• WisPolitics

Thursday, September 30, 2010

 1:10 PM 

Obama appoints Green to Millennium Challenge board

Former congressman, GOP gubernatorial candidate and ambassador to Tanzania Mark Green has been nominated by President Obama to the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the White House announced Wednesday.

Green currently serves as director of the Malaria No More Policy Center in Washington, as well as serving on the boards of the Center for US Global Leadership, Mothers Day Every Day and WorldTeach.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, created in 2004 by a bill co-authored by Green, provides large-scale foreign aid to impoverished countries that commit to good governance, economic freedom and investment in their citizens.

 9:40 AM 

DCCC says it's committed to Kagen race

The DCCC is pushing back against the suggestion that it's cutting support of Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen in the 8th CD.

At one Green Bay TV station, the DCCC cut about $2,500 off its buy from the week of Oct. 12-18, according to a source.

Kagen faces former roofing company owner Reid Ribble.

The National Journal also reported today the DCCC is moving money around in a number of races.

“The DCCC has invested heavily in this race and remains fully committed to Steve Kagen’s campaign," DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen said. "He’s been running an excellent effort and the DCCC is working aggressively with his campaign.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

 10:06 AM 

Lassa, Duffy polls differ on 7th CD prospects

Republican Sean Duffy and Dem Julie Lassa released competing polls Tuesday in their pivotal 7th CD match-up.

Lassa's poll, conducted by the D.C.-based firm Garin-Hart-Yang Research, shows Duffy leading 42 percent to 41 percent, within the margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The telephone survey of 504 likely voters was conducted Sept. 26-27. Seven percent of those polled said they would vote for independent candidate Gary Kauther, and 10 percent were undecided.

Lassa leads among two key demographic groups, seniors and college graduates, according to the poll. Among seniors, Lassa leads Duffy 49 percent to 37 percent; among college grads, she leads 45-39.

The polling memo notes that Duffy's record as Ashland County district attorney was "extremely troubling" to the poll respondents. Lassa has been attacking Duffy on the issue in a TV ad over the last week. In the ad, the county's assistant DA says Duffy's campaigning for the congressional seat took him away from the job.

After WisPolitics posted the Lassa poll, Duffy's campaign released its own survey showing him up 47 percent to 34 percent.

The poll of 400 likely voters was conducted Sept. 21-22 by Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

The poll memo says Duffy has a 49-26 lead among independents; 64 percent believe the country is on the wrong track.

"Senator Lassa's campaign is based on lying negative attacks on Sean because she seeks to hide her job killing career politician record from voters -- and I wouldn't trust this poll anymore than voters can trust her lies about Sean," Duffy spokeswoman Wendy Riemann said of Lassa's poll.

And a new poll from the Republican National Congressional Committee has even better news for Duffy. The survey, taken of 400 likely voters on Sept. 15 and 16 by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates, has Duffy with a 52-38 lead over Lassa. The poll also has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

 9:19 AM 

7th CD debate set for Oct. 17

State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Ashland Republican Sean Duffy have agreed to a live televised debate on Oct. 17 on WSAW-TV in Wausau.

The debate will also be shown on tape delay on WEAU-TV in Eau Claire and on KDLH-TV in Duluth. It will air live on Rice Lake's WJMC-AM and FM.

C-Span will also air the debate on tape delay and is considering airing it live, said Al Lancaster, vice president and general manager at WSAW.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

 11:53 AM 

Politico: Wis. U.S. Senate race among five most competitive

Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race is ranked as the country's fourth most competitive in a new analysis from Politico.

The race between U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson falls behind only Nevada, Illinois and Colorado on the November election slate. Pennsylvania rounds out the top five.

"Feingold’s credibility on fiscal issues is an asset this year, but Johnson’s blank slate has helped keep the attention on the junior senator’s unpopular votes for health care and the stimulus," the report says, adding that Johnson is now as good a bet as the incumbent despite the state's built-in advantages for Dems.

Monday, September 27, 2010

 9:38 AM 

Laird: U.S. should wind down Afghanistan effort

Former U.S. Rep. Mel Laird made it his first responsibility to secure an honorable exit from Vietnam when he moved from Congress to President Nixon's Defense Department in 1969. But as the country seeks a departure from Afghanistan more than 40 years later, Laird says he sees a considerably more difficult situation.

"The best thing we can do is to wind down that war honorably and get out of there," Laird said in a recent phone interview. He said that while Vietnam had a strong sense of nationalism that helped heal the country after the U.S. withdrew in 1975, Afghanistan's government fabric "is a group of tribes brought together as a nation."

The former Defense secretary said he talks regularly with his friends in the military at the Pentagon. "I don’t mind giving my opinion. I’m rather negative in my approach right now," he said.

Can President Obama get the U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of his term?

"Well, they promised that. I’m not sure what they’re doing. It changes day to day."

Laird, the last man to serve Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District prior to U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, also discussed the race to succeed the retiring Obey. While he didn't name his favorite in the contest between Republican Sean Duffy and Democratic Sen. Julie Lassa, he’s sure the winner should be able to stay a long time.

"If you can get elected in that district you can never be defeated," he said.

