Wisconsin: Attorney General will take ‘a more expansive look’ at old Government Accountability Board | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

State Attorney General Brad Schimel said he will be taking “a more expansive look into whether there were other illegal activities going on” at the now-defunct Government Accountability Board. Schimel made his comments about the old GAB during a television interview that aired Sunday on “Upfront With Mike Gousha.” Last week, Republican state Senate leaders authorized Schimel to look into activities of the shuttered agency, including wide-ranging probes it conducted with prosecutors of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans. The state Supreme Court shut down the investigation in 2015, finding nothing illegal had occurred.

Wisconsin: Nonpartisan elections board in final days | Associated Press

Whether Wisconsin’s unique nonpartisan elections board was a failed experiment or was so successful that it became a political target, this much is true: It goes away this week. Targeted for elimination by Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans who control the Legislature, the Government Accountability Board officially disbands as of Thursday. It was the only nonpartisan elections and oversight board in the country. In its place are two new commissions made up of partisan appointees that will regulate Wisconsin’s elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying laws. Those new commissions look a lot like the partisan panels that were widely disparaged as ineffective before they were replaced by the GAB eight years ago.

Wisconsin: As the Government Accountability Board ends, what’s the future for campaign finance regulation? | The Capital Times

Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the election and campaign agency that its supporters laud as a pioneering success and its critics call a failed experiment, ends this month after nearly a decade in existence. The board, born in bipartisanship from the state’s caucus scandal in 2001, when both parties ran political campaigns from the Capitol, was the only nonpartisan model of its kind in the country with six former judges appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to oversee elections. It was armed with a budget unfettered by Legislative oversight to investigate campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying complaints. Its dissolution on June 30, which came with a rewrite of the state’s campaign finance rules, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Scott Walker, is a necessary reform to some, but step backwards for others who question whether violations of campaign finance law will be aggressively policed and how citizens will know from where money flows to politicians.

Wisconsin: Joint Finance Committee to consider voter ID education campaign, GAB transition | The Cap Times

The Legislature’s budget committee will meet next week to discuss funding a voter ID education campaign and transitioning the state Government Accountability Board into new elections and ethics commissions. Last month, the GAB requested $250,000 from the Joint Finance Committee to educate voters about Wisconsin’s voter ID law before the 2016 presidential election. The agency has proposed two informational campaigns with different combinations of radio, TV and digital advertisements. One option would also include pre-show advertisements at movie theaters, interior bus ads and sponsored Facebook posts. Gov. Scott Walker approved the voter ID law, which requires certain forms of photo identification to be shown at the polls in order to vote, in 2011.

Wisconsin: Kevin Kennedy stepping down as head of embattled elections, ethics board | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The head of the state’s embattled ethics and elections board will retire June 29, one day before the agency is set to be replaced by two new commissions. Kevin Kennedy, 64, has served as the director of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board since it was created in 2007. Before that, he was the longtime director of its predecessor, the state Elections Board. In all, he has worked on elections for the state for 37 years. In an interview Tuesday, Kennedy said he had wanted to retire in 2017 so he could preside over his 10th presidential election. But with the Legislature’s decision to dissolve the accountability board next month, Kennedy said he had decided to step down and told the board that on Sunday. “I’ve always lived, particularly with the GAB, with the knowledge that each day I’m auditioning for my job, that there’s a sword of Damocles hanging over my head,” said Kennedy. Lawmakers from both parties created the accountability board in response to a scandal in which lawmakers were convicted of campaigning using state resources. Critics said officials didn’t crack down on the practice sooner because ethics and campaign finance laws were overseen by separate agencies.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board Director Calls Walker’s Comments On Voter ID Law ‘Disingenuous’ | Wisconsin Public Radio

The director of the Government Accountability Board called Gov. Scott Walker’s recent comments about funding a voter ID public education campaign “disingenuous” on Wednesday. In a 4-2 decision, the board voted Tuesday to ask for money from the state Legislature to fund a statewide campaign to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable at the polls. Walker addressed the funding request on Tuesday, saying that the high turnout during the April 5 primary demonstrates the funding is unnecessary. Moreover, the governor said the state has already spent too much money defending the law in court.

