Weekly Update October 25th, 2015

Weekly Update for 10-25-15
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"Wisconsin is Open for Corruption"

This week Republicans passed bills to make Wisconsin open for corruption.

First, Republicans voted to decimate our state’s campaign finance laws by enabling individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money campaigning, in many cases without any disclosure of their identity. Also – for the first time in modern Wisconsin history – corporations would be able to give unlimited money directly to political parties and campaign committees.

Second, Republicans voted to dismantle our non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) and turn our elections and ethics watchdogs into partisan lapdogs. Perhaps worse, they have to ask for funds from the Finance Committee to launch major investigations, in some cases from the people they would be investigating.

Third, Republicans passed what many have called the “Corrupt Politician Protection Act” because it exempts political crimes from John Doe investigations, while other crimes are still included.

Next week, Republicans plan to undermine our civil service system and open the door for corruption and cronyism during an Administration already rocked by scandal.

When I talk to people and around the state, not one person has ever told me they want corporations to have an ever greater influence over our government.

No one has ever told me we should have partisan control over our election process.

No one has ever told me we should make it easier for political corruption to go undetected and unprosecuted or that we should open the door to more cronyism in state government.

With these new extreme changes, I fear for the ability of everyday citizens to have a say in their government. As Republicans open the door for corruption, the door on Wisconsin’s era of clean, open and transparent government has been slammed shut. I hope Wisconsin citizens will call their legislators before the Senate takes action on these horrendous bills.
The Debt Ceiling Is Coming!
Can John Boehner, Paul Ryan, or someone do anything about it?

It’s finally clear why Rep. Paul Ryan changed his mind and chose to run for speaker. He wasn’t interested in the fundraising, traveling, or the time away from his kids. He also wasn’t much interested in having to twist the arms of characters like Reps. Louie Gohmert and Steve King late into the night. What changed his mind, surely, was a glance at the calendar: Ryan will only have to serve as speaker for a handful of days before the apocalypse will arrive and our institutions will cease to exist.

The debt ceiling deadline has been moved up two days to Nov. 3, according to the most recent estimate from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. That is 11 days from now and considerably fewer legislative days. So far the House hasn’t moved a bill, and neither has the Senate.

There’s another problem emerging in the House of Representatives, too, if you can believe it: The votes supposedly aren’t there. And we don’t just mean that a majority of Republicans aren’t willing to raise the debt ceiling. That’s never the case. Instead, it’s that even if Speaker Boehner/Ryan were to call up a “clean” debt ceiling increase with no conditions attached, and even if such a bill got unanimous Democratic support, there still wouldn’t be enough Republicans to vote for it.

Or so they say.

Buried relatively deeply on Politico’s front page, beneath stories about Benghazi and the Jeb Bush campaign’s pay cuts, is a piece about how we are a handful of legislative days from surpassing our statutory borrowing limit and no one is doing anything. Earlier this week the plan was to pass a stringent Republican Study Committee–backed bill that would have frozen all new regulations, among other deliciously fantastical conservative goodies. But GOP leaders have backed away because even that did not have enough support among Republicans.

Read more at Slate.com

Paul Ryan’s Haunted House
What can he learn from the ghosts of speakers past?
By Josh Zeitz

If all goes according to plan, on Thursday House Speaker John Boehner will hand over the big gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. It’s little wonder that Ryan was loath to accept the job. Who’d want to rule a party racked by internecine warfare—a party that deposed its own leader without an apparent game plan to avoid a government shutdown and default? In no small way, the House has become ungovernable, and the speakership, as one columnist recently observed, a “dead end.” 

Ryan can at least take comfort in history. Simply put, we’ve been here before.

By the standards of its day, the 50th Congress, which sat between March 1887 and March 1889, was the most “feeble” in the history of the American republic. These problems were particularly acute in the House. Stymied by deep partisan and sectional fissures and constrained by arcane procedural traditions, the institution earned the disdain of voters from all political parties and persuasions. “[N]o other body in the world takes up so much time and spends so much money doing nothing,” groused the editors of the Washington Post, who scorned the “wonderful inertia of this unwieldy and self-shackled body.”

Many people thought that the House needed a dictator to make order out of chaos. Which is precisely what it got. With his ascension in late 1889, Rep. Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine—Czar Reed, as his opponents soon dubbed him—applied ruthless energy and discipline to the task of making Congress work. He remains to this day one of most commanding incumbents to occupy this sometimes powerful but more often unwieldy constitutional office. Like a small handful of speakers who preceded and followed him, he ruled the House and did not for one second let it rule him.

