Category: Wisconsin Politics

Why I’m alarmed that Jill Stein requested the Wisconsin U.S. presidential race recount

Failed presidential candidates Jill Stein and Rocky De La Fuente have officially requested a recount in the presidential race in the state of Wisconsin, which has 10 electoral votes.

While Stein and De La Fuente have the legal right in Wisconsin to request a recount, I’m really worried that Democrats could lose a ton of voters to Stein’s Green Party over this.

Currently, the Democratic Party is in what is perhaps its weakest state in modern American history, having just lost control of the White House to a fringe-right Republican, handing complete control of every major lever of power at the federal level (the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court) to a far-right Republican Party.

The fact that Stein, not Hillary Clinton, is the one leading the charge for a recount in Wisconsin, and the fact that Stein has raised a ton of money for her recount fund, is, in a way, downright alarming to me. You have to remember that the Democratic Party is not in anything resembling a strong position right now, the current Democratic Party establishment is completely untrusted by many left-wing Democratic voters, and many left-wing voters are going to perceive the Green Party, a minor left-wing political party, as the party of election integrity.

The political structure in this country incentives a strong two-party system, which is what we have in this country. One thing that I like to say about the American political system and electorate is that we have a strong two-party system, but we don’t have a strong two-party electorate. By that, I mean that, while there are enough hyperpartisan voters for one of the major political parties in this country to keep the two-party system going, there are plenty of voters who don’t like the two-party system for whatever reason(s). I consider myself to be part of the anti-establishment left, but I realize that the structure of the electoral system in this county incentives a two-party system, so I vote for Democratic nominees in the general election, even though Democrats typically don’t nominate candidates who are as left-wing as I am.

If the Green Party can gain enough of a political foothold in this country to get several percent of the vote nationally and in most states on a regular basis, then the Republicans are going to have complete control of this country at the federal level for a generation or two, if not even longer, even if they only get 45% or so of the popular vote nationally. The fact that Stein has been able to raise millions of dollars for a recount fund tells me that scenario is certainly possible going forward, and that frightens me.

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Here we go again, Wisconsin Democrats

Looks like there will be a major fight over who will be the Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) come June of 2017:

In Wisconsin, Democrats are quietly predicting that the party chair will face a challenger who will hold incumbent chairwoman Martha Laning to account for why Clinton lost the state. Laning cast her vote as a superdelegate for Clinton — in a state where Sanders won the primary by a wide margin.

Unlike Maine, where allies of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) already have their candidate for state Democratic Party chair in Maine State Sen. Diane Russell, the Wisconsin left does not have a challenger to Laning…yet. However, that is expected to change, and it’s not clear if Laning will run for a second two-year term as head of the DPW political apparatus. The left’s main point of criticism against Laning is, aside from Donald Trump winning Wisconsin, that she had originally pledged to cast her superdelegate vote at the Democratic National Convention for the winner of the Wisconsin Democratic primary (which was Bernie Sanders), yet flip-flopped after Bernie won the primary and announced that she would vote for the presumptive presidential nominee instead (which was Hillary Clinton).

Assuming that Laning runs for a second term (which is no certainty at this point), one potential challenger to Laning is Sarah Lloyd, who lost to Republican incumbent Glenn Grothman in the 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin race this year. Lloyd was one of the more prominent Bernie supporters in Wisconsin, however, she has her own issues with the left. Specifically, she, in a response to a Reddit AMA question that I asked her, was not supportive of the idea to replace the electoral college with a national popular vote system for presidential elections. There’s not much of a bench of Bernie supporters who have any real experience with politics or political activism in Wisconsin: nearly all of the Democratic elected officials in Wisconsin were Hillary supporters in the Democratic primary, and many, but not all, of the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall organizers were Hillary supporters as well. Some other potential candidates include DPW first-vice chair David Bowen and State Representative Jonathan Brostoff, both of which were Bernie backers either during (in Brostoff’s case) or after (in Bowen’s case) the presidential primary.

If Laning decides not to run for re-election, political consultant Katie Belanger may run for DPW chair. Belanger was a Laning backer during the 2015 DPW chair race, which Laning won, and Belanger was also the campaign treasurer for Jimmy Anderson’s successful Wisconsin State Assembly campaign this year. Some potential candidates from the Mike Tate/Jason Rae faction of the party (which was ousted as a result the 2015 DPW chair race) include Emerge Wisconsin executive director Erin Forrest and former Madison Alderwoman Bridget Maniaci.

Let me emphasize that I’m completely unaware of what level of interest in the DPW chair’s race any of the individuals that I named have, and me mentioning names of potential candidates for DPW chair is purely speculation on my part.

