Candidates, Wisconsin Statewide and Federal Elections

Updated

The race for Wisconsin governor is getting more crowded on the Democratic side. So far, four have officially entered the Democratic primary, and three other viable contenders have set up campaign committees.

Here’s an updated list of announced candidates for statewide and federal elections in Wisconsin in 2018. While formal announcements by incumbents from governor to Congress are so far few and far between, it’s generally expected that most incumbents will run for re-election. We will update this list as formal announcements start rolling in.

Governor

  • Bob Harlow (D) – 25-year-old Stanford graduate who last ran for Congress in California in 2016 formally announced in May
  • Andy Gronik (D) – Milwaukee businessman told the AP he will be running in June
  • Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) announced he’s running on Aug. 7
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers announced he’s running on Aug. 23
  • Governor Scott Walker (R) has not yet formally announced he’ll run for re-election, but is widely expected to announce upon completion of the state budget.
  • Former state Sen. Tim Cullen, Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Dane County exec Joe Parisi, and Milwaukee County exec Chris Abele have all declined to run.
  • Other possible Democrat contenders are Mike McCabe, Kathleen Vinehout, Paul Soglin, and former Rep. Brett Hulsey. McCabe, Vinehout, and Hulsey have set up gubernatorial campaign committees.
  • In all, there are 18 active campaign committees for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Lt. Governor

  • No formal announcements yet
  • Lt Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R), incumbent

Attorney General

  • Josh Kaul (D) – A 36-year-old Madison lawyer and son of former Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager, who recently resigned as head of the state Ethics Commission.
  • AG Brad Schimel (R), incumbent

U.S. Senate

  • Veterans advocate and businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) formally announced in late July
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), incumbent
  • State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) formally announced her candidacy on Sept. 7
  • Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde is a possible candidate, but talk of his running has dimmed
  • Nicole Schneider of the Schneider Trucking family decided against running
  • Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald won’t run; he’s endorsing Vukmir

Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Incumbent Justice Michael Gableman announced he won’t seek re-election
  • Michael Skrenock, conservative Sauk County Circuit Court judge
  • Liberal Madison attorney Tim Burns
  • Liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet

Congress, 1st District

  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R), incumbent
  • Paul Nehlen (R), reprising his failed primary challenge of 2016 against Ryan
  • Randy Bryce (D), union activist who bills himself as an iron worker
  • Cathy Myers (D), teacher and Janesville School Board member
  • David Yankovich (D), Ohio resident who moved to the district this spring
  • Ryan Solen (D) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 2nd District

  • *Rep. Mark Pocan (D), incumbent
  • Dan Theron (R) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 3rd District

  • *Rep. Ron Kind (D), incumbent

Congress, 4th District

  • *Rep. Gwen Moore (D), incumbent
  • Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski, a moderate Democrat, is considering challenging Moore in the Dem primary.

Congress, 5th District

  • *Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R), incumbent

Congress, 6th District

  • *Rep. Glenn Grothmann (R), incumbent
  • Dan Kohl (D), nephew of former Senator Herb Kohl and Bucks executive has announced.
  • Scott Olmer (D), a marketing consultant, has also announced.
  • Jeffrey Dahlke (I) has an active campaign committee
  • Sarah Lloyd (D) also has an active campaign committee

Congress, 7th District

  • *Rep. Sean Duffy (R), incumbent

Congress, 8th District

  • *Rep. Mike Gallagher (R), incumbent
  • Tom Nelson (D) maintains an active committee

Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again.

Rep. Ron Kind – whose gubernatorial ambitions, or lack thereof, Morning Martini has tracked for years – is once again stringing along his Democratic groupies when it comes to his interest in running for governor.

The congressman from La Crosse just told WPR he hasn’t ruled out running in 2018:

“I’ve been troubled, as many people have throughout the state, in regards to the direction of where we’ve gone as a state, the unnecessary division, pitting people against each other, dividing families,” Kind said. “We deserve better leadership, but no decision’s been made on my behalf.”

Like the star quarterback telling a half dozen ladies he might take them to the prom, Kind continues to tease Wisconsin Democrats desperate for a candidate strong enough to knock off Scott Walker.

Will he run? If he does, he has a lot of factors to weigh, including the increasing distance between himself and the mainstream of his own party, competing pressure to stay in his rightward-trending district, and the possibility of a damaging primary.

If he ran for governor, Kind could face a challenge from the left, a front on which he’s vulnerable for any number of reasons. For one, he’s been on the outs with labor interests in his district for some time, particularly because of his open-armed embrace of multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. The erosion of support by the union left was also evidenced by his Bernie Sanders-inspired primary opponent in the 2016 election. At least one union actually endorsed his opponent, Myron Buchholtz. Superdelegate Kind was also hounded by a pro-Bernie gaggle at the Democratic National Convention for being too moderate on trade issues.

Still, 2016 was a hopscotch for Kind, who eventually trounced Buchholtz and strode onto a general election in which his oddly named opponent, “scattering,” barely amounted to a blip (translation from geek humor: he ran unopposed). However, the strain between Kind and labor remains. The strain between Kind and the newly empowered and proliferating far-left, for whom Kind is far too nuanced and rational, is also growing more pronounced as Sandersism takes hold within the new Democratic Party.

