• WisPolitics

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

 1:07 PM 

Kind calls for further investigation of Kapanke baseball team's non-profit

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today said the La Crosse Loggers Foundation should be subject to further investigation after his likely GOP opponent acknowledged improper payments from the non-profit to pay a personal debt.

After the state Democratic Party filed a complaint last week, state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse and owner of the independent La Crosse Loggers baseball team, admitted that the foundation should not have paid some $32,000 to the city of La Crosse as part of a debt repayment plan for renovations to the Loggers' stadium.

"I think everyone is disappointed," Kind said in an interview with WisPolitics. "I've known state Sen. Kapanke for some time, but everyone knows that you cannot be taking money out of a charitable foundation for personal uses."

"I mean, that's just basic. It's fundamental."

Kind declined to join DPW Chairman Mike Tate in calling for Kapanke to suspend his congressional campaign, but he said Kapanke's admission should result in a deeper investigation of the non-profit group.

"The fact that the acknowledged that the initial sum was a lot less than what he was actually doing alone would speak for further investigation or an audit of this charitable foundation at the very least," Kind said.

The La Crosse Democrat, who hosted about 100 guests at a fundraising luncheon in Madison, said his own campaign has been working hard throughout the district on "all things economic."

He said he's focused on loosening credit markets for small businesses, a national manufacturing plan and a state innovation agenda. Kind said he hopes the president's call for passage of the small business loan program bill this week will spur the Senate to action when it returns next month.

"They're going to be the locomotive pull us out of this recession," Kind said of the country's small businesses. "And I'm hearing from too many of them the credit markets are still too tight, they're still too frozen, and they're not working that efficiently."

 12:20 PM 

Ryan joins 'Young Guns' founders in new book

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan has joined with House GOP colleagues Eric Cantor of Virginia and Kevin McCarthy of California to craft a "224-page marketing tool for the men who hope to run the House," according to a Politico review of their new book.

The book, titled "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders," borrows from the name of the House GOP candidate recruitment program founded by the three GOP leaders. Due in bookstores on September 14, Politico reports the Janesville Republican's section of the book accuses Democrats of hijacking the legislative process and warns of the country's unsustainable fiscal path.

The review also says Ryan attacks progressivism -- noting the movement's roots in the Badger State -- and suggests the book's publisher edit a Ryan statement that, "Americans aren’t any particular nationality."

 10:06 AM 

Obey recognized by democracy advocacy group

Retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Obey has been named one of three winners of the 2010 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

The award honors "extraordinary efforts to advance electoral participation and democratic values," and is given annually to one Democrat, one Republican and one international advocate. Obey, D-Wausau, joined M. Peter McPherson -- former USAID administrator under President Reagan -- and Lebanese official Ziad Baroud as this year's winners.

Obey was recognized for advocating funding for democracy assistance groups across the globe as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"Funding is the lifeblood of any democracy organization and Rep. Obey has consistently pressed for funding these groups," IFES Board of Directors Chairman Peter Kelly said in a statement. "(H)e has acted as the ‘conscience of the Congress.'"

 9:31 AM 

Kagen to launch first TV ad

Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s first TV campaign of his re-election campaign is set to launch today, according to a Green Bay TV station source.

Kagen campaign spokeswoman Allison Jaslow confirmed the ad began airing today. A copy of the ad was not immediately available.

Jaslow said the two-term congressman is currently on a four-day swing through the state. The campaign stopped in Minocqua last night, was in Rhinelander this morning and will hit Shawano and Gillett today.

Kagen, an Appleton allergist seeking his third two-year term, is targeted by Republicans in the 8th CD.

Monday, August 30, 2010

 5:02 PM 

Ryan: Country risks 'lost generation' due to entitlement costs, spending

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan today warned that the country is headed toward a "lost decade" economically and runs the risk of creating a "lost generation" due to escalating entitlement costs and government borrowing and spending.

Ryan, R-Janesville and the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, made the dire predictions during a RNC-led conference call. He was joined on the call by former CBO director and McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.

"It is very clear the economic policies of the Obama administration and this Congress are failing miserably," Ryan said.

Ryan said those policies have caused the slow growth out of the recession.

"We are buying ourselves our own lost decade," he said. "We could have come out of this recession in a much more vibrant way if we had the right fiscal policies in place."

"We need to reverse course, we need to change Congress and we need to change the White House," Ryan said.

Ryan didn't hold his own party harmless, acknowledging Republicans spent too much during George W. Bush administration.

Ryan said Republicans let discretionary spending and earmarks get out of control during the Bush years.

"That is legitimate criticism. We need to face up to it, own it and make sure it never happens again," Ryan said.

Ryan said there was a new generation of Republican leaders who are atoning for those mistakes. He added that Democrats are taking those bad practices Republicans were guilty of and magnifying them "by a factor of 10."

 4:58 PM 

DCCC ad rips Duffy on Social Security

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a new TV ad accusing 7th CD GOP candidate Sean Duffy of wanting to privatize Social Security.

