Tag: GAB

Milwaukee state legislator incorrectly listed as congressional candidate in Northeastern Wisconsin

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The title and body of this blog post have been edited to include information provided by Wisconsin State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee).


The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) incorrectly lists Wisconsin State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, a Democrat who represents a state assembly district entirely within the City of Milwaukee, as having filed a campaign registration statement (page 4 of this PDF file) for the Democratic nomination in a U.S. House race in the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin (8th CD), which includes no part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area and includes the northeastern part of the state. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is campaigning for the 8th CD seat in Wisconsin, but is not listed as having filed any paperwork with the GAB at this time. Additionally, the GAB lists Democrats Wendy Gribben and Jerry Kobishop as having filed declarations of candidacies with the GAB for the 8th CD race.

However, as Zamarripa stated via Twitter, this is a technical glitch of some kind on the GAB’s master list of candidates for the August primaries in Wisconsin, and that she actually filed to run for re-election to her state assembly seat:

I’m thankful that State Representative Zamarripa explained what the problem was.

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Wisconsin Republicans are delivering a kill shot to democracy

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a link to an article that includes an error. Specifically, Wisconsin State Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D) lives in Milton, Wisconsin, not Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, although Jorgensen did live in Fort Atkinson prior to the post-2010 Census gerrymandering of Wisconsin’s state legislative districts.


Republicans that control Wisconsin state government are delivering a kill shot to democracy by enacting a series of laws designed to effectively destroy democracy in Wisconsin.

The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council member Rebecca Kemble wrote a must-read article about Republican efforts to destroy democracy in Wisconsin, which you can read here.

The Republican efforts to destroy democracy in Wisconsin consists of the following three pieces of legislation:

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 64 – While bribery and many forms of political corruption are still illegal in Wisconsin, this law effectively decriminalizes bribery and corruption in Wisconsin by removing the only effective tool in Wisconsin state law to prosecute bribery and corruption: the John Doe investigation. Republican Governor Scott Walker, himself the target of two John Doe investigations that led to a total of six of his associates either being convicted or pleading guilty to various crimes, has already signed this bill into law.
  • Wisconsin Assembly Bill 387 – This legislation, among other things, allows coordination between non-federal candidates for public office in Wisconsin and outside groups like SuperPACs, ends the legal requirement that candidates disclose their campaign donor’s employers, and eliminates campaign contribution limits in Wisconsin. When this bill was voted on in the Wisconsin Assembly, not a single member of the Assembly voted against the legislation. That’s because, in one of the most ridiculous political stunts that I’ve ever seen, Democratic members of the Wisconsin Assembly recused themselves from voting on the legislation citing a conflict of interest, but the conflict of interest statute they cited specifically exempts state legislative votes on legislation to change state laws and regulations.
  • Wisconsin Assembly Bill 388 – This legislation would abolish the officially non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), which is composed of six retired judges and is responsible for both state-level election administration and enforcing state ethics laws in Wisconsin, with separate state elections and ethics commissions composed of political appointees of major-party state legislative leaders and the governor. If this bill were to become law, major-party state legislative leaders could legally appoint themselves or other elected officials to the state elections commission in Wisconsin and remain in elected office, which would be a brazen conflict of interest.

The Wisconsin GOP’s effort to destroy democracy in Wisconsin reminds me a lot of the right-wing Fidesz party in Hungary entrenching itself into power by gerrymandering electoral districts to benefit Fidesz and other right-wing politicians, as well as amending the Hungarian Constitution to undermine civil liberties and entrench Fidesz into power in Hungary. The kind of partisan takeovers normally seen in places like Eastern Europe is taking place right here in the United States, specifically, in Wisconsin.

Republican proposal to gut Wisconsin GAB appears to allow for Republican majorities on seperate elections and ethics commissions

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author of this blog post is not an attorney and does not claim to be one.


Having read the relevant part of this Republican-backed legislative proposal that, if enacted, would create two new partisan commissions to replace the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), I can state definitively, that, based on my interpretation of the language of the proposed statute, that Republicans would be effectively guaranteed a 4-2 majority on each of the two replacement commissions with Republican Scott Walker currently in the Wisconsin governor’s office.

In Wisconsin, the GAB is the state-level body that administers elections and handles ethics complaints, among other things. Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are moving to replace the officially non-partisan GAB with two separate and officially-partisan state election and ethics commissions.

