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I made a promise to the people of our state that I would cut taxes by 10 percent for the middle class, and that I’d do it in part by rolling back handouts to millionaires and giving that money back to Wisconsin families. That’s the plan the people of our state voted for last November, and that’s the plan they deserve.
– Dem Gov. Tony Evers on the GOP’s middle-class tax cut bill that cleared the Legislature. The GOP bill would use the state’s budget surplus to fund the tax cut, while Evers wants to use money saved from a cap on the state’s manufacturing and ag tax credit to fund a portion of the cut. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent the bill to Evers’ desk Thursday, triggering a one-week window for him to act on it. Absent the action by Vos and Fitzgerald, the bill wouldn’t have been sent to Evers until April 25, well after his budget is introduced Feb. 28.

Middle-class families shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the budget process to pick up whatever scraps are left. We have a surplus, let’s give them a tax cut today – sign this bill @GovEvers.
– Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a tweet. Under the GOP bill, changes in the withholding tables wouldn’t take effect until January 2020.

I want each and every one to answer whether or not they have the courage to tell Wisconsin why they believe a Wisconsin native does not deserve the right to stand up for the injustices that exist.
– Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, during debate on a Black History Month resolution that had unanimously passed the Assembly. The Assembly version of the resolution stripped a reference to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus had included in its version. Kaepernick, a Milwaukee native, was one of the first NFL players to kneel during the national anthem, saying he did so to protest the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality. During the debate, Taylor went from Republican to Republican asking the GOP members to yield to a question. But each declined.

In an extraordinary hubris dictating who we can and cannot honor, Wisconsin Republicans chose to undermine the leadership of the Black Caucus.
– A statement from six Assembly Black Caucus members. According to the Assembly Journal, all 34 Dems who voted on the resolution changed their votes.

We’re in a new era, we’re trying to figure out ways to work together. We would hope they would have more consideration to say, let’s look at finding ways to work together, rather than always looking at ways to drive us apart.
– Vos on the Legislative Black Caucus’ inclusion of Kaepernick in the resolution.

Colin Kapernick [sic] wore socks depicting police as pigs. Flags are flying at half-staff for a murdered policeman. Are you kidding me????
– A tweet from Republican Rep. Barbara Dittrich’s account during Assembly debate on the resolution. Dittrich said she didn’t send the tweet and it was unauthorized. Dittrich staffer Keith Best, who was previously involved in a Twitter issue while working for his former employer, then-Rep. Thomas Weatherston, retired following controversy over the tweet.

If elected, it is clear that Brian Hagedorn would further erode protections for some of our most vulnerable communities. Wisconsinites could not count on him to uphold their civil rights.
– Wendy Strout, state director for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group, on conservative Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn’s involvement in founding a Christian school that bars same-sex romantic relationships. Hagedorn’s campaign said he “treats everyone fairly under the law” and that the criticism is “another example of attacks on his own faith.” Hagedorn previously drew controversy over a blog post he made in law school opponents criticized as equating homosexuality to bestiality.

The Trump shutdown accomplished nothing and hurt a lot of people. Congress has worked together to fund the government, including homeland security.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, who voted in favor of a spending bill to prevent another government shutdown. The bill includes nearly $1.4 billion for border security and would keep the government funded through Sept. 30.

We must now devote our energy to a thorough and thoughtful process that addresses the complex problems of border security and both legal and illegal immigration.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who also backed the bill.

We should never have been put in this position in the first place. We must do better.
– U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, who broke with his fellow Wisconsin House Republicans to support the spending deal. Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan also supported the bill.

I am aware that this bill is a compromise and I can’t expect all I want, but this is ridiculous.
– U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, who said he voted against it because the bill spends too much money and it was “impossible to know all of the provisions” in the legislation considering the short period legislators had to review it ahead of the vote.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Feb. 9-15, 2019)


Clean water: Insiders keep looking for areas of possible common ground this session, and clean water is the early leader to be the issue that brings both sides together. Gov. Tony Evers continues his water theme in announcing he’ll include in his upcoming budget a $70 million plan to address water quality. That includes $40 million in borrowing to replace lead pipes and $25 million to clean up contaminated sediment. Evers then follows with a call to boost funding for the state’s well compensation grant program along with changes to help low-income families cover the costs of replacing wells. Evers also plans to direct the Department of Natural Resources to spend $75,000 on an ongoing study of groundwater in southwestern Wisconsin after the first round of tests found 42 percent of 301 private wells sampled were contaminated with bacteria from animal or human waste. Those results also prompted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to appoint a Water Quality Task Force at the request of lawmakers from the region. All the activity on the issue is simple, some say. There appears to be a concern about water quality in just about every corner of the state, and voters want to be sure what’s coming from their taps is safe. But there’s still the matter of nailing down the specifics of what to do. Evers’ proposal to replace lead pipes, for example, would make municipalities eligible for forgivable loans to cover up to 50 percent of the cost. The proposal also would replace about 16,000 of the estimated 170,000 lead service lines in the state. Lawmakers have already put in some work in that area, pushing through a program last session that allows municipalities to pass an ordinance seeking permission from the Public Service Commission to use ratepayer dollars to provide low- or no-interest loans or grants of up to a 50 percent grant of the cost for private property owners to replace lead service lines. Some are looking for details of Evers’ plan to see if it compliments what was pushed through before or replaces it. In approving the bill last session, lawmakers made changes to address concerns about using public dollars to cover the costs of homeowners to replace their lines, particularly since some had already done it on their own without government assistance. Still, considering the partisan calls for action, some believe water will be one area where lawmakers and Evers can come together to get something done this session.

