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We do need to be very concerned if there are individuals in government trying to undermine the duly elected president of the United States. I think there’s certainly evidence that that’s what is occurring.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who said “there’s nothing wrong” with a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urging Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. Dems charge Trump’s actions are grounds for impeachment. Johnson also said he didn’t think it was improper for Trump to appeal to the Chinese government to investigate the Bidens.

He renewed his call to the Ukrainian government and now threw in China. We think he’s trying to normalize it somehow, but it’s not normal. It’s a violation of the oath of office, and it’s a crime.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont.

In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.
– U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at the World Dairy Expo in Madison warning it will be “very difficult” for family dairy farms to stay in business unless they scale up in size.

He kind of put the pox on small farming in the state. Are they struggling? Absolutely. But I think at the end of the day we need to get behind them rather than saying, ah maybe you should go larger. I, frankly, resent that the Department of Agriculture secretary from the federal government came in and kind of lambasted them.
– Gov. Tony Evers slamming Perdue’s comments.

When our rural communities lose a farm, they also lose a farm family. The community has fewer students in their schools, less parishioners in their church pews, less people to support their Main Street businesses, less people paying taxes, I could go on and on and on. I would understand needing to explain this to the Secretary of Defense, but not the United States Secretary of Agriculture!
– Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, in a letter to Perdue about his comments in Madison. Tranel, whose shared family farm has a herd of more than 500 cows, wrote the “get big or get out model” is why markets are oversupplied and prices are down.

*Tranel will be a panelist at a “Struggles in Wisconsin Farm Country” luncheon forum at UW-Platteville: ” >https://www.eventbrite.com/e/struggles-in-wisconsin-farm-country-tickets-72401094623

Gov. Evers set an election date in order to disenfranchise rural voters, military voters and those who celebrate Hanukkah. He thought he could ignore federal law, but he got caught and now has to change the election date.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, slamming Gov. Tony Evers for the dates he picked for the 7th CD special election. The guv’s office is looking at options to reschedule the election after discovering a conflict between state and federal law with the dates he originally chose.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Sep. 28-Oct. 4, 2019)


Lame-duck laws: Those challenging the GOP’s extraordinary session laws are now 0-for-2 in cases that get at the heart of the efforts to reign in the powers of Gov. Tony Evers and AG Josh Kaul. Many insiders believe it will soon be 0-for-3. A federal judge tosses a lawsuit the state Dem Party filed seeking to overturn the lame-duck laws on First Amendment grounds, ruling any challenge to the statutes should play out in state, not federal court. Judge James Peterson, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama, writes in his ruling there were “many reasons to criticize the lame-duck laws” to limit the powers of the newly elected Dem guv and attorney general while concentrating authority in the GOP-controlled Legislature. But that fight is best left to the state courts, not federal venues, he adds. What’s more, he finds the Dems who filed the suit lacked standing to bring it, because they hadn’t “pointed to any concrete harms they have suffered or will suffer” due to the laws. Even if they had, Peterson added, their claims the laws were retaliation against their political views and were enacted to blunt the results of the 2018 election in violation of the First Amendment “would fail for other reasons.” The ruling is the latest setback for Dems and union leaders who have sought to challenge the lame-duck laws in court after Republican action following the November election. To date, their only win was Peterson’s ruling in a separate lawsuit that new restrictions on early, in-person voting violated a previous order he issued in 2016 striking down other limits Republicans sought to impose on the practice. That 2018 decision also wiped out lame-duck provisions on some tweaks to meeting the requirements of Wisconsin’s voter ID law. But when it comes to the heart of the GOP’s actions — transferring powers from the executive to the legislative branch — Dems have yet to win a favorable court ruling other than from Dane County judges. In the first of those Dane County decisions, the state Supreme Court has already rejected the argument that Republicans improperly met in extraordinary session. The conservative majority — then 4-3 — found it isn’t the purview of the courts to decide when lawmakers can and can’t meet. Up next is a challenge that focuses more on a separation of powers issue. That, too, led to a Dane County ruling holding up enforcement of some lame-duck laws. Still, legal observers note the state Supreme Court took the unusual step of taking over the case while it was still pending before an appeals court. That prompted Dem grumbling about an activist majority. Now, that majority has expanded to 5-2, and legal observers from both sides of the aisle expect conservatives to side with Republicans. Conservatives argue that’s because lawmakers were perfectly within their rights to impose the restrictions they did. Liberals counter it’s because the court majority was bought and paid for by the very groups that now want those restrictions to remain in place. As the legal battle has raged, the legal tab has continued to rise. A WisPolitics.com tally shows the legal bills in the federal suit eclipsed $200,000 through the end of September. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, says they’re expected to hit $250,000 as he accuses Dems of wasting taxpayer resources. In the state suits that deal with the merits of the laws, the legal tab has eclipsed $1.2 million, according to a WisPolitics.com tally. Dems have knocked Republicans for hiring outside counsel in a series of cases from redistricting to environmental suits. Altogether, the Legislature’s legal bills since Jan. 1 have eclipsed $2.3 milion, while the guv has spent nearly $390,000 in taxpayer money on the lame-duck suits. And neither he nor the Legislature have had much choice in seeking outside counsel for the extraordinary session suits after AG Josh Kaul declined to provide representation for others, saying it would be a conflict of interest since his powers were at stake in the cases.

