• WisPolitics

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

 9:08 AM 

8th CD candidates react to Trager suicide

8th CD candidates are paying tribute to Marc Trager amid reports that their former rival has committed suicide.

Trager dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination earlier this month, citing health concerns, and endorsed state Rep. Roger Roth in the race.

Citing sources, WLUK-TV in Green Bay reported Tuesday that Trager apparently killed himself at his Howard home.

“Dr. Trager had a profound impact on many lives as a physician, a community leader and a devoted father and husband," Roth said in a statement. "His passing is a tragedy, and I will be forever grateful for the time I was able to spend with him over the past year. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

8th CD candidate Reid Ribble said in a statement that, "Today is an incredibly sad day. Marc Trager was a devoted husband, father and respected member of our community. I have a profound respect for him and his family. DeaNa and I express our sincere condolences to Mary and the children, and their family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said he is "shocked and saddened by today’s news. The entire Kagen family extends their love and condolences to the Trager family in their time of need.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

 1:38 PM 

Feingold, Kohl question Kagan

Wisconsin's U.S. senators, both Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, took their turns questioning Solicitor General Elena Kagan today during as the hearings over her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court continued into their second day.

Kagan told U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold that her time as a legal counsel in the Clinton administration had nothing to do with what she would do as a judge.

Because Kagan has not served on the bench, Republicans have pored over memos from her time in the Clinton White House for clues on her judicial philosophy as ammunition to criticize her appointment.

Kagan compared her legal work for the president to Chief Justice John Roberts’ work at the Department of Justice in the Bush administration. Kagan said she was simply trying to provide good legal and policy advice to President Clinton.

“One is simply at a different position,” she said of her administration work vs. serving on the bench.

She also told the committee that her work for Clinton gave her an appreciation of the separate branches of government, stressing that courts should police “constitutional boundaries” to ensure lawmakers and the president do not overstep them. But the president and Congress are the ones who should be making policy decisions, and the courts should respect that.

Feingold, of Middleton, also quizzed Kagan on recent 2nd Amendment court decisions, limits on presidential powers and forced arbitration.

He also asked her how she would be able to relate to his constituents in rural Wisconsin considering her big-city, East Coast roots and noted that someone at a town hall meeting in Stevens Point recently asked him why Supreme Court appointees all seem to come from out east.

“Does it count that I lived in Chicago for some period of my life?” she joked.

Kagan added that she has always tried to see past her own background and listen to people from different perspectives.

“This is something not only that makes a good judge, but makes a good human being, is to try to lean from people other than yourself,” Kagan said. “I hope I’ve used the opportunities that my life has provided me to do that.”

Earlier, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Milwaukee used his time to attempt to draw out the issues most important to Kagan as a potential jurist.

"How are you going to make a difference as a Supreme Court justice from any of the others who might be sitting here instead of you today?" Kohl asked.

Kagan said her primary motivation is "the opportunity to safeguard the rule of law, whatever the issues that might come before the court." She cautioned that she could not come to the court, as a legislator might head to Washington, with an emphasis on the environment or the economy.

Kohl pressed on.

"Thurgood Marshall cared passionately about civil rights, Justice Ginsburg had a passion for women's rights, your father had a passion for tenants rights," Kohl said. "I'm sure you're a woman of passion. Where are your passions?"

Kagan again vowed to take her decisions "one case at a time."

Kohl also asked how Kagan, as a justice, would make a difference in the lives of the American public.

Kagan responded that her impact could only be derived from the cases that come before the court, but that she hopes that thinking through the issues of cases "fairly and objectively and impartially" would ultimately improve people's lives.

"That's the entire purpose of law, but this isn't a job I think where somebody should come in with a particular substantive agenda."

 10:55 AM 

Feingold edges Johnson in PPP poll

A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold with a slight lead over Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, the leading GOP candidate, in a hypothetical matchup this fall.

