KATHLEEN VINEHOUT
PEOPLE FIRST

Canada and Wisconsin Friends and Partners

Did you know a third of everything Wisconsin sells to the world we sell to Canada? And more visitors come to Wisconsin from Canada than any other country?

Wisconsin recently celebrated Canada Day at the Capitol. We welcomed Canadian Consul General Roy Norton. He brought along a host of facts about Wisconsin’s relationship with Canada.

Many of us think the ideal summer vacation is going north – this summer my husband and son enjoyed a canoe trip in Canada. Fortunately, Canadians like to head south. Wisconsin welcomed over 300,000 Canadian visitors who spent $65 million last year.
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Don't Kill the Referees

“Just do the right thing,” my doctor told me. We were discussing politics. We just finished reviewing the x-rays of my new hip replacement. My doctor wanted to offer a little advice to my colleagues in the Senate.

“People want you to think of them,” he said. “They don’t want you to make decisions on what’s best for the party – whoever’s in power. They want you to make the best decision for the people.

“The problem,” I told him, “is that the interest groups are pulling the parties further and further apart. They don’t want to compromise. It’s very hard for the leaders of both parties to say ‘No’ to their favorite interest group.”
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Vos Bill Opens the Door on "Dark Money" in Campaigns

“This bill strengthens democracy because it allows more citizens to participate,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Wisconsin State Journal. Vos is the lead author of a bill to overhaul the state’s campaign finance law.

Wisconsin was an early leader in campaign finance reforms of 1911 that limited money in campaigns and provided “rigorous penalties” including disqualifying candidates and sending them to prison. Ironically, the effort over 100 years ago was led by legislative Republicans.

Today’s Assembly leader may advocate for more democracy, but the bill he authored favors the rich and those well-connected candidates. I fear the bill’s effect will be more negative ads, less voter knowledge, more out-of-state contributions, more centralized control by legislative leaders, and an increasingly dispirited electorate.
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Putting Political Parties Back in Charge of Elections and Ethics?

“Wisconsin is the only state with a truly nonpartisan board structure,” wrote Professor Daniel Tokaji in 2013. The Ohio State law professor hailed the Government Accountability Board as “America’s Top Model” of nonpartisan elections.

Clean elections and corruption free elected officials are goals most of us share. Yet few states have laws that truly create a nonpartisan watchdog to assure public confidence. Wisconsin is blessed to be a national leader.

“The United States is an outlier among democratic countries when it comes to the institutions charged with running our democratic elections,” Professor Tokaji wrote in the UC Irvine Law Review. He continued, “There is one conspicuous exception to the partisan character of state election administration: Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB).”
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