Lottery credit: Lottery ticket sales are up. And that’s going to mean a little bigger break for property owners on their December tax bills. The average lottery tax credit on December bills will be $185, up from the $176 that was estimated when the budget was signed and the $163 they saw last year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. In a letter to Joint Finance Committee members in late September, the Department of Administration reported it was revising projected sales for 2019-20 to $703.1 million, about $11.2 million higher than previously expected, after seeing receipts for the first few months of the fiscal year. That’s on top of stronger-than-expected-sales in 2018-19, which pushed the lottery credit fund’s opening balance higher. Add the two together, and it results in the larger credit that homeowners will see, according to the LFB summary. The final sales numbers for 2019-20 won’t be known until after the fiscal year closes, and LFB notes several variables can impact the final figures, particularly with Powerball. If there’s a run of big jackpots, it drives a frenzy of ticket buying. So the agency points out if the final numbers come in higher than expected, the additional funds would show up in the credit property owners receive on their December 2020 bills.

*See the memo:

Scott Fitzgerald: The fewer, the merrier the majority leader may be. What once looked like a crowded GOP primary in the 5th CD continues to thin out as Matt Walker, son of the former guv, announces he won’t seek public office this year. That move leaves Fitzgerald the only announced Republican candidate so far to succeed the retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, meaning the Juneau Republican is free to lock up donors and endorsements while others weigh the possibility of getting in. As Matt Walker decides against a run some insiders say they’re not surprised. It seemed more of an opportunity to make a statement than actually running, insiders say. Instead, Matt Walker says he decided there’s a “great deal” he can do through his small business and community engagement to support southeastern Wisconsin. The “innovative, ground-up solutions” needed “don’t involve the government in all facets of life.” While he’s out, state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, continues to make moves to get in. Other possible candidates include: Matt Neumann, home builder and son of former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann; state Rep. Adam Neylon; Kevin Nicholson, the former U.S. Senate candidate; and Ben Voelkel, an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. Insiders wonder how Neylon or Voekel would be able to raise the resources needed for a successful campaign, particularly with Fitzgerald in the race. After his more than two decades in office, he simply has a longer list of contacts and clear conservative accomplishments like Act 10 and right-to-work, they add. Insiders also continue to debate how serious Nicholson is about a run and whether he would run if Kapenga did. Some have viewed Nicholson’s attention as more focused on 2022, when he could possibly take another shot at the U.S. Senate. But with his No Better Friend organization employing several of his former campaign aides, he has a ready-made operation should he decide to flip the switch. And after building his name ID by running statewide last year — with the support of wealthy businessman Dick Uihlein — he may have some time before making a final call. The same goes for Neumann, viewed by insiders as having the personal wealth to help seed his campaign. That luxury also means less pressure to make a quick decision, and some believe Neumann may wait until year’s end before his final decision. Kapenga, meanwhile, also has had a successful career in the private sector that may afford him the ability to write a check to help get his campaign off the ground. Still, insiders wonder how Kapenga’s message would differ significantly from Fitzgerald’s unless he tried to outflank the majority leader from the right. That could include Kapenga knocking bills that passed the chamber without his support. One advantage he’d have — like Neumann — is that he hails from the more voter-rich Waukesha County part of the congressional seat. Yes, Fitzgerald has made contacts there, particularly in his leadership of the Senate GOP caucus. But his name ID is likely a little soft with GOP Waukesha County primary voters, some say. Strategists say Fitzgerald could get a boost on that front with conservative talk radio in Milwaukee, where he’s built up some goodwill as one of the leaders in marshaling Scott Walker’s agenda through the Legislature. Fitzgerald plays up that record in a fundraising appeal shared with WisPolitics.com. Fitzgerald recounts having “fought — and won — against the worst elements of the radical left” during his time in the “People’s Republic of Madison.” He adds, “And through it all, I know that actions speak louder than words.”


Lobbyist contributions: Lobbyists most likely won’t be able to personally give to any state lawmakers running in the special election for the 7th CD. But they’ll be fine writing checks to any leggies running in the 5th CD next year — so long as they wait until after the legislative session ends in May. The Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists circulates a memo to members warning them of the restrictions on their personal giving to state electeds running for Congress. Under state law, lobbyists may make personal contributions to partisan elected state officials running for national office only between the first day for circulating nomination papers and the day of the election, unless the Legislature is still in session. And the Legislature doesn’t adjourn next year until May 13. With the 5th CD occurring on the normal fall election schedule with an August primary and a November general election, the restriction won’t be anything other than normal operating procedure. But it’s likely going to prevent lobbyists from cutting any checks to state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, as he runs for the open 7th CD. The guv’s original call for a special election included a Dec. 30 primary and Jan. 27 general election, both of which are well before the window that lobbyists can start opening their checkbooks. The guv is now looking to move those dates since his original call conflicts with federal law. The options now under consideration include a special election April 7 with a primary Feb. 4 or a special election May 5 with a primary Feb. 18. In either scenario, the law banning personal lobbying would apply. Still, the AWL memo notes federal PACs sponsored by a Wisconsin lobbying principle may donate to lawmakers running in the 7th and sponsor fundraising events for them.

