The Last Secretary of State
"The fact is, although it is rarely discussed with any candor, that this office and the state treasurer's office are losing public interest and awareness. ...The paucity of candidates for this and other offices reveals their diminishing importance and suggests, perhaps, that some day the legislature will recognize reality and abolish them altogether."
-Waukesha Freeman, on the 1952 election for Wisconsin Secretary of State
For years, Wisconsin ballots have featured an office whose purpose is mostly unknown, and whose continued existence is mocked by those who do know. It’s a vaguely impressive-sounding title, nominally the third-ranking position in government, all for an office that currently has just four employees, and whose irrelevance has prompted a decades-long parade of comical, unserious candidates.
Getting rid of the office of secretary of state has been endorsed by the last three governors in a row and by state legislators, both Republicans and Democrats. It has been called for by opinion leaders and scholars of state constitutional law for decades. The only ones who seem to disagree are those few who want to hold the office… except me.
It’s time to make this long-overdue reform finally happen, and so I’m asking for your vote this fall to be Wisconsin’s next, and last, secretary of state. I will be on your ballot as Andy Craig, the nominee of the Libertarian Party.
If you listen to the Republican candidate and the Democratic incumbent, you will hear them agree a lot about the need for more power and authority to be vested in themselves. La Follette says he wants to be the state’s “ambassador to corporations,” a curious position for the supposed voice of Wisconsin’s Progressive legacy. Bradley says he wants to run elections, a frightening prospect for those who have seen what has happened in other states that let partisan, elected officials count the votes and decide who gets on the ballot.
They give fuzzy promises about all the wonderful things they will do, with all the powers that the office doesn't have and never will have, regardless of who wins in November. The fact of the matter is that position of secretary of state is hopelessly obsolete, a curious anachronism of our 167-year-old state constitution, like electing county coroners in partisan elections. It has devolved into a pointless patronage position, more like ceremonial nobility than proper American state government.
There might have been a time when “keeping and affixing the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin” was an important responsibility, but it has been a long time since fraudulent government proclamations was a serious problem. In 2014, making sure everybody gets access to an accurate copy of newly passed laws isn't a matter of sending out trusted messengers to far-flung counties- it’s a matter of uploading some text to a website. Overseeing notaries, keeping a list of state land deeds, and sitting on a state land board that meets for a matter of minutes each month- these are all redundant clerical responsibilities, duplicative of matters handled by other departments. It’s a random grab-bag of unrelated chunks of state government, shuffled under the charge of an office and candidates desperately in search of a purpose.
There are good reasons why Wisconsin voters should get to elect statewide executive officials, other than just the governor. The framers of our constitution rightfully feared concentration of power in a single person. But a marginalized, do-nothing office does not advance checks and balances.
Three of the five statewide offices on your November 4 ballot- secretary of state, state treasurer, and lt. governor- are for inconsequential offices with single-digit numbers of employees and zero policy-making authority. The rest of state government, including cabinet-level department heads, are under the sole control of the duly elected governor, with the only real exceptions being the attorney general, and the superintendent of public instruction. This misleading facade of divided power doesn't strengthen democratic self-governance or checks and balances; it makes a mockery of those principles, and actually enables the concentration of power it was supposed to avoid.
That’s why I’m not just advocating getting rid of this office- I want to take this opportunity to make sure we replace it with something that will give you, the voters, a real say in how state government is run.
First, secretary of state and the other zombie offices should be replaced on the ballot with more substantive department heads. The Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources would be where I would start: overseeing our beautiful state parks and environmental laws is an important function, and voters should get to elect somebody dedicated and accountable for doing the task well. The heads of the Insurance Commission, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Transportation all represent some of the positions that voters in other states are allowed to elect directly, and I see no reason why we shouldn't in Wisconsin.
Another way to go about this is the idea of creating an elected Executive Council, like some other states have. Such an elected, district-based council would function as a board of directors for the government, just like any other large organization uses to oversee its chief executive. That’s a real answer to checking the power of one-man rule on a broad basis, and to increase local representation in how the executive branch is run. Increasing the number of Representatives to the Assembly would also increase local accountability and the quality of representation. But regardless of whether or not these reforms are undertaken, the secretary of state simply no longer serves any real purpose in our state government.
That’s why I’m running as the only candidate for Wisconsin Secretary of State who wants to abolish this relic of the 19th Century, as part of a broader vision of constitutional reforms. To do it would take agreement from two successive legislatures before going to voters in a referendum- meaning it could be done by the end of my one and only four-year term.
We could then join the several other states that, contrary to the pleading of my opponents, manage to do just fine without such a position, and don’t waste money or time on an official Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. It’s already been endorsed by the leadership of the state assembly, and nothing will make Republicans and Democrats agree to get rid of the office faster, than electing a Libertarian to occupy it.
