UPDATE : Former Scott Jensen Communications Director Steve Baas leads “Chicagoland” Free Trade project for Wisconsin

The July 25 Badger Democracy blog  revealed the Walker Administration’s participation in a regional study by the “free-trade,” “trade union reform” multi-national Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Badger Democracy has learned the Southeastern Wisconsin Coordinator for the study is Steve Baas – lobbyist for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and former Communications Director and Defense Witness for Scott Jensen, former Republican Assembly Speaker.

The alliance of the MMAC and Baas should serve as a warning and confirmation as to the agenda of this “study.” The OECD has an International record of bi-lateral, free-trade zone support, anti-union and labor policies in nations from Chile, to India, and Russia.  The MMAC, through its lobbying efforts, has supported every anti-labor, privatizing piece of legislation forwarded by the GOP – including the expansion of Charter Schools, Act 10, Corporate Tax Welfare, “Enterprise Zone” creation, and preemption of Milwaukee sick leave ordinances. In the first 6 months of this session alone, MMAC has spent nearly $20,000 on lobbying efforts.  Baas himself is on record in editorial writings  promoting Scott Walker’s agenda – citing many of the same flawed statistics that have since been debunked. Baas even appeared as a presenter at an Americans for Prosperity conference in 2008 on Health care reform with then-County Executive Scott Walker.  In 2006, Baas testified for Scott Jensen, taking the blame for Jensen’s staff conduct, and claiming Jensen knew nothing of their conduct during the Caucus Scandal investigation.

Steve Baas is coordinating the study in Southeastern Wisconsin on behalf of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the OECD – all of whom have at the heart of their agenda the expansion of bi-lateral, free trade zones and reduction of labor collective bargaining rights. The local media’s irresponsibility  in not recognizing the global nature of this struggle for middle class survival is unforgivable. This “study” receives no space on the MMAC website, no media coverage, and zero information (as usual) out of the Governor’s Office – and for good reason. If Scott Walker and his ilk continue to receive carte blanche, the Multi-National Corporatist movement will be able to continue these underground, “under-the-radar” actions that will be the end of a working middle class in Wisconsin and America. Working Wisconsinites need to tell Scott Walker and the GOP during the recalls that they are aware of his “shadow-style” governmental dealings with these organizations, where voters have zero representation, and no voice to be heard. The Global Free-Tradists are coming for you, people of Wisconsin – this is your warning.

Badger Democracy will continue to update as more information is available.

Walker email, study means more anti-Wisconsin ideas

An email obtained by Badger Democracy through Open records request from Governor Scott Walker’s staff to The Greater Milwaukee Committee, discloses Wisconsin participation in a tri-state study to promote “international competitiveness in job creation” and “labor reforms.”  The study is being conducted under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – a multi-national consortium of the world’s 30 wealthiest economies, and sanctioned by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Also involved is Argonne labs of The University of Chicago for energy research and the Friedman Foundation of Economics. The Tri-State study encompasses the “Metro Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and Southeastern Wisconsin” business corridor, and is the first regional domestic policy study conducted by the OECD.

The OECD has as its primary platforms, the liberalization of international free trade zones, and organized labor “reforms”. These reforms are pushed as policies of “flexibility” in labor negotiations as a means to make multinational corporations more competitive and profitable in a worldwide free trade zone (see pages 4 and 5 of the linked document).  In 2002, the group lobbied with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for “full market liberalism” in Russia – resulting in a devastation of Russia’s remaining industrial workforce. This study, encompassing Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, Chicago’s Rahm Emmanuel, and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, include three regional politicians who are fierce advocates of Privatization and Free trade policies. The Study Group recently sponsored two visits to Wisconsin – the first in March at Wingspread (S.C. Johnson) in Racine, and the second in June. The study has as its stated goals the fostering of “bi-lateral free trade and foreign direct investment,” and the use of “human capital” to “fuel long-term economic growth.”  The email also indicates the first attendees from Wisconsin will be part of a “Wisconsin Advisory Council” for the duration of the study. Badger Democracy is attempting to obtain the list of those attendees at the time of this writing.

When asked why Governor Walker’s Administration would refuse comment or information to inquiries from Badger Democracy, a source in Chicago close to the study stated they did not know. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce had approached Wisconsin (Milwaukee, specifically) media with press releases, and they were “completely uninterested” in the story (The Chicago Tribune has already run an article on the study). In addition, the source stated the group has “very good feelings” about the “Walker Administration’s involvement” in the study, as they examine methods of achieving an “integrated regional economy,” a tri-state free-trade zone.

Scott Walker is bringing more anti-Wisconsin ideas to bear on the people he was elected to serve. Entities such as Koch Industries, ALEC, and now OECD are lining up to push for policies purchased in the last election, supported by Scott Walker and the Greater Milwaukee Committee. They continue the plunder of Wisconsin’s resources for maximum corporate profits – regardless of the human or socio-economic costs. If the Corporatists of today are allowed to succeed, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and every other state in the nation will more resemble South America post-Milton Friedman doctrine than the United Stated we used to know. Once again, the Wisconsin press has slept as Scott Walker sells away the State of Wisconsin-and his soul.

Badger Democracy will update as more information becomes available.

