One Wisconsin Institute conducts strategic research and public education on issues including attacks on voter rights, the absence of fair taxation, the threat to public education and student loan debt, among other issues.

Student Loan Debt

About this Program

One Wisconsin Institute has undertaken a multi-year student loan debt campaign involving both state and national partners conducting cutting edge research, polling, communications and developing policy alternatives as well as executing a massive public education campaign to both the media and the public about the full economic impact of the $1.3 trillion crisis affecting 43 million Americans, including nearly one million in Wisconsin.

Why this Issue Matters

For decades, conservatives have utilized the issues of race and LGBT rights to divide voters in the waning days of political campaigns. As younger generations grow as a percentage of the voting public, their evolved positions on these issues will denude the effectiveness of this divisive tactic. Unfortunately, saddling young people with multiple decades of record amounts of never before seen personal education debt will create fearful and pessimistic young voters without economic power. Fearful voters are more susceptible to the conservative economic message and inclined towards less investment in their communities, schools and neighborhoods.

Success on this Issue

To say the Institute’s campaign on student loan debt has started with a bang is an understatement to say the least. The results of a comprehensive report on student loan debt, homeownership and automobile purchasing were the lead story in the state’s largest newspaper and featured in media across the country. The Institute has generated print and television additional coverage of the crisis around the state and country, as we’ve presented findings to allied organizations, student groups, labor unions and business leaders.

Voter Rights

About this Program

The Institute has fought tirelessly against voter suppression and voter restriction, such as the state’s voter identification law. The Institute completed comprehensive research around the legalities and challenges of enacting voter identification legislation, including being the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging at least a dozen changes made to Wisconsin voting laws related to Voter ID, early voting and registration restrictions and polling place voter intimidation.

Fighting the Myth of Voter Fraud

In elections since 2005, less than two dozen cases of voter impropriety have been charged and successfully prosecuted in the state of Wisconsin. Given the more than 14 million ballots cast during that period, it is clear there is no real fraud in Wisconsin. This has not stopped the right wing from promoting the myth of voter fraud and passing draconian restrictions, such as voter identification in Wisconsin. We have fought this both in the media, in the state legislature and in the courtroom.

Expanding Access to the Polls

The Institute utilizes research, communications and organizing to expand access to the polls for voters in Wisconsin, particularly in traditionally underserved communities. The Institute’s legal counsel secured a historic first-in-the-nation victory for proof of residency for voters. In addition, the Institute developed a user-friendly voter registration site and working with partner organizations, conducted voter registration on various University of Wisconsin campuses, while engaging students on the issue of student loan debt.

Exposing Voter Suppression

The Institute has been a statewide leader in exposing voter suppression schemes in Wisconsin. In the past, staff at the Institute uncovered a nationally-covered voter caging scheme between the Republican Party of Wisconsin, headed by then-chair Reince Priebus, Americans for Prosperity and the various tea party groups. Work like this has made our organization one of the primary media sources in Wisconsin on voter suppression. In 2012, this culminated with our greatest victory over voter suppression to date: our exposure of the anonymous funder of voter suppression billboards in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Opposing Voter Restrictions

In 2011, Wisconsin passed one the nation’s most restrictive voter identification bills. The bill was ruled unconstitutional in state court and is currently under appeal by the Walker administration. In mid-November, Gov. Scott Walker announced during a speech in California at the Reagan Foundation, he would seek to repeal Wisconsin’s 36-year-old law allowing Election Day registration and we have immediately mobilized opposition to the Walker plan.

The Wisconsin Investigative Research Project

About Our Work

The Wisconsin Investigative Research Project involves synthesizing and marketing complex research on critical topics facing Wisconsin’s middle class and those in need. Over the years, the Institute’s research has focused on topics ranging from the attacks on voters rights, student loan debt, public education privatization, the conservative financing network in Wisconsin and Wisconsin taxation and finances.

