• WisPolitics


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

 1:45 PM 

Politico names Duffy a candidate to watch at filing deadline

With just hours remaining in the first quarter campaign finance reporting period for congressional candidates, Politico has named Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy one of 11 candidates to watch at the filing deadline as he looks to unseat 40-year congressional veteran and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

"Ashland County District Attorney (and 'Real World' alum) Sean Duffy is a long shot to take down House Appropriations Committee David Obey this fall," Politico's Alexander Burns writes. "But he was the first GOP House challenger to win an endorsement from Sarah Palin, so it's worth keeping an eye on his report to see just what that counts for, financially."

Campaign finance reports aren't due to the Federal Election Commission until April 15.


 12:33 PM 

RPW chairman defends Steele after controversial RNC spending

State GOP Chair Reince Priebus says the national party's reimbursement for costs incurred by a group of donors at a risque West Hollywood night club was "ridiculous" and defended RNC spending under Chair Michael Steele.

Politico reported Tuesday the firing of an RNC staffer who attended the event at the bondage-themed night club and then expenses the nearly $2,000 tab.

Priebus, the RNC's legal counsel and a Steele supporter, said he was limited in what he could say about the firing because of his position. He said a "rogue request for reimbursement" was submitted for the gathering, which he stressed was not an RNC event.

Steele critics have seized on the latest episode as more fodder for their criticisms of his management skills. Priebus stressed an RNC budget committee keeps tabs on those expenses and has raised no concerns, noting it costs money to raise money when the party doesn't have a majority in either house of congress or the White House.

He said Steele has been able to raise enough money to make the RNC a player in the Virginia and New Jersey guv races last fall and the special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts earlier this year.

"At the end of the day, Michael Steele is going to be judged by the wins he has in the win column," Priebus said. "So far, the RNC and Republicans in Washington, the whole team, is 3-0."


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

 1:56 PM 

Petri-backed student loan reform signed into law

A 25-year quest for U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, became reality Tuesday when President Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 into law.

While Petri voted against the health care bill, the legislation includes reforms to student financial aid -- including eliminating the bank subsidies under the Federal Family Education Loan program in favor of a Direct Loan program from the federal government to students.

Petri has long argued the current approach is inefficient and costs taxpayers billions, but he told WisPolitics last week he wasn't torn about voting against it when coupled with health care reform.

"It was not as traumatic a decision as you might think because of the underlying reality," Petri said in the interview.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, an Appleton Democrat who joined Petri at today's Northeastern Wisconsin Global Trade Conference in Oshkosh, said in a statement that "by ending subsidies to banks, we are helping to secure access to schools otherwise unaffordable, and eliminating wasteful spending of our hard-earned tax dollars."


 11:18 AM 

DeRose leaves Duffy campaign

Chris DeRose, campaign manager for Sean Duffy's congressional campaign, is leaving the campaign to return to his law practice in Scottdale, Ariz.

DeRose took leave from his firm in July of 2009, but wrote in an email to supporters that "it has become clear to me that my full time, personal attention is required at the firm I began in 2007."

The email does not specify a replacement. DeRose and a Duffy campaign consultant didn't immediately return a call Tuesday.


Monday, March 29, 2010

 5:01 PM 

Feingold tops poll; listed as one of conservatives' favorite Dems

U.S. Sen Russ Feingold leads three potential GOP rivals in a new poll released today by Daily Kos/Research 2000.

Meanwhile, Feingold is mentioned one of "Conservatives five favorite Democrats" in an article posted at newsweek.com.

Feingold, D-Middleton, leads potential GOP candidate Tommy Thompson 48 percent to 44 percent in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. Thompson has been flirting with a run but hasn't decided whether he'll jump in the race.

Feingold enjoys larger margins against his declared GOP opponents, Madison developer Terrence Wall and Watertown businessman David Westlake. Feingold leads Wall 52-37 and Westlake 54-36, according to the poll.

The poll found Feingold and Thompson with identical 53 percent favorability ratings. Wall had a favorability rating of 37 percent and Westlake 31 percent.

The poll was conducted from March 22 through March 24, with a total of 600 likely statewide voters interviewed by phone.

In the Newsweek article, Feingold is given props for championing "a number of truly bipartisan initiatives, among them campaign-finance reform and anti-earmark legislation-the latter won him plaudits from archconservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina."

The article notes that "the rub" against Feingold with conservatives is aside from his fiscal conservatism, he is "fundamentally a progressive liberal," noting his stands against the Iraq War and his call to have President George W. Bush censured over Bush's support of wiretapping U.S. citizens.


Friday, March 26, 2010

 7:01 AM 

Obama nominates Neville to serve as U.S. Marshal

The White House announced Thursday that President Obama has nominated Dallas S. Neville to serve as U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Neville served in the same post during the Clinton administration. He currently serves as the state Department of Military Affairs' Deputy Director of Emergency Police Services, and is a former Eau Claire city councilman and Clark County sheriff's deputy.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

 6:44 PM 

Robocalls in 8th CD thank Kagen for health care vote

Liberal group Americans United for Change is running robocalls in Wisconsin's 8th CD asking listeners to thank U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, for his vote in favor of health care reform.

"An era of insurance industry abuse is finally coming to an end thanks to courageous Members of Congress like Steve Kagen who stood up to powerful special interests on behalf of Wisconsin families," said acting executive director Tom McMahon in a statement. "These are monumental reforms that will save lives and prevent families from going bankrupt because of crushing health care costs."

