• WisPolitics

Friday, January 29, 2010

 10:06 AM 

Feingold: Alito's State of the Union reaction 'inappropriate'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, told Politico Thursday that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was "inappropriate" and "not very judicial" when he responded negatively to a statement in President Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday.

The incident occurred when Obama referenced last week's Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, which struck down limits on corporate campaign spending enacted in the 2002 campaign finance law authored by Feingold and U.S. Sen. John McCain.

As the president argued the ruling would "open the floodgates for special interests" in American politics, Alito shook his head and appeared to say "not true" as other members of the high court sat in silence.

"Apparently, he thinks he gets to make the law," said Feingold, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against Alito's nomination in 2006. "He should maintain his judicial demeanor, and that was inappropriate."

 9:50 AM 

Kohl, Feingold split on Bernanke confirmation

Wisconsin's U.S. senators parted ways in Thursday's 70-30 vote to confirm Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's nomination to a second term.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, was among the senators to endorse Bernanke. But U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, voted against his confirmation. Feingold indicated his opposition to a second term for Bernanke late last week.

The vote -- the closest for a Fed chair confirmation in history -- was somewhat bipartisan, with 11 Dems voting no and 21 Republicans crossing over to approve Bernanke.

 9:47 AM 

Feds award state $823 million for high-speed rail

Wisconsin is set to receive more than 10 percent of the $8 billion allotted for high-speed rail construction in the federal stimulus bill, Gov. Jim Doyle announced today in Milwaukee and Madison.

The funding -- totaling $823 million -- allows construction of new high-speed track between Milwaukee and Madison, along with improvements to the existing line between Milwaukee and Chicago and a study of proposals to lay more track connecting the Wisconsin cities to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"It is going to be a very, very different view of trains than anything we have seen before," Doyle said.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said the project would create 13,000 jobs in a wide spectrum of fields and would create a greater incentive for businesses to grow in or move to Wisconsin.

"This is our recovery plan in action," Baldwin said.

See more in Thursday's PM Update.

 8:50 AM 

Carp summit set for White House Feb. 8

Gov. Jim Doyle and the Obama administration announced Thursday that the proposed Asian carp summit will take place Feb. 8 at the White House.

Doyle, along with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, requested the summit after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an injunction to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the invasive fish out of Lake Michigan.

"We must act immediately to protect the Great Lakes, our region's greatest natural resource, against the devastating threat of Asian carp," Doyle said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the White House to protect this fragile ecosystem against Asian carp and other harmful invasive species."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

 12:26 PM 

Feingold reports $3.65 million war chest

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's campaign reports raising $947,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009 to finish with $3.65 million in the bank.

Feingold, D-Middleton, said the average contribution in 2009 was $50.

"While I'm focused on listening to the people of Wisconsin, and not a campaign 10 months away, I'm honored to have such grassroots support from across our state," Feingold said in a statement.

Madison developer Terrence Wall, who's running as a Republican to challenge Feingold, reported $500,000 raised for his campaign earlier this month. Feingold other announced GOP opponent, Watertown businessman David Westlake, has suspended his fundraising operation except for the sale of his campaign's blaze orange T-shirts.

UPDATE: See the Feingold Campaign's report to the Federal Election Commission here.

 12:26 PM 

Poll: Thompson edging Feingold 47-43 among likely voters

Tommy Thompson is up on Russ Feingold in a new Rasmussen Reports poll.

The survey found 47 percent of respondents backed Thompson for U.S. Senate, while 43 percent supported Feingold. Another 6 percent backed another candidate, while 4 percent were not sure.

The poll also found 56 percent of respondents had a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Thompson, while 39 percent had a somewhat or very unfavorable opinion of him.

Feingold's split was 47-48.

The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The poll did not include matchups with the only two Republicans who have announced for the race, Madison-area developer Terrence Wall and Watertown businessman David Westlake.

National Dems have been critical of Rasmussen surveys in recent months, charging they are skewed toward the GOP. Rasmussen has denied the charges.

Feingold's campaign said the poll doesn't reflect the reality on the ground.