Pardons: Wisconsinites looking for clemency the past eight years have been out of luck. Gov. Tony Evers says that’s about to change. The new guv says he’s working on appointments to the long dormant pardon advisory board and will look to the board for recommendations. That’s an abrupt change from his predecessor Scott Walker, who didn’t issue a single pardon during his eight years in office. He didn’t even appoint anyone to the advisory board, shutting down the process altogether. To Walker, a pardon meant undercutting the decision of a jury or a court. Insiders also believe another motive was at play: the possibility a pardoned felon will re-offend, generating a whole lot of unwanted press. Insiders suggest that’s a factor Evers would be wise to consider before granting any pardons. They also believe his actions will fit into his stated goal of reducing the prison population and working toward criminal justice reform. Insiders note it’s unlikely Republican lawmakers are likely to go along with Evers on a massive overhaul of the criminal justice system. But they could find some common ground — given that even Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian can be on the same page when it comes to the topic. Still, the power to pardon could be one of the tools Evers could use regardless of whether he can get Republicans to get on board with his initiatives. Still, some expect Evers to move incrementally, saying they don’t expect him to, say, issue a blanket pardon for non-violent drug offenses. Instead, some argue, Evers could use the power to pardon in individual cases or with small groups to begin to build a case for his views on the need to overhaul the criminal justice system for non-violent offenders. He could then build off that in his push to reduce the state’s prison population. Whatever Evers does, he will have to detail his efforts under a new GOP law that will require disclosure of those released early from prison and a record of pardoned felons who offend again. Some see that law as an attempt by Republicans to put a check on Evers’ use of the pardon pen — and an opportunity to highlight anyone who were to re-offend after being granted clemency.

Climate change politics: The guv moves to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, while the Board of Conservation of Public Lands does away with ban on discussing climate change. The moves likely won’t have any dramatic impact on state policy. Still, insiders say they also send a message about the importance Dems place on addressing the issue. The BCPL is comprised of the AG, treasurer and secretary of state. When Republicans held the AG and treasurer offices, it banned agency staff nearly four years ago from doing any work related to climate change. That drew national attention. Then-commissioners GOP AG Brad Schimel and Republican Treasurer Matt Adamczyk later modified the policy to only prohibit advocacy or lobbying on the topic. But critics called it a gag order and saw it as a rebuke of then-BCPL Director Tia Nelson, the daughter of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson who had served on former Dem Gov. Jim Doyle’s global warming task force and testified on the topic before Congress. Now comprised of three Dems — AG Josh Kaul, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Secretary of State Doug La Follette — the board votes to lift the ban and accept applications from school districts looking to finance energy-efficiency projects. In pushing the ban, Adamczyk had argued work on climate change was unrelated to the board’s mission of managing public lands and trust funds, providing funding to school libraries, and making loans to municipalities and school districts. But Godlewski called the policy reckless, saying the board’s investments can be impacted by “erratic weather and natural disasters.” Meanwhile, Evers announces he will join a bipartisan group of governors committed to fighting climate change and upholding the terms of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Evers says by joining the alliance — created after President Trump announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement — “we can take climate action while growing our economy at the same time.” Environmentalists hail the move, while business groups pan it. The alliance aims to implement policies to advance the goals of the Paris Agreement, including reducing greenhouse gas emission by at least a quarter below 2005 levels by 2025. Still, the announcement doesn’t provide details on how Evers would accomplish such goals, and insiders say the reality is he’d have to get a GOP-run Legislature to go along with anything he’d like to do — either through legislation or through lawmakers’ power to review agency rules. There’s the rub, some say. Evers can lay out anything he’d like to do, but unless he gets buy-in from the Legislature, it’d just be symbolic. And many would be shocked to see GOP lawmakers wholehearted embrace climate change initiatives. Meanwhile, the city of Madison has accepted committee recommendations to meet its goal using all renewable energy sources and producing zero net carbon emissions by 2030.


