The State Bar of Wisconsin's Civil Rights and Liberties Section board today asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to determine whether the state's new voter ID requirement violates federal law.
Board Chairwoman Sally Stix, a Madison attorney, wrote to Holder that the state law has "the potential to suppress the votes of thousands of eligible Wisconsin voters without addressing any problem commensurate with this kind of restriction on voting rights."
Stix charges that the new statute is one of the most restrictive in the country for both accepting IDs and creating a path for eligible voters to acquire IDs, arguing the department must investigate whether the standard violates the Voting Rights Act.
"New photo identification laws should be subjected to the highest scrutiny," Stix writes. "The full implementation of Wisconsin’s restrictive voting law begins in the Spring of 2012. The Department should review the legislative process to determine whether or not there was any unlawful intent evinced by the Wisconsin legislature."
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sent supporters an email today asking them whether his PAC should endorse Mark Neumann in Wisconsin's Senate race while taking a veiled shot at Tommy Thompson.
DeMint, a key figure in conservative and Tea Party circles, calls Neumann "a full-spectrum conservative who believes deeply in the principles of freedom" and says he's the "real deal."
DeMint writes it may seem early to be asking supporters who to endorse in Wisconsin's Senate primary, but cites two reasons for doing so.
One, he says conservatives need to united behind a single candidate to prevent their vote from being split among several candidates.
"Second, media reports indicate that a Democrat-lite Republican could challenge Neumann for the nomination. This challenger is well-known statewide and has major fundraising connections, but he also backed ObamaCare and will not stand up for our values when it matters," DeMint writes, referencing Thompson without mentioning his name.
DeMint asks backers to fill out a survey and tells them if his PAC gets behind Neumann, there's a good chance he'd defeat the Dem candidate next year.
UPDATE: 10:38 a.m. -- Thompson consultant Darrin Schmitz responded, "Governor Thompson respects Senator DeMint greatly. However, the senator appears to be misinformed about Thompson’s record of cutting income taxes, reforming welfare and implementing the nation’s first and largest school choice program. And his opposition to Obamacare.”
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann said Monday he's running for Senate because he believes the country is ready to accept what's necessary to balance the federal budget.
Neumann, who served two terms in the 1st CD in the 1990s, passed on a run for Senate last year to take on Scott Walker in the GOP guv primary. In a conference call with reporters after announcing his run on Charlie Sykes' radio show, Neumann said the country is in a much different place now than even two years ago.
"I believe America is in serious trouble," Neumann said, adding that the national debt has tripled since he left office and that the public is now aware of its potential ramifications.
"It's a staggering number, and it's a number big enough to bring this nation to its knees," Neumann said.
Neumann said the political environment is "100 percent different" than when he was in the governor's race, predicting his message of fiscal responsibility would overcome any lingering schism between his campaign and GOP primary voters.
"I'm very, very optimistic that we're in the right spot," Neumann said.
He also vowed to keep his campaign's focus on U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who's expected to jump into the race on the Dem side.
He said it would be up to GOP candidates to articulate their positions on issues, but said his position on federal health care reform is clear.
"We will work hard to get that off the books," Neumann said.
The national Club for Growth has taken a series of shots at former Gov. Tommy Thompson on the issue in anticipation of his announcement for the Senate race.
Thompson’s campaign responded to Neumann’s entrance by urging him to tell his “Washington DC allies he will not tolerate additional distortions” of the former guv’s record.
The national Club for Growth has accused Thompson of supporting higher taxes and spending as well as Obamacare. Thompson’s campaign has responded by charging Neumann is behind the attacks because two of his former staffers now work for the organization.
Failing to issue such a call is a clear message for GOP voters that Neumann “intends to run yet another campaign full of lies and mudslinging,” Thompson consultant Darrin Schmitz said.
“Republican voters deserve a primary campaign based on the issues,” Schmitz said. “What Republicans do not need are more of the smear tactics Mark Neumann used in his failed campaign against Governor Scott Walker.”
Thompson’s campaign also announced former Assembly Speaker John Gard and former state Treasurer Cate Zeuske will serve as co-chairs on the campaign. The husband and wife co-chaired Neumann’s gubernatorial campaign last year.