*Read the memo: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/190930AWL.pdf

Ron Johnson: The Oshkosh Republican finds himself suddenly in the middle of the impeachment drama, and insiders question whether there’s any upside for him. House Republicans have been quick to defend the president’s behavior and push back on suggestions that he has committed an impeachable offense. Senate Republicans, however, have been much more cautious in their approach. But during a stop in Middleton, Johnson tells reporters he doesn’t think there’s anything “improper” about President Trump urging China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. His office seeks to clean up the remarks as they get some national attention, spinning it as Johnson saying it’s appropriate for the president to ask other governments to assist in U.S. investigations. The attention on Johnson ramps up as he tells the Wall Street Journal the U.S. ambassador to the European Union told him in August that U.S. aid to the Ukraine was tied to the president’s interest in having the country investigate certain matters. Johnson tells the paper he confronted Trump, but the president denied it. Similarly, Johnson tells reporters in Oshkosh the president blocked him in August from telling Ukraine’s president that U.S. aid would be delivered following accusations that Trump was using the money to encourage the country to investigate Joe Biden. It seems like a potentially dangerous path for Johnson to be on, some say. Other Republicans have tried to stand up to President Trump only to see the backlash sidetrack their careers. Just ask U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, some say. But Dems have long painted Johnson as lacking backbone when it comes to the president — particularly when a guy who came into office railing against the deficit didn’t bat an eye supporting a tax cut that wasn’t paid for. This only adds fuel to the fire. The state Dem Party, meanwhile, says it’s putting $1,000 behind a digital ad accusing the senator of flip-flopping on foreign election interference after saying in July 2018 it is “not acceptable” while now seeming to excuse Trump’s behavior. Some Republicans argue Johnson is better off to support the president in public and then push him privately on things, much like confronting him about the Ukrainian aide. Others, however, caution defending Trump can amount to enabling him and putting Republicans in a difficult position — especially if more unsavory allegations come to light.

*See the Dem Party’s ad: ” >https://twitter.com/WisDems/status/1180175606312558593


Tony Evers: Doesn’t matter if it was bad advice or just a bad decision, insiders say. It’s a bad look for the guv to call a special election to fill a congressional seat and then have to backtrack days later because the dates he picked conflict with federal law. The guv already got some grief over his decision to call a special election for Jan. 27, a Monday, with a primary Dec. 30 considering the burden it would’ve put on clerks and the local costs it would’ve placed on counties. What’s more, the move was seen by some as an effort by the guv to squeeze in the election without lining it up for the regular spring ballot. That would avoid the possibility that the race for the heavily Republican 7th CD would draw out extra GOP voters who might then impact the state Supreme Court race on the ballot April 7. Nonetheless, with nomination papers already circulating, Evers says he’s now looking for new dates because of the U.S. Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires absentee ballots to be sent to voters at least 45 days before federal elections. That conflicts with state law that requires a primary to be held 28 days before a special election, negating the guv’s original plans. It also means he couldn’t just move it to the regularly scheduled spring election. While there are 49 days between the February primary and April general election, that wouldn’t be enough time to certify the results of the February primary, create ballots and send them overseas by the 45-day deadline, according to the guv’s office. The Wisconsin Elections Commission says it notified the guv’s office of the requirements of the federal law before the call for the special election was issued. The guv’s office acknowledges the warning, but says commission staff communicated the order should follow state law and that it was an “impossible situation” because of the conflict between state and federal laws. Others don’t buy it. The supremacy clause makes clear federal law trumps state statutes, and someone should’ve flagged that in the guv’s office regardless of the advice that was provided. It also adds fuel to GOP complaints that Evers’ original call was politically motivated and that he and his staff have a troubling habit of falling short on key decisions. Republicans do a round of “What if Scott Walker did this?” as they continue to complain that Evers gets off the hook way more with the media than Walker ever would’ve. Others caution it’s unfair to compare one administration at the end of its run to another just at the beginning. Evers is still in year one, and there’s a learning curve, some say. What’s more, the state hasn’t had a special election for a congressional seat since 1993, and lawmakers missed a chance to line up state statute on special elections with the federal law when they had the chance. The question now is what choice will Evers make to comply with federal law. His office says he’s looking at two options to fill the seat of former GOP U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy: schedule the special election on April 7, the same day as the presidential primary and state Supreme Court race, with a primary in the 7th CD Feb. 4; or line up the 7th CD primary with the already scheduled Feb. 18 spring primary. That would put the special election on May 5. Considering some believe Evers’ original motivation was to avoid the 7th CD special election being on the same ballot as the Supreme Court general election, many believe the guv will lean toward the May 5 date. But that would also open him up to grief after he said his original dates were to make sure the vacancy is filled as quickly as possible considering the pressing issues in Washington, D.C. Whatever his decision, Republicans will be ready to twist the knife over the botched process. Some Republicans also acknowledge some of the public pressure to line up the 7th CD special with the April ballot is politically motivated, too. With the Dem presidential primary still likely still in play on April 7, that will likely drive liberal turnout well above a normal spring election and make conservative Justice Daniel Kelly’s challenge of winning a full 10-year term on the court a real challenge. But having the 7th CD race on the same ballot likely would improve Kelly’s chances considering the seat’s strong GOP tilt. That likely means more Republicans going to the polls than they normally would for a spring race.

