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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild

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

Citizens United at 13

Posted by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 20 January 2023
in Wisconsin

vote-citizens-united-protestMADISON - Saturday marks the thirteenth anniversary of the notorious Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to big and dark money in our politics.

That decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allows corporations, other groups, and super-rich individuals to spend unlimited amounts to tell you who to vote for or not for, so long as they don’t coordinate with the candidates.

Citizens United was the obstetrician that delivered us SuperPACs, but they’re not babies anymore. They’re monsters.

And along with a few other Supreme Court decisions, especially the McCutcheon decision of 2014, which said the government could put no aggregate limit on the amount that rich folks could spend in our elections, Citizens United has turned our politics into a playground for billionaires.

Just look at the recent midterms.

According to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness, billionaires had already “pumped an unprecedented $881 million into the federal midterm elections [five weeks before the election], distorting our democracy by drowning out the voices of regular Americans. That’s already much more money than billionaires contributed during the entire length of the 2018 midterm election cycle, the previous record.”

The report noted that Republican billionaires are outspending Democratic ones: “GOP forces are enjoying a 3-2 advantage in billionaire donations.”

Even if they weren’t, that’s not the point.

The point is this: Our politics shouldn’t be a tug of war between billionaires on the right and billionaires on the left. In a real democracy, we’d all have an equal tug on that rope.

But we don’t because of the gross maldistribution of wealth in this country.

And we don’t because of Citizens United and a raft of other bad decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court dating back to the nineteenth century on corporate personhood.

Here in Wisconsin, we can see the nasty consequences of Citizens United.

In 2010, outside spending in our fall elections for governor and the legislature and other non-federal races came to just under $20 million. Last year, it soared to over $90 million, with a lot of this money coming from out of state.

This outside spending, blessed by Citizens United, makes a mockery of the ideal that we all have an equal voice in our democracy. And the money that comes from out of state undercuts the ideal of local self-governance.

The problem of big and dark money in our politics in Wisconsin got worse in 2015 when the Republican-dominated state legislature (thanks, largely, to gerrymandering) rewrote our campaign finance law. The new law, signed by Scott Walker, tore down the de facto $10,000 limit on how much individuals could give to those political parties. So now billionaires from across the country are writing enormous checks to the Democratic and Republican parties here.

We do not have self-rule when the super-rich can spend unlimited amounts of money in our political arena.

We must overturn Citizens United and all its ugly relatives.

And the best way to do that is to amend the U.S. Constitution and proclaim, finally, that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech.

Here in Wisconsin, the grassroots group Wisconsin United to Amend has been working prodigiously over the last decade getting one local community after another to pass referendums or resolutions in favor of such an amendment. At last count, 169 communities have signed on.

It will take more work, here in Wisconsin and around the country, to get this done.

But it must be done if we are to have a genuine democracy.

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How Wisconsin Supreme Court Races Became So Partisan

Posted by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 15 December 2022
in Wisconsin

wis-supreme-courtJudicial races in Wisconsin are supposed to be nonpartisan, but over the last 15 years they have become increasingly partisan. Read how the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce tilted the scales.


MADISON - Judicial races in Wisconsin are supposed to be nonpartisan. Technically, they still are. And ideally, that’s the way they should be.

Our judges and justices should be above partisanship. They should be impartial arbiters of the law, not beholden to one party or another -- or one ideology or another.

But over the last 15 years, this ideal has fallen by the wayside, as our judicial elections, especially for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, have become increasingly partisan.

This stems largely from a decision by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to start throwing huge amounts of money into the races for Wisconsin Supreme Court, and then for liberal groups to respond in kind.

The push by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce was part of a coordinated move by big business groups around the country to throw themselves into state court races. It also reflected the decades-long strategy by the Koch Brothers and other rightwing forces to take over every lever of political power.

“State Supreme Court elections attracted record sums from business interests,” noted a 2007 report from the Brennan Institute and two other groups.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor put it bluntly that year:

“In too many states, judicial elections are becoming political prizefights where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the constitution.”

It wasn’t always this way in Wisconsin. For many years, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had a tremendous national reputation, and outside money played little, if any, role in who got on the court.

For instance, in 2003, in the race between Pat Roggensack and Ed Brunner, outside groups spent all of $27,200 on independent expenditures.

