Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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 A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope that you didn't have too much trouble digging out from the recent snow storms and are keeping warm as we make our way through winter. Along with my fellow MPS parents, I had the kids at home for 5 straight school days. It definitely highlights the need to make sure we advance paid time off so every working family has the flexibility to deal with what life throws at them.

Despite just about everything being shut down last week, I did have an important meeting with a group of neighbors who are frustrated with big money in politics. This wasn't new. The massive amount of money in politics is one of the issues that is brought up whenever I hold a listening session or have a town hall. Regular (non-billionaire) folks feel like their voice is being drowned out by big-money special interests and out-of-state billionaires. What is abundantly clear is that there is just far too much money exerting far too much influence over our politics. We can not continue to allow our democracy to be sold to the highest bidder. So, I'm introducing a few bills to tackle this growing problem head on.

In this issue of the Larson Report, I will be breaking down what needs to be done to reverse the damage done by Legislative Republicans who recently gutted campaign finance protections. Please let me know what you think.

I'll also do my best to make sense of the latest FoxConn hot-stepping.

In Service, 

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How We Got Here: The Rigging of Wisconsin Elections

 

As the current system stands, the voice of billionaires or special interest groups is more valued and more protected than that of the average voter. While this is a result of problems permeating from two very flawed Supreme Court cases (Buckley v. Valeo that states that corporations are people with the same rights and privileges and Citizens United which proclaims that money is equivalent to speech and that it, therefore, cannot be regulated). I would love to write about how we tackle those problems but for now, I think it's worth focusing on what has changed at the state level and how we can fix things close to home first. 

It is essential to understand that Wisconsin's election laws haven't always been as lax as they are now. Back in the 2015-2016 legislative session, then Governor Walker signed a bill that threw out the rule book when it comes to donations and coordination.

One extremely troubling part of this sweeping law passed by Republicans is that it explicitly states that candidates can legally coordinate their activity with shady issue advocacy groups. Wisconsin is now the only state in the nation where coordination between candidates and dark money groups is legal. If you recall, the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case the way it did because coordination between candidates and outside groups was illegal. It is important to remember that at the time Governor Walker signed this into law, his campaign was being criticized for coordination with outside groupsThis is an example of Governor Walker and Republicans remaking laws they were suspected of breaking. 

This law also doubled the amount of money an individual could give a candidate from $10,000 to $20,000 for a statewide race, eliminated the requirement for donors to disclose their employers when giving over $100, and it allowed campaign donations from corporations to a political party or candidates committee for the first time in our state's history. 

 

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To make it even worse, when Governor Walker signed the law opening the floodgates and allowing money to pour into swaying elections, he also signed a bill dismantling the non-partisan Government Accountability Board - Wisconsin's good government watchdog. Instead, we now have an elections commission made up of partisan appointees.

The deregulation of our elections had a very real and immediate effect. Campaign contributions from businesses and billionaires skyrocketed almost immediately following the signing of these laws. For example, after Wispoltics checked donation records they found 29 donors contributed a combined $3.3 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin after maxing out to Governor Walker at the $20,000 level. More than half of that $3.3 million came from just three individuals, billionaires Diane Hendricks, Dick Uihlein, and Elizabeth Uihlein.  

Rebalancing Our Politics: Curbing the Influence of Money in our Elections  

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I remain committed to ending the corrosive influence that money has on our politics and politicians. That is why I am very proud to reintroduce my Campaign Integrity Package. We can and must do more to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard and not to be drowned out in the tidal wave of corporate cash. Below is a list of proposals that I hope will enjoy bipartisan support and can pass this session. I know it is hard to get those who are enjoying the flood of funding to limit what they can raise, but we owe it to the health of our democracy to regulate campaign cash. 

LRB-1088 - “The Sensible Limits Act”: This proposal limits contributions to PACs, legislative campaign committees, and political parties to no more than $10,000, with the exception of a candidate contributing his or her personal funds to his or her own candidate committee. The proposal also prohibits political parties and legislative campaign committees from establishing a segregated fund to use for general purposes, eliminating the segregated fund shell game that has allowed these groups to avoid donation limits. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Sargent)

LRB-1089 – “Restoring Reasonable Limit Act”: This proposal will decrease the individual and candidate committee contribution limit from $20,000 to $10,000 for statewide candidates. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Sargent)

LRB-1090 – “Special Interests Limitation Act”: This proposal reduces by half the donation limits on political action committee contributions to candidates. The limits under the proposal are generally the same as those that applied to political action committee contributions prior to the 2016 legislation that radically increased the financial influence of special interest groups and their political action committees. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Sinicki)

LRB-1091 – “Closing the PAC Loophole Act”: This proposal closes a loophole in the legal definition of a PAC that groups use to bypass donation limits. Currently, a political action committee is defined as a person, other than an individual, that either has express advocacy as its major purpose or spends more than 50 percent of its total spending in a 12-month period on expenditures are made to support or defeat a referendum or contributions made to a candidate committee, legislative campaign committee, or political party. This proposal defines a political action committee, for campaign finance purposes, as a committee that includes a person, other than an individual, that spends more than $1,000 in a 12-month period on expenditures for express advocacy or any other aforementioned purposes. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Anderson)