Ironically, Kind has long marketed himself as a leader in the “New Democrat” caucus, a group of middle-of-the-road Congressmen who, with the upheaval that’s dragged his party to the precipice of socialism, now appears to be a relic of the days of Clinton. The New Democrats should re-brand as “The Tattered Wreckage of a Dead Dream.”

As one of few remaining rural, flyover state Democrats still in Congress, he admitted to voting against Nancy Pelosi in recent House leadership elections, telling the Wisconsin State Journal that a new minority leader would be “a breath of fresh air.” In the same article, Kind was critical of Hillary Clinton. “She didn’t set foot in Wisconsin once after the primary. I knew that was going to be a problem,” he said.

After the results of the November elections hit, Kind no doubt started seeing the ground moving beneath him as his electorate’s gradual transformation became manifest – or at least the electorate is realizing how far left the Democratic Party has drifted away from New Deal populism.

Voters are changing their voting patterns accordingly.

When Kind was first elected in 1996, President Bill Clinton was reforming welfare and trumpeting that “the era of big government is over,” an apparent last gasp of the Democratic ideals of the Kennedy era. Such notions are thoroughly in the mainstream of Republican thinking today, but it’s utterly unthinkable rhetoric from a modern Democrat – except the likes of Jim Webb, whose moderate candidacy for president went over within the post-Obama Democratic ranks like ketchup on ice cream.

How much has the electorate changed in Wisconsin’s Third? In 2012, the first presidential election after redistricting made the district even more blue by removing parts of right-leaning St. Croix and adding parts of left-leaning Portage, Barack Obama won with 54.8 percent. In 2016, the same electorate voted for Donald J. Trump by 49.3 percent; Hillary Clinton won just 44.8 percent, about the same amount as Kind’s last Republican challenger, Tony Kurtz.

Kind endorsed Hillary and pledged his superdelegate vote for her.

In addition, the two state legislative seats in which an incumbent was defeated in 2016 (both Democrats) were in Kind’s district. Rep. Chris Danou lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske 52-48 and longtime Sen. Julie Lassa lost to Patrick Testin, who hadn’t held elected office before challenging Lassa. Lassa lost by 52.4 to 47.6 percent, losing every county in her senate district save one, Portage, the most liberal.

In the era of Trump, Kind is buoyed by a sort of Bermuda Triangle of liberal enclaves – the City of La Crosse (the rest of La Crosse County went for Trump), Portage County, and the City of Eau Claire.

The tectonic plates have shifted on the Democratic side of the ballot since 1996, too. Sanders obliterated Clinton in the Third District – the Democratic Socialist won the district with an astounding 61.3 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Kind’s district might be increasingly vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean Kind himself is, too. Though the district’s voting patterns seem to be shifting Republican, especially in the rural areas bounded by the Bermuda Triangle, Kind is hardly the poster child for the “new left” that pawns off responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s abysmal candidacy on conspiracy theories of Russian hacking, fake news, or a nexus of corruption in James Comey’s office. He’s not likely to be seen flipping over cars, smashing windows, or throwing rotten fruit at controversial alt-right agitators. Perhaps most scary to the coastal elites that run his party, Ron Kind is pro-Second Amendment. It would be fair to assume he actually owns guns – AND USES THEM TO SHOOT ANIMALS!

No, Ron Kind is rather astutely in touch with his electorate, even though he’s become quite comfortable with accepting millions of dollars from special interests via his lofty perch as ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a vaunted position that allows him to amass war chests of millions of dollars each election cycle, which he typically spends airing recycled TV ads depicting him throwing a football and watching the Packers. His image could be summed up in two words: Captain Wisconsin.

Captain Wisconsin is at no risk of losing in the near future; the 53-year-old has a job for life in Congress if he wants.

He also seems to be quite unambitious, at least when it comes to any aspirations for higher office. He passed up running for U.S. Senate in 2012 (presumably the Democrats preferred a cleared field while the flame thrower-wielding Republican candidates formed a circular firing squad and torched their own chances of taking the seat). He passed up a run for governor against Walker in 2014, leaving the Democrats with Mary Burke and her hairdo. He deferred to Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in 2016, who shocked the world in his failure to take down Ron Johnson. He’s also passed up other leadership opportunities in the House.

Then, there’s the issue of the Democratic bench in Wisconsin, a topic we’ve clobbered for years on this website. It’s so thin that former state Sen. Tim Cullen, who was among those who famously took a vacation to Illinois in a failed attempt to stop Act 10, is actually considered a strong contender for 2018. Susan Happ – the failed attorney general candidate from 2014 – has been discussed. Jennifer Shilling, the Senate Minority Leader who came within 60 votes of losing her own seat in the state Senate in 2016, is still somehow being mentioned. Add to that the usual cast of yet-uncasted characters in the Mary Burke mold, people who can be mutated into featureless canvasses onto which any generic Democratic persona can be grafted, an approach that flopped like a wet waffle with Mary Burke.