Hansen Landslide is reason for optimism (and reality)

With Democratic Senator Dave Hansen’s landslide defense of his State Senate seat in Green Bay Tuesday, there is cause for celebration and optimism – followed by a dose of reality. One can almost sense the momentum building as the summer recalls heat up, moving into next month’s Senatorial recall elections. In a few short months Scott Walker’s poll numbers have reached historic lows – he is the most divisive Governor in the nation. GOP incumbents are losing ground in their Senatorial seat defenses, and grassroots campaigns are highly energized and motivated by ardent volunteers and thousands of small donations to the cause. There is every indication that the Wisconsin Democratic Party will be following these Grassroots Organizations through the recall season – in essence, “join us, or get out-of-the-way.” Yes, there is reason for optimism tonight, today.

The battle has just begun, and a certain consequence of the Hansen victory will be increased focus and spending by the likes of the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and other right-wing money machines. This victory must serve as solidifying all Progressive Democrats together, now. Senator Miller and Representative Pocan made a giant step toward that in drafting a bill which would restore Collective Bargaining rights – this must be acknowledged and embraced by the entire party and recall candidates. The Unions must in turn continue their unwavering, unified support of all Democratic recall candidates – and the recall of Scott Walker. Taking a stand together, in this grassroots – led effort will counter the enormous financial storm about to descend on Wisconsin.

Indications are beginning to point to all Walker recall groups talking, coordinating, and working together in the very near future – as it should be. This Summer, stay energized, focused, and involved in the Senatorial recalls – and we will prevail in taking back half of the People’s House. And be prepared for the recall of Scott Walker – it will happen when the time is right…so stay unified. There will be a statewide need to spread the word, educate, inform, engage, discuss, and gather petition signatures legally and ethically. As the Grassroots effort leads the way, the Democratic Party resources will play a supporting role – but make no doubt, this is a People’s movement.

Step 1 – Help our great recall challengers take back the Senate. Step 2 – Inform and engage statewide. Step 3 – Gather 700,000 legal signatures in 60  days. Step 4 -  Recall Scott Walker. Step 5 –  Work together to right the wrongs of the current administration. For now, we have reason to celebrate in the next 24 hours. Then back to work – we have a Democracy to save. Together.

New ALEC Bill in committee means drastic Prevailing Wage law changes

Assembly Bill 183 was referred to the Committee on Jobs, Economy, and Small Business on June 16, 2011. Thanks to the Center For Media and Democracy’s “ALEC Exposed” website, the true influence of The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on this bill, and the Legislators introducing it, can now be confirmed. Prior Badger Democracy articles exposed the corporate influence of ALEC on Legislators through source links, Open Records Requests, and connecting gathered information. The current Assembly Bill in committee can now be linked to a template piece of “Model Legislation,” and many of the introducing Legislators directly linked to ALEC.

Alternative media have been following ALEC for years – Badger Democracy first wrote on the mission of the semi-secret group as being one of “Corporate Anarchy” on March 29, 2011. The “ALEC Exposed” website, through a direct source, has been able to confirm what has previously been thought as “speculation” or “conspiracy theory.” As alternative media writers, we can now confirm that ALEC operates as a corporatic interest to influence legislation, maximize profit, and control the political process through its direct action. Center for Media and Democracy sources have discovered the practice of the Corporate ALEC Board and committee members drafting, and voting on “model legislation” prior to introducing it to State Legislators. The latest of these pieces of “model legislation” introduced in Wisconsin would repeal and rewrite existing Prevailing Wage laws.

The ALEC “Model Legislation”  addresses five key areas found in ALEC ideology, and consistent with its “Friedman/Chicago School” economic philosophy. These policies were well documented in “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, and served as the basis for ALEC’s economic policies. In fact, Friedman himself addressed an ALEC conference on June 21, 2006. ALEC policies fully reflect Friedman’s philosophy of unregulated, unfettered capitalism – with no accounting for human costs. The consequences of these economic policies has consistently been high unemployment, destruction of public education, destruction of a well-trained workforce, and the dissolution of the middle class. The legislation “talking points” for conservatives are all myths based on Friedman’s failed economic philosophy, which always benefits the wealthy, corporatic interests – and disenfranchises the middle class:

Myth #1. Prevailing wage law raises government  costs, lowers “private sector” jobs due to government intervention in the “free market.”

Myth #2. Prevailing wage law increases wages, benefits at taxpayer expense.

Myth #3. Prevailing wage law adds 30% to the cost of Public Instruction.

Myth #4. Prevailing wage law keeps young, new workers from entering the workforce.

Myth #5. Repealing Prevailing wage law will increase efficiency due to the lack of Government interference in the free market.

Wisconsin’s AB 183 directly addresses all five of these talking points. The bill would repeal virtually all State oversight of public project worker wages, and drastically change the current law. According to the Fiscal Bureau report:

1. Publicly funded, private construction projects would now be exempt from the Prevailing wage law. In addition, turnkey (government acquired previously private property) or dedicated (most road, sewer) projects would be exempt from prevailing wage law.

2. The single project threshold adjusted to $50,000, multiple trade projects to $250,000 (previous law set the threshold at $25,000).

3. The bill eliminates the requirement for employers to submit payroll records from a public project to the DWD.

4. Repeals the DWD authority to levy fines for violations. Such fines could only be awarded by the courts, and only to a worker on a municipal project – not a state project.

5. Prohibits any superseding local prevailing wage laws.

6. Changes the calculation of applicable “prevailing wages,” which will lower any calculated rate of pay.

7. Municipalities under 10,000 population are exempt from prevailing wage law.

8. Allows for inclusion of “subjourneyman” employees under prevailing wage (which would lower the rate pool), and allows for employing individuals OUTSIDE of their usual field of expertise.

