• WisPolitics

Friday, July 30, 2010

 1:59 PM 

Baldwin heading to Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin announced today she will be among a six-member congressional delegation departing soon for a fact-finding mission in Afghanistan.

Baldwin, D-Madison, said she'll have the opportunity to visit with troops from Wisconsin and their commanders, and said she is bringing along questions from 2nd Congressional District veterans of the Afghanistan conflict. She said she is particularly interested in hearing about the progression of efforts to draw down troop levels and transition to an Afghan domestic force.

"I've been outspoken in my belief that it is time for us to redeploy from Afghanistan," Baldwin said in a conference call with reporters, noting that July has surpassed June as the deadliest month of the nine year-old war.

As the only woman among the delegation, Baldwin said she also hopes to gauge the impact of the war on the women of Afghanistan.

Her congressional office has also set up an email account allowing constituents to send messages to the troops while the congresswoman is overseas.

 9:45 AM 

Baldwin bill targets schemes aimed at seniors

A bill authored by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, to thwart mail, telemarketing and Internet schemes aimed at seniors passed the House on a 335-81 vote Thursday.

The "Senior Financial Empowerment Act" provides seniors with tools to "ferret out scams and fraudsters" that prey on them, Baldwin said.

The bill helps the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Service and other agencies to step up enforcement of existing laws and aids state and local agencies to educate seniors and their caregivers to scams, and also includes a "Fraud Awareness Week."

Baldwin said her eyes were opened to the issue when she was primary caregiver to her grandmother.

"I couldn't believe how many look-alike charities and really questionable organizations that were holding themselves out as charities were soliciting her on a frequent basis," Baldwin told WisPolitics.

Wisconsin's four other House Dems joined Baldwin in voting for the bill, while the three House Republicans from Wisconsin voted against it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

 5:43 PM 

LaHood says high-speed rail is done deal for Wisconsin

High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin -- whether Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Neumann want it or not, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today.

LaHood spoke with Dem Gov. Jim Doyle today in Watertown, where they signed a grant agreement to implement $46.5 million of stimulus money.

Said LaHood: “This administration is committed to high-speed intercity rail. ...(W)e know elections will take place and we know that some people will get elected and others won’t, but this is a national program. We are committed to it and high-speed intercity rail is coming to America. High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin.”

See MKEpolitics for more.

 4:41 PM 

Rasmussen poll: Johnson edges Feingold 48-46

Ron Johnson edges Russ Feingold in the latest Rasmussen survey.

The poll of 750 likely voters on Tuesday found 48 percent backed Johnson, while 46 percent supported Feingold. Two percent favored another candidate, while 5 percent weren't sure.

That’s relatively unchanged from two weeks ago, when it was Johnson 47, Feingold 46.

The poll, routinely dismissed by Dems as GOP-leaning, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey also found 51 percent of respondents approved of the job President Obama is doing, while 48 percent disapprove.

 3:14 PM 

Feingold: Senate should have to consider potential Afghanistan deal

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold says a potential long-term strategic agreement with Afghanistan should be subject to Senate approval, not by "presidential fiat."

"When you're talking about something that may have major military implications in a situation where we have 100,000-plus troops on Afghanistan, I think there's no question that the Senate has to be involved under its treaty power in approving or disapproving that kind of thing," Feingold said today on MSNBC.

Feingold and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., sent a letter to President Obama asking that any agreement with Afghanistan's government be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent.

Feingold, who has been a critic of the Afghanistan war policy, said that continuing to pour resources into the country doesn't address the Obama administration's stated concern of going after al-Qaida.

"My concern is whether you want to call this nation building or not, it isn't sufficiently about al-Quaida," Feingold said. "Al-Quaida is operating not only in Pakistan but places like Somalia and Yemen. Putting $100 billion this year and even more next year into a ground war in Afghanistan has virtually nothing to do with al-Quaida. I don't think it makes sense for us to continue there. It is bankrupting the American people and I think that it plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden, which I assume is the last thing we want to do."

 3:07 PM 

Butler confirmation vote delayed again

Senate Republicans today objected to a floor debate and vote on the confirmation of
former state Supreme Court Justice Louis J. Butler Jr. to be the federal judge for the western district of Wisconsin, delaying further action on the nomination for now.

Butler last year was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the federal bench in Madison and was subsequently confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But ongoing GOP objections to dozens of Obama judicial nominees had prevented Democrats from attempting to bring Butler to the floor for a vote of the Senate until now.

Republicans on Thursday objected to the Democrats’ attempts to bring up for a debate and vote nearly 20 of Obama’s judicial nominees, including Butler. According to one Republican Senate aide, there is a concern among some GOP Senators that Butler is soft on crime.

The U.S. Senate operates on a basis of unanimous consent, meaning that no action can be taken if any one senator objects. To overcome an objection requires a cloture vote and the support of at least 60 Senators. It remains unclear when Democrats might move to a cloture vote so that the backlog of judicial nominees might be confirmed.