Ron Kind For Governor would tickle the Democrats to no end. He is the Democratic bench in Wisconsin – and he’s perhaps the one Democrat with a very, very, very good shot at defeating Walker (that’s three verys more than anyone else). But there’s also the issue of time. Though he’s not old – at 53, he’s a puppy compared to 72-year-old Tim Cullen – the clock is nonetheless ticking. If he passes on 2018, he will be nearly 60 before his next shot at governor comes around, and that’s if Walker gets re-elected. (Kind will be 54 this year, 55 at the time of the 2018 election, and 59 at the 2022 election).

Any Democrat with the exception of Kind running against Walker would be an admission by that party that Walker is unstoppable – akin to their failure to put up even a token challenge to Annette Ziegler for Supreme Court.

Kind would have a unique appeal statewide to the vast sea of moderate, inconsistent, politically independent voters. Voters who lean left and those who lean right will both find something to like about his positions. He’s also extremely disciplined in his message, to the point of being the embodiment of the quintessential Ivy League plastic politician. Think Cam Brady, Will Ferrell’s parody of the entrenched, self-interested congressman in The Campaign.

But perhaps Kind’s greatest strength is the intangible reason why he’s so popular in the Third, anecdotally at least. (I’m qualified to peddle anecdotes about voters’ perceptions of Kind because I worked on Tony Kurtz’s 2014 campaign against him). People LIKE Ron Kind. They see him as a nice guy. Invariably, they think he has their interests in mind out in D.C., neverminding the coincidental nexus of his voting patterns and his vast list of PAC contributors. Were he to run for governor, he would need to translate that reputation, which he’s spent twenty years building in west-central Wisconsin, to the rest of the state.

Were he to run, he’d have to come up with something better than telling people he likes football and guns.

The Walker machine would face a formidable foe in Kind, but they’ve proven extremely effective at what they do, which is to win. How could they do that against Kind? Labeling him a “career politician” is a nonstarter – Walker is one, too. How about a “Washington insider?” That hasn’t hurt him in the past, despite his opponents’ best efforts. But perhaps a better strategy would be to use the populist upswell that manifested in the Sanders surge and Trump triumph against Kind. Introducing Ron Kind to both Trump and Sanders supporters as both a thoroughly embedded establishment insider, a vocal supporter of Obamacare (right) and even more unabashed proponent of anti-labor trade deals (left, labScreen Shot 2017-02-17 at 10.10.12 AMor) could throw a wet blanket on enthusiasm for a Kind candidacy during a potential primary.

Dampening enthusiasm among Democrats, especially the new breed of rabid ones who want to see a Socialist winter descend on the country, could be a winning strategy. Wisconsin as a whole overwhelmingly voted for Sanders (see the map). Meanwhile, shoring up traditional Republican and Trump Republican support for Walker…think “Working and Winning for Wisconsin”…would keep the Walker fires stoked and drive turnout.

There’s also the matter of the Tomah VA “Candyland” scandal, which will be used against any politician with even a Kevin Bacon degree of connection to the Tomah facility that was revealed to be doling out highly addictive opiate painkillers to veterans in unimaginable quantities, resulting in deaths and drug diversion. Far from being twice removed from Tomah, Kind has in fact represented the area for decades, and of all the state and federal politicians whose constituencies overlap in Tomah, Kind is most directly that facility’s overseer in Washington. He would have to answer for that in any high-profile race he undertakes.

Kind will no doubt be facing competing pressures – pressure from within Wisconsin to run for governor, and pressure from Washington to stay in Congress. Kind’s district is already being targeted by Republicans for 2018, one of 36 Democratic-held seats that Trump carried that are on that list. A group called American Action Network is already running ads hitting Kind for his support of Obamacare.

Even with a pittance of outside involvement and money, absent the influx of many, many millions of dollars, Kind is unlikely to be unseated in 2018. But, if he gives up the seat to run for governor, there’s a pretty good chance that a Republican would replace him given the makeup of the district, its history (moderate Republican Steve Gunderson represented the district before Kind) and, of course, the deep Republican bench in the district.

Possibly the top contender would be Republican Tony Kurtz, the 50-year-old veteran, former Apache helicopter pilot, and farmer who pulled nearly 44 percent against Kind in 2014 despite a massive cash disadvantage (although Kurtz outraised Kind among individual donors toward the end of the campaign). Kurtz fits the district well, is extremely popular among the Republican base, and is a superb retail campaigner who could win over Kind’s coalition of moderates and independents in a race without Kind on the ballot. Other possibilities are former state Senator Dan Kapanke, who came within a hair of knocking Kind off in 2010, Sue Lynch of La Crosse, the former president of the National Federation of Republican Women, and any number of Republican officeholders in the Third – Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green comes to mind, as does freshman state Senator Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

To be sure, there are Democrats who could vie for the seat. State Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, and state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire are among them (Wachs has also been mentioned as another possible gubernatorial candidate). Wisconsin Rapids’ 28-year-old mayor, Zach Vruwink, has also been mentioned anecdotally as a potential future candidate.