How the Wisconsin Elections Commission would be selected

Under the Republicans’ proposal, Wisconsin’s state-level elections commission, which would be responsible for state-level administration of Wisconsin’s elections, would consist of six members. Four of the members would be selected by Democratic and Republican state legislative leaders (Assembly Speaker, Assembly Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader getting one appointment each), with no other statutory qualifications that I can find. The other two members would be former county and/or municipal clerks appointed by the governor (currently Scott Walker, a Republican) from a list of six recommendations, with Democratic legislative leaders getting three recommendations and Republican legislative leaders getting three recommendations. There is no explicit statutory requirement that Walker pick one recommendation from each party. Should a political party that does not have a majority or official minority in either house of the state legislature (i.e., a third-party) field a candidate who receives at least 10% of the vote in a Wisconsin gubernatorial election, that party’s chief officer (i.e., state party chairperson) would get to recommend three people to the governor, and the governor would appoint an additional member to the commission from that list.

Current state legislative leaders in Wisconsin that would be responsible for four of the six appointments to the elections commission are as follows:

  • State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (Republican)
  • State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (Republican)
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (Democratic)
  • State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (Democratic)

Here’s what is horrible about the proposed state elections commission:

  • Under this proposal, there is nothing prohibiting state legislative leaders from appointing themselves, other elected officials (up to and including Scott Walker himself), active candidates for public office, lobbyists, and/or campaign donors to the state elections board, with elected officials serving as both an elections board member and an elected official, candidate, lobbyist, and/or campaign donor simultaneously.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a statutory requirement that the  elections commission members be Wisconsinites. In fact, one could even interpret the clause requiring Walker to appoint two former county and/or municipal clerks as allowing Walker to appoint people who formerly served county and/or municipal clerks in other states.
  • The clause authorizing Walker to appoint two former county and/or municipal clerks to the election commission appears to be worded in a manner that would allow Walker to appoint two of the Republican recommendations, instead of one recommendation from each party, as the requirement that “no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals” appears to apply to the list of recommendations for the gubernatorial appointments, not all appointees to the elections commission.

How the Wisconsin Ethics Commission would be selected

Under the Republicans’ proposal, Wisconsin’s state-level ethics commission, which would be responsible for hearing ethics complaints filed against state elected officials (governor, other elected state executives, state legislators, etc.), would, like the elections commission, consist of six members, four selected by state legislative leaders in both major parties and two appointed by the governor from a list of recommendations from state legislative leaders in both major parties. Additionally, should a third-party field a gubernatorial candidate who receives at least 10% of the vote, that party’s Wisconsin state chairperson would get to recommend three people to the governor, and the governor would select one of those to serve as an additional member of the commission. However, there are two main differences in regards to the qualifications of ethics commission members compared to elections commission members. First, for the gubernatorial appointments, there’s no requirement that the appointees be former county and/or municipal clerks. Second, all members of the ethics commission cannot be a lobbyist, an elected official other than a federal elected official, state circuit judge, or state appellate judge, and/or an active candidate for state or local office in Wisconsin.

Here’s what’s horrible about the proposed state ethics commission:

  • Under this proposal, not only are state circuit judges or state appellate judges explicitly allowed to serve on the ethics commission and on the judicial bench simultaneously, there’s no explicit prohibition on federal elected officials, candidates for federal office, or campaign donors from being on the ethics commission, provided that they aren’t lobbyists, active candidates for state or local office in Wisconsin, and/or holders of elected offices other than a federal office, state circuit judgeship, or state appellate judgeship.
  • Like with the elections commission, there’s no statutory requirement that I could find requiring ethics commission members to be Wisconsinites.
  • Like with the elections commission, the clause authorizing Walker to appoint two individuals to the ethics commission appears to be worded in a manner that would allow Walker to appoint two of the Republican recommendations, instead of one recommendation from each party, as the requirement that “no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals” appears to apply to the list of recommendations for the gubernatorial appointments, not all appointees to the elections commission.

Relevant text of legislative proposal (pages 66-69 of proposal)