"In order for this poll to be real you have to believe in three things that aren't. Tommy Thompson isn't in the Republican Party primary, he hasn't won it, and the election isn't today -- it's ten months from now," said campaign spokesman Trevor Miller. "The reality is we have built a strong grassroots campaign with over $3.6 million on hand to continue building off our strong foundation of 7 field offices and a volunteer army that will continue organizing Wisconsinites, step by step, in all 72 counties of the state. No other candidate or potential candidate can say that."

The survey also found 46 percent of respondents approved of the job President Obama has been doing, while 54 percent disapprove.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

 10:25 PM 

Some Dems question Obama budget freeze

Democrats in Wisconsin's congressional delegation praised President Obama's State of the Union speech Wednesday for its focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility, though some had reservations about his call for a three-year freeze on discretionary spending.

Republicans were more critical of the speech, saying the president's rhetoric has again failed to live up the reality of his policies.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a member of the House Budget Committee, said she's curious how Obama's call for a discretionary spending freeze would mesh with efforts to meet some of his ambitious goals in areas like research and development. She also said she will make the argument that education needs to be held harmless from any freeze because of the need for an educated workforce.

She also was not intimidated by his threat to use his veto pen if lawmakers did not heed his call for fiscal responsibility.

"He is a president. He is not a king," Moore, D-Milwaukee, told WisPolitics in an interview. "Therefore, Congress and the majority will try to make its mark on the budget process."

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said he was inspired by the speech and thrilled with Obama's veto threat. He complained that President Bush did not veto a single spending bill during his eight years in office as the federal government saw its fastest and largest growth in decades and the explosion of earmarks.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she disagrees with the president's decision to exempt defense spending from the three-year spending freeze, and Kind said he believed there were efficiencies in defense spending that need to be considered. That includes the defense systems now in the pipeline that are already $300 billion over budget.

"We've got to end this practice of blank checks for defense contracts because today they believe the sky is the limit and the American taxpayers will write the check for any amount," he said during a teleconference with reporters.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the leading GOP House voices on budget matters, said he was happy with the president's focus on job creation and fiscal responsibility. But he said the president's renewed call for health care reform showed a commitment to a reckless expansion of government and undercut some of his calls for restraint.

"The president was right to acknowledge that our massive deficits are unsustainable," Ryan said in a statement. "We must build momentum to tackle this fiscal crisis, but the illusion of budget discipline must be matched with actual solutions."

Other members of the Wisconsin delegation also weighed in:

- U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said he has heard many eloquent words from the president over the past year and hoped that those words would begin to match his actions.

He praised the president's call for fiscal responsibility and for providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.

"And when the climate change bill does just that, I would be happy to support it, but in its current form, it's a tax increase on all Americans and American businesses, with additional costs being passed onto consumers, and millions of jobs being outsourced to India and China," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, said in a statement before the speech that he hoped the president would take a step back on health care.

"I hope he recognizes the need to reboot on health care and work on making some progress rather than saying, 'My way or not at all,' because that approach has not been working very well," he said.

- U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said the president rightfully made job creation, the middle class and helping small business the centerpiece of his speech.

"We must and we pledge to bring that recovery to Main Street while exercising strong oversight of the titans on Wall Street," she said in a statement.

- U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, built on the president's call for fiscal responsibility in a statement, calling for the approval of pay-as-you-go legislation, a line-item veto authority for the president and earmark reform.

"As the president said, addressing these challenges will take Democrats and Republicans working together and Congress should respond with bipartisan efforts to create jobs and cut the deficit," Feingold said in a statement.

- U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement praising Obama for mentioning the need to strengthen retirement security, and said he was pleased that the president remains "remains committed to reforming our enormously expensive health care system."

- U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, said in a statement he was "proud to hear President Obama make job creation and strengthening the middle class the focus of his address."

"In that pursuit, the thousands of small business owners I have the honor of representing across Northeast Wisconsin appreciate his strong support for job creating tax credits like the one I proposed earlier this year," Kagen added.

See their statements on the press release page.

- WisPolitics.com staff

 12:01 PM 

Kapanke reports $69,000 raised in last quarter

State Sen. Dan Kapanke will report raising approximately $69,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009 in his campaign against U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.

Kapanke's congressional campaign said the La Crosse Republican raised a total of $180,000 last year. He reported raising $111,070 during the third quarter last year in his first report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Kapanke will report about $150,000 on hand at the end of 2009, up from $105,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter.

