2013-14 Legislative Scorecard Documents Republican-led Attacks on Democracy in Wisconsin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
7/23/14

Madison – With the August 12 primary and November 4 general election drawing near, United Wisconsin released today their 2013-14 Democracy in Wisconsin Legislative Scorecard, a report documenting the voting records of members of the Wisconsin assembly and senate on key bills affecting the health of Wisconsin’s democracy. The legislative scorecard, which includes bills ranging from voting rights to money in politics to critical democracy reform legislation, shows how the Republican legislature voted in near lock-step to undermine Wisconsin’s core values of open democracy and clean and accountable government.

“During the 2013-14 legislative session, the Republican-led state legislature has launched unprecedented attacks on Wisconsin’s democracy. During the last two years, Wisconsin has seen laws passed that place new limits on voting rights and allow more special interest money to influence our elections, yet Republican leadership failed to move forward on common-sense redistricting reform,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. “With important elections coming up on August 12 and November 4, this legislative scorecard serves as a guide for Wisconsin voters to ensure they know exactly where their representatives stand on these vital democracy issues before casting their ballots.”

The 2013-14 legislative scorecard documents the voting record of each member of the Wisconsin State Assembly on eight separate democracy bills and the State Senate on five separate bills. 

The full 2013-14 legislative scorecard can be viewed at: http://www.unitedwisconsin.com/democracy-in-wisconsin-2013-14-legislative-scorecard

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization of citizens restoring the Wisconsin tradition of democracy in action. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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Burlington campaign submits petition signatures calling for local referendum on Citizens United

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

7/8/14

Signature total exceeds minimum required; petitioners call for referendum to be placed on November 2014 election ballot

BURLINGTON, WI – Today, United Wisconsin submitted petition signatures as part of the move to amend movement calling on the City of Burlington to place an advisory referendum on the November 2014 general election ballot calling for the reversal of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporations the power to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. 610 petition signatures were collected in Burlington over the course of the 60-day grassroots petition campaign, exceeding the total amount of signatures required under state law.

“Our petition drive was met with bipartisan support by the residents of Burlington, which demonstrates how concerned voters from across party lines are about the corrupting influence the flood of unlimited special interest money is having on our elections,” said Ronni Endemann, a United Wisconsin volunteer leader and Burlington resident. “With the submission of these petition signatures, we now call on the Burlington city council to move this resolution to a city-wide referendum in November and give every Burlington resident the opportunity to make their voice heard on overturning Citizens United.”

The completion of this petition drive marks the latest Wisconsin municipality to take action either by petitioning or lobbying of local elected officials for passage of an advisory resolution addressing Citizens United and the corrupting effect of unlimited special interest spending in elections.

On April 1, 2014, 13 more Wisconsin communities voted overwhelmingly to pass referendums calling for the reversal of Citizens United, including the neighboring communities of Elkhorn and Delavan. To date, 41 Wisconsin communities have taken action either by petition or passage of advisory resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to establish that only human beings are entitled to constitutional rights and that corporate political spending is not equivalent to free speech.

Nationally, 16 states and over 500 municipalities have gone on record in opposition to the Citizens United ruling since 2010. Most recently, the states of Vermont and California officially passed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to address the issue of overturning Citizens United.

“With each passing day, more and more Wisconsinites are sounding the alarm by demanding reform to address the corrupting effects of big money in our elections brought on by Citizens United and related decisions,” said United Wisconsin Political Director Erik Kirkstein. “In poll after poll, the issue of combating corruption is met with bipartisan support. Now, the residents of Burlington will have the opportunity to join this growing movement by voicing their support at the ballot box for common-sense campaign finance reform.”

United Wisconsin is an independent grassroots organization of citizens restoring the Wisconsin tradition of democracy in action. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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Failing to Prosecute Illegal Coordination in John Doe Case Threatens Legitimacy of State Campaign Finance Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

6/20/14

MADISON, WI – Based on evidence provided in Exhibit C of the John Doe documents unsealed Thursday, failing to prosecute illegal campaign coordination exposes a grave threat to the public’s trust Wisconsin elections by undermining state campaign finance safeguards in place to prevent corruption.

“The unsealed John Doe documents reveal a clear case of the corruption of Wisconsin elections at the hands of Scott Walker’s campaign and outside conservatives groups. The failure to bring charges in Walker’s “criminal scheme” puts in jeopardy Wisconsin campaign finance laws which were put in place to ensure the integrity of the electoral process,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck.