But it’s time to return to reality. In all likelihood, Kind won’t be giving up his well-paying job-for-life in Congress anytime prior to the time he chooses to retire to a life of fishing, hunting, and watching the Packers from his barcalounger. It’s not likely that Kind will abandon the cushy enclaves of swanky soirees at Bullfeathers and the comfortable social circles of D.C. for a tumultuous – hellish – waltz into the Walker buzzsaw, only to take a five-figure pay cut for a job in which he’ll constantly be butting heads with an almost-certain long-term Republican majority in the state legislature.

He’d be crazy to do so. And if I’ve learned one thing about Ron Kind after being represented by him for 20 years and working on a campaign against him, he’s certainly not crazy.

A Flat Tax: The Next Big, Bold Reform for Wisconsin

The MacIver Institute is out with the next generation of bold reform in Wisconsin – a plan for a glide path to a 3 percent flat income tax in Wisconsin:

Since the beginning of his tenure, Governor Scott Walker has made tax reform a priority for Wisconsin. Walker has said he hopes to lower the tax burden every year of his term. Thus far, he has stuck to his pledge, having lowered taxes by $4.76 billion in under six years.

Both the amount of taxes and the different types of taxes that Governor Walker has cut since he took office is impressive.

It should not be simply glossed over how much progress Wisconsin has made reducing taxes in recent years. In 1994, less than 25 years ago, Wisconsin ranked 3rd nationally in overall tax burden and our taxes were 16 percent above the national average.

Today, property taxes are at the smallest percentage of personal income since 1945, 3.6 percent. The average homeowner in Wisconsin, in 2016, paid $116 less in property taxes than he or she paid in 2010.3 According to the Department of Revenue, the typical family in Wisconsin has seen their income taxes cut by $1,159. Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden, as reported in December 2016 Census Bureau data, fell to 10.8 percent of personal income, the 16th highest among the states. By comparison, the year prior, Wisconsin’s tax burden ranked the 15th highest at 10.9 percent of personal income.

While Walker and the Republican Legislature should be lauded for all the taxes they have cut, these tax cuts have done little to improve Wisconsin’s overall tax ranking. Similar to the Census Bureau data mentioned above, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s most recent ranking of state and local tax burdens puts Wisconsin at the fourth highest in the nation and highest in the Midwest. In the same study, the Tax Foundation found that state and local taxes take up 11 percent of all personal income in Wisconsin every year. These tax cuts have also done little to stop or even contain the never-ending and seemingly inevitable growth of the state budget. The 2011-2013 state budget spent over $66 billion from all funding sources. The 2015-17 state budget spent nearly $74 billion.

Clearly, it is time to think about the next big and bold reform that will transform our state and make Wisconsin an economic powerhouse for generations to come. It is time for a flat tax in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s reputation as a high-tax state has a significant impact on the state’s ability not only to attract newcomers, but also to retain those who are already residents. Annually, Wisconsin loses an estimated $136 million in adjusted gross income to tax migration. The high tax burden drives individuals to leave for those states with lower tax burdens or no income tax at all, such as Florida and Texas. One study, which examined Internal Revenue Service data from 1992 through 2015, showed that Wisconsin lost $3.40 billion in wealth to Florida, $1.08 billion to Arizona, and $769 million to Texas during the 23-year period. In that time, almost 93,000 people migrated from Wisconsin – that’s more than the entire population of Racine, the state’s 5th largest city. The loss of so many individuals, their businesses, and their economic activity does not bode well for the economic future of the state. Lower, flatter income taxes are one way to help stem the tide of emigration from Wisconsin.

Low, flat state income tax rates are actually common throughout the country. Seven states levy no individual income tax at all. New Hampshire and Tennessee currently tax dividend and interest income, though recent reforms in Tennessee have set a glide path to total elimination of the income tax in 2022. Eight states have flat individual income tax structures, and 33 states, including Wisconsin, levy progressive tax rates based on income level.

In today’s mobile economy, every state must compete for new residents and new businesses or risk losing them to other states. While climate and the local job market are big factors in a person’s decision to move, a state’s tax burden plays an important role in keeping recent graduates, people looking for a better life, and retirees from moving to a state with a lower tax burden.

The personal income tax, not just the corporate tax, is also becoming a bigger factor in the financial health and growth of businesses. The number of pass-through entities has nearly tripled since 1980, making pass-through businesses the most common business form in the country. Pass-through entities are not subject to typical corporate taxation, but are instead taxed under the individual income tax. Profits are passed through to the shareholders or partners of these companies and become part of their income. More than half of Wisconsin’s workforce is now employed by pass-through businesses, giving the individual income tax even greater importance to the livelihoods of Wisconsinites and the success of their businesses. In Wisconsin, pass-through businesses pay a top marginal income tax rate of over 48 percent – the 8th highest rate in the country.

Midwest Income Tax Rates3.jpg

Taking nearly half of a company’s income is detrimental to success and economic growth. Many states are wising up to the fact that high income taxes hurt competitiveness by punishing success and hard work. Despite the rhetoric that progressive taxation results in a fairer outcome, evidence shows that progressive income taxes are actually associated with higher income inequality.

