Walker cronyism places State Patrol Troopers under Fitzgerald in suspect situations

There has been endless speculation and rumor since Scott Walker’s budget address and the security guarding the steam tunnel entrance to the Capitol. The “suits” seen in this video have been rumored to be private security – perhaps Wackenhut G4S.

Several calls to G4S finally produced a source who informed Badger Democracy that the “suits” in question are not G4S or Wackenhut; and in fact, that company has had no dealings with Scott Walker since the Milwaukee County Courthouse debacle. County Executive, Walker replaced (many would argue illegally) the County security with private security from Wackenhut G4S, the same company which came under federal scrutiny and investigation for its conduct in Afghanistan.  No, the “palace guard” that night was not private security – it was part of the “Dignitary Escort Service” providing security for Governor Scott Walker. The group is a specialized unit of the Wisconsin State Patrol, charged with security for the Governor and his family. The speculation regarding the mysterious eagle lapel pins worn by the troopers was answered by Colonel Ben Mendez. That is the insignia of the “National Governor’s Security Division”, a national interagency security division of the National Governor’s Association. Mystery solved, end of story…not so fast.

There were obviously more than six (the official number on the detail) troopers in that detail that afternoon. Accounting for a certain undisclosed number that would have remained with Governor Walker, there are five to six troopers at any given time just in the video. Once again, Col. Mendez offers an explanation – the extra troopers were on a “job assessment” assignment. They were new, potential future recruits to the detail – this was an “on-the-job” assessment of their ability to perform the function of Dignitary Escort. Col. Mendez stated the Department is re-evaluating that decision. This was probably not the best environment to place those troopers in, given the potential volatility of the situation. Or is it? Another observation of note is the trooper’s lack of willingness to identify themselves – something which is Department policy. Troopers are expected to identify themselves as Wisconsin State Patrol with proper identification when asked, unless they are imminently at-risk. Col. Mendez also stated they are reviewing that issue.

There are several questions that come out of this video based on the knowledge that these are State Troopers on “Dignitary Escort” assignment. First, Wisconsin law prohibits the use of Wisconsin State Patrol in labor dispute or demonstration. Plain-clothed “security” may not be questioned as such – especially if they don’t identify themselves. If the standard practice for Troopers is to identify themselves, were they under orders to not do so? Thus offering another contingent of law enforcement to provide security after Madison Police and Dane County deputies were taken out of the situation. Not wearing identifiable uniforms or ID would allow them to avoid such scrutiny in the middle of a labor protest/dispute.  Col. Mendez stated it was an oversight on their part. The need for “advance security” function would be a plausible and convenient excuse to station extra troopers anywhere – even in the public parking garage, which is Madison City property; or the Risser Building, which is DOJ property. The use of these troopers in this manner, in this situation (labor dispute), and the way they conducted themselves by refusing to ID raises more questions of the use of State Patrol during the demonstrations. A State Patrol lead by Stephen Fitzgerald.

Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald (father of Scott and Jeff, if you haven’t been paying attention). In an administration that has been rife with favoritism and patronage, this appointment was questioned from the beginning . When one considers the events in and around the Capitol at the height of the protests; and the stationing of Troopers at the Capitol the selection also raises serious questions about Fitzgerald’s role. Not widely reported during the interviews for the job was the fact that the previous Superintendent, David Collins, was a finalist along with Colonel Ben Mendez, current (and previous) second in command. Collins was expected to be replaced with Walker’s administration coming into office. He spent a few days as a Major on re-assignment assuring he didn’t lose a position with the State Patrol (as necessitated by Wisconsin law protecting civil cervants from losing their jobs due to political appointments). In a statement thick with irony, Senator Glenn Grothman (R – West Bend) commented at the time:

“The arrangements made for Collins seem like “a cynical manipulation of the system”… one of the problems we have in government is that people are hired for jobs they may not be qualified for just because they’re somebody’s friend.”