LRB-1093 – Coordination Control Act”: This proposal places the same financial limits on coordinated expenditures between candidates and groups as are currently in place for direct contributions. Allowing unchecked coordinated campaign expenditures circumvents campaign donation limits, invites corruption, as well as fosters immense special interest influence. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Anderson)

LRB-1094 – “No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act”: This proposal amends Wisconsin State Statutes to prohibit a corporation, cooperative association, labor organization, or federally recognized American Indian Tribe from making contributions to segregated funds established and administered by a political party or legislative campaign committee. This closes the segregated fund shell game loophole used to funnel additional money to committees. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Brostoff)

LRB-1095 – “Contribution Sunshine Act”: This proposal requires any committee that receives campaign finance contributions of more than $100 cumulatively from an individual to report that individual’s place of employment and occupation if any. Current Wisconsin law does not require the disclosure of any donor’s place of employment; furthermore, current law only requires the reporting of the donor’s occupation at the $200 and up level. (Sen. Larson & Rep. Brostoff)

LRB-1319 – “Stop Unlimited Contributions Act”: This proposal will limit contributions that an Individual can make to a political party or legislative campaign committee as well as limiting the transfer of funds between these entities. This proposal combines some of the elements of other components of the Campaign Integrity Package and is part of a wide-ranging set of good government proposals that the State Assembly Democrats are introducing. (Rep. Sargent & Sen. Larson)


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All of the bills contained within The Campaign Integrity package are currently being circulated for co-sponsorship until February 14th. This is a period where every legislator has the opportunity to sign their name onto the legislation. 

I encourage everyone to contact their state legislators and tell them to get money out of our politics, support The Campaign Integrity Package, and to sign on to these bills. If you don't know who represents you in the legislature Click Here and enter your address in the top right.

If we work together, we can take our democracy back from corporations, special interest groups, and the wealthy. Your voice is needed! 

If you would rather call your State Senators and Representatives, you can use the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472. 

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The Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and around the country. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighbors and friends across the nation. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks. 

Government Shutdown is Over... For Now

After 35 days of unreasonable demands from President Trump for billions in funding for an ineffective border wall, the Trump shutdown is finally over. After all the harm that was caused, the risk to safety at our airports, the 800,000 federal employees impacted, and the horrible cost to our economy, President Trump ultimately caved to our public pressure. Let's hope that President Trump learned his lesson, that you can't hold our nation's government hostage, and will now come to the table with Democrats in the House of Representatives and negotiate a deal to keep the government funded and working for the people. The current deal is scheduled to end on February 15th.    

Another Trump Campaign Advisor has Been Indicted 

In what is rapidly becoming an all too common headline, another close advisor to the Trump campaign has been indicted and now faces criminal charges. Roger Stone was arrested by Mueller's team for lying to Congress, obstructing justice, and witness tampering. These newest charges point to a conspiracy and a coverup. Buried deep in the indictment is that there was participation by "Senior Trump Campaign Officials."

No one is above the reach of the law, and it is becoming a growing concern that the Trump campaign was engaged in numerous shady and illegal maneuvers.    

Foxconn Once Again Flip-Flops 

Beware Wisconsin Republican leaders promising job creation for handing out massive tax subsidies. As it so happens, taking an agreement written on a bar-room napkin as gospel is not the brightest idea former Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have had. In the last two weeks, Foxconn said they likely wouldn't build a manufacturing plant, they weren't going to invest $10,000,000,000 here, and they weren't going to create 13,000 manufacturing jobs. 

Then they abruptly reversed course and said they were going to downgrade the manufacturing plant from a generation 10.5 plant to a cheaper generation 6 plant, which makes much smaller screens, and offered no revised job numbers. Foxconn has already failed to meet its job creation target in Wisconsin for 2018 and plans to slash $2.9 billion in operating costs by the end of 2019. None of this bodes well for Wisconsin and the deal Republicans made is looking more and more ill-advised.

FoxConn has a long history of breaking promises. In Brazil in 2011 and India in 2015, it pledged to invest billions of dollars and create tens of thousands of jobs but each of those projects fell well short.

In Pennsylvania in 2013, Foxconn said it would invest $30 million and employ up to 500 people. That also never fully materialized. FoxConn makes big promises to secure sweetheart deals and is willing to abandon ship with thier shifting bottom line. We would be foolish to believe them when they continue to talk out of both sides of their mouth.  

The Foxconn boondoggle was an election year fantasy designed to hide the fact that the extreme Republicans who have had a gerrymandered stranglehold on Wisconsin have never had a real economic development plan.

Instead of continuing to chase the FoxConn fantasy, we should restore the rest of the historic $1 billion cut from education, invest in repairing our local roads and bridges, and finally invest in regional public transportation options. Over the last eight years, Wisconsin had the opportunity to invest in ourselves but time and again Republicans chose to invest in millionaires and billionaires.

The next time Wisconsin Legislative Republicans come grandstanding with another cure-all corporate welfare scheme, and big promises of job creation in exchange for corporate handouts, we should all recognize it for what it is, another costly snake-oil fantasy.


 December 25, 2018 11 a.m. - 2_30 p.m. Doors open at 10_30 a.m. Wisconsin Center 400 W Wisconsin Ave Milwaukee, WI 53203 Hosted by The Salvation Army, (3).png