TIME animals

Official ‘State Dog’ Designations Divide Utah and Maine

Image Source—Getty Images

Dog breed favoritism divides two state legislatures

Lawmakers in Utah and Maine are waging the battle of the dog breeds, trying to get a favored variety recognized as their states’ official man’s best friend.

Supporters in Utah have had uneasy success making the golden retriever the “state domestic animal.” According to the the Salt Lake Tribune, the move came at the suggestion of a fourth-grade class. Those in favor cited the breed’s popularity across the state, as well as the golden retriever’s gentle temperament as a therapy animal.

But there were many on Monday who dissented out of loyalty to the german shepherd or the cocker spaniel, and the measure barely passed. It goes to a final vote later in the week.

Meanwhile, a bill to declare the labrador retriever Maine’s state dog suffered a resounding defeat in committee. State representatives, according to the Associated Press, wanted to avoid playing favorites, while one committee member called the whole affair a “waste of time.” (Notably, Maine already has an official state cat: the Maine coon cat.)

If Utah’s representatives vote to make the golden retriever as the official state pet, they’ll join five others that have singled out a dog or a cat. The Alaskan Malamute is, predictably, that state’s dog. Wisconsin has the American water spaniel, Louisiana has the Catahoula leopard dog and Maryland has bestowed the honor on the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Maryland is also the only state other than Maine with an official cat—the calico.

TIME

Scott Walker’s High-School Science Teacher: ‘Man Up’

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker participates in a panel discussion at the American Action Forum
Yuri Gripas—Reuters Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker participates in a panel discussion at the American Action Forum in Washington, Jan. 30, 2015.

The Republican presidential hopeful refused to answer a recent question about evolution. The governor's former science teacher tells TIME she isn't pleased

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a leader in the 2016 Republican presidential sweepstakes—prompted some stateside head-scratching this week when he dodged a British journalist’s question about evolution.

Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one… That’s a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” He was in London on a trade mission.

Among those who questioned Walker: the chair of his high school science department, Ann Serpe, 73. “Answer the question when they ask you!” Serpe said in an interview. “He could have manned up a bit. That’s what I would tell him.”

Serpe, who taught chemistry and chaired the math and science department at Delavan-Darien High School in Delavan, Wis., before her retirement in 1998, now lives in nearby Elkhorn. She recalls that Walker, her pupil and an advisee in student government, was a bright, committed participant in class. Walker graduated in 1986.

What would Walker have learned in high school? “We taught the theory of evolution, and human evolution, as a prerequisite to understanding biological classification. I went out and looked at my biology textbook just to make sure.”

Serpe says, “I don’t know the dogma of the Baptist church where Scott’s father was the minister, as it concerns evolution. But I do recall that Scott was very accepting of everything in science class. He had a good sense of it.”

Walker’s onetime teacher has seen him a few times since his high-school days. She even attended one of Walker’s fundraisers in Milwaukee. Darwin, though, hasn’t come up in their conversations.

She says she hopes he—”as an intelligent young man”—would understand the importance of scientific thought, that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Walker, who may be two decades removed from Serpe’s classroom, said on Twitter that science still informs his worldview.

TIME christmas

Wisconsin Man has Same ‘Supernatural’ Christmas Tree for 40 Years

The ageless tree is waiting for the man's oldest son to come home for Christmas

A Wisconsin man has had the same Christmas tree for four decades.

Neil Olson put up a Christmas tree for the last time in 1974, when his six sons went to fight in the Vietnam War and he promised not to take the tree down until all the men were back home safe for the holidays, the Marshfield News Herald reports. Olsen hasn’t taken that tree down since.

Olson’s oldest son was injured at war and hasn’t been able to get home to Wausau, WI, from Washington state for Christmas. The tinsel-dripping, ornamented tree, meanwhile, looks just as it did 40 years ago, though its needles are a bit yellowed.

“It’s supernatural, I say,” Olson, 89, told the Wausau Daily Herald. He added that if his sixth son gets home for Christmas one year, he predicts “the needles will drop right off” the waiting tree.

