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By: the Gazette Xtra

The U.S. Department of Commerce decision last week to reduce tariffs on Canadian newsprint—from as high as 32 percent to 20 percent—is welcome but doesn’t go far enough. We’re holding out hope the U.S. International Trade Commission will completely overturn the tariffs when it meets Wednesday, Aug. 29.

Regardless of what happens, we’re heartened to see lawmakers from both parties making a last-minute push against the tariffs. We applaud, in particular, five members of the Wisconsin delegation—Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeluah; Ron Kind, D-La Crosse; Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls; and Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay—for voicing their opposition in a July 31 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.

The letter describes the “permanent damage being done to Wisconsin’s newspaper industry,” noting newspaper industry costs have risen by about 30 percent.

“Notwithstanding the many other tariff decisions this administration has made or threatened, this particular decision not only is adding insurmountable financial pressures on these owners and operators of our state’s small towns and weekly newspapers, but it’s leading many of them to rethink the viability of their entire operations,” the letter reads.

It’s disappointing the entire delegation didn’t sign the letter, though missing signatures don’t necessarily indicate a representative’s support for the tariffs. In a July 25 phone call with Ross and other commerce department representatives, House Speaker Paul Ryan “expressed his concerns about the negative impact” of the tariffs, according to a July 26 memo obtained by The Gazette.

While Congress hasn’t taken action to thwart tariffs, Ryan has at least spoken against them.

Rep. Mark Pocan, whose district extends into Rock County, also didn’t sign the letter, but a spokesman for Pocan’s office said the Democrat “opposes the administration’s newsprint tariffs and is concerned about the negative impacts ... on local newspapers, which are so important to communities throughout Wisconsin.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been noncommittal on the issue, sending to the International Trade Commission on July 17 a cryptic letter that seems to neither oppose nor support the tariff. A spokesperson for her office confirmed Baldwin “has not taken a position” on these tariffs.

In case Baldwin or any other legislator requires reminding about the importance of community journalism, newspapers are the watchdogs of government—the fourth estate. These tariffs undermine newspapers’ ability to gather and report the news. They act as a tax on not only readers but on democracy itself.

On June 17, our very own state representative, Robin Vos, was quoted in The Journal Times saying he is opposed to the Village of Mount Pleasant using eminent domain to take private property for purposes of giving it to Foxconn. The next day, Jonathan Delagrave, in a county listening session, agreed it would be wrong.

Still, Mount Pleasant continues to threaten to take homes using eminent domain so it can literally hand the property over to Foxconn for economic development.

Is the Mount Pleasant Village Board so arrogant that it will ignore the opinions of 380 members of Congress, our state representative and county executive and continue to blindly follow the advice of counsel which clearly violates the private property rights of its own residents, at the expense of all residents of Mount Pleasant, and to the benefit of Attorney Marcuvitz and his firm?

Kimberly Mahoney

Mount Pleasant

By: Andrew Forcier of the Independent Journal Review

A bill to put limits on the use of eminent domain, which has made its way through the House on three prior occasions, received renewed life this week. The Private Property Rights Protection Act received a unanimous vote in the House last week — a rare feat in such a politically polarized era.

However, in three prior instances, a nearly identical piece of legislation languished and died in the Senate. Will this year's version suffer the same fate, or will a Republican majority and a relative lack of fanfare give it the legs it needs to survive a vote?

The bill would prohibit states from receiving federal dollars after the taking of private property in the name of economic development, while also eliminating the ability of the federal government to do the same.

Elias Atienza@elias_atienza

“It’s nothing more than a way for one party to get property on the cheap from another party.”
-@Roger_Pilon on the Kelo decision. Read about the House's passage of the Private Property Rights Protection Act in my latest for the @DailyCaller http://dailycaller.com/2018/07/25/house-private-property-rights-jim-sensenbrenner/ 

House Passes Bill That Would Encourage States Not To Seize Private Property For ‘Economic Develop...

A rebuke to the 2005 Kelo decison

Ever since the controversial Kelo v. New London decision more than a decade ago, states have made inroads to limiting eminent domain abuses at the local level. The argument is that the government, in acting as arbiter of what is sufficient “public use,” makes victims of the less affluent and less politically connected.

