Terrence Wall, a Madison developer and GOP candidate for U.S. Senate next year, announced Monday that a pair of state Republican heavyweights will co-chair his effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton.
His campaign team now includes former Thompson administration DOA Secretary Jim Klauser and Republican National Committeewoman Mary Buestrin.
"Terrence knows that small businesses and entrepreneurs are the real job creators in our economy, not the federal government," Buestrin said in a statement from the Wall Campaign. "Massive new government spending is driving our nation deeply into debt and mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren. Terrence has the ideas, drive and discipline to turn things around and ensure a brighter future."
Wall faces a GOP primary against Watertown businessman David Westlake.
See a recent WisPolitics interview with Wall here.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold rolled out the first program targeted by his "Spotlight on Spending" series Monday, calling for an end to funding media broadcasts to Cuba.
Feingold argues the $300 million in federal money spent on Radio and TV Marti -- established by the Reagan administration in 1983 -- reaches very few Cubans due to jamming by Cuban government. Feingold also says the broadcasts fail to meet journalistic standards with regard to balance and objectivity.
"As we progress toward a more modern and constructive relationship with Cuba, Radio and TV Marti no longer have any real diplomatic or fiscal purpose," Feingold said in a statement. "I plan to bring up this issue when the Senate takes up President Obama's recently announced nominees to the Broadcasting Board of Governors."
The program was one of more than 40 highlighted under Feingold's "Control Spending Now Act," which was introduced in October. The "Spotlight on Spending" series -- which the New York Times compared to former Wisconsin Dem Senator William Proxmire's "Golden Fleece" awards -- will regularly highlight the individual spending provisions Feingold hopes to eliminate.
A National Republican Senate Committee spokesman reiterated the GOP's position that Feingold's bill contradicts his votes in favor of the federal stimulus legislation earlier this year.
"If Russ Feingold really wants to turn the spotlight on spending, voters need only look at his misguided votes in favor of the 'stimulus' package that has been fraught with waste and his ardent support for the Democrats' $2.5 trillion government-run health care bill -- both of which added to our already skyrocketing national deficit," said Colin Reed of the NRSC in a statement.
Feingold's staff previously noted a vote against an omnibus spending bill this year as an example of the Middleton Democrat's "long history of fiscal responsibility."
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson says the Senate version of a health care bill is "another milestone in achieving meaningful health-care reform," despite his concerns about some aspects of the proposal.
Thompson, also a former secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush, issued a statement with former Dem U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri pleading for "bipartisan consensus" to address the crisis in American health care.
Thompson and Gephardt issued their statement through "America's Agenda: Health Care for All," which hosted both former officials for a discussion on health care reform earlier this year in Madison.
"Any final bill passed into law must focus on both the human and economic impact, ensuring that access and affordability are achieved for employers, employees, and Americans currently without coverage," the statement reads. "We can all agree that the opportunity before us is far too great to let specific differences stand in the way of reaching consensus legislation needed this year."
The Senate voted 60-39 Saturday to invoke cloture on the health care bill, bringing the bill to the chamber floor; both Wisconsin senators voted with the majority.
U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, is one of 11 Democratic House members to propose paying for the war effort in Afghanistan through a "war surtax."
The bill -- titled the "Share the Sacrifice Act" -- would end the practice of paying for the 8 year-old war through borrowing beginning in 2011. The tax would be set at levels to fully fund the previous year's costs of the war, and would provide exemptions for military families. The bill would also allow the president to delay the surtax for one year if he determines "the economy is too weak to sustain that kind of tax change."
Obey, who serves as chairman of the House Appropriations committe, said that criticism over health care spending rings hollow when the Obama administration is also being asked to commit nearly $1 trillion more to Afghanistan.
"The only people who've paid any price for our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are our military families," Obey said in a statement. "We believe that if this war is to be fought, it's only fair that everyone share the burden."
State Rep. Roger Roth, a Republican from Appleton, has sent out a fundraising appeal announcing his intention to seek the GOP nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen in the 8th CD.
Under a header that reads "Roger Roth for Congress," the letter blasts Democrats for taking the United States down the wrong path. Roth will make an official announcement on Dec. 1 on whether or not he will enter the race.
"In 2010 we will decide if our nation can be preserved as a beacon of hope to the world or if it will continue on a certain path toward socialism and economic stagnation," Roth says in the letter.
"Our founding fathers were wise. They were faithful in giving to us a political and economic system that has become the envy of the world. Today this system is under a great attack from within.
