Wisconsin voters in 11 communities in the April 5 spring election backed a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court.
The non-binding referenda passed in Janesville (84 percent), Beloit (74 percent), Platteville (84 percent), Monroe (83 percent), New London (81 percent), Lancaster (85 percent), Brodhead (85 percent), Darlington (81 percent), Clarno (85 percent), York (86 percent) and Belmont (88 percent), according to the grassroots campaign United to Amend and Wisconsin United to Amend.
To date, 72 Wisconsin communities have called for an amendment.
Across the country, 16 legislatures have voted in favor of an amendment, as well as about 700 municipalities.
Ray Spellman, who led the campaign in Darlington said, “We are extremely pleased that these referenda passed by such high margins. This clearly demonstrates the will of the people. It is time for our state representatives to put this resolution to a statewide vote, and to move towards sending a resolution from Wisconsin to the U.S. Congress.”
Four in five Americans — including 80 percent of Republicans — oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, according to a Bloomberg poll.
A New York Times/CBS poll in June found 85 percent of Americans — including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents — believe campaign finance system must be fundamentally changed or rebuilt.
Polls consistently show widespread agreement among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans that the campaign finance system is corrupt.
“It is now obvious that we are losing our democracy,” said Nettie McGee of Outagamie County. “The huge money in our political system buys our elections and politicians.”
Donald Trump calls them a “crooked business.” Bernie Sanders says they’re “corrupt” organizations “buying elections.”
But the barrage of insults hasn’t stopped the political groups known as super PACs and their donors from showing the two presidential candidates some love — no matter how loudly they may rail against their very existence.
“I’m not going to be deterred just by that alone,” said Joshua Grossman, president of Progressive Kick, of Sanders’ anti-super PAC message. His liberal super PAC, funded by donors who have written checks as large as $250,000, has endorsed Sanders and is planning to spend money helping to elect him.
Unlike formal campaigns for president, super PACs are allowed by law to accept donations of any size. That fact makes them a juicy political target for populist candidates such as Trump and Sanders.
Yet already, a super PAC allied with a nurses’ union that endorsed Sanders over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in August has put more than $600,000 into pro-Sanders digital and print ads in the important early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Billboards put up by the super PAC, National Nurses United for Patient Protection, proclaim: “Politics As Usual Won’t Guarantee Healthcare For All. Bernie Will.”
The union is only able to spend that kind of money because of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, a decision that ultimately led to the creation of super PACs. Sanders has decried it as corrosive to democracy.
That ruling also enabled unions to start spending member dues on political advertising in federal elections. Since that time, the nurses’ union has moved $3.4 million in dues into its super PAC, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. The group hasn’t raised money from anyone else.
“Anti-labor folks might say that these unions are extorting money from their dues-paying members to use on politics, whether those members like it or not,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, which advocates for stricter campaign finance rules.
RoseAnn DeMoro, the union’s executive director, said the super PAC has helped other candidates in previous elections and is assisting Sanders’ bid because “we’ve never seen a better messenger” for causes important to the union’s members, citing as an example his plan to expand Medicare.
“We are hoping to do as much as we can for him,” she said. “The nurses are extremely happy with what we’ve done with their money. He’s a vehicle for our voice. We laugh quietly among ourselves and say, ‘Bernie stole our issues.'”
The nurses’ early endorsement was seen as a political victory for Sanders, who filmed a 5-minute video thanking the group’s 185,000 members for their support. Nearly three months later, Sanders and his aides defended the group as “good” big money, drawing a contrast with the wealthy corporate donors he frequently vilifies on the campaign trail.
“They are nurses and they are fighting for the health care of their people,” Sanders said in an interview last week on CNN. “They are doing what they think is appropriate. I do not have a super PAC.”
Sanders has sought to distinguish himself from Clinton on the issue of big money.
While both say they’d like to limit money in politics by rolling back the Citizens United court ruling, Clinton deployed close aides to a super PAC that aims to at least triple the $80 million it raised to support President Barack Obama’s re-election. That group, Priorities USA, already has a half-dozen $1 million contributors.
Sanders has not authorized any similar effort. In fact, in June, Sanders’ campaign attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to a strategist who set up a “pro-Sanders” super PAC going by several names, including Bet on Bernie and Americans Socially United.
Cary Lee Peterson, the man who set up the group, has credit and legal problems in several states, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. A campaign finance report the group filed seven weeks late showed it was $50,000 in debt as of the end of June. The group is continuing to solicit money online.