It was the fourth time past the post for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R—Wis.) with the legislation, and his statement echoed the desire to protect the less powerful.

“The framers of the Constitution would be horrified by the paradigm created by Kelo: a government free to seize and transfer private property from individuals with fewer resources to private entities with more.”

The story of the original Kelo case involved the taking of a woman's house to pave the way for a Pfizer office park that was never built. The case was so compelling that this past year, it was made into a film called Little Pink House starring Catherine Keener.

Those associated with the dramatization were delighted to hear news of the PRPA's passage.

Little Pink House@LPHmovie

No eminent domain for private gain! House unanimously passes Susette Kelo-inspired bill! Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner http://ow.ly/Sjyx30l5rIZ 

House Passes Sensenbrenner Bill to Protect Private Property Rights

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689). The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court...

sensenbrenner.house.gov

The case was not an isolated one, as even today there are similar circumstances arising in sates like New York, where a community is pursuing eminent domain proceedings to seize a residential property.

The practice even figures in to how the Trump administration would acquire the land necessary to build the oft-mentioned wall along the United States' southern border.

Eugene Volokh writes for Reason that such a land grab for the border wall would do irreparable harm to those involved, saying that “many property owners get less than the 'fair market value' compensation required by Supreme Court precedent, and that this is particularly likely for those who are poor, legally unsophisticated, and lacking in political influence.”

Among our most basic tasks as Members of Congress is to cast votes on legislation before the House of Representatives. I take this duty very seriously because it is a way for my constituents in the 5th Congressional District to have a voice in Washington. In 2018, the House of Representatives voted 379 times, and I’m proud to report that I cast a vote each and every time. 

Sometimes Members might miss a vote because of family demands, travel snafus or illness. However, I have a perfect record this year. In fact, since 2010, I’ve compiled a 99.5 percent voting record.

My commitment to being present for votes and making myself accessible to my constituents is important for how I manage my priorities. During the 115th Congress, I’ve hosted 176 face-to-face town hall meetings. I’ve also received and responded to more than 100,000 different letters, emails, and phone calls. The feedback I get from my constituents helps with the difficult decisions I’m often faced with when I vote. This is how the system should work. I appreciate it when I hear from those whom I represent when they are sharing their opinions and concerns.

So far this year, we have tackled a variety of critical issues in the House – issues that impact our quality of life. For example, we have passed more than 50 bills that address topics such as the opioid epidemic;  funding for our military; and burdensome regulations on job creators and small businesses. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and I thank you for your input on these and many other important issues.

As the House is set to recess for August, I encourage you to keep the cards and letters coming! I am listening. You can reach my Washington Office at (202) 225-5101, or my Brookfield Office at (262) 784-1111. Or, send a message through my website, www.sensenbrenner.house.gov.

By: Ilya Somin of Reason

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which would withhold, for two years, federal "economic development" funds to any state and local governments that use eminent domain to take property for private "economic development." The PRPA is a response to the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the condemnation of homes for a private economic development project that eventually failed. The Kelo decision drew widespread public opposition across the political spectrum and resulted in numerous attemtps at legislative reform. The PRPA - co-sponsored by the unlikely coalition of very conservative Republican Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) and very liberal Democrat Maxine Waters (California) is one such effort.

However, celebration over its passage is premature. This is far from the first time that the PRPA has passed the House. Essentially the same law also got through the House in 2005, 2012, and 2014. Each time, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And each time it nonetheless ended up failing in the Senate without even coming up for a vote. I discuss this history in a bit more detail in Chapter 5 of The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, my book about the Kelo case and its aftermath. The same thing could easily happen this year, especially since the Senate has lots of other issues on its plate, and will soon be facing a midterm election, which is likely to take many members away from Washington to go on the campaign trail. Moreover, eminent domain reform is not getting as much public attention today as in the years soon after Kelo. The passage of the PRPA this year attracted considerably less media attention than the previous times it got through the House. That may make it easier for the Senate to bury it, should they be inclined to do so (as was the case in previous years).

