Terrence Wall still thinks he has a shot at unseating Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate. He's so convinced, in fact, that he's willing to spend hundreds of thousands of his own dollars to fund his campaign - and yesterday's ad spot, set to air on televisions across the state in the coming weeks, is just his latest money pit.
Beleaguered candidate Wall is taking aim at Feingold's record on health care, claiming that the three-term senator isn't "listening" to the state's residents concerns about the issue. Funny thing is, in Wall's own ad making the accusation, he uses footage from one of Feingold's many listening sessions.
Fact is that Feingold is one of the few national politicians who regularly hold these kinds of meetings, and one of the fewer still who enthusiastically opens them to people of all political stripes. You don't have to flash a Democratic Party membership card to get in, and you are not made to ask only pre-approved questions. I'd hardly call that "not listening," but then Wall seems to be floundering pretty hard in order to find a few easy talking points to which he can cling like a desperate barnacle on the underside of a sturdy ship. Attacking Obama's health care plan, or really any decent health care plan, seems to be the current modus operendi of all GOP politicians these days.
After all, Wall is a candidate with almost no statewide name recognition, so latching on to a popular knee-jerk talking point may have quite the appeal. As a Dane County developer (though many of his businesses are registered in Delaware), his only major political experience has been two failed runs at the Maple Bluff Board of Trustees. And then there's that whole embarrassing business about his not paying income taxes for 12 of the past 15 years. That one even has the usually staunchly unthinking right-wing radio talkers Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling turning against Wall.
The seemingly overwhelming tide of ill-opinion toward him probably won't stop Wall from spending yet more of his personal income on this increasingly quixotic quest. Which is too bad; that money might be better spent on paying his fair share of taxes to help keep the state solvent. We'll have to console ourselves by watching what will presumably end up being a fairly spectacular flame out.
Of course, there are other contenders looking to beat Feingold come election time.
The other Republican candidate is Dave Westlake, a businessman from Watertown. Rob Taylor, a candidate with the Constitutional Party, is also running on a platform that includes abolishing both the IRS and the Federal Reserve.
And while Westlake's "About Me" section on his website includes an appealing collage of his best glamour shots pose and some tempting cranberries, his policies are less appetizing. He's anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration, and is also a climate change denier (despite an undergraduate degree in environmental science-which is pretty unforgivable, if you ask me).
Lurking in the shadows of this race, though, is ol' Tommy Thompson, the state equivalent of Ronald Reagan in terms of how the mere mention of his name seems to moisten GOP underthings. Rumors abound that many in Wisconsin and Washington have been putting considerable pressure on the former governor to challenge Feingold, especially after the upset election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts emboldened so many Republican dreamers.
Thompson officially entering the race would certainly make things interesting, but it would also be a terrible idea. Beyond my personal disagreements with many of his policies and positions, it would be hard to get around the messy business of the lobbying and business ties Thompson has built during his time out of public office. Plus, Tommy just joined himself a hedge fund which I suppose could be considered an asset in some circles, but for the majority of the world equals a huge, honkin' conflict of interest.
I'm all for the continued rumors and foot dragging, though. The longer Republicans languish in uncertainty about which candidate to rally around the better. In the meantime Feingold can continue his methodical campaign to remind us all of the incredibly important, hard, and for the most part good work he's been doing for us in the Senate.
Losing the "Wild West of Payday Loans" label in Wisconsin
I've written about the abysmal state of payday loan regulation in our state (i.e.: there is none) before, and taken considerable flak about it from both industry lobbyists and a few folks who make regular use of the service. So it has been especially interesting to watch the drama unfold surrounding the revelation that Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan has been dating a payday loan lobbyist (dare I point out the obvious joke that Sheridan has literally been in bed with the industry? Too late! Just did).
What's more interesting, however, is that Assembly Democrats appear to have finally cobbled together actual, honest-to-goodness legislation that would help to rein in payday loan practices. They claim Sheridan had almost no hand in crafting it, and we should hope that's true. And while it doesn't look perfect-there are no rate caps on how much interest can be charged on the loans-it is a sight better than the nothing we had before.
- Limiting loans to a maximum of $600 or 35 percent of biweekly income, whichever is less
- Banning auto title loans, or loans secured by the borrower's vehicle
- Prohibiting rollovers, or refinancing of existing payday loans with new ones
- Barring people from taking out more than one payday loan at a time
- Enforcing using a statewide database overseen by Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), which would not be publicly available
- Lenders who violate are subject to fines of $500 to $1000 and up to six months in jail
Sheridan has said that he plans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote "as soon as possible" so we'll just have to wait and see if 1) that's true, and 2) who all votes for it. Now might be a good time to start pressing your representatives to get behind the legislation. We need regulation of the industry in this state, and this seems like a set of fairly common sense rules toward that end.
The Plan Commission Monday night voted 5-4 to allow a change to the shoreline zoning code, ostensibly a move to assist all future developments but mostly a really sad instance of altering the law to suit the needs of one project: Ye Olde Edgewater. Brenda Konkel, as usual, has an exhaustive run-down of the meeting that took place before the vote. That overwhelmingly fishy odor you smell probably isn't the lakes this time.
The Dane County Board has decided to get involved in the ongoing debate over animal research on the UW campus. They've just sent a letter to Chancellor Biddy Martin asking that she join upcoming public discussion of the issue (scheduled for some time in March). They also question whether a recent decision by the UW's All Campus Animal Care and Use committee that held the research to be ethical was entirely conflict-free. It's good to see that the debate over this continues. We need to ask a lot more questions before any meaningful resolution can be reached.