The robocall narrator tells listeners that insurance companies hired more than 2,000 lobbyists and spent $86 million to kill the health care legislation.

"But the insurance companies didn't win," the narrator says. "Because your Congressman, Steve Kagen, said NO to big insurance and YES to standing up for regular people."


 1:23 PM 

Senate passes reconciliation bill

The U.S. Senate has approved the reconciliation health care reform bill by a 56-43 vote.

Wisconsin Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl voted in favor of the bill.

"I supported the reconciliation bill because it will further reduce the deficit while strengthening health care reform and cutting wasteful corporate welfare," Feingold said in a statement. "The reconciliation bill also begins to eliminate the doughnut hole for Medicare Part D, which has shortchanged seniors for years."

The bill must now head back to the House for a final vote after Republicans successfully challenged some language in the legislation. President Obama signed the House-passed bill into law Tuesday.


 10:27 AM 

DNC ad praises Kagen on health care vote

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen is praised in a new TV ad from the Democratic National Committee for his vote for passage of the health care reform bill.

Kagen, D-Appleton, is one of 25 congressional Dems who the DNC is targeting with the ads. The ad begins running today.

The ad opens with a pool cue striking a ball.

"For decades, the insurance lobby has called the shots, putting profits before people," a narrator says. "But with Steve Kagen's help that's changing.

The ad tout's the bill's prohibition on insurers denying coverage due to illness or pre-existing conditions, its provisions for affordable coverage for individuals and small businesses, and for closing the Medicare prescription gap.

"Congressman Kagen, thank you," the ad concludes.

On the screen next to Kagen's picture, the message reads, "Thank you for standing up for Wisconsinites."

See more in WisPolitics Ad Watch.


 7:39 AM 

Wall, Westlake vow to continue Senate runs with or without Thompson

Republicans Dave Westlake and Terrence Wall Wednesday said they have no plans to drop out of the U.S. Senate race if potential GOP rival Tommy Thompson gets in.

Wall and Westlake, appearing before the Milwaukee Press Club, differed a bit on their take on Thompson with Westlake more critical of the former guv. They also expressed different approaches to the federal tax structure.

Other than that, the two expressed nearly identical views on issues as they seek to unseat Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. Each blasted the new federal health care bill as an unwanted form of government control; oppose government spending and bailouts; would lower taxes and government regulations as a way to encourage jobs; and are courting the "tea party" vote.

Westlake expressed some concerns over Thompson's stances on issues like transportation and the health care bill.

"He was a popular and successful governor, but he was not afraid to spend money," Westlake said.

Wall said he has been in regular contact with Thompson, who "has been very generous with his time." Asked whether he would seek an endorsement from Thompson if the former guv decides not to run, Wall replied, "I think that's something that's between the governor and I."

Wall said he is plans to spend a couple of million dollars on the primary and has budgeted $7.5 million to $10 million for the campaign overall, some of it out of his own pocket.

Westlake said he plans to soon roll out a plan to eliminate the federal income tax in favor of a consumption tax, while Wall said he favors a flat tax.

Westlake said that taxing people based on how much they consume would be more fair than on how much they earn. Eliminating income tax would free up a lot of money for people to spend and would generate plenty of taxes to pay for schools and other services, he said.

Wall said said he favors a flat tax rate. The Democrats, he said, have provided various tax incentives for individual industries, whereas he seeks lower taxes overall and a less strict regulatory environment that would enable businesses to take chances on expanding and hiring. Wall defended accusations that he has taken advantage of such incentives to avoid paying some taxes.

"I've paid all the taxes I owe; I've been exonerated," Wall said. "I've paid $16 million in various types of taxes over the past three years. I've paid more taxes than a lot of people."

- By Kay Nolan
For WisPolitics.com


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

 7:24 PM 

Duffy launches radio ad

In the first radio ad of the congressional campaign, Republican Sean Duffy slams incumbent Dave Obey for voting "for the largest government takeover of health care in history."

A narrator alleges the legislation will raise premiums, slash Medicare benefits and increase taxes.

"It puts Washington bureaucrats in charge of health care," says the narrator, speaking over dramatic music.

Obey, a Wausau Democrat, is a 40-year incumbent and chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Duffy, the Ashland County DA, faces Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke in the GOP primary.

The ad also slams Obey on the federal stimulus bill he helped craft.

"And worse, David Obey's massive trillion dollar spending bill failed to create jobs," the narrator says. "Obey wants more government, more spending and more taxes. Obey's wrong and out of touch."

Duffy's voice appears about half way through the 60-second ad as soft music plays. He says Obey stopped listening to the people who elected him.

"I'll stop the spending. I'll be your voice. And I'll fight for northern Wisconsin," he says.


 10:34 AM 

Kagen complains about 'misinformation' on health care bill

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said today there has been "a great deal of misinformation" on the health care bill the president signed into law, ticking off a list of positive provisions in the bill.

Kagen, D-Appleton, said he has received some phone calls, even from friends and supporters, who were concerned about various aspects of the bill. He said one disabled veteran called concerned he might lose benefits at the VA, and Kagen's office assured him that was not the case.

"The fact is this is a good bill, and we can continue to improve it as time moves forward," Kagen told a teleconference. "It's good for patients. It saves lives. It saves jobs. It strengthens Medicare. It's great for small businesses. This will be a bill of historic proportions, and I'm so honored to be a part of it."

