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Friday, September 19, 2014

 8:30 AM 

Burke campaign cuts ties with consultant over passages in jobs plan

Mary Burke’s campaign says it has cut ties with a consultant it blamed for lifting sections of her jobs plan from three Dems who ran for governor in other states during previous cycles.

The website Buzzfeed reported last night that language in Burke’s plan mirrors sections from those put forward by Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009 before withdrawing from the race; Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in 2008; and John Gregg, who lost to Mike Pence in the 2012 Indiana guv’s race.

Burke’s campaign said Eric Schnurer worked on all four campaigns cited in the article and was responsible for the passages Buzzfeed cited in its report. The campaign described Schnurer as a subcontractor. It also sought to downplay the significance of those passages in her plan.

“The core strategies she outlines and the vision for Wisconsin's economy that she lays out is entirely her own, and stand unquestioned by anyone,” Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said. “They are informed by her time at Harvard Business School, through starting her own small business, serving as a top executive at Trek and leading the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.”

Scott Walker’s campaign slammed Burke for the report.

"It's a sad day for Wisconsin when the Democratic nominee for governor misleads voters by offering a plagiarized jobs plan, in which she has staked her entire candidacy,” said Walker campaign manager Stephan Thompson. “Wisconsin deserve better, and it’s clear that Mary Burke cannot be trusted to lead our state."

The passages Buzzfeed cited included this from Cammack:

“Supporting the development of public-private partnerships by working to match small farmers with business professionals to help farmers improve management, develop new markets plans and improve use of risk management tools and risk reduction strategies.”

And this from Burke:

“Supporting the development of public-private partnerships by working to match small farmers with business professionals to help farmers improve management, develop new markets plans and improve use of risk management tools and risk-reduction strategies.”

Buzzfeed, which fired an editor this summer for multiple instances of plagiarism, earlier this week accused Oregon U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby of lifting her original health plan from a survey on health care reform done for Karl Rove’s Crossroads USA.

-- By JR Ross

EDITOR's NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect Burke's campaign has clarified Schnurer was a subcontractor. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

 7:31 AM 

New Walker TV ad says Burke supports Obamacare 'unequivocally'

Gov. Scott Walker is out with a new TV ad this morning that seeks to tie Dem rival Mary Burke to President Obama’s health care plan, saying she supports it “unequivocally.”

It's one of two new ads Walker released today.

The health care spot opens with the narrator saying it’s been called “the lie of the year” before a clip is shown of Obama saying, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

With flames superimposed over the image, the ad then shows Burke saying “It doesn’t mean that the government is going to tell you which doctors to go to or which plan to have.”

The announcer says millions have lost their doctors and plans, but Burke still supports Obamacare unequivocally and wants to expand it.

“Wisconsin can’t afford Madison liberal Mary Burke,” the announcer says as a picture of Burke and former Gov. Jim Doyle is shown.

The spot closes with video of Obama saying, “Period, end of story.”

The other spot features Walker saying the average family will save an extra $322 to spend thanks to his reforms and he asks, “What are you going to do with your savings?”

The spot then shows people saying they’re going to buy more clothes and school supplies, 96 gallons of gas, take a trip to see the grandkids, get new tires and more than 2,700 diapers.

“My opponent criticizes the Wisconsin comeback,” Walker says to close the spot. “She wants to undo our reforms and keep your money in Madison. I want you to keep it.”

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

 12:49 PM 

Walker, Burke still close in latest Marquette poll, but shift in GOP excitement

Gov. Scott Walker and rival Mary Burke were still close in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, though the latest survey found a shift with Republicans now more excited to vote than their Dem counterparts.

The poll found Walker and Burke tied at 46 percent apiece among registered voters. Among likely voters, Walker had the edge 49-46.

In last month’s poll, 47.5 percent of registered voters backed Walker, while 44.1 percent favored Burke, while among likely voters it was 48.6 percent for Burke and 46.5 percent for Walker.

Poll director Charles Franklin said the survey found a shift from the last poll in August with Republicans now more enthusiastic about voting than Dems. The sample also was more Republicans than the last one. He said that could be attributed to either an outlier survey or that there is a true shift among the electorate. Franklin noted a growth in GOP partisanship across all geographic regions and other factors that make it less likely the results were an outlier.

The poll also found a closer contest in the AG campaign than last month.

Thirty-nine percent of registered voters backed Dem Susan Happ, while 38 percent support Republican Brad Schimel among registered voters. Among likely voters, it was 42-41 for Schimel.

In August, 40 percent of registered voters favored Happ, while 33 percent supported Shimel. Among likely voters, 42 percent backed Happ, while 32 percent supported Schimel.

The September poll of 800 registered voters, including 589 likely voters, was conducted Thursday through Sunday using land lines and cell phones. The margin of error for registered voters was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, while the margin was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points for likely voters.

 -- By JR Ross

 9:24 AM 

Republicans file suit challenging redesigned ballot

Republicans filed suit this morning in Waukesha County court challenging a redesigned ballot to be used for the November election, arguing it unfairly favors Dems.

