,” would place a $10,000 ceiling on donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees. The 2015 law let rich people give unlimited amounts to these groups, which may then turn around and give that money to the candidates. (This bill is LRB-1088. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Melissa Sargent is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

A similar bill, the “Stop Unlimited Contributions Act,” would also limit the transfer of funds between political parties and legislative campaign committees. (This bill is LRB-1319. Lead sponsors of the bill are Rep. Sargent in the Assembly and Sen. Larson in the Senate.)

The “Restoring Reasonable Limits Act” would lower the individual donation limit to $10,000 for candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, and secretary of state. The 2015 law had raised it to $20,000. (This bill is LRB-1089. The lead sponsors are Sen. Larson and Rep. Sargent.)

The “Special Interests Limitation Act” would also cut in half the amount that the political action committees may contribute to candidates. (This bill is LRB-1090. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Christine Sinicki is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

The last two bills would eliminate defects that the 2015 law introduced.

The “Closing the PAC Loophole Act” would require any group that spends more than $1,000 on express advocacy to register as a political action committee in Wisconsin. The 2015 law allowed national PACs to avoid registering unless they spend more than half their money in Wisconsin, and most don’t. (This bill is LRB-1091. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Anderson is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

And the “Contribution Sunshine Act” would require campaign committees to identify the employer of any donor who gives more than $100. The 2015 law took this requirement away, and by so doing, obscures the influence that a company may be exercising. (This bill is LRB-1095. Sen. Larson is the lead sponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Brostoff is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.)

Sen. Larson and the other lead sponsors of these bills are doing a great service to our democracy here in Wisconsin.

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Wis Democracy Campaign "Kochs, WMC Behind Bills"

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 03 December 2017
in Wisconsin

koch-brothersMADISON - Over the last couple weeks, the influence of the Koch Brothers and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) has been on display, if you were looking.

And we were looking!

First, we discovered that two senior officials at the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity suddenly resigned to do campaign work for Michael Screnock, the Walker ally who is running for Wisconsin Supreme Court:

Court candidate hires former Koch group executives as campaign advisors

Then we saw that Koch groups were the only ones that registered in favor of another bill that Walker just signed which will deregulate several occupations:

Walker approves Koch bills to loosen licensing

WMC and the Kochs were behind yet another bill Walker just signed that’ll let landowners do just about anything with their property, even if it wasn’t zoned for such a purpose:

Walker signs lax land-use bill backed by big boys

And WMC, along with a veritable polluters’ lobby, is backing a bill to do away with Wisconsin’s regulations that protect our clean air:

WMC behind Republican bill to repeal state air pollution rules

This is why I say that the Koch Brothers and WMC are the folks that really run Wisconsin – not Walker or Fitzgerald or Vos. They’re just the hired help.

You can count on us to keep showing you who the real powers are in Wisconsin – and what effect they are having on all of our lives!

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. If you appreciate our urgent work, please send us a tax-deductible gift today. It’s simple: Just click here. Or mail it in the old-fashioned way to the address below. Thanks!

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Constitutional Convention Action Alert!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 06 November 2017
in Wisconsin

constitutional-conventionMADISON - I need you – right now! -- to contact your Wis. State Senator about a horrible bill that’s up for a vote TOMORROW, Tuesday! It’s called AJR 21, and it seeks a Constitutional Convention on a balanced budget amendment. And if you are in one of the below listed districts, it is of particular urgency you contact your senator and encourage their "no" vote.

The balanced budget amendment is a horrible idea because it would tie the hands of our government in times of recession.

But there’s an even bigger problem with calling a Constitutional Convention, and that is, once it gets under way, it may go beyond its original mandate and throw everything on the table, including our basic rights.

This Constitutional Convention idea is closer than you think. If Wisconsin and just a few more states sign on, you’re going to wake up one morning to the news that there’s going to be a Constitutional Convention. And then who knows what’s going to happen and what damage can be done?