Republicans have been trying to make the case that the legislation will be a liability for Dems, especially those who represent swing districts. But Kagen showed no signs during the call about shying away from the bill this fall.

"This is something I'll be happy to campaign on at the appropriate time," he said. "I'll fight my heart out to guarantee that these rights we fought so hard to obtain do not go away."

Kagen pushed to have price transparency language included in the health care bill, but it was not part of the final package. He said he will continue pushing for the bill as stand alone legislation, and he repeatedly called the health care bill that passed a civil rights issue.

"In the 1960s, we fought very hard to secure our civil rights at the lunch counter and now every citizen will soon have equal rights and no discrimination at the pharmacy counter or the doctor's office and most importantly at the hospitals," Kagen said.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

 1:59 PM 

Staff changes in Ryan office

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan has a new press secretary following Conor Sweeney's departure to serve in Ryan's House Budget Committee.

Kevin Seifert is the Janesville Republican's new spokesman.

Ryan is also is featured in today's Politico video series "Health Care Diagnosis." In the interview, he attributed his emotional speech before the health care vote to both his Irish heritage and his perception that Democrats hadn't clinched the legislation until hours before the vote, when Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak bought six anti-abortion Dem votes to support the bill.

"We knew this was going to go down to the wire, we could tell it was going to go down to the wire. It's not a popular piece of legislation," Ryan said. "Many of their members don't want to vote for it. So we really had the mindset that this thing isn't over until the gavel falls."

Ryan also said Republicans let their rhetoric become too heated in the debate, remarking that it was "horrible" for Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer to shout "baby killer" at Stupak on the House floor.


Monday, March 22, 2010

 11:00 AM 

Wisconsin delegation reacts to health care reform vote

Wisconsin Dems are hailing passage of health care reform in the House as a historic reform that will spread coverage to all Americans, while Republicans are denouncing it as a government takeover.

Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines last night with all five Dems voting for the bill and all three Republicans opposed.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said this morning he was undecided about the health care reform package until Saturday morning. But after striking a deal with House leadership and the White House on reform to the Medicare reimbursement system, the La Crosse Democrat said he was proud to support the legislation.

"(Wisconsin health providers) are some of the highest quality providers in the nation, and they have some of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the nation," Kind said in a conference call with reporters this morning. "We are fixing that in this bill."

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, denounced the plan during a speech on the floor last night.

"The government-knows-best philosophy advanced on the floor by the majority today is paternalistic, arrogant, and at odds with our nation's unique character," Ryan said. "We are fast approaching a tipping point in which more Americans depend on the government than on themselves for their livelihoods -- a point where, we, the American people trade in our commitment and concern for our individual liberties in exchange for government benefits."

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, voted against the bill even though it included an overhaul to the student loan system that he has spent the better part of the past three decades fighting to pass.

Petri made no mention of its inclusion in his statement criticizing the legislation.

"Instead of getting everybody into the old, dysfunctional system and then figuring out how to pay for it, we should emphasize advances in efficiency so that more people will be able to afford their health care, and the government will be better able to take care of the rest," Petri said.

See statements from the Wisconsin delegation:
- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville
- U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison
- U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse
- U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee
- U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls
- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac
- U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau
- U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton

See more reaction to the health care reform vote on the WisPolitics press release page.


 10:16 AM 

Feingold: Senate to approve health care reform this week

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold expects the Senate to approve the reconciliation bill before week's end.

Feingold, speaking with a WisPolitics reporter after a campaign event on Friday, said the expectation is the Senate will approve the bill before its Easter break, which is supposed to start on Friday. But he said the debate could stretch beyond that. He also expects the president to sign the bill by April 1.

"We're not going to leave until that's done," Feingold said of the Senate.

Feingold did the interview after opening a campaign office in downtown Madison. He also took a few swipes at potential GOP opponent Tommy Thompson, saying he's become "become part and parcel of the corporate lobbying system."

Thompson, who was at a fundraiser in Eau Claire for his brother, Ed, brushed off the Dem attacks that have been lobbed his way lately, saying the party doesn't have merits on its side right now so it's attacking others.

"It's a party that's hollow. It's a party that's going nowhere right now," he said.

Thompson reiterated that he's still weighing whether to get into the race, saying he planned to talk to his family during an Easter vacation. He also needs to make sure his business interests can operate without him.

Feingold said he's honing in on Thompson even though the former guv hasn't announced if he's in the race "because he can't have it both ways."

"This little dance about I might run, I might not run. This is serious business," Feingold said. "This is the United States Senate seat that I take very seriously and I care about the job ... it's not just another race in my life."

See WisPolitics coverage here.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

 3:46 PM 

Kagen to vote yes on health care bill

Ending days of speculation about which way he would vote on the health care reform bill, U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen announced today in a press release that he will support it.

"We are beginning to fix what is broken and improving on what we already have at a price we can all afford to pay," said Kagen, a Democrat from Appleton. "This bill saves lives and jobs by putting patients first, strengthening Medicare and guaranteeing access to affordable care for all of us."

The bill is expected pass the House this weekend, and could get through the Senate and to President Barack Obama's desk by the end of next week.

Third-party groups have spent $156,925 this month on health care TV ads in Kagen's home district, with the majority urging Kagen to vote against the bill.