Even if the PRPA does pass the Senate, there is a chance it could be vetoed by President Trump, who has a history of eminent domain abuse, and is a longstanding defender of the Kelo decision and economic development takings. But if the Senate majority is as lopsided as that in the House, his veto could well be overriden. In that scenario, Trump could well decide that a political fight over a veto is not worth the trouble.

When and if PRPA becomes law, it would probably have only a modest impact. As discussed in my book (pp. 160-61), it affects only a fairly narrow range of federal grants, and has some loopholes that clever jurisdictions could exploit. That said, a modest impact would still be an improvement over the status quo, and the bill would at least save some federal funds that would otherwise go to misbehaving state and local governments. The best should not be the enemy of the good. For that reason, I hope that this time Congress actually will enact the PRPA. But I am far from confident that will actually happen.

Whatever the fate of the PRPA, many valuable reform laws have passed at the state level since Kelo, and several state supreme courts have ruled that economic development takings are forbidden under their state constitutions. At the same time, much remains to be done to protect property rights in this field, since numerous states have either failed to enact any reform laws, or adopted cosmetic reforms that only pretend to address the problem.

I believe there is a good chance that the Supreme Court will either limit or overrule Kelo sometime in the short to medium term future. Despite Trump's support for the ruling, his first Supreme Court appointee - Neil Gorsuch - is a vehement critic of Kelo (a fact Trump may not have known at the time he decided to appoint him). We do not know whether Trump's latest appointee - Brett Kavanaugh - feels the same way. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace if confirmed, was a key swing voter in the Court's narrow 5-4 majority in the Kelo case.

When and if the Court does revisit Kelo, it should consider the strong case for overruling it, from the standpoint of both originalism and living constitutionalism. The decision also has serious flaws that cut across conventional methodological disagreements over constitutional theory.

But property rights advocates should not wait for the Supreme Court to solve this problem. Rather, they should continue to work to strengthen protection for property rights on both legislative and judicial fronts. One of the lessons of the Kelo experience (as well as previous previous efforts to strengthen protection for constitutional rights) is that legislative and litigation-based strategies for reform are often mutually reinforcing, rather than mutually exclusive.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I accidentally stated that the PRPA passed the House in 2007, as well as 2005, 2012, and 2014. In reality, it failed to do so that year. It passed out of committee, but did not come to a vote of the full House. In the initial version of the post, I accidentally misstated what I had written in the relevant part of my book. I apologize for the error, which has now been corrected.

By: Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner 

FBI official Peter Strzok testified Thursday that he can't recall using his work computer to soften the wording of a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified information.

Strzok conceded during a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees that metadata indicates his computer made the change, but said he can't remember doing it.

The June 2016 edit changed "grossly negligent," a term that carries legal liability under the Espionage Act, to "extremely careless."

The new wording was uttered by then-FBI Director James Comey in July 2016 when he recommended against charging Clinton with a crime for using a private server to handle classified information while secretary of state.

Strzok, removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation last year after discovery of pro-Clinton and anti-Donald Trump text messages with then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, said someone else recommended the change.

"My recollection, sir, is that somebody within our office of general counsel did, it was one of the attorneys, I don't remember which one," Strzok said. "It was a legal issue that one of the attorneys brought up."

After a meeting, the change was made on Strzok's computer.

"I don't recall specifically when it happened," he testified.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., noted that metadata indicated that Strzok's computer made the change.

"I am aware as well of that metadata," Strzok said. "My recollection is of working on the draft with a group of us in my office because it was the largest office and taking the inputs of probably five or ten different people."

Sensenbrenner asked Strzok to confirm that his computer made the change.

"Based on my subsequent review of that metadata, I believe that to be true," Strzok said.

Strzok said that only he had full access to the computer, but that "my secretary had access to elements of it."

Explaining the decision to soften the wording, he said, "my recollection was that attorneys within the FBI had raised the concern that the use of gross negligence triggered a very specific legal meaning ... particularly [in] one of the mishandling [classified information] statutes."

Sensenbrenner asked, "This change was Hillary's get out of jail free card, right?"

"She received no get out of jail free card, we pursued the facts," Strzok insisted.