The lawsuit, filed by the campaigns of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, argues the new design will also cause confusion among voters and lead to undervotes.

The suit seeks a declaration the new ballot violates state law, a ban on the GAB requiring local clerks to use the new ballot template and an order for the elections agency to immediately tell municipalities they must use the old design.

The suit notes previous ballot templates typically had a shaded area at the top of each office for voters to consider. There are solid lines between the shaded box and the first candidate listed as well as lines between each candidate up for that office.

Under the new design, the office is not shaded and there is no line between the office up for election and the first candidate listed. Lines separate each candidate.

Dem candidates are listed first this year because President Obama won the state in 2012.

The GOP's suit points to GAB Director Kevin Kennedy's comments at a news conference yesterday in which he said he had some "quibbles with the way some of the things came out." But Kennedy also said any suggestion GAB staff had a partisan motivation in the redesign was "absurd."

2014 general election ballot (new design)

2014 primary election ballot (using previous design)

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 2:36 PM 

GAB says photo ID needed for absentee ballots to count, ACLU asking for hearing before full appeals court

Those seeking to vote absentee this fall will have to provide local clerks a copy of their photo ID before their ballots will be counted, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said today.

Meanwhile, the ACLU said it plans to file a request for the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case after a three-judge panel lifted a stay on Friday holding up enforcement of the law.

Kennedy told an afternoon news conference absentee ballots are the most pressing issue in implementing the requirement. 

Some absentee ballots had already been mailed out before the decision came down, and some ballots have already been returned.

He said clerks are being asked to send a written communication to those voters that they need to get a copy of their photo ID to their local clerk as soon as possible. If they are not there by Election Day, their vote will be treated as a provisional ballot. Those absentee ballots missing the photo ID requirement will not be destroyed. 

The GAB is also asking clerks to follow up through other methods.
“This is where we’re asking the clerks to take some extraordinary steps,” Kennedy said.
In those cases where voters have requested an absentee ballot, but they have not been mailed, Kennedy said clerks are being instructed to make clear voters need to provide a copy of their ID before the ballots will be mailed.

-- By Staff

 9:10 AM 

New Burke ad tells Walker to 'stop digging'

Dem guv candidate Mary Burke's campaign today announced a new TV ad using footage from Gov. Scott Walker's latest spot.

The Burke ad begins with a clip of Walker saying in an ad, "It's a lot easier to dig a hole than to get out of one."

"But hold on -- it was Gov. Walker who got us here," an announcer says. "His tax breaks for the wealthy helped create a $1.8 billion deficit ... and Wisconsin hit rock bottom in Midwest job growth."

"Gov. Walker, please stop digging," the ad concludes.

-- By Staff

Sunday, September 14, 2014

 12:01 AM 

Walker's new jobs package limits public assistance, extends tuition freeze to tech colleges

Gov. Scott Walker's new jobs package calls for drug testing of adults seeking unemployment checks or food stamps and setting new limits on public assistance for those without children.

Requiring drug testing for public assistance has been struck down in at least one other state, but Walker downplayed those concerns as he discussed the jobs plan he released seven weeks out from the election.

In an interview, Walker told WisPolitics.com he wants to cap public assistance programs at 48 months rather than the current 60 and says drug testing is a way to get people ready for work. The plan also would require childless adults receiving food stamps or unemployment benefits to participate in job training or part-time work.

“If you're an able-bodied, working age adult, particularly one without children, and you want things like food stamps or an unemployment check, we'll give you help. We just don't believe it should be permanent," Walker said.

He said the approach is better for taxpayers, employers and the people seeking jobs.

"We'll help you out, but we want something in return," he said. "What I hear repeatedly from employers are the request, 'Just send me people who are willing to work and drug free.'"

Wisconsin would join at least 11 states that have passed drug testing requirements for those applying for or receiving public assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A federal judge, however, struck down Florida's drug testing law late last year, ruling it violated constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in February.

Walker’s proposal would apply to “able-bodied, working-age childless adults.”

"We're willing to give people assistance, but we want them to be getting prepared to work,” Walker said. “And what we know is it just seems crazy that if we're trying to prepare people to work, one of the first things employers do overwhelmingly is say they want a drug test to make sure people are drug-free."

Joe Zepecki, a spokesman for Dem guv hopeful Mary Burke, slammed the package for being light on details and called it a political document rolled out in the final weeks of the campaign in the hopes of helping him "keep his job."

"The people of Wisconsin deserved a real, detailed, thought out plan from this Governor four years ago," Zepecki said. "Instead, they're left with more of the same politics first approach that has led us to where we are today -- dead last in the Midwest in private sector job growth and facing a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall."

The jobs package also restates a series of Walker goals, such as making property taxes in 2018 lower than they were in 2010. Some pieces also would extend previous Walker priorities, with the guv expanding his pledge to cut taxes each year he’s in office to now pledging income taxes would be lower in 2018 than they are now. He would extend the tuition freeze at the UW System to tech colleges, too.