[Marshfield News Herald]

TIME weather

Road Salt Prices Skyrocket After Last Winter’s Snowstorms

Road Salt Woes
Carlos Osorio—AP Salt is unloaded at the Scio Township, Mich. maintenance yard on Sept. 16, 2014. Some Midwest county road officials are facing price increases that are three times what they paid last year.

Prices have risen by up to three times since earlier this year

Last winter’s severe snowstorms triggered road salt shortages around the U.S., pinching supplies and forcing some transportation departments to stock up early. The result: road salt costs have doubled, and even tripled in some parts of the country, thanks to increased demand by states hoping to keep the roads clear.

From Minnesota to New York, states have had to pay premium prices for road salt this year. In Michigan, prices up are up 50%. In Indiana, they’re up almost 60%. In Missouri, some local transportation departments are reporting prices that have doubled. St. Louis, for example, is paying $112 a ton, up from $49 last year.

“Several severe winters are forcing prices upward,” says Todd Matheson, a spokesman for the department of transportation in Wisconsin, where more than four feet of snow fell in some places last week.

Wisconsin normally goes through about 500,000 tons of salt a year. But because of the potential for a repeat of last winter’s severe weather, this year the state has 564,000 tons on hand with 141,000 tons as an option to purchase. Costs are up statewide 14% compared with this time last year, averaging $69 a ton, Matheson says.

Ohio, which got unexpectedly hit with by storms over the weekend, triggering snow emergencies across the central part of the state, paid $105 a ton for a portion of the 600,000 tons of salt it currently has on hand. On average, the state paid $57 a ton compared with $38 last year.

Even with the rising prices, most states are not reporting road salt shortages. The New Jersey Department of Transportation is currently at 100% capacity (164,000 tons) and is in the process of adding 20,000 tons of storage space set to be available this winter. It can also store 716,000 gallons of liquid calcium and 150,000 gallons of brine, which is often applied to roads before a storm hits to help keep snow and ice from sticking.

One state that is running below average is Pennsylvania. The state has in store 90% of the average amount it uses during a winter, says Richard Kirkpatrick, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesperson. The average is 841,000 tons, and last year the state went through 1.2 million tons. But this year it only has 694,000 tons on hand with another 65,000 on order. And the long-range forecast? Above normal snowfall for much of the state.

TIME

Obama Rallies Wisconsin Democrats for Mary Burke

President Obama attends a campaign event with Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke while at North Division High School in Milwaukee, Oct. 28, 2014.
Larry Downing—Reuters President Obama attends a campaign event with Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke while at North Division High School in Milwaukee, Oct. 28, 2014.

Burke gambles that Obama will drive out the base more than he drives away those unhappy with him

President Barack Obama did his best on Tuesday to remind Wisconsonites why they twice elected him President, only this time he turned on the full court press for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

“She will be your next governor as long as folks vote,” Obama told an overflow crowd before the event. “We need you to go talk to your friends, your neighbors, you coworkers. You got that cousin on the couch who’s watching the ol’ Packers games, but doesn’t always vote during the midterms. You have to go reach out and tell people that they’ve got to exercise their franchise, they’ve got to be good citizens.”

The event was at North Division High School, in a ward where Obama outpolled Republican Mitt Romney 843 to 5 in the 2012 presidential election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The somewhat risky bet that Burke is making is that Obama, polarizing as he is, will help turn out Wisconsin’s urban Democratic base for her next Tuesday.

“Wisconsin is one of the most polarized states in the country and this race has been close for months,” says Nathan Gonzales, who follows gubernatorial races for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “When a race is this close anything could be deciding factor. The Burke campaign is making a calculated risk that having president Obama campaign for her will be a net boost on turn out and we’ll see on election day if that was the right decision.”

Burke is one of the very few candidates to welcome Obama, whose unpopularity in the polls has made him somewhat of a pariah amongst vulnerable Democrats in tight races. But Wisconsin’s labor-heavy, populist base hasn’t always loved Burke, a millionaire former executive at her family’s company, Trek Bicycle. Thus the gamble with Obama, whose presence risks putting off independent and suburban voters.