Prosecutors laid out the case that Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate illegal campaign fundraising among his campaign and conservative groups to fund the running of phony “issue advocacy” campaigns clearly designed for the direct political benefit of Walker’s campaign and Republican legislators facing recall elections in 2011-12. Despite what appears to be clear evidence of illegal coordination, a recent stay issued by Federal Judge Rudolf Randa halting further investigation leaves Wisconsin campaign finance laws governing disclosure of campaign spending unenforceable and stripped of legitimacy.

According Francis D. Schmitz, special prosecutor in the John Doe investigation “Movants argue that “coordination” of political activities that do not arguably express advocacy cannot be a crime under Wisconsin law. These arguments fail to recognize or misinterpret Wisconsin statutes, administrative rules, and G.A.B. formal opinions. Movants have also ignored controlling Wisconsin case law. Indeed, in their submissions, movants – FOSW, Citizens for a Strong America, Inc. (CFSA) Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Inc. (WMC) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce-Issues Mobilization Council (WMC-IMC)/& and Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) appear to have tacitly admitted to violating Wisconsin law.”

“Failing to prosecute what is clearly a violation of state campaign finance law leaves our elections more vulnerable than ever to this type of alleged illegal coordination and erodes any sense in eyes of voters that Wisconsin elections are truly fair,” Subeck said.

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing progressive values, strengthening democracy, and ensuring every Wisconsinite has a voice. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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United Wisconsin Launches Petition Drive in Burlington Calling For Reversal of Citizens United

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

5/19/14

BURLINGTON – Building upon the nationwide nonpartisan movement to get big money out of elections, United Wisconsin kicked off a petition drive on Saturday, May 17th, in the City of Burlington to place an advisory referendum on the November ballot calling for the reversal of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

The petition drive in Burlington marks the latest municipality in Wisconsin to petition in opposition to the Citizens United ruling, which granted corporate entities the power to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections through entities like Super PACs, overturning nearly a century of settled law regarding campaign finance regulation in the United States.

Click here to volunteer to help overturn Citizens United in Burlington!

“For me, the issue comes down to whether or not we want our elected officials beholden to people power or money power,” said Ronni Endemann, a Burlington resident and United Wisconsin volunteer leading the petition drive. “With this petition drive, our community will have the opportunity make their voices heard, and to join with cities across Wisconsin and the country who are calling for reform to get big money out of politics.”

Petition circulators will have 60 days to collect the signatures needed to place the referendum on the ballot in November 2014. According to Wisconsin state statute, placing a municipal referendum on the ballot requires petition signatures equivalent to 15% of the total votes from that municipally in the last gubernatorial general election.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, special interest spending on elections has skyrocketed. According to a recent report released by the WISPIRG Foundation and Demos entitled “Billion Dollar Democracy”, total spending on the 2012 election cycle topped $5.2 billion, with over $1 billion coming from outside groups like Super PACS. Even more alarming, nearly 60% of the total Super PAC funding came from just 159 individuals making contributions of at least $1 million.

According to a recent poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps, 80% of respondents opposed the Citizens United ruling, including 72% of Republican, 82% of Democratic and 84% of independent voters who believe the ruling leads to more corruption in the political process.

On April 1, 2014, United Wisconsin and partners passed 13 similar referendums across Wisconsin, including the neighboring cities of Delavan and Elkhorn. In both cities, voters passed the referendum by large margins, with Delavan passing with 76% and Elkhorn 69%. 41 municipalities in Wisconsin are now on record calling for a constitutional amendment stating corporations are not people entitled to constitutional rights, and regulations on political spending do not encroach on first amendment free speech rights.
Nationwide, 16 states have joined the over 500 municipalities have called for a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United.

“The movement to overturn the Citizens United decision is the unifying issue of our time,” said United Wisconsin Political Director Erik Kirkstein. “This campaign taking place in Burlington and across our state and nation is an example of people taking direct action to restore our democracy for We the People as the founders of our nation intended and demand common-sense reform to combat the corrupting influence of big money in politics.”

Click here to volunteer to help overturn Citizens United in Burlington!

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United Wisconsin Applauds Milwaukee County Board Vote to Override Veto of Citizens United Resolution by County Executive Abele

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

5/12/14

MILWAUKEE – United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck released the following statement after the Milwaukee County Board voted 14-4 to override County Executive Chris Abele’s veto of a resolution placing an countywide advisory referendum on the November election ballot calling for the reversal of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporate entities the power to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. County Executive Abele vetoed the resolution on May 2nd, after a 13-5 super-majority of County Board supervisors passed the resolution April 24th.

