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Decision-making often takes place privately in Wisconsin’s tumultuous Capitol. But a new Accountability Board has brought some reforms. Read more from SII State Reporter Kate Golden.
The offices of the Arizona Commerce Authority are housed in downtown Phoenix at the Freeport-McMoRan Center, the gleaming glass headquarters of an international mining firm of the same name. The authority, which oversees state corporate tax incentives and grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is not quite a public agency, as its location two miles east of the state government complex suggests. It’s led by a board of directors run by the governor and Jerry Colangelo, who, after four decades as an Arizona sports and real estate mogul, is a local icon. Sixteen other corporate executives also sit on the board, including Richard Adkerson, President and CEO of Freeport, to which the authority paid about $411,000 in state funds last fiscal year for renting the space.
There’s a name for this arrangement. The Commerce Authority is a “quasi-public” entity, or a public-private partnership. About 10 other states have also given control over lucrative corporate tax incentives to similar organizations, which are often run by the states’ most influential businessmen, generally at the pleasure of the governor. Supporters say these partnerships are more nimble than government bureaucracies and are insulated from the vagaries of electoral politics. But both liberal and conservative watchdog groups say the practice takes a government function already prone to mismanagement and obfuscation and makes the situation worse by giving oversight of business incentives to businesses themselves.
By Bill Lueders and Kate Golden
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
In the aftermath of the Nov. 6 elections, words like “fickle” and “schizophrenic” are being bandied about to describe the Wisconsin electorate.
How else can anyone explain a group of voters who simultaneously picked Democrats Barack Obama for president and Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate while preserving a 5-3 Republican edge in its congressional delegation and giving the GOP a commanding majority in both houses of the state Legislature?
State integrity news for Wisconsin, from the LaCrosse Tribune:
Government entities can't charge the public for time spent deleting confidential information from records, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The decision marks a major victory for open government advocates and the media amid an intense debate over whether taxpayers or requesters should foot the bill for redaction costs, which can sometimes stretch into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Read the rest of the story at the LaCrosse Tribune.
By Mike Mullen
Gov. Scott Walker survived his recall election. The same cannot be said for the integrity of campaign finance laws in Wisconsin.
Incumbents targeted for recall are freed from Wisconsin's normal fundraising limits, and can collect unlimited contributions from individual donors. With the election between Walker and his Democratic opponent, former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, seen as a battleground for national partisan politics, money poured in on both sides. But Walker exploited the seemingly infinite loophole to tremendous advantage: By election day, Walker's campaign had received more than $30 million in donations, a total that approached the $37.5 million spent by both sides during the 2010 election, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Wisconsin received a grade of 'C-' from the State Integrity Investigation for its political financing laws and practices, with reporter Kate Golden finding proper measures on limits, enforcement, and transparency, while also documenting numerous exemptions and back-channels, including the recall election loophole. But in other states, the potentially polluting influence of unlimited, and sometimes unsupervised campaign financing is constant and permanent, borne out of state laws and practices -- or their absence.
State integrity news for Wisconsin, from the Wisconsin State Journal:
Nearly $1 million and counting. That's the cost to Wisconsin taxpayers for legal bills racked up defending new election maps. What's done is done.
But moving forward, Wisconsin should avoid wasting money in court on political spats over rigged maps. Instead, the Legislature should assign to a neutral body — such as the Legislative Reference Bureau, Government Accountability Board or a citizen panel — the once-every-decade task of revising state Assembly, Senate and congressional voting districts to reflect population changes after each major census.
Read the rest of the story at the Wisconsin State Journal.