Read more at Politico.

I wanted to let our members know about a podcast I regularly listen to, The Best of the Left.  Every few days a new episode is posted and based on a topic in the news.  It is always an educational listen and the website provided great links for you to share on social media.  Below is a link to a recent episode for you to enjoy along with some other activism information from their website related to the episode.

#961 Working our way toward anti-democracy (Voter Suppression)

Air date: 10-16-15

Direct Download

Today we take a look at a few of the tactics used to suppress voter turnout from the civil rights era to the modern era

Activism: Automatic Voter Registration via @BrennanCenter

Take Action:

Find the Brennan Center for Justice list of Automatic Voter Registration laws

Let your federal legislators know you support the Automatic Voter Registration Act through ContactingTheCongress.org and your state reps know you support voter expansion through automatic registration via OpenStates.Org

Additional Activism/Resources:

Find out if you’re registered to vote at: CanIVote.org

Sources/further reading:

"The Case for Voter Registration Modernization in 2015” via the Brennan Center for Justice

What Alabama Can Learn From California on Voting Rights via Ari Berman at The Nation

"Gov. Brown approves automatic voter registration for Californians” via LA Times

"Dem unveils automatic voter registration bill” via The Hill

"Make It Easy: The Case for Automatic Registration” via Democracy Journal

"Under new Oregon law, all eligible voters are registered unless they opt out” via LA Times

"Hillary's Game-Changing Voting Reform” via the Brennan Center for Justice

Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

Right-wing business and social groups behind gutting of state’s election laws
Written by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Wealthy business and conservative ideological groups that collectively spend millions of dollars to support Republican legislative and statewide candidates at election time are supporting bills to weaken state campaign finance law and dismember the state’s election and ethics watchdog.

Both measures were approved Wednesday by the Assembly and go next to the Senate on a fast track to Gov. Scott Walker's desk, where they are certain to be signed quickly into law.

One measure, Assembly Bill 388, was approved 58-39 by the Assembly. AB388 replaces the nonpartisan, independent Government Accountability Board with two partisan commissions with limited investigatory powers.

The other measure, Assembly Bill 387, was approved 61-0. All but one Republican, who was absent, voted for the bill, and 36 Democrats were present but abstained from voting. AB387 neuters the state’s campaign finance laws by: doubling campaign contribution limits to candidates; allowing unlimited donations to political parties and party committees; allowing unlimited dark money donations to so-called independent groups, which can coordinate with the candidates themselves; and dropping the requirement that donors to candidates have to identify their employer to further hide the influence peddlers.

AB388 and AB387 are supported by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business organization. WMC is one of the most influential special interest groups in the state. WMC has spent nearly $26 million on outside electioneering activities to back Republican candidates in legislative and statewide elections with smear ads and mailings paid for by secret fundraising and spending. Once elected, WMC uses its lobbying muscle to influence state spending and policy decisions on a wide array of issues including taxes, environmental deregulation, labor and education, among others.

In addition to WMC, AB388 has the backing of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative ideological group founded and funded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Americans for Prosperity issued a statement thanking the Assembly for approving legislation to dismantle the GAB, accusing the model, independent watchdog agency of being “desperately partisan.”

The Koch brothers are longtime backers of conservative causes and Republican and conservative candidates for federal, state and local offices throughout the country. Like WMC, Americans for Prosperity refuses to disclose how much it spends on its phony "issue" ads, but the Democracy Campaign estimates the group spent nearly $5.6 million on broadcast ads and other activities in Wisconsin elections for statewide office and the legislature from January 2010 to date.

The bulk of Americans for Prosperity’s secret electioneering spending was in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections when it spent $3.7 million to help Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP state senators targeted for recall.

AB387 also drew public support from the state’s largest anti-abortion group, Wisconsin Right to Life, which applauded passage of the bill in order to relieve “unconstitutional burdens” on free speech rights.

Wisconsin Right to Life, has spent only a modest amount – about $260,000 – on outside electioneering activities during the past 16 years, but marshals a well-organized and geographically dispersed membership to get to the ballot box and later to influence the legislative agenda

Originally published at Wisconsin Gazette.
Copyright © 2015 Southwest Regional Democratic Organization, All rights reserved.

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