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Category “2010 Elections”

SCOTUS Strikes Down Aggregate Contribution Limits

Good. It’s argumentatively stupid to cap the total amount of money an individual can give to a group of candidates.  We don’t cap TV advertising contributions to the stations which run campaign ads.  There sure as hell isn’t a cap on charitable contributions or investments, so capping political giving is derivative.

Besides, there sure as hell is no limit on giving to 527 or 501 groups.

A split Supreme Court Wednesday struck down limits on the total amount of money an individual may spend on political candidates as a violation of free speech rights, a decision sure to increase the role of money in political campaigns.

The 5 to 4 decision sparked a sharp dissent from liberal justices, who said the decision reflects a wrong-headed hostility to campaign finance laws that the court’s conservatives showed in Citizens United v. FEC , which allowed corporate spending on elections.

“If Citizens United opened a door,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in reading his dissent from the bench, “today’s decision we fear will open a floodgate.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion striking down the aggregate limits of what an individual may contribute to candidates and political committees.

The decision did not affect the limit an individual may contribute to a specific candidate, currently $2,600.

But Roberts said an individual should be able to contribute that much to as many candidates as he chooses, which was not allowed by the donation cap.

“An aggregate limit on how many candidates and committees an individual may support through contributions is not a modest restaint at all,” Roberts wrote. “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”

There is a similar case pending in federal court that the gang over at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is working on.  It effects Wisconsin’s aggregate contribution limits which are even more insane than the federal one. It’s called Young vs. GAB.

Young v. GAB is a federal case challenging Wisconsin’s aggregate campaign contribution limits, which are even lower than the federal limits.  In fact, Wisconsin’s aggregate limit is set at the same level as the individual limit, meaning that if a donor gives a max contribution to one candidate, he or she cannot give even $1 to any other candidate.  WILL brought this case on behalf of Fred Young, a local philanthropist and businessman, alleging that the limit violates the freedom of speech and expression.

The GAB has moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Mr. Young is harmed by the limit. The parties have agreed to put the case on hold until McCutcheon v. FEC, a federal case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging federal aggregate limits, is decided.

That gulping sound is Kevin Kennedy out of Madison.

Naturally, the Dems are angry — even though now their donors too can rejoice in giving to as many of them as they please — and have promised “legislative remedy” to the ruling.  They’ve been promising that since Citizens United but they haven’t done that while SuperPAC spending on both sides of the aisle only goes up and up.

Politico lists some of the proposals, admittedly, only one of them sounds appealing to me.

Meanwhile, Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he introduced legislation intended to make donations more transparent by requiring all contributions of $1,000 or more to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours. A campaign bill in the House will be introduced by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Why does this not bug me?  Well 1) I’m alright with instant disclosure over the Internet.  Makes sense.  2) Campaigns already have to do this anyway in the final days between their “Pre-Election Report” to the Federal Elections Commission and Election Day.  That typically is the last week to ten days of a campaign.

Heck was during that time in 2010 that I discovered Bruce Spingsteen dropped a max donation to Russ Feingold during my daily examination of his finance reports.

Ah…good times.

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Another One of Those Geographically-Challenged Politicians Pops Up

Might be time we start forming a list for these sorts of things.

Secondly, you ever notice that this stuff happens mostly during debates on Immigration?  (Just saying…)

While attempting to attack an amendment to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that would require a fence be built along Mexico’s border with the U.S. before legalization, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) made a significant geographical gaffe.

Landrieu, who represents Louisiana in the U.S. Senate, was trying to undermine the amendment Sen. John Thune (R-SD) offered. In doing so, she tried to argue Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was more qualified to talk about border issues than Thune because McCain represents Arizona.

“A smart fence, which is what Senator McCain and I want to build–since he’s from Arizona, I think he knows more about this than the Senator from South Dakota who only has a border with Canada and that is quite different,” Landrieu said.

South Dakota does not share a border with Canada. It does, however, share borders with North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

I know what you’re thinking?  “But Kevin, didn’t you and the rest of the Ron Johnson campaign say New York wasn’t a Great Lakes State in 2010?”

No.  I’m saying I knew our ad guys were wrong when I was researching the ad for back-up facts and got vetoed and over-ruled on it.   Still to this day I’m shocked it took the state AP two days before they figured out the error.  Frankly, since both campaigns looked like crap after that mid-July exchange of smear ads, I think everyone learned their lesson there.