The bill again is AJR 21, and here are the Republican Senators that are crucial to contact and to urge to vote no:

  • Sen. Rob Cowles (SD2) -- (800) 334-1465
  • Sen. Dan Feyen (SD18) -- (608) 266-5300
  • Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (SD13) -- (608) 266-5660
  • Sen. Devin LeMahieu (SD9) -- (608) 266-2056 (pronounced Lemma-hue)
  • Sen. Terry Moulton (SD23) -- (608) 266-7511
  • Sen. Luther Olsen (SD14) -- (608) 266-0751
  • Sen. Jerry Petrowski (SD29) -- (608) 266-2502
  • Sen. Roger Roth (SD19) -- (608) 266-0718
  • Sen. Van Wangaard (SD21) -- (608) 266-1832

The Wisconsin Assembly has already passed their bills and now the State Senate needs to block them. Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

Thanks for picking up your phone! Please report back with feedback from your calls.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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Wis Democracy Campaign 'School Voucher $$$'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 26 July 2017
in Wisconsin

wis-democracy-campaign$8.5 million reasons why State GOP wants to expand school vouchers, financial filings at Walker run Republican Governors Association, and more...


MADISON - While almost all the press coverage on the state budget lately has been about the petty bickering among GOP leaders over transportation, there’s been little attention paid to a relatively united GOP effort to greatly expand school vouchers. We show the money behind this push here.

$8.5M reasons Wisconsin GOP wants to expand school vouchers

In other news, our research staff has been pouring over recent financial filings of special interest electioneering groups. One such group is the Republican Governors Association, now headed by none other than Scott Walker. That may be why some wealthy Wisconsinites decided to fork it over, as we note here:

10 Wisconsin donors give outside electioneering group $1M+

You know why I don’t get depressed by all this big money being tossed around, even when we see it up close and personal every day here?

Because I also see an amazing grassroots movement to do something about this. I bet you didn’t know that Wisconsin is second only to Massachusetts in the number of communities that have voted, by overwhelming margins, that they want to amend the U.S. Constitution to proclaim, once and for all, that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech. It’s been voted on in in 112 communities, and it's passed every single time!

In Door County alone, seven communities have climbed on board just in the last six months, as you’ll see here:

Door County pushes amendment to overturn Citizens United

This is one of the most under-reported stories in the state. You heard it here first!

I hope you’re having a nice summer.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. Please support our urgent work with a tax-deductible gift by clicking here or making and mailing a check to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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Democracy Campaign 'Back in touch...Fair Maps Town Halls near you'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 14 July 2017
in Wisconsin

highway-wiSpecial interests and the road funding plan, the Wisconsin Supreme Court copout on conflict-of-interest rules, the influence peddler of the month, and more...


MADISON - Sorry I haven’t been in touch for a bit. Between the long July 4th weekend and my son coming home for my birthday (which was yesterday), I didn’t get around to updating you on what we’ve been posting and on some exciting redistricting reform efforts under way.

So please let me catch you up.

On the budget transportation impasse, we noted the power of the trucking industry and the big business lobby:

GOP leader tells special interests to cough up road funding plan

Then, in a story that we broke here at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, we reported on Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s scorching response to the Court’s written justification for not tightening its conflict-of-interest rules:

Wisconsin Supreme Court buries recusal in “feeble” move

And, as we do every month, we anointed another special interest group with our not-so-highly-coveted Influence Peddler of the Month Award. Here’s who won it this month:

Influence peddler of the month - Wisconsin Hospital Association

On the gerrymandering issue, I have to say it’s really getting hot. About a dozen counties, just this year, have passed resolutions urging the State Legislature to draw district maps in a nonpartisan manner. Contact us if you do not see your county on the list.

And we got a record number of signatures on our petition for fair voting maps when we were tabling at the Farmers’ Market in Madison for a couple hours on July 1. And attendance at #FairMaps events all over the state are high. We encourage you to share and attend an upcoming Fair Maps Town Hall convenient to you. A complete list can be found here.