Walker, who is reviled by Wisconsin Dems who tried to recall him after he pushed through union-busting legislation, was quick to note that Obama is the fourth Washington surrogate to campaign for Burke in recent weeks. Former President Bill Clinton packed a Hyatt ballroom with nearly 1,000 supporters for Burke last week. First Lady Michelle Obama has made two visits. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also put in an appearance.

“I think it reflects the fact that she’s the candidate of Washington. We’re not bringing Washington surrogates in,” Walker told reporters after an event Tuesday in Wausau.

At the same time, Walker isn’t without some outside help himself, though he’s been complaining about how he’d like more help. Walker, who is scheduled to campaign the Republican Governor’s Association Chair Chris Christie back in Wausau on Friday, on Monday dinged Christie for not providing enough support, only to walk it back hours later.

“Let me be clear: When I complain about the national groups that come in, I by no means am complaining about the RGA,” Walker told reporters. “Gov. Christie’s a good friend. He’s the only person I’m campaigning with this week who’s not from Wisconsin, and that’s because he’s a friend and he asked if he could come to the state and campaign.”

Walker is leading Burke by 0.2%, according to a Real Clear Politics average of Wisconsin polls. And he hardly suffered from financial neglect. RGA has spent more than $20 million for Walker. $5.2 million in 2010, $8.9 million in 2012 and $8 million in 2014. If you add up all the outside spending, Walker has a $4 million advantage, according to a GOP source.

Walker and Burke have also been fighting for the female vote. Walker announced a bus tour today for Women for Walker and began airing a television ad featuring Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch claiming that Walker supports equal pay for women. Democrats were quick to cry foul, noting that Walker signed a bill repealing the state’s equal pay law two years ago.

“We’re one week out and Scott Walker is launching his ‘Women for Walker’ bus tour and releasing a TV a touting his support for equal pay after repealing the state law,” says Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, a group that works to elect pro-choice women. “Mary Burke, however, has a real message to run on – one that provides economic opportunity for hard working families, that’s a message that is electrifying crowds across the state.”

Nationally, Democrats have focused on turning out unmarried women, a demographic that reliably votes Democratic but rarely shows up in off-presidential year elections. In some races, Democrats lead by double digits amongst women.

But Burke enjoys only a slight edge with women, 48% to Walker’s 47% according to the most recent Marquette Poll out Oct. 15. Obama, who remains relatively popular with unmarried women nationwide, could help change that. “This is one of the closest races in the country,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “If the President is going to Wisconsin, it is a sign that strategists believe he can motivate drop off voters. In a race this tight, every vote is going to matter.”

It was a point Obama certainly drove home in the lively campaign event. “Four years ago, Democrats lost the governor’s race in Wisconsin by just 10 votes per ward. Ten votes. Hmm-mmm,” he said, arching a brow as the crowd laughed. “Ten votes. Ten votes could be the difference between an economy that works for everybody, or an economy that just works for the few. Ten votes could decide whether nearly 600,000 Wisconsin workers are denied a raise, or whether they get the raise they deserve. Ten votes could decide whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin families remain without health insurance, or whether they finally get a chance to go see a doctor. Your vote will decide the course that Wisconsin takes.” The crowd roared its approval.

–With reporting by Zeke Miller in Washington.

TIME voting rights

Voting Rights Battles Heat Up Ahead of Midterm Elections

Voting booths in polling place
Getty Images

After Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas may send voting rights cases to the Supreme Court

Updated: September 30, 2014

Voting rights advocacy groups and Ohio state officials submitted dueling briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday and Sunday in a fight over early voting in the state.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Appeals court for the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision to block Ohio’s new election rules, which would cut back early voting from 35 to 28 days before the election and limit early voting on weekends. The courts found that Ohio’s new laws if enacted would violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Ohio officials have asked Justice Elena Kagan to overrule the state courts and prevent voting from starting Sept. 30. She could hand down a decision as early as today.

Ohio is just the latest flashpoint as early voting fights are heating up around the country ahead of midterms. Democrats seek to mobilize lower-income voters who are less likely to turn out for general elections if they have to take time off of work to vote on a Tuesday. Republicans object, claiming the risk of voter fraud and other concerns require tighter voting restrictions.