Tony Evers: The Capitol is about to see the first real test for the new guv in how he deals with the GOP majority in the Legislature — and how he portrays that battle to the public. Not long after approving their version of a middle-class income tax cut, GOP legislative leaders send the bill to Evers, moving up the window for the guv to act on the bill that otherwise wouldn’t have hit his desk until late April. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, argue taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait to find out whether a tax cut is coming their way. But considering nothing would change for taxpayers until January 2020 under the GOP bill, insiders see politics at play. Republicans are trying to box in Evers. What’s more, Republicans believe they have the advantage when the Capitol isn’t talking about whether to cut taxes, but how. And, it keeps that conversation going right through the week before Evers’ budget address. They also already believe Evers has retreated a little on the issue once the Dem version of the tax cut only proposed capping a tax credit for manufacturers, but not farmers. To Republicans, that’s an acknowledgment that it’s politically unpopular to raise taxes on the ag community and their message of hiking taxes on one group to pay for cutting another’s is resonating. Dems, however, argue Evers can lay it out for voters that any tax cut should be dealt with in the budget. But then what? Does the tax credit become a bargaining chip in the budget? For example, could Evers agree to use money from a projected $691.5 million surplus at the end of this fiscal year to cover the tax cut cost in the upcoming biennium in exchange for Republicans supporting some of his priorities, such as funding education? Or does he wait for Republicans to send back the budget swapping out the Dem version with the GOP tax cut and then see if he can re-work it with his partial veto authority? Or does he veto the tax — or even the entire budget? And how long could the state go without a new budget before voters start really putting the pressure on lawmakers and Evers? Insiders continue to toss out possibilities for the end game. But some also profess having a hard time seeing the path forward, in part, because they believe Fitzgerald and Vos are still trying to figure out Evers. After eight years of GOP rule, it’s a whole new dynamic with a Dem in the East Wing, some say, adding that Evers also cuts a unique profile compared to others. He has often talked about coming together to find solutions. But how will he bring people together while also trying to keep his base happy? There are those who will want Evers to use the budget fight to take a stand against the GOP policies of the past eight years. But insiders say they don’t believe that’s really in Evers’ nature and he will want to find a deal. And while he may put a series of Dem priorities in the budget to make good on the promises he ran on, he also may have to swallow some GOP initiatives to deliver on a few of those promises, insiders say.

Achievement gap: The state has long struggled with the achievement gap between white and minority students. But by one measure, things improved a bit in the last school year when comparing whites to Hispanics and African-Americans. But they took a slight dip when looking at Asians and Native Americans. Overall, the state’s four-year graduation rate ticked up over the last two school years, according to data from the Department of Public Instruction, hitting 89.6 percent in 2017-18, compared to 88.6 percent the year before. Pacific Islander students saw the biggest jump in their overall four-year graduation rates over the period, which increased to 94 percent from 84.6 percent last school year. African-American students, meanwhile, logged a 2.3 percentage point increase to 69.3 percent, while Hispanic students’ graduation rates increased by 2 percentage points to 82.3 percent. And white students went from a graduation rate of 92.7 percent in 2016-17 to 93.5 percent in 2017-18. But Asian students’ four-year graduation rates remained at 91 percent over the two school years, while Native American students’ rates dropped a point over the period to 77.8 percent. A check of the graduation gap between white students and other student subgroups across the period shows the disparity decreased by between 1.2 percentage points and 1.5 percentage points when comparing white students’ four-year graduation rates in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to Hispanic and African-American students’ rates over those periods. But the gap increased between 0.8 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points between white students and Asian and Native American students over those years. New DPI Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor says those disparities and others, including the 20.1 percentage point graduation gap between English learners and English proficient students in 2017-18, “are truly troubling” and vows to continue working on the issue. Some note she will have an ally in Gov. Tony Evers, who appointed her to replace him as the state superintendent and has pledged to bring back proposals he’s made in the past to address the gap only to see former Gov. Scott Walker ignore them.