Kagen, who is a doctor and ran a successful allergy clinic before going to Congress, has made health care reform his signature issue, and he voted for the initial plan the House approved last year. But he had sent mixed signals recently, and his office did not return calls and e-mails this week seeking comment.

The press release says today, Kagen "secured payment adjustments for Wisconsin hospitals and doctors who care for patients on Medicare. These adjustments and a new independent study to assess geographical disparities in Medicare payments by the Institute of Medicine, will correct a decades-old formula that punished Wisconsin health care providers who provide some of the highest quality care in the nation."

The press release goes on to state that the benefits for Kagen's 8th Congressional District include improved coverage for 475,000 residents with health insurance, tax credits and other assistance for up to 186,000 families and 17,200 small businesses to help them afford health insurance coverage, and closing the "donut hole" for Medicare beneficiaries.


Friday, March 19, 2010

 11:02 AM 

Sensenbrenner cancels public hearings for health care reform vote

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has canceled town hall meetings for this weekend at the Slinger Village Hall, the Shorewood Village Hall and the Cedarburg Police Department due to scheduled votes in the House of Representatives.

The House is expected to pass the health care reform bill before Sunday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, praised the bill for reducing the federal deficit and improving health care for 539,000 South Central Wisconsinites.

"Since my days on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, in the Wisconsin State Assembly, and now in Congress, I have worked to bring affordable, quality health care to all Wisconsinites," Baldwin said. "This plan is not perfect...none is; but thousands of Wisconsinites will see enormous benefits from health care reform now, and as I work to improve our health care system in the days ahead."

Citizen Action Wisconsin says the bill will provide premium subsidies and tax credits for more than 1.3 million Wisconisn families and 123,900 small businesses, and the average family of four making $50,000 per year will be eligible for a tax credit of $5,800 per year.


 10:05 AM 

Thompson goes after Feingold in interview

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is continuing to weigh his options regarding a potential run for U.S. Senate this fall, but that didn't stop him from taking a few shots at his prospective opponent during an interview with WisconsinEye.

"He has not done anything for Wisconsin that's going to make Wisconsin a better state," Thompson said of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton. "He's been in Washington way too long; he's part of the problem."

Thompson said Feingold's criticisms of the former governor's business ties in Washington reflected a candidate who's "afraid of his job."

"It's the only thing he's ever done," Thompson said. "He's part of the problem, and he knows that. He knows he's got to attack me."

Thompson said he has a deadline in his own mind about deciding to run for Senate, but declined to disclose it. He said he's taking a vacation immediately after Easter to discuss the race with his family.

He said his decision boils down to concerns about his family and his businesses rather than his political chances.

"I think if I run, I will win," Thompson said. "I think it's the tenor of the times. I think the people in Washington have just lost their way."

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party unveiled a new Web ad that goes after Thompson for his involvement on corporate boards.

"After 32 years in politics, Tommy Thompson cashed out as a partner in one of Washington's biggest law and lobbying firms. Taking on special interests as clients," the ad says.

The ad shows the phone number for Akin Gump -- Thompson's D.C. law firm -- and the narrator concludes, "Tell Tommy Thompson you can't work for us if you're working for them."


Thursday, March 18, 2010

 1:57 PM 

Ryan criticizes Dem 'leak' of CBO health care estimate

A Congressional Budget Office report this morning says the health care reform bill headed to the House has a price tag of $940 billion but will reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade.

The bill would reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion in its second decade, according to the report.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, released an analysis of the cost estimate from the GOP caucus of the House Budget Committee, accusing Democrats of leaking the preliminary estimate in order to gather support for the bill in their caucus.

"This is the latest in a long series of abuses by the Democratic Majority to jam through their health care bill by any means necessary," the GOP analysis states.

"This bill does not reduce deficits. This bill does not control costs. According to the Administration's CMS actuary, the legislation increases national health expenditures by $222 billion," Ryan adds. "This bill adds a new health care entitlement when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have."


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

 10:24 AM 

Feingold earmark cancellation amendment passes

The U.S. Senate has voted to pass an amendment authored by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold to cancel unspent transportation earmarks.

The vote yesterday was 87-11. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, joined Feingold in voting for the amendment.

According to Feingold's office, the move could save about $478 million this year and may save more over time.

The legislation, based on the Middleton Democrat's "Control Spending Now Act," will rescind all transportation earmarks 10 or more years old with unobligated balances of 90 percent or more.

Feingold and Kohl also voted for a $17.6 billion jobs package, which passed by a 68-29 margin and now heads to the president to be signed into law.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

 12:11 PM 

Citizens United targets Kagen

Steve Kagen is one of seven House Dems targeted by a new Citizens United TV ad that says they're making tough times worse.

The spot notes the federal debt, out-of-control spending, and the highest unemployment in 27 years before saying Kagen and Nancy Pelosi want to spend $1 trillion on a health care system we can't afford rather than creating needed jobs.

"Tell him to fix the economy, not destroy our health care system," the narrator says. "Vote no on Obamacare, yes on jobs."

According to the conservative Citizens United, the spot began running today and will continue through the House vote on health care. The overall media buy targeting the seven lawmakers is worth $600,000, according to the group.

The other targeted Dems include Mark Schauer of Michigan, Mike Arcuri of New York, Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, Baron Hill of Indiana, Chris Carney of Pennsylvania and John Salazar of Colorado.