Reports are due to the FEC by the end of the month.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

 5:22 PM 

Ryan back from Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan returned this morning from a trip to Afghanistan with five fellow members of Congress.

Ryan, R-Janesville, was abroad beginning Jan. 21. He met with Wisconsin service members and foreign officials, along with U.S. leaders including General Stanley McCrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women in our armed forces," Ryan said in a statement from his office. "It was an honor to spend time with a number of remarkable Wisconsinites defending our freedoms far from home. They deserve not only our appreciation, but also our unwavering support."

Ryan was the lone Republican on the trip. Other members of the delegation included John Spratt of South Carolina, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, Xavier Becerra of California and Bob Etheridge of North Carolina.

 2:45 PM 

Duffy raises $146,000 during last quarter

Republican Sean Duffy's campaign has announced he raised $146,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Duffy raised $139,000 in the third quarter, and his campaign says he has pulled in another $30,000 since the fourth quarter reporting period closed Dec. 31. That puts him at $315,000 raised for the campaign so far.

Duffy had $220,000 cash on hand as of Dec. 31 as he looks to challenge Dem U.S. Rep. Dave Obey of Wausau.

Monday, January 25, 2010

 3:12 PM 

Kagen the lone Wisconsin Dem on Rothenberg's 'in play' list

The Rothenberg Political Report has added a dozen Dem House seats to its list of races that are "in play." But none of them are from Wisconsin.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, continues to be the only member of the Wisconsin delegation to make the publication's list of 72 races to watch. Kagen is among the 25 seats on the list that are rated "Democrat favored."

The latest blog entry on the list notes that the possibility of a GOP wave so large that Dems lost control of the House cannot be dismissed. But it's considered unlikely Republicans will pick up the 40 seats they need to pull that off.

"Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts doesn't mean that every Republican candidate will win in November," the authors write.

Republicans have been trying to make the case that Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind of La Crosse and Dave Obey of Wausau are vulnerable this fall.

Friday, January 22, 2010

 10:31 AM 

Feingold to vote against Bernake

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold says he will vote against the re-confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Feingold, D-Middleton, said in a statement this morning that Bernanke "permitted grossly irresponsible financial activities that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

"(T)he Federal Reserve under Chairman Bernanke's leadership continues to resist appropriate efforts to review that response, how taxpayers' money was being used, and whether it acted appropriately," Feingold said.

Feingold is also lamenting the Senate's vote not to end the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Feingold, who voted against TARP originally, voted to end the program while U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, voted against.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

 5:30 PM 

Thompson still considering guv, Senate bids

Tommy Thompson isn't ready to make up his mind about a run for his old job as guv or the U.S. Senate.

"I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times that it's something that I haven't said no to," Thompson said in a brief interview with WisPolitics today. "I haven't said yes, I haven't said no. It's the same place that I've been the last few months."

Thompson said he still has plenty of time to make up his mind about a potential run and he "absolutely" believes that he'll win if he gets into either race.

With Republicans upbeat after Scott Brown's win in the Massachusetts, talk about a possible Thompson bid against U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has flared up this week. Some have suggested Thompson's name ID and his ability to quickly raise money would give the party its best shot against the Middleton Dem.

Thompson said he hasn't been giving either race much thought lately, instead focusing on his business ventures.

Some insiders have wondered whether Thompson would be a good fit in the U.S. Senate considering the 14 years he spent at the state's chief executive. If he won, Thompson would be one of the newest members of a chamber that's largely built on a seniority system.

Asked if he would have any interest being a legislator after so much time as an executive, Thompson responded, "I didn't say I did."

"The only attraction is the country is in terrible shape, and it's going in the wrong direction, as the state is," Thompson said. "The state is absolutely, totally going in the wrong direction, and so's the federal government."

 11:59 AM 

Feingold blasts Supreme Court decision on corporate political spending

The U.S. Supreme Court today eased decades-old limits on corporations spending money from their treasuries to support or oppose federal candidates.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, also overturned a section of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that barred union and corporate funded issue ads in the closing days of an election.

Feingold, the Middleton Democrat and namesake of the 2002 law in the U.S. Senate, said the decision maintains the bill's ban on so-called "soft money" -- corporate contributions to political parties for use in individual campaigns. But he excoriated the court for the rest of the decision.

"Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president," Feingold said in a statement. "Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, echoed those concerns, arguing the decision signaled that "money, power, and influence rule the day in Washington."

But U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said the ruling confirms his belief that the law violates the First Amendment.

"This is not the first time the courts have struck down provisions of the McCain-Feingold law, and I appreciate their dedication to ensuring the First Amendment remains intact," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

See more reaction to the decision on the WisPolitics press release page.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

 11:33 AM 

RPW, DPW chairs analyze Massachusetts results

Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Reince Priebus says that the GOP upset in Massachusetts yesterday should put Wisconsin Dems on notice.

Priebus said the election of Scott Brown, who beat Martha Coakley for the Senate held by Dem Ted Kennedy until his death, shows that the voters "want to take their country back," and a similar mood is pulsating in Wisconsin.

"Russ Feingold, Dave Obey, Ron Kind and Steve Kagen ought to watch their back," Priebus said in a conference call with reporters this morning. "We're coming after them."

Priebus took time to take particular shots at Feingold, who is being challenged two Republicans, Madison-area real estate developer Terrence Wall and Watertown businessman David Westlake. He said Feingold is a "rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the president."

"He is not a maverick. He is a plasticized Washington politician," Priebus said of Feingold.

Responding to a question about reports that Wall had not paid personal state income taxes in four of the last five years, Priebus said he didn't think it would be an issue in the campaign.

"Certainly Terrence Wall has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. He pays an enormous amount of taxes every year in the state of Wisconsin, and he certainly he has some deductions," he said.

Priebus said the Massachusetts election, along with governor elections in Virginia and New Jersey last year, are a referendum on Washington and show the dissatisfaction with the "Obama-Pelosi" agenda.

Brown was successful because his campaign emphasized he would be the "41st vote" against the Dem-backed health care reform bill, he said. And he said the dissatisfaction grows from the feeling that top Dems like Obama and Pelosi are not listening.

"There is a backlash against the powerful elite in this country and the party in power," Priebus said.

DPW Chair Mike Tate called it a stretch to see danger signs for Wisconsin Dems in November for a vote that took place a thousand miles away.

Still, Tate said there was no way to sugarcoat yesterday's results.

"What we saw in Massachusetts is an electorate with a high level of anxiety and impatience over the rate of change," Tate told reporters in a conference call.

"There's no denying there is palpable concern and fear about where things are going here in Wisconsin. Again, we will be working on addressing those fears and concerns."

Tate said Dems like guv candidate Tom Barrett and Sen. Russ Feingold are out talking to voters about their concerns, and the party will double down on its efforts to show Dems are working to create a hospitable climate for businesses to thrive in.

Tate said he's unsure what will happen next in regards to the health care debate in Washington, but he’s "looking forward to a conclusion about the health care debate."

He added Republicans have problems of their own, from GOP guv frontrunner Scott Walker's failure to lead in Milwaukee County to Wall's tax problems to House candidate Dan Kapanke's failure to repay taxpayers for legal bills.

Tate said he rarely agrees with conservative talk show hosts Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner. But he said the two said on the air this morning that Wall has "fatal flaws."

"This is a guy who has nothing in common with the average Wisconsin voter," Tate said, adding the wealthy developer seems to believe he can live by a special set of rules that don't apply to others.

DPW also took Kapanke to task today over delaying repaying the state for the party's legal costs stemming from a lawsuit over open records. Kapanke promised last year he would begin reimbursing the state the $38,000 a judge required to be repaid. But Kapanke now says he hopes to being repayment by June and pay off the full tab by year's end.

At the state level, Tate said he expects Dem leggie candidates to have strong records to run on in terms of promoting jobs.

"Scott Brown going to the Senate from Massachusetts will have little impact on what the makeup of our legislative delegation is next time around," Tate said.

 11:29 AM 

Kagen: Mass. result lets GOP 'share the responsibility'

Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen says he feels no threat from the results of yesterday's Massachusetts election because he is an outsider like Sen.-elect Scott Brown.

"I am confident, I am on their side." Kagen said of his constituents. "I think anyone would be happy for the people of Massachusetts because their viewpoints will now be expressed. It is upon Senator Brown to carry out the will of the people."

National pundits have predicted Brown's election would mean the death of the health care bill that Dems have been trying to shepherd through Congress now that Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate to sustain a filibuster.