In the survey, which questioned 638 Wisconsin voters from June 26-27, Feingold was favored by 45 percent of respondents to Johnson's 43 percent. In a matchup with Watertown small businessman David Westlake, Feingold led 45 to 38 percent.

The poll has a margin of error of plus of minus 3.9 percent.

 10:18 AM 

Sensenbrenner, Ryan rip decision affecting Bucyrus

Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan have joined the chorus of Wisconsin officials criticizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank after the bank refused to finance an Indian power plant that could have generated $600 million in equipment sales for South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International.

“With the national unemployment rate continuing to hover close to 10 percent, all steps should be taken to reinvigorate the economy and bring jobs to the United States,” the congressmen wrote in a letter to Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg. “However, with this decision, you are simply exporting American jobs to China.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wrote to Hochberg urging the bank to reconsider its decision Monday, and said he would discuss the issue with President Obama during his visit to Racine Wednesday.

“There’s no clearer demonstration of how this administration’s environmental activism will cost U.S. jobs than this ruling by the Export-Import Bank,” charged Sensenbrenner, of Menomonee Falls, in a statement. Ryan, R-Janesville, added that "(t)he vibrancy and competitiveness of the American economy should never take a back seat to political ideology."

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, issued a letter to Hochberg Monday noting that the bank's decision would not impede the progress of the Indian plant.

"(I)t would be tragic to miss this opportunity for bolstering employment," Feingold wrote.

 8:20 AM 

Feingold remains opposed to financial reform bill

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold says he won't support the conference committee version of the financial regulatory reform bill because it won't prevent another crisis.

Feingold's opposition to the bill could make it tougher for Dems to push the legislation through the Senate this week following the death of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who had supported the legislation.

Feingold was one of two Dems who opposed the bill originally. If Feingold and Maria Cantwell of Washington won't support the conference report, Dems would need to hold the support of all four Republicans who voted for the original bill -- Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa -- after losing Byrd's vote.

Brown has already raised serious concerns about a 10-year, $19 billion tax on banks included in the conference report.

"During debate on the bill, I supported several efforts to break up ‘too big to fail’ Wall Street banks and restore the proven safeguards established after the Great Depression separating Main Street banks from big Wall Street firms, among other issues," Feingold said in a statement sent to WisPolitics late this afternoon. "Unfortunately, these crucial reforms were rejected."

Monday, June 28, 2010

 1:22 PM 

Kohl, Feingold welcome Kagan to Judiciary Committee

U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold have both delivered their opening remarks in the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings of Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kohl, D-Milwaukee, complimented Kagan on her "impeccable resume and a formidable track record of accomplishments," and said her work in academia and politics would bring a new perspective to the court.

But Kohl also said the committee deserves to hear her stand on important issues, quoting Kagan's own 1995 critique of Supreme Court confirmation hearings as an “embarrassment.”

"We can gain some insight from your work for President Clinton and Justice Thurgood Marshall. But we have less evidence about what sort of judge you will be than on any nominee in recent memory," Kohl said in his prepared remarks. "Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us."

Feingold asked Kagan to emulate the man she would replace on the bench if confirmed, noting Justice John Paul Stevens' committment to "drawing the line against an executive branch that sought powers that endangered the individual rights and freedoms that our Constitution guarantees."

The Middleton Democrat also lamented the public's lack of confidence in the high court, and suggested that the controversial Citizens United v. FEC decision allowing corporate election spending represents a further eroding of that confidence.

“Ms. Kagan, if you are confirmed, I hope you will keep this in mind," Feingold said in his prepared remarks. "I hope you will tread carefully, and consider the reputation of the Court as a whole, when evaluating whether to overturn long-standing precedent in ways that will have such a dramatic impact on our political system."

 11:50 AM 

Westlake confident he can win GOP nomination

Despite his campaign not having the financial resources of his primary rival, Watertown small businessman David Westlake expressed confidence he can still win the party's nomination on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

“I understand the conventional wisdom, but this is not a conventional wisdom year,” Westlake said. “This is an opportunity for Americans to stand up to take their country back.”