*The WisOpinion Insiders weigh in on the timing of the special election: ” >https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-discuss-evers-having-to-reschedule-the-7th-cd-special-election/

Sonny Perdue: You’d think President Trump’s ag secretary would have learned his lesson by now. After one of his jokes fell flat at a Minnesota farm in August, Perdue stirs up another pot of trouble when he suggests at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it will be “very difficult” for family dairy farms to stay in business unless they scale up in size. “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue tells reporters. The comment prompts a bipartisan backlash, particularly with the string of dairy farms closing in Wisconsin in recent years. Still, it’s not the first time Perdue has come down with foot-in-mouth disease, insiders note. During an August event in Minnesota, Perdue tried to crack a joke over the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China that has helped put farmers on edge. Telling the crowd he heard the joke from a farmer in Pennsylvania, he asks, “What do you call two farmers in a basement?” His answer: “A whine cellar.” The joke falls flat, prompting a flurry of national headlines. That he didn’t learn anything from that episode before his Madison remarks is particularly galling. Some acknowledge Perdue may have a point in the push for economies of scale. The way Wisconsin’s dairy industry operated 100 years ago just isn’t the way things go anymore. Still, there are better ways to put it, some add. In the meantime, Dems see more fodder for ads targeting Trump next fall in Wisconsin. They think it could help them in rural Wisconsin with a group of voters Trump needs to turn out again to have a shot in 2020.

Dawn Crim: The guv’s pick to lead the Department of Safety and Professional Services is the lone cabinet member yet to get a committee vote. And that’s not changing anytime soon. Insiders expect movement on some of the guv’s cabinet picks as the Senate returns to the floor this fall. But it’s still an open question as to how many will actually get confirmation votes more than nine months after they started the jobs. But without even a committee vote, insiders note, Crim can’t even enter that discussion. The process of confirming Evers’ cabinet picks has dragged out unlike anything insiders have seen in recent years, fueled by a broken relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Then there’s Republican ire over how some of Gov. Scott Walker’s final picks for administrative jobs were handled following a legal challenge to the Legislature’s actions in the lame-duck session. After a Dane County judge ruled the Senate’s confirmations of those nominees were null and void — only to be overturned later by a higher court — Evers moved quickly to rescind those nominations to insert his own picks instead. For the most part, the guv sought to renominate the people Walker wanted on various boards. But his moves such as pushing Ellen Nowak off the PSC still stick in the craw of some Republicans — even after a court order restored her to the position and she got back pay. As the Senate heads to the floor Tuesday for the first time this fall, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, tells WisPolitics.com the chamber will take up five cabinet nominees and he expects all to be approved easily. Fitzgerald adds his caucus will meet again next month to discuss taking up additional nominees, with some GOP senators having concerns whether some of the Evers picks are up to the job. Fitzgerald declines to get into names other than saying there are concerns about DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff, who ripped into Republicans last month over their handling of money to combat suicides among farmers. Insiders suggest some of the nominees may be held back for leverage. But does it really matter? Cabinet secretaries are free to continue serving in their positions even without a confirmation vote. And insiders largely expect any of the guv’s cabinet picks would ultimately win confirmation if they were brought to a floor vote. The 14 Dem members are all but guaranteed to support each nominee, and it’s likely any of the secretaries could get at least three GOP votes. Fitzgerald says while he’s not requiring unanimous support among his 19 members to put an appointment on the floor, he wants a consensus in his caucus. So while cabinet picks won’t necessarily live in fear of losing their jobs for being rejected by the Senate, they also might not fully unpack all the boxes in their office until it’s a done deal. Republicans also can hang it over their heads to encourage greater cooperation. Or to remind secretaries such as Pfaff to mind their tone when dealing with the Legislature. For the most part, the differences Republicans have raised with Evers cabinet picks have been political or professional such as Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson working in the road building industry before taking a job in which he’s advocating for more money going into highway construction. Crim’s case is a little different after a 2005 charge surfaced ahead of her public hearing that she stabbed her then-5-year-old son’s hand repeatedly with a pen as punishment. She told the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations at a March public hearing it was “a horrendous mistake that hurt my son” and the “worst experience of my life.” Since then, there’s been no movement on her nomination, and a spokesman for committee Chair Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, says there’s no plan for an executive session anytime soon because members have raised concerns about her nomination, including the 2005 charge. Both Dem members — Dave Hansen, of Green Bay, and LaTonya Johnson, of Milwaukee — support Crim’s nomination, according to the lawmakers’ offices. Meanwhile, fellow committee member Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, tells WisPolitics.com he believes the 2005 charge shouldn’t be held against Crim. He had other concerns, particularly her agency’s response time on applications for large commercial buildings. Still, after recently meeting with Crim, LeMahieu says she promised to work on the issue, and he’d likely support her if the committee ever takes a vote. That leaves Kapenga and fellow GOP Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, as the ones with concerns, insiders say. Kapenga is particularly key. If the committee chair doesn’t support a nomination, it’s hard to see it move. And that will keep Crim in limbo unless Kapenga changes his mind.


