• WisPolitics

Saturday, January 30, 2016

 11:35 PM 

Ribble won't seek re-election

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble announced today he will not seek re-election this fall.

The GOP lawmaker said he made several promises when he originally ran for Congress in 2010: to roll back federal discretionary spending to pre-bailout, pre-stimulus levels; to make Bush tax rates permanent; and to limit himself to a maximum of eight years in the House.

"My reasons are fairly simple and straightforward," Ribble said. "I feel very fortunate to have a strong marriage, grown children, and three wonderful grandchildren. I want to dedicate more time to them. Additionally, I’ve always said elected office shouldn’t be a career. I come from the private sector and am anxious to return to it and to a more private life."

-- By Staff

Friday, January 29, 2016

 4:00 PM 

Johnson raises about $1 million less than Feingold in fourth quarter of 2015

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, raised $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, about $1 million less than Dem rival Russ Feingold.

Johnson’s campaign said he will report spending $758,000 for the three-month period and ended the year with $4.4 million in the bank.

Feingold, D-Middleton, raised almost $2.7 million between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 and had $4.8 million in the bank. Since jumping in the race mid-May, Feingold has now raised $7.4 million.

Johnson collected $6.3 million in 2015.

Johnson’s campaign said for the most recent three-month period, more than 83 percent of the contributions were from Wisconsin, while more than 84 percent of the donations were less than $100.

-- By JR Ross

 3:22 PM 

Walker's presidential campaign ended 2015 $1.2 million in debt, super PAC returned $18.4 million in donations

Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign ended 2015 with $1.2 million in debt, according to his filing with the FEC today.

The report showed Walker also raised $597,280 over the final three months of 2015 and had $153,460 cash on hand.

His campaign focused on the amount of money he was able to raise in the period, which occurred after he formally dropped out of the race in September.

"Governor Walker made substantial progress in addressing financial commitments over the last quarter, and he remains humbled by the outpouring of support from friends across the country who continue to believe in his commonsense reform agenda," said spokesman Joe Fadness.

Meanwhile, the super PAC that backed Walker’s campaign raised $24.1 million last year, according to its latest report filed with the FEC.

The PAC ended up returning almost $18.4 million in donations after Walker dropped out of the race. That includes $4 million to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks and more than $3.9 million to Marlene Ricketts, the wife of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

The PAC also returned $2 million to Richard Uihlein, owner of the shipping company Uline, and $740,000 to his wife Elizabeth, the company president. It also sent back $1.2 million to Access Industries Inc., a New York holding company created by Leonard Blavatnik, a Russian-born business magnate.

-- By JR Ross

Thursday, January 28, 2016

 12:37 PM 

Clinton-Sanders race tightens in Marquette poll, Trump leads GOP race, Feingold lead stead

Bernie Sanders continued to close the gap with Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin's Dem presidential primary, while Donald Trump led the GOP field in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll.

Meanwhile, Dem Russ Feingold's lead over GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson remained steady at 50 percent to 37 percent, compared to a 49-38 spread in November.

Clinton led Sanders 50-41 in November and had a 12-point lead in September. But the latest survey has the Dem primary race at 45-43 in her favor, well within the poll's margin of error.

On the GOP side, Trump led the pack at 24 percent with Marco Rubio at 18 percent and Ted Cruz at 16 percent. In November, Ben Carson led at 22 percent with Trump and Rubio at 19 percent and Cruz at 9 percent. Carson has now dropped back to 8 percent.

The poll of 806 registered voters was conducted Jan. 21-24 with half of the interviews conducted via landlines and the rest over cell phones. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The sample included 313 GOP presidential primary voters and the margin of error for those questions was plus or minus 6.5 percentage points. It also included 312 Dem presidential primary voters and a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percentage points for those questions.

When leaners are included, 47 percent of the sample was Democratic, 42 percent Republican and 10 percent independent. That's in line with the poll's historical average.

 -- By JR Ross

 8:58 AM 

Candidates differ on approach to policing Supreme Court

MILWAUKEE -- Two Supreme Court candidates called Wednesday for changes in how the Wisconsin Supreme Court conducts its business, while Justice Rebecca Bradley defended the rules set by the body's conservative majority.

Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald also depicted themselves as more independent than Bradley, an appointee of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Bradley insisted she doesn't let her personal or political views influence her judicial decisions.

In their first forum, hosted by the Milwaukee Bar Association, the three candidates answered questions audience members submitted to moderator Steve Walters, senior producer for WisconsinEye. Many of those questions focused on court rules.

Donald supported creating an independent panel, perhaps of appeals court judges, to resolve ethics cases involving Supreme Court justices. Kloppenburg said Bradley had voted with fellow conservatives to defeat that change. Bradley said the request didn't follow proper procedure and that she would be open to considering changes within established rules.

The high court now polices itself. In 2010, justices deadlocked 3-3 on whether to try Justice Michael Gableman on charges of lying in a 2008 campaign ad. Another ethics case stalled when five of the seven justices recused themselves from considering whether Justice David Prosser physically attacked Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in 2011.