The ad's narrator says Duffy backs a plan to privatize the program, which would cut benefits and "gamble seniors' retirement on the stock market."

"The plan to privatize Social Security supported by Sean Duffy is the wrong choice for Wisconsin's families," the narrator says.

Duffy campaign spokeswoman Wendy Riemann called the ads "desperate scare tactics." She noted Duffy said in an interview last week with the Wausau Daily Herald that privatizing Social Security is not an option.

"Sean has clearly stated that privatization is not an option to fix Social Security and voters know he will work to find meaningful solutions to a program already in the red," Riemann said.

Friday, August 27, 2010

 5:04 PM 

Roth calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 8th CD GOP debate

Iraq war veteran Roger Roth today called for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, saying there is no clearly defined mission for them.

Roth, an Appleton state representative, debated GOP rivals Reid Ribble and Terri McCormick today as the three speed toward the Sept. 14 primary for the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton.

While McCormick and Ribble agreed government officials have not clearly defined the mission in Afghanistan, they said they support funding a troop presence in that country.

Roth, who served with the Wisconsin Air National Guard for seven years and completed three tours of duty in Iraq, took a shot at his opponents over their stance.

“We either need to give our troops a mission and a clear path to victory or we need to take them home,” Roth said. “I will not continue to support a war that we cannot win. My opponents are hypocrites because they don’t agree with the war strategy, but they want to continue to fund it.”

The three met in a debate broadcast on WTAQ in Green Bay and moderated by radio host Jerry Bader. He questioned Ribble, a roofer, on his perceived flip-flop on the immigration issue.

The inconsistency came out of a 2006 interview in which Ribble questioned whether the U.S. should close its borders. He also reportedly supported a 2005 bill that likely would have provided amnesty to illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

“My stance has been consistent,” Ribble said. “There’s a lot of misinformation. The plan that I supported required illegal immigrants to pay a $2,000 penalty and back taxes, required them to undergo a background check and drug testing and would have made them get in line behind the millions of others who are participating in the citizenship process.”

Roth said he has been consistently vocal about the government’s need to secure the borders and enforce existing laws and said he has never supported amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“To allow people who’ve come here illegally and disregarded our laws to receive amnesty by paying a small fine and cutting in front of millions of people who are in line to come here the right and proper way is just plain wrong,” Roth said.

McCormick, who referred to herself as a constitutional conservative Republican, agreed with Roth. They both said they support sending illegal immigrants back to their home countries and requiring them to apply for citizenship via the proper legal process.

The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, which advocates for stricter immigration enforcement, today endorsed Roth in the race. It alleged Ribble, while serving as president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, "supported the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill that would have paved the way for amnesty."

When the debate conversation turned to abortion, it was McCormick who stood apart from the others. Ribble and Roth said they oppose abortion in all cases, while McCormick said she supports exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother. All three candidates are endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life.

Despite their differences, Ribble, a roofing contractor from Sherwood; McCormick, a businesswoman from Greenville and a former state representative; and Roth, a homebuilder from Grand Chute; spent most of the debate agreeing with each other’s stance on the issues. They largely had only subtle differences in how to execute changes.

“We’re in a Republican primary so everything gets pushed to the right,” Ribble said. “We’re all trying to out-right everybody. The real opponent in this race is Steve Kagen, and with him there are plenty of differences to point to.”

The candidates agreed the current national health care package does not address the root problems of increasing health care and prescription drug costs. Ribble said repealing the health care law is futile because as long as President Barack Obama is in office, he will veto a bill that would do so. He said his focus will be to “defund” the current plan so it is impossible to implement and then repair the existing health care system.

Roth said he will fight to repeal the federal health care plan. Not only do lawmakers need to show citizens that they care, but they need to plan ahead for a change in administration that could come with the 2012 presidential election, he said. The best way to do both is by repealing the law and creating a sound reform package to replace it, he said.

McCormick said both her opponents’ ideas are based on a five-point plan she authored to replace the reforms.

 3:06 PM 

ALIPAC endorses Roth, slams Ribble over support of 'amnesty''

The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has endorsed state Rep. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, in the 8th Congressional District.

ALIPAC, which advocates for stricter immigration enforcement, cited Roth's support in the Wisconsin Legislature for bills requiring state prisons to identify undocumented immigrant inmates and establishing English as the state's official language.

The group also blasted fellow 8th CD Republican Reid Ribble, a former Kaukauna roofing contractor, over comments about a 2005 immigration reform bill proposed by U.S. Sens. John McCain and the late Ted Kennedy. ALIPAC alleges that while serving as president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, Ribble "supported the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill that would have paved the way for amnesty."

The Ribble campaign declined comment. Former state Rep. Terri McCormick is also vying for the GOP nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton.

ALIPAC president William Gheen has come under fire from some conservatives for attempting to "out" South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham as gay.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

 12:04 PM 

Lassa goes up on TV in 7th District

State Sen. Julie Lassa today unveiled her first TV ad in her bid for the open 7th Congressional District.