He offered praise for Obey despite their partisan split, recalling that a young Obey even campaigned for Laird in his first run for Congress.

"Dave Obey has represented the district very well," Laird said. "He’s a friend of mine, and I’m a friend of his."

See more from Neil Shively's profile of Laird in the Where Are They Now? section of Friday's WisPolitics REPORT.

Friday, September 24, 2010

 12:37 PM 

NRCC hits Kagen with TV ad

The National Republican Congressional Committee has expanded its run of TV ads to Wisconsin's 8th CD, Politico reports.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, is among the first six incumbent Dems to be targeted by the NRCC. The new incumbents targeted by the ads this week also include House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri, along with U.S. Reps. Chris Carney of Pennsylvania and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

The committee first began running the ads last week against Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Rick Boucher of Virginia.

 10:34 AM 

Incumbent Dems issue TV ads

Dem U.S. Reps. Steve Kagen and Ron Kind have released a slew of new TV ads.

In one of his two new ads, Kagen highlights work he's done to stop foreign paper dumping.

"For 100 years, Appleton Paper has been one of the greatest companies in Wisconsin," says Kagen, D-Appleton. "But when communist China started dumping their illegal paper into our markets, it looked like our jobs might be lost.

"But now, the Chinese governments who broke the law are paying a fine," Kagen says. "We're leveling the playing field for our workers, protecting our jobs."

In another Kagen ad, the announcer says that "politician Reid Ribble ... wants to phase out Social Security."

The commercial uses footage of Ribble at a forum saying, "somehow we have to establish a phase out of the current Social Security system."

The spot concludes with the announcer saying, "Tell Republican Reid Ribble to keep his hands off our Social Security."

Kind, D-La Crosse, has issued three new ads this week.

In the latest ad, a mother from Plain whose son had a stroke before he was born thanks the La Crosse Dem for working to pass health care reform.

"As a voter, as your constituent, as a mother -- thank you Ron Kind for standing up for us," Elizabeth Firstl says in the ad.

Another spot from Kind goes after GOP opponent Dan Kapanke for his recent ethics problems, while the third features a series of farmers who praise Kind for working on their behalf and understanding what they’re going through.

Watch all the ads in Ad Watch.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

 11:48 AM 

7th CD candidates spar over debates

Republican Sean Duffy's campaign is accusing Dem Julie Lassa of ducking a primetime TV debate, and a representative from the station trying to coordinate it is frustrated by her delay in accepting the invitation.

The 7th CD opponents have been given the chance to debate live on WSAW, the Wausau CBS affiliate, on Oct. 17. The hour-long debate would begin at 7 p.m., a prime slot following "60 Minutes."

Duffy initially proposed 20 debates, one in each county in the district, a difficult demand to pull off given the short time between the Sept. 14 primary and the Nov. 2 election. The Lassa campaign called it "a cheap political stunt."

Lassa issued a challenge to eight debates and forums. The Duffy campaign says most of the proposed events don't call for the candidates to appear together, and don't offer the exposure the WSAW debate does.

"This is an opportunity for every person in the 7th to watch the debate live at the same time. Why on Earth won't Senator Lassa agree to this established primetime TV debate when she's already agreed to a debate at UW-Barron County that doesn't even have a time, date or format set and is miles away from any TV station or large media outlet?" said Duffy campaign spokeswoman Wendy Riemann.

Lassa campaign manager Rick Fromberg said the campaign has accepted invites to eight events and having all candidates involved will best help voters make an informed choice.

“We have been involved in discussions regarding the details of numerous debates across the district, including today with WSAW, and we are committed to making sure that all voters in the 7th District can hear the candidates’ positions,” he said.

See Lassa's release in which she proposes 8 debates/forums here.

See Duffy's release accusing her of ducking the WSAW debate here.

See Lassa's response here.

The GM of station WSAW is puzzled.

"If I offered that same time period to any other candidates for a debate, they would immediately give me a resounding 'Yes,'" said Al Lancaster, vice president and general manager at WSAW.

"This should have been a slam dunk. I can’t tell you why it’s not," Lancaster said.

The debate would also be picked up by the Duluth CBS affiliate, and C-Span is interested in airing it, possibly live, Lancaster said. In addition, radio stations in Rice Lake and Hayward have agreed to live broadcasts of the event, he said.

Between the two TV stations, the debate would be aired across the entire district, Lancaster said.

Lancaster said he offered the debate up to Duffy on Sept. 9, and he agreed the next day. Lassa was first approached about the debate on Sept. 1 and he says he has run into "extreme difficulties" in getting a commitment from the Dem.

Among Lassa's concerns, according to Lancaster, is whether the candidates would be at podiums or seated. Lancaster granted Lassa's request to be seated. She has also asked that Tea Party candidate Gary Kauther be invited, something Lancaster has declined due to time considerations.

See Kauther's campaign Web site here.

--By Greg Bump

 10:09 AM 

Butler nom approved by Senate committee

Former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler nomination for a spot on the federal bench in Madison was approved this morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 12 to 7 vote.

