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Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan nonprofit political watchdog group now in it's third decade of working for clean, open and honest government and reforms that make people matter more than money in politics.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 203 South Paterson Street, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703-3689, 608-255-4260

Clarence Thomas, Recusal, and Wisconsin

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 31 March 2022
in Wisconsin

clarence-thomas-scotus-justiceWife's involvement leaves no way Clarence Thomas can be a neutral arbiter in any future Jan. 6 cases says Executive Director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.


MADISON - If he doesn’t resign, as Rep. Alexander Ocasio Cortez has properly asked him to, Justice Clarence Thomas at least needs to recuse himself from any cases dealing with the Jan. 6 uprising.

And he sure should have recused himself when he was the lone dissenter in a case earlier this year about the release of Donald Trump’s records relating to Jan. 6.

clarence-thomas-and-wife-virginia-nprBecause Thomas’s wife Ginni not only attended the “Stop the Steal” rally. She also sent a couple dozen text messages to Trump’s chief of staff urging him to do whatever it takes to keep Trump in power. Her texts were part of Trump’s records that were of issue in the case. Thomas had a clear conflict of interest, and he violated judicial ethics by sitting on the case and actually ruling in favor of Trump, thus shielding his wife.

There’s absolutely no way Clarence Thomas can be a neutral arbiter in any future Jan. 6 cases.

Thomas’s flagrant conflict of interest reminds me that here in Wisconsin, we need better recusal rules for judges and justices, too.

This matter has come up several times over the last dozen years. First, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in 2010 petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to tighten its recusal rules. Instead of doing so, the conservative justices on the court chose to accept a rule, written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which is essentially no rule at all. It says it’s totally up to the judge or justice whether to get off a case or not.

In 2015, in the John Doe II case against Scott Walker, the issue arose again. The special prosecutor was investigating whether Walker had broken the law by coordinating with outside electioneering groups during a campaign. Two of those groups were Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Wisconsin Club for Growth. The special prosecutor asked two of the justices – David Prosser and a guy named Michael Gableman – to recuse themselves because they had benefitted from vast expenditures by those groups when they were running for office -- to the tune of $1.6 million to help elect Prosser and $2.26 million to help elect Gableman. But neither recused themselves. Instead, they sat on the case, ruled in favor of Walker, fired the special prosecutor, and shut down the investigation.

Then, in 2017, 54 retired judges in Wisconsin urged the Wisconsin Supreme Court again to tighten its recusal rules. The petition states: “As money in elections becomes more predominant, citizens rightfully ask whether justice is for sale. The appearance of partiality that large campaign donations cause strikes at the heart of the judicial function, which depends on the public’s respect for its judgments.”

The conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected this petition, as well. Justice Rebecca Bradley claimed that it was an offense to even imagine that judges could be so corrupted: “ Every judge in Wisconsin should be offended by this. It attacks their integrity and character,” she huffed.

Then-Justice Shirley Abrahamson rebutted this naïve claim: “Due process requires recusal if there is an actual conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Abrahamson noted.

But to no avail.

matt-rothschildSo today in Wisconsin, just as on the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s up to the judge or justice to decide for himself or herself.

And there’s no transparency here, either.

Things are so lax in Wisconsin that that if I’m a lawyer in a case before a judge, I can give a check for $2,000 to that judge’s reelection campaign while he’s sitting on my case, and neither I nor the judge needs to inform the lawyer on the other side.

That’s an invitation to legalized judicial corruption.

And unlike Rebecca Bradley, I wouldn’t be surprised if some judges accept the invitation.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Will DA Ozanne Indict the False Electors?

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 18 February 2022
in Wisconsin

2022-moneyMADISON - We need accountability for the crimes against our democracy.

That means accountability for Donald Trump.

And it means accountability for anyone in Wisconsin who were co-conspirators in the coup attempt.

On Wednesday, our legal allies over at Law Forward asked Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to prosecute the Republican false electors. I write about that here:

Law Forward Asks DA Ozanne to Go After False Electors

On the legal beat, I also wrote about the horrendous decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last Friday that infringes on our freedom to vote:

Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Horrible Ruling on Drop Boxes and Ballot Delivery Assistance

And on the campaign finance front, we noted that Republican fundraising for legislative races in Wisconsin is far outpacing that of the Democrats:

GOP Lawmakers Had 4x More Cash Than Dems Entering 2022

matt-rothschildThis is what we do, day in and day out: We track the money, we expose the anti-democracy forces, and we advocate for a broad range of pro-democracy reforms so that everyone can have an equal voice.  