The spot, titled "Two Skills," focuses on Lassa's pledge to refuse a pay raise in Congress unless the federal budget is balanced, and her vow to cut congressional pay by 10 percent until unemployment declines.

"Growing up on a dairy farm, my dad taught me not to take any bull and how to milk a dollar for all it's worth," the Stevens Point Dem says in the ad. "Two skills they could really use in Washington."

Republicans -- including 7th CD candidate Sean Duffy -- accused Lassa of hypocrisy on her pay raise promise, saying she took a $2,530 raise allotted to state senators last year. But Lassa campaign manager Rick Fromberg said today in a conference call that Lassa has paid 3 percent of her salary back to the state since March of this year through a voluntary furlough program, which "more than covers the pay raise (the state GOP) cites."

"If he's going to criticize Julie Lassa for taking pay raises, which she's voluntarily giving back, we should add that he's received pay raises from taxpayers throughout his tenure," Fromberg said of Duffy, a former Ashland County district attorney.

Lassa also says she'll work to oppose earmarks and no-bid contracts in the ad. Fromberg said that isn't a shot against Dave Obey -- the district's 41-year incumbent and a proponent of federal funding for projects in the 7th CD while chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee -- but instead reflects the concerns of Lassa's prospective constituents.

"There's a criticism of Washington," Fromberg said. "Julie Lassa is an independent voice running her own campaign, talking about the values she's going to bring to Washington."

 9:22 AM 

Poll shows Ribble leading Kagen in 8th CD

Conservative group American Action Forum has put out a poll showing incumbent Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen trailing Republican Reid Ribble by 10 points.

Ribble, a former roofing contractor, is in a three-way primary with state Rep. Roger Roth and former state Rep. Terri McCormick. The group did not poll Kagen against Roth or McCormick.

The poll was conducted by Alexandria, Virginia-based firm Ayres, McHenry & Associates Aug. 16-19. The firm polled 400 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

According to the poll, Ribble leads Kagen 49 percent to 39 percent among the respondents. Kagen had a name ID of 99 percent compared to 59 percent for Ribble. Kagen had a 43 percent favorability rate, and Ribble 21 percent.

 8:44 AM 

NYT analyst: Republicans have 29 percent chance of ousting Feingold

Political analyst Nate Silver writes in his FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times that Republicans have just a 29 percent chance of seizing the Wisconsin Senate seat.

Silver projects the vote 50 percent to 47 percent in favor of Feingold.

"The forecast model in Wisconsin is somewhat skeptical of Republican chances there, particularly against Mr. Feingold, an idiosyncratic senator who has broken from his party’s position on many issues," Silver writes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

 5:12 PM 

Rasmussen poll: Senate numbers stable

There was no movement in the latest Rasmussen survey of Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race.

Ron Johnson was backed by 47 percent of those surveyed, compared to 46 percent for Russ Feingold, the same numbers as the firm's survey conducted two weeks ago.

Feingold led David Westlake 47-40.

The poll also found 48 percent of those surveyed approved of the job President Obama is doing, compared to 51 percent who disapproved.

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

 9:06 AM 

Republican congressional candidates issue new ads

A pair of GOP congressional airwaves are taking to the TV airwaves this week.

Reid Ribble announced his campaign's second TV ad in the 8th Congressional District, focusing on his career as a roofing contractor in Kaukauna.

The 30-second spot, titled "family business," features Ribble discussing his experience creating jobs and balancing budgets while building "one of the most successful roofing companies in Wisconsin."

"We've been promised by the career politicians in Washington that they would create real jobs and balance the budget," Ribble says in the ad. "Instead, they're spending our money and jeopardizing the American dream for future generations."

In addition, 2nd CD GOP challenger Chad Lee says in a new ad that U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s vote for the bank bailout “means Wall Street works while America doesn’t.”

The narrator in Lee's first TV spot says Congress gave $700 billion to Wall Street while allowing 90,000 small businesses to go bankrupt. The narrator then asks viewers if they’re tired of chronic unemployment and trillion dollar debts and encourages them to send a message.

“The only thing Washington really understands is Election Day,” Lee says as he looks into the camera. “It’s time to send a message to Congress. No more bailouts with our tax dollars.”

See the spots in Ad Watch.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

 10:20 AM 

Feingold hits Johnson on mortgage interest deduction

Russ Feingold went after Ron Johnson Monday for saying he'd be willing to “horse trade” home mortgage interest tax deductions for other tax changes.

Johnson spokeswoman Sara Sendek said the candidate's comments on the interest deduction are being misconstrued. Johnson made the comments in an interview with Madison TV station WKOW, in which he said he was willing to look at any proposals that would lower taxes and simplify the tax code.

“The mortgage interest deduction is absolutely essential for Wisconsin families,” Feingold said at a Milwaukee Press Club luncheon. “That would be a very serious tax increase that would put even more people out of their homes.”