Here are the three other voting rights laws cases that could work their way up to the Supreme Court before the midterms:

Wisconsin- On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals put into effect a law requiring most voters to present photo identification at the polls. Proponents of the law say it will discourage voter fraud, while critics say it will deter minorities from voting. On Friday, the entire Seventh Circuit split 5-5 on whether to hear the case, which may send it to the Supreme Court.

North Carolina – North Carolina’s 2013 state voting law, which eliminates same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting and shortens the early voting window by ten days, will be in place for the first time this year in a statewide election. A panel of three judges heard oral arguments about the law on Sept. 25, with one judge pointedly asking, “Why does the state of North Carolina not want people to vote?” The case will likely end up at the Supreme Court, especially if the Fourth Circuit rules against the law.

Texas – Last week, trial ended in a challenge to Texas’s voter identification law requiring voters to display government-issued forms of identification. Under the stringent law, a concealed-carry permit is a valid form of identification, but a student ID is not. The judge is expected to rule soon on whether the law violates the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and if the decision comes out against the law, the state could appeal to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Update: The Supreme Court on September 29th blocked early voting in Ohio. The order will stand until the Court acts on an appeal by state officials.

TIME 2016 Election

As Scott Walker Falls, His Democratic Challenger Continues to Rise

Scott Walker
Kamil Krzaczynski—AP Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago on August 8, 2014.

Mary Burke is running a campaign aimed at distinguishing herself from the increasingly unpopular Wisconsin governor

There are few Republicans who Democrats hate more than Scott Walker. Two years ago, Democratic groups spent $20 million trying to recall the Wisconsin governor, unsuccessfully. He has since raised a staggering $19 million and seems untouchable. So how is Walker is in the race of his life against Democrat Mary Burke?

After winning a close election in 2011, Walker drew the ire of unions and Democratic groups after he passed Act 10, which took collective bargaining away from government workers. His 2012 recall made him the champion of fiscal conservatives and free market right wingers. So much so that a year ago, when Walker made a trip to Iowa, he ignited a storm of 2016 presidential speculation. For awhile, Walker looked poised to sail through reelection and on to bigger and brighter things.

Then federal prosecutors announced in June that Walker, his chief of staff and others around him participated in a “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside groups during his campaign and recall. That case fizzled and a special prosecutor announced that Walker was not the target of an investigation and that there was not yet sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime. Walker dodged a bullet, but it was only the beginning of what has become a tough summer for him.

Walker’s approval rating has slid down below 50%, and his disapproval rating has crawled up to 48%. His stated second term agenda has underwhelmed pundits, who accused him of coasting. And Wisconsin’s job situation, while improved, is still struggling. Walker’s job creation record hasn’t lived up to his hype and his new created Economic Development Corporation has been mired with problems. Enter Mary Burke. “She’s running a very disciplined campaign essentially saying: I’m not Scott Walker,” says Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin Milwaukee political science professor. “She has really positioned herself as a no name moderate Democrat—fiscally conserve but socially liberal.”

Run Walker against a frothing crowd of angry unionists and he clearly wins. But run him against a faceless, generic Democrat and he loses: a distinction not lost on Democrats. Burke, who is the former executive at Trek Bicycle and a member of the Madison school board, has a virtually non-existent voting record. She speaks calmly and promotes her pragmatism, underlining her opposition to President Obama’s policies nearly as much as Walker’s. In other words, she’s done her best to make this race about Walker, not about her.

Walker’s problem is that everyone in Wisconsin knows who he is—for better or for worse—whereas 40% of voters in the latest Marquette poll, the gold standard of Wisconsin surveys, say they’ve never heard of Burke and have no opinion of her. That’s down from 70% when she first entered the race, but the more they know about her, the more they swing to her. Since April, Walker and Burke have been tied in polls, despite heavy spending on the by Walker and his allies on the right attacking her.