Thanks for supporting us in these efforts.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. If you’d like to send us a donation, you can do so by clicking here and pay with credit card or PayPal, or the old-fashioned way by sending us a check, made out to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and mailed to our office at 203 S. Paterson St. Suite 100, Madison WI 53703. We really appreciate it!

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Defend Our Freedom to Vote!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 12 February 2022
in Wisconsin

vote-unlockOn Monday, I testified before Senator Kathy Bernier’s Senate Committee on Elections, Election Process Reform, and Ethics about a bunch of anti-voter bills that I go into here:

A Barrage of Bad Election Bills

And yesterday, my colleague Iuscely Flores wrote about some important pro-voter bills:

Unlock The Vote to Eradicate Ages Old Jim Crow Legislation

So I’m hoping you’ll contact your legislators and urge them to support the good bills to Unlock the Vote and oppose the barrage of bad ones.

And also, please urge Gov. Evers to veto any anti-voter bills that land on his desk.

Go here for information on how to contact your legislator or the Governor.

Thanks for defending our freedom to vote!

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

***

P.S. Please send us a donation so we can keep fighting for our fundamental freedoms. It’s simply: Just click here. Or mail a check the old-fashioned way to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 203 S. Paterson St, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703. Thanks for your support!

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A Barrage of Bad Election Bills

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 09 February 2022
in Wisconsin

voting-dropboxMatt's testimony to the Senate Committee on Elections, Election Process Reform, and Ethics in Opposition to SB 934, SB 935, SB 936, SB 937, SB 939, SB 940, SB 941, SB 943, and SJR 101 on February 7, 2022


MADISON - Distinguished Chair and other Distinguished Members of this Committee:

I’m Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Since 1995, we’ve been tracking and exposing the money in Wisconsin politics, and we’ve been advocating for a broad range of pro-democracy reforms.

Before I get going, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the tremendous public service that the chair of this committee has rendered in her career, first as a county clerk, then as a member of the Assembly, and most recently here in the Senate.

We may not agree on a lot of ideological issues, Madame Chair, but we certainly agree on the need to defend our democracy. I really appreciate your outspokenness on this bedrock principle, and your frank acknowledgment of the severity of the threat posed to our democracy by those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 elections and instead peddle one lie after another and one smear after another for their own political gain or personal gratification.

You’ve been a profile of courage, and you’ll be missed, and I wish you all the best in your retirement.

I’ve got some specific problems with many of these bills, as well as with the Joint Resolution.

But rather than go tediously through that itemization, let me instead make a few general remarks and then offer just a couple germane points, if I might.

First, I would like to underline an observation that Republican Senator Rob Cowles has made about our elections. He noted that our elections are “safe and secure.”

Second, there has been a drumbeat of baseless accusations and character assassinations against the dedicated administrator and the tireless staff of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which has got to stop. It’s grossly unfair to them, and if it keeps up, we won’t be able to attract any talented people to administer our elections in this state.

And third, the endless fishing expedition being conducted by Michael Gableman and the constant smoke machine that some other partisans keep revving up about the November 2020 elections only serve to undermine the faith of the Wisconsin public in our elections and in our democracy.

That’s not healthy. And that’s got to stop, too.

And frankly, I worry that, when taken as a whole, the barge carrying all these new bills today may also be billowing out more smoke.

This is not to say that I disagree with everything in all these bills. Not at all. For instance, the bills by the Chair clarify a lot of processes and terms that needed clarification.

And I certainly agree that we should set clear rules for our elections, but let’s make sure that those rules are fair.
And let’s protect our freedom to vote rather than erect one barrier after another to the exercise of that fundamental freedom.

Unfortunately, some of these bills do erect such barriers.

First of all, two bills would make voting by absentee ballot more difficult for all voters in Wisconsin.

SB 935 would render an absentee ballot null and void for the pettiest of reasons. For instance, if I’m a witness for the absentee voter and I print my name, and I sign my name, and I put Madison, WI, down as my residence but I neglect to put my street down, should the voter I’m witnessing be disqualified because of that omission? The bill says yes, and that seems ridiculous to me. Even requiring a witness seems like a stretch to me, since the voter already is swearing about his or her identity. Now to make the witness have to fill out everything just right or the voter’s ballot is disqualified just adds another way to toss a perfectly good ballot into the waste basket.