Brian Hagedorn: Very few voters know anything about the appeals court judge or Lisa Neubauer, his rival for an open state Supreme Court seat being vacated by Shirley Abrahamson. So opponents are seizing on his old blog posts and association with a private school that critics say actively discriminates against gay and transgender people to pain him as outside the mainstream of conservative politics. His backers, however, are trying to paint the attacks as a smear against his religion. And insiders on both sides say the opportunity for conservatives to shore up their majority on the Supreme Court likely will outweigh any discomfort they feel about Hagedorn’s views. The latest salvo against Hagedorn, a formal legal counsel to Scott Walker before the former guv appointed him to the bench, focuses on his association with the Waukesha County-based Augustine Academy, a private Christian K-8 school blending in-class and at-home instruction; Hagedorn helped found and continues to sit on the board. The school’s code of conduct includes language prohibiting “immoral sexual activity… apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman,” and faculty, staff, board members, students and their parents must abide by those conditions or can be fired or asked to withdraw from the school for not complying. What’s more, applicants are asked to affirm the school’s statement of faith, which reads, in part, “men and women are not simply interchangeable, nor is gender subject to one’s personal preferences.” The liberal One Wisconsin Now, which highlighted the school’s background, calls the association disqualifying, though it doesn’t have any record of incidents of discrimination at the school. Hagedorn’s campaign, though, says the judge “treats everyone fairly under the law” and calls the story an attack on his faith. There are deep divides in how some insiders view the issue, particularly in light of Hagedorn’s past blog posts, including one in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down an anti-sodomy law in Texas: “The idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable.” Some conservatives denounce the attacks as a religious test and insist Hagedorn’s views aren’t out of line with many Christian faiths. This will backfire and conservatives will rally to Hagedorn’s defense, some argue. Liberals, however, see a candidate whose out of touch even with typical hardcore Republicans and his views may give some businesses leaders and less right-wing donors pause about committing to the race financially. Still, some believe even if conservative groups have issues with Hagedorn’s views, they’ll look past them as they focus on the bigger picture of the court majority. With Abrahamson retiring and conservatives now with a 4-3 majority, insiders see the spring race as one Republicans need if they want to build up a cushion. That, insiders say, is because conservative Justice Daniel Kelly, also a Walker appointee, will face voters for a full 10-year term at the same time Dem turnout is expected to spike for next year’s presidential primary. Some see that as a difficult — at best — task for Kelly, meaning it’s win this spring or face the prospect of liberals flipping control of the court. So while insiders believe there will be more fodder for critics before the race is over, some also assume conservative groups will most likely find a way to move past it — even if some of what they’re seeing makes them squeamish. And a new poll from Neubauer’s campaign suggests having adequate resources will be key for both campaigns to effectively deliver their message. The campaign releases an overview of a poll it paid for last month that found three-fourths of the electorate undecided in the race. Still, the campaign’s pollster argues in a memo on the survey Neubauer is in a strong position, in part, due to the political climate. The poll, conducted Jan. 9-14, found Walker and Donald Trump are unpopular. Fifty-six percent of likely April voters expressed an unfavorable view of the president. That included 50 percent who view him very unfavorably. Meanwhile, 55 percent view Walker unfavorably, including 43 percent who view him very unfavorably. Additionally, 53 percent had a negative view of Republicans in the state Legislature. That backs up Dems’ view that their base is still fired up over Trump and Walker and that the December extraordinary session that reigned in the powers of new Gov. Tony Evers and AG Josh Kaul only added fuel to that fire. Add in the winning streak female candidates have been on for the state Supreme Court, and some Dems are confident they’ll notch their second straight win for an open seat. Conservatives, though, argue the environment isn’t as dire as some on the other side paint it. Sure, Hagedorn’s association with Walker won’t help him in liberal Dane and Milwaukee counties. But it’s not going to hurt outstate, where Walker topped Evers in a narrow loss. What’s more, they contend the base was there in November for the guv, who lost ground with independents, a group of voters that typically doesn’t turn out in high numbers for spring elections. Still, the drip of stories about Hagedorn’s views could move up the need for conservative groups to get on the air and help define him before the headlines take hold. And conservatives are confident those groups will be there for Hagedorn, because, some add, they can’t afford to sit on the sidelines with court control at stake.


Barbara Dittrich: Insiders say the lesson is be wary of giving staff access to your social media. Especially if you don’t know them well. Particularly if they’ve done something stupid before. The freshman GOP rep learns that lesson the hard way with Keith Best, who was previously in the middle of Twitter dustup while working for former Rep. Tom Weatherston and is again at the eye of the storm. The latest incident was a reply from Dittrich’s Twitter account to a thread of tweets some 20 minutes before members ultimately voted to approve a resolution honoring Black History Month that didn’t include former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s name. “Colin Kapernick [sic] wore socks depicting police as pigs. Flags are flying at half-staff for a murdered policeman. Are you kidding me????” read the tweet. Dittrich told reporters following Tuesday’s floor session the tweet “wasn’t authorized” and Best is the only other person with access to her account. At the time, the Oconomowoc Republican indicated she would discipline Best but added she’d like to “calm down” before taking any action. Not too long later, word came that Best had retired “following the representative’s concerns over his unauthorized tweet,” according to a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. Best’s other Twitter controversy came over the summer while working for Weatherston, who slammed Best for what he called a “racist” tweet that was sent in reply to an article shared by Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, about registered voters being removed from state voting rolls. The story noted that action “disproportionately affects black voters and voters of color.” Weatherston’s account tweeted in response: “Those claiming that minorities are not smart enough to follow voting rules with a Photo ID are the true racists.” Some insiders are sympathetic to Dittrich. After all, she insists it wasn’t her who sent the tweet. What’s more, some don’t think the sentiment was out of line with her strongly GOP district. Still, insiders also see it as a reminder of the dangers of allowing others to shape your message on social media.