For those of you who read my blog during the 2015 DPW chair’s race, you are familiar with how competitive campaigns for the right to run Wisconsin’s state-level Democratic Party apparatus can be, and they can be very competitive. I’m probably not going to endorse a candidate for DPW chair this time around, although I may write blog posts about the chair’s race.

Scott Walker sends out pro-Hillary tweet

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a Republican. Normally, I don’t have to emphasize that, given that he is infamous for his signing of legislation that gutted labor unions in Wisconsin and crippled his state’s economy, but I am emphasizing that he is a Republican because he recently sent out a Tweet asking people who approve of the job that President Barack Obama is doing to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton:

It’s been slightly over half a day since Walker sent out that tweet, and, as of the publishing of this blog post, he has not yet deleted it.

While Walker claims to be a Donald Trump supporter and has usually acted like one, he seemingly has no problem with sending out a tweet asking people to vote for Hillary Clinton. That is the political equivalent of an own goal, if there ever was one.

Email shows that Green Bay (WI) city clerk denied easier access to early voting to college students because they vote for Democrats

A recently-released email shows that Kris Teske (who is female), the city clerk of Green Bay, Wisconsin who was appointed to the office by Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, had blatantly partisan motives in denying easier access to early voting to students at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:

Green Bay’s city clerk asked state officials if she could rebuff a request to put an early voting site on the UW-Green Bay campus because, in her words, “students lean more toward the democrats,” a newly released email shows.

The email, first reported Tuesday by The Nation Magazine, was from Green Bay City Clerk Kris Teske, an appointee of the city’s mayor, Jim Schmitt.

Schmitt describes himself as nonpartisan. He was considered for a post in Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Cabinet, and records show he contributed to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers.

Note that “Democrats” was misspelled by Teske; the first letter is capitalized, since the name of a specific political party is capitalized due to being a proper noun.

For voters in Green Bay, only one early voting (in Wisconsin, the term “in-person absentee voting” is used to officially describe early voting) site is available for the entire city at Green Bay City Hall. Google Maps estimates that the drive time from the UWGB campus to City Hall is 12 minutes, and the quickest route involves the use of an Interstate highway, meaning that the early voting site is not easily accessible by those without a motor vehicle. Google Maps estimates that, via a route that one can legally walk or ride a bicycle on, it would take 28 minutes to ride a bicycle from UWGB to City Hall or 1 hour and 46 minutes to walk from UWGB to City Hall.

It’s clear to me that Green Bay, Wisconsin city officials want to make it harder for college students to vote because the Republican economic policies of Donald Trump, Ron Johnson, Mike Gallagher, and their right-wing cohorts are absolutely awful for them.

Donald Trump implicated in Scott Walker corruption scandal in Wisconsin

A recent leak of documents from the John Doe II investigation into allegations that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) illegally coordinated with outside political groups (most notably the Wisconsin chapter of the right-wing group Club for Growth), has, yet again, shown that the Walker Administration in Wisconsin is grotesquely corrupt. You can view the documents here, and the British newspaper The Guardian has a special feature on the document release here.

As evidenced by the leaked documents, the corruption trail is so deep in Wisconsin, it leads right up to the individual that the Republican Party nominated for President of the United States in this year’s presidential election, Donald Trump.

According to a recently leaked email, Walker was scheduled to meet with Donald Trump at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City on the afternoon of April 3, 2012. 725 Fifth Avenue is the street address of Trump Tower, the headquarters of Donald Trump’s business empire. At the time, Walker was facing a recall attempt against him, with the recall election scheduled for June of that year (Walker went on to survive the recall attempt against him).

On the exact same day that Walker was scheduled to meet with Trump, Trump wrote a check, a photocopy of which was recently leaked, for $15,000. The check was not written either to Scott Walker personally or to Friends of Scott Walker, Walker’s official gubernatorial campaign committee, but instead to “Wisconsin Club for Growth Inc.”. Wisconsin Club for Growth is an outside political group that has spent millions of dollars supporting Republican political efforts in Wisconsin.

I don’t think for one second that Wisconsin Club for Growth receiving a check from Trump on the same day Walker met with Trump is merely a coincidence. In fact, the document leak, at a minimum, suggests that Trump has been an active player in Republican corruption in Wisconsin.