The White House earlier this month resubmitted Butler’s nomination to the U.S. Senate after the body twice failed to act on the nomination before adjourning. Last time, Dems asked Republicans for unanimous consent to take up Butler’s nomination and those of several other judicial appointments that have raised the ire of conservatives, but GOP lawmakers refused.

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks this morning:

"Mr. Chairman, thank you for placing Justice Butler on today’s mark up agenda. As we have said the last two times he moved through this Committee, he is an extraordinarily accomplished lawyer and he will make an excellent federal judge. Justice Butler has had a distinguished career across the board -- as a public defender, trial court judge, Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, and professor.

"Justice Butler’s nomination is a product of our Wisconsin Nomination Commission, a process we have used for more than 30 years through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, to find exceptionally qualified and mainstream judges. His nomination is supported throughout Wisconsin and I am confident that he will be a judge the people of Wisconsin will be proud of.

"What I am asking for is that we give Justice Butler the process and dignity that is due to any nominee, and particularly a District Court nominee – an up or down vote on the Senate floor. I thank my colleagues for supporting his nomination and I look forward to his swift consideration by the full Senate."

-- By Greg Bump

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

 11:24 AM 

Polling split on U.S. Senate race

A survey from the Dem-affiliated Public Policy Polling shows Republican Ron Johnson with a significant lead on U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, but a survey done for SEIU finds the incumbent Middleton Dem with a slim lead.

The PPP poll had Johnson up 52 percent to 41 percent over Feingold. It credits an "enormous enthusiasm gap" for part of Johnson's lead in the poll, which was done for DailyKos. The survey was conducted Saturday and Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Johnson campaign spokeswoman Sara Sendek says the poll shows voters are "sick and tired of the reckless spending and debt being racked up by career politicians in Washington."

"This poll reflects that Ron Johnson's message is resonating across the state and excitement continues to grow for a candidate who will finally listen to them and stand up for them in Washington," she said.

Feingold spokesman John Kraus was more skeptical of the poll, which was done over a weekend that included Badger and Packer football games.

"This poll is out of touch with reality, much like most of Ron Johnson's campaign," Kraus said.

The SEIU survey found Feingold up 50 percent to 47 percent on the Oshkosh businessman. The Wisconsin portion of that poll included a sample of 400 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

 2:38 PM 

Feingold, Kohl back 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl each voted today to advance a Defense authorization bill that would have repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the military, but the bill fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to invoke cloture.

With 60 votes required to move forward, the measure was backed 56-43, with Arkansas Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor voting with Republicans in opposition. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted no in order to return the bill to the floor at a later date.

The bill, which also included a provision providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants attending college or serving in the military, is now likely delayed until next year.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay woman serving in the House, said that a handful of senators has "thwarted the will of 75 percent of the American people."

"It is shameful that bigotry and partisan, election-year politics have subverted fairness, justice, and good government in the Senate today," said Baldwin, D-Madison, in a statement.

 2:01 PM 

Michelle Obama to raise money for Feingold next month

First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Milwaukee Oct. 13 to do a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

The White House today announced a series of fundraisers the Obama will do in the weeks leading up to the November elections. Her first stops are the 13th for Feingold, Illinois Senate candidate Alex Giannoulias, and three Illinois congressional candidates.

Others fundraising stops are planned in Colorado, New York, Washington and California.

Monday, September 20, 2010

 11:23 AM 

Feingold, Kind discuss election on 'UpFront'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold knocked his GOP opponent Ron Johnson for ducking more debates, saying on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that the Oshkosh businessman doesn't want to face voters because he has extreme views and no real plans.

Feingold had agreed to six debates, but Johnson has agreed to three, the first being on Oct. 8.

“Why would somebody not be ready to stand before the people of Wisconsin and debate?” Feingold asked. “It's because he doesn't have any real plans to help fix the economy, he doesn't have any real plans to reduce the deficit he likes to talk about, and he has some pretty extreme views on things like Social Security and Medicare.”

Feingold criticized Johnson's support of free trade agreements that Feingold said has sent jobs overseas, calling it an “extreme, anti-Wisconsin view.”

“I'm going to hold him accountable for it -- if I can ever find the guy, because he stays away from a real debate,” Feingold said.

Also on the statewide program, which is produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com, Dem. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind says he doesn't see a Republican tsunami in the forecast for November.

Kind is facing a challenge from GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke.

“The fundamental choice people have to make come November is whether we continue to make progress and move this country forward or whether we go back to the failed policies that drove us into this ditch to begin with,” Kind said, pointing to an improving economic and employment picture.

See more here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

 10:17 AM 

White House: I-94 expansion among the stimulus projects 'changing America'

A White House report identifies the expansion of I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line as one of the top 10 projects funded by federal stimulus dollars that are "changing America."

The report, which lists the top 100 such projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, lists the improvements to one of Wisconsin's busiest roads at no. 10 nationally.

"Thanks to $94 million in Recovery Act funding, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is widening –- from six to eight lanes -– a portion of a 35-mile section of I‐94 that runs south of the Mitchell Interchange in Milwaukee to the Illinois state line," the report says. "The additional lanes also will improve inter-modal access, including access to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee and the Port of Milwaukee."

