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I wanted to know if Wisconsin citizens were behind fast-tracked legislation on a wide range of controversial issues. Wisconsin's strong open records law provided me the means to find out.

I built this website to house the data collected via open records requests (ORRs) sent to Republican state legislators and as time passed, to Democratic legislators as well. But, as the majority party, Republicans have the power to pass whatever legislation they choose. This power begs the questions: Why do they choose legislation, and for whom do they pass it?

The data collected to date allows you to judge for yourself whether Wisconsin citizens were demanding this legislation or any of the other bills that we've targeted.

What Happened?

Wisconsin has always been praised for its clean and transparent government. That's why the so-called "caucus scandal" in 2001-02 came as such a shock.

In response, the WI legislature created the independent Government Accountability Board (GAB) to monitor campaigns and elections and to ensure compliance with existing law.

In 2015, after the GAB participated in an investigation of events surrounding the 2012 recall of Gov. Scott Walker, Republican legislators promulgated a bill (SB294/AB388) to disband the independent Board and replace it with a partisan model.

On Oct. 13, 2015, Senate and Assembly committees held a joint public hearing on three proposed bills: disbanding the GAB, rewriting campaign finance laws (SB292/AB387) , and instituting online voter registration while eliminating Special Registration Deputies (SB295/AB389).  The campaign finance bill had only two sponsors: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The SRD elimination bill was passed in February, 2016. 

8 days later, on Oct. 21, the Assembly passed both the GAB and campaign finance bills. They were sent to the Senate. On that same day, the Senate passed a bill (SB43/AB68) exempting only politicians from the secret John Doe investigation process that had uncovered felonies by his closest staff when Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive.  

On Nov. 9, the Senate sent the amended GAB and campaign finance bills back to the Assembly. The Assembly passed both bills on Nov. 16.

I wanted to know whether constituent demands were driving this game-changing, rapid-fire legislation. To that end, I submitted Open Records Requests (ORRs) to all 19 Republican state senators in October and November, 2015. Then, with the help of a dozen volunteers, I began to send similar ORRs to all 63 Republican representatives. That process is ongoing. While this set of ORRs asked only about dismantling the GAB, citizens often voiced their opinions on other issues of concern. Those opinions are also recorded.

In the 2nd week of November, 2015, Marquette University Law School polled registered voters on a variety of subjects. Click here to view a spreadsheet of the poll results.  You'll note that the vast majority of voters believe that our government is in the hands of big interests. They also believe that the government doesn't care about or act on behalf of working people.

I think that the results of the ORRs confirm these beliefs.