“We applaud the vote today by a super-majority of Milwaukee County Board supervisors who stood up for democracy and overrode County Executive Abele’s veto to allow Milwaukee County residents the opportunity to be heard on reversing the disastrous Citizens United ruling. Citizens United gave special interest groups a bullhorn that they’ve used to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in our elections. But since the ruling, an unprecedented nonpartisan movement has been sweeping across Wisconsin and the nation calling for fundamental reforms to restore our democracy. Milwaukee County voters have the right to make their voices heard, and with today’s vote, they can now vote in November to join the 41 Wisconsin cities and over 500 nationwide who have passed resolutions demanding big money out of politics and an end to our democracy being sold to the highest bidder.”

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing progressive values, strengthening democracy, and ensuring every Wisconsinite has a voice. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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New Analysis Finds McCutcheon Decision Could Unleash Big Money In Wisconsin Elections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4/30/14

Wisconsinites Vote Big Money Out of Elections, New Analysis Finds McCutcheon Decision Could Let Big Money In

MOVI Wisconsin Coalition Announces 2014-2015 Plan to Reclaim our Democracy

MADISON – At a press conference at the State Capitol today, Money Out, Voters In Wisconsin, a diverse coalition of over 30 public advocacy, labor, and good government groups in Wisconsin committed to combating the influence of big special interest money in elections, joined Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to release their new analysis of the potential impact of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v FEC, on Wisconsin elections. The analysis revealed that wealthy political donors could have funneled more that $6 million each to candidates in the 2010 and 2012 state and local elections if the state’s $10,000 aggregate annual limit on campaign contributions had not existed.

“By striking down aggregate campaign contribution limits, the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling handed control of our elections to the smallest fraction of wealthy campaign donors who will now spend even more to decide the outcome of elections,” Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe said. “The removal of state limits could have a devastating impact on Wisconsin elections, giving millionaire and billionaire donors even greater influence over our elections and drowning out the voices of everyday Wisconsinites.”

On April 2nd, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC struck down the aggregate campaign contribution limit, which had been in place for over 40 years to curb the corrupting influence of money in politics, as unconstitutional. The previous limit for total contributions to all federal candidates and committees was $123,300 during an election cycle.

“In Citizens United, the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. “Now, with their ruling in McCutcheon, they’ve turned up the volume even higher. It’s time to amend the Constitution to overturn the Court’s wrong-headed decisions permitting a handful of millionaires and corporate interests to dominate our elections.”

The day before the McCutcheon decision was handed down, 13 Wisconsin communities passed local advisory referendums by wide margins calling on state and federal leaders to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and to oppose big money in our elections. To date, 41 local municipalities in Wisconsin have gone on record in support of a constitutional amendment.

The Money Out, Voters In Wisconsin coalition announced plans to continue community-based petition drives across Wisconsin urging the state to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating corporations are not people entitled to constitutional rights, and regulations on political spending do not encroach on first amendment free speech rights.

The Democracy Campaign analysis found that if the $10,000 contribution limit had not existed in 2012 well-heeled donors could have given at least $6.8 million each to candidates in about 4,700 state and local elections, 386 PACs and 157 political party committees – 680 times more than the current contribution limit. In 2010, rich contributors could have given at least $6.1 million each to candidates in about 4,700 state and local races, 319 PACs and 164 political party committees if Wisconsin had no aggregate limit on total contributions. That’s 610 times more than the current contribution limit.

There were only 299 individuals who gave $10,000 or more to state candidates in 2010 and 2012 – about five one-thousandths of one percent of the state’s 2012 population.

In 2012, only 1,219 elite donors nationwide came within 10% of hitting the federal aggregate limit. Research from U.S. PIRG and Demos projects that without an aggregate contribution limit, this same set of 1,219 donors would have more than tripled their gifts in 2012 to $459.3 million, nearly 50% more money than President Obama and Governor Romney raised combined from more than 4 million small donors ($313 million) in the 2012 election.

“The Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon expose how out-of-touch the court is to the reality of corruption in our politics tied to big special interest election spending,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. “Our coalition will continue moving forward by putting local referendums on the ballot in Wisconsin in November and every election thereafter until leaders on the state, and ultimately federal, level heed the will of the people, restore our democracy, and put an end to the days of our elections being sold to the highest bidder.”

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Statement on Federal Judge Striking Down Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4/29/14

MADISON – United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck released the following statement regarding Tuesday’s ruling by a U.S. district judge in Milwaukee striking down Wisconsin’s Voter ID law.

“Today’s decision by Judge Lynn Adelman striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law is welcome news to the tens of thousands of minority, low-income, elderly, and student voters in Wisconsin whose fundamental right to vote was threatened by new and burdensome restrictions designed solely to suppress their voices at the ballot box. From the beginning, this law was nothing more than a calculated political move by Republicans aimed at suppressing the votes of those who don’t agree with their extreme political agenda. With this decision, Governor Walker should immediately halt any plans to further restrict voting in Wisconsin ahead of the November election.”