The Senate is scheduled to adjourn for the August recess next Friday, and several items are taking precedence, including the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan, passage of an energy bill and approval of a small business bill.

 10:35 AM 

Senate Judiciary Committee backs Vaudreuil as U.S. attorney

The nomination of John W. Vaudreuil as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin was approved this morning by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote, with no objections. The nomination still needs to be approved by the full Senate.

Vaudreuil, a federal prosecutor, would replace Erik Peterson, who resigned the position to join the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

 11:49 AM 

Washington Post moves Feingold seat to 'Lean Dem''

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has moved Wisconsin's 2010 U.S. Senate race from "Safe Democratic" to "Lean Democratic" in the latest ratings in his "The Fix" column.

"The upper Midwest is bursting with Republican pickup opportunities this fall," Cillizza writes, "(A)nd Republicans recruited a credible candidate -- wealthy businessman Ron Johnson -- into the race against Sen. Russ Feingold."

 10:25 AM 

Steelworkers blast Johnson for trade agreement support

The United Steelworkers Union, in a strongly worded press release, slammed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson for supporting " job-destroying trade deals" like NAFTA and GATT.

At a WisPolitics luncheon Monday, Johnson said as someone whose company does business on a global scale, he supports the controversial free trade pacts that some argue have contributed to the state's manufacturing decline.

"It's a global economy; we've got to trade," Johnson said. "It works. I'm definitely supportive."

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, voted against NAFTA, CAFTA and most favored nation status for China, saying they "create a race to the bottom" among trading partners.

Johnson owns Oshkosh-based Pacur Inc., a plastics packaging manufacturer. He stressed the need for free trade agreements that are fair for Wisconsin workers and business owners, particularly in agriculture.

Johnson acknowledged that the agreements, as in all free-market capitalist systems, have created "winners and losers." But he noted that the U.S. still makes some 25 percent of the world's goods despite only having about 5 percent of its population. And he said that type of "creative destruction" is essential, saying, "If it weren't for that, we'd still have buggy whip companies."

USW District 2 Director Mike Bolton slammed Johnson for the comments.

"Johnson calls NAFTA a success and glibly refers to the horrendous job losses it caused as 'creative destruction.' He must not ever be considered a viable candidate to serve the people of Wisconsin," Bolton said.

USW Vice President Jon Geenen said, "We intend to tell Wisconsin's voters what they are getting in Ron Johnson, that is, a radical, right-wing conservative that is so far out of the mainstream and unsuitable to serve in any public office."

 9:04 AM 

Wis. delegation splits 4-4 on war supplemental

Wisconsin's House delegation split evenly over continued funding for the war in Afghanistan, as House Approps Chair David Obey led a protest vote that included more than 100 Dems.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, joined Republicans Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, Paul Ryan of Janesville and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls in supporting the $59 billion war funding bill, which passed yesterday on a 308-114 vote.

Meanwhile, Dems Tammy Baldwin of Madison, Steve Kagen of Appleton, Gwen Moore of Milwaukee joined Obey of Wausau in opposing the president and the measure. In all, 102 Dems voted no, contending money is needed for economic troubles at home.

Obey said before the vote that he has a "double, and conflicting, obligation" because as chair he has an obligation to bring the bill before the House.

"But I also have the obligation to my conscience to indicate -- by my individual vote -- my profound skepticism that this action will accomplish much more than to serve as a recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill," he said.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

 4:02 PM 

Obey to oppose war supplemental bill

The Washington Post reports that U.S. Rep. Dave Obey will oppose a military funding bill when it comes up for a vote today, citing "profound skepticism" about continuing military operations in Afghanistan.

"I have a double, and conflicting, obligation. As chairman, I have the obligation to bring this supplemental before the House to allow the institution to work its will," the Wausau Democrat and House Appropriations chairman said. "But I also have the obligation to my conscience to indicate -- by my individual vote -- my profound skepticism that this action will accomplish much more than to serve as a recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill."

In addition to his increasing opposition to the war funding, Obey has been locked in a battle with the Obama administration and other Dem leaders over including millions in aid to states for teachers in the legislation.

"What's happened with this bill is a good indication of the tensions and the false choices that we face," Obey said in the report.

 3:10 PM 

Feingold, Kohl back DISCLOSE Act, but legislation stalls

Both Wisconsin senators today voted to invoke cloture on a campaign finance reform bill, but the vote on the DISCLOSE Act fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to move ahead.

U.S. Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Ensign, R-Nev., missed the vote as the GOP held ranks to defeat the motion 57-41. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted against the bill in order to bring the legislation to the floor at a later date.

The bill would require corporations and other groups funding political advertising to disclose their role in the ads and their contributors.

"It is very disappointing that a minority of senators decided to block the Senate from even considering this bill to increase transparency and disclosure in elections," U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, said in a statement. "While the bill is not perfect, it was our best chance to provide voters with adequate information about exactly who is behind the onslaught of political ads they can expect to see this fall."