Kloppenburg and Donald said the court should be more transparent by meeting publicly on administrative matters and outlawing email votes, such as the procedure used to elect Pat Roggensack as chief justice. Rebecca Bradley said it was appropriate to discuss some administrative issues privately.

Donald also said justices should state a reason for recusing themselves from a case, as circuit court judges do. Bradley said justices sometimes must keep their reasons secret to avoid violating the confidentiality of a former law client. Kloppenburg agreed, but called for less-subjective recusal standards and for reconsidering a rule that says justices don't have to recuse themselves from cases involving campaign donors.

Kloppenburg and Donald repeatedly attacked the influence of politics and special interests on the court, on which conservatives hold a 5-2 edge.

"Our Supreme Court used to have a national reputation," Donald said. "It now also has a national reputation, but not the one it used to have."

He and Kloppenburg noted Bradley has accepted Republican Party assistance in the nonpartisan race and that Walker appointed her to the circuit and appeals courts before the Supreme Court.

"She's bringing her partisanship onto the court," Kloppenburg charged.

Bradley said she didn't solicit GOP aid and would accept help from anyone who offered it.

She also said the court needs justices like her, who "say what the law is, not what they wish it would be."

But Kloppenburg and Donald didn't limit their fire to Bradley. Kloppenburg noted she was the only candidate not originally appointed by a governor. Donald conceded he was appointed by GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson but also suggested the forum's seating -- with Bradley on his right and Kloppenburg on his left -- symbolized his centrism and their partisanship.

Bradley also took issue with the perception of a tensely divided court, saying she worked collegially with all the other justices. One sign this race is so far more civil than some past court campaigns: All three candidates hugged each other at the end of the forum.

-- By Larry Sandler

 8:00 AM 

California car dealer, developer files for Wisconsin Dem presidential primary

Roque "Rocky" de la Fuente, a California car dealer and developer, has filed signatures with the GAB seeking to be placed on the April Dem presidential primary ballot.

de la Fuente was not one of the candidates placed on the ballot earlier this month by a committee comprised of Dem and GOP leaders. Those who don't win recognition by the committee have the option to collect a minimum of 8,000 signatures -- with at least 1,000 from each of the state's eight congressional districts -- to qualify.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the campaign representative who filed the petitions Tuesday said they included about 11,500 signatures. But that had not yet been verified.

The deadline to challenge the filing is 4:30 p.m. Feb. 4. Magney said GAB staff will review the petitions, as well as any challenges filed, and make a recommendation to the board prior to the March 1 deadline for certifying the ballot.

See more on how the petition process works.

-- By Staff

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

 8:55 AM 

Feingold defends against GOP attacks over Tomah VA

Russ Feingold Tuesday slammed U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and his allies for suggesting the Wisconsin Dem failed to act in 2009 about concerns at the Tomah VA and linking him to the death five years later of a 35-year-old Marine being treated at the hospital.

The GOP attack has focused on a memo written by the union president at the VA hospital; the memo was marked as hand-delivered to Feingold and two fellow Wisconsin Dems.

Feingold again Tuesday said he didn't receive the memo and accused Johnson of having "made up" the suggestion that the Middleton Dem knew about the concerns of the prescription practices at the facility.

He also knocked Johnson, R-Oshkosh, on Tomah. Johnson has said his staff could have done more to address the concerns about opiate prescriptions following a report his staff didn't refer the complaints to leadership of a Senate committee that could have taken action. His staff referred them to aides on the committee, but no action was taken.

"Using a tragedy involving our fighting men and women as a way to try to get yourself re-elected is really kind of pathetic, and that's what's being done here," Feingold said at Marquette Law School as part of the "On the Issues" series with Mike Gousha.

Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger accused Feingold of playing the "blame game," saying Johnson took action once he personally learned of the problems.

"Ron is leading the only bipartisan investigation of what happened as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and is working to pass legislation to protect whistleblowers who try to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the first place," Reisinger said.

Feingold also refuted the GOP suggestion he's changed since leaving the Senate.

That includes the former senator dropping a pledge made during his first Senate campaign in 1992 to raise the majority of his money from Wisconsin.

Feingold said when he made that promise, he didn't anticipate the U.S. Supreme Court "would take all of our campaign laws and throw them in the garbage can." He said allowing corporations, billionaires and Johnson to have a super PAC has changed the campaign finance landscape dramatically.

Still, he defended his fundraising, saying 90 percent of his contributions are $100 or less and he has received donations from all 72 counties. He also said he's still getting more donations from Wisconsin than Johnson.

"Ask yourself who is more Wisconsin?" Feingold said.

He also said he hasn't changed his integrity or honesty. Still, his experiences since leaving the Senate, such as teaching at Marquette and serving as a special envoy to Africa, have changed him for the better, Feingold said.

"I feel good about who I am at this point, but it's not exactly who I was previously," he said.

Feingold also said he didn't run for guv after losing his Senate race because "the people of this state told me to take a break, so I did."

Some Dems had hoped Feingold would take on Gov. Scott Walker in the 2012 recall or 2014. But Feingold said it was appropriate to take some time away with his family.

On other topics, Feingold:

*indicated he would support the Dem nominee whoever it is, while calling Bernie Sanders an honorable person and committed progressive.