Wisconsin: Computer problems create election headaches | Associated Press

A government computer system crash caused headaches for Wisconsin election clerks trying to access voter registration information on Friday, the last day residents could turn in absentee ballots. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin elections, said it also received calls from a handful of residents who said they couldn’t obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. Residents will be required to show a photo ID before voting during Tuesday’s primary elections. The GAB said the outage lasted roughly three hours, beginning at 8:45 a.m. The state Department of Transportation said it wasn’t clear how many people weren’t able to get IDs because of the computer problems. GAB attorney Mike Hass said his agency received several calls about the outage, but said only a handful of people were affected.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee injury lawyer is first appointee to elections commission | Journal Times

The first announced appointee to a new state elections commission is an attorney specializing in injury and election law: Ann S. Jacobs of Milwaukee. Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse announced the appointment Wednesday. The new elections commission is poised to assume some of the duties of the Government Accountability Board, which is on course to be abolished by a newly enacted law. Jacobs is founder of Jacobs Injury Law in Milwaukee, according to her LinkedIn page. Jacobs also has a background in election law, according to her resume, provided to the Wisconsin State Journal by Shilling’s office. She is training director for Wisconsin Election Protection, a voting rights group, and has lectured and written articles on election law for the state and Milwaukee bar associations.

Wisconsin: State GOP secretary is first appointee to new ethics commission | Wisconsin State Journal

The first announced appointee to the new state ethics commission is the secretary of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, state officials said Tuesday. Critics said the appointment of Katie McCallum confirms their fear that the commission and its new counterpart, which will oversee elections, will be beholden to legislative leaders and partisan interests. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, appointed McCallum, of Middleton, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board.

Wisconsin: Clerks fear loss of support after Government Accountability Board dissolves | Kenosha News

As Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board enters its last election cycle, some local clerks are hoping that at least some of the agency’s functions remain in place. Republican legislators led the effort to eliminate the board, replacing it with two new agencies: an elections commission and an ethics commission. The GAB will dissolve on July 1, the two new agencies taking over the board’s duties. While the legislative focus of the change was on campaign finance laws, some local clerks are worried about whether the training, election support and legal advice for clerks now handled by the GAB will remain in place.

Wisconsin: Two agencies at odds on whether law allows secret donations | Milwaukee Sentinel Journal

A nonpartisan attorney for the Legislature and one of the state’s foremost experts on campaign finance law are disputing a contention by the state’s elections agency that political parties don’t have to publicly disclose contributions they receive from corporations. It is the latest incident in which conclusions of the state Government Accountability Board have been disputed. Frustrated with the agency, Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature have approved dissolving the agency this year and replacing it with two new commissions. “This is just another clear example of why the Government Accountability Board needs to be replaced,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Friday.

Wisconsin: Conservative groups helped gut Wisconsin election laws | Center for Public Integrity

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on Wednesday measures that transform campaign finance rules and a government accountability board — two bills pushed by the very same conservative political groups implicated in an investigation into his campaign. The new laws arrive five months after Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court closed a three-year investigation into whether Walker and moneyed conservative nonprofits illegally coordinated campaign strategy during the Republican’s 2012 recall campaign for governor. The court cleared Walker and conservative allies of any wrongdoing on the basis that Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws were “unconstitutionally vague and broad,” opening the doors for legislative rewrite.

Wisconsin: Walker yet to sign GAB overhaul bill | Wisconsin Watchdog

More than two weeks after the Assembly finalized passage of a bill that would dismantle the state’s rogue political speech regulator, Gov. Scott Walker has yet to sign the legislation into law. And it’s not clear when he will do so. “I don’t have an update beyond what I have previously provided, which is that he will review this legislation and supports overall reform of the Government Accountability Board to provide a replacement that is fair, transparent, and accountable to Wisconsinites,” Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick told Wisconsin Watchdog in an email Monday. The Republican-led Assembly on Nov. 16, in “extraordinary session” and on a party-line vote, passed the bill, ending what state Rep. Dean Knudson has described as Wisconsin’s “failed experiment.”