 12:21 PM 

Secretary LaHood to visit Watertown

The White House today announced that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will head to Watertown on Thursday to highlight the high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee set to break ground later this year.

LaHood will be joined by Gov. Doyle at the event. Other details have not been released.

The visit is part of a week-long "Recovery Summer" tour across the country by top administration officials.

 9:20 AM 

Johnson wants lawmakers to vote on going to war

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson says he wants to restore the tradition of Congress declaring war before the military is sent abroad.

The Oshkosh businessman, appearing at a WisPolitics luncheon yesterday, also criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the war in Afghanistan.

"We do not commit our fine young men and women to battle without a commitment to victory," Johnson said, decrying the president for announcing the surge and then talking about a timetable for withdrawal.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, has called for a timetable for removing troops from Afghanistan, saying the open-ended conflict is not in the best interests of American national security. Johnson said that absent a complete commitment to victory in Afghanistan, the troops should be brought home.

But he maintained that continuing military action in Afghanistan is essential, despite his acknowledgment of problems in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration.

"Our nation was attacked on 9/11, and we obviously had to respond," said Johnson, who added he would have voted to support the war if in the Senate. "I would much rather fight the terrorists over on their soil than have to fight them at home."

Monday, July 26, 2010

 10:55 AM 

7th CD makes MSNBC watch list

The open 7th CD is No. 4 on the NBC First Read’s list of favorite House races to watch.

“Running for David Obey's seat is a former ‘Real World’ cast member, Sean Duffy, who also happens to be a world-record pole climber (seriously). Since his ‘Real World’ days, he went to law school and is now a district attorney and serious candidate. But Democrats still like their chances,” First Read writes.

Duffy gave up his DA job earlier this year to concentrate on his run for the 7th. If he gets through the Republican primary as expected, he'll face Stevens Point-area Dem state Sen. Julie Lassa.

Friday, July 23, 2010

 4:35 PM 

AFP poll: Kind lead over Kapanke less than some expect

Madison insiders haven’t paid much attention to the 3rd CD race lately, focusing much of their attention on the open 7th CD and the crowded GOP field in the 8th seeking to take on Dem incumbent Steve Kagen.

But a new poll paid for by the conservative Americans for Prosperity plus the latest fundraising reports suggest U.S. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, could have a fight on his hands with GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies July 18-19, found Kind leading Kapanke 44 percent to 38 percent. Independent Michael Krsiean was backed by 6 percent of respondents.

What’s more, only 37 percent said Kind deserves re-election, while 49 percent believed it's time for a change. The survey also found a generic Republican outpolling a generic Dem 45 percent-36 percent.

This comes after recent FEC reports show the Republican state senator outraising Kind by $49,000 during the most recent quarter. Though Kapanke raised $244,000 to Kind’s $195,000, the incumbent still had a healthy cash on hand advantage. Kind’s warchest was $1.3 million compared to $342,000 for Kapanke.

Though incumbents polling at less than 50 percent are generally considered vulnerable, there were still some positive signs for Kind in the results.

His favorable rating still broke the 50-percent mark in the survey with 52 percent of respondents saying they had a positive opinion of him. Twenty-nine percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.

By comparison, Kapanke remains a largely unknown quantity to those surveyed. Twenty-six percent had no opinion of him, while 36 percent said they’d never heard of him. Twenty-nine percent had a favorable impression of Kapanke, while 9 percent had an unfavorable impression.

Kind’s campaign declined to comment on the survey results.

Kapanke campaign manager Brian Chatwin said he was “thrilled” by the poll.

“It shows the majority of people disagree with the position and votes that Ron Kind has taken,” he said. “It shows that the majority of people in Wisconsin are opposed to out-of-control government spending, and they want a member of Congress who will focus on jobs. That’s been Kapanke’s message all along.”

The poll of 300 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.66 percentage points.

It also found 65 percent of respondents believed the economic stimulus package, which Kind supported, “was just a government spending program that did not create enough new jobs for the money,” while 33 percent said it “is working to create jobs and pull the economy out of the recession.”

A memo from veteran pollster Gene Ulm says “economic anxieties and anger toward government spending have galvanized voters against incumbents.”

For example, asked if they supported a “Wall Street bailout bill that spent $700 billion dollars to bailout Wall Street banks, at the same time banks were foreclosing on thousands of Wisconsin homes,” 70 percent said no.

Seventy-four percent opposed cap and trade legislation that “could cost Wisconsin thousands of jobs and increase families’ electricity bills by over 1,700 dollars a year.”

AFP state director Mark Block says the poll is indicative what’s happening across the state and nation.

“The concerns people expressed at Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings throughout Wisconsin are being shared by citizens around the state,” Block said. “Politicians on the wrong side of those concerns are now feeling the heat for ignoring their constituents.”

 3:34 PM 

DCCC reserves TV ad time on Kagen's behalf

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton is one of 40 incumbent House Democrats targeted for TV ads by the DCCC, according to a report from Politico.