  • Wednesday, July 12, at 7:00 PM, at the Germantown Library, N112W16957 Mequon Road, Germantown. Paul Geenen, OFA_WI State Lead, is the speaker. Facebook event page here.
  • Sunday, July 16, at at 4:30pm - 6pm, North Shore Presbyterian Church, 4048 N Bartlett Ave, Shorewood. The Democracy Campaign is a co-sponsor. Share Facebook event page here.
  • Wednesday, July 26, at 6:00 PM, at the Brewer Public Library, 325 N. Central Avenue, Richland Center. Former Senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen are the speakers.
  • Thursday, July 27, at 6:30 PM, at the Orbiletti Center Lincoln Park, 6900 18th Avenue, Kenosha. Sachin Chheda, Fair Elections Project, is the speaker. Facebook event page here.

And there is legislation introduced by Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Don Vruwink (SB13/AB44) to enact nonpartisan legislative and congressional map-drawing here in Wisconsin. So please call your legislators at 1-800-362-9472 and urge them to pass this bill.

Thanks for your interest and your activism, as always.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. If you like what we’re doing, please support our urgent work with a tax-deductible gift to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It’s simple: Just click here. Thanks!

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Wisc Democracy Campaign 'Judges for Sale'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 13 January 2017
in Wisconsin

judgementJudges weigh in on Supreme Court recural rules, judicial raises, ALEC bill to protect special interests, and GOP efforts to repeal state’s mining moratorium.


MADISON - The corruption in the Wisconsin court system has gotten so bad that 54 former judges this week wrote the Wisconsin Supreme Court, urging the justices to change their permissive rule on recusal. Here’s what they said:

Dozens of retired judges ask Wisconsin Supreme Court for new campaign donor recusal rules

Ironically, the major political players in Wisconsin’s business community, having spent millions of dollars to elect conservative judges, now want you, the Wisconsin taxpayer, to give them a big raise. Talk about chutzpah! And remember, these bigwigs oppose raising the minimum wage for working people.

Here’s what we wrote on this:

Big money groups back pay raise for judges

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers, in hoc to these same bigwigs, have just proposed a new bill that would make it even more difficult to regulate businesses in Wisconsin. This bill is – surprise, surprise! – modeled after one by the American Legislative Exchange Council:

GOP lawmakers offer ALEC bill to protect special interests from regulations

And Senator Tom Tiffany, one of big business’s best friends in the legislature, is proposing a bill to lift the mining moratorium in Wisconsin:

GOP lawmaker wants to repeal state’s mining moratorium

Those in power in Wisconsin are moving fast to reward their campaign contributors and impose their ideology, which says, “Everything private is good, and everything public is bad.” And in Washington, Trump may do to the country what Walker has done to Wisconsin. (Walker has actually urged him to do exactly that!)

So for believers in democracy and clean government, like you and I, this is a trying time.

But I remain hopeful because I know history is not static, and I see so many good people, right here in Wisconsin, doing so much good work behind the scenes and in the streets.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

*****

P.S. Tomorrow I’ll be going to the Rally for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Milwaukee, starting at 11:00 a.m. at 1027 S. 5th St. If you’re near there, I hope you can make it.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign '5 Reasons to Recount in Wis!'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 November 2016
in Wisconsin

trump-clinton-debate3The recount is important for five reasons, (1) it was close, (2) late deductions were from Trump, (3) Outagamie County had more people voting than voters, (4) Trump’s wild charge on illegal voters, and (5) it’s always good to test the machinery.


MADISON - I’m glad there’s going to be a recount here in Wisconsin.

Here’s why:

Five valid reasons for the Wisconsin presidential recount

Requiring an accurate count is a bare minimum for our democracy.

Another bare minimum is respect for the Fourth Amendment. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court, sharply and oddly divided, just took another whack at it, as I explain here:

Wisconsin Supreme Court shreds 4th amendment

One more thing: Today is Giving Tuesday, when people all across the country are encouraged to make charitable online donations. So I’m urging you to make a tax-deductible donation right now to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It’s easy: All you have to do is click here.