“Someone’s friend”…or father. At the time of his appointment, Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb stated Fitzgerald was the most qualified for the job. More qualified than Collins, Mendez, or three other troopers who had applied. In fact, Fitzgerald was the only outside-agency finalist. There is nothing wrong with new blood, new ideas, but an examination of Collins’ resume (a Doyle appointee) and Fitzgerald’s show stark differences in law enforcement management and leadership experience:

Stephen Fitzgerald resume

David Collins resume

Experience – Collins has led entire state-wide bureaus, managed multi-unit agencies, and headed state-wide investigation divisions. Fitzgerald was the Sheriff of Dodge County; nothing against Dodge county, there is a slight difference in quality of experience.

Education – Collins has a B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration, and has attended the FBI Academy Executive Institute. Fitzgerald holds an A.O.S. from Moraine Park; again, nothing against Moraine Park – but a slight qualitative difference.

Compare the resumes for yourself – be objective, and decide who you would hire to lead the Wisconsin State Patrol. This is patronage and cronyism at its worst. Placing the underqualified Fitzgerald in charge of the Wisconsin State Patrol – an honorable and respected agency is despicable. I commend Col. Mendez for his honesty, forthrightness, and loyalty to the troopers and public he serves. One can only imagine that he, too, is likely more qualified than Fitzgerald.  Benjamin Mendez resume

Ask the question – is the State Patrol being manipulated as on March 1, 2011 to serve at the Governor’s behest, even if illegal as in a labor dispute; are there other agendas at work here we will find out in due time (as we have throughout this administration)? There has long been talk of combining the State Patrol and the Capitol Police – is this a potential first step – a Superintendent who does the bidding of his sons and the Governor to support the plan, and continue playing the role of “palace guard in-chief?” Perhaps there is no agenda – at the very least, once again, Scott Walker has shown a complete disregard for the well-being of the people of Wisconsin. This is a slap in the face to every other candidate who did not get the job, and to every trooper currently under Superintendent Fitzgerald’s command.

Source confirms Walker’s knowledge of covert Municipal Governance Legislation

On Tuesday, April 26, a highly placed source in The Greater Milwaukee Committee confirmed that Governor Scott Walker is aware of legislation that would affect Municipal Governance in Wisconsin. As previously reported in this blog April 18-19; lobbyists working for Foley and Lardner have been drafting legislation to be introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature. After publicly denying any knowledge of this type of legislation, citing that there is “no truth whatsoever” and “completely bogus” claims, it is now known that Scott Walker is aware of this bill-authoring activity.

The lynchpin between Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) and Walker is the lobbying group Smart Government, Inc. A quick re-cap in case you need a refresher. Smart Government Inc (SGI) was chartered with the Secretary of State on January 7, 2011 (The Koch Lobby Madison offices were authorized on January 5 – two days before SGI was chartered). The charter holder is Raymond Carey, an attorney for Foley and Lardner in Madison, former Republican Caucus leader, and lobbyist for Koch Industries in Madison at 10 E. Doty Street http://ethics.state.wi.us/scripts/CurrentSession/oel.asp?PrinID=4407&start=S&start2=  Carey has also given nearly $10,000 to Republican campaigns in the 2008, 2010 elections. On the Secretary of State website, the principal office for SGI is listed as 301 W. Wisconsin Ave. Ste 300, Milwaukee. This is the exact same address as the GMC. Listed as the “Policy Director” for SGI is Brian Schupper, also the “Director of  Policy” for GMC. The listed phone number for Mr. Schupper, SGI is (414)905-0118 – his direct line for GMC. The connection is obvious – SGI is the lobbying front for GMC, chaired by Michael Grebe. Former CEO of Foley and Lardner, The ultra conservative Bradley Foundation, Chair of the Walker election campaign, and significant donor to recent Republican campaigns ($23,000 over two elections )http://www.followthemoney.org/database/search.phtml?searchbox=grebe+michael&Type%5B%5D=Contributors&Type%5B%5D=Committees&Type%5B%5D=Lobbyists&Type%5B%5D=Lobbyist+Clients&States%5B%5D=WI&Years%5B%5D=2011&Years%5B%5D=2010&Years%5B%5D=2009&Years%5B%5D=2008. SGI exists solely to forward the GMC’s agenda to Walker and Republican Legislators who have subscribed to the Koch, ALEC (see previous blogs), and corporatic influence over American Policy and legislation. The same Foley and Lardner lobbyists working for SGI also work for Koch Co. Public Lobby LLC in Madison – Ray Carey, Jason Childress, and Kathleen Walby http://ethics.state.wi.us/scripts/CurrentSession/oel.asp?PrinID=4238&start=K&start2=.