How Wisconsin GOP state legislators encouraged Mylan to increase EpiPen prices for the entire country

Thanks to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), a group that maintains a database of political contributions to state candidates in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we now know that a political action committee (PAC) for Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that, among other things, makes the EpiPen that is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has publicly lobbied Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass legislation designed to financially benefit the company. According to records from WDC, a total of ten members of the Wisconsin Legislature received campaign contributions from Mypac WI, the Wisconsin state-level PAC for Mylan’s political operations, seven of whom are still in the Legislature, and one of whom is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission:

Legislator Name Date Contribution Received House of Legis. At Time of Donation Amount
Last First Year Month Day
Edming James 2016 July 1 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Craig David 2016 June 27 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
LeMahieu Devin 2015 November 17 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Vukmir Leah 2015 August 22 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Nygren John 2014 February 10 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
August Tyler 2014 January 18 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Kramer Bill 2014 January 13 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Severson Erik 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Steineke Jim 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Strachota Pat 2014 January 2 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Name in italics indicates that individual is no longer a state legislator as of the writing of this blog post, but was a state legislator at the time donation was received; of the three who are no longer state legislators, Pat Strachota is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Table was created using the HTML table generator available here.

Mylan has also spent a total of $66,500 since 2013 lobbying Wisconsin legislators on issues “…affecting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of prescription drugs and medical devices”, as well as on issues “relating to generic pharmaceuticals”. According to Wisconsin lobbying records, Mylan spent $42,000 and a total of 151 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2013-2014 state legislative session, and Mylan spent $24,500 and a total of 103 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2015-2016 state legislative session. In both legislative sessions, Mylan’s sole authorized lobbyist was listed as Robert Welch.

Two pieces of legislation, both of which are now Wisconsin state law, were heavily supported by, and were designed to financially benefit, Mylan: 2013 Wisconsin Act 239, and 2015 Wisconsin Act 35. 2013 Wisconsin Act 239 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” in Wisconsin public, private, and tribal schools. 2015 Wisconsin Act 35 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” “by certain authorized entities”, which include recreational camps, educational camps, colleges, universities, day care facilities, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas. Neither of the two laws require Mylan to justify price increases to government officials in Wisconsin, even though the laws authorize state and local government entities in Wisconsin to purchase and maintain EpiPens at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers. While the two pieces of legislation serve a public purpose, given that timely dispensation of epinephrine can save the life of a person having a severe allergic reaction, given that Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the marketplace for epinephrine auto-injectors, and that EpiPen prices have risen dramatically as recently as earlier this month, it’s clear to me that Mylan’s political lobbying efforts in Wisconsin are designed to financially benefit the company, as well as financially benefit the political campaigns of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.

I do not have any food allergies that require the use of epinephrine, but many Americans in all 50 states do. I find it disgusting that A) Mylan is drastically raising the price of a very important drug/device without any real justification and B) that, because of Mylan’s actions, taxpayers are being forced to spend more money than necessary on their medicine, which many people need. Furthermore, by not including any kind of accountability measure on Mylan that would have required Mylan to legally justify any kind of price increase to Wisconsin officials, Wisconsin Republicans have effectively encouraged Mylan to raise the price of EpiPens for the entire country.

WI Assembly candidate Mandy Wright running very transparent fundraising operation

In one of the more unorthodoxly transparent political fundraising strategies I’ve seen, former high school football player, educator, and one-term former Wisconsin State Representative Mandy Wright, who is running for a second non-consecutive term in the Wisconsin Assembly, is making at least some of her fundraising emails available to anyone who can access her campaign’s Twitter page. Normally, candidates only make fundraising emails accessible to those who are on their list of people who have registered to receive campaign emails, however, Wright has posted links to several of her fundraising emails on her Twitter page.

Wright’s most recent, publicly-available fundraising email sharply criticizes the conservative-controlled Marathon County (WI) Board for promoting “intolerance and rash, harmful decisions for our most vulnerable neighbors” and calls for rebuilding Marathon County “with a coalition of progressive champions…young voters, minority voters and our neighborhoods who have been disenfranchised by the political process”. In another recent, publicly-available fundraising email, Wright vowed not to “let this district be bought by a lobbyist again”, referring to a right-wing, anti-public education group spending a boatload of money late in the 85th Assembly District of Wisconsin race last year, in which Wright narrowly lost re-election to far-right Republican Dave Heaton. Heaton is not seeking a second term in office.

Mandy is not hiding anything in her fundraising efforts, and that’s a good thing.

It’s a national tragedy that many of America’s college students are homeless

Earlier this month, Glamour magazine posted an article to their website about a subject that, while most people wouldn’t find to be exactly glamorous, is a very serious issue facing our country: homelessness in higher education. You’d have to read the entire article, which you can view here, to truly understand how serious of an issue homelessness in higher education is.