"That rates four Pinocchios," Sensenbrenner told him.

Strzok refuted Sensenbrenner's conclusion. He said Comey "ultimately...made the decision to change that wording" following a "legal discussion of the use of that term."

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689).

The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the eminent domain power granted by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. In Kelo, the Court ruled that “economic development” can be justified as a “public use” under the Constitution’s Takings Clause.

To combat this expansion of power, H.R. 1689 would make any state or locality that uses the economic development justification for eminent domain ineligible from receiving federal economic development funds for two years. This creates a major incentive for governments to respect the private property rights of its citizens.

Additionally, the legislation bars the federal government from exercising eminent domain powers for the purposes of economic development.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This bipartisan legislation restores the individual private property rights guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment. The framers of the Constitution would be horrified by the paradigm created by Kelo:a government free to seize and transfer private property from individuals with fewer resources to private entities with more. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support of this bill and urge the Senate to immediately send it to the President’s desk.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner offered the follow remarks on the House floor:

 

“Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased that the House is considering H.R. 1689, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. My bill aims to restore the property rights of all Americans that the Supreme Court took away in 2005.

The Founders of our country recognized the importance of an individual’s right to personal property when they drafted the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In Kelo v. the City of New London, the Supreme Court decided that “economic development” could be a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the government could take private property from an owner, in this case Susette Kelo, to help a corporation or private developer, in this case Pfizer.

The now infamous Kelo decision created a massive backlash. As former Justice O’Connor stated, “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.  The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” Even in the 13 years since Kelo, polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose property being taken and transferred to another private owner, even if it is for the public economic good. 

The Private Property Rights Protection Act is needed to restore to all Americans the property rights the Supreme Court invalidated. Although several states have since passed legislation to limit their power to eminent domain, and a number of supreme courts have barred the practice under their state constitutions, these laws exist on a varying degree. H.R. 1689 would prohibit state and local governments that receive federal economic development funds from using economic development as a justification for taking property from one person and giving to another private entity. Any state or local government that violates this prohibition will be ineligible to receive federal economic development funds for two years.

The protection of property rights is one of the most important tenets of our government. I am mindful of the long history of eminent domain abuses, particularly in low-income and often predominantly minority neighborhoods, and the need to stop it. I am also mindful of the reasons we should allow the government to take the lead when the way in which the land is being used constitutes an immediate threat to public health and safety. I believe this bill accomplishes both goals.

I urge my colleagues to join me in protecting private property rights for all Americans and limiting the dangerous effects of the Kelo decision on the most vulnerable in society. I reserve the balance of my time.”

Every day, while we all go about our lives, the selfless men and women who serve at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) risk their lives to protect our nation and enforce our laws. They keep our communities safe from drug smugglers, sex traffickers, and dangerous criminal aliens.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at what ICE did in 2017. ICE agents arrested 127,000 criminal aliens and rescued more than 900 children from sexual exploitation. ICE also made our communities safer last year when it seized nearly 1 million pounds of narcotics, including 2,400 pounds of fentanyl and 7,000 pounds of heroin.

Meanwhile, the radical left has turned its ire toward these heroes. Unbelievably, condemning ICE is becoming a litmus test for those in the progressive movement. Recently, a prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidate declared ICE a “terrorist organization.” Members of the House Democratic leadership have called ICE “fascist” and referred to agents, who are just doing their job, as “cowardly.” Another member from our own Wisconsin delegation actually introduced legislation to abolish ICE entirely! Such attacks on this law enforcement community are disgusting and unconscionable, even if the only end game is simply to score cheap political points with the liberal base.

Throughout my career, I have consistently supported the important work ICE agents do. I am pleased to report, this week, I joined my colleagues in showing support for ICE officers. By a vote of 244-35, we passed a resolution of support for the mission of ICE introduced by Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana, who is a veteran and former police officer.

Sad to say, 133 Democrats refused to cast a real vote on the resolution, voting “present,” likely for fear of alienating their base; and 34 Democrats flat-out opposed the resolution.

I promise to continue my long-standing support of ICE and its agents. It is my hope that those who don’t will reconsider their irresponsible position.