Citizen United also says it plans to make 1.3 million phone calls to the lawmakers' districts urging voters to contact their representative and urge them to vote no.


 9:35 AM 

Police respond to flap over Mielke display at AFP summit

Police were called to a Wisconsin Dells conservative event Saturday by GOP congressional candidate Dan Mielke following a dispute with the wife of his primary opponent, Ashland County DA Sean Duffy.

Mielke and Duffy's campaign offered differing accounts of what took place at Americans for Prosperity's "Defending the American Dream" summit.

According to Mielke, Rachel Duffy-Campos tried to remove duct tape that was holding down a flyer titled "Why not Sean Duffy? 2003 starred in a pro-gay marriage video."

Duffy campaign spokesman Darrin Schmitz said Mielke "violently grabbed" Duffy-Campos' arm when she reached for the flyer.

"She's all of 5-feet tall and 8 1/2 months pregnant," Schmitz said. "She's going to give birth within the next couple of weeks. She obviously is not a threat to anyone."
Mielke said Duffy-Campos was "very aggressive," adding he got between her and the table and pulled her hand away to stop her from removing materials from his display.

"I didn't grab her. I held her (hand) in position so she wouldn't tear off the tape, and slid her hand away from the tape and let her go," he said.

In the film, called "The Wedding Video," the couple, both of whom are former cast members on the MTV show "The Real World," play characters named Rachel and Sean who attend a gay wedding. Mielke showed pieces of the film on his laptop at the event, claiming it promotes gay marriage.

"He claims to be this strong conservative, one-man one-woman person, but his background doesn't show that," said Mielke.

Mielke said he called 911 after Campos-Duffy went to organizers to complain about the display.

"I was not trying to create an incident. My goal was not to turn this into a political thing," he said.

After the officer arrived, Mielke said he offered to put a "view at your own risk" note on the laptop screen to warn viewers there may be objectionable content.

"Apparently it's OK to bash a Democrat, but it's not OK to expose a Republican, and I have a problem with that," Mielke said. "If I see something I disagree with ... then I believe I have a right to bring up that difference."

While he said there were a couple more instances in which Duffy supporters "laid into him" throughout the day, Mielke said there was no further interaction with Campos-Duffy and no one from Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin asked him to change his display.

Schmitz said the film is a "mockumentary" and Mielke apparently doesn't realize that it is a satire of reality TV shows, not a documentary stating Duffy's views. He says Duffy "supports traditional marriage," and voted for the constitutional amendment in 2006 banning gay marriage.

Schmitz said the police never spoke with Duffy-Campos.

"Certainly she was fearful and she pulled away and that's the reason she left is because he acted violently and he's fortunate someone didn't share that with authorities or he may have been taken down to the station or questioned," Schmitz said.

The Wisconsin Dells Police Department confirmed an officer responded to a call from the event shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday, as did security from Chula Vista Resort, the site of the conference.

No report was filed on the incident, a dispatcher said.


 8:39 AM 

Complaint alleges Mielke violated election law

A complaint has been filed with the FEC alleging that 7th CD GOP candidate Dan Mielke used donor information from his primary rival's October campaign finance report to send out his own fundraising appeal, a violation of the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971.

The complaint, filed by Ashland resident Deborah Lulich, alleges that on or about Nov. 1 Mielke mailed a solicitation letter to some or all of the individuals listed as contributors to Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy, who is also challenging U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

"This is another example of his campaign unraveling," Duffy Campaign spokesman Darrin Schmitz said. "He's a desperate, desperate man. He has made this campaign about himself and not about Dave Obey or Republicans providing a challenge this cycle to Representative Obey. It's about him, and he's willng to destroy anyone to make it through the primary to face Obey."

In the letter, Mielke writes that though he and Duffy have their differences, the "ultimate goal" of Republicans is to defeat Obey.

"This is why, for the sake of the nation, we are asking you to contribute to both candidates during this primary election," the letter states. "Allow us to campaign together and present our views and differences to the voters and let the cream rise to the top. Only then, will you know for sure which one truly has the support of the majority of the people."

Mielke said he was aware of the complaint and sent a letter to the FEC about it. He said he was unaware that information from Duffy's report was used, or that there was any restriction on using that information. He said he wasn't trying to give the impression that the letter was a joint fundraising solicitation with Duffy.

"There was no intent to deceive or break any laws," said Mielke, who added he hasn't heard back from the FEC.


Monday, March 15, 2010

 6:00 PM 

Feingold looks to end mining exemption

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, appeared Monday on NBC Nightly News to discuss one provision of his "Control Spending Now Act" -- a proposal that would eliminate an exemption for precious metals miners from paying royalties for mining on public lands.

Feingold said the 1872 law was put in place to encourage mining activity in the 19th century, but currently amounts to "basically a rip-off on the American taxpayers." He estimates ending the exemption would save $946 million over ten years, and said the mining companies' arguments that the measure would cost jobs don't hold up.

"I'm sure that it'll cost them some money, but they're still going to be making a ton of money," Feingold said, noting the skyrocketing price of gold in particular. "I don't think it's going to be in their interest to lay off all kinds of miners, because they're still making very good return on $1,100 an ounce for gold."

Feingold said his interest in the issue dates back to his first run for U.S. Senate, when former Sen. Gaylord Nelson asked him to work to end the mining exemption.