The report says the project employs 70 to 100 workers per day and includes a job training program for workers in Racine and Kenosha. While the project was the only Badger State program to make the list, the report says the no. 42 project -- tax credits for Illinois' Streator Cayuga Ridge wind park -- helped preserve jobs at wind energy manufacturers in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

The construction of two "Warrior in Transition" facilities for injured veterans at Fort Bliss, Texas topped the White House list.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

 2:34 PM 

Wis. lawmakers seek permanent paper tariff

Members of the Fox Valley's congressional delegation each took a turn in front the U.S. Commerce Department's International Trade Commission today, urging federal regulators to approve permanent duties on coated paper imported from China and Indonesia.

The ITC had previously agreed that foreign papermakers have engaged in unfair trade practices and enacted a temporary duty on some forms of paper. If the ITC rules that American paper companies were harmed by the trade practices, the duty would become permanent.

“In the case of Appleton (Coated LLC), you ruled correctly 6-0 that China had illegally dumped their products into the United States and now they are paying a fine,” U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, told the ITC in a statement. “Now you have before you yet another case of illegal paper sales by China, and I trust you will come to the same conclusion: China is cheating and stealing our jobs, our homes and our future by dumping their illegal paper into our markets.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, also endorsed the tariff, saying that he has "great confidence that our companies and our workers can compete with the best in the world."

"However, we cannot be foolish enough to think that pursuing free and fair trade is enough to make it happen. It is imperative that our laws prohibiting dumping be enforced and safeguards be put in place to defend those in harm's way."

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl also urged the ITC to back domestic papermakers in its decision.

Feingold, D-Middleton, charged that "competitive shipping costs and shipping times coupled with their access to an abundance of wood fiber and water resources put them in a strong position to do well against their Chinese and Indonesian competitors if not for the unfair dumping and subsidization.”

Kohl, D-Milwaukee, told regulators that his office has been inundated with letters from Wisconsin's paper company employees.

"These men and women -- many of them second and third generation paper workers -- have been with their company for many years," Kohl said. "They’re worried that they’re going to lose their job, not because they aren’t working hard, but because of unfair subsidies from countries like China and Indonesia."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

 11:36 AM 

White House resubmits Butler's nomination

The White House has again submitted to the Senate Louis Butler's nomination for a spot on the federal bench in Madison.

The nomination has twice been returned to the White House after the Senate adjourned without taking up Butler's nomination, and Republicans have raised some objections to Butler as an activist.

His nomination was one of five the White House sent to the Senate this evening, including Goodwin Liu, a UC-Berkley law professor who has also drawn fire from the right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

 2:10 PM 

AFL-CIO calls Johnson 'anti-union'

About 91,000 Wisconsin households will be getting in the next couple days that reads "Ron Johnson's workers don’t have a union, and that’s the way he likes it."

The mailer, from the state AFL-CIO, is part of a nationwide campaign by the union that will send out 2 million mail pieces focusing on gubernatorial, Senate, and House races. Wisconsin State AFL-CIO executive vice president Sara Rogers said the mailer is just the first to come.

"We will do whatever we need to do to get the message out that Ron Johnson is not for working families," she said.

Johnson, who is expected to easily emerge from the Republican primary tomorrow to take on incumbent Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, owns plastics company Pacur in Oshkosh. The mailer quotes a line from the Pacur company manual that states "Pacur is a non-union plant and is dedicated to stay that way."

The mailer also accuses Johnson of wanting to "gut" pension benefits and cut employment benefits.

"Wisconsin workers can't trust Ron Johnson," the mailer reads, and reminds members that Feingold is endorsed by the union.

Rogers said the AFL-CIO will also weigh in on the Wisconsin governor's race, the 7th and 8th Congressional district races, and a handful of state Senate and Assembly races. Besides mailers, those efforts include phone banks and door-to-door visits.

 10:42 AM 

Feingold campaign seeks to have Johnson ad taken off the air

Russ Feingold’s campaign writes in a letter to Ron Johnson’s campaign manager that a TV ad claiming the senator has “not worked anywhere outside of politics” is “blatantly false.”

The letter from Feingold campaign manager George Aldrich says Feingold worked for his family’s title and abstract business when he was 15, worked his way through college and worked in private practice as an attorney. The letter notes The Associated Press has reported the ad falsely claims Feingold never worked outside of politics.

“You have every right to ignore the media but you have a responsibility to the people of Wisconsin to tell the truth,” Aldrich wrote.

Although acknowledging the Dem incumbent from Middleton has had work experience outside of being an elected official, the Oshkosh Republican businessman continued to paint the incumbent as a career politician on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

“I guess I'm not 100 percent sure why Senator Feingold takes such offense by being called a career politician. It's a fact,” Johnson said on the statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com. “If you take a look at his history … what has he done with his life? He went out to Harvard, went out to Oxford, came back, worked for a couple of years in a law firm, probably while he was running for election to the state Senate. He served 10 years in the state Senate and now he's served close to 18 years in the U.S. Senate. I believe that would be a definition of a career politician. I don't know what else he's done in his life.”