Westlake says he's been running a grassroots campaign focused on shaking hands and talking with voters face-to-face, while Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson has been running a “traditional, templated candidacy.”

See more from the interview here.

 10:52 AM 

Ryan delivers GOP radio address

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville delivered the Republican weekly radio address over the weekend, blasting Democrats for declining to pass a budget resolution this year.

"With the political season upon us, Democratic leaders believe it’s better to take a pass than to pass a budget," said Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. "While Americans ask ‘where are the jobs?,’ they seem content to simply run out the clock and let their borrowing binge continue to drain resources from our economy."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

 11:53 AM 

Wall accuses Johnson of tampering with GOP endorsement vote

Terrence Wall isn’t backing down from claims that the U.S. Senate endorsement process at the Republican Party of Wisconsin convention was corrupt.

But Wall isn't offering any proof other than his word, even as the state Republican Party is calling the accusations "baseless and absurd" and Ron Johnson's campaign labels them "categorically and completely untrue." Wall says Johnson offered to pay for the hotel room of at least one delegate if he stayed overnight and voted for him.

Johnson's campaign manager Juston Johnson categorically denied the charges.

"It is outrageous for a person or organization to attempt to assassinate someone’s character and impugn their integrity without providing any documentation or evidence," Juston Johnson said. "These accusations are categorically and completely untrue. The unsubstantiated claims are an insult to the delegates who cast votes and support Ron Johnson. ... Ron Johnson will not stoop to these levels and will continue to take the high road talking about issues that voters are concerned about like jobs, taxes, spending, debt and deficits."

Wall, who writes a column for “InBusiness” magazine, said he would not reveal the names of the individuals who raised concerns with him. He said he has received numerous calls and emails since he dropped out of the race following the endorsement of Johnson at the convention.

“I’m a journalist, so to speak, and I’m just reporting what people are telling me,” said Wall, who entered the race for the GOP nomination last fall. Johnson entered just a week before the state convention.

See WisPolitics coverage here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

 4:51 PM 

State officials look to feds for dairy industry support

Top Wisconsin lawmakers today asked the federal government to seek stronger anti-trust standards and greater price transparency to help the state's struggling dairy industry.

Gov. Jim Doyle, both the state's U.S. senators, Madison U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and state Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen each joined a workshop held in Madison by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Justice. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney hosted the event, the third of five forums held around the country to address anti-trust issues in agriculture.

Doyle praised the state's efforts on the dairy industry during his tenure, noting that the state is trending up in milk production while California is falling, and that America's Dairyland remains poised to keep its national cheese production crown for the foreseeable future.

"We are doing everything we can to get the economic incentives lined up correctly," Doyle said, pointing out regulatory and farm siting reform as well as the dairy modernization tax credit.

Other officials gave a much bleaker assessment.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, praised the Obama administration for reversing course from the Bush administration, which he said largely ignored anti-trust issues in favor of larger companies. But he said the gap between market dairy prices and the pay level for farmers has only increased since it was first brought to his attention as a state senator.

"What happens between the farm and the consumer to cause such a price spread?" Feingold asked. "We need to make that determination, and then we need to act on it."

See more coverage from WisBusiness.com.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

 12:13 PM 

Obama to visit southeast Wisconsin next week

The White House has announced that President Barack Obama will visit Racine on June 30.

The event, set for Wednesday afternoon at Racine Memorial Hall, will focus on the economy.

The event is open and free to the public, with tickets available beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Festival Hall in Racine. Tickets are limited to two per person and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the White House.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

 10:43 AM 

Johnson meets GOP Sens. in D.C.

GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Ron Johnson was the featured guest at a meet-and-greet in Washington, D.C., last night with Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Burr, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, John Cornyn and Pat Roberts.