Some Republicans have called for Feingold to say whether he supports Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the Dem primary. He did not side with either candidate, saying he would be comfortable with both.

*praised the president for keeping his "eye on the ball" in seeking to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Republicans have criticized Feingold for his support of the deal the Obama administration negotiated with Iran. Feingold said it's still not certain the agreement will work, but it's looking like it will.

"The cement has been poured," Feingold said. "This can lead to the stopping of Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is very good."

Feingold also took a shot at Johnson, who has said he would support the U.S. invading territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria with a multinational coalition.

Feingold said that approach wouldn't address other areas of the world where ISIS has a foothold or other threats.

"Invading our way to security is not going to work," Feingold said.

The Johnson campaign's response to Feingold's appearance at Marquette included a knock on his support for the Iran deal.

"The Iran deal exemplifies the dangerously weak national security record Senator Feingold developed during his 18 years in Washington, and his hypocrisy on special interest money," the campaign said.

The statement also recounted past knocks the Johnson campaign has thrown at Feingold.

Johnson is scheduled to participate in the "On the Issues" series Feb. 5.

See the release:

Friday, January 15, 2016

 11:37 AM 

Walker's state account collects $514,148 in last half of 2015

Gov. Scott Walker collected $514,148 through his state campaign during the last half of 2015, a period that included the final months of his failed presidential bid.

It was one of Walker's smallest fundraising hauls since taking office, just eclipsing the $473,719 on his January 2013 report. That covered the six months after he shattered fundraising records in successfully fending off a June 2012 recall and while donors were focused on the fall campaign.

The latest report shows Walker spent $977,653 and had just $20,257 left in his campaign account Dec. 31.

Walker's income during the last six months of 2015 included $329,300 in individual donations and $5,000 from committees. The remaining $179,848 was listed under other income and commercial loans.

Even though he spent much of 2015 on the presidential campaign trail, Walker still raised $6.4 million through his state account for the full year, according to the cover sheet.

The guv is expected to file a report with the Federal Election Commission later this month that will update his efforts to pay off remaining debts from his presidential campaign.

See the cover sheet here.

-- By JR Ross

 8:20 AM 

Bradley raises $228,320 for Supreme Court bid in last half of 2015

Justice Rebecca Bradley raised $228,320 during the latest reporting period, according to a cover sheet released by her campaign.

That trails the $251,195 JoAnne Kloppenburg raised over the second half of 2015 for her Supreme Court bid, but ahead of the $141,270 Joe Donald pulled in.

Bradley trailed both challengers for cash on hand.

Still, Bradley's campaign stressed she did not announce her candidacy until mid-September. Both Kloppenburg and Donald jumped into the race before the six-month reporting period began.

Bradley spent $54,281 during the period and had $176,260 in the bank as of Dec. 31. Kloppenburg had $232,289 in her account, while Donald had a warchest of $195,724.

Bradley's cover sheet also listed an outstanding loan balance of $102,500. But that is leftover from her 2013 campaign to retain her then-seat on the Milwaukee County bench.

Campaign finance reports covering the last half of 2015 are due to the GAB today.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

 7:00 AM 

Feingold raised $2.7 million in fourth quarter

Dem Russ Feingold raised nearly $2.7 million during the last three months of 2015, his best quarter since launching his rematch with GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Feingold’s campaign said the Middleton Dem also will report $4.8 million in the bank at the close of December.

The haul tops the $2.4 million Feingold raised in the third quarter, his first full reporting period since launching his campaign in May.

Feingold’s campaign said 94 percent of the contributions he collected between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 were $100 or less.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, has yet to release his fundraising totals for the latest reporting period. He raised almost $1.4 million in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, and had $3.5 million cash on hand.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

 11:52 AM 

Kloppenburg raised $251,195 in second half of 2015 for Supreme Court bid

Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg raised $251,195 in the second half of 2015 for her Supreme Court bid, her campaign said.

The appeals court judge also spent $46,564 during the period and had $232,289 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

Fundraising reports detailing activity between July 1 and Dec. 31 are due Friday.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

 11:22 AM 

Knudson announces he won't seek re-election, second Assembly Republican to retire

JFC member Dean Knudson announced via Twitter today that he will not seek re-election this fall.

"'Rotation in office' makes us stronger and encourages citizens to step up and serve," wrote Knudson, R-Hudson. "It is time for me to return to private life."

Knudson made his announcement one day after freshman Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Wausau, announced he would not run, saying "a second term in the Legislature would not work for my family and their needs."

Knudson's decision will open up a spot on the powerful Joint Finance Committee.

-- By Staff

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

 1:23 PM 

Committee approves 15 Dem and Republican presidential candidates for spring primary ballot

The Presidential Preference Selection Committee today approved 15 Dem and Republican presidential candidates for the spring primary ballot.

There were no surprises in the list of candidates approved by the commission, which is comprised of Dem and GOP appointees.

The Dems who will appear on the ballot are: Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders.

The Republicans are: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.

The candidates have until Jan. 26 to withdraw. Otherwise, they will appear on the April 5 ballot.

-- By JR Ross

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