Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Extraordinary Bad Decisions

By Ann Grewe

Our clean government in Wisconsin just received two additional blows this November, setting the scene for corruption and partisan decisions in the future.

Government Accountability Board (GAB) was composed of six retired judges, including our own Judge Thomas Barland, who served as Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge until his retirement in 2000, then continued to serve as Reserve Judge and an independent mediator, arbitrator and court referee, while also serving as an active member of the GAB.

We have been so fortunate to have a nonpartisan, highly ethical organization such as the GAB charged with ensuring that elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying were all conducted according to the laws of Wisconsin. Their website,, uses clear language and short sentences to spell out the standards of behavior for everyone connected with Wisconsin’s government.

Just passed during November’s extraordinary session of the Assembly were the GAB destruction act (AB 388) which splits the GAB into two new boards staffed with partisan appointees and ends the GAB’s ability to investigate alleged wrongdoing by public officials -- such as the GAB-approved probe into Governor Walker's aides and associates that put six of Walker’s staff in jail.

A law passed in October now exempts the crimes that jailed Walker’s staff from being investigated under the state’s John Doe process. (John Doe investigations are done to determine whether a crime has occurred and, if so, by whom.)

A second bill just passed, campaign finance deform (AB 387) allows unlimited campaign contributions from a range of sources, permits corporate contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees, and boosts contribution limits to candidates. It also makes clear that candidates may coordinate with so-called “issue advocacy groups” that need not disclose how they raise or spend money to influence Wisconsin voters.

All these bills combine to allow political corruption to take root and flourish in Wisconsin. Credit our Republican governor and Republican majorities in Wisconsin’s Senate and Assembly for these extraordinarily bad decisions.

Ann Grewe is a concerned citizen from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A good week for bad government... mostly

By Bill Kraus

In a week that the legislative-led state government added to its “protect the majority and the incumbents” proposals, a lawsuit about gerrymandering took a step toward a hoped for Supreme Court appearance.

The legislature completed it’s defanging of the Government Accountability Board by bringing partisan management in and getting Kevin Kennedy out of election and ethics oversight and investigation.

Another pro-incumbent move was to open another tap for the flow of money to power.

Gerrymandering, which is the machete of incumbent protection, wasn’t discussed.

There will be no movement on the issue by the legislative leaders who are now fully in charge of running state government. The governor’s role is secondary and docile. He doesn’t have to initiate. He will sign whatever he is sent.

But over in the federal courthouse, a lawsuit had a hearing before three federal judges who were asked by the 7th District Court of Appeals to rule on a motion by the state of Wisconsin to dismiss a plan which would make gerrymandering, like racially motivated discrimination, a sin.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

WI GOP seeks access to unlimited secret money, end to nonpartisan oversight

By Sandra Miller

Today, our State Assembly votes on legislation to both dismantle Wisconsin's nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), and significantly expand the corrupting influence of out-of-state, secret cash in our elections. The State Senate is expected to do the same next week.

If passed and later signed into law by Governor Walker, these two measures will most assuredly "wreak havoc" on democracy in Wisconsin:

Assembly Bill 388 decimates the GAB – the agency that ensures we have clean, fair elections, while enforcing our campaign finance, ethics and lobbying laws. AB 388 scraps the current GAB, replacing it with two separate commissions: one focusing on ethics, the other on elections.

And the board's nonpartisan judges? Gone!

Instead, these two agencies will each consist of six partisan, political appointments – three Republicans and three Democrats.

Hmmm... sounds like a recipe for deadlock.

Well… the GOP Leadership did say that the model for their "new and improved" GAB was the Federal Election Commission – an agency that, by its chair's own admission, is both dysfunctional and deadlocked.