SB 939 would prohibit the Wisconsin Elections Commission or any local clerk from sending out absentee ballot applications, en masse, to registered voters, as was prudently done during the pandemic. Our ability to exercise our freedom to vote by mail should not be needlessly curtailed by this blanket prohibition. Why shouldn’t the Elections Commission be allowed to do this? If we want more people to be able to exercise their freedom to vote in our democracy, sending everyone an absentee ballot application makes sense, in general. And in specific, it makes a whole lot of sense during a pandemic. But this bill would nix both those options.

Second, one bill would make voting by absentee ballot especially more difficult for those in residential care facilities or retirement homes.

SB 935 would paternalistically require the notification of relatives of residents in long-term care facilities or retirement homes as to when special voting deputies are going to be there. Residents don’t need their relatives looking over their shoulders when they’re voting. This is an invasion of their privacy. Unless they have a legal guardian, residents should not have their freedom to vote interfered with in this obnoxious manner. What if they don’t get along with “the relatives for whom the home or facility has contact information”? What business is it of the relatives, seriously?

SB 935 would also needlessly prohibit a personal care voting assistant from helping any resident of a residential care facility or qualified retirement home to register to vote. If the personal care voting assistant is there to help the resident fill out an absentee ballot, why can’t the assistant help the resident register to vote? That distinction makes no sense. Plus, nursing homes that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required to support the residents’ right to vote. That should include supporting residents who want to register to vote.

Third, one of the bills, SB 934, could erroneously toss voters from the voting rolls.

This bill would have the Wisconsin Elections Commission rely on the Electronic Registration Information Center (otherwise known as ERIC) to determine whether a voter has moved. Following that determination, the Commission must send a letter or a postcard to the voter. If the voter doesn’t respond, the voter becomes unregistered. The problem with this is that the Wisconsin Election Commission’s own data in 2020 showed that 7.07 percent of the voters who became unregistered because of ERIC’s data actually had never moved and were wrongly deactivated. Such a high error is not acceptable when it comes to our freedom to vote.

Fourth, several of these bills would hog-tie the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

SB 940 would allow the Joint Finance Committee to gouge the staff or the funds of the Elections Commission if Joint Finance, on its own, says that the Elections Commission or the Department of Transportation or the Department of Corrections or the Department of Health Services failed to comply with any election law. That would give Joint Finance a huge whip over the heads of the Elections Commission, with no decent check on that unilateral power.

SB 941 would give the Joint Finance Committee and the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules the authority to block federal funds and federal guidance, which will make it very difficult for the Commission to do its job. It’s also of dubious constitutionality: States aren’t allowed to disregard federal guidance on the conduct of federal elections, for instance.

SB 941 would also inject hyper-partisanship at the staff level by mandating that each major political party gets its own legal counsel on the staff of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The last thing we need is more partisan haggling at the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

SB 943 would require the Elections Commission to be nit-picked and hyper-monitored by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. Every week, the Elections Commission would have to give to JCRAR “all documents and communications from the commission that the commission issued in the previous week that are applicable to municipal clerks generally and qualify as guidance documents.” Are you going to allow the Elections Commission to do its job, or are you going to kill it by a thousand cuts?

matt-rothschild-2018So these are some of my biggest concerns.

Above all, I would appreciate it if we could all agree that:

  1. The November 2020 elections were legitimate and move on,
  2. The staff of the Wisconsin Elections Commission has been doing an admirable job under incredibly difficult circumstances, and
  3. In Wisconsin, and in America, we all should have our freedom to vote protected.

Thanks for considering my views, and I welcome any questions you might have.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - The Roots of Anti-Democracy

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 05 February 2022
in Wisconsin

anti-democracyMADISON - I’ve been giving lots of talks lately about the dangerous threats to our democracy, and I wanted to share my latest one with you, which explores the roots of the anti-democracy movement we’re facing right now:

The Roots of the Anti-Democracy Movement

This week, our research team tracked the money that corporations gave to political parties and legislative campaign committees last year. Find out which companies gave the most here:

State Parties, Legislative Campaign Committees Accepted $1.3M in Corporate Contributions in 2021

And our research team profiled Betsy DeVos’s public school privatization group, which has spent more than $8 million in Wisconsin since 2010 to elect Republican legislators who will siphon off your tax dollars and give them to private schools:

Influence Peddler for February 2022 – American Federation for Children

Meanwhile, our Racial Equity and Economic Justice Advocate Iuscely Flores wrote about the misplaced priorities of Republicans in our legislature when it comes to combating crime:

We Say Defund, Republicans Say Fund, Fund Fund!

matt-rothschildThanks, as always, for supporting our work, and I hope you have a nice weekend.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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