Bipartisanship: Both sides want to provide state protections for those with pre-existing conditions from losing their coverage; they just can’t agree how. Each party wants to provide the middle class an income tax cut; they just aren’t on the same page about how to pay for it. They both want to honor Black History Month; but they have deep divisions over whether former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick deserves to be included among those honored. While partisan divide is nothing unusual, there is a little more of a personal edge in the debate over the Black History Month proclamation that has some wondering how the building is going to function this session if it can’t get together on things such as this. The Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus introduced legislation drafted for a formal proclamation by the body. But it ran into opposition from Republicans, who objected to including Kaepernick, a Wisconsin native who was one of the first NFL players to kneel during the national anthem, a move he said was to protest the oppression of people of color and police brutality. Ahead of the debate, Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, told reporters while both parties usually work together “to make sure there’s agreement on who we’re honoring,” disagreement over certain individuals resulted in the separate resolutions. Kaepernick, Steineke added, drew the biggest concern in the GOP caucus “for obvious reasons.” Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus Chair Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, called the GOP version, which dropped Kaepernick and a Milwaukee pastor while adding Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and former Secretary of State Vel Phillips, a slap in the face. But eventually, the body unanimously approved an amended resolution that only left out Kaepernick. But not long after, Assembly Dems began announcing they were changing their vote, starting with Milwaukee Rep. LaKeshia Myers, who said she refused to “ask for permission when honoring those who have made significant contributions to the plight of African American people.” Once the resolution landed in the Senate, it turned into another pointed discussion as the chamber’s only two African Americans — Dems Lena Taylor and LaTonya Johnson — ripped into their white GOP colleagues, questioning their audacity to dictate who was acceptable to honor in the resolution. During the debate, Taylor called on one GOP lawmaker to yield to a question, but each refused as no Republicans stood to defend keeping Kaepernick out of the resolution. Taylor demanded to know, “Who are you to deny our reality?” and Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, took the floor to bemoan what she saw as a body that isn’t functioning. Insiders see base politics at play for both sides. For Republicans, the idea of honoring an NFL player who protested during the anthem doesn’t sit well, nor would many voters back home approve. What’s more, reminding their constituents about the controversy over the NFL protests is a page right out of President Trump’s playbook in motivating the base. For Dems, the debate sends a message to voters of color in their districts that white Republicans — many from largely rural districts — are trying to dictate which African-Americans are acceptable to be honored as part of Black History Month. Two, it reinforces for those voters why the Republican Party has struggled to make inroads with them. And, some say, it helps Wisconsin Dems keep national donors plugged into the state as they can make the argument there’s still work to be done even after knocking Scott Walker from office last fall.


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The 2018 fall elections brought a lot of change to state government, starting with the election of four new statewide officials: Tony Evers as governor, Mandela Barnes as lt. governor, Josh Kaul as attorney general and Sarah Godlewski as state treasurer. The Legislature will remain under control of Republicans with veteran leaders returning for both parties. But the elections brought in four new senators and 15 new Assembly members.

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When Republicans introduced legislation nearly a year ago trying to keep Kimberly-Clark from closing two plants in the Fox Valley, they said the company didn’t approach them asking for incentives. Instead, their bill was an attempt to change the company’s mind.

Kimberly-Clark’s lobbying reports underscore that, showing the company didn’t spend anything to lobby the Capitol until the waning months of last session. They also add some detail to the company’s late — and ultimately unsuccessful — push to get the Senate to approve the bill before then-Gov. Scott Walker’s administration stepped in with a package to keep open one of the plants.

GOP Sen. Roger Roth, whose district includes the plants targeted, said even though the company’s efforts on the bill fell short, he believes its engagement with the Capitol helped lead to Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. reaching a deal with the company in the days before the former guv left office.

“I’m sure it helped,” the Appleton Republican said.

The lobbying reports show Kimberly-Clark spent $131,107 to lobby the Capitol between July 1 and Dec. 31, a significant uptick in activity for the manufacturer. Kimberly-Clark didn’t register a lobbyist with the state for the 2015-16 session and reported no spending in 2013-14. Going back to 2003-04, the most the company had spent over an entire two-year session was $82,535.

Still, the $131,107 spent over the last six months of 2018 was only good enough for No. 15 among groups that lobbied the Capitol over the period, showing K-C hasn’t been a major player in terms of lobbying the state. By comparison, Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now Inc., a group headed by former GOP Assembly Speaker John Gard that lobbied last session against eliminating the prevailing wage, led the way for spending in the last half of 2018 at $335,650. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities was next at $333,182, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce was No. 3 at $256,880.

All of Kimberly-Clark’s effort last year went into AB 963, which cleared the Assembly in February but bogged down in the Senate.