The effect and language of this bill follows the ALEC model perfectly. It removes virtually all state oversight of public works contracted labor. The law will allow private companies to hire sub-standard, underqualified laborers at a fraction of the cost, reaping record profits with no state reporting in labor wage practices. The Private Sector will profit at the expense of taxpayers, and the displaced, qualified workers who USED to perform those jobs. These policies always cost the State money as projects run over cost, accidents increase, and lack of accountability leads to corruption.

The players introducing the bill have a confirmed, direct link to ALEC - Robin Vos, ALEC State Chair (accepted an undisclosed amount of money from ALEC for re-election), Pat Strachota (received $1404 in ALEC campaign funds), and Dan Knodl ($2000 in ALEC campaign funds). In addition, the following State Senators are co-sponsors (who have all used taxpayer money to pay their ALEC dues) – Lazich, Moulton, Galloway, Grothman, Lassee, and Kedzie.

The influence of ALEC continues in the Wisconsin Legislature. The “lawmakers” cited here have sold out their state, and their ethics to follow this course. Remember their names and their actions when elections occur – as they have always had a choice in their actions, and they chose a corporatic ideology that will damage the middle class in Wisconsin. Vote in the recalls, vote in the elections, and spread the word to take back our Democracy around the state, nation, and around the world.

 

Update: Wisconsin Democrats – are you listening?

Update – Over the weekend of 7/15, Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Mark Miller announced the drafting of a bill which would restore Colective Bargaining Rights for Wisconsin Public Employees. This is a great first step, and should be embraced by every Democratic Candidate invololved in recall elections, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

This week, social media networks lit up with pushback in response to a signal from Wisconsin Democrats – that there is growing interest in planning the Scott Walker recall to coincide with the November 2012 General Election. Scott Walker’s poll numbers continue to plummet into historic lows, and interest in the recalls is intensifying. The people of Wisconsin are becoming more engaged in the process - mostly due to grassroots, volunteer efforts. That passion and energy is supporting the poll numbers, speaking to an early recall.  There has also been a tremendous amount of feedback from a very “Democrat-style” tactic – distancing themselves from the Unions when it really matters. This at a time when unity, organization, and mobilization of large numbers of people are required – something the unions proved more than capable of in February and March. The Democratic Party distancing themselves from unions has made easy fodder for Conservative talk shows like Vicky McKenna, who ranted about that very topic – stating that the Democrats’ behavior validates what Republicans have been saying about Unions all along, that “they are thugs.” In essence, these issues reflect on a blog written by Badger Democracy on May 22, 2011, calling for leadership and unity in this unprecedented time. On June 23, a senior member of Mike Tate’s office contacted Badger Democracy and asked to discuss recall communication moving forward. I replied the same day, followed up with a phone call one week later, and have yet to speak with anyone from the State Democratic Party. Other local Democrat officials and activists share the same experiences. As progressives, we must move forward – here is how (are you listening, Democrats?):

Listen to the people on the ground, throughout the state. Listen to people on the ground, in the state, and give the people a coherent, transparent, simple message that is factual. Embrace the recalls as the Constitutional means to right that which is wrong. This Administration has walked a legal tightrope, as has the Legislature in a blatant power grab. The budget is a lie. Regular, working people will be harmed by this administration’s actions. Keep it simple and get the message and resources to your local leaders to spread it – NOW. There are opportunities to utilize social media, grassroots canvassing, and direct communication of a coherent message that is being missed. The people are still looking for a consistent, actionable message from someone…months into the process.

Unite with the people who got you here. Over 100,000 people rallied at the Capitol in support of Worker’s Rights. In spite of the twisted message from the neo-cons, Collective Bargaining is a globally recognized human right. The United Nations recognizes it as such, as do most other developed nations. Stand with the worker’s who have stood for you. If you don’t have the facts to counter the propaganda of the GOP, here they are. There are facts to counter fiscal propaganda here, as well – including the myth that public workers are robbing taxpayers with their exorbitant salaries and benefits. If you need a reminder, here are 4 basic reasons to stand with the Unions:

1. Unions represent real working people, who vote on their leadership, and have a vested interest in well-trained, well-educated, well paid jobs that create more jobs and keep local businesses thriving – not moving overseas.

2. Unions offer another balance against the “Robber Baron” mentality of profit at any cost, above all else – even human cost, and quality of life.

3. In the era of “Citizens United” and Corporate takeover of the political system – Unions are the last, organized resistance and opposition to endless monies flowing into GOP coffers – to buy elections, influence, power, and legislation (ALEC/Koch).

4. Unions organize hundreds of thousands of people who are real Wisconsinites – not thugs. Remember the people who rallied (and continue to fight) at the Capitol? They started this movement, and continue to this day, in spite of losing their rights on a daily basis.

The Wisconsin Progressive tradition demonstrates the need for us all to stand together against the “Robber Barons” of this new age. The GOP has been expert in dividing us – demonizing teachers, public employees, pitting worker against worker in their effort to consolidate power, money, and influence. The time has come for a leader to stand with Unions, workers, families, and people of Wisconsin holding to the Progressive principle that we truly work together for the people. The obligation of Government is to the betterment of the majority of the people – not the privileged few in power. Standing with the Unions and workers of this state is not only symbolic, it is required in principle as supporting the right of assembly, association, and free speech (see UN resolution in above link).

