March 31, 2015

Watchdog says report of $1.5 million donation from Menard’s owner not surprising

Governor Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

Governor Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

The head of a state government watchdog group says he’s not surprised by news that a wealthy Wisconsin resident secretly donated money to a conservative group which provided backing to Governor Scott Walker.

The report from Yahoo! News claims John Menard Jr. donated $1.5 million to the Club for Growth, a conservative group that supported the governor during the recall elections. The article points out that the Menard’s chain of home improvement stores has benefited from $1.8 million in special tax credits, along with reductions in environmental regulations, under the Walker administration.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Matt Rothschild said the revelations are yet another example of how “Wisconsin is for sale” and why campaign finance reform is badly needed in the state. Rothschild said it’s is unlikely to go away either, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Citizens United decision, which led to largely unregulated corporate contributions to political causes, or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted that says “once and for all, corporations are not persons, money is not speech, and we can regulate expenditures and contributions during campaigns, so our government isn’t up for sale.”

Governor Walker was in meetings at the Capitol Tuesday, after the story came out. An aide to the governor said he did not have time for questions from the press, following a meeting of the state building commission, but his office did release a statement. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the Yahoo! story is “misleading and purposefully left out important contextual facts, which were provided to the reporter, to create a false narrative.”
Patrick added that the contracts that provided performance-based tax credits to Menard’s were done through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and that “Governor Walker was not involved in either contract.” She also pointed out that “Menard has so far received the same number of citations under the Walker administration as under the Doyle administration, which is one under each. The issue under our administration was resolved.”

The information in the report was obtained from anonymous sources with knowledge of a stalled John Doe probe into illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups during the 2012 recall election. The future of the investigation is set to be considered by the state Supreme Court later this year.

Phoenix women ousted in NCAA Tournament opener

Tesha Buck - Photo: Green Bay Phoenix Athletics

Tesha Buck – Photo: Green Bay Phoenix Athletics

The ninth-seeded Green Bay Phoenix women gave undefeated and eighth-seeded Princeton all it could handle in Saturday’s NCAA Women’s Tournament opener; however, the Tigers prevailed 80-70 in College Park, Maryland.

Green Bay seemingly had an answer for every Princeton run, but could not stop the Ivy League champions on the inside. The Tigers owned a 49-22 edge on the boards, including 17 offensive rebounds. It added up to 19-4 advantage on points in the paint.

Mehryn Kraker drained five 3-pointers and shot 8-of-16 en route to a game-high 21 points. Kaili Lukan added 17 points and Tesha Buck 14. Buck finished 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. [Read more…]

Wisconsin Voter ID law will not be in effect for April 7 elections

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

Wisconsin voters will not have to show a government-issued photo ID when they head to the polls April 7, despite a decision by the US Supreme Court on Monday not to hear a challenge to the state’s long stalled Voter ID law. The decision means the law will be allowed to go into effect, but Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement Monday morning that, because absentee ballots have already been sent out for the spring elections, “the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election.”

However, Schimel noted that the Voter ID law will be in place for future elections.

The Supreme Court on Monday morning declined to hear an appeal of a decision from last fall, in which a federal appeals court found Wisconsin’s Voter ID requirement is constitutional. The high court had put the ruling on hold though while considered the appeal, because it came close to the November elections and there were concerns it could cause chaos for voters. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed an emergency request Monday morning to have that stay continued, until after the April 7 elections.

The law has been on hold for much of the past three years. It was used in just a single election in early 2012 before a Dane County judge issued the first injunction blocking its enforcement. The state Supreme Court had previously found the law is constitutional. Schimel, who took office just earlier this year, praised the work of the Department of Justice in defending the law against multiple challenges. He said “Our legal team did an outstanding job defending Wisconsin law, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In a statement, Governor Scott Walker called the ruling “great news for Wisconsin voters. As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

The League of Women Voters, which had filed a previous challenge in state court that was part of the first wave of cases that put the law on hold, expressed disappointment in the US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case. Director Andrea Kaminski said the issue was a matter of national importance, “More and more states are passing strict voter ID laws, and we have all heard the stories of good citizens who have run into problems because they don’t possess an acceptable, government issued ID. The problem with our elections is that not enough people vote in them. The last thing we need is laws that erect barriers for people who have been good voters for decades.”

Kaminski said her group will be working to educate voters about the requirement, after the April 7 elections.

Officials with the state Government Accountability Board said the earliest they expect voters in a statewide election will be required to show a photo ID will be for the spring primary on February 16, 2016.

US Supreme Court declines to take Wisconsin Voter ID case

© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, via Wikimedia Commons

UPDUS Supreme Court (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATED: In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law will not be in effect for the upcoming April 7 election, because absentee ballots have already been sent out. However, Schimel noted that “The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections – this decision is final.”

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case challenging Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, creating confusion for election officials just two weeks before the state’s spring elections.

The law had been on hold since last fall, after justices put a stay in place while they decided whether to take up a federal appeals court ruling that found the law is Constitutional. The stay followed claims from the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo identification card at the polls, could cause chaos during the November elections. Monday’s decision not to take the case means the appeals court decision will stand, which could put the requirement back in play for Wisconsin’s April 7 elections.

The ACLU has filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court to keep the law from immediately taking effect. In a statement, ACLU Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho noted that “although the Supreme Court has declined to take this case, it previously made clear that states may not impose new requirements for voting in the weeks before Election Day. The situation is even more compelling here because absentee ballots have already been mailed out for the April election, and early in-person voting has begun. Imposing a new restriction in the midst of an election will disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots. It is a recipe for disaster.”

Officials with the state Government Accountability Board were still evaluating the ruling. A statement posted on the elections agency’s website said they are “awaiting direction from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in anticipation of future action by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on implementation of Wisconsin’s Voter Photo ID Law.”

Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been the subject of a long legal battle since it was first enacted by Republicans in 2011. It was only in effect for a single primary election in early 2012, before a Dane County judge put it on hold. Further state and federal court challenges have kept it from being enforced for much of the past three years.

Pointers claim fourth NCAA Division III national title

Photo Courtesy of UW-Stevens Point Athletics.

Photo Courtesy of UW-Stevens Point Athletics.

For the fourth time in the last six year, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference can claim ownership to the NCAA Division III National Champion after the UW-Stevens Point Pointers upended Augustana (Ill.) 70-54 in Salem, Va.

Four Pointers scored in double figures, led by senior Austin Ryf’s 17 points. Joe Ritchay scored 15 points, followed by Stephen Pelkofer’s 14 and Alex Richard’s 12. The Pointers shot 55.3 percent from the field and connected on 12-of-18 3-point attempts.

The championship is the fourth in program history and first since 2010. UW-Stevens Point won back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005. [Read more…]