The incumbent Dem U.S. senator said the deductions help the middle class and that the Oshkosh millionaire businessman would instead give tax breaks to the wealthy.

“What he's most likely to do, of course, is to horse trade it, get rid of it for middle class people for lower taxes for people like himself,” he said in a follow-up with reporters afterward.

Sendek responded that Johnson never said he would repeal the deduction.

“Ron supports home mortgage interest tax deductions and has always done so," she said. "What he is in favor of is simplifying our tax code. Ron has expressed a willingness to look at the options in order to reduce the tax burden and simplify our tax code.”

See more in Monday's PM Update.

Monday, August 23, 2010

 1:30 PM 

Gard backs Ribble in 8th CD

Former Assembly Speaker John Gard has endorsed Reid Ribble in the 8th Congressional District's GOP primary.

Gard, the Republican nominee who lost to Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen in 2006 and 2008, announced the endorsement this afternoon at Green Bay packaging manufacturer Service Plus. Gard said in a statement that Ribble has "demonstrated his ability to create jobs and meet budgets and he is the best candidate to unseat Steve Kagen."

Ribble, a De Pere Republican and former roofing contractor, said he is "honored and truly humbled" by the endorsement. He faces Rep. Roger Roth and former Rep. Terri McCormick, both of Appleton, in the primary next month.

 9:56 AM 

Rangel, Waters donations linked to state congressional Dems

Wisconsin's congressional Democrats have received $35,500 in campaign contributions from a pair of embattled House colleagues since 1998, according to FEC records.

The majority of those contributions went to U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, who has taken in $21,000 U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel's congressional and political action committees -- money that the National Republican Congressional Committee has been pressuring the Appleton Democrat to return.

Rangel, the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was admonished by the House Ethics Committee in February and appears headed for public trial in the House on ethics charges, including improper financial disclosures and fundraising for a facility at the City College of New York.

House Dems have returned more than $600,000 in Rangel contributions, but Wisconsin's incumbents aren't among them to this point.

Two of Kagen's prospective GOP opponents have raised the issue already this year. In March, state Rep. Roger Roth of Appleton said that if Kagen wouldn't accept another $21,000 from Rangel now, "he should return the money immediately," while De Pere Republican Reid Ribble said last month Kagen's refusal "is not what Wisconsin residents deserve."

The NRCC also hit Kagen for his Rangel contributions in 2008, running a TV ad in Green Bay accusing Kagen of voting to spend $2 million "on a personal office and library" for Rangel. Kagen won re-election to his second term a month later over former Assembly Speaker John Gard.

The New York Dem's National Leadership PAC gave $15,000 to Kagen in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, along with $5,000 to U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin in her first three congressional campaigns and $500 to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore in the 2004 cycle, according to records maintained by OpenSecrets.org since the 1998 cycle.

Rangel's congressional committee contributed another $6,000 to Kagen, while Baldwin, D-Madison, received $4,000 from Rangel for Congress between 1998 and 2002. The committee gave $2,000 to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, in 2000. Moore, D-Milwaukee, took in $1,000 from the Rangel committee in 2008.

In addition, Baldwin and Moore received contributions from California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who was charged by the House Ethics Committee with improperly helping a bank with ties to her husband obtain federal money.

Moore received $1,000 in the 2006 cycle from Waters' People Helping People PAC, while Baldwin received $1,000 from Waters' congressional campaign during her first bid for Congress in 1998.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declined comment on the contributions.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, the Nevada Republican under a cloud for his actions following an affair with a staffer, shows only one PAC contribution to Wisconsin candidates, giving $5,000 to the Senate campaign of Tim Michels in 2004.

Friday, August 20, 2010

 3:25 PM 

Wis. delegation backs Navy contract for Marinette

Wisconsin's congressional delegation this week sent a letter to President Obama in support of a large contract for Marinette Marine to build Littoral Combat Ships for the U.S. Navy.

The northeastern Wisconsin company is awaiting word from the Department of Defense on the contract to build the 378-foot ships, which officials say could spur 1,000 new jobs and generate $500 million annually for the regional economy.

All 10 members of the Wisconsin delegation acknowledged the difficulties facing the Gulf Coast -- where a Marinette competitor is also seeking the contract -- in the wake of the massive BP oil spill. But they add that Wisconsin has been hard hit by the recession and that the determination of the Defense Department should be "made on the basis of a very hard nosed assessment of what will be best for the American taxpayer."

"We believe that the partnership between Marinette Marine and Lockheed Martin Corporation has produced an exceptional ship that offers the Navy the best value," the lawmakers write.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

 9:20 AM 

Feingold rips Johnson on climate change comments

Ron Johnson's claim that climate change is caused by sunspots is part of a pattern from a candidate whose "credibility is in tatters," U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold said Wednesday.

Johnson's spokeswoman countered the Middleton Dem is a career politician who twists other people's words.

Johnson, the GOP frontrunner to take on Feingold in this fall's general election, made the comments on global warming earlier this week to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board. He said he doesn't believe in the science behind climate change and called the theory "lunacy."