THE SOLUTION: A 3 PERCENT FLAT TAX

progressive pullquote.png

This report sets out to explain why Wisconsin should continue to ratchet down its relatively high individual income tax system and many different rates to one flat rate. Evidence from a variety of sources – economic, social, and fiscal health metrics, as well as academic studies – demonstrates the benefit of a lower and flatter income tax structure. After examining Wisconsin’s position within the Midwest and considering recent reforms around the country, this report will recommend that Wisconsin transform its progressive income tax to a flat 3 percent tax rate for all taxpayers over an eight year period. In subsequent papers, we will continue to build our case through a comparison with Indiana, a state similar in size and demographics to Wisconsin, and will recommend specific steps that Wisconsin can take to make a flat tax a reality.

A systematic glide path to a 3 percent income tax rate would give Wisconsin the most competitive income tax among Midwestern states while greatly improving the state’s attractiveness on a national level. Such a move would have a significant impact on the incomes of all Wisconsinites and most importantly, would allow working class people to keep more of their income. A 3 percent flat tax would be a tax cut for everyone in Wisconsin. Under the current “progressive” tax code, our lowest tax rate of 4 percent for those who make just $11,120 per year is the 4th highest tax rate among the 33 states with a progressive income tax system.

Spacing out the rate reductions over a number of years protects the state budget from sudden and steep revenue drops, giving sufficient time to make gradual adjustments so the transition to the new tax system is smooth.

If Wisconsin is serious about becoming a high-performing state in a 21st Century economy, it must continue its recent tax-cutting momentum to fundamentally change the fiscal trajectory of our state and to lighten the tax burden for its hard-working residents.

Our economic future depends on it.

Read the original post at the MacIver Institute here.

Creativity Needed to Pave Way for Transportation Solution

In today’s La Crosse Tribune I argue that proposals to raise the gas tax are the easiest solution, not the best solution. An excerpt:

Politicians and special interests have lined up to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax, a contentious issue that the recent election did not resolve. But the simplistic solution of a gas tax hike overlooks the complexity of the transportation funding issue and the buffet of alternative options available to legislators who are willing to be creative.

While Wisconsin’s “other season,” construction season, is quickly coming to an end, you still can’t drive more than a few miles in the state without finding a sea of orange construction barrels. There’s also the endless struggle over the contentious north-south corridor, which could put a four-lane highway through the La Crosse River Marsh.

Let’s acknowledge that there’s plenty of work to do as our region grows and demands on our infrastructure increase. Let’s also acknowledge that a gas tax won’t solve the problem. A breathtaking 28-cent-per-gallon hike — a 91 percent increase — would be needed to fully fund all of Wisconsin’s transportation priorities, according to a recent memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

By contrast, the state Department of Transportation’s 2017-2019 budget proposal does not raise the gas tax or registration fees at all. Instead, it redirects more funding to local governments, who will get the largest funding boost from the state that they’ve seen in 15 years. This proposal will help local governments carry out needed maintenance.

The DOT proposal would increase general transportation aid by $65 million, an increase of 8 percent for counties and 4.7 percent for municipalities over the last budget. That’s $14 million more for local roads and $5 million more for local bridges — the largest increase since 1998. It also boosts the highway maintenance fund to $1.7 billion, the largest that fund has ever been.

Whole thing here.

Photo credit: La Crosse Tribune

Watermelon Jill Stein Takes Advantage of Supporters

Jill Stein, the green-on-the-outside, red-on-the-inside Green Party candidate for president, is up to something with her futile recount quest in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Jill Stein announced that her campaign would file for a recount at the very last moments allowed by Wisconsin law.

The “biggest loser” of the 2016 presidential campaign is demanding recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – the Rust Belt states where Donald Trump pulled off surprising victories. Unless Stein is smoking so much organically grown Gary Johnson dope that she actually thinks a rest stop’s worth of semi trucks filled with Green Party ballots will show up in all three states, clearly something’s afoot.

Zero Hedge notes some “unusual” patterns in her crowd-sourced funding scheme: every time she reaches a goal, the goal suddenly gets bigger:

In the beginning, Stein figured she needed a total of $2.5mm to fund her recount efforts.  That figure included $2.2mm for the actual filing fees and presumably another $0.3mm for legal fees and other costs.

Then, just 12 hours later, after the cash just kept flowing in, Stein figured she needed at least another $2mm as her fundraising goal was raised to $4.5mm in total.  Of course, the filing fees of $2.2mm didn’t change but the “attorney’s fees” apparently surged by about 300% and the total costs of the effort skyrocketed to $6-7mm.

So, with nearly $5mm raised so far, the question is no longer whether recounts will occur in WI, MI and PA but just how much Jill Stein will be able to drain from the pockets of disaffected Hillary supporters to fund her long-shot efforts.

Maybe the Clinton campaign is using Jill Stein to launch a long-shot recount without looking themselves like a bunch of sore losers on a raft on The River Denial. Or maybe Jill Stein is just freelancing, desperate to stay in the news and string out the street-marching, profanity-hurling flat-earthers who insist on denying Trump’s decisive electoral college victory.

