Never Doubt What One Person Can Do

In this update: 1. The man who makes it possible to follow the money in Wisconsin 2. IRS word play does violence to democracy 3. "Gerrymandering is corruption. Pure and simple." Never Doubt What One Person Can Do

Email date: 8/22/13

In this update:
1. The man who makes it possible to follow the money in Wisconsin
2. IRS word play does violence to democracy
3. “Gerrymandering is corruption. Pure and simple.”

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The man who makes it possible to follow the money in Wisconsin
Please take a few moments to read this newspaper story. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s a story about the Democracy Campaign’s data analyst, David Julseth. He’s the man behind Wisconsin’s premier searchable online database of political donors. Our database now contains upwards of a million records of campaign contributions, and David added well over 150,000 new records to the database in just the last year.

Our database really is a one-man operation, and it never ceases to amaze all of us at the Democracy Campaign how David processes such an enormous amount of data and does it with such amazing precision and accuracy.

We have old laptop computers sitting around on which you can no longer see the letters and numbers on the keyboard, because David struck the keys so many times he wore them off.

True story.

The work David does is tedious, and the hours he spends doing it are long. As mentioned in the newspaper story, he worked late into the night on New Year’s Eve doing his job so anyone with a computer here in Wisconsin could see who’s giving to whom in state politics.

Huge numbers of people take advantage of the opportunity David Julseth creates. In the last 12 months, we’ve had 10.9 million hits to wisdc.org.

David makes it possible to follow the money in Wisconsin without much financial reward. Like all WDC’s employees, he didn’t get a pay raise this year because of the Democracy Campaign’s financial challenges. This stands in stark contrast to the recent news about the retiring college president who is to paid $88,000 to be an on-call adviser to her successor and the Capitol police chief who was transferred to a phantom job for a day to secure him a 12% pay increase, boosting his salary to over $111,000 a year, his apparent reward for spending most of his time trying to stop people from singing in the Capitol.

Alongside such stories of shameless greed, there are stories like the one about David Julseth. Judge for yourself who is doing the more valuable service to the state of Wisconsin. When you do, we hope you will demonstrate your regard for David’s dedication and remarkable efforts by making a generous tax-deductible gift to the Democracy Campaign today.

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IRS word play does violence to democracy
The latest commentary posted on our blog focuses on how the Internal Revenue Service has misinterpreted and misapplied federal law and, in so doing, is blessing widespread meddling in elections by tax-exempt nonprofit groups that are legally supposed to exclusively do social welfare work. The Capital Times picked up the commentary and posted it this morning.

We’ve said it before and will say it again. If tax-exempt social welfare groups want to influence elections, they should be reclassified as political organizations and lose the ability to keep their funding sources secret. If they want the tax breaks, then make ’em come clean and fully disclose to the American people the money they use for electioneering.

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“Gerrymandering is corruption. Pure and simple.”
We launched our Campaign for Accountable Redistricting back in 2010, and in 2011 we put out our own redistricting plan as an alternative to the legislators’ maps. We then worked with reform-minded legislators to develop legislation based on the model we favor (namely nonpartisan redistricting handled by an independent authority) and that bill was introduced in May of this year. Now we need public hearings on that reform legislation. Newspapers across the state are adding their voices to the chorus calling for hearings, the latest being The Capital Times.

Your voice needs to be heard too. If you haven’t already done so, contact your legislators and urge them to support redistricting reform.