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Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Candidates and interest groups spent nearly $81 million, combined, in the failed effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
The $80.9 million spent on the recall was just for the governor's race. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe says that if you add in what was spent on state Senate recalls this summer and last, the total jumps to nearly $138 million. “We saw spending and fundraising records galore fall in these state Senate recall elections in 2011, and of course fundraising and spending records again set in the governor's race, too. So money screamed in these elections.”
The leading spender was Walker himself, who poured roughly $36 million dollars into his recall victory. The next biggest spender on the Republican side was the Republican Governor's Association, which spent $9.5 million.
On the Democratic side, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund led the way, spending $5.3 million attacking Walker....

Gov. Scott Walker used a national TV appearance Wednesday to critique Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, saying Romney was being too cautious.
Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Walker said he hoped to see a big splash from Romney after the Republican National Convention. Walker praised Romney's record of handling Boston's “Big Dig” construction project as governor of Massachusetts, as well as managing the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. But Walker said voters weren't hearing about that from Romney: “I think there's a lot of caution. I think the mistake that they've made is this feeling that it can just be a referendum on the president.”
Walker said the election would focus on President Obama and the economy. But the governor said people don't just want to vote somebody out: They want to vote somebody in. He said the Romney campaign needed to make the case that he could be that candidate. “When he was with Paul Ryan and...

The Democratic primary for Wisconsin's 2nd congressional seat turned contentious Tuesday as State Rep. Kelda Roys unveiled a TV ad sharply critical of votes taken by fellow lawmaker Mark Pocan. Some Democrats thought it was a step too far.
Roys' ad zeroes in on votes Pocan made in favor of two bills backed by Gov. Scott Walker, shortly before the governor unveiled his collective bargaining bill. “At the beginning when it counted, he could have stood up to Walker. But instead, Mark Pocan caved in.”
One of the bills expanded a pool of money the state can use to lure companies to Wisconsin. The other gave a tax break to corporations in other states that relocate here. Roys stood by the ad when asked about it Tuesday at a Wispolitics forum: “These bills are corporate tax giveaways. They are going to increase Wisconsin's structural deficit. And they are not going to foster job creation.”
Pocan called the...

Janesville state Sen. Tim Cullen says he's leaving the Senate Democratic Caucus and may become an Independent after party leadership denied him a chairmanship for any committees.
When Democrats returned to the Senate majority last week, Cullen was the only Democratic Senator not to be assigned a committee chairmanship by Senate Democratic Majority Leader Mark Miller. Cullen says Miller initially wanted to give him a chairmanship for a committee on Small Business and Tourism. Cullen wanted neither, saying that historically, those committees are insignificant in the Senate. To hear Cullen tell it, he pushed back and Miller told him that he would either take those committees or take no committees... which is what happened.
Cullen said he was baffled by Miller's decision, given the slim majority Democrats control in the Senate and the need to keep everyone happy. “It's so blatantly aimed at me. It's so blatantly intended to send me a message that I'm not welcome and...

Getting federal disaster help from last month’s flooding in the Duluth-Superior region has taken on political tones in that area’s congressional race.
Last week, FEMA and Wisconsin Emergency Management officials toured damaged areas in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas Counties. It’s not clear if the damage will reach the $7.7 million relief threshold for uninsured repairs needed to public facilities. Another quirk in the process is that those counties can’t join harder-hit Minnesota in tallying total damage. Same storm, but different state.
Former Democratic state Sen. Pat Kreitlow says that doesn’t make sense. “It shouldn’t happen in any case where a segment of a state is punished because the bulk of the damage was done across a state line. We are one country, where federal disaster assistance should help an entire area, and it would be a real failing on the part of Congressman Duffy if he were not able to help make sure that part of his district...

Newly filed reports with the IRS show huge donations were flowing to groups active in the recall in the run-up to the June 5th election.
Just as Texas homebuilder Bob Perry gave $500,000 directly to Gov. Scott Walker's campaign, he also gave another $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association. The RGA was one of the big players in the recall, running TV ads attacking Democrat Tom Barrett. It's active in other states, too, but overall the group raised $16 million between the beginning of April and the end of June.
George Rapier of the Texas-based Wellmed Medical Management also gave a $500,000 to the group. Koch Industries gave $50,000 on top of the $1 million David Koch gave the RGA earlier this year. And Exxon-Mobil gave $400,000.
The Republican Governors Association got its share of Wisconsin donations, too. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce gave the group nearly $440,000. Pewaukee-based American Transmission Company gave $100,000. And the...

Only one of the four Republicans running for U.S. Senate plans to release his income tax forms before the August 14th primary.
As national Democrats continue to press Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release his tax forms, Wisconsin Democrats, including state Party Chair Mike Tate, are making a similar push in the U.S. Senate race: “We have candidates here who are very wealthy, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I think they should be transparent about where they got their money and where their money is invested and if they're going to potentially benefit from the policies that they're advocating.”
While candidates are not required to release their tax returns, they are required to file financial disclosure statements. Those showed that three of the Republicans running for Senate are millionaires—hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Hovde, whose personal wealth is at least $50 million, said Wednesday that...

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Fitzgerald in the first of four interviews with the Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Republican Senate candidate Eric Hovde is questioning the ability of fellow contender Tommy Thompson to understand some complex financial problems facing the U.S.
All four Republican Senate candidates spoke to a conservative group in Milwaukee, but the news media were not allowed to electronically record the remarks. So, the Senate hopefuls also met briefly with reporters. Polls show Madison business executive Eric Hovde and former Gov. Tommy Thompson leading the GOP primary. Hovde says he has a better grasp of complex financial markets than does Thompson.
State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald continues to tout his experience working on balancing the state budget, but says he also has a private sector financial background.
Millionaire homebuilder Mark Neumann says from his time as a Congressman in the 1990s, he saw up close that the federal government wastes money, and Neumann says he'll continue to highlight that waste.
Neumann says Thompson is not the right person to turn the...