"I'm not going to take a course in Ron Johnson science any time soon," Feingold quipped in an interview with WisPolitics following a round table discussion in Madison with seven local business leaders.

Feingold said Johnson has established a habit of reversing himself after speaking out on policy issues. He said Johnson has done so when talking about drilling in the Great Lakes, Second Amendment rights and extending unemployment benefits. Feingold said Johnson is even moderating his criticism of the federal stimulus legislation.

"I think the issue here isn't so much that he's tossing off these remarks that suggest he's got some pretty bizarre ideas. What's more troubling is that he changes his story every single time and does not have a single commitment to any position," Feingold said. "That's a politician of the worst kind. I don't do that."

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

 1:23 PM 

UW gets more than $32 million in federal broadband funding

The White House today announced more than $38 million in federal stimulus funding for broadband expansion in Wisconsin, with more than $32 million headed to the University of Wisconsin System.

The largest portion of that funding -- a $29.9 million grant -- aims to connect 182 community facilities, 9,000 businesses and 333,600 Wisconsinites to broadband telecommunications through UW-Extension. The UW will also receive $2.4 million to target five needy communities for broadband connections.

The rest of the funding, awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, will be allocated to the College Of Menominee Nations and the City of Milwaukee.

“Reaching new markets enables businesses to grow and create new jobs," U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement. "But the reality is that there are many underserved populations, even in urban areas, that don’t have access to the broadband services that extend their reach."

The funding follows more than $65 million awarded to the state for rural broadband expansion through the federal stimulus bill earlier this month.

 9:05 AM 

Lassa unveils ethics proposals

7th CD Dem candidate Julie Lassa Tuesday released a spate of government accountability and ethics proposals.

Lassa, a Stevens Point state senator, touted her role in creating the Wisconsin Waste, Fraud, and Mismanagement Hotline and said she'd bring the same principles to Washington. She wants to require all federal agencies to include information on the Government Accountability Office’s federal hotline to report misspending.

“Now more than ever, we need less talk and more solutions," Lassa said. "My hotline helped save Wisconsin taxpayer dollars, and this plan offers common-sense ways to hold government accountable and put Wisconsin taxpayers first."

Among the other proposals are ending no-bid and single-bid contracts and a "cooling off period" before members of Congress and their staff can become lobbyists.

GOP rival Sean Duffy's campaign responded that Lassa is a "big spending career politician" and the plan was put out to provide her "political cover."

"One proposal doesn't erase the job-killing or wasteful spending votes she made that helped cause low confidence levels in government," said campaign manager Matt Seaholm.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

 4:16 PM 

Feingold questions energy company, feds on oil spill prevention

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold is asking energy company leaders and federal officials for an update on efforts to prevent oil spills similar to the spill affecting Michigan's Kalamazoo River last month.

The spill, which sent some 800,000 gallons of oil from a ruptured pipe into the Great Lakes watershed on July 26, represents just the latest safety infraction by Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., Feingold said.

"The July spill into Michigan’s waters is not Enbridge’s first spill in the Great Lakes region, with several occurring in Wisconsin or threatening to affect the state," the Middleton Democrat wrote to company officials. "Furthermore, the company apparently committed over 100 illegal acts when it violated Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permits that included critical safeguards for water quality during the construction of a new pipeline across Wisconsin."

Feingold asked Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel and Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners President Terrance McGill for an update on its safety precautions and compliance with federal standards. He also wrote to U.S. DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman seeking updates on the Enbridge case and corrosion-related pipeline accidents in general.

Monday, August 16, 2010

 9:28 AM 

Obey the only Wis. congressman to receive contributions from embattled ex-lobbyist

Retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Obey received $4,000 from an indicted former lobbyist and his family members in 2002 and 2003, according to California-based campaign finance watchdog MAPLight.org.

The Wausau Democrat and House Appropriations chairman, who's departing Congress next year after more than 40 years in the House, received a $1,000 contribution in 2003 from former Appropriations Defense Subcommittee staffer Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of Virginia-based lobbying firm PMA Group Inc.

Magliocchetti, 64, was charged in federal court earlier this month with making illegal campaign contributions and making false statements. The FBI raided and shut down PMA last year, and the indictment alleges Magliocchetti used straw donors in pay-to-play schemes, often involving earmarks for his clients.

Magliocchetti's son, Mark, has given a total of $2,000 to Obey. The 34-year old has pleaded guilty to one count of making illegal campaign contributions, and identified his father as the source of the campaign finance scheme.

The ex-lobbyist's wife, Nancy, also gave $1,000 to the Wausau congressman. Obey was the only member of the Wisconsin delegation to receive contributions from PMA-affiliated donors.

Friday, August 13, 2010

 4:26 PM 

Feingold: Discussing issues not 'mudslinging'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold repeated his charges today that GOP opponent Ron Johnson would roll back Medicare improvements and privatize Social Security during a stop in Madison.

