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July 31, 2015

Assembly set for Bucks arena vote

An artist's concept of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

An artist’s concept of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The state Assembly is scheduled to vote Tuesday on funding a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Vandenbroek) said Monday that not all Republican members are on board, so they’ll need Democrats as well. “We’ve said all along that their target should be 15 votes and we’re hoping that they can get there, because I think that’s about what’s going to be needed to get it passed,” Steineke said.

The funding plan, already approved by the state Senate, uses tax money to help cover about half the cost of the $500 million arena. “If we don’t get this done, the state loses money,” said Steineke. “I think the vast majority of our caucus understands that doing this saves the state money in the long run. That being said, there are still some whose constituents are opposed to it, and they’re reflecting the views of their voters back home.”

“There are a number of things that we vote on that make certain appropriations in different parts of the state all the time,” said Representative Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee). “We’re here as state legislators. The overall financial strength of the state is important, and that starts with the city of Milwaukee, in my humble opinion.”

The NBA has made it clear that the team will leave Wisconsin if a new arena is not built to replace the Bradley Center, the Bucks’ home since 1988.

Emails show contact between GAB head and IRS mostly personal in nature

Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

State officials have released dozens of emails sent between the head of Wisconsin’s elections agency and a former IRS official, following accusations of possible coordination between the two in efforts to go after conservative groups.

The 138 pages of emails were made public Monday morning because of an open records requests from Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend), who asked for contacts between the Government Accountability Board and IRS earlier this month. The inquiry was sparked by an unsigned opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, which called into question the relationship between GAB director Kevin Kennedy and former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner.

Lerner came under fire after the IRS was accused of targeting conservative non-profit groups. Wisconsin Republicans have made similar claims about the GAB under Kennedy’s leadership, after the agency consulted with prosecutors in a John Doe investigation that was probing the operations of conservative groups.

Of the emails released Monday, a handful show Lerner inquiring about political situations in Wisconsin or Kennedy making brief mentions about state events, during a time period that covered efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker and several state senators from office. In one email, dated January 27 of 2013, Kennedy wrote “Things are unraveling at work. I may be over reacting but I think I will be able to retire. Much sooner than I thought.”

Most of the messages though discuss dinner and travel plans, or updates about family. A handful of messages include IRS policy updates or repost articles about campaign finance debates. Lerner also included Kennedy on several lengthy email forwards featuring humorous photo collections about friendship and other jokes.

Kennedy highlighted that content in his written response to Craig, noting that there was actually very little material to send along. He said “that is because there was very little contact with the IRS by agency staff. You will also note the vast majority of the documents reflect a professional friendship that goes back almost 25 years and does not relate to any regulatory activity.”

Republicans have stepped up calls for Kennedy to resign and to reform the GAB, in the wake of the WSJ article and a recent state Supreme Court decision that halted the John Doe investigation. Governor Scott Walker has called for replacing the agency entirely, with something that would be “more accountable” to the public.

Scant support for Iran nuclear deal in Wisconsin’s D.C. delegation

U.S. Capitol building (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

U.S. Capitol building (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

The U.S. Congress has begun a sixty day review of a deal struck by the Obama administration, to limit Iran’s nuclear capability in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions. Initial statements reveal little outright support for the deal, among members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.

The review process is one which congressman Ron Kind said will include many questions. “I’m undecided right now,” the La Crosse Democrat said. “There are a lot of moving pieces to it, and we want to make sure we do this right.”

One of those questions, according to Kind, is what happens if Congress rejects the deal. “What does the day after a disapproval vote in Congress look like? Do the sanctions just completely collapse? Does Iran then just ramp the refining of plutonium, uranium and fissile material?”

Kind, a La Crosse Democrat representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, said the key part of the deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – is the inspections piece. “It’s distrust and verify, because Iran certainly hasn’t earned anyone’s trust, given their past behavior,” Kind said.

While Kind remains undecided, other members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation are signaling their disapproval of the deal.

“From the beginning, I have said that I could not support any deal that I did not believe made Americans safer,” said Representative Reid Ribble, the Republican representing the 8th Congressional District in northeastern Wisconsin. “Unfortunately, this is not the deal that has emerged based on details we have seen so far.”

“President Obama has placed a target on the backs of all Americans,” said 5th District Republican Jim Sensenbrenner. “Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and giving them billions of dollars in sanctions relief will help them fund their proxy wars on America and our allies.”

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama Administration signed a bad deal with Iran given President Obama’s ignorance when it comes to foreign policy,” said 6th District Republican Representative Glenn Grothman. “Lifting sanctions on Iran, a country on the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list, is dangerous and proves that President Obama and his administration negotiated from a position of weakness.”

“I’m proud that America led six countries toward an historic international agreement with Iran,” said Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “I will now take the time to carefully review this diplomatic agreement and make a judgment on it based on whether it is built on verification, achieves the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and serves America’s national security interests.”

“I have often stated that I believe this negotiation was lost from the start when President Obama capitulated and agreed that Iran would not have to dismantle its nuclear program,” said Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson. “Initial reports of the deal do not change my opinion. That said, I will carefully review the details before rendering my final judgment.”

Republican leaders in both houses of Congress have been highly critical of the agreement and have vowed to reject it. President Obama has said he will veto any resolution of disapproval. That means Republicans will only be able to defeat the deal if they can muster the two-thirds of both houses of Congress needed to override a presidential veto of any resolution of disapproval.

Fadness leaving Wisconsin GOP for Walker campaign

The head of the state Republican Party is stepping down.

The Wisconsin GOP says executive director Joe Fadness has resigned in order to join Governor Scott Walker’s campaign team. He will be heading up the team that’s in charge of getting Walker on the presidential primary ballot in each state.

Fadness got his start in politics in 2003, working as intern in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office when Walker held that position. He’s been with the state Republican party’s operation since 2013.

Mike Duffey, a Wauwatosa native who was state director for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, will take over as the party’s new executive director.

Trump fires back at Walker in Iowa

Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, IA (Photo: Radio Iowa)

Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, IA (Photo: Radio Iowa)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is going after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the current front-runner in Iowa polls among the crowded GOP field.

During a campaign rally with about 1,400 supporters in Oskaloosa, Trump told the audience he had appreciated and contributed to Walker’s fight to survive a recall election in Wisconsin, but Trump said a “stupid person” who works for Walker made a “horrible statement” about him and Trump blasted Walker’s management of Wisconsin.

“They projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster and they’re fighting like crazy because there’s no money for the school…and he was totally in favor of Common Core,” Trump said. “Did you know that?”

The crowd cheered Trump’s negative critique of Walker. Later, Trump told reporters Walker hadn’t been that nice to him anyway. “One of his people hit me…and I said: ‘Hey, now the gloves are off,” Trump said. “…The real truth is that Wisconsin’s it’s a mess right now. It’s a mess, from an economic standpoint.”

The attack on Walker comes after a fundraiser invitation sent out by the governor’s campaign called Trump a “DumbDumb.” The invitation, reported on by The Wall Street Journal, also said electing the real estate mogul would be “a total and complete disaster for the country.”

The Walker campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson contributed to this report.