There’s a difference between that and a politician playing Geography professor at a Senate hearing or during a debate in the Milwaukee Co. Board Chambers.

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What Would We Do Without Studies?

Thanks scientists.  You’re efforts are not all for naught.

A top Democrat acknowledged Thursday that President Obama’s health care bill hurt his party in 2010. And a new study suggests it cost the Democrats something pretty specific: their House majority.

“It was clearly a liability in the last election in terms of the public’s fear,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday during a briefing with reporters.

The study, by five professors from institutions across the country, looks at the health care bill alongside other contentious votes in the 111th Congress and determines that, more so than the stimulus or the cap-and-trade energy bill, it cost Democrats seats. In fact, they lost almost exactly the number of seats that decided the majority.

The study ran 10,000 simulations of a scenario in which all vulnerable Democrats voted against the health care bill and found that the rejections would have saved Democrats an average of 25 seats, which would have made the House parties close to a tie. (Republicans won 63 seats overall, but the study suggests around 25 of them would have been salvaged.)

In 62 percent of the simulations, Democrats were able to keep the House.

The study uses district-level data to show that the vote created “ideological distance” between the Democratic members of Congress and the median voters in their districts, compared with similar districts where the Democratic incumbent voted against the bill.

“Democratic incumbents who supported health care reform were seen as more liberal on average by their constituents than those who did not,” the study says.

The study comes at an important time for the health care bill — just as it’s threatening to become a major issue again in the 2012 election.

Real shame we didn’t have one after “Healthy Wisconsin” bombed in 2007.  Then again, the Democrats not acting on it when they controlled all the reins of Wisconsin government from 2009-2010 probably tells you what their own internal numbers were showing them.

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L. Brent Bozell: Christine O’Donnell is a Buffoon

I got no issues with this.  Felt the same about the woman when she waltzed into the Bloggers Lounge at CPAC in February of 2010.

It’s time to weigh in on the Christine O’Donnell v. Piers Morgan dust-up Wednesday.

In short, O’Donnell’s behavior was beyond indefensible. It was downright bizarre.

The questions Piers Morgan put forward may have been trite, even seemingly silly, but given to whom they were being posed, they were not inappropriate. He asked if in her heart O’Donnell has committed lust.

He asked her views on gay marriage. He asked her views on witchcraft and on masturbation. Titillating questions? Sure, but O’Donnell has staked out public opinions on all these fronts and it is those public statements she’s made that invite questions like his. She had to know she’d be asked these things when she accepted the interview invitation. If she didn’t then she’s living in a parallel universe. Moreover, Morgan was neither Chris Matthews rude nor Keith Olbermann offensive. He simply asked the questions.

O’Donnell had no right to reject the questions. Even worse, in declaring them inappropriate she made an ass of herself.

She answered the gay marriage question by declaring, over and over, that the answer could be found in her book, which book she was there to promote, except she refused to discuss her position on gay marriage, which was in the book. She declared she was there to “talk about the issues I chose to talk about in the book,” and when asked by Morgan, “Do you answer that question in the book?” she answered, “I talk about my religious beliefs, yes. I absolutely do.” But she wouldn’t answer his question about gay marriage, and instead accused him of being rude to her.

Nonsensical is too kind. She is a buffoon.

O’Donnell had no right to walk off the set. But in a sense I’m glad she did — if it means she’ll never come back. Conservatives do themselves no favors by defending this woman and she is doing conservatives no favors by going on national television programs to talk about — God only knows what she’ll talk about, or not talk about, next. Please, Christine O’Donnell, call it a day.

Frankly, what I would love to see someday is someone finally go off in a full column on the jack-offs at RedState and other blogs who felt that “Ideological Purity” mattered more than winning a Senate seat with Mike Castle instead and left us with this freak of nature.  That was a seat that, to quote Milwaukee Buck announcer Ted Davis, was ‘in the bank and earning interest’ for Republicans and this woman and her backers turned it into a loss.

So congratulations guys, for both the loss for the GOP and sticking her on us for the foreseeable future.

Then again, on the other hand, I should probably be grateful for the O’Donnell candidacy.  With the major national blogs completely under the spell (pun intended) of the O’Donnell candidacy, it kept our race off their radar long enough to not worry about them.  Though it was rather funny to read tweets from Kossites on Twitter during the campaign going “Dear God people, why are we focusing on the Crazy Witch, Russ Feingold is losing!”

