Government Accountability Board

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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.”

Full Article: Senate Republicans take cautious tack on GAB, campaign finance bills | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

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.

Full Article: Future of bill to dismantle GAB is unclear | Politics - Channel3000.com.

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.”

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

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.

Full Article: Assembly approves splitting GAB into elections and ethics agencies.

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.

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

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.

Full Article: Judge declines to expand acceptable forms of voter ID - TwinCities.com.

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.

Full Article: Editorial | GAB - Dismantling GAB weakens government.

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.

Full Article: UW-Madison administration supports separate IDs for school, voting | The Daily Cardinal - University of Wisconsin-Madison | host.madison.com.

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.

Full Article: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board |.

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.

Full Article: Democrats jump ship on bill that would allow Wisconsin voters to register online | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

Wisconsin: Lawmakers clash on campaign finance law, dismantling GAB | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Lawmakers on two committees clashed Tuesday over bills to overhaul the Government Accountability Board and rewrite campaign finance laws, with the head of the board accusing one state senator of McCarthyism in his line of questioning. One of the bills on a fast track in the GOP-controlled Legislature would eliminate the accountability board — the state’s elections and ethics agency — replacing it with a pair of commissions made up equally of Republicans and Democrats. Another would double the amount donors can give candidates. A third would allow people to use the Internet to register to vote, while keeping in place the requirement that people cast ballots in person or by mail.

Full Article: Lawmakers clash on campaign finance law, dismantling GAB.

Wisconsin: GOP bills would hike contribution limits, split Government Accountability Board into two agencies | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Assembly Republicans unveiled bills Wednesday to double political contribution limits, rewrite campaign financing rules and split the state’s elections and ethics board into two agencies and fill them with partisan appointees. One of the two bills would dissolve the state Government Accountability Board, which consists of six former judges who are responsible for running elections and overseeing the state’s laws on ethics, campaign finance and lobbying. It would create two new agencies — the Elections Commission and Ethics Commission — to oversee those duties. The six-member commissions are to be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) acknowledged an error in the way the legislation was written that would have allowed one party to control the commissions and said that would be promptly fixed. Daniel Tokaji, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University who specializes in election law, called the accountability board a model for the nation and said it was ridiculous to turn elections over to partisans. He noted the Federal Election Commission routinely deadlocks because it is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. “Only a lunatic or a glutton for gridlock would want to copy the FEC,” Tokaji said. “I think what they want is a commission that will routinely gridlock and get nothing done.”

Full Article: GOP bills would hike contribution limits, split GAB into two agencies.

Wisconsin: Republicans propose splitting Government Accountability Board into elections, ethics commissions | Wisconsin State Journal

Calling Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board a “failed experiment,” Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday proposed splitting it into two commissions guided by partisans. They also called for a sweeping revision of state campaign finance laws, one of the board’s areas of oversight. The announcements signal an ambitious effort by GOP lawmakers to change how Wisconsin’s elections — and elected officials — are overseen. Supporters said the GAB has overstepped its authority, and the new boards would be more publicly accountable. But critics of the bill said it would return Wisconsin to the model that predated the GAB, in which election and ethics laws proved difficult to enforce under partisan oversight.

Full Article: Republicans propose splitting Government Accountability Board into elections, ethics commissions | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

Editorials: Republicans simply out for revenge on Government Accountability Board | Ernst-Ulrich Franzen/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

This is the week that state legislators are expected to start wreaking their revenge on the Government Accountability Board. Plans to replace the agency are in place. A suggested compromise reportedly has fallen on deaf ears. Deals reportedly have been made to move swiftly on legislation, the effect of which most likely would be to pull any semblance of teeth from this watchdog. Of course, Republican legislators pushing this effort say that wouldn’t be the case; that a new agency (perhaps two new agencies) is needed because this one has been too partisan in its oversight of ethics and elections, and that a replacement would be “fair, transparent and accountable to Wisconsinites,” in the words of a spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker. Forgive me if I’m skeptical. And let me add that I have little doubt that more than a few Democrats quietly support this measure simply because no politician really likes a watchdog agency that is doing its job in a truly nonpartisan fashion.