The means exist to accomplish these ideas – social media, activists, local leadership, networking, grassroots organizations, Unions. The leadership, vision and will is required to execute and support these principles. It is past time for fence-sitting as Scott Walker diminishes our Democracy on a daily basis. If the Democratic Party is unable to lead and unify in this time - Badger Democracy raises the prospect in this public forum (as heard in other forums) of a “Progressive,” or “Labor,” or “Progressive  Labor” Party. Perhaps it is time to leave the Democrats from the fold of Barack Obama, who left Wisconsin Workers wondering where he is, who is preparing to sell the middle class down the road of compromise for billionaires…leave those Democrats and Republicans to the Corporatics, and rally a party truly for the people. I leave it to the reader to ponder – and to the Democrats to act.

Walker email reveals purpose of meeting with Tom Ridge

An email from a lobbyist to Governor Scott Walker links a meeting with Tom Ridge to a multi-national “professional services organization” with a history of government privatization worldwide. Badger Democracy received the email as part of an Open Records Request. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge  is currently a board member or senior consultant with over a half-dozen private corporations, including his own “Ridge Global” International Security Consulting firm. Others include Exelon (Nuclear Energy), Hydraulic Fracturing (Natural Gas extrusion), even PURE Bioscience (patented antimicrobial – with Tommy Thompson), and others. There are many potential connections to Wisconsin in those interests; the lobbyist arranging the meeting, however, works for one of Ridge’s primary employers - Delloitte.

Ray Carey (also a Foley & Lardner attorney working for Smart Government Inc. and the Greater Milwaukee Committee on Municipal Government legislation – and privatization agenda) is employed by Deloitte as a lobbyist, along with his Foley and Lardner colleagues Kathleen Walby and Jason Childress. Carey, Walby, and Childress are also the attorney lobbyists registered with Smart Government, Inc - the lobby for the Greater Milwaukee Committee. As previously reported and confirmed by Walker staff communication, the agenda at the heart of the GMC activity is privatization of public services and resources. 

Deloitte has a worldwide record of government services privatization, many highly controversial and costly. The following are a few of the documented privatization boondoggles which have made Deloitte and Tom Ridge wealthy and powerful, at public taxpayer expense:

  • Adelphia Communications Corporation - The Securities and Exchange Commission announced on April 26, 2005 that Deloitte had agreed to pay $50 million to settle charges relating to Adelphia’s 2000 financial statements.
  •  Guangdong Kelon Electrical Holdings Company Limited – Investors have claimed that there was a failure to alert them to the company’s poor financial position.
  • Haringey Council Refresh Project - A local government IT project in the UK, in which costs rose from 9 m to £24.6 m. Deloitte were consultants on the project, despite being employed at the same time as the council’s auditors.
  • Irish Health Service Executive – Poor consulting support of health accounts system software in 2005 led to major cost overruns and the Irish Health Service Executive pulling the plug on the computer system entirely after substantial cash outlays.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) - The firm implemented the SAP HR system for LAUSD for $95 m and because of faults in the system, some teachers were underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all.  As of December 31, 2007 LAUSD had incurred a total of $140 m in payments to Deloitte to get the system working properly. In 2008 there was some evidence that the payroll issues had started to stabilize with errors below 1% according to LAUSD’s chief operating officer.
  • State of California Courts System – The firm has been working on a statewide case management system which originally had a budget of around $260 million. Almost $500 million has already been spent and costs are expected to run as high as $2 billion. No single court is yet fully operational.
  • In July 2011 Deloitte faced criticism from public health officials in Australia - Deloitte were commissioned by the tobacco industry to compile a report on illicit tobacco. Government officials called the report “potentially misleading” and raised concerns about the “reliability and accuracy” of the data. The report was seen as an attempt by the tobacco industry to undermine the Government’s plain cigarette packaging legislation.

Special access has been granted to Tom Ridge and Deloitte in the form of Ray Carey and the Greater Milwaukee Committee in his dual representation as lobbyist. Under the current administration rule, Walker could implement privatization in many public service areas without Legislative oversight and consent. Deloitte has a history in Healthcare Services and Municipal Government Finances, both of which are high on Walker’s agenda for privatization. These areas also align with the Greater Milwaukee Committee agenda  of consolidation and privatization. This information should serve as a notice to Citizens and Legislators - Scott Walker is intent upon the selling of Wisconsin services and resources for private profit, and public loss. There will be no public accountability or oversight – only huge profit for people like Tom Ridge and the Executives of Deloitte. The only remedy is the recall of Scott Walker and balancing his power in the Senate. Spread the word, share the facts of where the Walker-Fitzgerald is taking Wisconsin.

As of the updating of this post, the Walker Administration has refused comment to Badger Democracy.

GOP Redistricting maneuvers Wisconsin into Constitutional Crisis

The GOP redistricting strategy has one goal, and it is not to accurately represent shifts in voting populations since the last census. It is a power grab, plain and simple. Any objective analysis of the entities involved, outlined districts, and rushed timetable confirm that accusation. The greatest impact the GOP desire to retain power will have, however, will be to plunge Wisconsin into a Constitutional Crisis that will last for decades – if they are successful. The acts of the Legislature this session, Governor Walker’s power consolidation, and the judicial bias in the Supreme Court; combined with the privatized and unconstitutional redistricting process have left the State’s Charter document in shreds. The people’s right to democratic representation has been abridged, with redistricting being the final straw. As with all things in Fitzwalkerstan recently, it’s all about money and power – not Democracy.