In any case, Jill Stein is a charlatan who is using her bleary-eyed supporters to scam them out of money – maybe some of whom are in such agony over the death of Fidel Castro that they can’t see through their tears that they put an extra zero on the end of their $20 donation to Stein’s pointless recount quest.

It’s a sad, sad period of time for The Left.

Lies, Damned Lies, and The Democratic Party – Part XXXII

The Wisconsin Left’s dishonesty – indeed, seeming eagerness to straight-up lie – could be the theme of a publication unto itself. Once again, they’ve been caught with their pants on fire by claiming Wisconsin ACT scores plummeted to 41st in the nation. This is of course a total lie.

In a news release (that’s still up on the DPW website as long as the link works), the party breathlessly exclaimed:

Newly released information from the Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year. Test scores dropped Wisconsin from 2nd in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.

Without getting into the weeds of how ACT test scores are calculated and can legitimately be analyzed, the truth is that the state’s scores stayed the same as the previous year, 22.2 on average. That puts Wisconsin second among states where more than half of graduating seniors took the ACT.

Not 41st.

Basically, the DPW claim compares apples to oranges to wring the worst possible number out of the data.

Politifact, to its credit, called this a “pants-on-fire” lie – the lyiest lie rating they give:

For years, Wisconsin leaders have expressed pride in how the state’s high school students perform on the ACT exam, which assesses students’ academic readiness for college.

From 2008 through 2014, with Minnesota ranking first, Wisconsin has battled, usually with Iowa, for second or third.

That is, among states where more than half of the students take the ACT.

So, it was a surprise on Jan. 14, 2016 when the Wisconsin Democratic Party issued a news release declaring that Wisconsin’s ACT rank had plunged to near the bottom.

“Newly released information from the (Wisconsin) Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year,” the news release stated, blaming Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“Test scores dropped Wisconsin from second in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.”

Such a free-fall should have produced blaring headlines.

There were no headlines because it wasn’t true, and news outlets typically avoid reporting outright lies.

A DPW spokesman issued a quasi-mea culpa, claiming the party “flubbed” the data. But this is dubious given their history.

The DPW also straight-up lied about Scott Walker’s early exit from Marquette University. At the time, as is the case now, they didn’t even bother taking down the lie. A webpage peddling their fictional narrative that Walker was expelled for trying to rig a campus election persisted at least through the 2014 election.

They’d hate to let the truth, or even a variation of it, derail their attempt to portray Walker as a nefarious dolt.

They also straight-up lied when they edited a video of Walker nodding, juxtaposed against a question of whether he’d been involved in a “criminal scheme” to make it seem like he was admitting wrongdoing. Walker has an unnerving tendency to tacitly acknowledge (by nodding along or just being nice to the reporter) the premises of questioners, which hurt him during the presidential campaign when he seemed to endorse a wall along the Canadian border.

In that case, the DPW was peddling a narrative that Walker was the head of a nefarious criminal enterprise teeming with evil mustache-twirling conservatives. Like the defunct, discredited John Doe probes that pumped out misinformation to advance the “criminal” storyline, it’s always full speed ahead, truth be damned.

Both lies also earned the pants-on-fire rating from Politifact.

Sure, both parties stretch the truth and even lie. But the ongoing, relentless bald-faced lies by The Left in Wisconsin never cease to amaze, especially in a state like Wisconsin, where decorum and honesty are still valued. Maybe their dishonesty is the cause of the beat-down Republicans have put on them in recent years, not the cure.

It appears that even with failed former DPW chairman Mike Tate off the party payroll (and on the payroll of the Bucks, oddly) and new, doe-eyed new chair Martha Laning, nothing has really changed on the other side. The professional Left in Wisconsin seems born and bred to constantly lie.

—-

In case the DPW actually takes down the press release, I’ve kept it for posterity below:

Wisconsin ACT scores plummet

Newly released information from the Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year. Test scores dropped Wisconsin from 2nd in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.

“The latest information released today is another glaring failure of the Walker Administration to make sound, smart policy decisions to improve education in our state,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning said on Thursday. “As a parent with children who have recently graduated from high school I’ve had a front row seat to the destructive changes that have short-changed our children and their futures. When budget cuts force schools to do more with less it’s no surprise that the quality of the education our children receive inevitably declines.”

In last year’s State of the State address, Governor Scott Walker claimed his education policies were working, boasting that “ACT scores are up and Wisconsin now ranks second in the country.” Now, five days away from Walker’s next State of the State it’s clear that the policies of the last six years have failed schools, students, and parents.

Out of a top score of 36, the average test score in the state dropped from 22.0 to 20.0, which pulls Wisconsin to dead last in the Midwest and tied with Kentucky for 41st in the entire country. Due to funding cuts, damage has been made to Wisconsin’s traditionally high-quality education system and now our kids, businesses and communities will suffer. Nationally, Wisconsin saw the fourth largest cut to K-12 general school aid funding in 2015-16 according to the nonpartisan research policy institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While Wisconsin has traditionally ranked above average in terms of ACT scores, these latest numbers place Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest and among the bottom ten states nationally.