The company said in a statement it decided to register a lobbyist after ratifying a tentative agreement with the union at the Cold Spring facility in Neenah.

“This provided us the opportunity to further educate the Legislature about our business,” the company said.

The agreement was ratified July 23, and the company’s first lobbyist — Susan Phillips, the company’s DC-based vice president of government relations — was registered with the state four days later.

The company then added contract lobbyist R.J. Pirlot almost a month later before it issued a deadline in September, announcing it wanted lawmakers to finish work on the bill by month’s end.

But after failing to meet that deadline, legislative leaders announced plans for an extraordinary session after the November election to take up the bill.

Following the election, the company ramped up its activity, with seven more lobbyists registering in the days after Nov. 6 as Pirlot ceased lobbying for the company. That included five from the firm Schreiber GR Group and two who work for Kimberly-Clark, the plant manager at the company’s plant on Cold Spring Road in Neenah and an electrician there.

But that legislation, which would have given the company up to $115 million over 15 years to keep two plants open, never made it to the Senate floor. Instead, WEDC signed a five-year deal worth up to $28 million.

WisPolitics.com reported in December that WEDC had Kimberly-Clark in mid-October file an application that opened the door to the agency negotiating the package that was ultimately signed.

At the time, WEDC CEO Mark Hogan told WisPolitics.com that company officials remained focused on the larger deal in the legislation, but he began laying the groundwork for a fallback plan in case the legislation failed.

Hogan said this week Kimberly-Clark didn’t lobby WEDC “to do anything.”

“My observation is that the company’s lobbying activity followed union approval to seek an incentive to remain in Wisconsin and was focused on getting the original legislation through the Wisconsin Senate,” Hogan said.


WisPolitics.com is profiling some of the newly announced agency heads. This week features our third installment with state Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld.

Blumenfeld most recently served as executive vice president of special operations at TASC. She replaces former Secretary Jay Risch, who was appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker.

Birthplace, age?
55 years old, born in Milwaukee.

Job history?
Most recently worked as the vice president of special operations at TASC, a Madison-based business focused on third-party administration services. Previously worked at CUNA Mutual Group for 26 years, most recently as vice president of lending and payment security. Before that, she worked as a certified public accountant. And she previously served as a board chair and member of Summit Credit Union.

Undergraduate degree in accounting and political science from UW-Madison.

Married to her husband, Michael, and has three adult children. One is set to graduate from UW-Madison this year, the other is a second-year law student at UW-Madison and the third is working in a startup.

Favorite non-work interests?
“Anyone that knows me would answer, Tennis.’ Tennis I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. My dad taught me how to play. And it’s just my passion. I probably play on a slow week five times a week and on a good week, probably seven or eight times. For me, it’s just my stress relief. My kids play, my husband will play … We enjoy tennis a lot as a family as well. I also as I say, bleed red for the Badgers, so a big, big Badger fan. Our family loves to travel, (I) love to read, love to really (be involved in) community service, I’ve sat on a lot of boards and done a lot of volunteer work (currently involved in the UnityPoint Health – Meriter Board and UW Hillel). …”

Why the interest in being in the Evers administration?
“First of all, I am so inspired by Gov. Evers. I think our values are very aligned. I think most everyone in the world is frustrated right now by the divided nature of our country. And I look at Gov. Evers as someone that really focuses on bringing people back together and finding common ground and connecting the dots, and that is very, very aligned with who I am. And I think most people that would know me (would say) when there’s a messy situation, a big problem, I like to bring people together, I like to look at data, I like to triangulate and I like to try and find solutions where we can really move forward together. So whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, whether you’re a bank or a credit union, or whether you’re a cat lover or a dog lover, there’s probably more that unites us together than that separates us. So I’m really excited to work for the Evers administration. And looking at the other cabinet secretaries, we have already built such a strong bond together, and constantly talking to each other and finding ways in which we can collaborate with each other to solve problems and working with the Legislature, too … Instead of just being one of the people that complains about the way things are, I want to be part of the solution, and I really feel that we can have such a positive impact in moving Wisconsin forward.”