By: Tripp Baltz of Bloomberg BNA

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing as early as next week to consider how states may collect sales and use taxes on remote transactions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking Wayfair ruling.

Lawmakers would likely use the hearing to consider proposals taking aim at reversing South Dakota v. Wayfair and reinstating Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court’s 1992 physical presence threshold for when states could tax remote sales, Karl Nicolas, associate director of the National Tax Department at Ernst & Young LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg Tax July 17.

The June 21 Wayfair ruling tossed out Quill, and now many states are looking to expand their authority over online sales taxation. The majority in the 5-4 ruling suggested strongly that South Dakota’s law would pass constitutional muster; the statute imposes a tax collection threshold at 200 transactions or $100,000 in in-state sales.

The court stopped short of formally declaring South Dakota’s law valid in the absence of Quill, and the South Dakota Supreme Court still has to bless the state’s economic nexus model before it can become effective. It’s expected to do so in mid-August. In the wake of the decision, dozens of states that haven’t already done so are mulling whether to copy South Dakota’s law.

Happening ‘Soon’

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), committee chair, confirmed the hearing will happen. “I think it’s soon,” he said. “Maybe next week.”

Goodlatte said “we’re going to hold the hearing first before we decide anything else,” such as whether the committee would back legislation designed to curb state requirements that out-of-state sellers collect and remit sales and use taxes on remote transactions.

The Wayfair ruling has fueled the circulation of bills in Congress that would reverse Wayfair and codify Quill, Nicolas said. One of them introduced after the Wayfair ruling, the Stop Taxing Our Potential (STOP) Act (S. 3180), was introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)—all of whom are from states that don’t have a statewide sales and use tax. The bill “is specifically targeted to reverse the impacts of Wayfair,” Dave Kuntz, spokesman for Tester, told Bloomberg Tax.

The second bill that has been pending with several others for years, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 (H.R. 2887) (NRRA), sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)—would codify Quill, among other things.

It’s unclear which of those will be on the table at the Judiciary hearing, but “the committee is tuning-in to the growing chorus of state tax collectors demanding back taxes, interest, and penalties,” Steve DelBianco, president and CEO of NetChoice Inc., told Bloomberg Tax. “There’s enough noise here for Congress to step in and say, stop the music.”

NetChoice, an industry association for e-commerce, has been at the heart of many of the lawsuits designed to stop states’ online sales taxation efforts.

‘Position Clear’

Goodlatte has said he supports the NRRA, and Nicolas said it wouldn’t surprise him if the chairman, an ardent foe of the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 976) and other congressional attempts to allow states to collect taxes on remote sales, backed a House version of S. 3180 as well. “He’s made his position clear,” Nicolas said.

Greg Matson, executive director of the Multistate Tax Commission, told Bloomberg Tax he has heard reports that Goodlatte and others have pointed to confusion in the wake of Wayfair as states sort out how to collect taxes on out-of-state sales.

“The chaos that everyone predicted is not happening,” Matson said. Most states are saying they won’t impose back tax liability retroactively, and many are coalescing around an Oct. 1 start date for licensing of remote vendors to begin collecting and remitting taxes, he said.

“It’s like Y2K all over again,” he said. “Many said it was going to be a disaster, and then at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000, nothing happened.”

‘Emergency’ Meeting

Matson noted that Wayfair will be a major topic of discussion a the commission’s annual meeting in Boston July 23-26 and that the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board Inc. is planning to hold an “emergency” meeting on Wayfair in Minneapolis July 19-20.

“It’s early, and most states are taking their time,” he said. “You’re seeing states following the Golden Rule: We’re not going to treat your sellers selling into our state any different than you treat our sellers selling into your state.”

But Bruce Ely, a tax attorney and partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Birmingham, Ala., told Bloomberg Tax “chaos” was the right word for the current scene.

“Dates are all over the place” for compliance, he said. “Every state has its own effective date, its own threshold, it’s own theory as to when they should start collecting. They’re all over the board.”

Annual sales thresholds are as high as $250,000 to $500,000 in some states, he said. Some have set an Aug. 31 deadline, others Oct. 1, still others Jan. 1, he said. “There’s no uniformity among the states there.”