Other Republicans looking at a Senate bid include Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, former state Sen. Ted Kanavas and state Sen. Frank Lasee.
State Sen. Jon Erpenbach said on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha" that he believes he can differentiate himself from a potentially crowded Dem field in the 2nd Congressional District by touting his progressive record in the state Senate.
Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, is considering a run for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin's seat should she, as expected, decide to run for U.S. Senate. State Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Roys, both of Madison, have also been considering a bid.
“It's just making a real strong case for yourself and the fact that you can stick to a progressive agenda and make sure that you can be a good spokesman for the Democrats out in Washington,” Erpenbach said.
Erpenbach also said he thinks Walker will be recalled next year.
“What we saw in the first round with the Republican majority ... is very radical,” Erpenbach said. “I think Governor Walker has been very irresponsible the way he has chosen to lead the state of Wisconsin.”
After the summer's nine recall elections, Walker signaled a bipartisan approach. But Erpenbach said he hasn't heard from the governor.
“The governor can talk about how he is trying to bring the state together and reach out to Democrats, (but) he is not, he is absolutely not,” Erpenbach said.
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann announced his candidacy for the state's open U.S. Senate this morning.
The southeastern Wisconsin homebuilder hinted last week he'd enter the race for the Republican nomination for Herb Kohl's seat. Neumann, who represented the 1st Congressional District for two terms in the 1990s, also has run unsuccessfully for governor and Senate before.
Neumann told WTMJ Radio's Charlie Sykes during his announcement that one thing he learned from last year's gubernatorial run was that a potential candidate shouldn't wait to jump into a race. He filed papers in July 2009 to run for guv, but didn't formally announce his campaign until September.
"If you're going to do it, get in and do it and work your tail off," Neumann said.
Former Gov. and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald also are expected to enter the race.
Neumann, who has sparred with Thompson already over a series of ads run by the Club for Growth, said he would hope that the conservative group would back his candidacy, but rejected charges from the Thompson camp that Neumann allies were behind the effort.
Neumann largely steered clear of criticizing Thompson, saying he would allow the former governor to make his arguments while focusing on U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, who's likely to enter the race on the Dem side.
Others who have said they're interested in running are state Sen. Frank Lasee and former state Sen. Ted Kanavas.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said over the weekend that what he has done in Madison over the past year would transfer well should he decide to run for U.S. Senate.
While shying away from officially announcing a bid, Fitzgerald touted the accomplishments of his caucus as well as the role he played in its work on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha," a statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.
“To balance a budget, a 3.6 billion dollar deficit without raising taxes, when people said it couldn’t be done, we did that, and I think I can take those kinds of things to Washington, D.C.,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think on the national levels, they have the same problems we faced in Wisconsin. We need to get people back to work.”
Gousha asked Fitzgerald whether he thinks he could win given the role he played in passing some of the more controversial pieces of Gov. Scott Walker's agenda with such a deeply divided state.
“As we get further away from that vote, people are starting to realize why we did that,” said Fitzgerald, adding, “I get people coming up to me on a daily basis saying, 'You know what, you really did change things in Madison like you promised you were going to.”
Fitzgerald also touched on likely GOP primary opponents Neumann and Thompson.
“I just think right now, we are in very different times,” Fitzgerald said. “I think Governor Thompson and Mark Neumann haven’t been elected officials for a long time.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson told WisPolitics.com that Social Security should be the easiest of the entitlement programs to fix, saying things like means testing and raising the retirement age should be on the table as part of the solution.
“For whatever reasons, it’s the third rail and people are afraid of it,” Johnson said in an interview before speaking to the Milwaukee chapter of the Society of Plastics Engineers
Johnson stressed that no one is talking about changing benefits for those who are retired or about to retire. He said those at least 55 years old should be shielded from any changes that he says would save the program for future generations.
“Put all those things on the table,” Johnson said. “And you sit down with an actuary, ‘cause in the end it’s math, and you make these programs solvent for 75 years, both Social Security and Medicare.”
Johnson also said he was disappointed that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan decided not to run for president because his candidacy would have created a “real mandate” on entitlement reform.