The source, after clarifying their understanding of the pending proposal, the public nature of the GMC studies and initiatives, and the GMC history behind it, stated that “Governor Walker knows as much about what is being written (in this legislation) as anyone else (on The Greater Milwaukee Committee) based on our public studies.” The source cited the “Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative” The-MY-Milwaukee-County-Initiative1 (2011) as being the influence for this legislation. Citing “fiscal stress tests,” “municipal government transparency,” and “tools” for local government as the key components of this legislation, the source insisted that there is no “financial martial law” language in this bill. When asked as to whether there was any previous discussion of such language, they stated that was never the “intent” of the GMC, nor has that language existed in any of their policy studies. The source was very clear that Governor Walker has known about this work, and was concerned at all the publicity surrounding this issue, stating that no one should take issue with legislating for “fiscal transparency.”

While true that the “Make it Your Milwaukee County Initiative” does not specifically call for financial martial law; if expanded to the entire state, the initiative does call for regionalization, shared services, reduction in municipal governance, privatization, and consolidation of services and authority to the state. More concerning was my sources insistence that GMC never supported the elimination of a Governing body. Quite the contrary. In January 2010, the study conducted by the Public Policy Institute on behalf of the GMC (“Should it Stay or Should it Go”) was commissioned specifically to study the elimination of Milwaukee County Government as it exists today MilwaukeeCountyStructure.Full , as stated on document page 120. This “Scenario 1″ is detailed on page 123. The GMC, while Walker was County Executive, authored a report supporting the elimination of Milwaukee County Government, a position supported by Walker (see Isthmus Citizen op-ed http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=33283).

This brings us to today. Scott Walker is aware of this pending legislation based on ideological policies he has supported longer than he has been Governor. There are two possible scenarios – both cannot be true simultaneously. First – Walker, my sources and the GMC are being completely truthful. There has never been any discussion, support, or publication of any policy similar to “Fiscal Martial Law” for municipalities in Wisconsin. This is all a big misunderstanding; everyone has misinterpreted their noble efforts to right our fiscal ship. They just want “fiscal transparency” so citizens know when their communities are in financial trouble – nothing to see here, move along.

Second scenario – they are telling “half-truths” – known as lies in some circles. The published documents and studies from the GMC are consistent in their tone and message.  I have included the links – read them for yourself. Yes, they include “stress tests,” and “financial transparency;” but they also support dismantling of a County Government. They support mass privatization, regional shared services, and “structural changes” to Municipal Government. Would the GMC charter a lobby group with well-connected (Koch Co.) Foley and Lardner Attorneys/Lobbyists (SGI) to forward their agenda in the legislature – then leave out the biggest piece of the pie? I submit a scenario in which this “martial law” type language was in the bill being worked on at Smart Government Inc, and Foley and Lardner. When the information became public through Ed Garvey, Bdgrdemocracy, Rick Ungar, and others who followed the story, changes began taking place (in fact, probably are continuing to be). That language is being changed – again, this is just the beginning of the story. Our legislators will need to be vigilant and look at this legislation with a microscope. Scott Walker has known of this all along; as he is a puppet for the likes of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Koch Industries, and every other Corporatic whose policies he is a disciple for. His administration’s silence on this issue needs to end. A simple denial is useless – there is still more to this story, and Wisconsinites have a right to know the content of legislation, and who is drafting that legislation so greatly affecting their lives. After receiving this confirmation, I phoned Cullen Werwie twice. I left very specific messages as to what I required comment on by the end of the day. Not surprisingly, I received no return call. Scott Walker’s continued silence on this issue says more than any denial ever could. Stay vigilant, stay strong, Wisconsin.

bdgrdemocracy Op-Ed in Isthmus April 22, 2010

Bdgrdemocracy submitted an op-ed to Isthmus “The Daily Page”  summarizing the Walker/Greater Milwaukee Committee/Koch Brothers connections, inside sources’ comments regarding the existence of Municipal Governance Legislation, and the high likelihood that Scott Walker is aware of the drafting of such legislation by private lobbyists.