Democrats officially took control of the state Senate Tuesday, returning Wisconsin to divided government after a year-and-a-half of Republican control.
Senators returned to Madison to swear in Democrat John Lehman of Racine and Republican Jerry Petrowski of Marathon. Both won their summer recall elections, with Lehman defeating Republican incumbent Van Waangaard to give Democrats a 17-16 majority.
New Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller used his speech on the Senate floor to call for new jobs bills. Among them, a grant program for worker training and a new focus on accelerating public works projects like road and bridge repair. Miller said the full legislature should come back now and not wait until January, “We are the eighth worst in the country in terms of job creation. People who are out of work can't wait another six months for us to do our jobs. So I really hope that both the governor and Assembly Republicans will recognize that there's...

Morning Edition

A new report finds that millions of potential voters in states that require photo ID at the polls live more than 10 miles from the office that issue IDs. Nearly half a million of these people don't have access to a car or other vehicle. With the new requirements, "it certainly looks and feels like a poll tax," says one voter advocate.

A national Tea Party group is running a TV ad in Wisconsin attacking the two frontrunners in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.
The Club for Growth ad makes no mention of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. Instead, it goes after former Gov. Tommy Thompson and hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, “On taxes, Hovde's like Thompson, only worse. Club for Growth Action is responsible for the content of this advertising.”
The club has endorsed former Congressman Mark Neumann in the race for Senate. Two polls released this week showed Neumann significantly behind both Thompson and Hovde.
Carrol University Political Science Professor Lily Goren says it's not unusual for a conservative group like the club to get involved in a GOP primary. “This has been going on, to some degree recently, across the country on the Republican side with regards to the Tea Party.”
Democrats have been quick to highlight the disunity among Republicans in the Senate...

A new Marquette University poll shows former Governor Tommy Thompson leading hedge fund manager Eric Hovde by 12-percentage points in the Republican primary for US Senate. It comes on the heels of another poll showing Hovde ahead.
Thompson led Hovde 35-percent to 23-percent in the latest Marquette poll of people likely to vote in the August Republican primary. Former Congressman Mark Neumann was the top choice of 10-percent of those polled while six-percent picked Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
Marquette pollster Charles Franklin says Thompson's numbers were largely unchanged from the same survey taken in June while Hovde made significant gains. "I think on Hovde's side, we're seeing the cumulative effect of a tremendous amount of TV advertising, and advertising that's largely gone unresponded to by other candidates," he says.
Another survey released by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Hovde up by two points over Thompson. Franklin said it wasn't clear why the two polls differed.

One of the Democrats running for the seat being vacated by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin says he's in it for the long-run and hopes to some day use seniority in congress to benefit Wisconsin.
Assemblyman Mark Pocan told a Wispolitics forum in Madison Tuesday that if he's elected, he'll do his best to work his way up the ladder in Congress, understanding that the longer you're there, the more you can accomplish for your state. "I'm in this for the long-run," he says. "I mean I really, I know when you get to Congress seniority does matter a lot. You know I've been here for 14 years because I got a lot done in those years. I plan on doing that in Congress."
Pocan says it's a lesson he learned in the state legislature, where he was what he calls a "bomb thrower" when he was first elected, but learned to work with other legislators as his career progressed.

A new poll shows a near dead-heat in the Republican primary for U-S Senate between hedge fund manager Eric Hovde and former Governor Tommy Thompson. The survey's release comes as a third Republican, former Congressman Mark Neumann, begins to ramp up his campaign.
The automated survey taken Thursday thru Sunday by the firm Public Policy Polling showed Hovde with a 31-to-29-percent edge over Thompson in a four-way Republican primary. Neumann was the choice of 15-percent of those polled while Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald was the first pick for nine-percent of respondents.
Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen says it shows Hovde has the momentum in this race, but he thinks either Hovde or Thompson could prevail in August. "It shows you that voters' preferences aren't really that firm," he says. "I think that this is probably sort of a soft lead for Hovde."
Jensen said the Republican primary was looking more like a two-person race, adding that...

Governor Scott Walker raised three-quarters of his campaign funds from out-of-state donations in the closing days of the recall.
Walker raised seven-million dollars from May 22nd to the end of June with 74-percent of the money coming from people who don't live in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe says it continued a trend for the Governor who relied heavily on out-of-state donors to fight off this recall. "Overall if you look back to January 2011 and you look at all the money he raised, and he raised over 37-million dollars to ward off this recall election, overall 64-percent of his money came from outside of Wisconsin," he says. "So he was very heavily reliant on outside donors but that reliance increased the closer he got to the election."
McCabe said Walker's ability to accept donations of any size was a factor in his fundraising, but so was the way the race was seen as a national...

During a campaign tour of the state this week, Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin was urged to be more assertive against her Republican opponents.
A backyard party for Baldwin in suburban Milwaukee was by and large a sedate and friendly event for the Madison Representative. But during a question and answer session, three supporters urged the often soft-spoken and typically pleasant candidate to get ready to hit back hard against unfair Republican and third party attacks. One man put his concern this way: “I think that's one [way] of saying the word ‘lie.’”
Baldwin's replied that over the next few weeks, she's working on introducing herself around the state and building name recognition. She promises a spine of steel in responding to attacks, but mainly wants to wait until after the Republican Senate primary next month.
Prior to the primary, Baldwin says the Republicans will be brawling with each other, and she says she's inclined to let...