But Kagen, D-Appleton, took a different approach during a conference call with reporters, saying he looks "forward to the Republicans sharing the responsibility" of making a bill that is beneficial for everyone.

"It is a good bill and it keeps on getting better," Kagen said.

He stressed the importance of creating a competetive health care system in which insurance companies compete to give Americans affordable health care and said he is not concerned that the fundamental pieces of the current bill will be disrupted because of yesterday's results.

Kagen also stressed the importance of the safety and health of Americans who are in Haiti. The second priority is to identify those children in orphanages who are currently in the process of being adopted by American families.

"With the total collapse of government in Haiti, it is incumbent upon our government to move these children to safety as soon as possible," he said.

He said he has been working hard with the State Department to make sure they get to their new families soon, adding that the adoption process for Wisconsin families who were already involved in adopting a Haitian child has been sped up.

- By Eva PenzeyMoog

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, called Brown's victory "nearly unprecedented" in a statement.

"This is a real wake-up call," Petri said. "I just hope people respond and we get down to more seriously working together here in Washington in a sensible way on our nation's problems."

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, did not address Brown by name, but said in a statement he hopes to "find a way back to bipartisanship and progress" on health care reform legislation.

"That's what the people of Wisconsin have called for and deserve," Kohl said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

 4:35 PM 

Doyle, Granholm seek White House carp summit

Govs. Jim Doyle and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan asked President Obama to convene a White House summit on Asian carp following today's U.S. Supreme Court decision rejecting an injunction to close the Chicago locks, the carp's possible entry point into Lake Michigan.

The summit -- which would include administration officials and Great Lakes governors -- would aim to develop a "rapid response" strategy for combating the invasive fish, which has breached electronic barriers in the Chicago waterway. Environmental DNA from the carp has also been found in Lake Michigan.

"The Great Lakes are vital to our region's future and the Army Corps of Engineers must immediately implement emergency measures to protect the Great Lakes against Asian carp," Doyle said in a statement.

UPDATE: Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, responded to the governors Wednesday by proposing a summit for the first week in February.

She asked for a meeting between Great Lakes governors or their designees -- either in Washington or the Midwest -- "to discuss the strategy to combat the spread of Asian carp and ensure coordination and the most effective response across all levels of government to respond to this threat."

 11:29 AM 

Wall officially launches U.S. Senate campaign, defends tax payments

In his official campaign kickoff this morning, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall touted his job creation credentials and said incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold is a "Monday morning quarterback" who has failed to lead during his 18 years in Washington.

Wall held the first of seven events over the next two days at FlameDisk in Middleton, a company owned by Sologear. Wall is an investor in Sologear.

Wall said he's running because he's sees the "American Dream" eroding. He said lawmakers in Washington are not helping Main Street businesses.

"Washington and Wall Street formed a mutual support group to help each other," Wall said.

Wall, a real estate developer, said in his 20 years in business he has helped create "thousands of jobs" with his building projects.

"I've helped build this state," he said. "And unlike Washington, I have created thousands of jobs. Unlike my opponent, I have helped businesses in Wisconsin."

Wall said Feingold has "campaigned one way in Wisconsin and voted a different way in Washington." And he took shots at Feingold's maverick image, saying the Middleton Dem votes with leadership nine out of 10 times.

"He holds listening sessions around the state but he doesn't listen," he said.

Wall said voters are tired of government spending and intervention run amok.

"Only private enterprise has built this country into the success that it is, not big government," he said.

Feingold's campaign issued a statement yesterday wishing his GOP opponents well as they gear up for their September primary and expressing hope they will do what he's done, "visit all 72 counties, listen to people, and meet with voters face to face."

Answering a question about reports that he paid nothing in personal state income tax in four of the last five years, Wall accused Feingold of engaging "in the politics of personal destruction."

"I have paid every penny of tax I owe," Wall said, adding that his businesses have paid $65 million in state taxes in the last 10 years.

"I want to talk about the issues. People are tired of the politics of personal destruction," he said.

Friday, January 15, 2010

 1:56 PM 

Doyle seeks federal help for manufacturing, small business loans

Gov. Jim Doyle and five fellow Democratic governors sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today urging federal officials to increase their efforts to provide credit to manufacturers and small businesses.