Or you could mail it in the old-fashioned way, with a check made out to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at 203 S. Paterson St., Madison WI 53703.

We really appreciate your support!

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

*****

P.S. With Donald Trump saying people who burn the American flag should be jailed or lose their citizenship, the risk of fascism is rising right here at home. For a thoughtful response to this threat, please read this column by Yale professor Tim Snyder.

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A Crucial Vote You Haven’t Heard About

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 25 October 2016
in Wisconsin

mta-madisonMADISON - For a while now, I’ve been trying to interest reporters in Wisconsin in one of the most under-covered story of the last year: the fact that we now have 78 communities – second only to Massachusetts – that have voted overwhelmingly that they want to amend the U.S. Constitution to proclaim that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech.

On Nov. 8, Wisconsin citizens in 19 more communities can express themselves on this vital idea. Check it out here:

A crucial vote November 8 you haven’t heard about

In another promising development on the reform front, Assembly Democrats held a press conference last week laying out their ideas for redoing the disastrous campaign finance bill that passed last fall. We’ve added a couple of our own ideas, as you’ll see here:

Assembly Dems point way toward reform

Meanwhile, we keep reporting on the role of big money here in Wisconsin.

For instance, we discovered that outside groups – from the left and the right -- are outspending the candidates themselves by a long shot:

Special interest electioneering groups outspending legislative candidates

We also found out that an outside group that was created for Gov. Walker’s failed presidential run is still bringing in money, including $100,000 from one New York company:

Who’s still donating big bucks to Walker’s presidential support group?

And we noted that the vast majority of Republican legislators received a 100% on their report cards from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce:

WMC honors legislators in its pocket

I hope this info is useful – or at least mildly interesting – to you.

Talk to you soon.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 'The road ahead...'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 05 October 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-dodgerScott Walker dodges the bullet again, thank John Doe prosecutors, next steps in campaign finance reform, and much more...


MADISON - Boy, the week started off badly!

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday not to take the John Doe II appeal was a blow to clean government in Wisconsin:

Disastrous duck by U.S. Supreme Court! Walker off scot-free?

One final word on this matter: The courageous defenders of clean government, who stood up for transparency and accountability and were vilified for it, are owed a debt of gratitude for their valiant efforts:

John Doe prosecutors deserve our thanks

Now that the sting of the loss is beginning to wear off, I look at the road ahead for clean and transparent government:

Next steps in the fight for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin

Meanwhile, our research director, Mike Buelow, keeps cranking out interesting stories about which dark money groups are throwing money around right now:

Outside groups spending tops $1.7M in legislative races

One of those groups is American Federation for Children—you know, Scott Jensen’s school voucher front—and we’ve anointed them with our highly coveted “Influence Peddler of the Month” award:

Influence peddler of the month - American Federation for Children

So we’re not slowing down a bit. I was asked on one radio show this week if I’m discouraged. No, I don’t get discouraged because I know the vast majority of the people, in Wisconsin and in this country, are on the side of clean, open, and transparent government. And the special interests would love it if we got discouraged!

So it’s just another day, another fight.

Thanks for being a part of this great struggle for real democracy.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Heat on Walker Continues"

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 03 October 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-orange16 Democratic Assembly members urge Dane County DA to file new charges against Gov. Scott Walker.


MADISON - I’m just back from a road trip yesterday, which took me up to Green Bay and then down to Racine, and that reminds me to let you know that I’m available to come talk in your own community if you can arrange it. Just shoot me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Meanwhile, before the weekend is in full swing, I’d like to tell you what we’ve been up to this week.