15.61  (title)  Elections commission; creation.
SECTION 172.  15.61 (1) (a) 1. to 6. of the statutes are created to read:
15.61 (1) (a) 1.  One member appointed by the senate majority leader.
2.  One member appointed by the senate minority leader.
3.  One member appointed by the speaker of the assembly.
4.  One member appointed by the assembly minority leader.
5.  Two members who formerly served as county or municipal clerks and who
are nominated by the governor, with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed. The governor shall choose the nominees from a list of 6 individuals selected by the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, the speaker of the assembly, and the assembly minority leader and in such manner that no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals.
6.  For each political party qualifying for a separate ballot under s. 5.62 (1) (b) or (2) whose candidate for governor received at least 10 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial election, one member, nominated by the governor from a list of 3 individuals selected by the chief officer of that political party and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.
SECTION 173.  15.61 (5) of the statutes is created to read:
15.61 (5) (a)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 1.
to 4., the individual responsible for making the appointment shall appoint a new member no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
(b)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 5. or 6., a new member shall be selected, nominated, and submitted to the senate for confirmation no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
SECTION 174.  15.62 of the statutes is created to read:
15.62  Ethics commission; creation.  (1) (a)  There is created an ethics
commission consisting of the following members who shall serve for 5−year terms:
1.  One member appointed by the senate majority leader.
2.  One member appointed by the senate minority leader.
3.  One member appointed by the speaker of the assembly.
4.  One member appointed by the assembly minority leader.
5.  Two members, nominated by the governor and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.  The governor shall choose the nominees from a list of 6 individuals, one each selected by the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, the speaker of the assembly, and the assembly minority leader and in such manner that no members of the same political party select, collectively, more than 3 individuals.
6.  For each political party qualifying for a separate ballot under s. 5.62 (1) (b) or (2) whose candidate for governor received at least 10 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial election, one member, nominated by the governor from a list of 3 individuals selected by the chief officer of that political party and with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the senate confirmed.
(2)  No member of the commission may hold another office or position that is a state public office or a local public office, as defined in s. 19.42, except the office of circuit judge or court of appeals judge under s. 753.075.
(3)  No member, while serving on the commission, may become a candidate, as defined in s. 11.01 (1), for state office or local office, as defined in s. 5.02.
(4)  No member may be a lobbyist, as defined in s. 13.62 (11), or an employee of a principal, as defined in s. 13.62 (12), except that a member may serve as a circuit judge or court of appeals judge under s. 753.075.
(5) (a)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 1. to 4., the individual responsible for making the appointment shall appoint a new member no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.
(b)  If a vacancy occurs for a member appointed under sub. (1) (a) 5. or 6., a new member shall be selected, nominated, and submitted to the senate for confirmation no later than 45 days after the date of the vacancy.

Conclusion

Not only is the idea of replacing one non-partisan board responsible for administering elections and handling ethics complaints in Wisconsin with two partisan commissions, one for administering elections and another for handling ethics complaints, an inherently awful idea, the two partisan commissions would be guaranteed to be controlled by the Republican Party, based on my interpretation of the wording of proposed legislation. The thought of a single political party having majority control of an state elections commission and a state ethics commission in any state, let alone the state that will probably decide the 2016 presidential election, is absolutely frightening. Republicans could easily use the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change election administration procedures to benefit Republicans, and they could also use the Wisconsin Ethics Commission to wage baseless, Joe McCarthy-style witchhunts against Democrats for purely political reasons.

Does Scott Walker want to put elected officials in charge of administrating elections in Wisconsin?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The blog post includes a word, Nixcarthyism, that has, to my knowledge, never been used before. Nixcarthyism is defined as a corrupt, vindictive style of politics that combines the style of politics of Richard Nixon and the style of politics of Joe McCarthy.


Scott Walker’s Nixcarthyism knows no boundaries. As Governor of Wisconsin, he’s used a recall petition against him as a political enemies list, enacted disastrous political policies designed to make the lives of Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin a living hell, and has gotten away with blatant political corruption.

Now, he’s pushing to eliminate the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), an officially non-partisan agency, compromised of a board of six retired judges, that would be a great model for non-partisan state election administration panels across the country, and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined state government board or agency. The GAB is responsible for state-level regulation of elections, campaign finance, and lobbying in Wisconsin, as well as handling ethics complaints filed against state elected officials in Wisconsin. This is Walker’s way of retaliating against the GAB for authorizing the unsuccessful 2012 recall attempt against him and for referring the John Doe II investigation, which was recently struck down by the majority-female, far-right Wisconsin Supreme Court, to a special prosecutor and five district attorneys.

However, I do have one hint as to to what kind of entity Walker wants to replace the GAB with: Walker has stated that he wants “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin” to replace the GAB.

I’m guessing that “something completely new” is Walker-speak for something significantly different than the GAB or the former Wisconsin State Elections Board that was replaced by the GAB. By “truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin”, I’m guessing that’s Walker-speak for putting elected officials in charge of administrating elections, handing ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and regulating lobbying in Wisconsin, while, at the same time, allowing said elected officials to retain their elected offices and serve on whatever entity replaces the GAB simultaneously. I do not know of any state that has incumbent elected officials serving on or in a state office, board, or agency responsible for administering elections, handling ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and/or regulating lobbying.

If Walker wants to put elected officials in charge of state-level election administration in Wisconsin, that would be comparable to asking Cookie Monster to guard cookies. The vast majority of, if not all, elected officials in Wisconsin benefit in some way from campaign donations and/or outside spending on their behalf. Because of that, a state elections board compromised of elected officials in some form or another would be absolutely rife with conflicts of interest and would likely be very supportive of big money special interests having tons of influence over the political system.

About the only change I’d make to the Wisconsin GAB is to put the responsibility for appointing GAB board members in the hands of the Wisconsin Secretary of State (currently, the Wisconsin Governor makes the appointments to the GAB).