Doyle -- along with Govs. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Ted Strickland of Ohio, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, Pat Quinn of Illinois and Bev Perdue of North Carolina -- proposed using available federal funding to leverage private loans from financial institutions.

"This partnership would allow financial institutions to identify manufacturing companies they would like to be in business with, perform the appropriate underwriting and due diligence, and then access needed resources from state-level intermediaries," the letter states. "Using federal funds for this purpose will mitigate risk and increase lending, thus preserving jobs and an American manufacturing base that will help lead our economic recovery and subsequent growth."

"The inability for small businesses to access credit is a real obstacle to a national economic recovery, and it is something we must work together to overcome," Doyle said in a statement.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

 9:57 AM 

Feingold's Brown County session draws vocal response on health care

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's January county listening session tour continued Wednesday in the town of Wescott and Wrightstown, where residents packed an American Legion hall for an occasionally contentious session focused largely on health care reform.

"Frankly I've been going to some of the very conservative counties because I want to hear from even the most conservative people, what they think," the Middelton Democrat told WLUK-TV in Green Bay. Feingold has dealt with a number of difficult sessions while the Senate is in recess this month; his Monday listening session in Pewaukee made national headlines on Fox News.

"I think a lot of people think that somehow this bill didn't end up being a good deal for Wisconsin," Feingold said. "That's the opposite of the truth."

Louise Matthews of De Pere, who attended the Wrightstown session, told WLUK she voted for Feingold and that she "admire(s) his voting record."

"I just don't like the way the whole party is going about this."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

 4:39 PM 

Kohl announces rural business loans

Stimulus funding announced Wednesday will provide $64 million to 9 rural businesses in Wisconsin for economic development loan assistance.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, announced the funding under the USDA's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program.

The largest award -- for $25 million -- will be allotted to ST Paper LLC of Oconto Falls by Nicolet National Bank. Other large awards include Olsen's Mills Acquisition Co. LLC and Olsen's Crop Service LLC ($10 million each from West Pointe Bank); Serigraph Inc. ($8.5 million from Ridgestone Bank); and Acoustic Ceiling Products LLC & Precision Plastics LLC ($5 million from Community Bank and Trust-Sheboygan).

"The funding announced today will help spur economic development in rural communities by creating and retaining quality jobs that will help with economic recovery in Wisconsin," Kohl said in a statement.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

 4:09 PM 

Feingold backs Reid as majority leader

After saying Monday that he was unsure of his support for Harry Reid as the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Russ Feingold made clear Tuesday that he supports Reid as the Senate's top Democrat, sources confirmed.

According to an account published in the book "Game Change" about the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid said in a private conversation that Barack Obama was "light skinned" and didn't speak with a "negro dialect." The report was made public over the weekend and was confirmed by Reid, who quickly apologized. Obama accepted Reid's apology, as did other top Democrats and civil rights leaders.

However, a firestorm ensued, with some top Republicans calling for Reid to resign his leadership post. Democrats across the country, including Feingold, were asked if Reid should retain the majority leader position. In light of revelations of Reid's 2-year-old comments, Feingold said Monday that he would have to think about the matter before deciding if Reid should keep his leadership post.

But Feingold aides sent signals Tuesday that their boss still backed Reid for his leadership post.

The state GOP lashed out at Feingold over his initial hesitancy to back the Nevada senator, chiding his "ambivalence" toward the controversy.

"Feingold needs to stop blindly following leaders who make inappropriate remarks and immediately call for Reid's resignation," said RPW Executive Director Mark Jefferson in a statement. "Wisconsin voters are starting to see the real Russ Feingold, but instead of a maverick there's a Democrat partisan making excuses for Harry Reid again."

- David M. Drucker

 11:47 AM 

Feingold, Petri listening sessions remain contentious

A pair of Wisconsin lawmakers are finding similar levels of frustration with health care reform in January as the rest of the country did this past summer.

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, and U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, have held numerous town hall events while Congress recessed this month. Despite both chambers passing their versions of health care reform late last year, the lawmakers are hearing from angry constituents as final negotiations on the health care bill heat up.

Feingold was on the receiving end of calls to step down from the Senate over his support of health care reform at a listening session in Pewaukee Monday.