The Middleton Democrat appeared at the Madison Senior Center to receive the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. As the country marks the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act tomorrow, Feingold said Johnson "specifically supports turning this program over to Wall Street."

Feingold also lauded the new federal health care reform law, saying it would improve Medicare coverage for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites "without cutting a single benefit." He said repealing the law, as Johnson supports, would eliminate those improvements and reopen the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

Johnson campaign spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch responded: "Ron's first priority is honoring the promises we've made to retirees and those near retirement. For Sen. Feingold to insinuate otherwise is completely untrue, and it's shameful for him to play politics with our seniors in a desperate attempt to save his Senate seat."

Speaking with reporters after the ceremony, Feingold said he doesn't believe the tone of this year's campaign is any more negative than his past races.

"I am always going to draw contrasts between the positions. ... Almost everything we've said and everything we've said in our advertisements on TV have been about the issues," Feingold said. "His ads are about attacking the fact that I've chosen public service."

Feingold said he was disappointed he could not discuss political issues without being accused of mudslinging.

"It's not mudslinging; it's called democracy," Feingold said. "We know this is a tough year politically. My objective is to get at least one more vote than the other guy. ... That's what this is about."

The senator also defended his campaign ads against criticism from Republicans and the Johnson campaign. He said Johnson has said "what he really thinks" on Great Lakes drilling, gun rights and unemployment insurance, only to be advised to reconsider by his staff.

"You can't have both sides of all these issues," Feingold said. "I only take one side of an issue, and he is acting far more like a politician than I ever have by constantly editing what he says."

Feingold also said he'd be in the Milwaukee area on Monday to welcome President Obama to the state "with open arms." The senator said he believes that's "absolutely" good politics, but added that he didn't care about the political implications.

"Barack Obama is trying to do the right thing for America, and I am doing that with him," Feingold said. "So politics don't matter. We're trying to help the people of this country out of the mess that they were handed."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

 4:32 PM 

'The Fix' says Wis. Senate race a toss up

The Washington Post's "The Fix" today changed the Wisconsin Senate race from "lean Democratic" to "toss up."

Blogger Chris Cillizza moved the status "due to the tough political climate for Democrats in the Badger State."

 9:05 AM 

Rasmussen poll puts Feingold, Johnson about even

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey has Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold about even.

Johnson was backed by 47 percent of respondents in the survey, while 46 percent supported Feingold. Two percent favored another candidate.

Two weeks ago, Johnson was up 48-46.

The survey of 750 likely voters was conducted Aug. 10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll also found Feingold leading David Westlake 48-39.

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed approved of President Obama's performance, while 50 percent did not.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

 2:28 PM 

Butler nomination returned to Obama administration

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis J. Butler Jr., nominated by President Obama to serve as federal judge for the Western District of Wisconsin, continues to see his confirmation delayed by the fractious politics of the U.S. Senate.

For the second time since being nominated and confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last year, Butler’s nomination has been returned to the Obama administration. This time, it was returned after the Senate failed to confirm Butler before adjourning last week for the five week-long summer recess. The Senate previously returned Butler’s nomination to the administration after failing to confirm him in advance of adjourning for last year’s winter recess.

The White House ultimately resubmitted Butler for consideration, and similar action is likely when the Senate returns to Washington in September. On July 29, the Democratic majority attempted to bring Butler’s nomination to the floor for debate and a vote of the full Senate, but the move was blocked by the Republicans. Butler was one of nearly two dozen of Obama’s judicial nominees who the Republicans blocked that day.

With the Nov. 2 elections looming, it remains unclear whether Butler will receive a confirmation vote when the Senate returns to Washington next month.

- David Drucker

 10:28 AM 

Ribble unveils first TV ad

De Pere Republican Reid Ribble today debuted the first network TV ad of the fall election cycle in the 8th Congressional District.

The spot, titled "It's About...," features a number of individuals lauding Ribble's faith, pro-life beliefs and business experience, as well as his support for the Second Amendment, border security and spending reductions.

"Like you, I'm a conservative, and I've had enough of career politicians jeopardizing the American Dream for our children and grandchilden," Ribble says in the ad. "It's time to clean house in Washington."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

 2:57 PM 

Wis. delegation splits on state aid bill

Wisconsin's House delegation today split along party lines on a bill that includes $26 billion for Medicaid and education funding for states.

The House backed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act by a 247-161 vote today after the Senate approved the bill last week. The five Wisconsin Democrats voted to support the bill while the three House Republicans voted against the proposal.

Wisconsin is set to receive about $185 million in MA assistance and $180 million for education funding in FY 2010-11.

Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement that the education funding, in particular, will be "the strength of our state and nation for decades to come."

“The education jobs funds that the House passed today are essential to reinstating laid-off teachers and hiring more teachers to fill critical openings in our schools before the new school year," Doyle said in a statement. "(DPI) Superintendent Evers and I are working with the school districts to ensure that this funding will be used carefully and without delay to ensure that our students have additional good, quality teachers in front of their classrooms this fall.