The event, and an event today hosted by a group of D.C. lobbyists, is coordinated by the Bellwether Consulting Group, a D.C.-based fundraising and consulting firm.

Johnson campaign spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch said while there is "no set cost to attend the event, there will be funds raised most likely." She said there was no suggested contribution for the events. Ruesch initially said yesterday, responding to a question about today's event there would be "no cost to attend the event if you have an invitation."

Ruesch said Johnson is in D.C. to meet with "key leaders," and will also participate in policy briefings with groups like the Heritage Foundation.

Feingold campaign spokesman Trevor Miller said, "By going out to Washington, D.C., to meet with lobbyists and special interests Ron Johnson makes it pretty clear whose side he's on."

Ruesch said the Feingold campaign's criticisms "are hollow" because Feingold "has taken millions of dollars from special interests."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 6:01 PM 

Rasmussen poll shows Johnson nearly even with Feingold

A poll released today by Rasmussen Reports shows incumbent Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold with a slim lead over GOP challenger Ron Johnson, an Oshkosh businessman who entered the race in May.

The telephone poll, conducted June 21 among 500 likely voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

According to the poll, Feingold has a 46 percent-to-45 percent lead over Johnson and a 47 percent-to- 41 percent advantage over Republican Dave Westlake, a Watertown businessman.

Democrats disavow the Rasmussen polls because of CEO Scott Rasmussen's ties to Republicans, noting that he was a pollster for the RNC and President George W. Bush's campaign. They also note he's taking part in a National Review cruise with Karl Rove and others.

Johnson's campaign said in a press release that the Pacur Inc. president's message is "connecting with voters frustrated by career politicians spending money the American people simply do not have.

"Feingold’s bad poll numbers reflect his misguided votes to drive our nation deeper in debt while more and more families are struggling to pay bills and find a job,” campaign manager Juston Johnson said.

Monday, June 21, 2010

 12:46 PM 

Lassa defends job creation record

State Sen. Julie Lassa, who is vying for the Democratic Party's nomination to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, defended her record on job creation on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a TV news magazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.

Lassa, who chairs the Senate's Economic Development Committee, has come under criticism by Republicans for presiding over the committee as the state shed more than 150,000 jobs during the recession.

Lassa noted economic troubles have not been unique to Wisconsin.

“This is a global recession and the policies that I've worked on are ones that will create good-paying, family-supporting jobs in this state,” said Lassa, D-Stevens Point, pointing to her work on the Wisconsin C.O.R.E. Jobs Act. “We've been very proactive in my committee and under my leadership trying to make sure we're in the best position possible to rebuild Wisconsin's economy despite this global recession.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

 9:24 AM 

Sensenbrenner seeks DOJ discussion of administration job offers

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls has joined House GOP colleague Lamar Smith of Texas in demanding information from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding their role in a pair of White House job offers reportedly aimed at stemming divisive Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

The lawmakers introduced a resolution of inquiry Wednesday demanding any DOJ discussion of "administration appointments ... with any candidate for public office in exchange for such candidate’s withdrawal from any election" during the Obama administration. Attorney General Eric Holder is directed to respond within 14 days of the resolution date.

"It's very important that the public and the voters of Pennsylvania and Colorado are able to get to the bottom of this before they cast their votes," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "(T)hey deserve nothing less than honest and accurate information."

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Penn., was under consideration for an unpaid advisory position to avoid a primary against longtime U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter -- which Sestak won last month -- while former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff was also reportedly considered for positions to avoid a primary with appointed Sen. Michael Bennet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

 5:14 PM 

Sensenbrenner opponent calls for recusal in BP probe

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's opponent says the Menomonee Falls Republican should remove himself from the House Judiciary Committee probe into the Gulf oil spill because of his ownership of BP stock.

"The obvious conflict of interest here is disturbing to anyone who values fairness and accountability," said Todd Kolosso, a Menomonee Falls Democrat who owns a commercial real estate business.