Johnson's primary opponent, Dave Westlake of Watertown, also appeared on "UpFront."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

 9:42 AM 

Obey addresses Fighting Bob Fest

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey told thousands of progressives at the ninth annual Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo Republicans thinking they’ve already won the fall elections is “bull gravy” and said there's “a huge difference between the Democrats in the house who deliver and the Republicans in the house who deliver.”

“In terms of decency, in terms of progressive legislation, in terms of giving a damn about people, there is one whale of a difference between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi and don’t you forget it,” Obey told the 6,500 in attendance Saturday.

Obey, who will not seek re-election to Congress in November, said of his decision: “I’m happy to be retiring because now I’ll be able to tell people what I think.”

See more coverage of Fighting Bob Fest here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

 4:17 PM 

Vilsack, Kind discuss farming, rural business in 3rd CD

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind welcomed U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the 3rd Congressional District today, holding a meeting with farmers and a business roundtable event.

About 60 agriculture representatives met with the two officials at a farm in Osseo, followed by a discussion with business and co-op leaders in Sturm. Vilsack also announced a series of loans and grants aimed at reducing energy consumption among Wisconsin farmers and rural small businesses.

“I’m pleased that Secretary Vilsack was able to join me today in discussing some of the topics most important to western Wisconsin," Kind said in a statement. "I will continue to work hard to help ensure our farmers get a fair shake and our rural communities get the resources they need to compete in a global economy.”

Vilsack and Dem guv candidate Tom Barrett will also join Kind tonight at his 9th annual corn roast event at the La Crosse County Fairgrounds.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

 4:50 PM 

Sensenbrenner cuts radio spot for Walker

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is featured in a new radio commercial for Scott Walker, with the Menomonee Falls Republican weighing in on the dispute about then-Congressman Mark Neumann's 1998 vote for a $9 billion transportation bill.

Walker launched a TV commercial Tuesday linking Neumann to Nancy Pelosi through the vote. Neumann says Walker is hypocritical because he supported the bill at the time and produced a letter to the editor Walker wrote saying the plan saved taxpayers money. Walker's campaign says his praise wasn't for the bill, but Gov. Tommy Thompson's actions to redirect funds from rail to roads and bridges instead.

Sensenbrenner says he will "set the record straight."

"I served with Mark Neumann. Mark Neumann voted 'yes' for $9 billion in pork projects when he was in Congress. He voted 'yes' to wasteful transportation spending," Sensenbrenner says. "I voted against that bill because it was full of waste and payoff to special interests. Like me, Scott Walker opposed the bill and the nine billion of wasteful spending."

Sensenbrenner calls Walker "the conservative choice for governor."

 2:18 PM 

Obama to return to Madison in late September

President Obama will return to Wisconsin Sept. 28 for a rally in Madison, according to Dem officials.

It will be the first of four rallies planned in swing states during the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

 2:28 PM 

Kohl: Dems trying 'everything' to get economy moving

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl said today he believes the economy is beginning to turn around, and that Democrats should be lauded for the their efforts to jump-start the recovery.

"Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, I don't believe you can criticize the efforts that are being made," Kohl said during a luncheon at the Madison Rotary Club.

Kohl said the economy is at the point where it has stopped declining and started growing -- "albeit far too slowly" -- and that the Senate is still working on a small business lending bill to help restore credit to the country's businesses and reduce unemployment.

"It's not as though nothing is being tried. We're trying everything we can," the Milwaukee Democrat said of the economic recovery efforts. "Everyone would like to push a button and get it started tomorrow, but it's not that easy."

Kohl said the country must invest in education, job training and infrastructure while the country is in a slump, and praised Democrats for supporting the businesses of the future -- including renewable energy investments, using federal funding for water technology developments in Milwaukee, and increasing broadband access throughout Wisconsin's rural areas.

Responding to a question after his remarks, Kohl included the proposed high-speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison among the important investments of the Obama administration and Democratic leaders. He said commuter rail has been part of the country's transportation network for decades, and that linking Wisconsin's two great cities with Chicago and the Twin Cities is "a reasonable expenditure of federal dollars."

Kohl, who chairs the Senate Aging subcommittee, also said he hopes the federal deficit commission established by President Obama will produce bipartisan solutions to the nation's entitlement spending.

He said the current effort to rein in Social Security and Medicare spending must reflect the efforts to reform Social Security in 1982, when President Reagan and leaders of both parties stood behind the proposed fixes.

"There's no question we're spending too much money," Kohl said.

But he added that "mutilating" Medicare and Social Security would not be included in any solution. He added that federal health care reform passed earlier this year is only a first step in reducing health care costs.

"By no means is it a finished product," Kohl said, predicting that next year's Congress will approach the problems of cost reduction.

"We have do it and we will do it."

While Kohl joked that he is grateful not to be running for re-election as an incumbent this year, he praised Wisconsin colleague Russ Feingold as a great senator and a hard worker, and said he believes most Wisconsinites will see those qualities this fall.

"In November, I'm confident that he'll be re-elected."

 10:41 AM 

Feingold wants six debates with GOP opponent

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold wants six debates against his Republican opponent.