"This attack comes from the liberal elite who believe that spending and wasting massive amounts of money while going ever deeper in debt is the answer to every problem. You and I know that we are in serious trouble. Borrowing, taxing and incessant spending is only digging a deeper economic hole."
Roth is in his second term in the Assembly. A member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, he recently returned from a mission to Iraq.
The Federal Elections Commission said Thursday it hadn't yet received a registration statement from Roth
Roth joins a crowded GOP primary field which includes former state Rep. Terri McCormick, who Roth succeeded in the Assembly.
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, is touting the Senate Judiciary Committee's unanimous approval of his bill to crack down on black market tobacco.
The bill -- dubbed the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act -- would increase sellers' reporting requirements, strenthen law enforcement and penalties against tobacco trafficking, and ban the U.S. Postal Service from delivering tobacco products.
"Tobacco smuggling has developed into a popular, and highly profitable, means of generating revenue for criminal and terrorist organizations," Kohl said in a statement. "Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Hamas have all generated significant revenue from the sale of counterfeit cigarettes. That money is often raised right here in the United States, and it is then funneled back to these international terrorist groups."
GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Latham says he crafted the "Keep Terrorists Out of the Midwest Act" in response to constituents who are "rightfully concerned about the proposed relocation of Guantanamo Bay terrorist-detainees to our backyard."
Thomson's nearly-vacant prison facility is just across the Mississippi River from the Hawkeye State, but Latham included 11 states in his bill due to "the numerous potential sites deemed suitable by the White House for the transfer of terrorist-detainees throughout the Midwest."
Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois would be joined on the list by Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska and Kansas. Latham says he has asked members from each state included in the bill to sign on to his effort.
In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing more noteworthy for its sparring over the decision to try alleged 9/11 conspirators in civilian court in New York, Wisconsin's U.S. senators each pressed Attorney General Eric Holder on the ongoing investigation of the shooting spree at Fort Hood Military Base earlier this month.
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, asked Holder what steps the Department of Justice is taking immediately to prevent a similar incident, noting that alleged shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had already come to the attention of the FBI before the rampage. Two Wisconsin soldiers were among the fatalities at Fort Hood, while four Wisconsin soldiers were wounded.
"I understand that a thorough investigation will take time to complete, but we need to protect our troops now," Kohl said.
Feingold asked Holder to commit to "making public to the greatest degree possible the conclusions the executive branch reaches" in the Fort Hood investigation, arguing that families of the victims and the public at large deserves to know how the tragedy could have been prevented.
"In a way that's consistent with ensuring that we don't do harm to the potential trial," Holder responded. "I think that it is our obligation to make clear to this committee, to the American public, what the results of our investigation are so that we have a way in which, working with this committee, we prevent further tragedies like that occurred at Fort Hood."
Feingold also asked Holder about the increasing problem of heroin trafficking, both in Wisconsin and nationally; Kohl used the remainder of his questions to focus on the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, has been awarded the "Congressional Workhorse Award" by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, his office announced today.
Kohl, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, was honored for his work on behalf of agricultural research.
"Some people make the faulty assumption that our nation's success in agriculture diminishes the need for research. To me, just the opposite is true," Kohl said in his acceptance speech in Washington. "We're going to need more of your expertise in the decades ahead."
Former state Rep. Terri McCormick announced today that she is making a second bid for the GOP nomination in the 8th CD.
McCormick represented portions of Winnebago and Outagamie counties in the Assembly for three terms. But she gave up her seat to challenge former Speaker John Gard in 2006 for the GOP nomination in the 8th CD. She won 32 percent of the vote in the primary.
"Our country is at a crossroads and it has become clear that we are spending beyond our means. What tough choices will the politicians make?" she said in a statement announcing her campaign.
McCormick joins a crowded field of half a dozen candidates looking to challenge Dem Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton, with several potential candidates still weighing a bid.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind says the key to peace and stability in the Middle East likely lies not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in Pakistan.
"It is in Pakistan, especially in the western provinces, where most of the al-Qaida and Taliban leadership resides," said the La Crosse Democrat, who returned yesterday from a trip to the country with congressional colleagues.
Kind said Pakistan is fiercely protective of its sovereignty and does not allow U.S. military operations on their soil. But the Pakistani government is battling those al-Qaida and Taliban elements, he said, and allowing the U.S. to launch drone attacks against the terrorist camps.
"But Pakistan at the end of the day is doing more to confront and capture and kill terrorists than any other nation in the world, and they're also the nation that is suffering from more terrorist attacks than any other nation by far," he said.