“I can only empathize with the parents across the state who see this news and grow ever more concerned with the direction of our state. Our kids deserve the same high-quality education we had as kids and the choices the legislature has made is stealing that from them..” said Laning. “The state of education in Wisconsin is not strong. The newest numbers should be a wake-up call to the governor and the Republican legislature that their misguided priorities are hurting our education system and, therefore, our kids, businesses and communities.”

Open Records On The Tee

“This cause is a bipartisan cause…it’s not something that liberals like and conservatives don’t.” It’s in everyone’s interest that government operates in the maximum amount of openness, Bill Lueders told Greg Neumann on today’s Capitol City Sunday.

He was talking about the question of transparency in government and the possibility of updating Wisconsin’s open records law, which was last updated in 1982.

“Technology is changing so rapidly, that I don’t know that it can really address all the issues we have regarding these text messages,” Neumann asked.

Technology like the use of personal emails for government business and the transitory nature of text messaging between government officials are among the concerns that the law is unclear on. Some relevant questions:

  • Why conduct government business over personal email? It’s not difficult to keep the two separate. Most phones allow you to choose which email account you’re using.
  • Why conduct government business via text? Sure, it’s convenient. But these days, email is almost as fast. There are also plenty of cloud storage options so text messages can be stored in bulk for future reference.

The state’s open records law needs an Internet-era update.

“I do think there is a need for some updating. It would be good if there were some clearer rules regarding how long we need to retain certain kinds of records, and whether the systems you have in place for archiving records so that they can be obtained later,” Lueders said. He’s the president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Lueders says politicians on both sides of the aisle have a problematic interest in keeping certain communications in the dark.

On the flip side, the media also has a responsibility to not take advantage to pounce on juicy stories in the interest of advancing a narrative. A recent FOIC story by Dee Hall did not adequately question the motives of former Walker administration officials in accusing former DOA secretary Mike Huebsch of instructing them to cover up their communications while he was part of the administration.

In an email exchange published by Right Wisconsin, Huebsch debunked the former officials’ accusations point-by-point. But he rightly did not question the motives of the former officials – which would’ve exacerbated the story into a destructive he-said-he-said among former Walker administration officials.

“While you may use a portion of my response to confirm your pre-determined narrative, you will never allow the new set of facts that I may present to alter your opinion or the focus of your story,” Huebsch said in a scathing email to Hall.

Huebsch also told Hall he doesn’t believe the reporter had done due diligence prior to contacting him. “At no point do you ask whether or not that actually occurred. You have accepted it as fact. You have already written the story,” he wrote.

Former official Peter Bildsten “resigned under pressure,” Hall wrote. Pressure from who? Huebsch, perhaps? Hall also writes that the other former official, Paul Jadin, “said he does not recall a specific directive” from Huebsch, but was left with an impression of some sort after those initial meetings with Huebsch.

Not asking further questions about these officials’ motives is actually counter-productive to the cause of open government. It creates an odor of drama that leaves readers with questions and undercuts the believability of future reporting on the matter.

The gist of the matter is this: open and transparent government is crucial, and the media plays a key role in keeping the heat on a select few legislators who want to circumvent it. But in that endeavor, the media’s credibility is an indispensable asset. Hall’s story appears to be exactly what Huebsch believed: a set of paragraphs fitting a certain narrative, into which Huebsch’s quotes were copy/pasted prior to publication. Under questioning following Huebsch’s response, both accusing officials’ accounts wilted.

Dubious accusations against Huebsch aside, there’s no question that open records have come under fire – and that certain members of the state’s leadership have lost credibility on the issue.

Lueders expressed doubt that the current legislature could be entrusted with making the proper changes, which is entirely understandable. Earlier this year, misguided Republicans tried inserting Nth-hour language in the state budget (of all vehicles) drastically changing the state’s open records laws. That move scuttled the current leadership’s credibility on open records, Lueders said.

forcefully objected to those changes, as did many right-wing activists and groups. The changes were rapidly withdrawn.

So Lueders has solid ground to stand on. But the chicanery of some in 2015 shouldn’t stop concerned caucuses on both sides of the aisle from pushing for changes in 2016 that are long overdue.

Lueders warned against a “full flowering” of a culture of contempt for the public’s right to know what’s going on inside state government. “That’s something we can’t allow to happen in Wisconsin…we need to regard [transparency] as something important that we have to protect as a state,” Lueders said.

Talk Radio’s Trump Divide

The divide between Wisconsin conservative talk radio and national talk radio over Donald Trump is remarkable.

The other day, I wrote that it’s time for Wisconsin conservatives who are still on the sidelines to get active, to step up and start making the case against the candidate who will topple the infrastructure of conservative thought and policy that’s taken decades to build.

(That candidate is Trump, in case you were wondering)

In Wisconsin, WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes, on-air and via his Right Wisconsin website, has made his stance against Trump clear. See my call to action for more on that.

