Monday, May 20, 2013
By Bill Kraus
The toxicity level in the state capitol has never been low, but its recent rise may be unprecedented.
It started on its upward course during the bellicose years when the two tough, smart, uncompromising leaders Scott Jensen in the Assembly and Chuck Chvala in the Senate ordered an end to the casual camaraderie that had characterized those two bodies for years.
The public show in both houses had been somewhere between bitter and vitriolic, but the after hours was where the deals were made and the rhetoric toned down. The watering holes were off the record and populated by seemingly irreconcilable partisans from both sides. Breaking bread together was common, neither encouraged nor frowned upon.
The respect for the trade and its practitioners was evident despite the disputatious nature of the institutions.
In the winter of 2011 and the recall rants that followed camaraderie was out the window and the toxicity level went ballistic. The issues that were the worthy subjects of debate and disagreement became personal. “He said, she said,” escalated to, “If he [or she] is for it, I’m against it.”
Posted by Common Cause in Wisconsin at 7:42 AM
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
By Bill Kraus
Due to the unhappy, unexpected, too early demise of Common Cause’s national president Bob Edgar, there is a job opening in Washington D.C. that may be of interest.
Common Cause was founded many decades ago by a Democratic president’s cabinet member who happened to be a Republican. He, like everyone who has ever served in any government anywhere, was acutely aware of the fact that these governments are mostly of, by, and for the interest groups large and small, worthy and less so, powerful and not, to whom those we elect are too often beholden.
When he formed Common Cause, he said that the only interest not actively represented in this special interest free-for-all was the general interest, the people; those who want a government that works for all more than an advantage for any or many of the special interests that may or may not be advantageous for the nation. He figured Common Cause would correct this oversight.
Over the years Common Cause has become an institution with its own history and image in Washington and in several, but much less than many, states.
It differs from other interest organizations in several ways which anyone who is thinking about applying for its top job must consider.
Posted by Common Cause in Wisconsin at 10:12 AM
Monday, April 22, 2013
By Bill Kraus
Not so very long ago Senator Mike Ellis developed and recommended a campaign financing plan that would have contributed a significant amount of public money to anyone who agreed to spending limits. The plan also was structured to protect those who took the public money and agreed to the spending limits from spending by unregulated third parties and organizations.
The comfortable incumbents who would have had to agree to this plan said in effect if not in fact “why would I vote for something that gives public money to people who want to run against me, and that takes away the advantage I have in raising campaign money due to my incumbency?”
The response should have been, “Because this is your last, best chance to be delivered from dialing for dollars and for avoiding hijacked campaigns and being thought beholden to interests rather than to the people who vote for you.”
The response instead was, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
The Ellis proposal was not enacted.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
By Bill Kraus
The thing about power is that it’s finite. If I have it, you probably don’t. There are, of course, occasions where we both have it in equal measure. This produces ties in games, gridlock in politics.
The other thing is that in politics, power moves or shifts. Sometimes it almost disappears altogether, usually when it is abused. Overreaching, as Lord Acton pointed out long, long ago is not only corrupting as he said but tends to set off a reversal.
So any assessment of who is up, down, and tied is ephemeral. But I can’t resist assessing anyway. It is my way of tracking political probabilities and prospects.
What follows is a truncated version of my power scorecard at this moment in time and space, with emphasis on Wisconsin.
Posted by Common Cause in Wisconsin at 8:33 AM