In 2014, as March drew to an end but the cold Wisconsin winter refused to let go, State Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) stopped at his favorite after-work hangout to relax after a long session in the Capitol. After a few drinks, Ellis was approached by what he thought were two young constituents and the veteran GOP lawmaker started holding forth, as he was wont to do.
What he did not know, however, was that his new-found drinking buddies were not from his district or even from the State of Wisconsin. They were, however, on a mission to end his career. A few weeks later, the right-wing’s favorite attack dog for hire, James O’Keefe, released a video of the conversation showing an inebriated Ellis spinning a tale about setting up a “Super PAC” to run attacks on his Democratic opponent in that year’s election.
If Ellis’ barroom boasts were actualized in the cold light of day, Ellis may have run afoul of state law prohibiting coordination between candidate committees and outside groups.
Wisconsinites Fighting Back Against Pipeline Expansion (Image: Occupy Riverwest)
Madison -- Whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline will transport tar sands oil from Canada through the United States has been framed as one of the critical decisions affecting our climate and our future as a planet. But a proposed expansion of the Enbridge Line 61 pipeline being debated in Dane County, Wisconsin may be even more critical.
The tripling in capacity of Line 61, which already carries Tar Sands crude oil from Alberta to Illinois, will make it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL. Read the rest of this item here.
Watchdog organizations Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy jointly filed a public records request today seeking details of Governor Scott Walker's trip to a secret fundraising retreat hosted by billionaire industrialist mega-donors Charles and David Koch in Palm Springs, California.
The request seeks details of who paid for Governor Walker's travel expenses, and recent communications between the governor's office and the Kochs' secretive political apparatus, which plans to spend $889 million in advance of the 2016 elections. Yesterday, three days after attending a closed-door meeting with the Kochs and other wealthy donors, Governor Walker announced he was forming a new fundraising committee ahead of his potential 2016 presidential campaign. Read the rest of this item here.
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has ended its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), thanks to shareholder engagement from the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin-based Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.
“As a major defense contractor it is significant that the company follow the lead of many major corporations that have left ALEC in recent months,” said Sister Sally Ann Brickner, who manages the Congregation’s Socially Responsible Investment Portfolio. The Catholic organization is a Northrop Grumman shareholder and filed a resolution asking the company to review its affiliation with ALEC and other lobbying organizations, which the sisters say prompted the company to leave ALEC. Read the rest of this item here.
After a scorching two-year controversy involving a "John Doe" criminal investigation into potential illegal coordination between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside big money groups, state GOP leaders are readying a legislative package to dismantle the nonpartisan elections board.
State Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) is proposing a curious cure. He announced that he will author a bill to add partisan appointees to the Government Accountability Board (GAB), now governed by a nonpartisan board of retired judges.
Why add partisan members to a nonpartisan board that is supposed to act as an independent arbiter of elections, campaign finance law, and ethics? Because the board is currently too partisan, says Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
This week, Republican presidential hopefuls like Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul will travel to an exclusive resort near Palm Springs, Florida to kiss the rings of David and Charles Koch.
Over the last five years, the Koch political network has evolved into what many have described as a shadow political party. The Kochs and their network of wealthy donors spent $300 million in the 2014 elections, after raising at least $400 million in the 2012 presidential races, with almost all of the spending passing through an array of political vehicles that are officially "independent" from candidates and political parties.
Today, candidates who receive the blessing of Charles and David can watch their political fortunes skyrocket, thanks to the huge financial resources the Kochs and their deep-pocketed allies can funnel into elections.
Newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) will give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, perhaps providing further proof that the Koch political network has evolved into an independent political force.
Ernst's political career has followed a rapid trajectory. Just four years ago, she was a local elected official in Montgomery County, Iowa. Today, she is addressing the entire nation in primetime.
According to Ernst, her political rise can be attributed to support from the Koch network of funders and funding vehicles, which planned to spend an estimated $300 million on the 2014 elections. Read the rest of this item here.
Multiple studies have shown that student test scores are a better measure of a community's wealth then they are of school performance or teacher quality. And the evidence doesn't show that turning public schools into charters improves test scores or produces better-educated children.
Democrats appear to have learned some lessons from their 2014 mid-term whipping. Numerous analysts said the lack of a coherent Democratic message to address the problem of stagnating wages and a stumbling economy hurt the party, especially among lower-income voters.
On election day, the AFL-CIO polled voters and found that 54 percent lost household income during the past year. Sixty-three say the economy is fundamentally unfair. Eighty percent say that both political parties are too focused on helping Wall Street and not Main Street.
Apparently some in Congress got the message. On Monday, President Obama's nominee for a key spot in the Treasury Department, a Wall Street banker, quietly withdrew his candidacy. On the same day, U.S. Rep. Van Hollen embraced one of Wall Street's most despised policy proposals, a financial transaction tax, in an effort to boost middle class wages. Read the rest of this item here.
Two trade organizations affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the controversial corporate bill mill, filed suit on December 16 against the City of Los Angeles to block an ordinance passed last September to raise the wages for hotel employees. According to the ordinance, more than 40 percent of the city’s hotel workers currently make a living below the federal poverty line, but once it goes into effect, large non-unionized hotels will be required to pay their employees $15.37 an hour.
In what is one of the most expensive cities in the country, the state minimum, recently boosted from $8 to $9 an hour, has proven woefully inadequate to give people adequate housing and to keep people out of poverty. Even conservative real estate CEO Rick Carusi voiced his support for the measure, telling the LA Times that “It’s very difficult to live in this region … with that kind of money.”
Yet, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (which counts Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton as its members) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, argue in the lawsuit that the city has created an “insidious mechanism that improperly aids the Hotel Workers’ Union.” Read the rest of this item here.
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The political network organized by Charles and David Koch plans to spend an incredible $889 million to capture the White House in 2016 and deepen the Koch party's bench in Congress. But that's not what they'll tell federal regulators.
If history is a guide, the Koch network will claim that much of the nearly $1 billion it will funnel through an array of nonprofit groups is not about elections at all. Instead, the Koch groups will claim that their efforts to elect politicians who will lower capital gains taxes and overturn environmental regulations is really all about "social welfare."
That's what happened during the last presidential cycle.
A bipartisan effort to enforce Wisconsin’s longstanding laws governing coordination between campaigns and independent groups has been mislabeled a “partisan witch hunt” by a well-funded legal and media campaign, with the ultimate goal of undermining what remains of limits on big money in politics, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy.
“Anti-coordination laws have become more vital than ever before in the post-Citizens United world, where ‘independent’ political organizations are raising and spending unlimited funds for elections but keeping their donors a secret,” said Brendan Fischer, CMD General Counsel and the author of the report. “If a candidate can coordinate with these secretly-funded groups and establish shadow campaign committees, then the candidate contribution limits and disclosure requirements are rendered meaningless.”
And that, it seems, is precisely the goal.
Read the rest of this item here. Read the report here.
On 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, GOP Taps Koch Brothers-Backed Senator to Give SOTU Response
On 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, GOP Taps Koch Brothers-Backed Senator to Give SOTU Response
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