Tag: non-partisan

Dane County (WI) Supervisor Jenni Dye: A leader in the fight for non-partisan redistricting

Jenni Dye, a member of the Dane County (WI) Board of Supervisors representing Supervisory District 33, which includes rural areas and some suburban areas of the City of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, chairs one of the most powerful Dane County Board subcommittees: the redistricting subcommittee of the county board’s executive committee.

Instead of waiting until after the 2020 U.S. Census, which is a little less than 4 1/2 years away, to pick and choose her own constituents by redrawing her own district, Jenni is supporting a great idea: taking elected officials completely out of the Dane County redistricting process altogether and creating a non-partisan citizens’ redistricting commission:

As the Dane County Board prepares for redistricting in 2021, supervisors are leaning toward having community members take on more power in the process than they have in decades.

The Redistricting Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the County Board is tentatively recommending the county establish an impartial redistricting commission consisting of only citizen members — no elected officials.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said District 33 Supervisor Jenni Dye, who chairs the redistricting subcommittee. “We need to have a process where the people of Dane County are sure that they are electing their supervisors and not that supervisors are choosing their voters.”

I strongly believe that elected officials in this country should not have the power to literally pick and choose their own constituents by redrawing the districts which they run for public office in. Having ordinary citizens, not elected officials, redraw legislative districts, whether it be local, state, or federal legislative districts, is, if done correctly, a far more fairer method of drawing legislative districts.

If only there were far more elected officials who, like Jenni Dye, care about the integrity of the political system, America would be far better off.

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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.

ENDORSEMENT: JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Early next year, there will be an election to determine who will be elected to the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was held by Justice Patrick Crooks prior to his death earlier this month. I whole-heartedly endorse JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge, for the seat.

Since this seat is vacant, but up for election early next year, Republican Governor Scott Walker will appoint someone to the seat, and that individual will serve the remainder of Crooks’s term. Next year’s election is for a full ten-year term, and I am endorsing Kloppenburg for the election to a full ten-year term. I would encourage Walker to appoint Former Wisconsin State Representative Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, but Walker isn’t going to appoint her or anyone else who is not a full-blown right-wing ideologue.

Prior to becoming an appellate court judge, Kloppenburg served as a Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General under both Democratic (Peg Lautenschlager) and Republican (J.B. Van Hollen) state attorneys general, and she now serves as a state appellate court judge in Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, which covers 24 counties (map here) in the south-central, southwestern, and central parts of Wisconsin. If elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, she’ll be an impartial interpreter of Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, not a judicial activist of any kind.

Walker will most likely appoint Rebecca Bradley, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge from the Milwaukee area, to the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley was running for the seat prior to Crooks’s death and is still running for the seat. Bradley has earned a reputation as a far-right judicial activist. Bradley was once the president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, an organization of far-right judicial activists who believe in using the courts to implement a far-right political agenda that would cost America millions of jobs and undermine the civil liberties of the American people. Furthermore, Bradley is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), an organization that, among other things, supports voter suppression schemes designed to keep people from exercising their right to vote.

The third candidate in next year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race is Joe Donald, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, who, if elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, would become the first elected black justice, and second black justice overall, on Wisconsin’s highest bench. While Donald has endorsements from some progressives, most notably Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, he’s accepted campaign cash from Peter Barca, the Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic Leader who supported Scott Walker’s corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Judges should be as independent as possible from state legislators and other elected officials, not accepting campaign cash from them.

If you’re a Wisconsinite who wants an actual justice who will interpret Wisconsin’s constitution and laws in a non-partisan manner, then vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg next spring! The non-partisan primary, provided that at least three candidates make the ballot (three candidates are currently campaigning for the seat), will be held in February of 2016, and the general election will be held in April of 2016.

How Republicans are going to turn the Congressional Budget Office into a right-wing propaganda outfit

Anytime Congress needs to obtain a cost estimate, an economic impact analysis, and/or other types of budget and/or economic information, Congress is legally required to turn to its own internal think tank on economic issues, the officially non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

However, the Republicans that won control of both houses of Congress in last November’s elections are about to turn the CBO into a part of their far-right propaganda machine that will probably be one of the most hyperpartisan government agencies in the entire country.

The director of the CBO is currently Douglas Elmendorf, who has run the CBO quite well for the past several years, having originally been appointed by a Congress controlled completely by Democrats in 2009 and then continuing on as CBO director even after Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 midterm elections. However, with Republicans now in control of both the House and the Senate, the House Speaker (more than likely to be John Boehner) and the Senate President Pro Tempore (which will be Orrin Hatch), who are jointly responsible for appointing the CBO director, will almost certainly get rid of Elmendorf and replace him with a new CBO director that will likely be very conservative and use the CBO to spew right-wing lies about the economy and the country’s finances.

What the Republicans want to do is appoint a new CBO director who will turn the officially non-partisan agency into a right-wing, non-partisan in name only agency and use dynamic scoring, a disproven economic theory that is based on the falsehood that cutting taxes for the wealthy results in more revenue to the federal government:

AS Republicans take control of Congress this month, at the top of their to-do list is changing how the government measures the impact of tax cuts on federal revenue: namely, to switch from so-called static scoring to “dynamic” scoring. While seemingly arcane, the change could have significant, negative consequences for enacting sustainable, long-term fiscal policies.

[…]

Such proponents (of dynamic scoring) argue that conventional projections are skewed against tax cuts, because they do not consider that cutting taxes could lead to higher economic output, which would make up at least some of the lost revenues. They maintain that dynamic scoring will, therefore, be both more neutral and more accurate than current methodologies.

In reality, the whole concept of dynamic scoring is built on a mountain of lies and false assumptions about how the economy and taxation work:

But the bigger problems lie deeper. Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending). Simply cutting taxes against the headwind of structural deficits leads to lower growth, as government borrowing soaks up an ever-increasing share of savings.

The most optimistic dynamic models get around this by assuming that the world today is in fiscal equilibrium, where the deficit does not grow continuously as a percentage of gross domestic product. But that’s not true. If you add the reality of spiraling deficits into those models, they don’t work.

To make these models work, scorekeepers must arbitrarily assume either that we tax more and spend less today than is really the case…or assume that a tax cut today will be followed by a spending cut or tax increase tomorrow. Economists describe such a move as “making counterfactual assumptions”; the rest of us call it “making stuff up.”

In reality, dynamic scoring encourages absurd economic policies that would decrease the amount of revenue the federal government receives, drive up the federal budget deficit and national debt, hurt economic growth, and wreck our country’s economy. The fact that Republicans want to turn the officially non-partisan Congressional Budget Office into a part of the hyperpartisan right-wing propaganda machine in order to lie to the American people about how legislation effects the economy and our country’s finances absolutely scares me, and Democrats need to start attacking the CBO at every opportunity if they do start acting like a right-wing organization.