 11:26 AM 

Rothenberg rates Wis. Senate race a toss-up

The Rothenberg Report is the latest national handicapper to rate the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race a toss-up.

"Republican Ron Johnson continues to perform well in polling," the latest report says. "Even if the challenger isn’t doing as well as some GOP surveys suggest, it’s clear that Sen. Russ Feingold’s quirky outsider image has started to lose its luster. Johnson’s straight-talking businessman/outsider persona fits the cycle perfectly, which makes this contest a pure Toss-up."

Monday, August 9, 2010

 5:23 PM 

Baldwin says her concerns about Afghanistan remain

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said her overall concerns about the nation's continued military operation in Afghanistan remain following her trip to the country.

The Madison Dem said she had "candid" discussions about the mission with General David Petraeus and other commanders, as well as meeting with troops and touring military facilities. Baldwin said there appears to be consensus that al-Qaida's presence has been chased from Afghanistan and now the work is to stabilize the government and keep the country from again becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups, she said.

"We had lots of discussions with our commanders there whether the Taliban poses an immediate threat to our security here in the United States," said Baldwin, who met the media at the Capitol Monday. "And the best argument they make is kind of a domino effect, that if the Taliban takes over again they could create a safe haven again for return of al-Qaida. But we certainly have gotten ourselves into a situation in Afghanistan where the mission assigned to our troops was not the original mission that was agreed to by our Congress in September of 2001."

Baldwin said even if the troops are re-deployed "there will remain a huge amount of American investment" in Afghanistan.

Baldwin, who joined U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen on the trip, noted that support for funding the war in Afghanistan is eroding. "There's change, there's movement. I hope that sends a message to the (Obama) administration that we're going to be watching very closely at the reporting at the pivotal reporting timelines," Baldwin said.

 10:53 AM 

Kagen says U.S. can't afford continued presence in Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said today the United States can no longer afford to continue its current activities in Afghanistan and questioned the military’s continued presence in what he called one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

“This looks like Vietnam all over again where we are continuing to put more soldiers into harm’s way in a situation where we’ll never be able to plant the flag and say this is what victory looks like,” Kagen told reporters in a conference call after returning from a trip to the county.

Kagen, D-Appleton, is one of more than 100 Dems who voted against the president’s funding request for Afghanistan and questioned why the U.S. continued to pump billions into the country when a significant portion was lost to corruption and there were so many pressing needs at home.

The United States’ goal in Afghanistan was to wipe out al-Qaida, and Kagen said that had largely been accomplished. It is now time for the government in Afghanistan to take responsibility for the country, he said.

“We didn’t destroy Afghanistan,” said Kagen, who was joined on the trip by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. “Why should the American taxpayers be responsible for building it, bringing it out of Biblical times into the 21st century?”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

 2:52 PM 

Kagan confirmed as Supreme Court justice

The U.S. Senate today voted 63-37 to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, as expected, voted to confirm Kagan after backing her nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the lone Dem to vote against President Obama's second nominee to the Supreme Court. Five GOP Senators voted to confirm Kagan: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Kagan will replace longtime Justice John Paul Stevens on the bench.

 11:59 AM 

Senate backs bill to boost state aid

The U.S. Senate has approved a bill that includes $26 billion in aid to states that Wisconsin officials say will stave off teacher layoffs and Medicaid shortfalls.

The bill would provide about $185 million in MA assistance to Wisconsin in the 2010-11 fiscal year, and $180 million for education funding in 2010-11.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl voted for the proposal, which passed a cloture vote Wednesday. The Senate gave final approval to the bill by a 61-39 margin; the House will return early from its August recess to take up the legislation next week.

 11:57 AM 

Cook Report moves Wis. Senate race to 'toss-up'

Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy said via her Twitter account today that the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race will be moving to a "toss-up" designation.

"The race moves to Toss Up today. This is a great test of what matters more: the quality of campaigns or the political environment," Duffy tweeted of the expected race between U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and GOP favorite and Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson.

Cook had classified the race as "lean Dem." See Cook's map of races.

 11:51 AM 

Federal, state lawmakers urge disaster declaration

U.S. Sens. Kohl and Feingold and U.S. Reps. Moore, Sensenbrenner and Kind have written a letter to President Obama urging him to provide disaster assistance and declare a major disaster for the state in the wake of severe storms.

"Preliminary damage assessments found that more than fifty homes had major damage. The damage is concentrated and poses a threat to public health and safety," the lawmakers write.

Their request was echoed by a letter from 18 state lawmakers asking for the feds to grant Gov. Doyle's disaster declaration request.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

 3:58 PM 

Baldwin praises Prop. 8 ruling

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin hailed today's federal court ruling overturning California's ban on same-sex marriage.

"We live in a democracy wherein majority rule is checked and balanced by the guarantee of inalienable minority rights," the Madison Democrat said in a statement. "This case, as it winds its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, presents jurists with fundamental questions about minority rights and majority rule.