On the other side of the aisle, Trump accuses his opponents of being controlled by the super PACs backing their bids – even calling some “puppets” of their donors.
But super PACs can’t seem to quit Trump. At one point his campaign identified nine that appeared to be raising money in the name of helping him. One, called Patriots for Trump, purchased Iowa and New Hampshire voter contact information as recently as late October, FEC records show.
Trump himself attended a several events for a group called Make America Great Again – his slogan. In October, The Washington Post reported on ties between the leader of Make America Great Again and Trump’s own aides.
Soon after, Trump asked the group to shut down, and they appeared to do so. At the same time, his campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to other supposedly pro-Trump super PACs, and he ramped up his anti-super-PAC rhetoric.
Many seem to have stopped raising money. One group, called Let’s Trump Politics, remains operational – at least online. It formed in late September, according to the FEC, and hasn’t yet had to file any fundraising information.
The group’s website includes a headline about how “Republicans support political outsiders” — and a disclaimer that its mission is “in no way a direct relation to Donald Trump or his 2016 presidential campaign.”
Would you like to spend quality time with George Clooney as he showers you with compliments?
How about walk a red carpet with Meryl Streep or visit the set of “Game of Thrones”?
They are all possible: Bono is a launching an all-star campaign featuring “once-in-a-lifetime experiences” that can be won after donating at least $10 to his organization (RED), which raises funds to fight AIDS. The campaign kicked off on World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.
And Bono isn’t just the face for the movement: The U2 frontman will go on a bike ride with one donor — a year after he was seriously injured in a bike accident in New York’s Central Park that forced him into surgery.
“I’m not sure that was as funny to my band as it was to me,” Bono said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I think we’re going to have fun and yeah, we’ll go visit the scene of the crime.”
Jimmy Kimmel is dedicating his Dec. 1 late-night show to the campaign. He and Olivia Wilde will host (SHOPATHON), a tongue-in-check play off of home shopping, and the special episode will feature celebrity guests like Tom Brady, who is offering one donor a chance to learn how to pass a football, and Shaquille O’Neal, who will take a photo with a winner for his or her 2016 holiday card.
And Kimmel is offering himself up, too: He is willing to give someone’s kid “the talk.”
“There’s no age limit — if you have a 45-year-old kid, I’ll explain it to him, too, as long as the parents are OK with it. I’m happy to do the job,” said Kimmel, who appears in a promo video for the campaign with Scarlett Johansson and Barry Manilow.
Other “experiences” that can be earned after donating on Omaze.com/RED include:
• a contour makeover with Kim Kardashian;
• a portrait painting by James Franco;
• or attending a University of Texas at Austin football game with alum Matthew McConaughey.
Entries close on Jan. 21, 2016.
“Even though red is the color of emergency, there’s a sort of optimism about the whole campaign and a kind of defiant humor. We have always had that, but the (SHOPATHON) will really take it to another new level,” Bono said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match every dollar raised up to $20 million. R&B singer The Weeknd is offering fans a chance to hang backstage at a concert; there is a one-day “wellness break” with Snoop Dogg in Colorado; and Ryan Seacrest will let someone announce the No. 1 song on his radio show.
“When you see how much work Bono does personally to fight AIDS, it’s almost embarrassing, it’s the least we can do or anyone can do to help,” Kimmel said.
“Also, it’s Christmas season, you have to figure out what to buy. It’s almost like my Oprah’s favorite things list,” he added.
Bono won’t appear on the special episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” which airs on ABC and tapes in Hollywood. Instead, he will be in New York celebrating the 10-year anniversary of (RED) at Carnegie Hall with Vice President Joe Biden, the Edge, Stephen Colbert, Miley Cyrus, Trevor Noah and others.
“It’s a big day, World AID Days. It’s crucial this year. This is the most crucial year,” Bono said. “We can feel people going, ‘Oh yeah, that AIDS thing is done now,’ and we’re like, ‘No! It’s not!””
On the Web
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has sent out a fundraising plea to backers asking for their help as he faces an estimated $1 million debt from his failed presidential campaign.
Walker says in the email he “incurred a campaign debt” before seeking donations as low as $10 to “end this campaign in the black.”
Walker says in the email he is disappointed the presidential campaign “didn’t turn out the way we wanted,” but says “there are always new ways to serve others and plenty of conservative reforms to enact in Wisconsin.”
One Wisconsin Now director Scot Ross said Friday that instead of “shaking down donors” to pay off campaign debt, Walker should be focusing on Wisconsin’s economic problems.