But look what happened in 2007, when Linda Clifford challenged Annette Ziegler. In this one, outside groups spent $3.1 million – more than 100 times what they spent in 2003. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce itself shelled out $2.2 million for Ziegler, and the rightwing Club for Growth spent $400,000 for her. The liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $400,000 for Clifford.

michael_gablemanThen in 2008, outside groups spent $4.8 million when a guy named Michael Gableman challenged Louis Butler, the first African American ever to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Gableman campaign ran hideously racist ads against Butler and was aided by $1.8 million in expenditures by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The Greater Wisconsin Committee countered with $1.5 million, and Club for Growth poured in $500,000.

The 2009 race between Shirley Abrahamson and Randy Koschnick was an anomaly, with outside groups spending only $577,000. (Abrahamson had raised a lot of money on her own and seemed unbeatable, so the outside groups stayed away, by and large.)

In 2011, in the throes of the anti-Walker protests, the outside groups jumped back in, spending $4.5 million in the race between David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Here, the Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $1.7 million for Kloppenburg, with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spending $1.1 million for Prosser.

In 2013, things calmed down a bit, with outside groups spending $1.2 million in the race between Pat Roggensack and Ed Fallone. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent $500,000 in this one for Roggensack. Club for Growth spent $350,000 for her. And the Wisconsin Realtors Association spent $207,000 for her.

The 2015 race between Ann Walsh Bradley and James Daley was another anomaly, with only $171,000 in outside spending, with all but $2,000 of that was from the Greater Wisconsin Committee in favor of Ann Walsh Bradley. (Like Abrahamson in 2009, Bradley had raised a lot of money on her own and most outside groups held their fire.)

rebecca-bradleyIn 2016, JoAnne Kloppenburg challenged Rebecca Bradley, and outside groups spent $3.43 million. Here, the leading rightwing spender was the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, which spent $2.6 million on behalf of Rebecca Bradley. The Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $710,000 for Kloppenburg.

In 2018, outside groups spent $2.8 million in the race between Rebecca Dallet and challenger Michael Screnock. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent $1.2 million on behalf of Screnock. The Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $940,000 on behalf of Dallet.

In 2019, outside groups spent $4.5 million in the race between Brian Hagedorn and challenger Lisa Neubauer. In this one, the Greater Wisconsin Committee spent $2.3 million, with the Republican State Leadership Committee spending $1.25 million.

Then in 2020, outside spending reached a record high of $5 million in the race between Jill Karofsky and incumbent Dan Kelly. The liberal group A Better Wisconsin Together spent $1.9 million. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent $1.1 million. The Republican State Leadership Committee spent $897,000. And the Koch Brothers’ group, Americans for Prosperity, spent $479,000.

matt-rothschild-2018We can expect the April 2023 race to once again break a record, as Pat Roggensack is retiring, leaving three liberals on the court and three conservatives. So whoever replaces her in that race will determine the ideological balance on the court.

That noise you hear is the avalanche of outside money that is about to pour down on Wisconsin.

Audio Commentary

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Record Amount of Outside $ in Wis!

Posted by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 10 December 2022
in Wisconsin

wdc-logoYour weekly message from Matt Rothschild at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


MADISON - Our great research director, Mike Buelow, put together a report this week on the record-shattering amount of outside money we saw here in Wisconsin in non-federal races. The amount was 50% higher than in 2018 and 5 times as much as in 2010, the year of the disastrous Citizens United decision. That’s not a coincidence!

outside-spending2010-22Mike’s report has gotten a lot of media attention in Wisconsin, including from the Associated Press and Wisconsin Public Radio. You can read the report for yourself here:

Record $93M in Spending by Outside Groups in 2022

latina-pay-2022By the way, Latina Equal Pay Day was this week, and our terrific racial equity and economic justice advocate, Iuscely Flores, took this opportunity to lay out the various biases that people of color face in the workplace, as you’ll see here:

On Latina Equal Pay Day, Stop Bias in the Workplace

human-rights-day-2022Saturday is International Human Rights Day, and I’ll be at Turner Hall in Milwaukee on a panel discussing how elections affect our human rights. If you’re in the area and are free at 10:00 a.m., it’d be great to see you there! Or register at shorturl.at/gEHIW to attend virtually, or watch on the Equal Rights Commission--MKE's Facebook page.

In any event, I hope you have a nice weekend.