"That really stuck in his craw as an abuse of the environment," Feingold said.


 4:52 PM 

Neumann delivers health care petition to Moore's office

GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann delivered a 5,500-signature petition against Democrats' health care reform effort to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore's Milwaukee office today.

Neumann told WisPolitics today that any expansion of health care -- from federal reform to the state's proposed BadgerCare Plus Basic plan -- should be postponed until lawmakers know where the funding for those programs would come from.

Neumann said he prefers a reform proposal that includes health savings accounts, noting that establishing $3,000 deductible HSAs in his homebuilding business has saved money and changed the behavior of his employees.

"Our employees are asking the questions. What does the procedure cost? Are the procedures necessary?" Neumann said. "They're asking the right questions."

Neumann, a former 1st District congressman, said Moore's staff was "very receptive and polite" and pledged to deliver the signatures to the congresswoman this week. He added that his campaign would be distributing the petition electronically to every member of the Wisconsin delegation.

Moore, D-Milwaukee, was in Washington today working on the House Budget Committee's markup of the health care bill.


Friday, March 12, 2010

 1:25 PM 

Ryan named to fiscal commission

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville and ranking member of the House Budget Committee, has been named by House Minority Leader John Boehner to President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission.

Ryan joins House GOP colleagues Dave Camp of Michigan and Jeb Hebsarling of Texas on the commission, which was created by executive order last month.

"While I have serious concerns about what this commission can actually achieve, I hope it spurs a genuine effort to tackle the looming crisis of unsustainable entitlement spending -- the greatest threat to our nation's fiscal and economic future," Ryan said in a statement.


 12:28 PM 

Sensenbrenner to manage federal judge's impeachment trial

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner will become only House representative to ever serve four times as House manager for an impeachment trial.

Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, will serve as one of five House managers in the impeachment trial of Eastern Louisiana U.S. District Court Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. The House of Representatives unanimously voted to impeach Porteous Thursday on charges of lying underoath and taking payoffs.

Sensenbrenner has previously served as House manager in the impeachment trials of federal judges Samuel B. Kent of Texas last year and Walter Nixon of Mississippi in 1989, and of former President Bill Clinton in 1998.

"Judges take an oath to uphold the law and their robes do not grant them immunity," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "Judge Porteous clearly violated the laws, and I hope we can work to restore the trust of the American people by quickly removing him from his position."


Thursday, March 11, 2010

 10:56 AM 

Report: Ryan 'Roadmap' wouldn't solve debt

The state Democratic Party is highlighting a new report from the D.C.-based Center of Budget and Policy Priorities on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's wide-ranging "Roadmap for America's Future" legislative package.

The report argues the Roadmap plan "calls for radical policy changes that would result in a massive transfer of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation's wealthiest individuals."

Ryan has taken heat from Democrats and the White House over his plan, which they argue undermines Social Security and Medicare and shifts the risks of those funds onto individuals. The Janesville Republican counters that both programs are moving toward bankruptcy and that his plan moves the country back toward fiscal solvency.

But the CBPP report alleges the large tax cuts included in the plan would cause the federal debt to "soar to 175 percent of the gross domestic product by 2050."

UPDATE: Ryan responds to the CBPP report, saying its analysts manufactured the higher debt levels by "extrapolating data" of the Tax Policy Center. Ryan also notes that without reform, the debt level in 2080 "would be a crushing 716% of GDP."


 10:37 AM 

NRCC blasts Obey, Kagen over Afghanistan votes

The National Republican Campaign Committee is attacking Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Dave Obey and Steve Kagen this morning for voting for a House measure to direct the president to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The resolution failed 356-65.

"By aligning themselves with the most extreme elements in the Democratic Party, Dave Obey and Steve Kagen are finally proving just how out of touch they are," NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said in an email this morning. "With unemployment still unacceptably high and Congress creating record budget deficits, Wisconsin families need leaders who can tackle today's problems, not waste time pushing a partisan agenda that puts half-baked ideas ahead of our national security."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin also voted for the resolution. Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Gwen Moore voted against it, as did Republicans Tom Petri, Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

 3:19 PM 

Obey bans for-profit earmarks in Appropriations bills

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, announced today that the House Appropriations Committee will no longer approve earmarks directed to for-profit entities.

Obey, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, joined with incoming Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks, D-Wash., in announcing the plan. The lawmakers say the rule would have prevented 1,000 earmarks last year. In addition, the Appropriations Committee will now require an audit of at least 5 percent of non-profit earmarks to "ensure that earmarks go to their intended purposes and to prevent for-profits from masquerading as non-profits."

Obey added that he intends the changes to be long term.

Ashland County DA Sean Duffy -- one of two Republicans hoping to unseat Obey this year -- said the measure doesn't address the majority of earmark spending and cracked that "any earmark reform represents an abrupt 'about face'" for Obey.

"The earmark process has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and corrupted members of Congress," Duffy said in a statement. "It's common sense that private companies should not receive earmarks, but why did it take a serious challenger for Chairman Obey to see the light?"


 1:05 PM 

House Conservatives Fund endorses Duffy

Ashland County DA Sean Duffy continues to rack up endorsements from the GOP establishment in his primary race against Randolph farmer Dan Mielke in the 7th CD.

