- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 23

Voter ID is the law; live with it

Let’s be clear about something: Voter ID is a mistake. Plain and simple.

But let’s be clear about something else: It is now the law in Wisconsin, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to the state’s version of voter ID. It’s a puzzling decision given the high court’s decision last fall to delay implementation with the November elections pending. The spring election is only two weeks away and this decision could have resulted in significant confusion and some votes not being counted.

To his credit, Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel immediately moved to ease any confusion with the spring election, saying IDs would not be required for the April 7 ballot.

“Absentee ballots are already in the hands of voters, therefore, the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election. The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections - this decision is final,” Schimel said in a statement.

And voters will have to live with it.

What matters now is that eligible voters do their duty, get the proper identification and go to the polls. Groups on both sides of this fight should now turn their attention to helping voters do just that. No one should fail to vote because of this law.

Among the IDs that can be used for voting are Wisconsin driver’s licenses; state ID cards issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles; military ID cards issued by a U.S. uniformed service; and U.S. passports. Voters can get a free ID card from the DMV.

If a voter isn’t registered, he or she can do that in clerk’s offices, by mail, with special registration deputies or at the polls. To register, most voters must provide proof of residence, which they can do with an ID card, driver’s license, a utility bill, property tax record, a lease or other document.

The state Government Accountability Board, which monitors elections, has an excellent website that explains everything a voter needs to know about the voter ID law and how to get the right ID.

Voter ID here and elsewhere remains a law in search of a problem. There has been precious little voter fraud in Wisconsin or anywhere else - and even less of the kind that requiring a photo ID of voters would prevent. It will have no significant impact on the integrity of elections but could hurt turnout by certain voters, among them, the poor, the elderly and students.

Nevertheless, it’s the law now, and groups on both sides of this fight should do all they can to make sure that those without IDs get them. We encourage everyone to get an appropriate ID and get to the polls. That’s the best response to this law that any voter can make.


Wisconsin State Journal, March 25

Shine light on dark money of political campaigns

A decade ago, when former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, was being prosecuted for secretly funneling money around campaign finance laws, some of the amounts were $50,000 and $75,000.

“It just stunned me,” former Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann recalled recently.

McCann successfully prosecuted Chvala for misconduct in office in 2002, securing felonies and jail time. Other legislative leaders from both parties were punished, too, for turning small armies of public employees (known as the caucuses) into private campaign soldiers for unfair advantage in elections.

But the financial stakes in Wisconsin politics today are much higher, McCann stressed during testimony March 11 at the state Capitol.

A mining company, he noted, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group helping Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans win recall elections in 2011 and 2012. The GOP adopted a mining bill the company, Gogebic Taconite, wanted.

Prosecutors who investigated found “the appearance of corruption” and coordination between the politicians and the group, Wisconsin Club for Growth. But they couldn’t convince a judge to advance the case, which is now before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Like McCann a decade ago, today’s prosecutors used a secret John Doe investigation to compel testimony from witnesses and secure documents - a process many Republicans want to restrict with Senate Bill 43.

The $700,000 donation “makes the offenses in the caucus scandal look like peanuts,” McCann testified. “We don’t need less regulation, we need more regulation. We don’t need closing down the John Doe to investigate governmental wrongdoing, we need more aggressive DAs using the John Doe.”

Now it turns out even the $700,000 donation was small. Yahoo News reported Monday that Wisconsin Club for Growth also got $1.5 million from John Menard, Jr., Wisconsin’s wealthiest person, while his Menard’s home improvement company benefited from state tax credits. A Walker aide denies any favoritism.

GOP leaders suggest John Doe probes have been witch hunts by Democratic DAs. But McCann prosecuted a fellow Democrat. And in the most recent John Doe targeting conservatives, two of the DAs who signed off were Republicans.

McCann warned that passing SB 43 would essentially exempt political crimes from John Doe probes.

“This is a bill to protect legislators,” he warned.

“If people knew what this bill was removing, there would be a public hue and cry,” he added.

Limiting big money in politics may be impossible because of court rulings, but those donations should at least be disclosed to voters before elections. The mining and Menard’s money came to light only by mistake or through unofficial channels.

Lawmakers should adopt strong disclosure rules and stop the rush to pass SB 43.


Kenosha News, March 26

A step toward healthier food

Once social scientists and others worried that the world’s population would outstrip the ability to produce food, which would have meant there would be natural cap on the number of people the planet could support.

Something quite different happened. Both population and food production have soared. There is plenty of food produced by agriculture to feed everyone. It just doesn’t get to all the hungry people - estimated at 870 million - for a variety of reasons, some technical and some political or economic.

Food production soared because of the development of new agricultural techniques, fertilizers, pesticides and even medicines for animals grown for food.

While the volume of food produced is commendable, there are problems with some of the techniques. High on that list is the use of antibiotics in food for meat animals. The antibiotics enable farms to crowd animals together more without getting sick. Sometimes the antibiotics help the animals grow faster.

That’s good for producing high volumes of meat, but there is a serious consequence. The widespread use of antibiotics in farming makes the antibiotics less effective for humans to use treating diseases.

According to the San Jose Mercury, nearly 80 percent on the antibiotics sold in the United States are given to farm animals - healthy animals - as preventive medicine or to promote growth. This practice is considered to be a factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, which killed 23,000 people in 2014. The European Union banned using antibiotics in healthy animals 10 years ago, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still permits the practice.

However, a growing number of consumers and the restaurants and retailers that serve them, are concerned enough to demand antibiotic-free meats. Wendy’s, Chipoltle, Panera and Chick-fil-A don’t serve chickens treated with antibiotics, and McDonald’s announced that it will phase out chickens treated with antibiotics in the next two years.

That’s a big step, since McDonald’s reportedly buys 3 percent of all the chicken in the country. We hope more restaurants and retailers follow the trend.

It won’t do anything for people in undeveloped nations that don’t have enough food, but the volume-at-any-cost food production style of the developed world hasn’t done much for them anyway.

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