Meanwhile, a leading states’ rights advocacy group has recommended that states wait until 2019 to implement economic nexus laws for sales tax collection.

“States should ensure that they are fully prepared” before beginning to enforce their sales tax laws on remote sellers” and should consider waiting until Jan. 1, 2019, “to begin sales tax collection requirements on remote sellers,” the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said in a list of considerations published in June.

By: John Nichols of Madison.com

Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies have worked hard to tip the balance against competitive elections in Wisconsin — with extreme gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID requirements, schemes to limit early voting, and an assault on the independence and integrity of the former Government Accountability Board.

Walker has emerged as a national leader in the corporate-sponsored push to upend practices and procedures that are designed to make voting easy. This has put the governor and many of his closest allies — including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville — at odds with Wisconsin’s historic commitment to high-turnout elections.

Walker’s approach represents a break with the values of not just his Democratic critics but the Republicans who still believe they are members of “the party of Lincoln.”

It is important to recognize this detail of history as the National Commission for Voter Justice holds its regional hearing in Milwaukee. This commission, on which I am proud to serve as a national co-chair, will take testimony from Wisconsinites when it gathers Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Milwaukee Bar Association office.

While debates over voter suppression have in recent years tended to divide along partisan lines, the National Commission for Voter Justice has sought from its inception last year to get beyond the petty partisanship that so frequently interrupts the progress of an American experiment that must bend always toward democracy. The commission uses the term “voter justice” because it is not just focused on assaults on voting rights but also on the promise of reforms — such as automatic voter registration and voting by mail — that might move every state toward high-turnout elections.

Democrats such as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown get credit these days for having taken the lead on voter empowerment, as do members of the Green and Libertarian parties. Republicans like Walker are justly criticized for seeking to undermine turnout and enthusiasm.

But there have always been — and there still are — Republicans who reject schemes to game the system. Former state Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz broke with the Republican caucus in 2014 on voting rights issues, telling Wisconsin radio hosts Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia: “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics,” explained Schultz, who did not seek re-election that year. “We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.”

Schultz has continued to speak out on voting rights issues and he is not alone among Wisconsin Republicans. Walker’s GOP primary challenger this year, Sun Prairie businessman Robert Meyer, said: “We're all stewards of the Great American Experiment and we need to do everything we can to make our government as representative and participative as it can possibly be.”

The official biography of one of Wisconsin’s senior Republicans, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, proudly declares: “Throughout his tenure in Congress, Jim has fought to protect the gains made during the civil rights movement. As Judiciary Committee chairman, he introduced the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. After approximately 20 hearings, the measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. However, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of this law. After, Jim introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, a bipartisan, bicameral modernization of the original 1965 law that ensures Americans’ most sacred right is protected.”

Sensenbrenner continues to advocate for the revitalization of the Voting Rights Act — along with Congressional Black Caucus members such as Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Sensenbrenner does not have many Republican co-sponsors for his legislation. But he is undaunted. “Ensuring that every eligible voter can cast a ballot without fear, deterrence and prejudice is a basic American right,” he explained several years ago. “I would rather lose my job than suppress votes to keep it.”

Those are the words of an old-school Wisconsin Republican, a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Robert M. La Follette and Dwight Eisenhower and the Republican platform writers (such as Wisconsin Congressman Mel Laird) of 50 years ago, who declared: “We must attack the root causes of poverty and eradicate racism, hatred and violence. We must give all citizens the opportunity to influence and shape the events of our time.” To that end, the Republican Party’s 1968 platform announced: “The strengthening of citizen influence on government requires a number of improvements in political areas. For instance, we propose to reform the Electoral College system, establish a nationwide, uniform voting period for presidential elections, and recommend that the states remove unreasonable requirements, residence and otherwise, for voting in presidential elections.”

The Republicans who made those commitments stood on the right side of history. It is tragic that politicians like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan have pulled the party away from its moorings. But their abuses cannot be allowed to define the future of the Republican Party or the United States.

This country must unite, across lines of partisanship and ideology, in support of voting rights, voter justice and the high-turnout elections that are the essential underpinning of government of, by and for the people.