Wisconsin: Assembly GOP approves rewritten campaign finance laws, GAB overhaul | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Assembly Republicans on Monday sent Gov. Scott Walker bills rewriting campaign finance laws and replacing the state’s ethics and elections board with two new commissions. The bills were prompted, in part, by ire over an investigation of Walker’s campaign that was terminated this summer by a state Supreme Court ruling. A provision of the campaign finance bill would put into law the court’s finding that candidates and issue groups can work closely together. The campaign finance bill would also double the amount donors can give candidates; allow corporations and unions to give money to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders; and end the requirement that donors disclose their employers. That would make it harder for the public to find out which industries are funneling money to candidates. That measure passed 59-0, with all Republicans favoring it and all Democrats refusing to vote because they argued it was a conflict of interest for lawmakers to vote on changes to campaign finance laws that would take effect before the next election.

Wisconsin: Judge criticizes proposed changes to Government Accountability Board | Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

After serving on Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections board for 6½ years, retired judge Thomas Barland of Eau Claire was succinct and direct in summing up his disappointment with the state Senate’s vote early Saturday morning to abolish the panel. “It’s a great step backwards,” Barland said Monday. Barland, who served as a Republican Assembly representative for six years before a 33-year career as an Eau Claire County judge, called the effort by the Republican-controlled Legislature to dismantle the state’s Government Accountability Board politically motivated and warned that going back to a partisan elections board could result in a return to a stalemate situation in which nothing gets done. “It opens the door to corruption in the future, potentially by both parties,” he said of the measure that passed around 2:30 a.m. on an 18-14 party line vote. “It’s hurtful to good government.”

Wisconsin: Senate clears election overhaul in early morning vote | Madison.com

The state Senate voted early Saturday morning to approve sweeping changes to the state’s election and campaign finance systems, ending weeks of uncertainty surrounding the bills’ fates. One bill would alter state campaign finance law by increasing contribution limits for campaign donations and loosening restrictions on political action committee giving. That measure passed 17-15 with state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, voting with the Democratic minority to oppose the measures. The second bill, designed to split the state’s nonpartisan election board into two entities comprised equally of Republicans and Democrats, passed on a party-line vote.

Wisconsin: GOP lawmakers reverse course, balk at campaign donor reporting | Milwaukee Jounal-Sentinel

GOP state senators reversed course early Saturday and voted to let people make political donations without disclosing their employers as part of a broad overhaul of campaign finance laws. The bill passed just after midnight 17-15, with all Democrats and Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) opposing the measure and all other GOP senators supporting it. The measure now returns to the state Assembly, which will have to agree to the changes made by the Senate. GOP senators also approved a bill to eliminate the state Government Accountability Board, which runs elections and oversees ethics laws, and to give those duties to two new commissions. The proposal, which passed on a strictly party-line vote of 18-14, goes to the Assembly as well. Together the proposals would represent a significant shift in how elections are run and how money flows in the world of Wisconsin politics.

Wisconsin: Senate GOP tight-lipped as campaign finance, GAB bills near Friday extraordinary session | Wisconsin State Journal

Senate Republican leaders are keeping a tight wrap on forthcoming changes to bills splitting the state’s elections and ethics agency and rewriting campaign finance law — both of which appear headed for a Senate vote Friday in a so-called “extraordinary session.” The office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, signaled Tuesday that changes will be offered to the bills in extraordinary session, since Thursday marks the end of lawmakers’ scheduled period to convene. Proponents of the bills have said it’s important to pass them this fall, in advance of the 2016 election cycle. Fitzgerald said Wednesday the Senate has the votes to pass the ethics and elections bill.

Wisconsin: Republican leader says he has votes for elections board bill | Associated Press

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wednesday he has the votes to pass a compromise bill that would put two retired judges on a new ethics commission, a move that also won support from the measure’s sponsor and other reluctant lawmakers. GOP senators struck the deal Tuesday during a closed-door meeting called to break an impasse that was holding up the bill after it passed the Assembly last month. The Senate planned to pass it Friday, and the Assembly was scheduled to vote Nov. 16 to send the final version on to Gov. Scott Walker. “I wouldn’t go to the floor if I didn’t have the votes,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday. Details were still being worked out and would be released later, he said.