(Yes, I monitored Twitter.  Tweets from Feingold staffers were often a hoot.)

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Troy Merryfield Comes Out Swinging at GWC

This took guts given the horror he’s gone through.

Also, this is not the first time the statewide left has used and abused the Merryfield brothers in the name of political gain.  Troy’s brother Todd was used by Keith Olbermann, Crooks and Liars, TPM, and statewide blogs like that of former Feingold flack Jud Lounsbury — who used his Daily Kos posts to make the news national —  to smear Ron Johnson late in the 2010 Senate race.

Can the statewide left for once just leave the Merryfield brothers alone?

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Wisconsin’s Great Pot Advocate Dying of Lung Cancer

At one time or another, anyone on the left or right, has battled with Ben Masel on something.  It’s been both cordial and…well, interesting.

That being said, this is sad news nonetheless.

Ben Masel, the longtime face of the movement to legalize marijuana in Madison, is dying of lung cancer.

Doctors can’t say whether there’s a direct connection between Masel’s cancer and his marijuana use, since he also smoked tobacco for 40 years. But unlike his cigarette use, which was light but long term, Masel acknowledges his marijuana smoking has been heavy “by anybody’s standards.”

Dr. Michael Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, said it’s impossible to determine what caused Masel’s lung cancer.

What is known is that the longer a person smokes, and the more cigarettes he or she smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer, Fiore said. “In terms of marijuana and lung cancer the jury is still out, but the answer is that it is probably a cause of lung cancer.”

Masel, 56, was diagnosed with lung cancer in January and learned two weeks ago the cancer was stage IV, meaning it has spread beyond his lungs. Medical scans showed that the cancer has metastasized past a cure, he said.

At that point, his treatment strategy went from “cure to contain,” he said this week from his home away from home, EVP Coffee on East Washington Avenue.

During the Senate race, Masel was so confident of a Feingold win of 100,000 votes,  he offered via Twitter a bet on August 24th.  Even money odds, $50 minimum bet / $500 maximum bet.

We on the Johnson campaign were privately barred from taking him up on it.

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Sweet, We Won a “Pollie!”

Congrats again to the team at OnMessage for winning a Pollie, the political consultant industry’s version of an Oscar for “The Johnson Family.”

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Oshkosh Teachers Union Head Disciplined Over Emails

(H/T Jerry Bader)

Breaking via the Oshkosh Northwestern:

The president of the Oshkosh has been disciplined for using his district email to encourage others to call in sick to work so they can join protests in the state Capitol.

Also, district staff who joined the protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill on Feb. 17 and 18 will not receive any sick leave pay and will have to reimburse the district the cost of a substitute teacher, school officials told The Northwestern on Friday.

Oshkosh Education Association president Len Herricks said he would not comment on the discipline he received and deferred to a press release prepared by district administrators Friday morning.

“First of all, disciplinary issues are not public information for any employee. So, that information is confidential and off limits,” he said.

The press release states: “Mr. Herricks has acknowledged that he may have become overly involved in the statewide effort to challenge the pending Budget Repair Bill, and the Oshkosh Area School District has dealt with this incorrect advice and the matter of emails sent by Mr. Herricks as a personnel matter.”

Superintendent Don Viegut told The Northwestern Herricks received both verbal and formal disciplinary action.

The Northwestern has requested a copy of the disciplinary records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Expect to see more reports like this in coming days and weeks.  WEAC and their local union heads have no doubt been busy with various union actions.  Already we have the t-shirt story in Two Rivers, there will no doubt be others.

Also, school districts in Northeast Wisconsin are now coming down with their punishments for those teachers who did protest in Madison. Kimberly is adding a day to the calendar; taking away a day of summer vacation, while Oshkosh is punishing all teachers who called in sick without pay.

The Kimberly Area School District sent a letter to parents Friday saying a full day will be added to the school year on Friday, June 3, to make up for the teachers’ absences on February 18 that forced the school district to cancel classes.


A number of teachers from the Oshkosh area called in sick last month to attend the protests after being told they would be paid for their sick days. Now we’re told that’s not the case.

In a news release Friday, the Oshkosh Area School District said those teachers were incorrectly advised by the Oshkosh Education Association president that they would be paid even though they called in sick to protest.

