Posts Tagged ‘Assembly Democrats’

Poor Steve Nass

March 3, 2010

Proposing to expel a guy who’s been caught drunk driving five times is about as easy as introducing a resolution supporting Wisconsin cheese. Even if you’re representing a people who loves drunk driving as much as the Sconnies do. Even if Jeff Wood’s calculations are correct, and the people of the Chippewa Falls  area don’t chase him out of office for his antics, Steve Nass has got nothing to lose by suggesting an early exit. But God forbid Nass do something uncontroversial.

Nass didn’t show up for Wednesday morning’s public hearing because he was concerned about the circus-like atmosphere created by Wood and Democratic partisan politics, his spokesman Mike Mikalsen said.

Committee chairwoman Mary Hubler, D-Rice Lake, said she would not yet schedule an executive session to vote on Wood because Nass didn’t show up Wednesday to testify or be cross-examined by Wood and his attorney.

Right, the Democrats want to use one of their members’ public humiliation and alcoholism to publicly ridicule and exploit Steve Nass.

Democrats unite behind Sheridan, blame lobbyists

January 29, 2010

Had Madison seen its last coup when Badger Herald partisans took over the Daily Cardinal board of directors back in the 80’s? That’s the question political observers were asking themselves as rumors circulate that Assembly Democrats were seeking to oust Speaker Mike Sheridan from the lower chamber’s throne.

According to Wispolitics (whose almanac I just received in the mail!), Sheridan denied the rumors, blaming them on payday loan lobbyists. It was a surprising accusation at first because most of the controversy surrounding payday loans took place last summer, when Democrats in the legislature first attempted to craft a bill that would impose stricter regulations  on interest rates for payday lenders.

In a phone interview, Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) reiterated Sheridan’s message. Roys said lobbyists likely assumed they had defeated the legislation and were taken by surprise when it turned out that legislators had hammered out a bill. “They’re saying, wait, we just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill this and it won’t go away.”

When I asked her how a lobbyist might go about spreading such a rumor, she suggested that he/she would probably talk to other lobbyists at the bar. Where’s the best bar to find lobbyists? Madisons. the Local Tavern, Genna’s.

Drunk driving bill coming up

September 16, 2009

And no I’m not going to call it “drunken” driving, which apparently every media outlet in the state does now.  Journal-Sentinel:

The package of drunken-driving reforms the state Assembly is expected to pass this week will include a provision making a first offense a crime if a child younger than 16 is in the vehicle, a top Assembly Democrat said Tuesday.

A child less than 16. Great emotional appeal but it is essentially a way for the state to avoid confronting the enormous legal and administrative burden that would result in criminalizing 1st offense OWI.

Poor Cap Times editorial knocks Assembly Dems

July 23, 2009

The Capital Times editorial board delivered a much-needed piece highlighting the hypocrisy of Speaker Mike Sheridan’s claims of instilling “ethics” in the Assembly.

The Assembly speaker declared this week: “Assembly Democrats are fully committed to clean government, and earlier this year, made a sweeping change to campaign finance practices. We prohibited members from fundraising for their individual campaigns during the budget process, and we now see that rule was incredibly effective.”

Spare us the hyperbole.

Good to see the Times on top of one of the biggest dilemmas facing Wisconsin’s political system. Nevertheless, I can’t decide which is worse, Mike Sheridan or the editorial criticizing him. It’s incredible how much the board left unsaid on such an important issue. It could have mentioned, for instance, that despite banning “individual campaigns” from accepting campaign contributions during the budget process, the ban allows party committees to raise money, which the Assembly Democrats so crassly took advantage of in June, and tried to exploit once more but was deterred by a media fire-storm.

Speaker Sheridan and his team implemented a minor reform. For this they deserved and got credit at the time it was implemented. Now they need to get serious about real reform.

It might have been more convincing to the reader if the board had taken the time to explain what  the “real reform” it supports means. The Times criticizes politicians for accepting contributions before and after the budget, but what does it suggest to remedy the pay-to-play? Public campaign financing? The idea has a strong intellectual backing – an articulate argument in its favor would have been a worthy read.

The Cap Times has in many ways admirably adapted to a changing media climate. Its weekly edition generally has interesting feature stories and its political and policy analysis generally bests the competition from regional dailies, most notably the State Journal. Although I admit to being a relatively new reader (last couple years), I sense that the Times more enthusiastically embraced its progressive label after it changed to a weekly. However, those credentials will not be respected until its ed board beefs up its articles, and stops leaving gaping holes in their arguments for obnoxious bloggers like me to point out.

Assembly Dems squirm out of fundraising mess

July 22, 2009

“Mess” would probably be too strong a word for several hundred dollars of campaign contributions, but taken in the greater context of the Democrats’ struggles with campaign finance promises, it was very important for Speaker Mike Sheridan to clear the air in these last two cases.

Several days ago I linked to an article published by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which alleged two Democratic representatives and two Republican representatives had violated the February ban on accepting contributions during the budget process.

Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17. Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee accepted $450 in contributions February 17 and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi accepted a $57.80 in-kind contribution June 25.