Wisconsin: Senate GOP reaches deal on campaign finance, elections oversight | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Making an apparent breakthrough, Republicans in the state Senate plan to modify legislation Friday that would overhaul campaign finance laws and the agency that runs elections. That sets the stage for the measures to get to GOP Gov. Scott Walker by next week. One Republican lawmaker who has been briefed on the changes said one would require a new ethics commission to include two former judges. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), on Tuesday announced the plans to meet Friday, but declined to say what changes to the legislation could be in store. She said details may not be available until Thursday, a day before the Senate is to vote. “I can say that we believe we have come up with changes that address the concerns of the caucus and get us to versions of both bills that will have the votes to pass,” Tanck said by email.

Wisconsin: Senate Republicans take cautious tack on Government Accountability Board, campaign finance bills | Wisconsin State Journal

Undecided Senate Republicans are grappling with pressure from groups on opposing sides of bills to replace the state’s Government Accountability Board and rewrite state campaign finance law. The GOP-controlled Assembly voted largely on party lines to pass the bills last week, less than two weeks after they were introduced. But the Senate, also under Republican control, isn’t rushing to get the bills to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker. “I don’t think there’s any sense of urgency, at least on my part,” Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said Tuesday. “I’m still studying the options.”

Wisconsin: Future of bill to dismantle Government Accountability Board is unclear | WISC

The future of a bill to dismantle the Government Accountability Board is unclear after the state Senate canceled a session Tuesday where they were likely going to vote on it. Senate Republicans held a caucus for most of the day on the GAB and campaign finance bills, both of which have already been passed by the Assembly but are hung up in the Senate. The bills the Assembly passed last week to disband the GAB and replace it with a partisan elections board and ethics commission have not moved in the Senate. Conservative groups are lobbying the offices of four GOP senators who have expressed concerns about the bill.

Wisconsin: Off the campaign trail, Scott Walker is changing the way Wisconsin holds elections | The Washington Post

In the weeks since Gov. Scott Walker (R) abandoned his bid for a presidency, the Republicans who help him run Wisconsin have been on a tear. Thanks to creative post-2010 redistricting and a strong 2014 election win, Republicans control enough of the legislature in Madison to push through legislation that had been stymied by dissent — or negative media attention. Yesterday, the minority Democrats boycotted a vote on some of that legislation, a bill that would end some campaign contribution limits and allow candidates to coordinate with “issue” organizations. The caps on individual donations to state legislative and constitutional offices would be doubled; unlimited funds would be allowed to flow to campaign committees, even if the money came from the candidates themselves.Democrats, who have fought in vain to slow down conservative legislation in the past, were shocked at the speed of this bill. “It was always moving, but it kind of hit an oil slick this month,” state Rep. Mandela Barnes said in an interview. “It sped up and got out of control.”

Wisconsin: Assembly approves splitting GAB into elections and ethics agencies | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Assembly Republicans on Wednesday approved legislation to loosen campaign finance restrictions and to split the state ethics and elections agency in two, but the measures face an uncertain future in the GOP Senate. Democrats declined to vote on the campaign finance legislation, contending lawmakers were ethically prohibited from taking up a measure that would help their campaigns. Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ refusal to vote as a stunt, and the bill passed 61-0. On a nearly party-line 58-39 vote, the Assembly voted to disband the state Government Accountability Board and replace it with an elections commission and an ethics commission. The accountability board consists of six former judges, while the new commissions would each be made up equally of Democrats and Republicans selected by the state’s most powerful politicians. The bills next go to the Senate, but Republicans who control that house don’t yet have the votes to approve them, lawmakers said.