Sensenbrenner's campaign spokeswoman Loni Hagerup said in a statement he has "always voted true to his conservative values. His personal finances have never been a factor in his voting record. Further, the fact is the House Judiciary Committee is not conducting an investigation but instead has held only one hearing on this issue -- a Q&A session -- there have been no votes, and therefore, nothing from which to recuse himself."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

 4:51 PM 

Kind, Obey to host Lassa fundraiser in D.C.

U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Dave Obey, D-Wausau, are set to host a fundraiser for state Sen. Julie Lassa later this month as she seeks to replace Obey in the House.

The June 29 fundraiser in Washington, D.C. is being billed as a Young Professionals fundraiser for Lassa with a suggested donation of $50.

Lassa, a Stevens Point native whose state Senate district includes the southern population center of the 7th CD, faces Joe Reasbeck in the September primary for the Dem nomination.

 10:30 AM 

Wis. delegation reacts to Obama address

President Obama's address to the nation about the Gulf oil spill is getting mixed reaction from Wisconsin's congressional members.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, lauded Obama's call for a comprehensive clean energy plan to stem the nation's reliance on oil.

"The President also affirmed his commitment to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and developing clean energy policies that will enhance our nation's security, our planet's sustainability, and our children's future," Baldwin said. "These goals can only be achieved with a system that reduces our greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon."

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said Obama's address mirrors the demands laid out in his recent "Oil Spill Responsibility Act of 2010," which he says has 40 co-sponsors and counting.

"These Wall Street corporations have to be held accountable," Kagen, D-Appleton, said in a conference call with reporters. His bill would mandate that BP set aside $25 billion to aid in the recovery effort, and Kagen said he's not too worried about the company's expenses given that its resources in the Gulf were estimated at $150 billion.

"British Petroleum is worth more alive than it is dead," Kagen said.

But GOP U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner accused Obama of using the crisis to further a political agenda.

“Shortly after President Obama was elected, Rahm Emanuel, his Chief of Staff said: 'You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.' Much to the detriment of our country, and the people of the Gulf Coast, the Obama Administration is following this philosophy with the BP oil spill," Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said.

"The drilling moratorium and talk of imposing a costly cap-and-tax scheme on Wisconsin families and small businesses only furthers our dependence on foreign oil, drives up energy costs, and destroys jobs in Wisconsin and across the country," said Ryan, R-Janesville.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

 10:50 AM 

Trager withdraws from 8th CD race

Green Bay physician Marc Trager announced this morning he will drop out of the Republican primary race for the 8th Congressional District due to health concerns.

“I am confident we would have been successful in November, but the physical strain of the campaign trail has caused me to step back and evaluate my priorities," Trager said in a statement. “I am incredibly grateful for the support I’ve received over the past eight months from all the people who believed in our campaign’s message of fiscal responsibility, individual liberty and political integrity.”

Trager's departure thins the field to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, to state Rep. Roger Roth, former state Rep. Terri McCormick, Door Co. Sup. Marc Savard, former roofing contractor Reid Ribble of Kaukauna, De Pere attorney Andy Williams and Sayner conservative activist Kerry Thomas.

Trager endorsed Roth in his Green Bay announcement, saying "his knowledge, character, and values are what the people of Northeast Wisconsin need."

 9:12 AM 

Kagen bill requires $25 billion from BP for oil spill expenses

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen introduced a bill Monday mandating that BP set aside $25 billion toward expenses relating to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The "Oil Spill Responsibility Act of 2010" would require the money to be deposited in the U.S. Treasury for use in the recovery effort, according to the Appleton Dem.

“I gave BP the opportunity to do the right thing and set aside funds back in May, but they took a pass,” Kagen said in a statement. “I now have no choice but to take legislative action to guarantee that the taxpayers aren’t on the hook for BP’s negligence.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

 8:09 AM 

Johnson says Feingold 'does not understand the private sector economy'

GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson doesn’t buy Feingold’s reputation as a maverick, claiming the Middleton Dem didn’t live up to that billing when Americans most needed it.