Walker’s team, recognizing that he was in trouble, went on the attack over the summer. They pilloried Burke as “Millionaire Mary,” and lately have been portraying her as a trust fund baby, highlighting two sabbaticals she took from the company her father started to travel. They’ve also gone on the offensive against Trek, accusing the company of outsourcing. It’s a fair criticism, only 10,000 of Trek’s bikes are made in the U.S., most of them are made in Asia and Germany. But the problem with these populist attacks is that they alienate Walker’s biggest fan base: Republicans who celebrate earned wealth and free marketers who believe outsourcing is actually good for the economy.

The strategy has drawn criticism from the Wall Street Journal, who accused Walker of “channelling Team Obama” in his ads. “Economic populism is usually the province of Democrats who don’t understand how free markets work or who cynically hope to exploit voters’ insecurities,” the Journal wrote. “Mr. Walker is better than that.”

Mike Nichols, of the conservative Wisconsin Public Research Institute, called on Walker to stop using the term “outsourcing,“ as “an outmoded, antiquated term that puts a confusing and negative wrapper around what is often a necessary and admirable practice.” And conservative bloggers and Walker’s ally, Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, have said he’d be better off focusing his fire on Burke’s plethora of other bad economic ideas.

The scandal surrounding his Economic Development Corporation hasn’t helped. The group gave money to companies to help keep jobs in Wisconsin. Only, it turned out, two of those companies then went ahead and outsourced jobs. Worse, both those companies’ chief executives turned out to be campaign contributors to Walker. All of which has combined to undercut Walker’s most powerful argument against Burke.

Burke, meanwhile, has come out swinging herself, accusing Walker of failing to live up to his first-term promise to create 250,000 jobs. Walker has created 100,000 jobs. He notes that under his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, for whom Burke served as Secretary of Commerce, Wisconsin lost 133,000 jobs, “so you see a shift of about 230-some-thousand jobs,” Walker told the Huffington Post. That math is clearly fuzzy. Walker has since shifted gears and claims he created 17,000 new businesses, a number fact checkers have since disputed.

Burke is experiencing a boomlet. The race has finally broken through on the national level and she’s hoping to attract more money, though she’s raised an impressive $6 million already, and more high-profile surrogates. “At the moment, Burke has an important quality: the potential to defeat Walker,” says Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison. “Although some liberals expressed hesitation about her candidacy early on, they are now almost uniformly behind her rather than letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Still, Walker clearly retains the advantage here. It’s hard to unseat an incumbent. Midterm election turnout favors Republicans. And with the President’s polling numbers in the toilet, Democrats have struggled on nonexistent coattails. Walker is also an experienced pol who has demonstrated he can pull out close races. One thing Burke has successfully done? Put on life-support talk of Walker in 2016. After all, if you’re unpopular at home, it doesn’t make for a great case nationwide.

TIME Crime

Sweaty Suspect Slips Out of Cop Car

Jarel Jenkins allegedly used the natural lubricant of his own perspiration to escape from a narrow window

A sweaty suspect managed to slip away from cops in Wisconsin, according to local newspaper the La Crosse Tribune.

Jarel Jenkins was arrested on “several outstanding warrants,” handcuffed, and put in the backseat of their squad car, while cops went to look for his companion, who had apparently wandered off.

When the officers returned to the car with the other suspect, they spotted Jenkins running away and saw that the sliding glass window dividing the front and back seats was covered in sweat.

The arresting officer suspected that Jenkins — who had been “sweating profusely” when arrested — had slithered through the divider aided by the natural lubricant of his own perspiration, and escaped through the car’s front door. Police found a meth pipe in Jenkins’ bag, according to the complaint.

Jenkins was captured after a two block chase, and charged with escape, obstructing an officer, possession of drug paraphernalia, and bail jumping. The La Crosse Tribune also reports that Jenkins is “being held on a probation violation and faces extradition to Minnesota, where he’s wanted for giving false information to an officer.”

Let’s just hope his jail cell is air-conditioned.

TIME weather

The Midwest Mayfly Invasion in 6 Photos (and a Gif)

A "massive emergence" of flying bugs


At about 8:45 p.m. Sunday the National Weather Service picked up this rather beautiful radar event, in which what registers as “light-moderate rain” seems to emanate from the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Iowa and into Minnesota. But rain it was not. It was a swarm of mayflies. Gobs of mayflies. Piles and piles of mayflies.