“He would have brought real substance to the race; he would have actually talked about the issues we need to talk about in this nation,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he's waiting to see how the presidential race develops to make any judgments about the candidates. In both his interview with WisPolitics and remarks to the SPE, Johnson singled out both Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. He said he's looking forward to seeing Romney’s economic proposals, while Perry should be afforded some time to establish a national campaign.
“I do believe it would be a disaster if President Obama did get re-elected,” Johnson told WisPolitics. “So I want to see someone that can defeat him.”
In the GOP primary for Wisconsin’s other U.S. Senate seat, Johnson said he hopes the race will be done with integrity and not end up “down in the mud.”
Already, Tommy Thompson loyalists and Mark Neumann fans are exchanging sharp words.
Johnson added that due to Wisconsin’s late primary he wants to ensure the winner of the GOP Senate primary isn't damaged when it comes to the general election. To prevent this, Johnson urged the candidates to run their race as if it were against a Democrat.
“It’s crucial that we win back the Senate,” said Johnson. “Because it’s really people in my party that are actually offering the solutions and are willing to fix this problem.”
And Johnson blamed the Obama administration’s agenda for the slow economic recovery. He acknowledged the president came into office in a tough economic spot, but felt Obama has made things worse.
“The best thing you can do to get the economy moving again is repeal his agenda,” Johnson said. “Repeal Obamacare, repeal Dodd-Frank, roll back all these regulations his agencies have been issuing, they’re doing real harm to our economy.”
“I don’t say that flippantly,” Johnson later said in his address to the SPE. “I say that on some of these cable shows the host goes ‘Ah, no really what is your plan?’ ‘No, really that’s the plan.’”
A war of words has erupted in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate with Tommy Thompson on one side and Mark Neumann and the national Club for Growth on the other.
CFG spokesman Barney Keller opened fire this morning after Thompson campaign co-chair Jim Klauser sent a scathing letter to Neumann and the media. In it, Klauser suggests the CFG is attacking Thompson because two of Neumann's former employees now work for the organization.
Keller said in a statement that Thompson has been in politics since 1966 so "he knows a thing or two about misdirection." He said Thompson and "his henchmen" haven't taken issue with various assessments that he increased spending, proposed tax and fee hikes, or "with Barack Obama’s gratitude toward Thompson for supporting Obamacare."
"Maybe they’re hoping that no one will do a simple Google search and find that picture of a smiling Thompson standing next to Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary and far-left former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle months after ObamaCare passed," Keller said. "It’s a long way until Election Day, and Wisconsin conservatives will have a great chance to hear the whole set of facts regarding Tommy Thompson’s big government record.”
The release followed Klauser's letter, which accused Neumann of resorting to a negative approach and urging him and his “Washington based ally” to stop.
Klauser wrote in a letter Thompson’s campaign released late yesterday afternoon that Neumann lied about Scott Walker’s record in last year's guv race and was now doing the same with a “right wing Washington DC political group.”
Klauser ticked off a series of Thompson’s accomplishments as guv before getting in a few digs at the end of the letter. He writes those who say Thompson is not conservative enough are "at best ignorant."
“Something else distinguishes Tommy from the rest of the field, including you,” Klauser wrote. “He has been elected statewide four times (You lost twice didn’t you?) He knows how to put a campaign together; he knows what it takes. You only discredit yourself with trashing, lying about other Republicans.”
A source close to Neumann declined to comment on Klauser's letter. But the source shrugged off Thompson's suggestions that the CFG was working on Neumann's behalf, saying it was no secret that the Republican was one of on the “leading conservatives” when he left Congress and many of his staffers went to work for conservative groups.
“If Mark Neumann stands accused of being a guiding influence for a new generation of conservative leaders, then he's guilty as charged,” the source said.
The back and forth began yesterday morning with a new TV ad the CFG released going after Thompson's record and linking him to Obama. The narrator declares at the end of the spot that Thompson is "now what we need in the U.S. Senate."
A new Club for Growth TV ad goes after former Gov. Tommy Thompson, saying he's not "what we need in the U.S. Senate."
