Ten months after beating back a recall, Governor Scott Walker continues to divide Wisconsin, with his shadow hanging over judicial races in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Dane Counties. Those normally sleepy races are also attracting new levels of outside money, and demonstrate how Walker remains a polarizing figure in the state even as he mulls a run for president.
"If Wisconsin were not known as the Dairy State it could be known, and rightfully so, as the Sunshine State," the Wisconsin Supreme Court observed in 2010. "All branches of Wisconsin government have, over many years, kept a strong commitment to transparent government."
But just in time for Sunshine Week 2013, GOP leaders in the state are showing how they are failing that proud tradition.
Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, who made headlines in December for an unprovoked attack on Kwanzaa, has set his sights on another imagined enemy: renewable energy standards. Although Sen. Grothman's latest move is just as ridiculous as his past efforts, this one is part of a national effort backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.
Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board estimates that ending Wisconsin's highly successful Election Day registration program could cost $14.5 million -- a calculation that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is calling "highly suspect." Republicans in the state are advocating for an end to the practice as part of a partisan national effort to narrow access to the ballot box, and Vos' statement on the cost estimate fits into a pattern of rejecting evidence that doesn't fit a pre-determined narrative on voting practices.
The GOP's partisan redistricting process has come under renewed scrutiny in recent months, with gerrymandered maps helping Republicans hold Congress despite receiving fewer votes than Democrats, and state legislators discussing plans to rig the presidential election by awarding electoral votes according to those contorted boundaries. But out of all the states re-drawing Congressional boundaries along partisan lines after the 2010 elections, Wisconsin's gerrymandering may have been the most egregious.
Wisconsin's 2011-2012 legislative session saw the introduction of 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation -- including Governor Scott Walker's contentious attack on public sector collective bargaining, voter ID legislation, and bills that make it harder for Americans to hold corporations accountable when their products injure or kill -- and 19 of those proposals became law.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who became nationally known for severely limiting the union rights of teachers and other public employees, has indicated support for arming those same school officials who apparently cannot be trusted to collectively bargain.
Despite two separate Wisconsin courts striking down the state's voter ID law as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, the state legislature's incoming Assembly Leader, Rep. Robin Vos, has pledged support for amending the state constitution to require ID at the polls -- despite hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents not having ID and no significant evidence of voter fraud in the state. Vos is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) State Chair for Wisconsin; Wisconsin's voter ID law, like many of those introduced in recent years, echoes the ALEC "model" voter ID Act.
As the final votes are tallied, it is becoming clear that Barack Obama won reelection November 6, 2012, with a higher popular vote than Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1980, thanks in part to near-record turnout from young people and people of color. High voter turnout is celebrated in some quarters as a sign of a vibrant democracy, but among Wisconsin's GOP leadership, the state's consistently high voter participation rate is apparently viewed as a "problem" that needs fixing.
Although the Einhorn Family Foundation admitted to being the "private family foundation" behind the controversial "Voter Fraud is a Felony!" billboards that recently appeared in neighborhoods of color in Milwaukee and two Ohio cities, news broke Wednesday they secured the funds for similar billboards in 2010 from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, a major funder of right-wing organizations that push the voter fraud myth.