The incumbent Democrat from Middleton said this morning he has agreed to six debate invitations, the first on Sept. 19 in Eau Claire.

"TV ads alone should not decide this election," said Feingold, in a jab at GOP frontrunner Ron Johnson. "The people of Wisconsin should decide this election."

Feingold has been outspent heavily on television ads by Johnson, a wealthy plastics business owner from Oshkosh. Johnson debuted a new TV commercial today blasting Feingold as a "career politician" who has never held a job outside the public sector.

Feingold said that was untrue. Feingold, an attorney, worked at Madison law firms prior to running for the state Legislature, working primarily with business clients, he said.

"I'd like him to come next to me and say to my face that I'm nothing but a career politician and that isn't something worthy," Feingold said.

The Johnson commercial also features a person saying Feingold is "right in the Reid, Pelosi, Obama camp."

Feingold responded, "No one could possibly believe that to be true."

Feingold said his record shows no senator has been more independent, and no Democrat has voted with Republicans more often. He pointed out that he disagreed with Obama on Afghanistan strategy, and on the bank bailout and bank regulatory reforms.

"I have an exceptionally independent voting record that frankly drives some of my colleagues on the Democratic side a little crazy," he said. "This sort of boilerplate ad that you can see anywhere in the country ... the problem is they haven't adapted it to the guy they're dealing with here."

Feingold has also accepted debate invitations for Oct. 1 in Milwaukee, at an event at Marquette University Law School sponsored by WISN TV, WisPolitics.com and other media partners.

Other debates Feingold has accepted are scheduled for Oct. 8 in Milwaukee, Oct. 11 in Wausau, Oct. 18 in Oshkosh, and Oct. 22 in Madison.

 10:19 AM 

White House appoints Asian carp coordinator

The White House has appointed veteran Indiana wildlife official John Goss to coordinate federal, state and local efforts to combat the invasive Asian carp's threat to the Great Lakes.

Nancy Sutley, chairwomen of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced the appointment this morning in a conference call with Dem U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Durbin and Stabenow were among 12 senators to ask President Obama to appoint a Coordinated Response Commander for the Asian carp issue in a June letter.

"We need someone with the knowledge and skills to direct and coordinate mutiple federal, state and private sector efforts," the senators wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by Wisconsin U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl.

Stabenow said the appointment was another example of the "historic" commitment of the White House to combating invasive species, while Goss said coordination would be crucial in thwarting "one of the most serious invasive species threats facing the Great Lakes today."

"We have the opportunity to prevent this invasive species from developing ... and inflicting untold damage on the ecosystem and the economy," Goss said.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

 10:20 AM 

President calls for $50 billion infrastructure investment in Milwaukee speech

President Obama took a series of swipes at his GOP critics during a Labor Day stop in Milwaukee, saying they want to return the country to the failed policies that wrecked the national economy.

Speaking at Laborfest, the president also touted a $50 billion infrastructure package he said would overhaul the nation’s road, rails and runways.

See WisPolitics coverage of Monday's speech here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

 9:50 AM 

Kagen holds big cash edge in 8th CD race

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, again a GOP target in a swing district, reported $777,232 on hand after raising $106,249 and spending $127,975 during the period, according to FEC reports.

The reports cover fundraising activity from July 1 through Aug. 25.

De Pere Republican Reid Ribble, a former roofing contractor, raised $57,626 in the 8th CD GOP primary. He spent $212,557 over the period and had a $70,833 warchest; he'll face Rep. Roger Roth and former Rep. Terri McCormick in the Sept. 14 primary.

Roth, of Appleton, reported raising $31,396 and spending $57,233 toward a warchest of $61,818. McCormick, who formerly held Roth's Assembly seat, had just $1,611 cash on hand but raised $44,443 and spent $115,051 during the period.

The Cook Political Report has the 8th CD race rated as a toss up.

In other state congressional races, candidate fundraising totals included:

1st District

*U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, raised $493,877, spent $243,738 and had $2.36 million cash on hand. He faces Dem John Heckenlively.

2nd District

*U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, reported $85,244 raised, $62,907 spent and $775,775 cash on hand.

*Chad Lee, R-Mt. Horeb, raised $19,390 and spent $18,261 toward his 2nd CD campaign. He had $4,081 cash on hand.

*Peter Theron, R-Madison, raised $431, spent $1,222 and had $2,312 on hand. He'll face Lee in the 2nd CD primary.

3rd District

*U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-LaCrosse, reported $170,744 raised and $200,526 spent. Kind has $1.27 million cash on hand.

*State Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, raised $101,608, spent $122,471 and reported a warchest of $321,922 as he seeks to take on Kind. He faces Bruce Evers in a GOP primary.

4th District

*U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, raised $24,781, spent $58,646 and had $44,450 cash on hand. A Dem and two GOP candidates have also filed in the heavily Dem-leaning district.

5th District

*U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, reported raising $33,269 and spending $81,182 toward a warchest of $376,786. He faces Menomonee Falls Dem small businessman Todd Kolosso.

6th District

*U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, raised $37,080, spent $53,058 and reported $908,080 cash on hand. Joe Kallas is the Dem candidate in the district.