"They're in the midst of a civil war," Kind continued. "It is a Muslim nation fighting other Muslim terrorist groups within their border. And how that ultimate clash plays out is going to determine whether or not those sanctuaries or safe havens continue to exist."
Kind and his colleagues met with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and are planning a parliamentary exchange to allow Pakistani members to come to Washington, D.C., stressing the importance of strengthening U.S. relations with Pakistan.
The 8th CD, featuring incumbent Dem Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton, is listed as a lean Democratic. Half a dozen Republicans are eying a shot at Kagen, who holds a traditionally GOP-leaning seat.
The 3rd CD, featuring incumbent Dem Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, is listed as likely Democratic. State Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, is challenging Kind for the seat.
The Cook Report rated the most competitive seats as toss ups with the next tier described as leaning toward one party or the other. The third tier of races on the list were not considered competitive yet, but have the potential to become engaged. Those were described as likely Dem or likely GOP.
Wisconsin Republicans have been trying to make the case that Ashland County DA Sean Duffy has a good shot at making the 7th CD competitive against Appropriations Chair Dave Obey. But the race was not listed in the Cook Report analysis.
Ashland County DA Sean Duffy expressed confidence that he has what it takes to end Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Obey's nearly 40-year hold on northwestern Wisconsin's 7th CD.
Duffy told "UpFront with Mike Gousha" that George W. Bush and AG J.B Van Hollen fell just short of their Democratic rivals in recent elections and that "this is a very close district."
"I think with my message, with a strong campaign and with the dollars to get the message out, I think people are ready for a new direction in Wisconsin's 7th," Duffy said.
Duffy said he's running a grassroots campaign and doesn't expect the national or state party to get involved, but would be "delighted" if they did.
"I'm going to do it on my own," Duffy said. "And if the national or state party gets involved I'll be delighted, but I don't have a campaign structure based on their support."
To take on Obey, Duffy must defeat a primary challenge from Republican Dan Mielke. Duffy pointed to what he called a "groundswell" of support he's received so far that he said Mielke's failed to generate.
Duffy was critical of the federal stimulus bill, of which Obey was a key author, saying it failed to live up to its promises in job creation. "I think it's fair to say this stimulus package is a failure," Duffy said, pointing out that he'd prefer tax cuts for businesses and families.
In addition to being Ashland's district attorney, Duffy is also known for appearing on MTV's "The Real World Boston" in 1997, which he didn't see as a factor in the race.
"I don't think people are concerned about a reality TV show from 15 years ago, I think they're concerned about their reality today," Duffy said.
Dave de Felice figures he's doing Tammy Baldwin a favor by looking at running against her in the Dem primary next year.
A challenge from a fellow Dem will only make her a better candidate, he claims.
"We're not in a monarchy. You don't inherit these seats in perpetuity," said de Felice, who's in his third term on the Dane County Board and has formed an exploratory committee to look at running against Baldwin, D-Madison, in office since 1999. "That's why they have elections every two years."
de Felice, a legislative aide to state Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, has indicated he plans to run to Baldwin's left on some issues -- an interesting proposition to some considering the incumbent has consistently been ranked as one of the more liberal members of Congress during her decade in office and is the only openly gay woman serving in the body.
But de Felice accuses Baldwin of abandoning her principles in voting for the health care overhaul that the House approved on Saturday, saying the public option was watered down when it was re-written to allow insurers to negotiate reimbursement rates. de Felice said that kills hopes for cost controls, and he would have voted against the bill.
"That bill is like Congress drilling holes in a sinking ship to let the water out," de Felice said. "It is worse than having nothing."
The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America program is asking supporters to visit the local offices of Republicans from districts won by Barack Obama last fall to ask why the congressmen "decided to go against their constituents, stand with the health insurance industry and support the status quo on health care."
The 32 targeted House Republicans include Tom Petri of Fond du Lac and Paul Ryan of Janesville. Every Republican but one, Louisiana's Anh Cao, voted against the House health care reform bill last weekend. It passed 220-215.
"This effort is just the most recent by OFA and the DNC to ensure that Republicans are held accountable for both their positions and their false claims on the issue," according to a statement from OFA. "Today, the DNC announced that House Republicans would be the latest target of its 'Call 'em Out' campaign, calling out House Republicans for their continued use of debunked claims and outright lies to distort the health insurance reform debate and block reform."
Petri blasted the bill as a "budgetary train wreck" before voting against it Saturday, while Ryan has been one of the GOP's most outspoken critics of the Dem bill.