One key development, which got virtually no coverage in the statewide media, is that 16 Democratic Assembly members wrote a letter on Thursday urging Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to file new charges against Gov. Scott Walker. Check it out here:

Wisconsin legislators keep heat on Walker

You know we’re against dark money, whether it’s coming from the Wisconsin Club for Growth or from a group that’s close to the Democrats. That’s why we exposed this new dark money group that’s cropped up in the Green Bay area:

New Dem electioneering group on air in 18th Senate race

And our research team did some original work examining the local government background of our state legislators to figure out why so many Republicans have been curbing local control. In fact, even though many had actually served in local government, respect for their roots has given way to party loyalty:

Votes on local control show special interests, party loyalty outweigh community

That’s all for now. Enjoy the weekend! Go Badgers…

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 'Why we took on Wisconsin Club for Growth'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 September 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-recallMADISON - On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a formal complaint with the IRS against Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Here’s why: All we want is some modicum of justice. All we want is someone in authority, somewhere, to rule that the flagrant scheming by Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth was wrong and to hold them accountable.

Some background: Scott Walker’s campaign strategist, R. J. Johnson, was simultaneously running Wisconsin Club for Growth. Walker and Johnson turned Wisconsin Club for Growth into a funnel for huge, secret donations that they then used to finance ads to help keep Walker in office, Justice David Prosser on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and Republican state senators in the majority.

This was not only a scheme to circumvent the Wisconsin campaign finance law that was on the books at the time, which imposed limits on donations, required disclosure of donors, and prohibited coordination between candidates (like Walker) and outside groups (like Wisconsin Club for Growth).

It was also a scheme that ran afoul of IRS regulations.

You see, Wisconsin Club for Growth is registered with the IRS as a (501)(4) “social welfare” organization.

According to an Aug. 9, 2016, notice by the IRS, “The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”

But, as was made clear in the recent blockbuster article in The Guardian newspaper, “Because Scott Walker Asked,” the “primary activity” of Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012 was to engage in electioneering.

Our complaint also alleges that Wisconsin Club for Growth engaged in improper and deceptive fundraising practices.

In essence, Wisconsin Club for Growth was raising money not for itself and its own independent “social welfare” efforts, but for electioneering activity guided by Scott Walker and R. J. Johnson.

Walker personally met with millionaires and billionaires and directed them to give to Wisconsin Club for Growth.

It then sprinkled the money around. Wisconsin Club for Growth sent four checks totaling $2.5 million to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce in April and May of 2012. It also sent four checks totaling $1,520,000 to Citizens for a Strong America in the first half of 2012. And it sent two checks totaling $550,000 to the American Federation for Children in May of 2012. These groups then used this money to run electioneering ads in accordance with the wishes of R. J. Johnson, acting on behalf of Scott Walker.

As Kate Doner, one of his fundraisers, wrote in an email on April 28, 2011: “As the Governor discussed with Mr. Pickens, he wants all the issue advocacy efforts to run thru one group to ensure correct messaging…. The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donor disclosure.”

R. J. Johnson was in charge of “correct messaging.” He even focused on the tiniest details. In an email on Sept. 5, 2012, from Johnson to his assistant Deb Jordahl, as well as to Scott Jensen of American Federation for Children, Johnson said of the American Federation for Children ad that was in the works: “I think the alternative in the middle part with no picture works well. Once we have a font resolution we can move.”

Walker clearly knew what was going on. He bragged about the role Johnson and the Wisconsin Club for Growth played. In an email to Karl Rove on May 4, 2011, Walker wrote: "Bottom Line: RJ helps keeps in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin.”

To date, the highest elected official in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Club for Growth have been able to flout the law and get away with it.

They have the system rigged here because the conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are in their pocket and obediently threw out the John Doe II investigation into this matter back in July 2015.

Since we can’t get justice in Wisconsin, we’re going to try to get justice in Washington.

Last we looked, Walker and the Wisconsin Club for Growth don’t have the IRS in their pockets.

***

This article was first published by the Wisconsin State Journal. You can share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign in the News!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 23 September 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-clapsWe decided to file a formal IRS complaint against Wisconsin Club for Growth, alleging it violated its nonprofit status, after reading the blockbuster revelations in The Guardian about Scott Walker and his flagrant coordination with the group.