Money and Lawyers – The Wisconsin Constitution gives the Legislature the responsibility of redistricting post-census. The Walker-Fitzgerald triumvirate hired Michael, Best, and Friedrich, and their attorney Jim Troupis in continued privatization of State legal services. Enough said. Troupis, et al., have a grand history with the GOP. Besides serving as redistricting attorney for Scott Jensen in 2002, Troupis has contributed heavily to Jensen’s legal defense fund. He has been helping Mike Gableman in his legal defense in an ethics investigation by the Office of Lawyer Regulation - an investigation for which Gableman could be disbarred. In the past 10 years, Troupis alone has donated nearly $20,000 to GOP candidates. Michael, Best, and Friedrich - in the hundreds of thousands to the GOP. As attorneys, they checked their ethics at the door in exchange for money and power. They are assisting willingly with supplanting the right to free and fair elections, and are receiving a healthy paycheck at taxpayer expense. The very same taxpayers they are shutting out of the Democratic Process.

Infringement upon Municipalities’ role in redistricting – Under Wisconsin law, local governments are required to draw new wards prior to statewide districts being drawn. The Legislature is required to abide by local ward requirements, and include municipal level wards in the Assembly and Senate Districts. In 2010, there were conferences for municipalities and government agencies to outline redistricting procedures in Wisconsin. Also in 2010, the Legislative Reference Bureau released a “Timetable for Redistricting”. The adopted timetable clearly shows Municipal wards being completed in June, 2011. Many are still not complete – the Legislature does not have the full information it needs to draw fair and accurate districts. The Timetable schedules the Legislature beginning work in November, 2011; completing work in January 2012. This Fitzgerald-controlled Legislature is so desperate to retain power, it is ignoring the accepted timetable, and infringing upon the Municipalities right to draw their local districts. In addition, the new redistricting law will pre-empt municipalities right do adopt wards in the future – giving the state the right to impose boundaries upon local jurisdictions. The new statute also forces municipalities to create local wards six months earlier than in previous sessions,with the state having the power to alter those local ward boundaries. The process is being created artificially, illegally, and unethically to serve the GOP desire for power preservation in the face of recall elections. The new law has another draconian effect, straight out of the ALEC playbook.

Legislating out Federal Intervention- In a statutory change in the new redistricting law, GOP legislators are taking a play right out of ALEC - state’s rights, or state sovereignty. The bill claims redistricting as a state right – not to be infringed upon by the Federal Government. ALEC has long presented “model legislation” and “model resolution” language based upon this argument (it is the basis for their assault on Obamacare). In this case, such language would prevent a Federal Court from intervening in the redistricting process – this has happened in recent history when Legislative bodies fail to reach agreement on future boundaries. Instead, the State Supreme Court would nominate a three judge panel, selected from Circuit Court Judges. Those “non-partisan” (if you believe that) judges would have the final say on new districts statewide. With this one law, GOP Legislators aim to take local involvement out of redistricting, and Federal oversight away – the ultimate power grab. The majority party no longer has a balance of power or check against its total control of the system.

Scott Walker has been given complete control of the Legislative process with Act 21. Corporate “Robber Barons” and law firms control state taxation policy and legislation. The Supreme Court is stacked with conservative ideologues who rule for partisan gain. The final nail in our Constitutional coffin is the disenfranchising of thousands of voters statewide – through voter ID (read “suppression”) and the illegal and immoral redistricting about to take place. Our elegant Founding Document is about to be found shredded at the feet of every legislator who has voted with Scott Walker, Scott Fitzgerald, and Jeff Fitzgerald. They have had a choice. They chose this path. If you haven’t been angry yet, you should be now. Spread the word, mobilize, communicate – the people must prevail in this struggle. It will be our time again soon, and we will show them the door – and what Democracy looks like.

Kaukauna School Board and Scott Walker have something in common…budgeting is not about the money – it’s about union busting

The Kaukauna School District has been put on display by the Walker Administration recently as a shining example of how the passage of Act 10 (curbing collective bargaining rights for teachers) has saved Wisconsin Public Schools. The story has received national attention, being cited by right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and Byron York in the Washington Examiner. The near miraculous shift from a $400,000 deficit pre - Act 10, to a $1.5 million surplus post – Act 10 seems almost too good to be true. While the  numbers are true; the actual story of where the deficit came from, the actions of the School Board during “negotiations,” and the effect on the people involved have conveniently been ignored by Walker and the GOP, and unreported in the media – until now. Badger Democracy has received email communications from Teachers Union Representation to District Administration outlining concessions offered to assist the District in balancing its budget – which went virtually ignored. A School Board member, speaking on condition of anonymity, has also informed Badger Democracy that a small faction of the Board and Administration colluded to ignore the offer and wait for Act 10 to take effect – potentially violating State Open Meetings Law, and weakening the Union’s ability to bargain and represent its members. The District’s budget process also reveals a method of creating a non-existent deficit – giving the appearance of a fiscal emergency, where none exists.  

The forecast Kaukauna 2011-2012 budget (page 5) cites a revenue loss of nearly $2 million from state shared revenue  - a result of Governor Walker’s budget impact on public school revenue cuts. Conveniently, this impact has been ignored as a basis of the deficit “crisis” facing the District. The District also faced an $840,000 loss in Open Enrollment (page 10) from students enrolling outside of the district and subsequent shared revenue adjustments. The summary shows a nearly $3 million deficit in revenue to expenditures before any adjustments are made (page 12).  After the proposed cuts in spending, including layoffs of certified teachers, and closing an Elementary School, the District projects a $33,901 surplus. The budgeting process also ignores the transfer of a 2010-2011 $345,000 surplus to the current year, which would have alleviated some of the deficit. School Board President Todd Arnoldussen, in a phone interview, stated that had it not been for the passage of Act 10, the District would have faced “increased deficits” in coming years. He also stated that deficits have been an issue in previous years – so much so, the District could have potentially become insolvent had something  not changed. He specifically cited the strain from Teacher Salaries and Benefits, stating that Disrtict teachers are “among the highest paid in the state.” A comparison of the current and previous Budgets shows his statement to be misleading and patently untrue. The budget deficit, in fact, has been created by District Accounting practices.