What are your priorities for the agency under your leadership? What should the agency be doing differently?
“Our mission is really to promote the safety and soundness of our state’s financial institutions, and state-chartered financial institutions in particular, of which most banks and credit unions in Wisconsin are state-chartered. We have a much higher percentage than other states, which I find interesting. And it’s because we have such a great team here of people that are not just regulators and examiner but really partners with our financial institutions, and so they have a really good reputation out there. So safety and soundness is number one. Also in our securities area, really protecting consumers of financial products. …My parents are in their 80s and they get random calls all the time for financial opportunities that really aren’t real, and there’s so much abuse that’s going on right now. So really cracking down on that and making sure that we have good actors in that space and that people are following the law and doing what they need to do; so protecting our consumers is extremely important. And then third, making sure we have access to capital and a good economy in Wisconsin and promoting that through all of our financial resources. And then four, promoting financial literacy in the state. And this is something I get very passionate about. There’s so much opportunity within the schools, within the workplace, within our senior population, wherever, to promote financial literacy … A lot of people graduate high school today, and they don’t have the education they need to really understand, ‘How do I manage student debt?’ … In the last Legislature, they passed a law that requires financial literacy training in the schools, which is fantastic. Five years ago, 30 percent of the schools participated. Now we’re up to 70 percent. I want to see that number get to 100 percent, but not just focus on that 100 percent, but focus on the quality of the education that’s happening at all of the schools. … I think we can do a better job in equipping our school counselors and making scholarships available and grants and loans available and having kids understand what it is they’re signing up for so that ultimately the outcome that I’d like to see is students graduating from their higher education with less financial debt and burden. I want to see them starting to save for retirement in their 20s, not paying off student debt.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received since getting the job? Worst advice?
“Last week I had the good fortune of spending an hour with Jelena McWilliams, who is the chairman of the FDIC. She was in town, in Milwaukee …I figured she’s been at this a little while, she’s very dynamic, I really, really respect her and so I asked her that question, I said, ‘What advice do you have for me?’ And her advice to me, which I think is spectacular, was really get out in the community. Go to banks, go to credit unions, meet people in their place because — it’s great when people come to see you. When people come to my office, and they talk to me about their issues and their concerns, and generally they’ll have talking points that they have maybe a trade association help them prepare. And that’s great and that’s really important and I encourage that. But she said when she gets out and she visits people in their own place, that these talking points, these stories come alive, and you really understand it at a much deeper level. And she said oftentimes it goes further, and you learn about new things or you see potential things on the horizon. So during my tenure here, I really don’t want to just sit in my office. I want to get out and visit people and do outreach and listen. I want to listen to what the concerns are of the people so that I can bring those concerns back to Madison and help provide solutions for them. I think the worst advice was really when I was debating whether to take this job or not. A lot of people thought I was crazy for wanting to leave the private sector for the public sector. But as I told you before, it’s always been something I wanted to do. I didn’t know when it was going to happen, but I wanted to do it. And they said, ‘Oh don’t go to the public sector; you’ll never be able to get anything done.’ And so I think I feel very inspired by Gov. Evers, very inspired by all of the meetings I’ve had with legislators, that there’s a lot we can do to move Wisconsin forward. And so I’m glad I didn’t listen to people that gave me that advice.”

See a WisPolitics.com video of part of the conversation (cut short due to technical difficulties):


Feb. 21: WisPolitics.com Luncheon with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Join WisPolitics.com for lunch at The Madison Club, 5 East Wilson St., Madison, on Thursday, Feb. 21 with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Vos will discuss Assembly Republican priorities and the GOP Assembly’s relationship with the new administration.

Check-in and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program going from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

WisPolitics.com subscribers and members as well as Madison Club members and their guests receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $19 per person. Price for general public is $25 per person.

This luncheon is sponsored by: Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Register here: https://februarywispolitics.eventbrite.com



Tuesday: Spring primary.
– 7 a.m.: Local municipalities, school districts across the state.

Tuesday: Senate Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions Committee public hearing on three cabinet secretary nominees and other bills.
– 10 a.m.: 300 Southeast, state Capitol.

Tuesday: Senate Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection Committee public hearing on DOA Secretary-designee Joel Brennan and two bills.
– 12:30 p.m.: 201 Southeast, state Capitol.

Wednesday: Senate Transportation, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee public hearing on two cabinet secretary nominees and other bills.
– 2:30 p.m.: 330 Southwest, state Capitol.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront with Mike Gousha” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show features Reps. TERRY KATSMA and DANIEL RIEMER on the GOP tax cut plan; Wisconsin Conservation Voters’ KERRY SCHUMANN on the state’s new stance on climate change; and the next “UpFront” host, WISN News morning co-anchor ADRIENNE PEDERSEN.
*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 standoff over the middle class tax cut, the controversy over the Black History Month resolution and new budget initiatives announced by Gov. TONY EVERS on water.
*Watch the show: https://wiseye.org/2019/02/15/rewind-your-week-in-review-for-february-11-15/

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks with Supreme Court candidate LISA NEUBAUER on her bid; UW-Madison journalism professor MICHAEL WAGNER on the politics of border wall funding and the national emergency; and Feeding Wisconsin’s DAVID LEE on how the last shutdown impacts state FoodShare program recipients.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN talks with author JUDITH ADRIAN about her now book, “Tera’s Tale: Rebel On The River.” Adrian is joined by small books publisher KIRA HENSCHEL, owner of HenschelHAUS Publishing in Milwaukee.