July202014

The swarm lasted for a few hours and by the time it was over many a windshield and wall was caked in slimy bug carcasses. The swarm was blamed for a three-car pileup in Wisconsin that left one person hospitalized.

Scientists weren’t taken off guard by the event—it happens from time to time (a very similar “massive emergence” happened in June 2012) and is actually a sign of the health of the Mississippi. Mayflies gestate under water but once they mutate into winged creatures and rise from the depths they have one job and one job only—to make babies. The swarm seen in the radar above seems to move north because, like a weather system, it is carried that way in the wind.

The event, and others like it, amount to a feast for animals that feed on the mayfly orgy, making it a good time of year to be a bird or a fish—or the owner of a carwash, for that matter.

TIME Campaign Finance

Scott Walker’s Legal Battle Could Change Federal Elections

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes a stop at the Republican Party of Wisconsin Appleton Headquarters Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Appleton, Wis.
Sharon Cekada—AP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes a stop at the Republican Party of Wisconsin Appleton Headquarters Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Appleton, Wis.

A case in Wisconsin has national implications

Wisconsin has hosted perhaps the nation’s best political circus in recent years, full of recall elections, lawmakers crossing state lines to avoid votes, and angry mobs of protesters occupying the capitol. But the latest attraction contains the seeds of a legal argument that could reverberate far beyond Madison.

Local prosecutors been building a case around the possibility that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate spending with conservative groups that helped him survive those recall attempts. Walker has not yet been charged, and he may never be. In recent months, the conservative groups have fought back by arguing in court that the prosecutors are politically-motivated and basing their case on a flawed reading of the law. A state and a federal judge have so far agreed, stopping the investigation as appellate courts review the matter.

What comes next could have big consequences for how candidates behave in the rest of the country. That’s because in his May 6 decision blocking the probe, federal judge Rudolph Randa ruled that the U.S. Constitution gives candidates and outside groups a First Amendment right to coordinate spending on advertising, unless the money is used to expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate. “Only limited intrusions into the First Amendment are permitted to advance the government’s narrow interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption and then only as it relates to express advocacy speech,” Randa wrote. “As other histories tell us, attempts to purify the public square lead to places like the Guillotine and the Gulag.”

This constitutional argument could have big implications for federal campaign finance law, which currently does not follow Randa’s reading of the constitution. The Federal Election Commission currently bans coordination between candidates and outside groups on ads that just mention candidates in the weeks before election, even if the ads do not explicitly call for their election or defeat. This is the reason why President Barack Obama did not coordinate his advertising with labor unions or Super PACs backed by wealthy liberals in the last campaign, and why Mitt Romney did not huddle with Sheldon Adelson during his campaign to discuss strategy.

“There is the potential here for the 7th Circuit to confront what is federal coordination,” says election law attorney Trevor Potter, who is critical of the Randa decision. “That sounds like a Supreme Court case.”

And the Supreme Court has not been kind to campaign finance restrictions in recent years. The justices have tossed individual contribution limits and undone rules limiting the political spending of corporations, unions and the wealthy. Should the court take up the Wisconsin case, the next step could be allowing lawmakers to plan campaign strategy with the Sierra Club or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. No middleman required.

For many conservative campaign finance experts, this is an obvious next step, given the current direction of Constitutional law. They argue that the current FEC regulations, which arise out of 2002 campaign finance reform legislation, will not withstand constitutional scrutiny. “They can try to enforce that,” says Hans van Spakovsky, a former FEC commissioner who supports the Randa ruling. “But if they end up in court they are going to lose that case.”

Coordination cases in campaign finance law are rare, since they require clear evidence of discussions that happen in back rooms. The case in Wisconsin is further complicated by the fact that state law is far less precise than federal law when it comes to what kinds of coordination are allowed.

But the 7th Circuit now clearly has an opportunity to test the federal law. And candidates for federal office, who increasingly rely on outside groups they cannot strategize with directly to get them elected, have reason to hope that the rules will someday change.

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