Johnson tells WisPolitics.com in a new interview that if Feingold were a true maverick, he would have stood up to his party in 2009 and voted against the stimulus package and the health care overhaul.

“A professional politician like Sen. Feingold, he does not understand the private sector economy. He really doesn’t know what it takes to create jobs,” Johnson said. “He thinks government is a solution to everything. I think freedom and the free market are the solutions for most things.”

Johnson, who has rocketed to frontrunner status for the GOP nomination in the Senate race in his first bid for public office of any kind, is just now starting to make his policy positions known.

See more from the interview here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

 2:20 PM 

Feingold introduces line-item veto bill

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold today introduced a line-tem veto proposal for spending measures in the Senate along with with John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Carper, D-Del.

The bill, dubbed the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, would allow presidents to veto earmarks and non-entitlement spending from legislation. It would also give presidents the option to cancel or reduce the spending measure or return the provision to Congress for an expedited vote. Fellow Dems Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Michael Bennet of Colorado are initial co-sponsors of the bill.

“With our line-item veto proposal, any president would now have an effective way to prevent taxpayer dollars being wasted on special interest projects," Feingold, D-Middleton, said in a statement. Not only would the line-item veto help go after billions of dollars worth of unnecessary spending secretly tucked into larger bills, it would also shine a light on the earmark process and deter lawmakers from doing earmarks in the first place.”

 1:45 PM 

Doyle, Dem govs. push for Medicaid extension

Extending $24 billion in matching federal funds would be a big help in easing the impact of cutting up to $600 million from the state Medicaid budget, Gov. Jim Doyle said today.

Doyle joined fellow Dem Govs. Chris Gregoire of Washington, Mark Parkinson of Kansas and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania to warn of the potential for huge holes in their state budgets if the feds fails to approve the extension, which would cover the first half of next year.

Wisconsin didn't assume the extension in building its current two-year budget. Still, Doyle said "the failure of Congress to act here will still put enormous pressure on us in the coming year, as it does in every other state."

"We have had to make drastic cuts in our overall Medicaid spending. We have done this at a time when our enrollment has increased by (26) percent," Doyle said. "In order to meet that demand we have been working to cut as much as $600 million over the next two years out of our Medicaid budget."

Doyle said without the funding extension, reaching those savings would be much more difficult. He said that the proposal is simply a matter of finding political common ground, since it has been included in the president's budget and passed in some form by both houses of Congress.

The governor added that the state's workforce is currently 10 percent smaller than at the beginning of the recession. Because the feds appropriated the matching funds through the end of 2010, the state was able to avoid cuts that could have added "another 2 or 3 percent on that" this year.

Doyle said nursing homes could bear the brunt of the end of the matching funds.

"The majority of our Medicaid money goes for nursing home payments," Doyle said. "A lot of nursing homes that are operating on very, very tight budgets would either have to cut back dramatically or they would close."

"The repercussions of the loss of these jobs would be dramatic."

Doyle also said that since the economic downturn has persisted longer than most economists projected, "I think it is suitable that the federal government continue to match that share for another six months."

 10:35 AM 

Kagen looks to ease credit lines to small businesses

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen today highlighted an amendment he's working on with Colorado Dem U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter that he said would allow small lenders to avoid the unfair tightening of credit lines by bank regulators.

Kagen, D-Appleton, said businesses in his district who have never missed a loan payment but have experienced a depreciation in the value of their businesses during the economic downturn have been subjected to penalties from out-of-state regulators.

"What we have is a prolongation of our economic recession in the United States which is regulator-induced," Kagen said in a conference call with reporters this morning. His amendment would allow banks with under $10 billion in total assets to amortize loans -- paying the principal in equal payments -- to responsible businesses over a seven-year period rather than report immediate losses.

"This will allow banks to help us to provide credit to credit-worthy businesses," Kagen said. "This is not a bailout; it's not a handout."