Best,

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

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Record $93M in Spending by Outside Groups in Wis in 2022

Posted by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 05 December 2022
in Wisconsin

money-behind-politicsReport finds spending by special interest groups in this fall’s legislative races in Wisconsin and for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer shattered the old record by 50 percent.


MADISON - Spending by special interest groups in this fall’s legislative races in Wisconsin and for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer shattered the old record by 50 percent, a preliminary review by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found.

The $93.01 million spent in 2022 by outside groups crushed the previous record $61.86 million set in 2018 for mid-term fall races that also featured both legislative and statewide contests in Wisconsin. And the 2022 spending figure was 154 percent higher than the $36.63 million spent by outside groups in 2014 and nearly five times higher than the $18.9 million spent on Wisconsin legislative and statewide races in 2010. (See chart below.)

outside-spending2010-22

None of these spending figures includes outside group spending in federal races for the U.S. House or U.S. Senate.

The lion’s share of the outside money in 2022 – $78.9 million – was spent on the governor’s race.

Six dozen special interest groups threw their money around to praise or smear candidates.

Thirty-five groups spent $48.25 million to benefit Republicans, 36 groups spent $44.06 million to benefit Democrats, and one group spent $686,660 to bolster the independent candidate for governor.

These electioneering groups fall into two categories – express advocacy groups and phony issue ad groups. Express advocacy groups, which make independent expenditures, must report their spending to the state. That’s because their broadcast and online advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.

Phony issue ad groups, which can also raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, do not have to report their spending because of federal court decisions and lax campaign finance laws. These groups smear or praise candidates but without explicitly telling viewers who to vote for or against.

The top-spending groups, which doled out all or most of their money in the governor’s race, were:

Democratic Governors Association spent an estimated $20.1 million using a phony issue ad group called the Alliance for Common Sense which blanketed the airwaves with television ads attacking GOP candidate for governor Tim Michels on education, abortion, guns, and media reports about sexual harassment complaints filed by female employees of his construction company;

Republican Governors Association spent an estimated $15.3 million using three entities – Right Direction Wisconsin PACACC Wisconsin 2022 PAC, and State Solutions – mostly on television ads throughout the state that attacked Evers on crime and tax issues from July until Election Day;

A Better Wisconsin Together spent an estimated $6.8 million using an express advocacy group and an issue ad group with nearly the same name, making it particularly difficult to track spending by the issue ad group because it can keep its spending secret. All told, A Better Wisconsin Together spent money on television and digital advertising in 23 legislative races to support Democratic candidates, as well as the contests for governor to back Evers and attorney general to support incumbent Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul;

Americans for Prosperity spent $6.53 million on a host of electioneering activities, including canvassing, mailings, door hangers, and digital and radio ads to support Michels, GOP attorney general candidate Adam Jarchow, and Republican candidates in 19 legislative races;

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) spent an estimated $4.52 million using an issue ad group and an express advocacy group . Most of WMC’s issue ad spending was for television advertising that backed Republicans and smeared Democrats in the race for governor and two legislative contests. The group’s ads in the governor’s race attacked Evers on education, crime, and tax issues, and also blamed the incumbent for inflation. Early in the year, WMC spent about $25,000 on a digital ad to support GOP candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who lost to Michels in the August primary.

To see how much was spent by all of the outside groups involved in Wisconsin’s 2022 fall legislative and statewide races, please see the table below. For more information about the groups and their electioneering activities, please visit our Hijacking Campaign 2022 feature and click on their names.

A final report on the total cost of this year’s legislative and statewide elections will be issued early next year after the groups and candidates file amendments and year-end fundraising and spending reports.