Kagen, who's seeking his third term in the 8th CD, is the only Wisconsin Dem to receive some of the reported $28 million in TV ad buys.

 12:23 PM 

Ryan: GOP pollsters saying 'stay away' from roadmap plan

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan took his "Roadmap for America's Future" to liberal Washington think tank the Brookings Institute Thursday, according to a Politico report.

Ryan, R-Janevsille, challenged his audience to come up with their own alternative to bring down federal spending, and said he knows why his GOP colleagues are largely on the sidelines with regard to his own proposal.

“They are talking to their pollsters," Ryan said. "They are saying, ‘Stay away from this. We are going to win an election.'”

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio reiterated Wednesday that he has "some doubts about (Ryan's plan) in terms of how good the policy is."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

 10:00 AM 

GAB keeps Baldwin on fall ballot

State election regulators today rejected a challenge to U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin's nomination papers, turning away a request to knock her off the fall ballot.

The Dane County Young Republicans filed the challenge, arguing Baldwin's nomination papers did not meet state standards because she did not list her voting address on them.

But the Government Accountability Board noted today that Baldwin has had permission from the state to use a campaign address on those papers over safety concerns. Baldwin, the only openly gay woman in Congress, received that permission in 2000 after presenting the state evidence of threats made against her and noted that in her response to the challenge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

 11:46 AM 

Feingold, Kohl vote to confirm Kagan

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 13-6 to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with both Wisconsin senators joining the majority.

U.S. Sen Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement that despite his issues with the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings last month, Kagan is "unquestionably qualified, has a record of being a principled, consensus-building lawyer, and ... her judicial philosophy is within the mainstream of our country’s legal thought."

Feingold, in a statement last week indicating his support for Kagan, said, "She has impressed me with her legal knowledge, thoughtfulness, and reputation for consensus building."

U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina was the only Republican on the committee to endorse Kagan. Her nomination now proceeds to the full Senate.

UPDATE: Here's a transcript of Feingold's remarks at today's hearing. Feingold called Kagan "imminently qualified."

"I believe that because she has not previously been a judge, she will bring a different and important perspective to a Court that is otherwise entirely populated by former appellate judges," Feingold said.

Monday, July 19, 2010

 11:17 AM 

Obey polling expense showing in 2nd quarter FEC reports

Retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Obey paid more than $30,000 on polling just eight days before announcing his retirement, according to the longtime congressman's latest filing with the FEC.

Obey announced his retirement May 5 after more than four decades in the House, saying he wanted to see health care reform passed and was simply “bone tired." But insiders in both parties questioned the abrupt announcement during a tough election year, and Republicans suggested he may not have wanted to fight against a GOP tide and then-Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy.

The Wausau Democrat brushed off such talk, saying he's never walked away from a fight in his life. But his recent campaign finance report shows payment to D.C.-based Hart Research Associates for polling on April 27 -- the largest expenditure of his more than $126,000 in reported disbursements in the second quarter.

Obey also reported taking in $28,000 in his latest campaign finance report while refunding $164,000 in campaign contributions. He led the delegation in fundraising during the first quarter of 2010 and piled up a $1.4 million in cash on hand at the end of March. His impressive warchest has been the subject of speculation since his retirement announcement. Obey listed $984,000 remaining in his account at the end of the second quarter, and could use much of that total to bolster other Dem campaigns this fall including that of favored successor, Stevens Point-area Sen. Julie Lassa.

Here's a rundown of the candidates vying for Obey's seat and the rest of the state's congressional districts:

*1st District: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan had almost $2.2 million cash on hand after raising $706,000 during the second quarter. Ryan, R-Janesville, reported spending $283,000 over the three-month period. Ryan is set to face 1st CD Democratic Party Treasurer John Heckenlively, who filed for the race last week and is awaiting word from the GAB on his ballot status, along with independent Bill Tucker and Libertarian Joe Kexel.

*2nd District: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, reports raising more than $165,000 during the second quarter and had more than $783,000 cash on hand as of June 30. Baldwin spent more than $86,000 during the period. Republican Chad Lee of Mt. Horeb reported raising just more than $4,000 in his bid to unseat Baldwin, with nearly $2,500 is disbursements and nearly $3,000 on hand at the close of the period. He lists a campaign debt of more than $5,300. Baldwin's other GOP opponent, Peter Theron of Madison, reported $1,200 raised, $1,500 spent and a warchest of $3,100; Theron's campaign debt is $1,200

*3rd District: U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, raised $195,000 and spent $122,000 in the quarter toward a final warchest of $1.3 million. GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke, also of La Crosse, outraised his Dem rival, taking in $244,000 during the quarter and reporting $342,000 cash on hand. His fundraising came entirely from individuals except for a candidate loan of $4,600. He spent $115,000 during the period, more than $20,000 of which went for direct mail. Republican Bruce Evers of Holmen filed supplemental signatures last week in his bid to take on Kapanke in the primary. Mike Krsiean of Houlton is running as an independent.