Kagen also took shots at BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, saying he's currently in a committee hearing on how to ensure the petroleum giant covers the cost of fixing the catastrophe.

In addition, the Appleton Dem responded to recent criticism from state Rep. Roger Roth, R-Appleton and one of several GOP contenders in the 8th CD, that he hasn't held any town hall meetings during the latest congressional recess.

"It's simply untrue," Kagen said, noting that he visited the Brown County "Breakfast on the Farm" event along with many widely varied communities throughout the district.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

 2:25 PM 

Kohl commission to review Kagan nomination

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl has appointed an 11-member board comprised of legal and community leaders to review the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The members include: Michelle Behnke, attorney, Michelle Behnke & Associates; Tom Cannon, executive director, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee; Ed Fallone, professor, Marquette University Law School; Nathan Fishbach, attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.; Joseph D. Kearney, dean, Marquette University Law School; Jose Olivieri, attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich; Peter Rofes, professor and dean of Academic Affairs, Marquette University Law School; Donsia Strong Hill, attorney, Tyson Strong Hill Connor; Julia Taylor, president, Greater Milwaukee Committee; Frank Tuerkheimer, professor, University of Wisconsin Law School; and Brady Williamson, professor, University of Wisconsin Law School and attorney, Godfrey & Kahn.

 10:24 AM 

Fourteen counties receive disaster declaration over ginseng crop

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a disaster for three Wisconsin counties that produce ginseng after the crop was badly damaged by a late spring snow storm.

In addition to the designation for Langlade, Lincoln and Marathon counties, the federal government also named 11 more counties contiguous disaster counties. The areas are eligible for assistance, including emergency loans and crop insurance payments, from the Farm Service Agency.

The Wisconsin agriculture department has already approved a crisis exemption allowing farmers to use a pesticide to help protect damaged plants.

“Ginseng is vitally important to the economic health of this region of the state," U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, said in a statement. "We’re pleased that USDA has been so responsive."

Wisconsin's approximately 200 ginseng growers produces 95 percent of the country's ginseng crop; the 2007 crop of 400,000 pounds was worth $10 million. Growers expect losses from the May storm to last for the next four to five years -- the amount of time its takes ginseng to mature after planting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

 2:25 PM 

Duffy resigns DA post to focus on House bid

Ashland County DA Sean Duffy announced this afternoon that he's resigning his post to focus on his bid for the open 7th CD.

Duffy said in a statement that he was turning in his resignation today but will stay on for three weeks as the guv appoints a successor. He also will return to a family-owned private practice where he worked prior to becoming a prosecutor.

"Though I will miss working with my staff and our community, I know that as Election Day draws nearer, my schedule will become more strained and the people of Ashland will be better served by a district attorney who will not be distracted by a congressional campaign," Duffy said in a statement.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

 5:24 PM 

Doctors' group backs Ribble

8th CD GOP candidate and Kaukauna roofing contractor Reid Ribble has won the endorsement of Appleton-based Physicians for Responsible Government.

Ribble's campaign touted that he received the endorsement of the 80-plus physicians in the group despite the presence of two doctors in the 8th CD race: Green Bay Republican and radiologist Marc Trager, and incumbent Dem U.S. Rep. and Appleton allergist Steve Kagen.

Saied Assef, a Green Bay anesthesiologist and board member of PRG, said the group is not incorporated, but rather represents a grassroots group of conservative doctors across a variety of health companies and geographic areas. He said the group voted to endorse Ribble by a wide margin after inviting four primary candidates -- Ribble, Trager, Appleton state Rep. Roger Roth and Door Co. Supv. Marc Savard -- to participate in a Physicians for Responsible Government forum earlier this year.

 10:43 AM 

Obey, Baldwin earmark highlighted by Arizona rep.

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, an earmark hawk in the U.S. House, has highlighted a spending provision secured last year by U.S. Reps. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, as his "Egregious Earmark of the Week" for May 14.