MADISON - We’ve been in the news a lot this week!

The reason: After reading the blockbuster story in The Guardian about Scott Walker and his flagrant coordination with Wisconsin Club for Growth, we decided to file a formal IRS complaint against Wisconsin Club for Growth. We allege that it violated its nonprofit status in a couple ways, as you’ll see here:

wcfg WDC files complaint with IRS against Wisconsin Club for Growth

And speaking of that Guardian story, we summarized the essence of it here:

Walker’s laundry operation: Six takeaways from The Guardian story on Walker

One reason we’re looking to the IRS in Washington for some accountability is because there’s no accountability to be found here in Wisconsin, in part because of our corrupt Wisconsin Supreme Court. This week, we wrote about one of the justices who has been tainted by outside money:

Conflicted supreme court justice plans reelection

Lastly, our friends over at the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin are looking for volunteers to help them monitor the November 8 elections. Their election observers will be on guard for any signs of people being disenfranchised. If you’d like to sign up to be trained as an election observer, just click here:

Take 2 minutes to sign up online.

Thanks for your interest in all our work and that of our allies.

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Kwik Trip’s Ties to Trump, Walker

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 20 August 2016
in Wisconsin

Kwik TripMADISON - When Donald Trump came to Wisconsin on Tuesday, we noticed that he went to a fundraiser sponsored by the owners of Kwik Trip. So we wondered who else those owners supported, right here in Wisconsin. Here’s the answer:

Kwik Trip owners boost Trump, Wisconsin GOP

brad_schimelAnother big story this week was the filing by Attorney General Brad Schimel, who urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to take the John Doe II appeal. His filing was, to say the least, galling:

Schimel has WMC dirt on his hands in John Doe II filing

We also posted two items on some of the consequences of the disastrous rewrite of the campaign finance law enacted last December. One story noted that the increase in donation limits allowed some of the richest people in Wisconsin to give even more than ever:

Higher contribution limits net $251K more for legislative, statewide officeholders

And the other one noted how the new law has made it harder to figure out who may be getting sweetheart deals from our elected officials:

New campaign finance reporting laws shroud, mock transparency

I hope you like this week’s offerings.

***

P.S. If you appreciate our dogged pursuit of the money trail, please send us a tax-deductible donation by clicking here or by mailing it to 203 S. Paterson St, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "2 GOP Payoffs"

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 15 July 2016
in Wisconsin

follow-moneyMADISON - When we follow the money, sometimes something odd turns up.

That was the case with two of our stories this week.

The first seemed to be simply a gratuity for services rendered when the Republican Party of Wisconsin paid off $25,000 of Justice David Prosser’s campaign debt. But when we examined this “in-kind” contribution, it turned out to be even scuzzier, since the Party paid off a specific debt that Prosser owed to a particular vendor, who just happens to be one of Scott Walker’s chief fundraisers. Here are the gories:

State GOP pays $25K of Prosser’s campaign debt

The second story is about the DNR’s continued effort to give a sweetheart land deal to a couple that gave more than $6 million to try to get Scott Walker elected President. What’s doubly amazing is that the announcement of this renewed effort was obscured by an almost indecipherable bureaucratic notice. Somehow, I don’t think that was an accident, but see for yourself:

Walker’s DNR resurrects land deal with major contributor

And speaking of obscuring important information, this week there was a push in Congress to make it more difficult for consumers to find out if there are GMOs in our food—unless you’re in the habit of scanning barcodes into your phone while you hurry down the supermarket aisle. This is a bill not for consumers, but for industry, including in Wisconsin, as you’ll see here:

State food processors praise bill to restrict state food labeling

But here’s a happy note:

Three Koch Brothers’ groups were fined this week for illegal electioneering

We’ll keep following the money for you, and any more oddities that we can find.

***

P.S. Please send us a tax-deductible gift today to support our urgent work! Just click here.