*4th District: U.S. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, reported $89,000 raised toward a warchest of $108,000. Moore's expenditures totaled less than $55,000. Two Milwaukee Republicans, Dan Sebring and Kenneth Lipinksy, have filed reports toward their candidacies in the heavily Dem 4th. Sebring raised $5,300, spent nearly the same amount and had $1,300 on hand. Lipinsky has raised $3,600 -- mostly self-funded and from family members -- while spending $1,300. He had a $2,300 warchest. Independent candidate Eddie Ahmad Ayyash and Dem Paul Morel have also filed with the state to run.

*5th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner raised nearly $38,000 during the quarter. The longtime Menomonee Falls congressman spent more than $39,000; his warchest on June 30 was $425,000. Sensenbrenner's Dem opponent, Menomonee Falls small businessman Todd Kolosso, reported raising $3,700 during the period but loaned his own campaign more than $56,000. He spent more than $65,000 over the quarter. Kolosso listed more than $28,000 cash on hand at the end of June. Independent Robert Raymond of Shorewood has also filed signatures to run on the fall ballot.

*6th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Petri pushed his warchest to $924,000 after raising $144,000 during the quarter. Petri spent $167,018 over the period, $100,000 of which came in a transfer to the NRCC. The longtime Fond du Lac Republican congressman will face late-emerging challenger Dem Joseph Kallas of Princeton.

*7th District: In the state's lone open seat this cycle, Dem state Sen. Julie Lassa reported raising $313,000 in the six weeks since she entered the race to replace U.S. Rep. Obey. She spent less than $9,000 over the same period, and had a warchest of $304,000. The favored Republican in the race, former Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy, raised $465,000 in the quarter, bringing his warchest to $681,000. Duffy's primary rival, Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke, raised a reported $24,000, $20,000 of which came through an in-kind donation of printed material from the candidate. He declared most of his $25,000 in disbursements through the same printing materials. Mielke reported less than $1,500 cash on hand. Democrat Don Raihala of Superior filed late last week in the 7th CD as well, setting up a primary with Lassa.

*8th District: U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, the most targeted incumbent in the state's congressional delegation, raised $232,000 over the period. The Appleton Dem spent $126,000 and reported $841,000 on hand. Four Republicans combined to raised $333,000 this quarter in their efforts to take on Kagen, including:
-- Reid Ribble, formerly a Kaukauna roofing contractor, who raised $152,000, spent $93,000 and had a warchest of $178,000.
-- State Rep. Roger Roth of Appleton, who raised nearly $60,000 during the period and had $87,000 cash on hand. Roth spent just over $60,000 during the quarter.
-- Terri McCormick, who formerly held Roth's seat in the Legislature and is making her second bid for the 8th CD. She reported $111,000 raised and $99,000 cash on hand after spending $30,000 during the quarter.
-- Door Co. Supervisor Marc Savard, a self-described "Tea Party" candidate who has raised $10,000 and finished with a cash balance of $4,500.

See more in Friday's WisPolitics REPORT.

Friday, July 16, 2010

 9:55 AM 

Polls alternate between Feingold, Johnson

Two polls released Thursday offer differing snapshots of the U.S. Senate race.

In a UW Badger Poll, incumbent Dem Russ Feingold held a 25 percent to 19 percent lead, though 55 percent of respondents said they were undecided. Feingold held a 33 percent to 28 percent lead among likely voters taking the poll.

The Badger Poll was conducted among 500 people with landline telephones between June 9 and July 10. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll did not include a matchup between Feingold and Watertown businessman Dave Westlake, who is also seeking the GOP nomination. Republican Stephen Finn, a Milwaukee plumber who also gained ballot access by turning in the required nomination signatures this week, was also not included in the poll.

In a poll from Rasmussen Reports, Johnson edged Feingold, the first time a publicly released poll has shown him up on the Dem incumbent.

According to the poll, Johnson was favored by 47 percent of respondents, while 46 percent backed Feingold. Six percent were undecided.

Feingold has drawn 46 percent of the support in three straight months from Rasmussen, while Johnson received 44 percent two months ago and 45 percent in polls from the firm. Democrats discount the firms polls as slanting Republican.

Feingold fares better in the Rasmussen poll against Westlake, getting 51 percent of the support versus Westlake's 37 percent. Six percent were undecided in that match up.

The survey of 750 likely voters was conducted Tuesday and had a margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Thirty percent of the poll respondents had a very favorable view of Feingonld, compared to 20 percent for Johnson and 4 percent for Westlake. At the same time, 25 percent had a very unfavorable view of Feingold, 9 percent for Johnson and 9 percent for Westlake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

 5:57 PM 

Feingold to support Kagan nomination

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold said today he would support the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagen to the U.S. Supreme during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation vote next week.

"During the Judiciary Committee’s recent hearings, Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated a keen mind and a wide-ranging command of the law," Feingold, D-Middleton, said in a statement. "I appreciated her efforts to improve the confirmation process, which she fairly criticized in an article more than a decade ago, by trying to answer Senators’ questions as openly and comprehensively as possible."