Read the full op-ed here, and continue to follow as events unfold. Stay vigilant, Wisconsin.

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=33283

Kloppenburg statement confirms necessity of outside investigation, questions GAB “investigation”

This morning, I sent the following email to Michael Haas at the Government Accountability Board, asking still unanswered questions about the conduct and implementation of the April 5 election in Waukesha County:

Michael,
 
We spoke after the April 5 election, and I forwarded you information re the 2006 election in Waukesha County. I also posted a blog on April 14 with that information, as well as a comparison of Waukesha vs. other county results from other years http://bdgrdemocracy.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/waukesha-county-how-many-elections-should-be-recounted/
 
After hearing and reading Joanne Kloppenburg’s statement yesterday, I wanted to ask you some follow-up questions that are most likely stirring in many people’s minds, and I would ask you to reply on record. You can reply to this email address and include any future press releases to the same address.
 
1. In the GAB statement, it was stated that all ballots have been secure since election night. In regard to that statement – Did Ms. Nickolaus have access to those sealed bags in the 30+ hours between the end of the election and her announcement of the “discovered” missing votes? Since touch screens were brought in the night of the election and photocopied ballots used, was there opportunity on election night to manipulate machines and ballots cast at any of those precincts (is that a possibility your office even investigated)?
 
2. On election night, Waukesha county displayed a running total of total votes cast. That information is no longer available on the Waukesha County Clerk website. Here is the “Official” count document posted, which I will assume you have seen http://www.waukeshacounty.gov/uploadedFiles/Media/PDF/Elected_Officials/County_Clerk/Election_Results/20110215_unofficial_results_summary.pdf
Regarding this document and report – Every other county posts a total votes cast for the election, why not Waukesha? An honest observation of this document when compared to other counties’ official documents raise question as to its validity – The document was generated on April 7, 4:21 pm, just before (or during) Ms. Nickolaus’ press conference; it was modified (right-click, doc properties) two hours later, and is “page 1 of 2″ – where or what is page 2 (or is this a blank page from a poorly created pdf)? Why is there no vote total listed for this election?
 
3. Your office stated its examination of the canvass totals were consistent with reported results. If 14,000 votes were not reported from the City of Brookfield in the election – what was the effect of those votes on the other races after the “discovery” of those votes? There were other races in Brookfield on that ballot – there has been no accounting of any other affected races. How is that possible?
 
4. Did your investigation include any examination of Ms. Nickolaus’ computer – email/communications regarding the election, data entry/transfers, key stroke, deleted/recovered files, etc.? Did it even occur to your office to examine this information?
 
Finally, I am not questioning your ability in overseeing a non-partisan office, nor am I doubting that you strive to assure fair elections. What I do question is the capacity of the people conducting the inquiry to act as quickly and aggressively as necessary to insure preservation of critical evidence. It has been 16 days since the election (2 of which saw no disclosure of known information). In that time, there has been time for the evidence trail to not only run cold, but to be severely altered. If you refute the fact that the pattern of behavior in Waukesha county warrants a thorough investigation, I would like to know why. In the meantime – I believe the call from Tammy Baldwin for Federal Investigation and now Ms. Kloppenburg for an independent investigation is fully warranted. I also believe she is correct that the investigators in your office were compromised by their close contact with Ms. Nickolaus. I would ask under state open records to have access to the same communications between your office and Ms. Nickolaus that Joanne Kloppenburg received.
 
As always, thank you for your time and effort during what is an unprecedented time.
 
Scott Wittkopf
bdgrdemocracy

Joanne Kloppenburg did what was required of her in this process, and the GAB must do what is required of them. At this time, the only avenue to recover confidence in elections for all parties involved is not only a recount, but a complete and forensic investigation – executed by someone capable of such an investigation. Many people (myself included) called for that type of investigation very early on – at this time, the evidence is already compromised. The questions have been asked and unanswered – the methodology needs to be as aggressive as necessary to answer them. Recount, and independent investigation will restore faith in fair elections – “nothing to see here, move along” attitude will only deepen the chasm of cynicism.