And for those four years, I will ensure that the taxpayers get real bang for the buck- not just a ceremonial afterthought or occasional partisan controversy. I pledge to serve as an independent voice for reason, freedom, and reform in state government, not beholden to the political establishment on either side. I will defend free and fair elections from partisan tampering, and serve as a diligent adviser to the governor and legislature as to how Wisconsin can improve laws related to voting, ballot access, redistricting, and political parties. I will work to advocate common-sense ideas that aren't being heard in the current two-party debate, from decriminalization of cannabis and protecting civil liberties, to ending crony capitalism and eliminating the state income tax.
Together we can make history and break the perpetual cycle of two-party politics, and give voters a fair chance to judge if electing a new party to other offices is worth considering. I propose that I am the only candidate in this race, and we as Libertarians are the only political party, that represents the fiscally responsible, socially tolerant majority of voters. Those who believe in both smaller, less expensive government, and classically liberal ideals of individual freedom. The prosperity offered by free markets and private property rights, and the diversity that comes from every person’s unencumbered pursuit of happiness. Those who believe in a more peaceful future and a renewed dedication to freedom in America.
If in four years you don’t like what you see from a Libertarian in statewide office, you can always go back to exclusively electing Republicans and Democrats. To be realistic, it’s not like I could use this powerless office to do any real damage, and neither can my opponents. But if you do like this message, and think liberty deserves a voice in state politics, then you can start that process of real change in 2014, by voting for Andy Craig, Libertarian for Wisconsin’s last secretary of state.
Response to Exclusionary Debates Decision
Andy Craig Responds to G.A.B. Ruling on Debate Complaint
On September 4, the Government Accountability Board voted in closed session to dismiss the complaint I filed on July 4 against the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. The W.B.A. is the organization which has issued the criteria for inclusion in the 2014 televised gubernatorial debates. These criteria have the deliberate effect of prohibiting Libertarian and other third-party candidates from participating, turning the debates into an exclusive promotion for the Democratic and Republican nominees.
The Board issued a brief two-page ruling, which I have attached below. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I filed this action, and my response to the rules adopted by the state's elections agency.
First, the basis of the complaint: Wisconsin law imposes strict requirements on campaign expenditures to advocate the defeat or election of candidates for public office.
If Robert Burke, the Libertarian candidate for Governor, were to accept an offer from a corporation (such as the W.B.A., which is in turn made up of incorporated TV and radio stations), or even from an individual, to air a ninety-minute statewide commercial for him to speak to the voters, that would be illegal.
We couldn't do it- and yet, Republicans and Democrats collude to get exactly that in the form of a special statewide broadcast that only their candidates can participate in. Thus these supposedly neutral, nonpartisan forums become effective advocacy for the defeat of excluded candidates, and constitute an extremely valuable and illegal in-kind contribution to the Walker (R) and Burke (D) campaigns.
That’s not how the law is supposed to work. Under the 1st and 14th Amendments, and their state constitutional counterparts, the government has no business selectively censoring political speech while giving a pass to its preferred two-party candidates, to collude with special interest groups in violation of the law. Nor is the government allowed to favor more popular or established candidates and parties over their grass-roots challengers.
The Board acknowledges that there is no precedent for their decision and no real basis in state law for the rules they adopted. They even candidly admit to having parts of their decision dictated to them over the phone from Federal bureaucrats in Washington, DC, despite this being a question of state and not federal law.
They do mention in passing that a similar complaint was dismissed by the Elections Board (the predecessor to the GAB) in 2002 without comment- a bit of history which deserves further explanation.
That complaint was filed by the late, great Ed Thompson, that year’s Libertarian candidate for Governor. Despite being excluded from the debates, he later went on to win more than 10% of the vote (the polling threshold the W.B.A. supposedly uses) and even came in first in a few counties. To summarize post-election polling on the question, it is not implausible that Wisconsin could have elected its first Libertarian Governor more than decade ago, and been spared the eras of both Doyle and Walker, had the W.B.A. not chosen to exclude the Libertarian Mayor of Tomah from appearing in debates with Doyle and McCallum.
The two-party system and its defenders think they occupy a privileged place in American law, but it is an important principle worth defending that they do not. Our Constitution demands equal protection of the laws for all persons, all candidates, and all political groups. It protects freedom of association, to support and vote for candidates of your choice, and the right to petition government for redress of grievances.
That’s why I proposed that, if the W.B.A.’s debates were allowed to proceed, then the state government would have no grounds to legitimately prohibit Libertarian and other third-party candidates from soliciting an equivalent unlimited, unregulated campaign donation to produce and air a similarly unrestricted election advertisement. The Board chose not to comment on this point.