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The Senate will take up five of Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet picks when it hits the floor Tuesday with Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald telling WisPolitics.com that all of them will easily clear the chamber.

But beyond Peter Barca at Revenue, Joel Brennan at Administration, Kathy Blumenfeld at Financial Institutions, Kevin Carr at Corrections and Mary Kolar at Veterans Affairs, Fitzerald said some of his members were still working through various questions about nominees.

He declined to name them, though he acknowledged that DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff had irritated some members with comments this summer knocking Republicans on their handling of money to help combat suicide among farmers.

Fitzgerald also said in a phone interview some nominees were “perceived as maybe not up to par or top notch.” Others awaiting confirmation votes had a member who wanted some questions answered or a concern addressed before a floor vote.

His caucus will meet again in November to decide whether to take up other cabinet picks during the chamber’s session day next month.

“Just for whatever reason, people weren’t there yet,” Fitzgerald said of those not yet scheduled for a floor vote.

Evers’ office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

In July, Pfaff knocked the Joint Finance Committee for failing to release funding aimed at helping farmers struggling with mental health issues, saying the ag “community needs this funding, and they need it now — not when it’s convenient for legislative Republicans.” Fitzgerald at the time called the comments “offensive and unproductive.”

In today’s interview, Fitzgerald said members “have concerns, real concerns that he’s not up to the job.”

So far, all but one of Evers’ cabinet picks have received a committee vote. DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim has yet to receive an executive session, and the office of committee Chair Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, told WisPolitics.com this week there weren’t plans for one anytime soon. A spokesman said members had raised concerns about Crim’s nomination, in part because of a 2005 charge for repeatedly stabbing her son in the hand with a pen as punishment.

Of the other cabinet picks, all have received unanimous backing in committee other than Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, voted against her nomination for several reasons, including the agency’s decision to hire a former Planned Parenthood official for its No. 3 slot.

Meanwhile, several GOP senators have publicly criticized the appointment of Craig Thompson as Transportation secretary following his work with the road building industry prior to his selection.

Fitzgerald declined to address any nominees specifically other than Pfaff.

Fitzgerald added he is not requiring unanimous backing in his 19-member caucus before putting a nominee on the Senate floor. Still, he wants to see consensus among his members before moving forward on the others.

“It’s more of are they comfortable with the job and the way they’re handling the job up until now?” Fitzgerald said.


Lawmakers used their office budgets for travel to Australia to attend a youth leadership conference, Denver for a hemp seminar and Nashville to witness Assembly Speaker Robin Vos become president of the NCSL.

Meanwhile, others traveled on the dime of groups that sponsored their trips, including Rep. John Spiros’s visit to Greece for the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association Conference.

Records from the chief clerk’s offices show altogether lawmakers spent $76,905 from their taxpayer-funded office accounts to cover out-of-state travel between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30.

The most expensive trip covered via the office budgets was the $2,763 state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, spent as he traveled to Australia as part of a leadership conference for young lawmakers. Larson spent another $810 to travel to Washington, D.C., for a conference that was part of the pre-program for the Australian American Leadership Dialogue that later took him to Perth.

Larson said he was nominated and picked for the opportunity after he helped host a contingent of Australians in Wisconsin last year. He said the travel included meetings with other American elected officials and also gave him insight into how the trade war is impacting the farm economies of other countries like it has Wisconsin’s. He also served on a panel that discussed regional economies.

“It was a unique experience,” Larson said.

Larson also made a personal stop in New Zealand on his way home from the conference, paying his own way to fly from Australia to New Zealand before using his office account to cover the return trip to Milwaukee. Larson said it ended up being a cheaper option. The flight from New Zealand to Milwaukee was $702, while the flights that took him from Milwaukee to Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia, and then Perth cost $1,173.