"I believe (U.S. District Court) Judge Walker got it right, declaring that denial of marriage rights and protections to gay and lesbian citizens violates the Constitution even if it reflects the will of the majority of Californians."

Baldwin, who co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, is the only openly gay woman serving in the House.

 3:29 PM 

EPA head to tour UW-Milwaukee school

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will visit Milwaukee Thursday to tour UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Science and visit the Wisconsin State Fair on its opening day.

Jackson is also set to join roundtable discussions on water innovation and environmental justice, as well as a 2 p.m. press conference with Gov. Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett and UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago.

 3:12 PM 

USDA awards $65 million in broadband funding to Wis.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money to fund 126 rural broadband projects throughout the country -- including more than $65 million allotted for 13 Wisconsin projects.

The largest Wisconsin award, for more than $31 million, will go to Cable, Wis.-based Chequamegon Communications Cooperative Inc. Baldwin Telecom Inc. in St. Croix County received the second-highest grant at just over $9 million.

"This substantial investment will expand the broadband network to places that are currently underserved, linking people to resources that have been out of reach," said U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, in a statement. "This is a path to growth for our businesses, health care providers and schools who can tap into the limitless potential of technology to strengthen their work, create jobs and energize their local economies."

 1:21 PM 

Senate moves forward with measure to alleviate Wis. teacher layoffs, MA demand

The Senate today advanced the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which includes a provision to aid states in paying teachers and dealing with increased demand for Medicaid programs.

Wisconsin U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl each backed the provision, which moved ahead with a pair of 61-38 votes. Maine's GOP senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats to pass a cloture vote.

State Superintendent Tony Evers said this weekend that the funding included in the bill could save the jobs of some 2,000 teachers, while state Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake added it would boost MA funding by the equivalent of $185 million GPR between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011.

Without getting the increased provider rate extension, Timberlake said cuts needed would have an all-funds value of $650 million.

UPDATE: Politico reports the House will return early from its August recess next week to pass the bill once it clears the Senate.

 9:51 AM 

Feingold, Johnson up with new ads

Russ Feingold says in his latest TV ad that he voted against unfair trade agreements and “letting Wall Street run wild.” But it’s now time to “move forward.”

The 30-second spot, which his campaign said began running statewide today, opens with shots of closed businesses. Feingold talks about how he “voted against them because you warned me they’d cost Wisconsin families’ jobs, and sadly that’s what happened.”

The spot then shows the Middleton Dem in meetings as he says he worked with Wisconsin business leaders to pass parts of his initiative to put people back to work. He also says he proposed cutting taxes for “all businesses that are committed to hiring more workers.”

“I’m Russ Feingold and I support this message because we need to move forward together,” he says to close.

Meanwhile, Ron Johnson's latest TV ad contrasts his background as a business owner with Feingold's as a "career politician."

"I've created secure jobs in Wisconsin," GOP U.S. Senate candidate Johnson says in the ad. "Russ Feingold believes government creates jobs.

"I believe Washington is crushing us with spending and debt. And Russ Feingold? He voted for it," Johnson says, concluding that voters have a "clear choice."

Feingold campaign senior adviser John Kraus responded that Johnson is "peddling false and misleading smears" about the Middleton Democrat's record, saying he is the only candidate who has worked to "balance the budget and turn deficits into surpluses."

"The choice is indeed clear -- smears versus solutions," Kraus said.

See the ads in Ad Watch.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

 9:23 AM 

Group targets Lassa in TV ad

The New Prosperity Foundation is running a new TV ad in Wausau that says “we can’t afford more big-spending politicians in Washington like Julie Lassa.”

The narrator in the spot says Lassa, who’s running for the 7th CD, voted for record spending in Madison and supported the largest tax hike in Wisconsin history.

The narrator says the group paid for the ad and supports its message because “Julie Lassa has a record of higher taxes and more spending, and we just can’t afford it.”

The conservative group said the initial buy for the Wausau market was $50,000, and the spot began today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

 9:57 AM 

Savard leaves 8th CD race

The GOP primary field in the 8th Congressional District has decreased to three after Door Co. Supervisor Marc Savard announced his departure from the race Sunday.

Savard, a former Door Co. GOP chairman and local "Tea Party" organizer, said in a statement that he was "unable to sustain the campaign with a reasonable chance of success" due to a lack of resources.

Savard endorsed former Kaukauna roofing contractor Reid Ribble in the primary to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton.

"Reid has what it takes to get the job done," Savard said of the Kaukauna roofing contractor, promising to work "actively" to support Ribble leading up to the Sept. 14 primary.

Ribble said in a statement that, "Marc has conducted his campaign with the highest ethical standards and I am honored to have him join our team."

State Rep. Roger Roth of Appleton and former Appleton Rep. Terri McCormick are the other GOP candidates in the district. Roth said in a statement that, "Marc Savard worked hard over the past year and a half to get his message out, and he always ran a clean and honest campaign. I wish him and his family all the best.”

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