DPW Executive Director Mike Tate singled out Petri and Ryan earlier this week for their votes, noting that both the 6th and 1st districts went to Obama in his decisive Wisconsin victory last year.
"Petri and Ryan have made it clear that they will tow the party line instead of doing what is best for their constituents and the rest of Wisconsin," Tate said in a statement.
UPDATE: The DNC has gone up on the air with a pair of 30-second radio spots in both the 1st and 6th CDs, saying that Ryan and Petri "stood with the insurance industry, not the people (they were) elected to represent."
Former Niagara Mayor Joseph Stern has filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission to run in the 8th Congressional District.
Stern says he will run as a "conservative independent."
A crowded field of Republican candidates is lining up for the chance to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton. Among them are Kaukauna roofer Reid Ribble, Door Co. Board Supv. Marc Savard, Brown Co. Board Supv. Andy Williams, Kerry Thomas of Sayner and Marc Trager, a physician from Howard.
Rep. Roger Roth, R-Grand Chute, is also said to be mulling a run. Roth, a member of the Air National Guard, returned from a mission in Iraq yesterday.
Also mulling a run is former state Rep. Terri McCormick, who preceded Roth in the Assembly. McCormick said she will announce her intentions Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold completed his 72nd and final county listening session of 2009 with a stop in Stevens Point this morning.
Feingold, D-Middleton, has visited each county every year since 1993, and said this year broke previous records for attendance at his listening sessions.
"This is democracy in action and I am grateful to all those who took time out of their busy schedules to come to my meetings and let me know about the issues important to them," Feingold said in a statement. "The feedback I receive is essential to my job as a U.S. Senator."
Not surprisingly, health care dwarfed all other topics over the course of the year, with more than 1,000 attendees raising questions or concerns about the issue as health care reform works its way through Congress.
Four members of the Wisconsin delegation traveled to Kileen, Texas Wednesday for a memorial service to honor 13 soldiers killed in a shooting spree on the Fort Hood military base last week.
Two of the dead were Wisconsin natives: Sgt. Amy Krueger of Kiel and Capt. Russell Seager of Racine.
Both Wisconsin's senators attended, along with U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.
Two of the four Wisconsin soldiers wounded in the attack hail from Baldwin's district. Petri represents Sgt. Krueger's hometown in the House.
"I am anguished by the death of Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger of Kiel, who joined the service in response to 9/11, who served in Afghanistan, and who took as her motto, 'All gave some, some gave all. Sacrifice,'" Petri said in a statement. "I want to note what a privilege it is to attend the memorial service at Ft. Hood. I'm sure all of the 6th District would be here as well to honor our soldiers, if that were possible."
Sean Duffy, a Republican challenging Dem U.S. Rep. Dave Obey in the state's 7th Congressional District, has launched radio and Web ads ripping the power House Appropriations Committee chairman for the federal stimulus bill.
"Obey told us his bill would create 3 million jobs, but since the bill has passed we've lost more than 3 million jobs ... and unemployment has jumped to over 10 percent," a voice over says in the ad.
"Now reports reveal the wasteful projects and special favors tucked in Obey's bill. David Obey's response? 'So What?!'"
Duffy, the district attorney for Ashland County, is facing a Republican primary against Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke.
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen is one of 20 House Dems liberal groups are supporting through a series of TV ads thanking them for their votes this past weekend for the health care bill.
The spots, sponsored by Health Care for American Now and AFSCME, begin running tomorrow in Green Bay and will be up for one week.
The narrator says "it's about more than just health care" for Kagen. It's about helping small businesses survive and grow, taking on insurance companies, making health care affordable, ending the denial of coverage if you're sick and "putting medical decisions back in the hands of you and your doctor."
"Thank Congressman Kagen for standing up to the insurance companies and fighting for us," the narrator says as the ad ends.
The groups that comprise the HCAN coalition include: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, SEIU, WISDOM, WEAC, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, AFT-Wisconsin, Center for Rural Affairs, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Coalition for Wisconsin Health, Community Advocates Inc., Disability Rights Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin, Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin, Grassroots North Shore, Milwaukee 9to5, NAMI Wisconsin, National Association of Social Workers, One Wisconsin Now, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations, Voces de la Frontera, UFCW Local 1473, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, Wisconsin Council of Children and Families, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and Wisconsin Laborers District Council.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind joined a small, bipartisan group of congressmen in departing for Pakistan today.
Kind, D-La Crosse, will assist in overseeing U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the volatile region. He last traveled to South Asia in February.