 11:52 AM 

Feingold the only Dem to oppose Wall St. overhaul

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold was the only Senate Democrat to vote against a cloture motion on a bill to reform Wall Street regulation today.

Feingold, of Middleton, joined with 37 Republicans in voting against the legislation. Three New England Republicans -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts -- provided the 60 votes needed to move the bill ahead.

“At the outset of the debate over the financial regulatory reform bill, I made clear that my test for this bill would be whether it prevents another economic crisis," Feingold said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this bill falls short."

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, voted in favor of the motion.

UPDATE: The Senate approved final passage of the bill 60-39, with Feingold voting against the bill and Kohl voting in favor.

Feingold remained the lone Dem to vote against the bill on final passage.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

 11:19 AM 

Feingold raises $1.4M during 2nd quarter; Johnson brings in $557K

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s campaign said this morning the Middleton Dem raised more than $1.4 million during the second quarter of the year and had more than $4.3 million cash on hand.

The campaign said it received donations from more than 18,000 donors during the period and his total included $277,000 raised online.

Meanwhile, GOP Senate hopeful Ron Johnson reported today that he put almost $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign through the end of June and raised another $557,774 from individuals.

Johnson also spent almost $1.1 million, leaving him $940,642 in the bank. The Oshkosh businessman, who formally announced his Senate bid in mid-May, raised $506,797 in the month of June.

Federal campaign reports are due tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

 9:01 AM 

Feingold ad attacks Johnson over Great Lakes drilling

Russ Feingold says in a new TV ad that GOP rival Ron Johnson is “willing to hand over the Great Lakes to oil companies.”

"We won’t let that happen," Feingold adds.

Feingold, D-Middleton, says in the spot that he “stood up to the Big Oil interests in Washington who would put profits ahead of our Wisconsin lakes” and opposed drilling in the Great Lakes.

“(Johnson's) willing to hand over the Great Lakes to the oil companies, threatening Wisconsin’s economy, and a way of life for generations of Wisconsin families,” Feingold says in the spot.

But the GOP frontrunner and Oshkosh businessman insists he doesn't support drilling in the Great Lakes.

Feingold and Dems have seized on various comments Johnson has made to charge he supports such a move. But Johnson said in a statement yesterday he wouldn't back overturning the current ban on drilling in the lakes.

“Let me repeat: I would reject any and all efforts to drill in the Great Lakes,” Johnson said in the statement.

The statement comes on the heels of Johnson's disclosure of between $116,003 and $315,000 in BP stock, plus interests in Exxon and Occidental Petroleum. Johnson's campaign also hit Feingold by pointing out the senator's participation in the state retirement fund, which the campaign says held more than $400,000 of BP stock as of June 30.

“When was the last time Russ Feingold demanded that the Wisconsin Retirement Fund that he belongs to and will benefit from financially disinvest itself of BP and other oil company stocks?" campaign manager Juston Johnson asked.

UPDATE: In his own ad released a day later, Johnson responded that Feingold is "stuck in the mud."

"Ron Johnson opposes drilling in the Great Lakes and Russ Feingold knows it," the ad says. "Great Lakes drilling’s already illegal and Feingold knows that too.because he voted against the law that protected our lakes. That’s right. Feingold was the only Great Lakes senator to vote no. Feingold plays politics."

Monday, July 12, 2010

 11:15 AM 

Feingold says Republicans have no plan

Before turning in nomination signatures today to place himself on the ballot for the fall election, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold stopped by a Madison TV station to talk about the expiration of unemployment benefits and Wall Street reform.

Feingold said he was returning to Washington today to fight for the extension of the unemployment benefits after turning in his signatures to the Government Accountability Board.

"That's just wrong," Feingold said of attempts to stall the extension. "We've always had a bipartisan understanding that when people are unemployed we've got to help them out. We've got people calling our office in tears."

Feingold also took a shot at GOP candidate Ron Johnson.

"One of my opponents has said these people should just figure out a way to get back to work, as if there's just all kinds of jobs out there," Feingold said. "That's one of the differences in the election here. I believe in fighting for jobs, for working people, and not suggesting that it's always easy for them in a situation like this to survive. They need the benefits."

Feingold said the fact that "Wall Street's not very upset" by the legislation to regulate it "tell(s) you everything you need to know."

The Middleton Democrat's opposition to the bill has complicated efforts by President Obama and Dem-controlled Congress to pass the reforms.

He said the legislation doesn't deal with to issues that caused the recession -- financial houses that are "too big to fail" and returning to the pre-1999 law that differentiates between investment companies and commercial banks.

"The big thing that has to be done here aren't done," Feingold said. "I'm not going to be part of an effort to pretend that this does the job of making sure that this doesn't happen again."

Feingold acknowledged that Democrats face a tough climate this year, but he said Republicans are "very cocky" and think they've already won.

But he said Republicans they have no plan, and Dem efforts like the Recovery Act and tax cuts for working families are working.