The spot opens with a picture of young Thompson as the narrator says he's been a politician since 1966, "But do you know his record?"
The narrator says Thompson supported "massive tax and spending increases" as governor and then plays footage of President Obama saying Thompson supported health care reform.
The spot closes with a more current picture of Thompson, 69, as the narrator says, "Tommy Thompson: Not what we need in the U.S. Senate."
The ad, which starts running tomorrow on Fox News in Wisconsin, comes on the heels of a CFG poll that showed Thompson would be vulnerable to attacks over his support for tax and spending increases and "Obamacare."
It's also the latest in a string of attacks from the national CFG organization on Thompson's expected Senate campaign.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan reiterated today he has not changed his mind about running for president and will stay out of the race.
Ryan has repeatedly said he was not interested in a run, citing factors such as his young family. But a growing chorus of GOP voices has called on him to get into the race, and two national reports recently suggested he has had discussions about a possible bid in recent months.
But Ryan said today, "I have not changed my mind."
"I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress," he said in a statement.
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold announced this morning he will not be a candidate in 2012, telling supporters he will instead focus on teaching, writing a book and leading his Progressives United PAC.
Feingold was the favored candidate of some Dems to seek the party's nomination next year either for the open U.S. Senate seat or to challenge Scott Walker if the guv is recalled. He also acknowledged in an email to his Progressives United supporters of his strong standings in the polls for both races.
"After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official, however, I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective," Feingold wrote.
With Feingold out of the race, it is expected U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, will soon announce her candidacy for the Senate. She has said she wanted to make a decision this month.
In his concession speech on Election Night 2010, Feingold declared it "was on to 2012," prompting speculation he may challenge President Obama in a Dem primary, a notion he quickly sought to tamp down.
In the email, he said he meant those words and said they were a reference to the need to re-elect Obama, pledging to work toward that goal. He said those words also now mean retaking Wisconsin government after the "aggressive tactics of Governor Walker and the legislature," and pledged to use his Progressives United PAC to fight against those in the political process willing to accept unlimited corporate contributions for "short-term political gain."
Still, he also called the last few months with family, friends and loved ones "among the best in my life, and I am not eager to give that up."
"But for now I am thoroughly enjoying the life of a private citizen in this great state of Wisconsin," he wrote.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says the Janesville Republican appreciates the encouragement he’s received about a bid for the presidency, but has not changed his mind about staying out of the race.
The Weekly Standard and Roll Call reported today that Ryan has had discussions in recent months about a possible bid for the presidency. The Weekly Standard quoted a source that Ryan was more open to a bid than he has been previously.
Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert said Ryan has received encouragement from others to get into the race. But he said that is not exclusive to Ryan and assumed Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are hearing the same thing as some look for alternatives to the current GOP presidential field.
“Paul’s been asked this question a number of times,” Seifert said. “His answer in his mind hasn’t changed. I think he appreciates the support and words of encouragement that he continues to receive.”
The national Club for Growth, which has been a critic of Tommy Thompson's expected U.S. Senate bid, says a new poll shows he has weaknesses with GOP primary voters.
In particular, the group says Thompson's numbers dropped significantly after those surveyed were told he had backed "Obamacare" and supported tax hikes as governor.
In a polling memo, Jon Lerner of Basswood Research writes that Thompson would start off with some advantages in a GOP primary because he has 99 percent name ID.
The poll of 500 people with a history of voting in GOP primary elections found 68 percent of them had a favorable impression of Thompson, including 26 percent who had a very favorable impression.
By comparison, Gov. Scott Walker had an 81 percent favorable rating among the GOP voters surveyed with 61 percent reporting a very favorable impression of him. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson had a 71 percent favorable rating with 46 percent holding a very favorable impression of him.
When paired with former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann in a hypothetical match up, 40 percent backed Thompson, compared to 34 percent for Neumann and the rest undecided.
Against a generic "more conservative alternative," Thompson was backed by 34 percent compared to 39 percent for the more conservative candidate.
Pollsters then told respondents of Thompson's past positions on ObamaCare, which prompted 70 percent to say they were less likely to vote for him in a GOP primary.