The most frequent destination listed in the records was the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Nashville with 34 lawmakers receiving approval to attend the August Legislative Summit. Twenty-eight of them were Assembly Republicans.

It was during that event that Vos, R-Rochester, formally became president of the organization. Vos didn’t seek legislative approval for his travel expenses, because the NCSL picked up the costs, a spokeswoman for the speaker said.

The costs for those who traveled to NCSL ranged from the $625 that six lawmakers sought to the $2,614 by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.

In the Senate, members have to be pre-approved for out-of-state travel. Beyond that, the only restriction is they have enough money in their office accounts to cover the costs, according to the chief clerk’s office. Every two years, senators receive $55,000 to cover everything from office supplies to communications with constituents and travel.

Meanwhile, members of the Assembly are allowed one out-of-state trip each year of the session with several restrictions on costs, according to the chamber’s travel policy. That includes up to $500 for airfare and up to $250 per night for a hotel stay. Any exceptions must be pre-approved by the speaker, and the costs come out of their office budgets of $20,000 for the two-year session.

Seven Assembly members were approved for two trips between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, according to the records. But only Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, received reimbursement for both. The other trips were listed either as at no cost to the state, or the member hadn’t sought reimbursement by the time the open records request was filled.

Along with going to NCSL, Murphy made a trip to Washington, D.C., for the president’s signing of an executive order supporting free speech in higher education. Vos asked Murphy, who chairs the Colleges and Universities Committee, to attend the event at the White House on behalf of the caucus and the state, which is why he was granted an exception to the one-trip rule, a spokesman for the speaker said.

Murphy joined Vos and GOP lawmakers in late summer to circulate legislation that would require the UW Board of Regents to create disciplinary measures for students and staff that engage in violent or disorderly conduct against a speaker on campus.

Under Assembly rules, members also can accept scholarship from nine pre-approved groups to cover costs such as the NCSL, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

For other organizations offering scholarships to cover food, drink, lodging or transportation, members must get approval from the speaker to accept. That includes a requirement the member shows the scholarship is received “on behalf of the state of Wisconsin and primarily for the benefit of the state and not primarily for private benefit of the official or any other person,” according to the travel policy.

Some of those who took trips after accepting scholarships include: Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Barron, traveling to Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Energy Forum; Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, to Breckenridge, Colo., for the Clean Energy Legislative Academy; and Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, to Memphis, Tenn., for the Hazlitt Policy Center Summer Strategy Summit.

Spiros, R-Marshfield, traveled to Athens to attend the three-day World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association Conference. The group seeks to bring together legislators of Greek origin from around the world to build links with the nation’s own legislature and parliament.

Spiros’ office said he was selected because of his work on Greek issues and his contributions to the Greek community, along with heritage. His trip included a briefing from senior Greek defense officials.


President Trump’s job approval ratings in all but one of Wisconsin’s congressional districts trail the share of the 2016 vote he won in those CDs, according to a WisPolitics.com review of Marquette University Law School Poll data.

Poll director Charles Franklin said some of that illustrates the difference between the 2016 election, when voters had a choice mainly between Trump and Dem rival Hillary Clinton, and voters solely judging the president on his job performance.

It also underscores key questions in the 2020 election: Will voters see the race as a referendum largely on Trump; or can Republicans make it a choice between the president’s path and what conservatives argue would be a move toward socialism?

“When he faces an actual Democratic opponent in these places, any Republicans that have some doubts about Trump or even dislike him at the moment will then face the task to decide do they dislike him enough to vote for a Democrat,” Franklin said.

Franklin compiled Trump’s job approval numbers by congressional district after receiving independent requests from WisPolitics.com and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. To do that, he aggregated responses in the Marquette poll from 2017-2019 by respondents in each of the state’s eight congressional seats.

The 4th District, where Trump had his worst performance in the 2016 election, was the only district where his cumulative job approval number exceeded his election night tally. In Dem Gwen Moore’s seat, which covers Milwaukee, 25.1 percent of voters approved of his job performance, while 69.4 percent disapproved. In 2016, he won 21.5 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the northern 7th CD was the president’s best performance in 2016 with 57.2 percent of the vote. But since his job approval split is 51.2-44.8, well off his 21-point margin of victory there three years ago.

Trump has similar job approval splits in the other four GOP-held congressional seats in Wisconsin:

*49-47.6 in U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil’s southeastern 1st CD, where Trump won 52.1 percent of the vote in 2016;
*49.6-45.3 in U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s Milwaukee-area 5th CD, where Trump won 56.5 percent;
*50.9-45 in U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman’s 6th CD, where Trump took 54.8 percent;
*and 50.3-44.4 in U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher’s Green Bay-area 8th CD, where Trump won 55.7 percent.

A lot of attention has been focused on the 3rd CD in western Wisconsin after Trump won the district in 2016 with 48.8 percent of the vote. Some national Republicans have cited that performance in trying to argue that U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, is vulnerable in 2020.