The provision, inserted in an Interior Department funding bill, provides $2 million to complete the Ice Age National Scenic Trail -- a 1,200 mile hiking trail winding from Polk County to Rock County and ending in Door County.

"This mammoth earmark is woolly uncalled for," Flake said in a statement.

Obey responded in a statement that Flake's complaint was "supercilious."

"The first time I took anyone on the Ice Age Trail was in the 1970s, when I took Mo Udall of Arizona," Obey told the Appleton Post-Crescent. "Unlike the gentleman from Arizona who is today contemptuous about the trail, Udall was a great conservationist who understood the value of setting aside public lands so they could be enjoyed by people of modest means."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

 6:52 PM 

Reasbeck remains a mystery in 7th CD

Recently announced 7th CD Dem candidate Joe Reasbeck remains a bit of a mystery to Northern Wisconsin, with experiences ranging from writing wresting novels to the dot-com boom to a reported stint as a Texas Republican.

Reasbeck, who grew up in the Superior area, jumped into the Dem primary over the weekend, where Stevens Point Sen. Julie Lassa is the current frontrunner to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

In various media reports from northern Wisconsin covering his candidacy, Reasbeck was described as an Internet consultant and author. He said he worked in California in the 1990s at a dot-com startup and moved back to northern Wisconsin in March. He also said he ran as an independent in 2006 for the U.S. House seat that had been held by Tom De Lay.

But media reports from 2006 describe him as a Republican write-in candidate for the seat after De Lay resigned.

A state Dem Party official said it has had no contact with Reasbeck, who joined the party on-line about 10 days ago. He has not responded to WisPolitics e-mails submitted through his campaign site, and a message was not returned Wednesday from a number listed to a Joseph Reasbeck in Superior.

Reasbeck also said he wrestled at the University of Minnesota and trained for the U.S. Olympic team. A UM athletics spokesman confirmed that Reasbeck wrestled at the school, saying he was on the team from 1987 to 1990, lettering in 1990. The spokesman said it was unclear whether Reasbeck wrestled his senior year at Minnesota.

He also authored the book "Nearfall: Book One - The Adventures of Matt and Mike," described on Amazon.com as a wrestling novel.

Douglas County Dem Party Chair Warren Bender said he's known Reasbeck's parents for years. Reasbeck's father was one of Bender's frat brothers at UW-Superior and was a wrestling coach in Superior. His mother Carol Reasbeck is a former member of the Superior City Council who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007.

"He’s going to work as hard as he possibly can," Bender said. "I can’t really speak for someone else, but having known who he is and met him a number of times, he’s a serious young man, and he’s going to give it his all."

 1:27 PM 

Sebelius holds health care forum in La Crosse

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will join U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Gov. Jim Doyle for a series of health care events tomorrow in La Crosse.

The group is set to discuss health care reform with a group of senior citizens at the Southside Seniors Center at 1 p.m., followed by a meeting with doctors and administrators at 3 p.m. at Gundersen Lutheran Health System.

 11:01 AM 

Biden to attend Feingold fundraiser

Vice President Joe Biden will return to Wisconsin later this month to attend a fundraiser for former Senate colleague Russ Feingold in Milwaukee.

The $500 per ticket fundraiser, featuring Biden and Feingold, D-Middleton, is set for June 24 at the Pfister Hotel. Biden was last in the Badger State in April for a financial reform roundtable with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

 10:55 AM 

Feingold officially announces candidacy

U.S. Sen. Feingold officially announced his re-election campaign Tuesday at a Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter editorial board meeting.

Feingold, D-Middleton, will visit editorial boards at the Appleton Post-Crescent and Oshkosh Northwestern today, in addition to business roundtables in Green Bay and Manitowoc, his campaign said.

Republicans Dave Westlake and Ron Johnson are vying for the Republican nomination to take on Feingold this fall.

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