The pollsters then re-tested the Thompson-Neumann match up and found 22 percent supporting the former guv, 40 percent for Neumann and the rest undecided.
Once messages on past tax hikes were included, Thompson was backed by 18 percent compared to 56 percent for the more conservative alternative.
The survey was conducted July 26-27 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
House Speaker John Boehner has selected the three House GOP members of a joint committee on reducing the federal deficit -- established as part of a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling -- and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is not among them.
"I asked the Speaker not to consider me for the Joint Committee, because only the Budget Committee can write legislation to reform the budget process," Ryan, R-Janesville, said in a statement on the appointments. "As Budget Committee chairman, my plan has long been to work on this critical issue throughout the fall."
Ryan praised the speaker's selections of U.S. Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan, but said "it will not be enough to temporarily reduce what Washington spends."
"The House Budget Committee plans to complement the Joint Committee’s work this fall by holding hearings and marking up legislation to put in place common-sense controls that stop the spending spree in Washington," Ryan said.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin kicked off a phone banking effort on behalf of Dem recall candidates last night by telling volunteers that the entire nation is watching their efforts.
Baldwin, D-Madison and a likely candidate for U.S. Senate next year, said on a training conference call held by Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that "closing the deal... is a process that happens one on one."
She said her colleagues in Washington are constantly asking about the latest developments in the Badger State because "these battles are being fought everywhere." And she predicted that today's recall elections involving six state Senate Republican incumbents would answer the question of "in this day of big huge money power politics ... can the people fight back and succeed?"
"The noise that’s going to be made when they end tomorrow ... is a noise that’s going to reverberate throughout the country," Baldwin said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is one of six Republicans to call for a new joint congressional committee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions to meet in public.
The six raised concerns about the authority granted the committee under the debt ceiling increase deal that passed both houses earlier this week and asked Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all meetings are noticed to the public, allow the public to attend and are broadcast live on TV.
“We remain concerned that all aspects of the federal budget, including revenue increases, could be subject to the Committee’s recommendations,” the six wrote. “If our colleagues wish to raise taxes or propose spending cuts, the American people have a right to see that process unfold.”
"If you’ve been a member of a small community, you know that often times your identity is tied up within your post office," Duffy, R-Ashland, told a Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate in Superior. "You may not have a police force but you do have your post office.”
Duffy added that he doesn't consider the postal service "the fat" that needs to be trimmed in Washington, and that several of his House colleagues are backing legislation to keep the offices open.
The Wisconsin closures are part of more than 3,600 post offices under consideration for closure due to budget constraints at the USPS.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, was the only member of Wisconsin’s House delegation to vote against a package to increase the debt ceiling and cut government spending.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, did not vote, while Dem Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse joined the delegation’s five Republicans in supporting the plan, which the House approved 269-161.
Baldwin, who’s weighing a bid for U.S. Senate, said Republicans had “no interest in shared responsibility and ask nothing” of “millionaires, billionaires and corporations that use tax loopholes to ship jobs overseas. Instead, they expect middle-class Americans, struggling to pay their own bills, to pay all the country’s bills, as well.”
Kind, who’s also weighing a Senate bid, said the bill was better than the alternative of the U.S. government defaulting.
“This bill is not perfect but it is compromise – and compromise is what we need to avoid defaulting on our obligations and risking economic disaster,” Kind said. “It’s completely senseless that a handful of Tea Party members were able to hold our economy hostage and risk default for the first time in our history just to enact their agenda.”’
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today said he'll vote against to a proposed deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling ahead of tomorrow's deadline to avoid default.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, praised the bill's spending limits but said they "fall far short of serious budget reform."
"The fact that we are debating how to reduce the growth of government is a good thing, and the Budget Control Act is a step in the right direction," Johnson said in a statement. "But it is simply inadequate, and my ‘no’ vote is my way of acknowledging that we simply must do more.”
UPDATE -- 4:40 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said the compromise will put “us on the path to debt and deficit reduction.”
“It is far better than what would have been the catastrophe of a default, which would have done enormous damage to every family and business in our nation,” Kohl said. “Once this is behind us, we need to return immediately to the most important job, getting our people back to work and getting the economy back on track.”