What they did say, is that debates must 1) include at least two candidates 2) not be structured to advantage any candidate over the other(s), and 3) must use “objective, pre-determined criteria” to decide which candidates to include.
The W.B.A. says that’s what they are doing: by deliberately citing polls which don’t even ask about the candidates and parties being excluded, and creating a self-serving monetary threshold which decrees that candidates must have at least a quarter-million dollars to participate, regardless of how well they are doing in the polls. A large sum of money which, by remarkable coincidence, will mostly be spent on buying advertising time from W.B.A. member stations.
This is in no sense “objective”, and the W.B.A. even admitted to us that the goal is to create a two-party-only debate. How can rules which are so transparently written so as to be met by only two candidates, possibly count as being objective and neutral? They might as well have decreed that only candidates with the initials “S.W.” and “M.B.” will be invited, and then feigned surprise when only two candidates satisfied that rule.
One possible threshold would be to simply include all four candidates who successfully gathered the thousands of petition signatures needed to get on the ballot- an idea that proves almost unanimously popular with voters when they are asked. But the Board not only rejected that common-sense perspective, they went out of their way to prohibit it, by saying that nomination by a party cannot be used as the sole criteria for debate inclusion. So under the Board’s ruling, not only is it legal for debates to exclude candidates- it’s actually illegal for debates to include all candidates who have won their party’s nomination! The origin and justification of this rule are left totally unexplained by the Board.
None of this has any basis in the provision of state law which they do cite, which provides a general exemption to editorial coverage and “coverage of bona fide news events.” Surely under this theory, any event at all which featured candidates talking into a camera would be exempted from the law, and neutrality is no requirement at all- but such an interpretation would defeat the whole scheme of limiting who is allowed to spend money, and how much, on promoting candidates. So they must invent arbitrary rules from whole cloth, which carve out a special place for traditional two-party-only debates hosted by mainstream media organizations, but continue to apply the law’s restrictions to everybody else.
Wisconsin voters deserve to hear from all the candidates, and we deserve to see the candidates respond to the ideas of their challengers. I’m not demanding that the government force Scott Walker and Mary Burke to debate their Libertarian opponent- I wouldn't do that even if it was possible, and it rightfully isn't. What I am demanding that the law be applied equally to everybody, and that as matter of good ethics and civic responsibility debate organizers should live up to their stated mission: providing a fair, nonpartisan forum where voters can find out what the candidates on their ballot stand for.
If you agree with the 60% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans and Democrats, who say that a third major party is needed (*Gallup Oct. 2013), and if you think that our political system should be more diverse and representative than just Red vs. Blue, then I ask you to vote for the Libertarian candidates on your ballot this November. That includes, of course, Andy Craig for Secretary of State, along with a dozen other candidates and a full slate for all statewide offices, who are all united around a simple common-sense platform of freedom, peace, and long-overdue reforms to state government.
Ultimately, breaking the perpetual cycle of the corrupt two-party pendulum is up to you, the voters, by rejecting the political establishment and their hand-picked puppets in the voting booth. As for the so-called debates and their pre-arranged talking points, you can safely ignore them with no fear of casting a less informed vote.
There is one silver lining to the Board’s ruling I should point out: the W.B.A. had been planning to sponsor three debates, only two of which were accepted by Scott Walker. The entirety of the third “debate” broadcast was thus going to be given exclusively to Mary Burke, to air a blatant advertisement for her campaign. Since the Board says that debates must include at least two candidates, presumably this means that Mary’s “empty chair debate” will not be allowed, as it already would not be allowed in a federal race. If that ends up being the case, at the very least I can say we succeeded in saving the taxpayers (who subsidize these events in numerous different ways) from paying for an hour-long Democratic infomercial.
Of course, if the W.B.A. still wants to host a third debate, there is always the possibility of letting the Libertarian debate the Democrat, Burke vs. Burke. I promise that, if nothing else, it would produce a more interesting and informative discussion than anything Republicans and Democrats will ever say or do when their only competition is each other.
-Andy Craig is the Libertarian nominee for Wisconsin Secretary of State. More information on his campaign can be found at www.andycraig.org
G.A.B. decision: http://issuu.com/andycraig/docs/gabruling
Andy Craig interview with Wisconsin Eye
My interview on September 05 with Steve Walters at the Wisconsin Eye studio in Madison.
Radio interview with the Devils Advocates on 92.1 FM (Madison)
Had a great interview with the Devils Advocates today,on 92.1 FM (Madison), discussing our campaign and the story of corrupt, fraudulent political debates in Wisconsin. Audio link. This is my second appearance on the show, which they declared afterwards officially makes me a "friend of the show"
Andy Craig alleges Wisconsin Broadcasters Assn. violating campaign finance laws
via Independent Political Report:
On July 4, Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State Andy Craig submitted an official complaint to the Government Accountability Board, the agency which administers elections laws in Wisconsin, alleging that the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is violating state campaign finance statutes with its proposed broadcast debate for gubernatorial candidates. The complaint was submitted in cooperation with Robert Burke, Libertarian candidate for Governor, and was confirmed as having been received by the G.A.B. on Monday morning.