"One of my opponents, Mr. Johnson, has zero plan to reduce the federal deficit, in fact he wants to move it the other way," Feingold said. "He has no plan to create jobs at all."

Feingold turned in 20,000 signatures today. Only 2,000 are required to gain ballot access for a statewide office, and the GAB only accepts a maximum for 4,000.

 10:55 AM 

Petri, Ryan, Sensenbrenner back Johnson in Senate primary

Wisconsin's congressional Republicans are each backing Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate this fall.

The Johnson Campaign announced the endorsement of Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, Paul Ryan of Janesville and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls this morning. He faces Watertown businessman David Westlake in the primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton.

“Ron Johnson’s success as a small businessman and experience creating Wisconsin jobs will serve us well in the United States Senate,” said Petri in the statement.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

 4:29 PM 

Johnson reports millions in investments, including BP stock

GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson reported Friday investments worth as much as $38 million, including stock in BP.

Dems immediately seized on the BP stock, valued at between $116,003 and $315,000, to criticize Johnson for comments he made on the petroleum giant at a debate last month.

Johnson said he believed BP must be held accountable. But he criticized the $20 billion fund set up to aid victims, saying the Obama administration should have gone through the normal legal process to extract the funds.

“It is very troubling when we circumvent the rule of law,” Johnson said. “I think they would have been held liable, and that would be the way to do this.”

"After the worst environmental disaster in American history, Ron Johnson has repeatedly defended big oil saying 'this is not the time to be beating up those guys,' and now after trying to keep it a secret, it has been revealed that he has a significant and direct personal financial interest in British Petroleum, proving without any doubt that he would put big oil profits, and his own financial interests, ahead of Wisconsin," said John Kraus, Russ Feingold’s senior strategist.

Johnson's campaign was quick to counter that numerous mutual funds invest in the company and said Feingold has a financial interest in the company because of his retirement holdings with the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

"Anyone who has a mutual fund most likely has an investment in BP," Johnson campaign manager Juston Johnson said in a statement. "Ron believes BP must be held fully accountable for its negligence. Ron is entering all holdings into a blind trust upon election to the Senate to avoid any conflicts of interest."

Johnson also announced Friday plans to put his investments in a blind trust.

The disclosure statement also shows Johnson had income of between $1 million and $3 million.

Johnson released tax records yesterday that showed he estimated almost $1.5 million in income during 2009.

The disclosure report, which covers the 12 months prior to his joining the race this spring, only requires candidates to give broad ranges on their income and holdings. The only exact figure Johnson provided in the statement was the $650,000 he made as the head of Oshkosh-based PACUR.

The other significant sources of income Johnson reported includes between $100,001 and $1 million from stock in Associated Wealth Management IRA and between $100,001 and $1 million from RJH JKJ LLC.

Friday, July 9, 2010

 9:44 AM 

Moore says diverting rail money for Hoan Bridge 'just not possible'

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore advised Milwaukee and state officials to apply for a federal transportation grant to fix the city's crumbling Hoan Bridge, telling a pair of state lawmakers that diverting high-speed rail funds for bridge repairs is "just not possible."

State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, wrote to Moore Wednesday requesting a portion of the $810 million rail line set for construction between Milwaukee and Madison. State DOT officials said such a move would require acts of both Congress and the state Legislature, while Gov. Jim Doyle said of the lawmakers Thursday, "They know that this is a nonsense proposal, and that's what it is.”

Moore, D-Milwaukee, suggested applying for the TIGER II grant program, under which the federal DOT can award $600 million in discretionary grants in fiscal year 2010. The deadline to apply for the grants is next Friday.

"We can all agree that the bridge needs to be safe. It needs to be repaired. It needs to be maintained," Moore wrote. "That’s the bottom line. And I am as committed as anyone to making sure that it can safely meet the needs of our communities for years to come."

Moore also reiterated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's request that the state use some of the $105 million in extra federal highway funds to repair the Hoan. But Doyle also called that proposal unlikely this week, saying the Legislature has already determined how that money will be spent.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

 11:44 AM 

Bucyrus CEO: State GOP criticism of Feingold on Ex-Im decision baseless

Tim Sullivan, the president and CEO of South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International, chided state Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus today after Priebus criticized U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's response to a controversial federal bank decision involving Bucyrus.

In a press release issued Tuesday by the state GOP, Priebus criticized Feingold's "silence" on the U.S. Export-Import Bank's initial decision to deny a loan guarantee for an Indian power plant and mining project.

The project was set to utilize $600 million in Bucyrus mining equipment, and company and state officials said the loan denial could have cost 1,000 jobs -- including 300 in Wisconsin. The bank struck a deal to move the loan forward last week.

“What’s really troubling in all of this is the silence of Senator Russ Feingold,” Priebus said in the party's statement. “Bucyrus’ CEO cited people like Scott Walker specifically for going after the government’s job killers, but Feingold is content to go in the wrong direction.”

Sullivan responded that, "The facts do no support this assertion."