The school district said, “Members who attended the rallies in Madison will not be paid for those days, and the district will be compensated for the cost of a substitute.”

It went on to say, “The district cannot… support absences from the workplace.”

Finally, an aside as one who saw Len Herricks willingly pimp himself out to the Feingold campaign — proving where his real loyalties were — because now-Senator Ron Johnson mentioned him [Herricks] as an individual he asked be included on an education committee for the betterment of Oshkosh’s children.  So yes, my take on Herricks taking on it on the chin can be summed up as…couldn’t happen to a nicer guy who betrayed a man who honestly saw him as his friend.


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Dear Lord, What Have We Started?

Found this at a British politics and public policy blog.

The white board seems to come into its own in US campaigning in recent times. First we saw Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s very successful campaign ads in the last election cycle, with Johnson standing in front of a white board explaining how the Senate was dominated by lawyers, with few coming from a business background. In fact, these ads were so iconic in the campaign, Johnson’s opponent Russ Feingold ended up doing his own white board ad. Now techPresident links to this new video from the White House showing adviser Stephanie Cutter going through the healthcare debate on a white board.

You can see why this white board approach is successful. Unlike many presentation techniques, the white board approach tends to amplify what the speaker is saying rather than taking attention away from it. People tend to draw simple graphics that emphasise certain points, or to write up certain key words. Contrast this with the standard powerpoint approach which often drowns the audience in massive amounts of data and text that they can’t possibly process while listening to a speaker at the same time.

It’ll be interesting to see if any UK campaigns pick up on this. It’s possible to think of quite a few who might benefit from this approach.

I’ve actually seen a few of the White House’s whiteboard presentations since they started doing them in late September initially, and really picked them up with the tax cut debate during the 2010 “Lame Duck” session.  One could say the White House and Chairman of the Economic Advisers Austin Goolsbee ripped off the idea from us in the Johnson campaign.

“57” was released earlier that week and immediately was abuzz among the DC political class.  Was the White House copying the Johnson Campaign ad, or was it in the hopper for a while?

You decide.

As for Feingold’s late in the game counter-ad on the “Whiteboard” image, I actually thought it was way too late in the campaign to make much of a difference.  Also, upon its release was probably the first time during the race I honestly thought we on the Johnson Campaign were going to win it.

Guys on the verge of victory don’t attempt to co-opt an image from the other campaign.  Guys about to lose do.

It will be interesting to see if British campaigns also start using the whiteboard in their campaigns.  In Britain, campaign ads last up to five-minutes in length and are called “Political Broadcasts.”  (See last year’s from the Tories here, Labour here, and the Lib Dems here.)  You wonder if using a whiteboard image will work with that sort of length, or would it get buried in wonk-speak.

Finally, I’d be amiss if I didn’t give all the credit to our ad team.  Brad and Curt, you guys rock!

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The Post-Mortem Feingold Fans Dreaded Has Arrived

Via the Rothenberg Political Report’s Nathan L. Gonzales, writing in Roll Call.

Given its author and location, this will be priority reading for most of political Washington by lunch tomorrow.

The highlights:

The Redefinition of Russ

“As long as he held on to his independent moniker, he was pretty much unbeatable,” Johnson’s pollster, Wes Anderson, told Roll Call. “If we don’t explore that, we don’t win.”

Through early focus groups, the Johnson campaign believed there was a crack in Feingold’s independent armor. It “zoned in” on two key elements of Feingold’s strength: “fiscally responsible and independent maverick.” It tried to peel away the independent label and claim it for Johnson.

“We zoned in on those two things and had the ammunition from the last two years with Obama,” said Johnson’s media consultant, Curt Anderson, Wes Anderson’s brother, who worked at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1992 when Feingold defeated Kasten.

Curt Anderson said the Johnson team believed Feingold’s independence was based on some “inconsequential votes.”

Feingold told voters on the campaign trail he’d opposed bank bailouts under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He may be best known as the single dissenting vote against the USA PATRIOT Act.

But in an election in which voters were most concerned about the economy, Republicans focused on Feingold’s votes for the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, health care reform and Obama’s budget.

Democrats admit that instead of rewriting history and distorting Feingold’s record, Republicans were able to focus on what they believe he is now. By the end of the race, Feingold’s greatest strength was sapped.