7th District

*State Sen. Julie Lassa, a Dem seeking the 7th CD seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, narrowly outraised her top Republican rival for the period, reporting $235,316 raised. Lassa spent $136,647 and had $402,915 cash on hand.

*Sean Duffy, R-Ashland, reported $230,919 raised, $200,400 spent and $694,356 cash on hand as he seeks the open 7th CD seat.

*Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke, Duffy's primary opponent, reported $26,712 raised, $15,457 spent and $23,811 cash on hand.

Reports for the remaining congressional candidates were not immediately available from the Federal Election Commission.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

 5:11 PM 

Johnson outraises Feingold in pre-primary reporting period

GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson outraised incumbent U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold by some $280,000 in the latest campaign finance reporting period.

The Oshkosh businessman reported raising nearly $1.2 million from July 1 through Aug. 25, with Johnson himself contributing an additional $2.9 million during the period. The campaign spent more than $3.4 million over the period and had a cash on hand total of more than $1.6 million.

Feingold, D-Middleton, raised $920,379, spent $2.1 million and had almost $3.1 million cash on hand.

 10:28 AM 

Wall subject of write-in campaign for U.S. Senate; Wall says he's not involved

A write-in campaign has been launched pushing Terrence Wall for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

But the Madison-area developer says he's not involved.

Wall dropped out of the Republican U.S. Senate primary shortly after Ron Johnson received the party endorsement in May. He said this morning he was just made aware of the effort.

"It's some kind of independent effort I'm not involved in," he said.

A Web site, http://thepeoplespeak.us/, has been registered, and an e-mail plea was sent out today slamming Johnson and the GOP for picking the Oshkosh plastics manufacturer.

"Many of us are watching the current campaign for U.S. Senate with an increasing sense of dismay," the e-mail begins. "The Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) has imposed an unqualified and underwhelming candidate, the consequence of which may very well be defeat in November. As loyal Republicans determined to beat Russ Feingold, some of us have grown so concerned about the way things are headed that we've decided to take a stand against the RPW's self-defeating choice before it's too late."

An e-mail sent to the Web site met with no immediate response, and the site does not identify who is behind the effort. The domain name for the Web site was registered to Handmade Interactive. On its Web site, the company lists Wall's Senate campaign as a client.

When contacted by WisPolitics, a Handmade Interactive employee referred questions to the e-mail listed as the contact on the site. The site was registered on June 17.

The Web site makes the claim that if Wall receives 150,000 write-in votes, he will win the GOP nomination. Along with Johnson, David Westlake and Stephen Finn are on the GOP primary ballot Sept. 14.

"Your write-in vote will make you part of American history and send a clear message to the Republican Party in Wisconsin and Washington that the people run this country," reads the Web site.

Wall was recruited by Republicans to run against Feingold, but was pushed aside in favor of Johnson, who has vowed to spend "as much as it takes" from his own pocket to defeat the three-term incumbent Dem. Polls released publicly show Johnson running neck-and-neck with Feingold.

After leaving the race, Wall made allegations that Johnson bribed GOP members into supporting him at the convention, charges the Johnson campaign vehemently denied.

The Web site includes this message: "This campaign is a grass-roots effort and is not affiliated with any organization. All information which you may submit on this web site will remain private and never be shared with anyone, ever. We only ask for your write-in vote – not your money."

--By Greg Bump

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

 6:45 PM 

Pelosi addresses American Legion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told members of the American Legion in Milwaukee today that veterans deserve a “future worthy of their sacrifice.”

She focused largely on what Congress has done and needs to do for veterans, but she also talked about the economy.

Pelosi said President Obama made a “strong statement in the Oval Office about the new chapter our nation has begun in Iraq” and said the nation thanks those who served and continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“When the troops come home now from Iraq, we will show them our thanks in the grandest possible way,” Pelosi said, adding that includes ensuring troops a “smooth transition” when they come home.

“Regardless of what you may have thought about going into the war, we separate the war and the warrior and we will welcome them home as they heroes that they are,” Pelosi said to applause.

Pelosi stressed a number of measures passed to assist veterans, including the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, expanded health care for veterans, funding for disability compensation for problems related to “agent orange” exposure and a program that hires wounded veterans to work as congressional staffers. She called for eliminating veteran homelessness, changes to ensure no vets are turned away from VA hospital care, an end a tax on survivor benefits for military families, and a renewed commitment to treating traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pelosi also pushed House Democrats' “Make it in America” jobs plan and stressed the importance of a strong economy to returning vets.

She said veterans must know “that when they fight we promise them a future worthy of their sacrifice and that future must provide economic opportunity for them and their families.”

Following Pelosi's address, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Indiana, criticized Pelosi, saying she's failed to support those currently in the military.

"Please don't just say 'we'll take care of you when you come home,'" Buyer said. "You cannot have a voting record whereby you do not support the men and women in the military.

"When someone enters the military you make sure they are properly trained and properly equipped so you don't have to take care of them for the rest of their lives," Buyers said to applause.

Buyer also highlighted the fact that there are 50,000 troops in Iraq who remain combatants, despite Obama's declaration that the combat mission is over.