Sullivan and Feingold's Senate office pointed out that the Middleton Democrat had written to the Ex-Im bank both before the bank's loan denial and after, asking chairman Fred Hochberg to reconsider.

"Bucyrus has been fortunate to have elected officials from both sides of the aisle, including Senator Feingold, working to persuade the U.S. Export-Import Bank to provide loan guarantees for our sale and to ensure that jobs remain here in Wisconsin and the United States," Sullivan wrote.

Feingold spokesman Zach Lowe added, "While there can be disagreement on the issues, we should at least agree that we should be straight with the facts."

UPDATE: Priebus defended Tuesday's statement in a press release this afternoon.

"Sen. Feingold still stands by the Obama Administration’s underlying direction for the Export-Import Bank," Priebus said. "If the policy remains in place despite this one overturned decision, similar decisions will no doubt come in the future."

 10:00 AM 

Sensenbrenner looks into air travel safety following near-collision

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is personally conducting an investigation into air travel safety after a flight he was on narrowly missed a collision with another airplane near the D.C. airport last week.

The Menomonee Falls Republican was on United Flight 612 on June 28 when the plane was diverted from its original flight plan due to a thunderstorm. Sensenbrenner's office said while his flight was holding at 13,000 feet, a breakdown in communication led to another air traffic control sector clearing a different aircraft to climb to 15,000 feet, setting that plane on a course to converge with his plane.

The pilots' Traffic Collision Avoidance System alerted them to the impending collision, and Sensenbrenner's plane made an evasive maneuver to avoid the second plane.

"Upon landing at Reagan National Airport, I immediately called the FAA to alert them of the situation and requested that they examine the conditions that led to this near collision over a heavily populated area," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "While no one ever wants to be in such a circumstance, I am pleased that the FAA acted quickly to identify the error with air traffic control operations."

 9:58 AM 

7th CD candidates report second quarter fundraising

Republican Sean Duffy's campaign is reporting the 7th CD candidate raised about $470,000 in the second quarter and has roughly $670,000 cash on hand.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Julie Lassa's campaign is reporting the Stevens Point Dem raised $313,000 in the six weeks since she entered the race.

Lassa received contributions from 1,119 donors across all 20 counties of the 7th Disitrct, with an average contribution of under $135.

Duffy's campaign manager Matt Seaholm said the Ashland County Republican's figures are rough numbers and a final report should be released Friday.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

 3:52 PM 

Kagen critical of Arizona lawsuit

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said today the Obama administration's decision to sue over Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement overhaul only serves to distract the country from the larger issues of the immigration debate.

Those issues include, according to the Appleton Democrat, "securing our borders, enforcing all our immigration laws, and stopping illegal immigration."

"Lawyers in Washington cannot secure our borders or catch those who break our laws," Kagen said in a statement. "Arizona has asked for our help, not a federal lawsuit."

 10:47 AM 

Reasbeck reportedly drops 7th CD bid

The Associated Press reports that Iron River Democrat Joe Reasbeck has dropped his bid for Congress citing unspecified family issues.

Reasbeck, who officially announced his candidacy in late May, grew up in Superior and wrestled at the University of Minnesota. His other experiences reportedly ranged from writing wresting novels to working for a California dot-com startup. He also said he ran as an independent in Texas in 2006 for the U.S. House seat that had been held by Tom De Lay; media reports described him as a GOP write-in candidate.

Reasbeck's exit pares the 7th CD field to Dem state Sen. Julie Lassa of Stevens Point and Republicans Sean Duffy of Ashland and Dan Mielke of Rudolph. The district is open for the first time in more than four decades following the retirement of U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

 3:42 PM 

Hoyer to headline fundraiser for Lassa

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, is hosting a fundraiser July 8 for 7th Congressional District candidate Julie Lassa.

Lassa, a state senator from Stevens Point, is seeking to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Dave Obey of Wausau. Joe Reasbeck of Iron River, an Internet consultant and author, is also running in the Dem primary.

The Republican primary features former Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy and Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke.

 9:18 AM 

Wisconsin delegation splits on financial reform

Wisconsin's congressional delegation split down party lines Wednesday as the House passed a sweeping financial regulatory overhaul by a 237-192 vote.

Dems hailed the bill as a way to end risky investing and take taxpayers off the hook for future financial system bailouts.

“Today we put an end to bailouts for big banks, established tough consumer protections, and most importantly, put into place strict rules against risky financial practices that will hold Wall Street more accountable,” said U.S. Rep. Kind, D-La Crosse in a statement. “Never again will taxpayers be held hostage by large institutions that make bad decisions jeopardizing the entire United States economy.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, added, "Years of letting Wall Street and Big Banks run amok and gamble with your hard-earned money are coming to an end." U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, said, "Tonight, we put a cop back on the beat."

The conference committee bill now heads to the Senate, where leaders are scrambling to come up with the needed votes following the death of Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a supporter of the legislation. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, reiterated his opposition to the bill this week.

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· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
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· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
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