Walker Budget effect on Rural Wisconsin – ask Jackson County about municipal governance…

All over the state, municipalities are struggling to cover the gap left in essential service funding left by the Walker Budget proposals. As reported in the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel on April 7 http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/119428294.html , large municipalities in the state face a huge shortfall in cash due to cuts in shared revenues. The Governor’s budget adjustments only cover 61% of the shortfall, leaving a gap of almost $20 million – just in the state’s largest cities. This leaves cities and counties in a very difficult position of cutting services in a difficult economic climate. To make the situation worse, the Walker budget would eliminate the ability of municipal governments to levy property tax increases – one of their few means of generating revenue. The effects in these larger population centers has been given a great deal of publicity – what about areas of smaller population in rural Wisconsin?

Jackson County in Northwest Wisconsin http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/55/55053.html is home to just under 20,000 people. The county is 87.5% non- Hispanic White, 6.3% Native American. 79% of adults over 25 have high school diplomas, while only 11.3% hold a Bachelor’s degree. While almost 75% are homeowners (68% statewide), the median home value is $76,800, while median personal income is $17,604 ($21,271 state). Over 12% live below the poverty level, 2% over the state median. Most of the land East of I94 is bog, resulting in a population density of only 19.4 persons per square mile (98.8 state). The county relies heavily on state shared revenue for services, having a low property tax base. Based on GovernorWalker’s proposed 2011-2013 budget, the county stands to lose $278,000 in shared revenue. State budget cuts do not come close to filling the gap (as in larger municipalities). In a less populated rural area with less existing infrastructure and population base, even more people in need of current services are put at risk.

First reported in the LaCrosse Tribune: http://lacrossetribune.com/jacksoncochronicle/news/local/article_543c1186-6617-11e0-8a48-001cc4c002e0.html on April 13. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister and District Attorney Gerald Fox have presented a plan to the County Executive and Finance Committee which would help fill that revenue gap – and it would be unprecedented in Wisconsin. Under their plan, Jackson County would administer and prosecute most citations and forfeitures under county statutes – keeping the citation revenue in the county. When I spoke to District Attorney Gerald Fox on April 19, he indicated the county sends about $1 million per year in fines and court costs to the state. Only a small percentage of the total stays in the county, in fact, if a state fine or forfeiture is involved (as in a State Patrol citation) all revenue from that fine reverts to the state. A very lopsided transaction, when you consider the only state – paid costs are the salaries of the DA and Asst. DA, half salary of a victim witness coordinator, one Circuit Court Judge, one Court Reporter, and a computer work station. The county pays all other staff salaries and expenses out of its own coffers. The Lister/Fox plan would have the DA prosecute as many offenses under county statutes as possible in Judge Lister’s court with the fines paid remaining in Jackson county to help fill the state funding gap. Early estimates net the county a little over $100,000 in highway citations alone – a significant piece of the deficit.

In Black River Falls, the county seat, Mayor Ron Danielson struggles with potential cuts to Emergency Services. The already limited city payroll has little room for cuts already, and the largest portion of city payroll is dedicated to Emergency Services. Wisconsin Statute prohibits cities from cutting Emergency Services below 2009 levels; but under AB14, currently in committee http://madison.mygov365.com/legislation/view/id/4d4d14c949e51bae70a20900/tab/versions/ , that statute would be rescinded. If this bill passes, municipalities would be allowed to make cuts in Emergency Services to help make up their budget shortfalls. In small cities all over Wisconsin like Black River Falls with very limited revenue sources, there may be little choice – even with the creative solution of Judge Lister and DA Fox.