WISN’s Mark Belling has also repeatedly criticized Trump in harsh terms, perhaps most harshly after comments where the bombastic billionaire said he prefers American soldiers who are not taken prisoner. Belling has contended it’s only a matter of time before conservative interest groups like the NRA and pro-life groups start firing artillery at Trump, considering he demonstrably opposes their positions.

Vicki McKenna of WIBA and WISN has been less forceful in opposing Trump, but she also hasn’t gone into full-blown Trump adulation. Playing the fence, she points out that Trump is a trailblazer in encouraging conversations about previously “forbidden” topics (as has Belling – and both are correct).

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others have spent months drooling all over Trump – essentially writing Trump a blank check payable not to cash but to an unlimited amount of air time and sickening adulation.

Their slobbering, nonstop Trump coverage is so obscenely over-the-top that one wonders if the country’s top conservative radio hosts have collectively lost their minds.

Putting a solid, square frame around the stark divide over Trump on the airwaves, Jerry Bader of WTAQ recently published a piece calling for Republicans to disown national radio talkers:

For reasons known only to them, Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, et. al have chosen to flush their credibility down the toilet and defend Trump no matter what he says. Any Establishment Republican that criticizes Trump for what he said should be equally critical of his collective terrestrial radio house organ. And elected Republicans should refuse to appear on their shows (Hannity is the host that tends to have the most guests). And elected Republicans who have said privately they would never vote for Trump if he’s the party nominee should start saying it publically.

Bader is right – and he makes a point I touched on months ago:

The reversal of this right-wing opinion leader’s commentary – and his silence about Walker following Trump’s entrance – is mind-blowing to the point of being suspicious…It’s time for conservatives to seriously re-assess whether these entertainers should really occupy the role of right-wing opinion leaders that William F. Buckley once held.

Bader’s admonition highlights the stark divide among Wisconsin’s most influential talkers and the national ones. For my part, I have in the interest of preventing nausea and dizziness stopped listening to national talk radio.

Either they’ve determined wall-to-wall coverage of Trump is good for ratings, they’ve lost all intellectual honesty, or they’re just being paid off by the Trump Organization. In any case, they’ve chosen to quit explaining contemporary news in conservative terms in order to promote a loudmouth billionaire who gives money to Democrats, supports Democrat policies, and only makes fun of Republicans.

Thankfully, the Limbaugh website makes cancelling my Rush 24/7 subscription as easy as a couple clicks.

Dem Hypocrisy: Go Figure

The Democrats and their allies in the media were quick to pile on when a few Republicans misguidedly tried to drastically change the state’s open records laws earlier this year. But as the legislature considers another matter of clean government – much-needed reforms to the GAB – The Left has shown its hand.

Over at Right Wisconsin today, I wrote about the subject:

During the fiasco over the open records language, Jon Erpenbach claimed that “just the fact that they even tried to do this in the first place should bother everybody in this state.” Erpenbach was right – Wisconsinites ought to have been bothered by those changes, which would’ve endangered freedom of speech in Wisconsin and allowed government to create its own definition of ethics.

But the people of Wisconsin should be bothered for the same reasons when it comes to the GAB. First, the bureaucracy tasked with defining ethics in our elections unconstitutionally persecuted (using police) outspoken conservatives and Republican donors. Second, people should be bothered by the Democrats’ eagerness to prop up the GAB despite its blatant violations.

The open records and CCAP changes set heads spinning across the conservative grassroots, media, and much of its establishment because those changes were wrong and would have damaged the integrity of Wisconsin’s government.

Reforming the GAB, which the Republicans created, by the way, is imperative to open government. The media likes to refer to the GAB as a “non-partisan” panel. Such a panel is like a Yeti: often talked about, and it’d be cool if they really existed. But they don’t, and never will.

Proposed reforms to the GAB reflect the reality that everything has to do with politics, and a lethargic panel of geriatric old judges can’t and won’t control a staff of lifelong liberal bureaucrats with agendas.

The reform creates a bi-partisan panel – which dispenses with the imaginary unicorn of a non-partisan entity.

Whole thing here.

Bradley: Walker should veto open records changes

Republican leader Julian Bradley joined a chorus of opposition on the right opposing provisions in the state budget that make drastic changes to Wisconsin’s open records laws.

“We have to have transparent and open government…I don’t know where the idea came from, but I certainly don’t support it,” Bradley said on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning.

Bradley also called on Governor Walker to veto the changes if they make it through the legislature. “Hopefully it won’t make it all the way out” of the legislature, he said.

Bradley is the first representative of the actual Republican Party that I’m aware of to publicly oppose the provisions.

This is not a right versus left issue, host Joy Cardin pointed out. Leading conservative pundits and operatives join people like Bradley, Brad Schimel, and the conservative MacIver Institute, Citizens for Responsible Government and others in vocally opposing the move.

The vice chairman of the 3rd District Republican Party and popular speaker is often asked to share his perspective on the Cardin show and in other venues.

I also lambasted the proposals, calling the changes “Darkness Provisions” earlier today.

These Darkness Provisions strip Wisconsin taxpayers of their right to see legislative records that belong to them. It’s time to fix this.