Following his endorsement by the 7th CD GOP, Roll Call reports that the House Conservatives Fund has endorsed Duffy to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

Roll Call reports Duffy as one of 10 GOP challengers to receive the endorsement, each of whom will receive a $5,000 contribution from the group's PAC.

"These people are hardcore conservatives that can win both the primary and the general election," said the group's honorary chairman, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.

The Duffy Campaign is touting the support of the group's 100-plus House members, saying they are "committed to electing candidates who support reducing runaway spending, returning government to its Constitutional boundaries, and creating jobs by freeing up the American people to work hard and innovate."


 9:25 AM 

Ryan dubbed 'new Republican heavyweight'

D.C. scribes continue to elevate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Janesville Republican who has become a high-profile darling of the right in recent months.

Today, The Hill is touting Ryan as the "New Republican heavyweight."

From the story:

"Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) is taking his first big political punches from Democrats, a sign that the rising GOP star has graduated to the heavyweight division.

"The 40-year-old Ryan, with barely a speck of gray in his jet-black hair, has emerged as a talking point for President Barack Obama and a potential presidential contender for Republicans. His plan to balance the federal budget with a mix of proposals to partially privatize Medicare and Social Security has become Democrats' pinata."


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

 10:15 AM 

Feingold responds to Thompson Senate chatter

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold is taking on Tommy Thompson even before the former GOP guv's potential entry into the U.S. Senate race.

Feingold bluntly assessed the situation after talk of Thompson's U.S. Senate interest spiked amid reports of campaign planning by former aides.

"So you might ask, 'Well why are all these people in Washington asking Tommy Thompson to run?' Because he's their friend," Feingold, D-Middleton, said in an email from his campaign to supporters. "Because he does what they want. That's why they're asking him to run.

"I've spent years and years taking on the special interests. And Tommy Thompson spent years, taking them on as clients. That's the difference between the two of us. That's the difference for Wisconsin as we go forward for this election."

Speculation over Thompson's political future picked up over the weekend, when former Thompson aide Bill McCoshen indicated the former governor is "seriously considering" a challenge to Feingold and may soon form an exploratory committee to raise funds for a potential bid

"This is the most serious I've seen him," McCoshen said during a Web extra on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

McCoshen said Thompson's getting "enormous encouragement" to run and pointed to a national political climate favoring Republicans and Thompson's strength in polls.

"Tommy's no dummy politically," McCoshen said. "He knows what the trends are, he knows what his opportunities are and he's going about this in the right way."

"You're going to see some additional evidence here very shortly that this thing is ramping itself up, that there are serious people involved in this effort and that Tommy is very seriously considering it," McCoshen said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we see an exploratory here in the next couple of weeks to raise some money for him."

McCoshen said it would be unlikely that Thompson makes an announcement before the state GOP convention May 20, which he described as a "hard stop" for Thompson.


Monday, March 8, 2010

 6:22 PM 

Baldwin, Ryan speculate on cap-and-trade

U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Paul Ryan offered differing views on whether carbon cap-and-trade legislation would pass Congress this year at Monday's 3rd annual Focus on Midwest Energy summit.

Baldwin, D-Madison, said she believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remains committed to passing the bill and that an unusual working group of Massachusetts Dem John Kerry, South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman are working on a new version of the legislation that passed the House last year.

"Perhaps a fresh approach is just what the doctor ordered," Baldwin said. She expressed hope that the eventual Senate legislation would take Wisconsin and other coal-dependent states into greater account that the House version.

"Transforming to a new energy economy will not be easy for our state," Baldwin acknowledged. "But I have no doubt that Wisconsin will meet the challenge."

Although she remains hopeful about the federal energy bill, she expressed frustration about the pace of the Senate with regard to a host of issues already passed by the House -- from health care to education to jobs bills. Although she noted that Wisconsin's senators are not part of that problem, Baldwin said she is "very frustrated."

"What matters most right now is that we keep at it and we get the job done," Baldwin said.

Ryan later said cap-and-trade is dead for this session and likely next session, too.

Ryan declared the bill the House approved won't make it through the Senate because Dems don't have a filibuster-proof majority any more. Even if Dems retain the majority for the next session, their majority will be smaller and they won't be able to break a filibuster next year, either.

Ryan said in the meantime, Congress should open up ANWAR, oil fields off the nation's coast and natural gas fields "right under our feet" to help move the country toward energy independence. The proceeds from those leases could then be used to help develop clean energy sources, said Ryan, also advocating more nuclear power be part of the nation's mix.

"We should do it all," Ryan said.


 3:49 PM 

Feingold-McCain bill would cap White House appointees

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold today announced the reintroduction of a bill to cap the number of White House political appointees at 2,000.

Feingold, D-Middleton, proposed the bill with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The two senators -- who had also introduced the bill during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations -- say the Congressional Budget Office estimates the proposal would save $872 million over ten years.

"Unnecessary bureaucratic positions not only waste taxpayer dollars, but also make government less effective and less responsive to the people it represents. In the face of record deficits, this bill offers a good way to save while improving the way government works," Feingold said in a statement.

Feingold and McCain say the number of political appointees has jumped by 28 percent since 1980.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

 3:08 PM 

Senate confirms Conley as federal judge

The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved the nomination of Madison attorney William Conley to the federal bench in the Western District of Wisconsin.

Conley, originally nominated in October, will replace U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb as she moves to senior status.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, praised the vote in a statement. In remarks on the Senate floor, Kohl said Conley "possesses all of the best qualities that we look for in a judge: legal acumen, diligence, humility, and integrity."