"As the President conducts a comprehensive overview to determine a new strategy in Afghanistan and throughout the region, it is important that we examine economic development and disable terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and throughout the region," Kind said in a statement.
U.S. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, is the lead author of a letter sent yesterday to congressional leaders urging a conference committee to maintain $100 million in federal funding for Youth Mentor Grants.
The money -- originally included in the Senate version of the 2010 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill -- is, according to Moore, "critical to providing support to proven national, regional and local mentoring programs." Moore and 48 other House members are hopeful that the House will sign onto the provision for the final bill.
"In the U.S. today, 17.6 million young people -- nearly half the youth population -- want or need mentors to help them reach their full potential, and nearly 44 million adults say they are willing to become mentors," Moore writes. "Yet, due to funding limitations, only a fraction of these children are actually provided the caring adult relationships that could change their lives for the better."
As thousands of conservative activists crowd Washington, D.C. today to protest the upcoming House health care reform vote, U.S. Rep. Dave Obey said a group of protesters who contacted his congressional office showed "how far out of the mainstream the vocal minority opposing healthcare reform has become."
Obey, D-Wausau, said the protesters he talked to over the phone each advocated the repeal of Medicare in addition to voting down the health care reform bill.
"Make no mistake about it, the vast majority of people in the 7th District do not favor repealing Medicare and they do not favor the status-quo when it comes to healthcare," Obey said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri praised the protesters and insisted they were making a difference as Congress prepares for a likely vote this weekend.
"The concern, the patriotism and the focus of the people who are here is sure to have an impact," the Fond du Lac Republican said in a statement. "It may not overnight, but it's definitely making a difference."
U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl praised former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler today as his nomination for the federal bench in Madison was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Justice Butler not only has an impressive legal background, but he is a fine man," Kohl said as he introduced Butler to the committee. "He possesses all the best qualities that we look for in a judge: intelligence, diligence, humility and integrity."
Feingold quoted Butler writing once that "because I am dedicated to achieving equal justice for all people, including the downtrodden and those who lack resources. I embrace the sentiment that injustice to anyone is intolerable and that everyone should have access to the courts and a right to be heard."
"Mr. Chairman, I believe these words are a very appropriate calling card for a United States District Court judge, and I strongly support Justice Butler's nomination," Feingold said.
No vote was scheduled Wednesday upon the conclusion of the first phase of Butler's confirmation hearing. But barring opposition by members of the Judiciary Committee, Butler could be confirmed by the panel as early as mid-November. Following committee confirmation, Butler's nomination would proceed to the Senate floor for a full vote of the chamber.
Phase two of Butler's confirmation process is expected to get underway the next time the Judiciary Committee meets in executive session. Because the Senate next week is scheduled be in recess from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13 for Veteran's Day, the earliest that could occur is the week of Nov. 15.
Republicans could decide to hold the nomination over for an additional week, which is standard operating procedure for whichever party is in the minority and does not necessarily reflect on the nominee. That would delay the vote until after Thanksgiving.
Because there is a backlog of Obama nominees on the Senate floor, it remains unclear when Butler would receive a final confirmation vote, should he be approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Wisconsin's three Republican congressman -- Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, Paul Ryan of Janesville, and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls -- came out in opposition to the House version of the hotly-debated health care reform bill announced last week.
"Speaker Pelosi's health care bill is a budgetary train wreck," Petri said in a joint statement from all three lawmakers. "(I)t promises radical government intrusions in every sector of health care, it will have the effect of breaking the President's promise that 'you can keep what you have,' it will not bend the cost curve down, it will send insurance premiums through the roof, it threatens Medicare Advantage plans in Wisconsin, it allows government funding of abortion, and there is no real liability reform."
"Before the government raises taxes to pay for yet another program, I think they owe it to Wisconsinites to cut out their waste, fraud and abuse," Sensenbrenner added.
Ryan pledged that the House GOP "will continue to offer better solutions," even as the bill heads to a likely floor vote late this week.
Dane County Supervisor David de Felice announced Monday that he will form an exploratory committee for challenging U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, for the 2nd CD Democratic nomination in 2010.
"On this day in 2010, voters in the 2nd CD will elect a new representative to Congress," said de Felice -- who represents parts of Madison's east side and the Town of Blooming Grove -- in a statement. "I want them to have a choice. Someone with Democratic Party values in the tradition of Bill Proxmire, and someone who's independent in the spirit of 'Fighting Bob' La Follette."
Baldwin, who has represented the 2nd CD since 1998, already has two declared GOP challengers in businessman Chad Lee and teacher and 2008 opponent Peter Theron.