Buyer, a colonel in the Army Reserve who's retiring this year from Congress, discussed work he has done to support troops and veterans, such as pushing for improved design of military helmets to save lives and working to improve education and health care benefits for veterans.

 10:05 AM 

Feingold, Kohl praise Obama address

Dem U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl praised the president for sticking to his commitment to draw down combat troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Republicans used the president’s speech last night to get in a shot on Feingold, D-Middleton, for opposing the war and the surge in U.S. troops initiated under President Bush.

Feingold said the departure from Iraq has taken much longer than it should have with 4,400 American lives lost and more than $700 billion spent on the military operation to date. He said the drawdown will allow the U.S. to focus “on what must be our top national security priority, combating al Qaeda’s global network.”

“We should reduce our troop levels as quickly and safely as possible to ease the strain on our military and our budget,” Feingold said.

Kohl, D-Milwaukee, called it “a proud moment for our armed forces.”

“Now that the President has fulfilled his pledge to draw down our commitment in Iraq, we need to focus on successfully ending our involvement in Afghanistan and rebuilding our economy and creating jobs here at home,” Kohl said.

State GOP Chair Reince Priebus criticized Feingold for consistently opposing U.S. efforts in Iraq and voting against the surge.

“Ron Johnson, on the other hand, represents a vision much more in line with what Wisconsin really wants: strong foreign policy and 100 percent support for our troops at home and overseas,” Priebus said. “The only way Wisconsin’s real interests will finally be represented in the Senate is by firing Russ Feingold.”

 8:02 AM 

Gates, Boehner address American Legion convo

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the American Legion convo in Milwaukee that challenges remain in Iraq despite tomorrow's change in military status.

“Tomorrow, Operation Iraqi Freedom will officially become Operation New Dawn, a change that recognizes that Iraqis have assumed full responsibility for their own security,” Gates said, according to prepared remarks. The remarks came in advance of President Obama's Oval Office speech tonight marking the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

Gates said while violence is down in Iraq, challenges remain.

“We still have a job to do and responsibilities there,” Gates said. “Even with the end of the formal combat mission, the U.S. military will continue to support the Iraqi army and police, help to develop Iraq’s navy and air force, and assist with counterterrorism operations.”

Gates said the opportunities before Iraq “have been purchased at a terrible cost,” both “in the losses and trauma endured by the Iraqi people, and in the blood, sweat, and tears of American men and women in uniform.”

Gates said that so far the war has claimed 4,427 American service members' lives, of which 3,502 were killed in action; 34,268 have been injured or wounded.

“The courage of these men and women, their determination, their sacrifice, and that of their families, along with the service and sacrifice of so many others in uniform, have made this day, this transition, possible,” Gates said. “We must never forget.”

Gates also addressed the war in Afghanistan, saying that “going forward, Afghans must accept responsibility for the future of their country” and that America and Afghanistan are “making slow but steady headway on that front.”

Gates stressed the importance of “beginning a responsible transition to Afghan control next summer” but said as Obama “has frequently noted, we are not turning off the lights next July.”

“If the Taliban really believe that America is heading for the exits next summer in large numbers, they will be deeply disappointed and surprised to find us very much in the fight,” Gates said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, at the same convention, criticized those who opposed the surge strategy he said has made the transition possible. The Ohio Republican also called for the president to clearly explain the goals of the new mission.

“Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results,” Boehner told several hundred American Legion members.

Boehner praised Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno for their leadership in Iraq and thanked not only the servicemembers and their families for their sacrifices, but also Obama “for setting aside his past political rhetoric and recognizing the importance of the surge and the diplomatic agreement signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki.”

Boenher said a democratic Iraq would serve as a “bulwark against the menace posed by the Iranian regime or other extremist forces in the region.” Added Boehner: “The people of that nation -- and this nation -- deserve to know what America is prepared to do if the cause for which our troops sacrificed their lives in Iraq is threatened.''

Boehner called upon Congress to fully support the troops and their mission and for Obama to “take the time to articulate in a coherent, consistent manner to their families and fellow citizens the cause, purpose, and goal of their mission.”

Boehner also focused heavily on Afghanistan and global terrorism during his speech.

“Afghanistan must be resistant to the forces of extremism hell bent on returning to power and it must be resistant to becoming a potential safe haven for terrorist organizations,” Boehner said.

He called on Obama to “do more to emphasize his commitment to ensuring its success rather than focusing on arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal” and “place a greater emphasis on ensuring successful implementation of both the military and civilian components of his strategy.

"Using campaign promises as a yardstick to measure success in Iraq and Afghanistan runs the risk of triggering artificial victory laps and premature withdrawal dates unconnected to conditions on the ground,” Boehner said.

Boehner called for politics to be removed from America's anti-terror strategy and for a coherent detention and interrogation policy. He also called for continued support of America's allies and criticized the direction of American foreign policy.

“The foreign policy of the United States should not be built on a platform of apologies, corrections, and reset buttons,” Boehner said. “We will not confront and defeat the terrorist threat by blurring America’s exceptionalism and backing out on America’s commitments.”

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