Table
Spending by Electioneering Groups in the 2022 Fall Elections

GroupAmount
Alliance for Common Sense (Democratic Governors Association)* $20,150,000
Right Direction Wisconsin PAC (Republican Governors Association) $9,293,038
A Better Wisconsin Together** $6,794,866
Americans for Prosperity $6,531,490
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce** $4,524,998
Fighting for Wisconsin $4,378,114
ACC Wisconsin 2022 PAC (Republican Governors Association) $4,025,754
Wisconsin Conservation Voters IE Committee $3,818,779
Club for Growth Action $3,552,571
Future Forward USA Action* $3,400,000
Wisconsin Freedom PAC (Republican Attorneys General Association) $3,114,213
Freedom Wisconsin PAC $2,564,000
State Solutions (Republican Governors Association)* $2,000,000
DAGA People’s Lawyer Project (Democratic Attorneys General Association) $1,899,564
Sunrise in America Political Fund $1,866,844
The Wisconsin Initiative* $1,700,000
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin Political Fund $1,316,721
Republican Accountability PAC $992,584
Restoration PAC $935,000
Wisconsin RINO Hunters $686,660
American Federation for Children IE Committee $678,995
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform* $600,000
Jobs First Coalition Political Fund $529,201
Voces de la Frontera Action $463,892
National Rifle Association (NRA) Political Victory Fund $423,653
Badger Values PAC $407,483
Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund $407,279
For Our Future $390,595
Power to the Polls Wisconsin $389,443
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Wisconsin State Council $379,647
WFP National PAC (Work Families Party) $334,575
Women Speak Out PAC $322,872
Wisconsin Realtors Political Fund $320,000
Family Friendly Action PAC $290,412
Republican State Leadership Committee $284,192
Project Democracy $278,650
The Lincoln Project $254,450
American Principles Project PAC $227,428
Wisconsin Family Action $225,875
Election Integrity PAC $208,344
Speak Free or Die $155,000
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) PAC $141,688
BlackPAC $136,045
Make Liberty Win $135,491
New Prosperity Foundation $111,964
Working America $109,190
Empower Wisconsin* $100,000
American Majority Action $94,736
Human Rights Campaign Equality Votes PAC $93,626
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Working Families Fund $92,585
New Prosperity Foundation IE Committee $85,500
Volunteers for Agriculture (Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation) $84,058
National Nurses United for Patient Protection $69,427
WorkMoney Inc. $68,939
Free and Fair Elections USA $67,740
Blue Sky Waukesha $61,215
Community Change Voters $61,149
NextGen Climate Action Committee $60,228
Leaders Igniting Transformation Action Fund $56,167
Patriots for Wisconsin $49,983
SEIU Committee on Political Education $49,606
Citizens Action of Wisconsin $45,691
Progress North $44,331
AFT-Wisconsin (American Federation of Teachers) $18,612
Rise, Inc. $15,373
Organizing Empowerment PAC $14,000
Rising Leaders PAC $10,000
Democratic Party of Wisconsin $5,560
Gun Rights America $4,701
Wisconsin Right to Life PAC $1,360
TOTAL $93,006,147

 

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Giving thanks for pro-democracy prospects here in Wis.

Posted by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 26 November 2022
in Wisconsin

thanksgiving-family-dinnerMatt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is thankful for 3 things in 2022 as far as the pro-democracy prospects go here in Wisconsin.


MADISON - On this Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve got three things to be thankful for, as far as the pro-democracy prospects go here in Wisconsin.

First, I’m thankful that Gov. Evers is still our governor, and that his veto pen still works. Robin Vos’s veto-proof majority failed to materialize in the Assembly, so Evers can still do what he does best: Blocking bills that would curb our freedom to vote, or blocking bills that would destroy our public schools, or damage our public lands, or deprive women of their most basic freedom to make their own decisions regarding their health care.

Second, I’m thankful for Law Forward, the great pro-democracy law firm that’s been around for a just a couple years but is already changing the legal landscape in Wisconsin in our favor. This group, founded by Jeff Mandell and Doug Poland and initially just with the amazing Mel Barnes as staff counsel, acts not only as a much-needed counterweight to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. It also pushes for fair maps, defends our freedom to vote, and demands accountability for those who violate our democracy. More than any other group in Wisconsin, Law Forward has demanded that the false electors in Wisconsin be investigated, and the firm has filed a civil suit against them, as well -- the first of its kind in the nation.

And third, I’m thankful for Civic Media, the new progressive radio network that is buying up stations all across Wisconsin not only to counter the dominance of rightwing radio but also to build civil dialogue at the local level, both of which we’ve been desperately needing. Growing out of “Devil Radio,” the flagship station in Madison founded by the irrepressible Michael Crute, it is now expanding rapidly, with the vision and resources of Sage Weil. Now with stations not only in Madison and Waukesha, but also in Amery, Richland Center, Wisconsin Rapids, and Wausau, with more to come, Civic Media is changing the sound of talk radio in Wisconsin, and it’s changing the politics of our state for the better.

So I’m thankful, this Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you are, too.


matt-rothschild-2018Best,

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

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