In the 09-10 Budget, Kaukauna began the practice of “Level 2 Budgeting.” Simply stated, the District now includes future fixed costs in its CURRENT budgeting cycle. Arnoldussen cited the Districts’  post-retirement benefit liability at “around $22 million a year.” The problem with this number, is that it includes all present and FUTURE staff retirements. Normally, a District would express that number as a future expense, balancing it with future revenues – such a future obligation would have no negative fiscal impact on a School District. Unless it includes a portion of that obligation in its current year – which is exactly what Kaukauna has done. The annual expenditure for post-retirement benefits was $1.05 million per year (2009-2010). The District added an additional $500,000 per year as a “Level 2″ expenditure – for the future. The District did the same accounting for Computer “Infrastructure” at $300,000 per year (in spite of already budgeted expenditure in this area), and building  “maintenance” at almost $1 million per year (again, in spite of current improvements already in the budget). $1.8 million in additional expenditures – not for current, but future spending. In the 2011-2012 budget, the district reduces some of this “Level 2″ spending in Computer and Building Maintenance. The future consideration is still nearly $1 million, almost 50% of the lost state revenue. This practice creates the appearance of a “fiscal emergency,”  especially to citizens who look only at the bottom line. True accounting of the current year’s expenses would have cut the deficit nearly in half, but would have had much less impact on shaping opinion.

In response to the Kaukauna Schools budget situation, and to preserve teacher’s jobs in the face of layoffs, the Teachers Union offered a concession to the District in early April. Here are the initial proposed concessions:

          2 Year Extension of the current contract

·         KEA Pays Share of the Pension (5.8% the same amount Act 10 would require)

·         KEA Pays 12.0% of Health Insurance Premium (the same amount Act 10  would require) if District chooses insurance carrier providing the same benefits as the WEA Trust 2010-2011 Plan

·         KEA Pays 12.0% of Health Insurance Premium if the District keeps WEA Trust, plus the difference in cost between what the District’s choice would have cost, and the actual cost of WEA Trust

·         KEA Accepts a Total Freeze of the Salary Schedule for 2 years (KEA Members stay at their 2010-2011 salary, step, and lane)

·         District controls start/end times, providing it includes a continuous 7.5 hour day plus a 30 minute duty free lunch

·         KEA would agree to be flexible on calendar, enabling district to consolidate half-days into full days.

The estimated savings to the district was estimated to be $1.6 – $1.8 million. These concessions, combined with the $345,000 surplus  from the previous year, and return to current year budgeting, would have created a surplus in the Districts Operating Budget. On April 13, the KEA leadership was led to believe their offer was close to being accepted. A meeting was planned that day with Mary Weber, District Administrator:

From: Geoffrey, Jim
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 10:17 AM
To: Meyer, Patrick; King, Tony
Cc: Weber, MaryKay
Subject: Meet with Mary

Patrick and Tony,

Mary will be meeting with the board leadership team (Todd and Giovanna) tom=rrow morning.  It would be very helpful to have the document we’ve been =orking on.  If you are availably, Mary can meet today at 11:45 or after sc=ool.

Please reply to this message (I’m copying Mary) to set up the appointment=if you can meet today.

-Jim

On April 14, the KEA was advised to reserve the school auditorium, in the event a vote on the concessions was needed. This request came from Mary Weber, District Administrator and was acted on by a KEA Teacher’s rep:

From: Geoffrey, Jim
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 6:27 PM
To: King, Tony; Meyer, Patrick
Subject: KHS Auditorium Reserved

I have reserved the KHS Auditorium after school next Tuesday, April 19th an= next Wednesday, April 20th in case it would be necessary. We have no scho=l the 21st-25th.

-Jim

After submitting good faith concessions, which would have given the School District the “tools” it needed to balance the budget and keep good will with the teachers, the School Board outright rejected the offer on April 19. With no explanation or counter-offer, the School Board claimed to have voted “unanimously” to reject the offer (although no record of this vote exists), and wait for Act 10 to take effect:

From: Meyer, Patrick
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:44 AM
To: KEA Members
Subject: Negotiations Update

Fellow KEA Members:
Approximately two weeks ago, the KEA Negotiations Committee met to discuss =he concessions we would consider proposing to help close the district’s =rojected budget deficit of nearly $3.9 million.  We created the following =roposal and submitted it to the district leadership last week for consider=tion during closed session on Monday, April 19, 2011.
Proposal for Extending the 2009-2011 KEA Master Agreement
(see above listed concessions)
Early this morning, Tony King, Jim Geoffrey, and I met with the school boar= president, Todd Arnoldussen, Mary Weber, and Bob Schafer to discuss an ex=ension to the KEA Master Agreement.  Todd explained that the board careful=y considered our proposal, but in the end decided, via a unanimous vote, t= reject our proposal and continue their budget deliberations and changes u=der the assumption that the current collective bargaining law will remain =n place.
Please know that your negotiations committee and the KEA leadership will co=tinue to explore all options to enable us to maintain the rights that we h=ve struggled to achieve.  As more information becomes available, we will k=ep you informed.
Sincerely,
Patrick D. Meyer
KEA Negotiations Co-Chair

There was no meeting scheduled for April 18 or 19, nor does any record exist of such vote, bringing into question the potential violation of State Open Meetings Law. Board President Arnoldussen has “no memory of that meeting.”  Additionally, a School Board Member (speaking on condition of anonymity) confirmed for Badger Democracy that a faction of Board Members (including President Arnoldussen) and the District Business Manager (Bob Schafer) intentionally set aside the concession offer – motivated by the imminent passage of Act 10 crippling the union, their ultimate ideological goal (Bob Schafer reportedly keeps a portrait of Rush Limaugh in his office). The source stated the motivation for speaking out being the negative impact of the budget on teachers, the divisive actions of the Board President, and concern that people in the community didn’t fully understand the nature of the Board’s actions.