Walker quit the presidential race on Sept. 21.
An art installation opening in New York City draws attention to a federal ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
“Blood Mirror” by Jordan Eagles uses blood donated by nine gay and bisexual men. It’s encased in resin.
It’ll be shown at Trinity Church on Wall Street from through Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day.
Eagles says he wanted to create the 7-foot-tall interactive sculpture to show the blood could have been used to save lives.
The Food and Drug Administration instituted a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. This year, it proposed an updated policy allowing donations from gay men if they remained celibate for a year.
“Blood Mirror” was previously on view at the American University Museum in Washington, D.C.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison fundraising drive that began last fall with a $100 million pledge has generated a quarter of a billion dollars, university officials announced Tuesday.
Alumni John and Tashia Morgridge pledged last November to match up to $100 million in donations — the largest gift from individual donors in school history — to help establish endowed professorships and chairmanships. UW officials said they anticipated it would take two to three years to fulfill the match, but in seven months 1,000 donors responded with $125 million. The Morgridges have agreed to increase their match by $25 million, generating $250 million.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement the gift “is an investment in Wisconsin students for generations to come.”
The donation comes as the state’s flagship university is grappling with deep budget cuts. Republican lawmakers who crafted the state budget slashed $250 million from the UW System over the next two years; UW-Madison lost $53 million in state aid this fiscal year. But Blank said the gift money won’t be used to fill that hole.
As per the donors’ wishes, the university plans to invest the money and use about $11.25 million in dividends annually to expand the number of endowed professorships and chairmanships from 142 to 300. The funding will cover part of those positions’ salaries and support their research. Blank said state aid and tuition dollars are typically devoted to academic programs, not research or named faculty chairmanships.
Endowed positions are considered an honor in academia. Karl Scholz, dean of UW-Madison’s College of Letters and Sciences, said the gift money will help attract and retain star faculty.
“Why is this so important? It’s trite to say, but universities are all about people,” Scholz said. “We have to retain leading experts in their fields. Higher education is incredibly competitive. Having these resources are just critical for our future. The Morgridge gift is absolutely transformative.”
The Morgridges are both 1955 graduates of UW-Madison. The Wauwatosa couple has made a number of contributions to their alma mater over the years, including several gifts totaling $100 million to establish the Morgridge Institute for Research and $32 million to renovate the School of Education building.
The announcement comes less than a week after UW-Madison said another alumni couple, Tom and Karen Falk, will give $10 million to the university to fund two scholarships and two endowed faculty chairs in the education and business schools.
Late last month American Family Insurance announced it plans to double its spending on advertising on donations at UW-Madison, pledging $4 million annually over the next decade. About $25 million will go toward sponsorships and Badger athletics; the remaining $15 million will go toward academics.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin on Aug. 11 notified Madison officials that a recent appeals court case makes clear that the city’s anti-panhandling ordinance is unconstitutional.
Three years ago, Madison banned people from even peacefully soliciting donations in most of downtown.
“Back in 2012, we wrote to the city of Madison and told them that the ordinance appeared to be unconstitutional,” said Karyn Rotker, senior staff attorney of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “And last week’s case from the federal court of appeals in Chicago — invalidating an almost identical law from Springfield, Illinois — shows we were right.”
On Aug. 7, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that by prohibiting people from asking for donations, the Springfield ordinance unconstitutionally discriminated based on the content of a speaker’s words, in violation of the First Amendment.
“Not only must Madison repeal its anti-panhandling ordinance, but it also needs to stop trying to criminalize homelessness,” Rotker said in a news release. “Instead, the city should move forward with positive steps to resolve the problem, such as establishing a day shelter and vigorously pursuing the Zero:2016 plan to end veterans homelessness this year and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrects money raised to U.S. dollars
A pair of U.S. philanthropists with a passion for wild cats pledged Friday to match new donations to Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit — the researchers who were tracking the movements of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.
Tom Kaplan, a natural resource investor whose net worth was put by Forbes magazine at $1 billion, and his wife, Daphne, will match donations made after 3 p.m. London time Friday up to a total value of $100,000. The Kaplans hope to help the Oxford researchers raise half a million pounds to further their work.
More than the equivalent of half a million in U.S. dollars has already been raised from all over the world — $150,000 of it in the 24 hours after Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for funding to assist WildCRU’s conservation efforts.