 2:44 PM 

Delegation splits on jobs bill

Despite passing the House by a 217-201 margin this afternoon, the Wisconsin delegation split 4-3 against a $15 billion jobs bill.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, joined all three Republicans in voting against the proposal, while Dem U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, Steve Kagen of Appleton and Dave Obey of Wausau voted for the bill.

Moore said in a statement that job creation legislation, "needs to be targeted to areas with persistent unemployment like we have in Milwaukee, and I've been advocating to make sure that we focus on the areas that need it most. This bill does exactly the opposite."

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, missed the vote while meeting with President Obama but said he supports the legislation.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

 1:27 PM 

LAV revises ad after Kagen complaint

The League of American Voters has revised an ad critical of U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen after the Appleton Dem's attorney asked TV stations to pull the spot.

Kagen attorney Mike Maistelman wrote to four Green Bay TV stations that the ad misstates provisions of the House health care legislation Kagen supported last year.

"The LAV advertisement states that Rep. Kagen 'voted for Obama and Pelosi's health care takeover' that imposes '(b)ig taxes on good insurance plans,'" the letter states. "This statement is categorically false; the House version of the health care bill does no such thing."

LAV executive director Bob Adams acknowledged that Maistelman was correct, saying the House plan included an income tax surcharge rather than a tax on so-called Cadillac health plans. He said all four stations have been sent a new version of the ad.

"We've updated our ad to properly inform the public about Kagen's voting for big tax hikes," Adams said.

See the revised and original ads in WisPolitics' Ad Watch.


 10:55 AM 

Duffy seeks campaign spending limits in 7th CD

Republican Sean Duffy is calling for U.S. Rep. Dave Obey to adhere to voluntary campaign spending limits for the 2010 election, saying the longtime Wausau Democrat was "hypocritical" to call for campaign finance reform yesterday.

The Ashland County DA and 7th CD candidate proposed a $2 million spending limit for the campaign, along with a ban on contributions for PACs with business before the House and returning all donations from recipients of earmarks.

"Promising to limit the influence of special interests while they're bankrolling your campaign is hypocritical," Duffy said in a statement. Duffy's campaign alleges 59 percent of Obey's contributions so far in this election cycle came from PACs.


 10:50 AM 

Kagen responds to Rangel controversy

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, issued a statement this morning on the leave of absence for House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel following Republican charges that the Appleton Democrat was ducking questions and keeping $21,000 in campaign contributions from Rangel.

The longtime New York congressman announced this morning that's he's temporarily stepping down from his committee post until the House Ethics Committee completes its investigation of two corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean.

"I'm working hard to bring jobs back to Wisconsin and responsibility back to Washington, and if that means leadership in the House of Representatives must change -- so be it," Kagen said.

The National Republican Campaign Committee blasted Kagen earlier for declining comment on Rangel yesterday, when reports said Kagen's campaign "had no spokesman and therefore couldn't comment."

And state Rep. Roger Roth, an Appleton Republican who's seeking the nomination to challenge Kagen this fall, said Kagen's fellow Dems have returned Rangel's donations.

"It is time to find out where Steve Kagen's loyalty lies," Roth said in a statement. "It seems Mr. Kagen likes to speak through his voting record, so what does voting twice to keep Rangel in office say to the people of Northeastern Wisconsin?"


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

 4:02 PM 

Feingold receives health care access award

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has been named the 2010 Distinguished Community Health Superhero by the National Association of Community Health Centers.

The award -- Feingold's fourth from the group -- recognizes efforts to expand access to health care providers.

"We've truly counted on Senator Feingold as an important voice on behalf of health centers in our state and indeed across the country," said Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association Executive Director Stephanie Harrison in a statement. "As economic conditions remain challenging, he also understands that health centers play a key role in providing access to affordable care and stand ready to grow and meet the challenges and demands of the future."


Monday, March 1, 2010

 11:34 AM 

Ryan: Don't count House Dems out on health care vote

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday House Democrats don't have the votes to pass the new health care reform package right now, but that could change easily once a proposal nears the floor.

"They do not now have the votes from our best count," the Janesville Republican said on Fox News Sunday. "I wouldn't count (Speaker Pelosi) out, because she is very good at muscling votes. They were down 24 on cap and trade the night before. They passed it by eight."

Ryan defended GOP proposals to reform health care, suggesting that medical malpractice is a far bigger driver of health costs than the numbers indicate, and that individual states should have well-subsidized, high-risk pools to cover those with preexisting conditions. He said those initiatives, among others, haven't been publicized because Democrats are controlling the process.

"The only time we've had bipartisan discussion, you've seen it, because it's been on TV," Ryan said. "We've been frozen out of this process all session long, and it's quite clear to us that they're really not interested in engaging in collaborating and bipartisanship. They want to jam this thing through."


 10:20 AM 

LAV ad targets Kagen

The League of American Voters has launched an ad in the Green Bay market ripping U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen for "voting for Obama and Pelosi's health care takeover."

"America said slow down, but now Obama and Pelosi are at it again, and they want Kagen as the deciding vote in a last minute deal to take over your health care," says the narrator.

The ad finishes by telling viewers to call Kagen and "tell him to vote no on the Obama-Pelosi plan."

See the ad in Ad Watch.


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