Going National Hurt He Who Knew “Wisconsin Like the Back of His Hand”

Some Democrats in the state said the Senator’s national reputation — and his brief flirtation with a 2008 presidential bid — may have exceeded his connection to the Badger State.

“He thought visiting 72 counties every two years would be enough to insulate him from the environment,” a Democratic source said.

In general, multiple Democratic observers in the state said, Feingold overestimated himself and underestimated Johnson.

“Quite frankly, Russ was a little arrogant,” a second Badger State Democrat said.

Feingold arrogant?  Say it ain’t so!

The Collapse of the Ads

“The decision-making process was far different,” Feingold’s longtime media consultant, Steve Eichenbaum, told Roll Call in a recent interview. Contrary to the past three races, the Milwaukee-based media consultant found himself taking orders rather than having creative input.

“They weren’t our ideas,” Eichenbaum explained about the ads that made the airwaves. “We were more of a production company.”

So who was the director?

Russ Feingold runs Feingold’s campaigns,” according to one Democratic insider. “He micromanages his races in a maddening way.”

Until now, it hadn’t been much of a problem.

Russ Feingold has always been a good judge. His instincts were infallible up to this point,” Eichenbaum said. “Russ just believed he couldn’t do what he did in the past and have it work.”

Feingold declined to be interviewed for this report.

Even though Eichenbaum disagreed with the direction of the campaign, he still has “nothing but the highest respect” for Feingold, and he’s not sure that his discarded ideas would have changed the outcome.

The Strength of Ron Johnson’s Ads

What’s most remarkable about the Johnson campaign is that no one can seem to agree which ad was the Republican’s best.

“Apple Pie” and “Family” have received some recognition because the bio spots mocked typical campaign ads for their over-the-top wholesomeness. But “57” may go down as Johnson’s signature ad of the cycle.

The spot featured Johnson and a white board pointing out the number of lawyers in the Senate (57) compared with the number of manufacturers (zero) and accountants (one). Feingold is a lawyer; Johnson is both a manufacturer and an accountant.

“It simplified the race for a lot of people,” according to Mark Graul, a former adviser to then-Rep. Mark Green (R).

The candidates spent well over $10 million each in what will go down as the most expensive Senate race in Wisconsin history, with Feingold asking the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to stay out of the race.

My personal fave of our ads was also “57.”

I was the one who had to go through all the official bios (and then some) of all the United States Senators to double-check the facts of the ad — not an easy task since the 111th Congress has seen it share of deaths and membership changes in the Senate — it was nice to see all that reading and hard work pay off in the fashion the ad team and the rest of the campaign wanted.

The Loss of the Wisconsin Independent Voter

Not only did Feingold struggle to maintain his independent image, he struggled with independent voters.

In 2008, Obama won independents in Wisconsin 58 percent to 39 percent and won the state by more than a dozen points. This year, Feingold lost independents
56 percent to 43 percent and lost the race by 5 points.

“Johnson’s message of a career politician, big government spending, too many taxes and too much spending resonated with these independent voters,” said Madison-based lobbyist Scott Tyre, who worked for former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

Feingold’s struggle with independent voters mirrored Democratic problems nationwide, and a closer look at this year’s elections in Wisconsin begs the question of whether this race had anything to do with the Senator.

Not only did Feingold lose re-election, but Republicans captured the governorship for the first time in eight years and took over both chambers of the Legislature in a state where residents can vote a straight party ticket, a process allowed in fewer than 20 states.

A county-by-county analysis revealed that even though Johnson and GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Walker had very different résumés and ran distinct campaigns, their percentages of the vote were nearly the same. The two Republicans ran within 2 points of each other in 67 counties and only 3 points apart in the remaining five.

Of the few Democrats who have talked to me freely since Election Day, many of them off the record have told me the same thing: “The Feingold Camp didn’t think they were losing until early October…and their campaign tactics reflected it.”

Out in DC last week, I had more than a few conversations with friends and a few web journalists (Off-the-record in those cases) who covered the race on the road with the Feingold campaign.  Many of them told me they were amazed at how Democrats in Wisconsin were unwilling to accept the bad environment in front of them [Slate’s Dave Weigel personally told me out-going State Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) told him he was going to win his race.  On Election night, Kreitlow lost to Terry Moulton 54% to 46%.].

Gonzales pretty much nails what many of us on the Johnson campaign felt during the race.  Now it’s just interesting, and a bit reassuring, to read them be confirmed a month after Election Day.

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