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing progressive values, strengthening democracy, and ensuring every Wisconsinite has a voice. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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United Wisconsin Calls on Milwaukee County Executive Abele to Sign Citizens United Resolution passed by Milwaukee County Board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4/25/14

MADISON –United Wisconsin is calling on Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to sign a resolution approved Thursday by the Milwaukee County Board which places an advisory referendum on the November ballot in Milwaukee County calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. The Citizens United ruling granted corporations the power to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

“United Wisconsin applauds the action taken by a super majority of Milwaukee County Board Supervisors on Thursday, standing up to the special interest takeover of our elections brought on by the disastrous Citizens United ruling,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. “We now call on Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to sign the resolution and give Milwaukee County residents the opportunity to make their voices heard on Citizens United at the ballot box in November.”

Live in Milwaukee County? Sign our letter urging Chris Abele to let the people be heard in Citizens United!

Thursday’s County Board vote comes on the heels of a successful effort by United Wisconsin and partner organizations to pass 13 similar referendums throughout the state during spring election on April 1st – including the City of Wauwatosa and Villages of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay in Milwaukee County. The April 1st victories brought the total to 41 Wisconsin communities calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United and get big special interest money out of politics.

Abele vetoed a similar resolution last year, denying the people of Milwaukee County the opportunity to be heard.

“With more Milwaukee County municipalities placing referenda on the ballot with each passing election, Abele should heed their call and put the issue to the people for a countywide vote,” said Subeck. “Milwaukee County residents deserve the opportunity to join the other 41 other Wisconsin communities who have called for the reversal of Citizens United and an end to the corrupting effect limitless election spending by wealthy special interests has on our democracy.”

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing progressive values, strengthening democracy, and ensuring every Wisconsinite has a voice. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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United Wisconsin Statement on newly released video of Senator Mike Ellis describing illegal fundraising scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 4/9/14

Madison – United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck released the following statement regarding a hidden camera recording released Wednesday by conservative group Project Veritas. Republican state Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) was caught on camera discussing the creation of an illegal SuperPAC to attack his Democratic challenger, State Representative Penny Bernard Schaber. Campaign law forbids candidates from coordinating with outside groups that run shady “issue ads” supporting or opposing candidates.

“What Senator Ellis describes is an illegal fundraising scheme and an example of politics at its worst. This is exactly the type of illegal campaign coordination at the center of the ongoing John Doe probe surrounding Governor Walker.

Ellis’s reported plan exposes just how vulnerable our democracy is to corruption at the hands of special interest groups that have been given the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. The recording released today further highlights the need for meaningful campaign finance reform, beginning with the reversal of Citizens United.

Only once we have stopped the unlimited flow of special interest money into our elections will we be able to fully trust that our elected officials are working for the people whom they are elected to represent.”

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization of citizens restoring the Wisconsin tradition of democracy in action. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

Click here to view the video.

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Statement on Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4/2/14

MADISON – United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck released the following statement regarding today’s United States Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC. The ruling strikes down aggregate limits on individual contributions to federal candidates, political parties, and committees, claiming the limits are unconstitutional.

The case, commonly dubbed Citizens United 2.0 in reference to the Supreme Court’s landmark and highly controversial 5-4 decision in 2010 which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate election spending, reverses 40 years of legal precedent and common-sense safeguards to prevent wealthy individuals from spending limitless amounts to elect candidates of their choosing.

“As if Citizens United wasn’t bad enough, today’s Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC moves us another step closer to the outright legalization of bribery by allowing the wealthiest donors to pour unlimited amounts of money into the campaign coffers of our elected officials.

“Aggregate campaign finance limits provide a crucial safeguard against the corruption that too often plagues our political system. With today’s ruling, how can the public trust that our decision makers, and the policies they set, are not simply for sale to the highest bidder?

“Today’s decision makes it crystal clear that the conservative majority on the Roberts’ court will not address the growing influence that just a handful of wealthy donors have over our elections and our elected officials. Meanwhile, the bipartisan grassroots movement working to take back our democracy and put the power back in the hands of the people continues to grow across our state and our nation.

“United Wisconsin remains committed to overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and now its McCutcheon decision through a constitutional amendment clarifying that money is not speech and corporations do not have the same rights as individual people. These efforts will only be emboldened by today’s disastrous decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.

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United Wisconsin is an independent, grassroots organization of citizens restoring the Wisconsin tradition of democracy in action. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.

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