"We are fed up and you better get your resume ready," said one attendee at the Pewaukee listening session. Feingold began his annual series of county listening sessions this month, defending the health care reform effort during additional stops in Hartford, Mequon, Appleton, Oshkosh, Rhinelander, and before business leaders in Kenosha.

"My job is to look at the balance. And I think the benefits to Wisconsin outweigh the negatives," Feingold told his audience at UW-Oshkosh. "Changing health care is one of the most important things we can do to reduce spending."

Petri is also hearing from constituents even after voting against the House version of the health care bill. He wrapped up a six-day, 12-city tour of the 6th CD on Saturday.

An attendee at his Fond du Lac listening session told Petri, "I want you to continue to vote no until we know exactly what's in (the health care bill)."

"We have had good attendance, and a lot of concerned citizens have been particularly concerned about changes that are being proposed in bills before the House and Senate in the health care system, but there are also concerns about the federal deficit and state of the economy," Petri said in a statement on his tour.

The House returns to the floor today, while the Senate returns next week. Feingold's county listening session tour continues this week with events in Marinette, Lena, Wescott and Wrightstown.

UPDATE: Fox News' "On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren" ran a story on Feingold's Pewaukee listening session, interviewing a local Republican who attended the event as well as Joe Petrie, who covered the listening session for the Waukesha Freeman.

 10:04 AM 

Feingold unsure how to deal with Reid controversy

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has found himself engulfed in the political clamor surrounding comments made by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.

Republican and conservative groups are calling Feingold, as well as other Democrats, as hypocritical for not demanding that Reid step aside after Reid was quoted in a new book about the 2008 election as saying then-candidate Barack Obama was appealing because he spoke without a "Negro-dialect."

Feingold told WISN-TV that he hasn't decided whether Reid should resign his leadership role yet. The Wisconsin senator characterized Reid's comments as "unfortunate and racially insensitive."

"I'm thinking about that and we're going to be getting together as a caucus next week and the topic will come up. I have not decided whether these comments merit that or not. They're very unfortunate. They should have never been said. So, I need to think about it," Feingold said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is saying Feingold is guilty of a double standard because he called for Republican Sen. Trent Lott to give up his leadership role seven years ago after he made racially charged statements.

Feingold said the two cases are not the same.

"Well, those comments were a little beyond racially insensitive. It's intolerable to make racially insensitive remarks, but his comments were about essentially saying that we should have kept a system of segregation in this country, and I think that goes to a higher level," Feingold said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

 4:59 PM 

Kagen adds staff to D.C., Green Bay offices

Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen has added three staff members.

Kate Fink, who previously worked with U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., joins Kagen's staff as the legislative director.

Allison Jaslow, who worked as the communications director for the Virginia Democratic Party, is Kagen's new press secretary.

And Eric Genrich, who has worked for the past seven years as a legislative aide in Madison, is Kagen's new field representative for his district office in Green Bay.

 2:27 PM 

Ryan: Public option dead in name only

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan believes that even if a public health insurance option is not included in a final health care bill, the legislation, if passed, would likely create the conditions for government-run health care down the road.

"I think it's dead in name but not in substance," the Janesville Republican told WisPolitics today following a speech to the Madison chapter of Financial Executives International. "I think what the majority is going to try to do is put something that effectively creates a public option but allows them to say that it's not in this bill."

Ryan argued that a provision of the Senate bill -- which would allow the Office of Personnel Management to set up an insurance "system" -- "more or less plants the seeds for a public option to occur."

"I always thought the public option was kind of a stalking horse, and it was always something that would be traded away at the end of the day," Ryan said.

Ryan also predicted Democrats would be unable to move carbon cap-and-trade legislation through the Senate, in part due to the political toll the health care debate has taken on the party.

"I don't think it can survive a filibuster," Ryan said, adding that he doesn't think efforts by the Obama administration to regulate carbon emissions through the EPA would be successful, either.

Ryan also addressed his appearance next month at a pair of New Hampshire GOP fundraisers. He said he was invited by the state Republican Party and former U.S. Sen. John Sununu, reiterating that "there's no way" he's running for president in 2012.

"New Hampshirites are going to have a huge say-so in picking our next nominee, and I wanted to give my 2 cents in saying, 'Please pick a nominee who understands the economic and fiscal crisis in this country. Pick somebody who knows it, understands it and will take it on,'" Ryan said.