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July 4: 10 Wins to Celebrate!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 28 June 2016
in Wisconsin

american-flagMADISON - For this July 4 holiday week, we’ve put together a special report for you on 10 wins for the good guys here in Wisconsin. Amid all the bad news that the Walker Wrecking Crew has brought us, it’s important to remember, and to celebrate, those times in the last year when We, the People, were able to stop Walker, Vos, Fitzgerald, and their big money backers from passing some disastrous bills or implementing retrograde policies.

So please take a gander:

10 wins to celebrate on July 4 in Wisconsin

Speaking of Walker, one of his biggest backers has been the NRA—a fact we shouldn’t forget in the wake of the Orlando massacre. And you can also see how much the NRA has given to your legislators by clicking here:

Walker’s NRA bankroll topped $3.5 million

The problem of big money and dark money is not confined to Walker and the Republicans. Late last week came the birth announcement of a new dark money group on the Democratic side, which will be operating here in Wisconsin. We don’t look kindly on this development, and you’ll see why here:

New dark money group for Dems is bad news

As we point out, Our elections should not be tug-of-wars between liberal billionaires on one side and conservative billionaires on the other. All of us citizens should have an equal voice in the electoral arena.”

I hope you agree.

Let’s declare our independence from big money and dark money.

Happy 4th of July!

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director

P.S. Please support our urgent work to get money out of politics and to bring real democracy to Wisconsin and this country. Send us a tax-deductible gift today by clicking here or by mailing your check to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at 203 S. Paterson Street, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703.

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A Win for Disability Rights!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 10 June 2016
in Wisconsin

disability-oldMADISON - I’m all about celebrating our victories, whenever they occur.

And one just occurred yesterday when the Department of Health Services shelved its plan to let private insurance companies run the programs for the elderly and the disabled in Wisconsin. You can read all about it here:

A win for disability rights activists!

While I’m on the subject of people with disabilities, a report came out this week that noted some difficulties that they, too, were having with Voter ID:

Voters with disabilities in Wisconsin faced problems

This week we also reported on the Koch Brothers throwing their weight around down ticket in our state:

Koch group targets two Wisconsin State Senate seats

And Congressman Mark Pocan is focusing his sights on the dark money group that calls itself Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, though “reform” is the last thing this group is about. It ran nasty ads against Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Russ Feingold, and it was founded by the person who led the campaign to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin. Pocan has put donors to this group on notice:

Pocan warns donors to dark money group

I’m headed out for a brief vacation next week, so I’ll get back to you in a couple.

Meantime, please send us a tax-deductible gift by clicking here or by mailing it in the old-fashioned way to 203 S. Paterson St. Suite 100, Madison WI 53703.

We really appreciate your support.

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John Menard Exposed!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 04 June 2016
in Wisconsin

john-menard-jrMADISON - Our “Influence Peddler of the Month” is none other than John Menard Jr., owner of the hardware store chain and the richest man in Wisconsin. He’s not shy about throwing his money around in the Wisconsin political arena, as you’ll see in the following post:

Influence peddler of the month - John Menard, Jr.

And here’s an item that might interest you in a week when it was confirmed that Prince died of an opioid overdose: One group of Wisconsin chiropractors is lobbying the legislature to allow them to prescribe painkillers. Interestingly, another group of chiropractors opposes this. You can read about the split here:

Chiropractors split on proposal to let them prescribe painkillers

I’m still buzzing about last week’s federal court case on the rigging of our electoral maps. Final arguments took place late last Friday, and the plaintiffs’ lawyer did a masterful job, as I explain in this posting:

Why GOP map in Wisconsin may get shot down

By the way, if you’re going to the Farmers’ Market in Madison tomorrow, stop by our table across from the Inn on the Park. I’ll be there from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., so please say hi.

And in any event, I hope you enjoy the weekend!

P.S. Hey, if you liked that John Menard piece and if you appreciate the other work we do to expose the role of money in politics and to champion democracy, please send us a tax-deductible gift today by clicking here. Or mail it in the old-fashioned way to: 203 S. Paterson St., Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703. We really appreciate it!