The article is about Brooke Evans, a formerly homeless student at University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) who helped start a food pantry for students at UW-Madison. In addition to her efforts to start a food pantry for her fellow students, Evans has advocated for, among other things, requiring college and university cafeterias to accept food stamps and offering free mailboxes to students at her university who don’t have a postal address. Evans has gone above and beyond in her efforts to advocate for improving the lives of college and university students in America.

Evans isn’t the only college student in this country who has been homeless while in college. In fact, federal statistics has shown that over 59,000 applicants for federal student aid last year reported being homeless, and homelessness among college students in America is on the rise. There are a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to an increase in college homelessness, most notably that an increasing number of students from low-income households are attending college, that a college or university education of some kind is needed for virtually every good-paying job in the United States nowadays, and, most importantly, that tuition and other college-related expenses have risen dramatically in recent decades.

I admire Brooke Evans’s advocacy for homeless and poor college students. We really need a lot more people like her to stand up for our country’s most vulnerable and forgotten-about people.

STRAW POLL: 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin Democratic primary

Recently, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for…well, being the kind of presidential candidate who appeals to white male bigots like himself. These are Duffy’s actual words, as quoted by the progressive website ThinkProgress:

There’s a viewpoint that says, ‘I can fight for minorities, and I can fight for women,’ and if you get that, you make up a vast majority of the voting block and you win. And white males have been left aside a little bit in the politics of who speaks to them.

It is inherently clear to me that Duffy is supporting Donald Trump because he is a loud-mouthed bigot who would destroy America and everything that this great country stands for if elected. Duffy’s congressional district, while gerrymandered to make it a lot easier for him to win re-election, is not a total Republican stronghold, and Trump’s style of politics don’t play well at all in the Upper Midwest.

Unlike what I’ve done for races in the 3rd and 6th congressional districts of Wisconsin, where I’ve endorsed progressive-minded Democrats in contested primaries, I’m going to do something different for the contested primary in the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin. I’m going to conduct a straw poll for the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin. The candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are, in the order in which they will be listed on actual primary ballots and in the straw poll, Mary Hoeft of Rice Lake and Joel Lewis of Wausau. Here’s the straw poll:

The straw poll, which is completely non-binding, will be open for voting until 10 P.M. CDT on July 31, 2016 (the polling program I use does not allow me to geoblock the poll outside of the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin). The actual primary, which is open to voters in the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin who choose to vote in the Democratic primary, is August 9th. The winner of the real Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary, also held on August 9th, between Duffy and Donald Raihala, in the general election on November 8th.

Three Wisconsin endorsements for the August primaries

On August 9 of this year, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to vote on candidates running in partisan primaries for both houses of Congress, seats in the Wisconsin State Legislature (all State Assembly districts and even-numbered State Senate districts), and many county-level offices that are elected on a partisan ballot.

I’ve already endorsed Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, Sarah Lloyd in the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary, and Jimmy Anderson in the 47th State Assembly District Democratic primary. In three other contested Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, I hereby announce endorsements.

3rd Congressional District – Myron Buchholz

I proudly endorse Myron Buchholz, who is running in the Democratic primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). I wrote this blog post when Buchholz entered the race, but now I formally endorse Buchholz. Myron Buchholz is a strong progressive who will oppose any unjustified war, even if a Democratic president wants to lead our troops into a full-scale unjustified war. Ron Kind, on the other hand, is a corporate Democrat who supports the NRA’s agenda of proliferating guns into every part of American society. Furthermore, Buchholz opposes international trade deals, such as President Obama’s proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is supported by corporate Democrats like President Obama and Congressman Kind, but would result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of U.S. jobs being moved to low-wage countries like Vietnam. Buchholz believes in protecting America’s economy, not allowing foreign countries to take our jobs.

4th State Senate District – Mandela Barnes

I proudly endorse Mandela Barnes, who is running in the Democratic primary against incumbent State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). Lena Taylor is probably the most right-wing Democrat in the Wisconsin State Legislature, being a supporter of the NRA’s gun proliferation agenda, a supporter of giving taxpayer money to religious schools, and a political ally of Scott Walker. Mandela Barnes, who was named after the late, great South African leader Nelson Mandela, is obviously more progressive than Lena.

Dane County District Attorney – Ismael Ozanne

I proudly endorse Ismael Ozanne, who is seeking re-election for the job of top prosecutor in Wisconsin’s most progressive county. Ozanne is facing a primary challenge from Bob Jambois, a close ally of State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). Jambois is from Kenosha County, which is nearly 50 miles from Dane County (measured as distance between Cambridge, Wisconsin and Genoa City, Wisconsin), and Jambois is a former Kenosha County District Attorney. Jambois is a carpetbagger and not a native Dane County resident.