Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lessons in cartography

By Bill Kraus

I am now, finally, in possession of the maps of the legislative districts that the new law created and that Wisconsin will adhere to for the next 10 years. I think.

Everyone knows by now that the tradeoff of counties in the north and west has presumably made the 3rd congressional district safe for Ron Kind and any Democrat who runs there forevermore and the 7th congressional district safe for Sean Duffy and any Republican ditto.

My own view is these carefully sculpted results are not as permanent as the sculptors imagine. These districts have a long history of choosing people they like without regard to political labels. I attribute this to their Progressive Party roots, probably unjustifiably.

But if the intended results are achieved, this rearrangement means that there are no competitive congressional districts, none, in Wisconsin. If the voters dislike an incumbent, they will have to dislodge him or her in a primary election. The general elections are wired.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two State Senators Should Be Inducted Into Civility and Compromise Hall of Fame

By Roger Utnehmer

If Wisconsin had a Civility and Compromise Hall of Fame for politicians, State Senators Tim Cullen and Dale Schultz would be the first to be inducted.

It is a cliché to decry the lack of civility and compromise in state politics. Partisanship has polarized all branches of government. That’s why what Senators Tim Cullen, a Democrat from Janesville, and Dale Schultz, a Republican from Richland Center are doing to restore civility has profound potential.

Cullen and Schultz have visited each others’ districts. Each listened to the concerns of the others’ constituents. They are working together finding common ground on issues that matter to people regardless of political affiliation. Their reciprocal visits have already resulted in both recognizing the importance of rail service to rural Wisconsin as a tool for economic development.

More positive results will follow.

Both have been around state government long enough to remember the days of bi-partisan cooperation when legislators built bonds of friendship across the aisle. Congratulations to Senators Cullen and Schultz for attempting to restore that rich Wisconsin tradition. May their efforts be an example for their colleagues to follow.

Their bi-partisan cooperation is proof we have hope for better discourse in a state government troubled by discord and incivility. Thanks to two veteran legislators for restoring optimism and hope that things will be better.

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours. I’m Roger Utnehmer

Roger Utnehmer is President and CEO of, and a member of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Destiny for appointment

By Bill Kraus

Two years ago a panel of jurists and lawyers and political types, with the exception of the State Journal’s prescient Scott Milfred, told former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who had come to town to advocate appointing instead of electing judges, the following:

1. Wisconsin’s DNA strongly favors elections, of everyone. We invented open primaries. We elect coroners. We elect state officials to jobs that really don’t exist. It’s beyond an obsession; it’s an addiction.

2. We have a full funding law for Supreme Court candidates that spares them the indignity of dialing for dollars and the risk of having to recuse themselves from cases in which donors to their campaigns are involved.

3. We have a tradition of bi-partisanizing candidates, by putting prominent Democrats and Republicans in tandem on the top of judicial campaign organizations.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stuffing the beast

By Bill Kraus

We have known for a long time that campaigns are too long and too expensive.

We have also known that the remedy for both maladies is easy: Starve the beast by shutting down the flow of money.

This is not happening. This is not going to happen. The flow of money into politics has become a flood as the U.S. Supreme Court took the open door off its hinges. It is getting bigger every day in every way.

The incumbents have been deluded into thinking that this is to their benefit. They won’t even enact the mild suppressant which the otherwise complicit Supremes have recommended: making third-party organizations which are running parallel campaigns disclose the names of the people who are funding those campaigns.

This combination of forces has led to invincible incumbents whose main ambition is keeping their jobs, and it bursts the bubble of ideas like part-time legislators.