However, apparently they weren’t the only ones. Because today Sheridan sent letters to eight representatives, including the four mentioned above as well as Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay), Rep. Jerry Patrowski (R-Marathon), Rep. Louis Molepske (D-Stevens Point), and Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay). The speaker essentially pardoned all of them. Some of them had accepted contributions the day before the budget was presented by the governor and had simply recorded the donation the next day. Sheridan blamed the other offenses on vaguer excuses, such as misunderstandings etc. He ended each letter by instructing each legislator to return the money and there would be no further action taken against them. Aw shucks.

OK, not visible ethics violations, but certainly incompetence. So convenient that there are exactly as many Republican offenders as Democratic ones. It meshes perfectly with the case I made in the last post on the matter – in politics your evil can only be defined in comparison to your opponent. This particularly issue is mainly relevant to Sheridan and the Democratic leadership – not the individual lawmakers involved. If the offenders had been all Democrats, the GOP leadership would have had a great talking point about the Democratic hypocrisy, as well as Sheridan’s inability to control his own ranks. After all, it was the Democrats who championed the fundraising ban – the ball was in their court.

Assembly Democrats are bad

July 18, 2009

Here’s a philosophical prompt for you, dear reader. What is the essence of politics? What is the most fundamental law that guides political behavior? Is it the instinct of the politician to abide by his campaign promises, in order to avoid alienating his base?  Or is a good politician merely one who masters the art of breaking promises without voters noticing?

Obviously, it depends on the promise. If the promise has anything to do with campaign fundraising, it is virtually impossible that a politician’s actions will coincide with his moralistic grandstanding. It has been done a few times. Russ Feingold is about as close as you’re going to get.

So it was really no surprise when the Assembly Democrats reneged on their February pledge to not raise money while the budget was being written. They scheduled two fundraisers during the time, and only after intense media criticism did they cancel the second of the two. By the way, only because of unforgivable media incompetence did the first fundraiser go practically undetected. It simply goes to show that politicians will do anything if a lazy press allows them to.

Good news though. Re-discovering their commitment to ethics, the Assembly Democrats re-scheduled the “completely legitimate” fundraiser to after the budget had been voted on.

However, two of their members nevertheless broke the rules on their own.

Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17.

Just to make clear: these guys broke the rules as clearly as possible. When the Assembly Dems tried to justify their fundraiser last month, they argued that the ban only involved individual candidates and their committees, and of course, has nothing to do with party committees. So now they have two bonified bad apples. Is Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan going to abide by his promise to not support candidates who violate the ban? Probably not, because it turns out the Republicans had troubles of their own with the ban:

Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee accepted $450 in contributions February 17 and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi accepted a $57.80 in-kind contribution June 25.

Hence, I will end the post on this prediction: In politics, corruption can only be measured in relation to the opposition. Hence, when both sides misbehave, nobody pays. Except for the constituents, who are asked yet again to believe in a “squeaky clean” Wisconsin.

Brunch Links

July 17, 2009

Cap Times: WI unemployment up to 9.2%

Paul Soglin: What right-wing think tanks don’t tell you about the garbage tax.

Bryon Eagon: “I am frustrated with the process of these non-renewals, even as the Alder, I was not included in any discussions with city staff or police about serious actions proposed in my district and I would appreciate future inclusion in future discussions.”

Critical Badger: UW to crack down on ticket scalpers. Don’t they have something better to do?

La Crosse Tribune: Assembly Democrats renege on fundraising pledge. Reschedule canceled fundraiser.

State Journal: Monona City Council: Then again, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to have chickens.

Cap Times: Consultants from Illinois are robbing UW blind.

Where’s the pressure on Legislature Dems?

June 23, 2009

A few weeks ago there was a state media frenzy about a promise broken by the Wisconsin Assembly Democrats. The Dems, including Speaker Mike Sheridan, had pledged not to accept campaign contributions while the budget was being written. We can assume that, like most politicians and lovers, they then spent the majority of their free time trying to figure out how to get out of the awful commitment.

Apparently all they had to do was look to the insurance industry for the answer: shared risk. If they all take them, then they’re all innocent. Hence, the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee scheduled a $1000 a plate fundraiser on June 15 at the Wild Rock Golf Club. Under fire for hypocrisy, the Dems finally postponed the gig, even though they hosted a similar one on June 3 which went practically undetected in the media.

The story gets even worse. The Assembly Democrats have ironically shown support for a full ban on campaign fundraising during the budget process, which of course would make illegal the events mentioned above. But their colleagues in the Senate don’t agree, and have threatened to block the proposal. The State Journal editorializes:

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker has climbed out on a limb to protect a campaign fundraising tactic that betrays public trust in government.

This unrelenting support for budget fundraising seems to indicate just how important the practice is for legislators. Because of cynical trade of favors for donations? Perhaps partly. But also because the legislature is dead throughout most of the year, and the budget is by far the most important aspect of their work in any given two year period. The budget generally encompasses a variety of issues – everything from illegal immigration to gay rights. Hence, Decker likely sees it as crucial in stirring up the base and getting cash for the campaigns.

That matters to him, but it shouldn’t matter to us. The press needs to keep the pressure on Democrats to pass a ban and make Wisconsin an example for the rest of the country. The Cap Times, the Journal-Sentinel – your voices need to be heard on the matter.


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