"My point is to simply give kind of a 'Paul Revere' speech on the fiscal crisis in this country, so New Hampshirites use that as one of the litmus tests and the standards that they hold the eventual nominee to."

Listen to Ryan's comments here.

 10:30 AM 

Wall announces $500,000 raised toward Senate run

Madison-area developer Terrence Wall says he raised $500,000 over seven weeks in his bid to take on Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

"It will require significant resources to hold Sen. Feingold accountable for his misguided votes in Washington, DC.," Wall said in a statement. "I am committed, as our fourth quarter results show, to having the necessary resources to effectively communicate my message to the voters."

Wall filed papers to run against Feingold in late October and held his first fundraiser Nov. 16, according to his campaign.

Friday, January 8, 2010

 3:12 PM 

Labor Dept. grant to Iowa company to train Wisconsin workers for 'green' jobs

In the wake of this week's roll-out of new clean energy legislation, Gov. Jim Doyle announced a $2 million federal grant to train Wisconsin workers in the fields of wind energy, along with energy efficiency assessment and construction.

The Energy Training Partnership grant, awarded under the federal stimulus bill from early last year, was allocated by the Department of Labor to Dubuque, Iowa-based East Central Intergovernmental Association Business Growth Inc. Doyle said the company will train more than 340 Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota workers while partnering with Wisconsin Workforce Connections.

"Through the state's major investments and the Recovery Act, Wisconsin has a tremendous opportunity to invest in our clean energy workforce," Doyle said in a statement. "I am pleased we are investing in workers who will lead our state in the installation of clean energy technologies that keep energy dollars in our communities, create jobs and clean our air and water."

Doyle introduced the "Clean Energy Jobs Act" Thursday, based on the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming. Doyle said the package of legislation could create up to 15,000 "green" jobs.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

 12:29 PM 

Ryan endorses Rubio in Fla. Senate race

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has endorsed former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in his Senate primary race against Gov. Charlie Crist.

"Marco's record of conservative leadership offers convincing evidence that he will hold Washington accountable, prevent government from wasting our tax dollars and lead a new generation of Republicans offering bold, innovative solutions to the challenges our nation faces in the years ahead," Ryan said in a statement released by Rubio's campaign.

Pundits have tabbed the race for the Sunshine State's open Senate seat as a harbinger of national GOP politics, with the more conservative Rubio mounting a strong challenge to the moderate incumbent governor.

Rubio praised Ryan as "one of the GOP's intellectual giants and a leader taxpayers can depend on to look after them and their hard-earned dollars."

 10:12 AM 

Cantor: Kind, Kagen could vote against final health care bill

Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Steve Kagen are among the 37 House Democrats that Republican Whip Eric Cantor believes could vote no on the compromise health care bill after voting for the House version.

The Virginia Republican issued a memo Wednesday, Politico.com reports, arguing that the two Wisconsin Dems could switch their votes based on their districts' high percentage of Medicare Advantage enrollees and potential hesitancy to take on new Medicaid expansion in the wake of the state's cuts to K-12 education.

"Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid can no longer promise to address a wavering Member's concerns later in the process. They can no longer make contradictory promises to different Members," Cantor writes in the memo. "And because of the work of the American people, they have hardly any margin for error in keeping 218 House votes and 60 Senate votes in lock-step."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

 12:32 PM 

Feingold lauds cost-saving measures in health care bill

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold is hopeful that several of his proposals to reduce the federal deficit could soon be enacted with health care reform legislation.

The Middleton Democrat, who introduced more than 40 cost-cutting measures in a comprehensive "Control Spending Now Act" in November, says three of the proposals in that legislation have been included in the Senate health care reform bill.

The provisions included in the bill would expand eligibility for drug discounts, increase the rate at which Medicaid may recoup a drug rebate, and implement a cost-sharing requirement for wealthy enrollees in Medicare Part D.

"A good portion of the savings the health care bill will deliver come from changing our Medicaid drug policy," Feingold said in a statement. "By allowing the government to negotiate better prices for Medicaid beneficiaries, and by having wealthier individuals pay their fair share for Medicare prescription drug coverage, we can both slash the deficit and improve Medicare solvency."

Feingold says the provisions amount to $24.6 billion in cost savings. The details of a final health care bill must still be hammered out between House and Senate leadership.

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