David McDonald, the director and founder of WildCRU, thanked Kimmel with a message on the organization’s website that said: “Jimmy Kimmel implored his millions of listeners in the USA to make donations to support our work on lions, and conservation more widely. We are so grateful for this and for the up-welling of support for our work worldwide.”
Kaplan said he was spurred into action to maintain the conservation momentum that Cecil’s death sparked.
“We have to seize this moment where we can all make a difference,” Tom Kaplan said in a statement, adding that if the “death of Cecil can lead to the saving of many more lions, then some good can come from tragedy.”
The pledge comes hours after Zimbabwe started extradition proceedings for the American dentist who paid two locals $50,000 to help him lure the lion out of a national park under cover of night and shot him with a crossbow. The wounded lion roamed for 40 hours in pain before the three men found, shot, skinned and decapitated the beloved animal.
Walter Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA,” Oppah Muchinguri, the African nation’s environment minister, told CNN.
But the Bloomington, Minnesota, dentist apparently has gone in to hiding. He briefly hired a public relations agency, but the firm quickly dropped him as a client. His business and suburban Minneapolis McMansion have been shuttered and all of his social media profiles have been erased.
A representative of Palmer’s contacted the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement late yesterday, but Palmer has yet to surface.
Cecil was not the first large mammal doomed to an illegal death by “trophy hunter” Palmer. The Bloomington, Minnesota, resident was convicted of poaching a black bear he killed in Wisconsin several years ago.
Records also show that Palmer had other impulse-control issues. His dental practice’s insurance company paid $127,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by a former receptionist there.
Palmer, who donated $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, was also ordered to take management and ethics classes.
The slaughter of Cecil, a protected and internationally beloved resident of Hwange National Park, has touched off international outrage and sparked a worldwide conversation as to how to best safeguard the dwindling number of big cats. It has also harmed the local economy. Zimbabwe officials estimated that Cecil brought the area about $100,000 in tourism.
Oxford’s WildCRU, one of the world’s top university research groups, tracks the movements of hundreds of lions and runs an anti-poaching team. It also works with local farmers to help them live alongside the lions. It had followed Cecil’s movements in minute detail since 2008.
To make a donation to WildCRU from North America, click here.
An animal-rights group has sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop a policy it says allows trophy hunters, circus acts and others dealing with threatened species to skirt the Endangered Species Act by making token donations to conservation groups.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria by Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alleges that the wildlife service is sanctioning a massive loophole in the Endangered Species Act. The law allows exceptions in the import or export of endangered species when granting a permit aids the species’ survival. PETA says the agency is granting exceptions for applicants making donations as small as $500 to conservation groups.
A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said the agency can’t comment on active litigation.
An auction earlier this year of a permit to hunt an endangered black rhino in Namibia is an example of how the policy has run amok, PETA says. Hunter Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 last year to win an auction conducted by the Dallas Safari Club to hunt and kill a rare black rhino in Namibia. The Fish and Wildlife Service granted Knowlton an exception allowing him to import the carcass back to the U.S. as a trophy, under the theory that the money paid to Namibia will help that country carry out its preservation efforts.
More often, though, said PETA Foundation Counsel Delcianna Winders, circus acts take advantage of the loophole to be able to move tigers and elephants across U.S. borders. Winders said PETA does not know exactly how many times applicants have obtained permits by making donations.
It cites another example of a circus being granted a permit to take two endangered elephants from the U.S. into Canada for performances there by making a $500 donation to a group called Asian Elephant Support.
Winders said the exception in the law is designed to allow importation or export for circumstances like releasing an animal into the wild or supporting a breeding program. Instead, she said the donations amount to a pay-to-play scheme that perverts the intention of the law.
“It’s almost like auctioning off a child on the black market and saying it’s OK because the some of the money is going to an anti-trafficking group,” Winders said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service had previously said it permitted the importation of the rhino trophies because Namibia has a comprehensive strategy in place to protect black rhinos, and the money paid to that country will support those efforts.
The safari club’s executive director was traveling and unavailable for comment Friday. The club said the money helped conservation efforts and that targeted hunting of a small number of older male rhinos can actually help the overall herd.
According to the lawsuit, the Wildlife Service used to be even looser in granting exceptions. Up until 2011, PETA says the Wildlife Service would grant import and export exceptions on the theory that merely exhibiting the animals in question, like in a circus, would increase awareness about the need for conservation. The wildlife service then began telling applicants that raising awareness by exhibiting animals was insufficient, and began implementing the policy requiring donations to conservation groups, according to the suit.