Full Article: Ernst-Ulrich Franzen - On, Wisconsin - Republicans simply out for revenge on GAB.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board head asks lawmakers to delay overhaul of elections agency | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The head of the state’s elections board has urged legislative leaders to slow down their plans to overhaul the agency, but top GOP lawmakers say they will unveil their restructuring plans next week. Gerald Nichol, chairman of the Government Accountability Board, in a letter to lawmakers raised concerns about restructuring the board 13 months before the high-turnout presidential election. His request to slow down fell on deaf ears. On Wednesday, aides to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said they reached a deal on the matter. They declined to provide details, saying they would make their plans public next week. The leaders discussed the plan briefly with GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email Walker “looks forward to working with them to find a replacement that is fair, transparent, and accountable to Wisconsinites.”

Full Article: GAB head asks lawmakers to delay overhaul of elections agency.

Wisconsin: Some recoil at using FEC as model for elections overhaul in Wisconsin | Wisconsin State Journal

Some Assembly Republicans are looking to Washington, D.C., for inspiration to overhaul Wisconsin’s elections and ethics agency, the Government Accountability Board. But critics say the model those lawmakers cite, the Federal Election Commission, is not one of effective campaign oversight. Rather, they say, it’s one of gridlock and dysfunction. “It’s like setting up a disaster-relief agency and saying you’re going to use the FEMA handling of Hurricane Katrina as your model,” said Larry Noble, former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission. Noble now is senior counsel at a nonpartisan advocacy group, the Campaign Legal Center.

Full Article: Some recoil at using FEC as model for elections overhaul in Wisconsin | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

Wisconsin: Targeting of Government Accountability Board ‘all about raw political power,’ Jay Heck says | The Capital Times

The way Common Cause in Wisconsin executive director Jay Heck sees it, the state’s Government Accountability Board is being punished for doing what it’s supposed to do. Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, have called for the dissolution of Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections and campaign finance agency, whose board voted in 2013 to authorize an investigation than ran alongside a John Doe probe into alleged campaign finance coordination between Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and an outside advocacy group. In an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that aired Sunday, Heck said claims that the GAB hasn’t done its job have proven to be unfounded through audits.

Full Article: Republicans' targeting of GAB 'all about raw political power,' Jay Heck says | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board moves toward use of electronic pollbooks | Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board has edged closer to embracing electronic pollbooks, voting Tuesday to develop ground rules for their use. The board also voted to ask state lawmakers to decide when Wisconsin lobbyists should be permitted to donate to presidential candidates, including Gov. Scott Walker. The board — made up of six former judges tasked with overseeing the state’s campaign finance, elections, ethics, and lobbying laws — voted 4-2 for the electronic pollbook motion at its regular meeting. The motion authorizes board staff to develop standards and procedures for the use of e-pollbooks, which are laptops or tablets that replace paper pollbooks.

Full Article: Government Accountability Board moves toward use of electronic pollbooks | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.

Wisconsin: Elections head: Staff has opinions but don’t make decisions | Associated Press

The state elections board’s employees have personal political views but they don’t make any decisions, the board’s director said Tuesday as he tries to stave off Republican lawmakers’ plans to restructure the agency. Conservatives’ calls to overhaul the Government Accountability Board have grown louder following a newspaper story Thursday detailing a former staff attorney’s emails. The messages offered encouragement to an investigator looking into whether Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups. The GAB consists of six retired judges appointed by the governor and their employees.

Full Article: Elections head: Staff has opinions but don't make decisions - Houston Chronicle.

Editorials: Government Accountability Board – Elections, ethics watchdog just trying to do its job | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

As we suspected, a state audit released last week found no major problems with Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, which handles ethics complaints and supervises state elections. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the rhetoric coming from Republicans in the Legislature, some of whom want to gut this government watchdog. Citizens of this state need to send them a strong message: No. The Legislative Audit Bureau, also a nonpartisan agency, looked at nearly 1,900 complaints filed with the board from 2010 to 2013. The audit bureau recommended that the GAB consistently resolve such complaints in a timely manner and that staff provide the board with the names of people who can work as special investigators if needed, The Associated Press reported.

Full Article: Editorial | Government Accountability Board - Elections, ethics watchdog just trying to do its job.