As went Scott Walker’s Budget, so goes the Kaukauna School District Budget. The process was never about a fiscally responsible budget – but about breaking the union. The real impact will undoubtedly be felt in the community, as teachers facing an 8.4% pay cut spend less in the community, or leave for other communities. In the end, the children and families who rely on public education will suffer, as will the entire state – as happens when ideology trumps responsible governance. The mainstream media has again missed the real story. The human impact of this budget fiasco – which, upon further review in the Kaukauna case, is still a disaster.

Walker emails expose knowledge of Foley and Lardner (and Company) work on radical Municipal Governance Legislation

An email received by Badger Democracy through Open Records Request from Scott Walker’s staff prove that Walker met with Foley and Lardner lobbyists and the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) in January, 2011 to discuss GMC-supported Municipal Governance Reform Legislation.  A further email from December 2010 proves that Walker had discussed the key issues of statewide Municipal Governance Reform with GMC President Julia Taylor prior to even taking office as Governor. These email records confirm previous reports by Ed Garvey (FightingBob.com), Badger Democracy, and Rick Ungar (Forbes) in April. These reports exposed Foley and Lardner lobbyists’ roles in drafting radical Municipal Governance Reform Legislation for The Greater Milwaukee Committee, based on their ALEC-influenced “Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative. In spite of inside source confirmation received by Badger Democracy, Scott Walker publicly denied that he or his staff had any working knowledge of any such legislation. The emails obtained from his staff prove that denial to be another in a long series of lies and cover-ups.

The December 21, 2010 email arranges a meeting with GMC President Julia Taylor, Mike Grebe (Walker’s Campaign Manager, Chair of the GMC, and Bradley Foundation Chair), Shel Lubar (Private Investment Banker – has been calling for the consolidation of Milwaukee County Government since 2008), Ray Carey, Mary Panzer, and Brian Schupper (all lobbyists for Smart Government, Inc.). The email also mentions that Walker had discussed the issue with Taylor at a “previous Friday” engagement for the GMC – before even taking office as Governor. The concept of eliminating and consolidating Milwaukee County Government was a favorite of Walker’s while he was County Executive. In the County, he never had the votes. As the email suggests, these concepts “could be applied to other counties or local governmental units.” In other words, statewide – where Walker would now have the votes.

The January 21, 2011 email reflects the actual meeting schedule. Noteworthy also is January 21 as the official date “Smart Government, Inc.” is registered as a Lobbying firm in Wisconsin. The GMC also meets with Chief Tubbs from the Capitol Police. The purpose of the contact with Tubbs is unknown – Badger Democracy is awaiting a response from the Chief’s Office . These two emails clearly show that Governor Walker was working with the GMC, and Smart Government Inc/Foley and Lardner  lobbyists as they “pushed” this legislative agenda. In fact, as exposed by Ed Garvey and source-confirmed by Badger Democracy, Foley and Lardner lobbyists wrote the legislation (yet to be introduced).

Further, a February 11, 2011 email confirms that Walker had advance knowledge of the GMC’s “Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative.” As the previous emails show, Walker has had intimate knowledge of GMC’s agenda since his time as County Executive in Milwaukee. The “MY Milwaukee County Initiative” goals have been pursued by Walker since he was a legislator and ALEC member – consolidation, privatization, and reduction of Public Services. A previously reported email from Rep. Robin Vos proved the link between GMC’s lobbying firm Smart Government Inc., Koch Industries, ALEC, and the “Make it Your Milwaukee County Initiative” – they all share the same language, the same agenda, the same goal.

Under Wisconsin Statute, Scott Walker does not need a “Financial Emergency Manager” as previously reported.   Since Wisconsin Municipalities cannot declare bankruptcy, Walker only needs the right “tools” to measure fiscal insolvency to swoop down, consolidate and privatize public services – for the benefit of corporate Robber Barons. He knows this – that is why the GMC agenda being authored and lobbied by Smart Government Inc is so dangerous. Walker not only knew who was involved, what the agenda was, and what it means for the state’s municipalities – he supported and created the agenda himself while an ALEC legislator, and fought for it as Milwaukee County Executive. With the GMC initiatives and Act 21 in place, Walker has all the “tools” he needs to privatize and consolidate public services in Wisconsin.

Walker’s statement of wanting to have taken “more time to make the public aware” of the imminent passage of Act 10 (collective bargaining) is the biggest lie Walker has told to date. As he covered up the details of that action, he has covered up the details (indeed any knowledge whatsoever) of this still pending legislation. Walker knows the firestorm that awaited him with Act 10 – as he knows the public outcry of any attempted radical state co-opting of municipalities. Thanks to Ed Garvey – we have been warned. Walker and his corporate shills will attempt to hand over municipal resources and services through privatization and consolidation, making a very few very wealthy. The back-door deal has been exposed. The Corporatics can no longer hide in the shadows. Share the truth, stand up for Wisconsin.