In light of recent news disclosing pending introduction of Municipal Governance reform legislation (see previous blogs), there could be serious and very intended consequences for rural municipalities like Jackson County. Even DA Fox expressed concern that under the current legislative climate, the county may see significant push back on such self-governing decisions. Should a Municipal Governance Reform bill pass as reported, what would the “stress tests” and “transparent fiscal management” language of those bills mean to the people of Jackson County? I submit a scenario that is not a great leap under the current climate of corporate – sponsored legislation. The state could deem Jackson County to be unsound, citing “questionable” methods in balancing their budget (like the Fox/Lister plan) – not to mention Walker not liking county money staying in the county. Municipalities would cut Emergency Services and Social Services as their shared revenue dwindles, creating more at-risk people overwhelming an already taxed system. It is not a stretch to see the state taking authority to “save” the county by systemically privatizing all non-emergency services. Streets, parks, sanitation, even administration could be privatized under appropriate legislation using a fiscal “stress test” as justification. The city/county function would revert to basic public safety, with other services being sold to the highest bidder (or no bidder); creating a service base with no local or legislative accountability. As Mayor Danielson pointed out, there is a lot of money in privatizing those “non-essential” services like parks and sanitation. The state could rationalize all municipal funds going to shore up “public safety”, with the rest being privatized under a new state agency answering only to the Governor (just like the new charter school bill). I challenge anyone from the GOP to disprove such a scenario – or deny the possibility on record.

This is the alarm sounding. The confirmed existence of lobbyist draft legislation “reforming” municipal government needs to be closely monitored, debated, and challenged. The potential looting of resources and money in areas similar to Jackson County, to be given away to corporate interests – with no public/legislative oversight cannot be allowed in Wisconsin. In a progressive state with open elections, honest government, and participative democracy, there is no need for such draconian measures. We need to take that back from Scott Walker and every corporate interest involved in this consolidation of power and influence (not to mention money). Take my word for it, this is just the beginning. Stay vigilant, stay strong, and keep on, Wisconsin.

Update: Foley and Lardner insider confirms existence of Municipal Government Reform Bill

Late Saturday night, I posted a blog presenting strong evidence that Foley and Lardner’s lobbyists are authoring legislation on behalf of Michael Grebe’s Greater Milwaukee Committee, and Koch Company public lobby interests. The presumed legislation would be similar to that in Michigan; as evidenced by sponsored studies and publications historically referenced by Grebe’s groups (Bradley Foundation also), and Koch-sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council “model legislation” for municipal governance(see previous posts).

On Monday, I received confirmation from an inside source at Foley and Lardner that work is being done there on Municipal Governance legislation. The source indicated that, in my sources opinion, the bill to be introduced is not as punitive as the Michigan Legislation. Rather, it focuses on “public transparency” and “fiscal stress tests” for the state to use as guidelines to gauge “open fiscal practices.” There is no plan on introducing any type of “martial law” or “punitive” statutory penalties as in the Michigan model, rather the focus is on “transparent government.” No other specifics were disclosed, but the source stated that “when the legislation is introduced,” the public will be able to debate the merits (par.). The use of “when” in that statement makes it seem imminent this bill will see the light of day. 

When pressed in regard to the Public Policy study commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (previous blog), and its exploration of dismantling Milwaukee County Government, my source stated “people have backed away” from that type of action. It was confirmed, however, that the influence of this group remains. Note the language of “stress test,” and “transparency in municipal government” aligns verbatim with GMC study language.

In confirming this activity, it leads to the question of accountability which now begins. There is no stopping the lawyer/lobbyist from drafting such a bill on behalf of the group(s) who sign the paycheck. There is, however, a constitution that guarantees free, open, and honest debate over these “private interest” corporate pieces of legislation. Although I was encouraged the suggested language in this bill-soon-to-appear is less authoritarian than first presumed; I feel we must be more vigilant during its introduction. Now is the time for pre-emptive publicity and making our thoughts known on this topic – lest it be introduced and passed in 7.5 minutes in the dead of night; with amendments making it every bit as authoritarian as the Michigan Legislation. There are already laws requiring fiscal responsibility in Wisconsin, and municipalities ELECT officials to do just that. This legislation referenced here continues the overwhelming power consolidation to the Governor’s Office, and his Secretaries. It is ironic that the so-called party of “less government” is imposing itself so greatly on municipalities. It will become nearly impossible for cities and counties to manage their financial houses; with state funds depleted and soon-to-be “stress tests” from the state…what happens when a city fails a stress test? Allow me to speculate. Just as with Public Schools, Governor Walker will have private companies and agencies waiting in the wings to step in and fill the “management gap” – just as in the case of his Charter School proposals. Again, just speculation. But if there is a test which one can fail – there must be consequences. What those consequences are remains to be seen, but we better have a long, hard look at any such state infringement on municipalities that constitutionally elect their leaders.