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$42 Million Reasons Walker Goes Easy on Polluters

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 20 May 2016
in Wisconsin

walkerMADISON - One thing we like to do here at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is to amplify the work of other fine nonprofits and enterprising reporters.

This week offered us three opportunities to do just that.

When the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation came out with a report showing that the enforcement of DNR regulations was at a 30-year low, we showed all the money that polluters have given to Walker & Company:

(1) Walker has $42 million reasons to reduce pollution enforcement

And when our friends over at WisPIRG put out a report on payday lenders, showing that they’re charging a whopping 585 percent interest, we showed how  the payday lenders throw their money around.. Note: Walker and Majority Leader Fitzgerald and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee got the most, but two Democratic committees also got fat checks, as you’ll see here:

(2) Payday lenders gave $339K in Wisconsin for usury

And when Molly Beck at the Wisconsin State Journal revealed that a former Republican legislator got an $80 million contract from the Walker administration, we revealed the money trail here, too:

(3) Former GOP lawmaker and Walker contributor gets state testing contract

These are prime examples of how money is contaminating our politics in Wisconsin right now.

But I’m not pessimistic. I was in a federal courtroom this week in Madison hearing the powerful challenge to the Voter ID law brought by One Wisconsin Now. And next week, there’s another promising court challenge—this one, regarding the partisan manipulation of electoral maps. The lawsuit establishes a nonpartisan yardstick for measuring whether one party is taking undue advantage over another in the drawing of district maps.

I believe we’re going to win both of these cases, which will start giving democracy a chance again in Wisconsin.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director

P.S. Please support this urgent work we’re doing by sending us a tax-deductible gift today. Simply click here. We really appreciate it!

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On John Doe, DAs Deserve Our Thanks!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 01 May 2016
in Wisconsin

john-chisolmMADISON - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign thanks the courageous district attorneys John Chisholm, Ismael Ozanne, and Larry Nelson for appealing the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in the John Doe II case to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.

While the details of their appeal have not been made public yet, there are two solid grounds for the appeal.

The first is that at least a couple of the justices should have recused themselves from the John Doe case because of a conflict of interest.

The four justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who dismissed the John Doe investigation concerning alleged coordination between Scott Walker and so-called outside groups were aided enormously by some of the very groups that were party to the John Doe case.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America—all of which were reportedly embroiled in the John Doe--together spent more than $8 million in support of Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Annette Ziegler, Justice Michael Gableman, and Justice David Prosser.

ismael-ozanne-daThe second, and even more crucial, basis for an appeal is the fact that the Wisconsin Supreme Court blatantly misread forty years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent on campaign finance.

In tossing out the John Doe II case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that the First Amendment prohibits the state of Wisconsin from imposing a ban on coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups. But dating back to Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 and right on through Citizens United of 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decisions have been predicated on there being no coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups.

In Buckley, the court ruled that expenditures by outside groups that are coordinated with candidates amount to campaign contributions. “The ultimate effect is the same as if the person had contributed the dollar amount to the candidate and the candidate had then used the contribution,” the court ruled. Such expenditures, it said, should be “treated as contributions rather than expenditures.”

Only the lack of coordination reduces the risk of corruption, the Court stressed in Buckley. “The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an expenditure with the candidate or his agent . . . alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the candidates.”

larry-nelson-daEven in its infamous Citizens United decision, which allowed independent groups to spend unlimited amounts of money, the U.S Supreme Court stressed that such groups had to be independent; they couldn’t coordinate with their favored candidates: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that line. He will be the crucial vote in this case, assuming that the U.S. Supreme Court hears it. And if Justice Kennedy stands by his own reasoning in Citizens United, the district attorneys have an excellent chance of prevailing and getting the John Doe II decision overturned.

That would be a tremendous outcome because unless the John Doe II decision is overturned, we will have little hope in Wisconsin of limiting the corrupting influence of dark money over our politics.

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