What are you willing to do to change the course Corporatic Politicians like Scott Walker would have us follow?

Wisconsin Worker’s Struggle, Global Solidarity, and Resistance

Early in the Wisconsin Movement against the corporate coup d’etat, it was apparent state labor and progressives were in solidarity with a worldwide resistance. Scott Walker has adopted the policies pushed by the new age of “Robber Barons” – plundering state resources for unfettered profits, leaving a trail of human devastation  in their wake. It is a worldwide movement, facing a global economic system committed to “disaster capitalism.” State and world leaders are using a “financial crisis” as cover to implement their self-serving policies. The recent appointment of Christine LaGarde as Chair of the powerful International Monetary Fund (IMF) will have lasting repercussions in Wisconsin and the world. A worldwide resistance to this power will be required to save the working middle class.

 Christine LaGarde will not be the agent of change and reform, as the mainstream financial press would have the world believe. She has positioned herself as a financial world “feminist,” using that image to present a facade of integrity and independent thinking. The reality is LaGarde will continue the decades-old IMF practice of holding world economies hostage for critically needed aid money. In exchange for financial bail-out funds in the billions of dollars, countries like Greece, Spain, and Portugal will agree to implement  “shock doctrine” financial reforms. Reforms that privatize services, destroy unions, deregulate financial systems, and create record profits for multinational corporations; all while destroying the working middle class. The financial “crisis” being cited as necessity for this action has been created by the very entities who have consolidated profit and power under those policies. A speech given by Mme LaGarde in 2008, at the Executive’s Club of Chicago, clearly defines her economic philosophy. A philosophy that saw its beginning in Chicago, and will require united resistance by all the workers of the world. A philosophy that supports and encourages actions similar to Scott Walker in Wisconsin to be implemented on a global level, requiring people of the world to unite against a common foe – global corporatism.

On May 23, 2008, La Garde (then Minister of Economic Affairs in France) gave a speech at a special luncheon for the Executive’s Club of Chicago.  LaGarde has a history in Chicago. In 1981, she joined the multi-national powerhouse lawfirm Baker and McKenzie. She made partner in under six years, and was named the firm’s Chair in 1999. While in Chicago, she was highly influenced by the economic philosopies of Milton Friedman, a self-proclaimed Disaster Capitalist, and the Chicago School of Economics. A spokesperson for the School confirmed for Badger Democracy that while Mme LaGarde did not attend formal classes at the University, she is listed as a “highly important person in the world of economics,” and has had “frequent contact” with the School and faculty. Milton Friedman and The Chicago School are cited as the origin of the “Shock Doctrine” (if you are not familiar with this doctrine, explore the link to Naomi Klein’s website) of economics. This Doctrine has created record corporate profits in developing nations, while devastating the middle working class wherever it is implemented. Early in her speech, Mme LaGarde states:

 “…France is on the move …I won’t go through each of our fifty-five reforms, contained in thirty-seven laws passed by Parliament in the last year. Together, they represent a kind of “shock therapy,” if I may borrow an expression from one of the most famous Chicagoans, Milton Friedman.

There are (1) reforms that we as a Government are implementing, (2) economic reforms that I am conducting more personally as Minister for Economy, Employment and Industry, and (3) international regulation reforms that your country can help us realize.

The shock therapy will make all the clichés about our country belong to history.”

La Garde goes on to outline reforms France has undertaken that will sound all too familiar to Wisconsinites. Wage and taxation laws benefitting corporations, pension and benefit reforms, privatization, weakening public unions, and opening France for international corporate investment. In a latter portion of the speech, she uses words we are accustomed to hearing from Governor Walker:

“France is open for business”

It is no wonder that workers in France have rioted in protest of these “reforms.”  Wisconsin and the world should take notice at how these reforms have worked in France since implemented in 2008. According to the CIA factbook  (note: the CIA link may not open the first time – click “refresh” while on the error message page, and it will open) on the French Economy, the reforms have generated large increases in private corporate profits. The cost to the working people of France, however, is much more bleak:

From 2008-2010, Unemployment jumped from 7.4% to 9.5%

Government Budget Deficit grew from 3.4% GDP to 7.8% GDP

GDP was down 2.5% in 2009, recovered only 1.5% in 2010

Public Debt increased from 68% of GDP to 84% of GDP

Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales have been privatized – formerly large sources of revenue for the state.

All the while, the recovery is being financed on the backs of the workers in France. The same programs are being implemented all over the world, financed in many cases by the IMF. Financing big money bailouts to the entities that created the “crisis” in the first place – at the expense of the ever-shrinking middle class. The IMF will withhold funds from these countries until “shock doctrine” style reforms are passed – giving the IMF the power to exercise its goal of  (direct quote from second to last paragraph in the following link) “Global Economic Governance.”  

The world is waking up to these ideologies so destructive to the working middle class. While news coverage in Wisconsin and the mainstream media are lacking, the people of the world are fighting for their rights. Wisconsin is not alone in this struggle. It has become a worldwide struggle whose outcome will define the world direction for our children’s children. The disaster capitalists and corporate anarchists are attempting a takeover of the world economy, at the expense of the human condition. As progressives have always done, we must stand with the people of the world and resist the philosophies of the Christine LaGardes and Scott Walkers of the world - who would see the world as an unfettered breeding ground for corporate profits.

Stand up, and continue to stand strong Wisconsin – ours is a global struggle, which will define the world we live in – and leave for the future. Vive la Resistance! 

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