But Trump’s job approval split in the district is 44.7-49.8, and Republicans have yet to put up a candidate to challenge Kind.

Finally, Trump won just 28.6 percent of the vote in the Dem-dominated 2nd CD three years ago. His cumulative job approval split was 26.9-69.7 in the seat held by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.

Franklin said Trump’s job approval numbers have been so static in the Marquette poll over the past three years that he was comfortable aggregating responses from such a long period of time. Altogether, he compiled 8,950 responses over the three-year period with 43.9 percent of registered voters approving Trump’s job performance statewide, while 51.6 percent disapproved.

In each district, the number of responses ranged from 870 to 1,298. Franklin said that would amount to a margin of error in the range of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

5th CD Republicans back Trump

GOP candidates in the 5th CD have little to lose in closely aligning with the president ahead of next year’s primary to succeed the retiring Sensenbrenner, according to the Marquette numbers.

The district is home to some of the suburban voters Republicans have sometimes struggled to secure in the Trump era.

But among self-identified Republicans in the 5th CD, the president’s cumulative job approval rating over the last three years is 84 percent, while 11.6 percent disapproved of his performance.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is the only GOP candidate to formally get into the race so far. In his announcement, Fitzgerald backed the president’s approach to trade and securing the nation’s southern border while praising Trump’s handling of the economy.


Three months after signing his first budget — and after repeated knocks from Republicans that he’s too focused on Madison and Milwaukee — Gov. Tony Evers is looking to ramp up his outreach operation.

The guv has posted five new positions, one of them a new deputy outreach director.

The other four are outreach employees who would be located outside of Madison to “attend community events, engage with constituents, and provide guidance to the Governor and his team,” according to the job postings on the guv’s website.

A spokeswoman for Evers said the guv’s office will have 37.25 full-time equivalent employees after the hires, the same as Gov. Scott Walker when he left office.

Still, Republicans knocked the move.

“It appears Governor Evers is acknowledging that he isn’t focusing enough on areas outside of Madison or Milwaukee, and these positions are an attempt to make up for it,” said Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

The guv’s office countered by pointing out Evers’ travels around the state during his first 10 months on the job. WisPolitics.com previously reported on the guv’s use of state planes compared to his predecessor, who was knocked for his frequent flights. The reporting also showed Evers was more likely to use a state car for his stops than Walker.

“The governor has spent 10 months traveling Wisconsin listening to the people of our state,” said Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback. “Sounds like a silly attempt at trying to score political points by someone who spends too much time in Madison.”

Evers’ move to station staffers outstate is unique, but not unprecedented.

For example, former Gov. Tommy Thompson had a northern regional representative. Eau Claire attorney and former UW Board of Regents President John Behling, who served in the role from 1994-96, said Thompson’s administration rented office space in Hayward while he was in the job. It was staffed by one appointee and one support person. Behling said others who worked in the role included John Van Hollen, a former legislator whose son J.B. Van Hollen went on to become attorney general.

The state has also long had a Milwaukee office, and former Govs. Jim Doyle and Scott Walker also had aides based in northern Wisconsin doing outreach, according to former administration officials.

Evers, though, is advertising for four LTEs with one each stationed in southwestern, northwestern and central Wisconsin, along with the Fox Valley. They are slated to work 20 hours a week at $15 an hour to build relationships with community members, local governments and others, according to their job postings.

The new deputy outreach director will report to Outreach Director Jamie Kuhn in Madison, though the hire will be expected to frequently travel across the state, according to the job posting.

Along with the five new positions, Evers is also trying to find a new digital director after Bridget Driscoll left his office this summer to join Priorities USA as the group’s content producer in Wisconsin. The group is targeting President Trump in several swing states.

See the job postings:


Tuesday: Senate session
– TBD: Senate chamber, state Capitol.

Thursday: Assembly session
– TBD: Assembly chamber, state Capitol.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show, hosted by ADRIENNE PEDERSEN, features U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON and state Supreme Court candidate ED FALLONE.
*See viewing times in state markets here: http://www.wisn.com/upfront/
*Also view the show online each Monday at WisPolitics.com

“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and WisPolitics.com, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss the latest on the special election in the 7th CD, Joint Finance’s actions this week and comments by U.S. Ag Secretary SONNY PERDUE about the future of dairy farming.
*Watch the show: https://wiseye.org/2019/10/04/rewind-your-week-in-review-for-september-28-october-4/

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG speaks with U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON about impeachment; U.S. Ag Secretary SONNY PERDUE talks about the state of small dairy farmers; and FiveThirtyEight Senior Senior Political Writer CLARE MALONE breaks down the voting patterns that may impact the upcoming presidential election.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN interviews JENNIFER UPHOFF GRAY, founder and artistic director of Madison’s Forward Theater.

“Capital City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire. Host EMILEE FANNON interviews dairy farmer SARAH LLOYD and DATCP Secretary BRAD PFAFF, U.S. Rep. GLENN GROTHMAN and Deputy State Superintendent MIKE THOMPSON.