But a 60-page overview is light on details for how the guv would accomplish those goals. It largely reads as a review of his first term and a contrast with the record of Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, including the time Burke served as Doyle’s Commerce secretary.

Republicans pushed through a cut in income tax rates as part of the 2013-15 budget and followed that up with a second tax cut package earlier this year that changed withholding tables and bought down $400 million of the tech college property tax levy.

Walker said he had no specific number for an income tax cut, but said he would target relief toward the middle brackets. Likewise, he did not commit to a preferred path for reducing property taxes.

Walker’s call for new tax cuts follows a projection pegging the state’s structural deficit for the 2015-17 biennium at $1.8 billion. That had led some to believe there will be little room for big spending priorities or tax reductions without cuts elsewhere or a rebound in revenues.

Walker said he’s confident revenue growth will cover the shortfall while allowing for money to be returned to taxpayers.

"Our goal is that rates across the board will be lower in four years than they are today in the same way that our goal is to have property taxes being lower," Walker said

Walker’s plan includes broad promises to provide tax relief for manufacturing and agriculture and removing barriers to starting a new company and expanding a small business.

Other goals include:

*Continuing the two-year freeze on UW tuition. Walker has previously proposed the move, though his plan would extend it tech colleges as well. The guv said the state would invest in tech colleges, “particularly in high-need areas,” to help cover rising costs with a tuition cap in place.

*Expanding the Fast Forward program to provide more customized worker training in cooperation with private employers.

*A promise to “fight ObamaCare,” though it does not say how. The guv declined federal money to expand the Medicaid program as proposed under the Affordable Care Act. He instead covered all of those below the federal poverty line through BadgerCare while pushing others who had previously received health coverage through the program into the federal exchanges.

The guv said his administration would work with the congressional delegation to seek changes to the program if Republicans win the Senate this fall.

"Outright repeal isn't likely but we're still going to push for that, and we're going to push for some additional relief," Walker said.

* See related documents

-- By JR Ross and Andy Szal

Friday, September 12, 2014

 4:41 PM 

GAB plans to implement voter ID in November after appeals court lifts stay

After hearing oral arguments today, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on Wisconsin's voter ID law, clearing the way for the law to be in place for November's elections.

The order says the stay was lifted in part because of a state Supreme Court ruling making it easier for some voters to obtain the necessary documentation.

"This reduces the likelihood of irreparable injury, and it also changes the balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief," the order says. "The panel has concluded that the state's probability of success on the merits of this appeal is sufficiently great that the state should be allowed to implement its law, pending further order of this court."

The Government Accountability Board said it is working to have the law in place for November.

"We are taking every step to fully implement the voter photo ID law for the November General Election," GAB director Kevin Kennedy said. "We are now focused on communicating with local election officials and voters, and will have more information about the details next week."

"Today's decision is a victory for common sense, fair elections, and the right of every eligible voter to cast a vote that will count," AG J.B. Van Hollen said in response. "My staff and I will work with the Government Accountability Board to ensure every eligible voter will be able to cast a ballot."

ACLU of Wisconsin executive director Chris Ahmuty said the order would "cause chaos and disruption for voters and elections workers for the November election."

He added: "The state has not demonstrated it is prepared to make this new ID scheme work. The new procedures were presented at the last second and it is unclear whether or how they will work in time to ensure that eligible voters are actually able to vote. It has not demonstrated how it will train 1,852 municipal clerks and tens of thousands of poll workers, as well as notifying voters of the new rules."

See more reaction here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

 9:34 AM 

New Burke TV ad knocks Walker for cutting EITC

Mary Burke is out with a new TV ad today that says Gov. Scott Walker was wrong for reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The 30-second spot opens with Burke in a neighborhood saying Ronald Reagan had a really good idea about taxes.

“Surprised you, didn’t I?” she says before adding he expanded the EITC and cut taxes for working families.

She then says Walker “had a really bad idea” in reducing the credit. 

“Cutting taxes for the wealthiest and raising them on 140,000 Wisconsin families,” she says to close the spot. “Raising income taxes on working families isn't just bad economics, it's wrong.”

Burke’s campaign said the spot will run in the Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau and Eau Claire/La Crosse markets.

-- By JR Ross

 8:16 AM 

Walker ad: 'Easier to dig a hole than to get out of one'

Gov. Scott Walker's campaign today announced a new TV ad that features the governor standing in a ditch, saying, "It's a lot easier to dig a hole than to get out of one."

"The policies my opponent supports, well, they got us in a pretty big hole," Walker says. "Raised our taxes, left a massive deficit and cost Wisconsin 133,000 jobs."

As the governor climbs a ladder, he says his reforms -- cutting taxes, eliminating the deficit and creating more than 100,000 jobs -- "got us out of the hole."

"My opponent criticizes the Wisconsin comeback. She wants to undo our reforms and dig another hole," Walker says. "Instead, let's keep moving Wisconsin forward."

-- By Staff

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