Stay vigilant, stay informed, and keep on – one day longer. As John Nichols referenced Thomas Paine recently…we must be “winter patriots.”

The Foley and Lardner Trail to “Emergency” Fiscal Legislation

Ed Garvey broke the story this weekend – Scott Walker is considering similar legislation to that of Michigan; giving the Governor sweeping power to take over municipalities deemed in fiscal crisis. The duly elected officials of said municipality would be replaced by an agent or agency of the Governor’s choosing; with power to render lawfully enacted policies null and void. Ten years ago this scenario would have seemed an implausible scenario – today, it may be knocking on our door. As I discovered after some research this weekend, this has been in the works for some time and Scott Walker is just the messenger. Time to name names and shed the light of democracy on this plot to use Wisconsin as a laboratory of privatization.

The blog written by Ed Garvey starts with Foley and Lardner, the largest law firm in Wisconsin and a huge national lobby interest. The high level connection between Walker and Foley-Lardner is well documented, so just a quick refresher. Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor is Brian Hagedorn, formerly of Foley and Lardner. More important is the relationship of one Michael Grebe, the Governor’s Campaign manager to his former employer, Foley and Lardner. Michael Grebe was a practicing partner and CEO of Foley and Lardner, is Chair of the ultra Conservative Bradley Foundation, and most recently the Chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.  Mr. Grebe has been accused of patent theft and has managed to avoid prosecution – but I digress.

Michael Grebe, very close to Scott Walker as his campaign manager, is not only Chair of the Bradley Foundation, he Chairs the Greater Milwaukee Committee http://www.gmconline.org/ . This “committee” has been very active in promoting privatization policy in municipalities and schools for years, becoming very aggressive in all of Southeast Wisconsin. This conservative organization recently started the “Make it Your Milwaukee County” campaign – here is the link to their website http://makeityourmilwaukee.com/ . The campaign has released the four page “My Milwaukee County Initiative”, linked in this pdf :

The-MY-Milwaukee-County-Initiative1  Page 3 is the important section, outlining the need for “fiscal stress tests”, “flexibility” in negotiating contracts, consolidating services, redefining elected Treasurer duties, privatization of services, and more. Many of these initiatives are the first steps to complete privatization of Milwaukee county – especially the “fiscal stress test” language. The group sponsored a completely unscientific, targeted survey to skew the public opinion perception, seen here Overview-of-Public-Opinion-Survey-2-12-11 . The survey was obviously directed to people who would affirm the results they were looking for (probably Alberta Darling’s district), as 75% of the respondents were white. US Census data shows the White non-Hispanic population of Milwaukee to be only 57.4%. A trumped – up survey, and initiatives being touted as “good for business” by a front group for ultra conservative privatization policies, chaired by a guiding force in Scott Walker’s policy making. It gets better.

The following story appeared in the Capital Times on October 16, 2010:  http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/article_ad49026d-9a14-5625-90c7-66a03ea6df02.html, following a debate with Tom Barrett. Here is the critical excerpt from that story:

Now, with just over two weeks until the election, Walker is finding himself repeatedly in a position to justify how the Greater Milwaukee Committee — a 32-member committee chaired by his campaign chairman — is recommending not only eliminating the county executive position he has held for the past eight years, but also privatizing the Milwaukee County Zoo. County park programs and bus service also could be on the chopping block.

Walker, who routinely preaches the need for smaller government on the campaign trail, says his proposal to solve the county’s financial problem is much bolder than the recommendations of the committee.

“There is no need to have a county government, which is one way to get out of this without the ‘b’ word,” Walker said prior to Friday’s debate. (The “b” word being “bankruptcy”).