“The Insiders” is a weekly WisOpinion.com web show featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, they discuss Gov. TONY EVERS’ muffed call for a special election to fill the northern 7th Congressional District seat once held by Republican SEAN DUFFY. Evers is now looking at new dates to satisfy federal law.

*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-discuss-evers-having-to-reschedule-the-7th-cd-special-election/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events include:

*Wednesday’s Midwest Polling Summit at the Madison Club with an array of top pollsters and analysts looking at health care as a top issue, other campaign trends and the future of polling. Sponsors include the Outrider Foundation and the Capital Times, plus the Wisconsin Medical Society, Capitol Consultants, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and UW-Madison. Contact Colin Schmies for more info at schmies@wispolitics.com. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/midwest-polling-summit-tickets-70140643553

*An Oct. 17 luncheon at UW-Platteville on “Struggles in Wisconsin Farm Country: The trade war, weather, and workforce issues.” It features farm news personality PAM JAHNKE moderating this panel: state Agriculture Secretary BRAD PFAFF; state Rep. TRAVIS TRANEL R-Cuba City; PAUL MITCHELL director, Renk Agribusiness Institute; ANNA LANDMARK, award-winning cheesemaker and owner of Landmark Creamery, one of the “soil sisters” of southwestern Wisconsin; and CHARLES IRISH, the emeritus Volkman-Bascom Professor of Law and former director of the East Asian Legal Studies Center — an expert on international trade policies and international tax. UW-Platteville Chancellor DENNIS J. SHIELDS will provide introductory remarks.
Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/struggles-in-wisconsin-farm-country-tickets-72401094623

*An Oct. 23 breakfast in DC with U.S. Rep. GWEN MOORE, D-Milwaukee, and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/oct-23-wispolitics-com-dc-breakfast-with-u-s-rep-gwen-moore/

*An Oct. 24 luncheon at the Madison Club with Senate Majority Leader SCOTT FITZGERALD, who’s a candidate for the 5th CD next year. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-scott-fitzgerald-tickets-72713557207

*A Nov. 5 luncheon at the Madison Club with LIZ GILBERT, executive director of the local organizing committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-liz-gilbert-tickets-72713892209

U.S. Rep. MIKE GALLAGHER on Saturday married ANNE HORAK, a Green Bay native and Broadway actress. The newlyweds were joined by their closest friends and family for a ceremony and reception in Green Bay. See pictures: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ka5geoy7oxws7mi/AAD-WddIrWWXK9NnRKxTN-wxa?dl=0

U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN hired USAMAH ANDRABI to serve as communications director. Andrabi previously worked in New York for BerlinRosen and for the Verona-based Epic Systems. He succeeds RON BOEHMER, who left Pocan’s office at the end of July to take a job with a public affairs firm in D.C.

DEREK CAMPBELL on Monday will join Gov. TONY EVERS’ administration as a policy analyst. Campbell previously worked for longtime lobbyist ALICE O’CONNOR at Constituency Services Inc. and interned with Dem Reps. STAUSH GRUSZYNSKI and JILL BILLINGS.

The Wisconsin Civics Games are entering their second season with a fall sign-up period for high school teams around the state. Presented by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation, the games are organized by longtime Madison politico EVE GALANTER as a way to boost civics education. More than 100 students from 25 schools participated in the inaugural games. For more info go to www.wisconsincivicgames.com

ALAN BORSUK, MEG KISSINGER, EVERETT MARSHBURN, SHARON McGOWAN, LARRY MEILLER, KATHY MYKLEBY, DAN SHELLEY and TIM CUPRISIN will be honored at the 40th annual Media Hall of Fame Dinner hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino on Nov. 11. See more: https://milwaukeepressclub.org/events/media-hall-of-fame-2019/

Before Miller Park opened, the Milwaukee Brewers went to the post-season playoffs twice. After playing in Miller Park since it opened in 2001, the Brewers have been in the post-season four times, including this week’s wild card game against the Nationals in D.C. That was one of the benefits then-club President BUD SELIG pitched in trying to convince state lawmakers and taxpayers that a new stadium was needed. In the following excerpt from his memoir, “For the Good of the Game,” the ex-MLB commissioner recounts the political struggles to get financial help to build a new Brewers ballpark in the mid-1990s. The Legislature in 1995 approved a .01 percent sales tax in southeast Wisconsin to help pay for the stadium. This led to a successful recall of Sen. GEORGE PETAK, R-Racine, who voted to approve the deal despite earlier telling constituents he’d vote against it. The Miller Park sales tax is on pace to expire in March, roughly 25 years since its inception.
Read the excerpt: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/book-excerpt-bud-selig-for-the-good-of-the-game/

For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/

For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar: https://www.wispolitics.com/category/events/

If you have a contribution, e-mail staff@wispolitics.com

(from the state Ethics Commission)

Thirteen changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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