Thursday, February 28, 2013

Things to do today (in government)


By Bill Kraus

Okay the governor wants to talk about ideas big and small: expanding school choice, cutting income taxes, a venture capital spur for the economy, where public employees have to live, and, who knew, taking over the Circus Museum in Baraboo.

The Legislature hasn’t weighed in yet on what they like about his agenda or what is on their short list.

Neither of the above are going to be interested in what’s on my to-do list, but I have enough chutzpah to let them know what I think the governor is missing and the Legislature should be considering.

My list is not particularly daunting or surprising either.

I start with the obvious: dispassionate redistricting for whoever is still around when the next census is published in 2021, and whatever can still be done to clean up campaign funding and financing.

I put voter ID on the wait-and-see list. This is in the hands of the courts where it does or does not belong, but where it will be handled for better or worse.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Campaign finance's shifting burdens


By Bill Kraus

Endorsements have always been a campaign staple. Prominent people, large organizations, anyone or anything with a following who will praise the candidate, are as good as gold in candidates’ campaign literature.

The way it worked was the campaign controlled the publication of the endorsements.

Sometime in the last 20 percent of the last century more of the endorsements became self actuated and published. The control of the endorsement process shifted away from the candidates and the campaigns.

Most of the newly unfettered endorsers were respectable, responsible, and welcome.

They also had money. They could buy TV ads and let the world know how much they liked their endorsees and why.

This would be done in their own words, which was occasionally a mixed blessing.

All in all, though, there was no widespread protest about this turn of events.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three reforms nobody seems to care enough about


By Bill Kraus

The reform agenda when I entered the wilds of good government was just as widely ignored but more fun before the Supreme Court took spending and contribution limits off the table by deciding in Citizens United that spending by third parties was sacrosanct and impliedly reaffirming what their 19th and 20th century predecessors ruled, respectively, that corporations are people and money is speech.

So we are pretty much down to redistricting, which is arcane and boring, donor disclosure, which is obliquely tied to the aforementioned money, and recall by fault instead of whimsy which is too toxic to touch, in Wisconsin anyway.

None of these initiatives are on the legislative leaders’ short agendas. Maybe not even on their long agendas.

In no particular order then:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Whither the Electoral College


By Bill Kraus

The Electoral College system of picking a president is under fire, again. As it comes under close and critical scrutiny and as other options are proposed, Churchill’s aphorism about democracy being the worst system of government except for all those other systems comes to mind.

The assertion that there is something absurd about a national election that is basically contested in and settled by the results in only seven or eight states is hard to dispute.

Until the other ideas come under the microscope.

First, it is necessary to point out that it will take a constitutional change to go to the obvious proposal: the winner of the national popular vote wins the election.

Why the founders did not go this route is irrelevant. They didn’t. The Electoral College with its geographical and other quirks, which they chose instead, can only be changed if 38 states ratify the amendment to do this. Almost all of those 38 states are or feel favored by the Electoral College and don’t care that New York, California and Texas are ignored in presidential campaigns.