Meet the Team

One Wisconsin Institute staff are experts in opposition and educational research, media communications, online campaigns. We are the progressive information hub for allied organizations and tens of thousands of activists across Wisconsin.

Kim Warkentin

Board President

Jim Rowen

Secretary / Treasurer

Melissa Nimke

Board Member

Kristen Dexter

Board Member

Scot Ross
Executive Director

Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now and One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director since 2007, has served as a senior communications director and research strategist for numerous statewide campaigns and elected officials.

Ross has worked as a communications director in the United States Congress, the Office of the Attorney General in the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Wisconsin State Legislature. Ross was research director for America Coming Together and research director the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He also unsuccessfully challenged a 30-year incumbent Democrat for WI Secretary of State in 2006 and, consequently, now strongly believes in term limits.

A former journalist, Ross got his first professional job as a reporter at age 18 and his stories have appeared in publications ranging from the Pittsburgh Press and The New York Times. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English and earned an MA from George Washington University.

While at One Wisconsin Now & Institute, Ross has overseen the organizations’ from a several hundred-member email list to Wisconsin’s most-often quoted progressive advocacy organization with over 75,000 online supporters. The organizations’ work has appeared in thousands of media stories and Ross has been a guest on national television and radio programs including The Rachel Maddow Show, the Ed Show, Melissa Harris-Perry, Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo and has been quoted in national publications ranging from The New York Times to USAToday to The Washington Post.

Among his favorite moments at work: When Stephen Colbert made fun of Scott Walker for nine minutes based on the “Thanks again and Molotov” letter that One Wisconsin Now uncovered.

Mike Browne
Deputy Director

Mike has been involved in progressive politics in Wisconsin for two decades – working for leadership in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, progressive political candidates and issue organizations at the state and local level.

Serving as the communications director for two Senate Democratic Leaders, including the leader of the “Wisconsin 14”, has given Mike extensive experience working with state and national media to deliver the progressive viewpoint on issues. His involvement as a top policy aide in the development of state budgets and other legislation has provided Mike with a broad understanding of state issues and the implications of policy initiatives.

Mike lives in Madison and has two children.

Jenni Dye
Research Director

A lifelong Wisconsinite, Jenni is passionate about progressive politics and engaging more people in the political process.

Jenni previously served as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and Foundation and was actively involved in the 2011 Wisconsin union protests. She has presented at numerous conferences on her grassroots work during the 2011 Wisconsin uprising and in advancing progressive policy at the local level, including presentations to the Personal Democracy Forum and People for the American Way’s Young Elected Official Convening.

Prior to working in politics, Jenni was an attorney with Community Justice and with Carney, Davies & Thorpe, working on family law, consumer protection, and municipal issues. She is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin, earning a degree in political science at UW before attending UW Law. During college, she interned with State Senator Judy Robson for several years.

Jenni lives in Fitchburg and currently represents her community on the Dane County Board.

Analiese Eicher
Program Director

Analiese is the program and development director at partner organizations One Wisconsin Now and One Wisconsin Institute where she primarily works on two programs: fighting the trillion dollar student loan debt crisis and protecting the right to vote.

Prior to joining One Wisconsin Now/Institute, Analiese served as the government relations director and chief lobbyist for United Council of UW Students and as District 5 Supervisor on the Dane County Board. She currently serves as the vice chair of the Emerge WI Board and as soccer coach to a great team of kids.

She is a proud UW-Madison Badger and lives in Sun Prairie, WI.

Cody Oliphant
Online Director

Cody currently oversees online communications, web development, and graphic design at One Wisconsin Now & the Institute, having served previously as Deputy Research Director from 2009 to 2012.

As a student at a University of Wisconsin college, Cody was a reporter and editor of the student newspaper. In 2008, he graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in political science and began an internship at our organization. A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, Cody grew up in Viola, a small community in the Kickapoo Valley in the southwestern part of the state.

Cody and his family live in Cottage Grove with their cat, Pearl.