July 31, 2014

Reaction to Ellis video continues

The head of a government watchdog groups says it’s a “tragedy in many respects” that a past supporter of campaign finance reform was caught on video, talking about setting up his own Super PAC for his run for re-election.

Republican Senator Mike Ellis of Neenah says he now knows that it’s illegal in Wisconsin for a candidate to coordinate with an outside group. Jay Heck of Common Cause says to hear Ellis talk about that, even in a hypothetical manner, is shocking and disturbing. He says it’s a sign of the times.

Democratic Representative Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton is challenging Ellis this fall. In the secretly taped video, at a Madison hotel bar, Ellis said the PAC could run attack ads against Bernard Schaber.

Bernard Schaber says she’ll take her Republican opponent at his word that he didn’t realize forming a Super PAC for his campaign was illegal, but that people are frustrated with politics and government, and they can get turned off by backroom politics.

Heck says he worked closely with Ellis several years ago to push for reforms. He says Ellis was concerned about third-party, outside groups, and the money they were putting into campaigns. He doesn’t think the fallout from the video will end anytime soon.


Walker signals support for remaining bills

Governor Scott Walker is indicating that most of the bills passed in the finals days of the Legislative session will likely be signed into law.

The governor signed 62 pieces of legislation into law earlier this week, but dozens are still under review by his office. Walker says he expects most will make it past his desk, after his legal counsel reviews the language used in them and verifies they will not have any unintended consequences. Walker says “I don’t see, of any of the bills out there, any major policy problems.”

The governor did veto a bill last month over concerns that it could have impacted the state’s gaming compacts with Native American tribes.

The governor adds that his office is also spreading out some of the bill signings, due to the large number of them still awaiting action.

Those proposals still waiting for a signature include measures that require outside investigations when police are involved in the death of a suspect and legalizing a marijuana-extract for medical treatments. So far, Walker says the he’s convinced that cannabidiol, or CBD, is “not even remotely close to medical marijuana,” and he expects to sign the bill unless problems are identified.

Pridemore not seeking reelection

Rep. Don Pridemore

Rep. Don Pridemore

Another state lawmaker has announced plans to retire after his current term runs out at the end of the year. State Representative Don Pridemore (R-Erin) says he will not be seek reelection this fall.

In statement, Pridemore thanked his constituents for their support over his past decade in office. Pridemore said “I have never believed that elected office should evolve into a long career. One criticism of too many elected officials is that they do not know when to move on. Now is my time. I have really enjoyed my time in the Assembly and I have met some wonderful people. I am especially grateful for all the opportunities I have had to meet and work with so many dedicated leaders and citizens of this great state. I leave the Assembly in good hands.”

Pridemore was a frequent critic of education policy in state and ran unsuccessfully against state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers in 2013. He served four terms representing the state’s 99th District and currently represents the 22nd District.

Pridemore is the 18th member of the state Assembly and the 12th Republican member of the chamber to announce they do not plan to seek reelection this fall.

Walker signs ‘revenge porn’ law

Wisconsin has become the third state in the nation to ban so-called “revenge porn” — the posting of sexually-explicit photos online without the subjects’ prior knowledge.

Governor Scott Walker signed the ban into law Tuesday. Freshman Assembly Republican John Spiros of Marshfield says it will prevent vengeance on the part of those jilted by ex-spouses and lovers.

Spiros authored the bill, after discovering that 90-percent of revenge porn victims are women. He says a number of victims have discovered that law enforcement’s hands were tied because there was no law against the explicit postings by their exes.

Spiros says the new law provides teeth to help go after perpetrators, with misdemeanor penalties of up to nine months in jail and fines of up to $10,000 dollars.


Democrats join call for Kramer’s resignation

The top Democrats in the state Assembly are backing up Republican lawmakers in their call for ousted Majority Leader Bill Kramer to resign from the Legislature. Democratic leaders sent a letter to the Waukesha Republican on Monday, asking him to step down before his term ends next January. Republicans made a similar request last week.

The push for Kramer to resign comes after he was charged last month with sexual assault, based on allegations that he aggressively groped a woman in the parking lot of a Muskego bar in 2011. In a separate incident, Kramer is also accused of groping a legislative aide and sexually harassing another woman during a fundraising trip to Washington D.C. earlier this year. Kramer was stripped of his role as majority leader last month after those reports first surfaced and has indicated he will not seek reelection in the fall.

Democrats also sent a letter to Republican leadership, accusing them of not going far enough to discipline Kramer’s behavior. They are asking for Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to keep the option of forming a special ethics committee on the table to consider the allegations, along with possibly starting the process to expel Kramer from the chamber. Vos and other Republicans decided last week not to pursue action to remove Kramer from office, citing concerns that holding hearings could impact the pending sexual assault case against him.

Kramer’s attorney has so far indicated that his client has no intention of leaving the Assembly before his term expires, while also arguing that any efforts to remove him now would violate his constitutional rights to due process. While he has been accused of wrongdoing, Kramer has not been convicted of any crimes. The embattled lawmaker is due in court next week for his initial appearance on the sexual assault charges.