“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. This week, host EMILEE FANNON talks with Rep. SHELIA STUBBS and Wisconsin Dental Association President PATRICK TEPE.

“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, the two discuss Gov. TONY EVERS’ planned medical marijuana budget proposal.
*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-discuss-evers-planned-medical-marijuana-budget-proposal/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in Madison and D.C. include:

*A Thursday Madison Club luncheon with Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS on Assembly Republican priorities and the GOP Assembly’s relationship with the new administration. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-gop-speaker-robin-vos-tickets-54934996052

*A March 5 D.C. breakfast with U.S. News & World Report senior writer SUSAN MILLIGAN on “Trump, Pelosi and the New Congress.” Milligan is a political and foreign affairs writer who formerly covered the White House for the Boston Globe. She is also co-author a biography of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, “Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy.” Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/march-5-wispolitics-com-dc-breakfast/

*A March 7 Madison Club luncheon with Department of Administration Secretary JOEL BRENNAN, who will discuss details of Gov. TONY EVERS’ budget plan. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-joel-brennan-tickets-55715043194

*And an April 25 Madison Club luncheon featuring Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Sen. ALBERTA DARLING and Rep. JOHN NYGREN. The two will discuss Gov. TONY EVERS’ budget plan and Republican budget priorities. Register: https://aprilwispolitics.eventbrite.com

Gov. TONY EVERS is joining MIKE GOUSHA for “On the Issues” Tuesday in Milwaukee. The event, scheduled from noon to 1 p.m., will be held in the Lubar Center at Marquette University Law School’s Eckstein Hall. Evers will discuss his state budget and other new initiatives. See more: https://www.marquette.edu/news-center/2019/gov-tony-evers-to-go-on-the-issues.php

Today is MARK REIHL’s last day as Wisconsin government affairs and political director with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. Reihl, who spent 27 years with the union, is joining the Department of Workforce Development on Monday as the Unemployment Division administrator.

Department of Public Instruction Communications Director TOM McCARTHY is leaving the agency. His last day is today. McCarthy didn’t immediately respond to a request for details on where he’s heading.

LEE SNODGRASS, the chair of the Outagamie County Dem Party, says she’s not considering a run for state Dem Party chair at this point. Snodgrass said while she’s spoken with outgoing Chair MARTHA LANING and others, she told WisPolitics.com: “I think there are some other interesting potential candidates.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, headed by Chair DEAN KNUDSON, has won a 2018 Clearinghouse Award for best practices in election administration from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Wisconsin’s award — in “Outstanding Innovations in Election Administration” — is for “Securing WisVote.” See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/u-s-election-assistance-commission-announces-recipients-of-the-2018-clearinghouse-awards-for-best-practices-in-election-administration/

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, headed by President JOHN MIELKE, has received the award for excellence in political advocacy from the national ABC organization. The award will be presented at the ABC Convention in March in California. See more on the convention: http://abcconvention.abc.org/

The UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics has announced finalists for the 2019 Anthony Shadid Award in Journalism Ethics. They are: JULIE K. BROWN and EMILY MICHOT, of the Miami Herald; GARANCE BURKE and MARTHA MENDOZA, of AP; HANNAH DREIER, of ProPublica; DAVID JACKSON, JENNIFER SMITH RICHARDS, GARY MARX and JUAN PEREZ, Jr., of the Chicago Tribune; and MAGGIE MICHAEL, NARIMAN EL-MOFTY and MAAD AL-ZIKRY, of AP. The winner will be announced March 14 and will receive the award at a ceremony May 14 at the University Club in New York City. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/uw-madison-center-for-journalism-ethics-announcing-five-finalists-for-the-2019-anthony-shadid-award-in-journalism-ethics/

The Milwaukee Press Club’s next “Behind the Headlines” panel in scheduled for Feb. 27. The panel, called “UW System: Time for Transformation?” features UW System President RAY CROSS, UW-Milwaukee Student Association President ALYSSA MOLINSKI, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor MARK MONE and UW-Milwaukee professor KRISTIAN O’CONNOR. They’ll take questions from the audience and the following media members: DAVE EDWARDS, of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio; ANNYSA JOHNSON, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and JOHN TORINUS, an op-ed writer at Urban Milwaukee. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/milwaukee-press-club-behind-the-headlines-panel-on-the-uw-system/

ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of recent endorsements made for statewide elections, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:

— State Supreme Court:

BRIAN HAGEDORN: Kewaunee County Sheriff MATTHEW JOSKI, Lincoln County Sheriff KEN SCHNEIDER, former Ozaukee County Sheriff MAURY STRAUB, Brown County Sheriff TODD DELAIN and 34 other current and former sheriffs. See the full list: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/hagedorn-campaign-sheriffs-endorse-hagedorn-for-supreme-court/


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)

Seventy-eight changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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