The W.B.A., which has sponsored televised debates for statewide elections regularly since the late 1990s, has issued thresholds for inclusion that are deliberately designed to ensure a two-party debate in a four-candidate race. These “criteria” include polling over 10% in polls which do not necessarily include all candidates, and having raised at least $250,000 in campaign contributions. The outrageousness of the contribution threshold was implicitly acknowledged by the W.B.A., when the organization halved it from the previous threshold of half a million dollars (also used in previous years) in response to objections from Craig and Burke. Robert Burke is running a no-donation campaign for Governor to highlight the waste and corruption of political spending, under the banner “Give to the poor, not politics.”
Third-party and independent candidates typically receive a much higher number of votes per-dollar-spent than do traditional major party campaigns. When Ed Thompson received more than 10% of the vote for Governor as a Libertarian in 2002, he did so on a budget of aprox. $50,000, compared to millions spent by the Republican and Democratic candidates. Thompson was also excluded from the W.B.A.’s debate, despite ultimately placing first in two Wisconsin counties.
The complaint alleges that the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, by selectively excluding candidates from the most visible broadcast forum for candidates for Governor, is engaging in an illegal in-kind contribution to the campaigns of Scott Walker and Mary Burke, the presumptive Republican and Democratic candidates.
“The logic of the W.B.A.’s position is circular: some candidates are not widely known to the voters, allegedly, therefore they will be excluded from the forum allegedly intended to educate the voters about the candidates,” reads the complaint, the full version of which has been published on the document-sharing website Issuu (link below).
Craig further states that if the debate proceeds as proposed, then the G.A.B. would have no legal grounds to prohibit the Robert Burke (Libertarian) and Dennis Fehr (People’s Party) campaigns from also soliciting unlimited corporate contributions to purchase an equivalent advertisement, effectively repealing broad swathes of Wisconsin’s campaign finance restrictions.
“Only a broadcast debate which extends an invitation to all four general election candidates for Governor can satisfy the legal requirement that the extremely valuable and expensive broadcasting time and debate sponsorship, and the corporate resources which go into them, not be used to promote the election or defeat of any candidate. This is what distinguishes a debate, which would be legal for corporations to fund and promote as an educational service to voters, from an electioneering advertisement” asserts the 23-year-old Libertarian candidate and resident of Milwaukee.
The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is a trade organization representing major Wisconsin television and radio broadcasters, and has never included any candidate not running as a Republican or Democrat in its televised debates. The Wisconsin Liberty Coalition, the 2014 slate of Libertarian candidates in Wisconsin, has pledged to file similar complaints against any corporate-sponsored debate or candidates forum for the Nov. 4 general election, which excludes ballot-qualified candidates not running as a Republican or Democrat.
The Libertarian Party is America’s, and Wisconsin’s, third-largest political party, advocating maximum individual freedom and smaller government, and taking a stance on the issues that is often characterized as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Twelve Libertarian candidates are contesting a variety of elections in Wisconsin this year, including a full slate of candidates for the five statewide offices of Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and State Treasurer.
More information can be found at www.andycraig.org. The complete complaint submitted by Andy Craig, which lays out the legal arguments at stake, can be read atwww.issuu.com/andycraig/docs/wbacomplaintcraig/0
Welcome to the new www.AndyCraig.org
I am seeking the office of Wisconsin Secretary of State, because there are too many important issues that are not being heard in the current two-party debate, and the people of Wisconsin know it.
Neither establishment party offers the mixture of economic freedom and individual liberty that voters are demanding. An electorate dissatisfied with the corruption and intrusiveness of government, is left with nowhere to turn by the false choice of Democrat or Republican… but that’s why we’re here in the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin.
As your Secretary of State, I pledge to provide a consistent, genuinely independent voice for reason, freedom, and reform in Wisconsin state government, and for this purpose I am asking for your vote and your support.
I support the immediate legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin, particularly for medical use by suffering patients.
Legal Equality Now
Equal protection of the laws for all residents of Wisconsin.
Defend Constitutional Rights
I promise to defend our 4th Amendment and other individual rights against encroachment by any level of government.
I support instant run-off voting, lowering burdens to ballot access, and I strongly oppose letting the partisan Secretary run elections.
Enforce Balanced Budget Requirement
I support the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for the state budget.
Repeal State Income Tax
I would advocate a comprehensive tax-limitation amendment to the Wisconsin constitution, including a prohibition on income taxes.Show More