The MY Milwaukee initiative was released in February, 2011 – that quote is from October of last year during the Gubernatorial campaign. Obviously, this is not a new idea. It wasn’t until discovering the full study prepared by the Greater Milwaukee Committee that I realized how long this idea has been “brewing.” Here is the full report, released by the Greater Milwaukee Committee in January of 2010. That’s right, January – 9 months before the debate – long enough to be under the radar, as it were.

 MilwaukeeCountyStructure.Full (Yes, it’s long – 163 pages)  The title of the study is “Should it Stay or Should it Go?.” In a story dated January 27, 2010 http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/82841867.html , Today’s TMJ4 concluded 10 months before the election:

 County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker said the report affirms his own reform plans for the county. The Public Policy Forum’s report was commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which is chaired by Mike Grebe, Walker’s campaign manager.

To summarize, with references to page numbers :

Page 120 – “Scenario 1″ – Eliminate Milwaukee County Government, the option the committee was “specifically commissioned to explore.” This section discusses County functions transferred to the state or an “agency appointed manager or other private authority.”

Page 124 – Discusses the issue of removing duly elected Constitutional Officials, requiring an amendment to the Constitution, but that other offices would be “abolished.”

Page 141 – Demonstrates applicable Massachusetts legislation relevant to Milwaukee County – including privatization of County services, pension “reforms,” County Treasurers eliminated, and regional commissions established for basic government functions with no taxing authority.

Page 149 – The most telling conclusion (remember who the Milwaukee County Executive was at the time):

“…a primary lesson learned is that undertaking a government reform that is so complex and contentious requires resolute leadership from state government and a willingness by the state to devote considerable human resources and an up-front financial investment to the endeavor. In Milwaukee County, the current county executive has expressed support for abolishing county government, but the governor and legislative leaders thus far have been largely absent from any discussion about significant downsizing or outright elimination. The Massachusetts example teaches us that state elected officials not only would have to be in on the discussion, but they would have to lead it.”

The roadmap has been there all along, commissioned (and most likely directed) by Michael Grebe and the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Now to make the connection to Foley and Lardner. On the Greater Milwaukee Committee website, the “Director of Policy” is listed as Brian Schupper, address 301 W. Wisconsin Avenue. Brian Schupper works for Michael Grebe. Brian Schupper is registered on the Wisconsin GAB website as a the “Policy Director” for “Smart Government, Inc.”, address 301 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee (quite the coincidence) http://ethics.state.wi.us/scripts/currentSession/oel.asp?PrinID=4407&start=S&start2= Also registered as lobbyists with Smart Government, Inc are three attorneys – Ray Carey, Jason Childress, and Kathleen Walby. All three are employed by Foley and Lardner in Madison, WI. Ray Carey was the Director of the Wisconsin Assembly Republican Caucus prior to working for Foley and Lardner. The listed lobbying interest is “Public affairs advocacy related to reforming local government.”  The final connection – all three are also listed as lobbyists with Koch Company Public Industries, LLC in Madison, WI, their primary lobbying interest.

Michael Grebe, through the Greater Milwaukee Committee has a shell lobbying group called “Smart Government, Inc.”, staffed by Foley and Lardner attorneys who are experts at the legislative process. These attorneys are on the Koch Companies payroll through Koch Co. Public Sector Lobby, LLC; and are engaged in well-funded experimentation on privatization as outlined in the GMC’s study. If there is any doubt about their motives – look at the financiers and powers involved. The Governor and Republican Legislators have put many municipalities on the edge of a fiscal knife by cutting state funds and services. It would be very easy to create a fiscal “emergency” in any one of these cities (or entire counties) based on a well designed “stress test” – to enable a rationalized and systemic privatization of that cities services, assets, and revenues. This would create ample opportunity for corporate barons to open new markets and solidify the corporatization of state services and political power.

Call, write, email every legislator with this information. they must be stopped before a bill is introduced, as it is clear they will stop at nothing to pass such a piece of legislation. And thanks to Ed Garvey for opening the door to this action.