Wisconsin: Kennedy, Local Clerks Reject Plan To Dismantle Government Accountability Board | Wisconsin Public Radio

The leader of the Government Accountability Board and some municipal election clerks spoke out on Tuesday against a Republican-backed bill designed to eliminate the agency. State lawmakers want the GAB, a nonpartisan board that now oversees elections and ethics in Wisconsin, split up into two separate commissions dealing with ethics and elections and made up of political appointees. Legislators were taking up a bill to do that on Wednesday. Under the proposal, six retired judges would be replaced with partisan appointees. GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy would also be gone.

Wisconsin: Judge declines to expand acceptable forms of voter ID | Associated Press

A federal judge on Monday denied a civil rights group’s request that voters be allowed to use more forms of photo identification at Wisconsin’s polls, marking another chapter in a string of legal decisions surrounding the politically-charged voter ID requirement. The American Civil Liberties Union asked U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in March to declare that people can use technical college IDs, out-of-state driver licenses and veteran photo IDs to vote. The ACLU argued that the voter ID law allows four-year college IDs at the polls but it is unclear whether technical college IDs are acceptable. The group also argued that Wisconsin voters with out-of-state driver licenses must surrender the licenses, forfeiting the ability to drive, so they can get Wisconsin IDs, amounting to an unconstitutional poll tax. Finally, the group contended the law arbitrarily excludes the use of Veterans Administration IDs even though U.S. military IDs are acceptable. Adelman rejected all three arguments.

Editorials: Dismantling the Government Accountability Board weakens government | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

It appears the state Assembly will take up this week the bill aimed at wreaking Republican revenge on the Government Accountability Board, replacing it with a system that doesn’t work particularly well on the federal level and hasn’t worked well in Wisconsin in the past. This attack on the nonpartisan watchdog agency that supervises state elections and conducts investigations into ethics violations reeks of payback partisanship. Under it, and other measures, legislators would like to set themselves up as the sole arbiters of transparency and accountability. That’s not how our system of government is supposed to work. It is similar to the underhanded attempt to gut the state’s open records law on the Fourth of July weekend by this same crew of legislators led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. And it deserves the same kind of fate: an overwhelming demand from angry citizens to kill the bill.

Wisconsin: UW-Madison administration supports separate IDs for school, voting | The Daily Cardinal

UW-Madison administration recently met with Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell to clarify the current voter ID process for students. The university has offered a separate, free voter ID card for UW-Madison students since 2012, Executive Director of University Communications at UW-Madison John Lucas said in a Sunday email. This was approved by the Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan six-member committee that enforces Wisconsin law pertaining to campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying. Currently UW-Madison students cannot use their Wiscards to be voter ID compliant, which Lucas said would bring “multiple concerns” to both students and the university if it were permissible.

Voting Blogs: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board | State of Elections

In 2008, in the wake of a legislative caucus scandal and partisan rulings by the state’s Elections Board, Wisconsin announced the formation of a new non-partisan ethics and elections agency. The Government Accountability Board (GAB), formed from the merger of the Elections Board and Wisconsin’s Ethics Board, was intended to provide an independent body capable of investigating criminal and civil violations of the state’s ethics and election laws free from the partisan and financial pitfalls that wracked its predecessors. On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers held a hearing on a bill to scrap the GAB and replace it with a system similar to the one it replaced. Board members of the resulting Ethics and Elections Commissions would be appointed by state legislative leaders from both parties and the governor. The gubernatorial appointees to the Elections board would be former local election clerks. The proposed bill would also reverse the changes to the funding rules that were considered key to the GAB when it was formed.

Wisconsin: Democrats jump ship on bill that would allow voters to register online | Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin would become the 26th state to offer online voter registration under a bill up for a public hearing Tuesday morning. Several Dane County Democrats signed on as co-sponsors to the bill late last week, but they withdrew their support Monday because of several concerns, including that it limits registration options for certain voters, such as college students, seniors and low-income people, and is moving too quickly to address problems they have raised about it. The bill would allow eligible voters with driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs to register to vote on a secure website maintained by the Government Accountability Board. Voters could also update their address information on the website. The bill allows GAB and the Department of Transportation to coordinate their records for verification purposes.