A Chronicle of the Assault on Democracy in Wisconsin
Over the last five years, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald led an unprecedented and systematic assault on democracy in Wisconsin.
The brazen scope of this assault is sometimes hard to see in the fog of fighting one issue at a time.
But when you look at the record in its entirety, the picture that emerges is clear: Not since the days of the Robber Barons in the 19th century has one party in Wisconsin done so much damage to the common good while serving special private interests.
This report cites 100 items approved by the GOP-controlled legislature and Walker since they won control of the state in the 2010 fall elections. The list is not exhaustive, and when viewed singly, some of these laws might be dismissed as being insignificant. But taken collectively, the items in this report have changed the face of consumer protection, the environment, disability rights, immigrant rights, justice and the courts, labor, local control, public education, safety net programs, taxes, voting and elections, weapons and women’s health. Nearly a third of the items in this report were tucked into the three state budgets – often surreptitiously – that were fashioned by Walker and the GOP legislature. State budget bills are favored mules for special interest pet projects because they are the only bills that the legislature must pass in each two-year session, and legislative votes are not taken on every discrete item.
Collectively, these 100 items drew support from more than a dozen powerful special interests, including business, manufacturing, construction, real estate, transportation, agriculture, and banking, which contributed $14.4 million to the legislature, including $12.2 million to majority Republican lawmakers, and $32.2 million to Walker between January 2011 and December 2015.
In addition to direct contributions to Walker and current legislators, many of these wealthy special interests – led by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and American Federation for Children – secretly raised and spent tens of millions of dollars since 2010 to elect the policymakers who delivered these laws.
Each of the following acts is linked to more information about the item’s legislative history and special interest support on the Wisconsin Legislature’s website. When you go to the link, you can view a summary of the bill by clicking on “Bill Text.” You can see who lobbied to support or oppose it by clicking on “Government Accountability Board information.” And you can see the legislative authors and sponsors, amendments, and votes listed under “History.”