Walker Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes to leave…recall on Walker’s mind

In a statement released on the same morning he signed the Wisconsin Presidential Primary change into law, Scott Walker announced the departure of Chief of Staff, and former Foley and Lardner attorney Keith Gilkes. Gilkes will return to his medical consulting firm, Champion Group, LLC. Gilkes was also the campaign manager for “Friends of Scott Walker” during the gubernatorial campaign.

Gilkes’ departure comes amidst a flurry of activity as November 5 approaches (the earliest date for launching a recall effort), and the John Doe Investigation which has already reached several key Walker Aides from his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive. The resignation will allow Gilkes to continue acting as a campaign manager for Walker during a seemingly imminent recall drive.

Seems that Walker’s got recall on his mind…

Update : Walker signs Presidential Primary change into law, continues to portray bi-partisanship in statement

Governor Scott Walker signed SB 115 into law this morning, as Act 45. This changes Wisconsin’s Presidential Primary from February, to April – now coinciding with the Spring General Election.

In his statement, Walker claims the Act will “make the administration of our elections more cost efficient—saving valuable taxpayer dollars.” The result will have significant impact on potential recall election strategy, as there are now only two statewide election dates to draw from – the April and November General Elections.

Further, his statement states,“I was pleased to sign a bill into law this morning that received support from Republicans, Democrats and the Legislature’s one independent member.” The actual vote, shows otherwise. Only 5 Democrats voted in favor of the bill – Cullen, Kessler, Richards, Young, and Zamarripa; hardly a majority of Democracts. Walker continues attempting to portray an image of “bi-partisanship” to the media, while continuing to promote legislation, rules, and policies to consolidate his (and the GOP) hold on Wisconsin poitical power.

Early August Unemployment Numbers show slight increase in Wisconsin; Decrease in National

Preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Wisconsin’s Unemployment Rate still outpacing the National Rate; rising from 7.8% to 7.9% in preliminary data reporting. According to the report, there were over 800 newly unemployed workers, while the numbers of employed dropped by over 200o workers.

The National Rate remained steady, while new applications for unemployment declined. Depending on the revised final numbers, Wisconsin would continue to outpace the National Unemployment rate increase.

Scott Walker has called a “Special Session” to address job creation, although a majority of bills rather address deregulation, tax breaks for Corporations, and State-supported speculation. Bills on the schedule are listed at the previous link, and can be referenced at mygov365 or the www.legis.wisconsin.gov.

Breaking:GAB Rules “No Criminal Misconduct” against Kathy Nickolaus

In a report released this morning, an investigation led by Dane County Attorney Tim Verhoff on behalf of The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, found that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nicklaus’ conduct should not result in criminal charges. The report is highly critical of Nickolaus’ actions; as the letter to Nickolaus from the GAB spells out specific violations of Wisconsin Election conduct she is expected to correct. The report maintains the violations were not “intentional” and therefore did not rise to the level of criminality.

It is the opinion of this writer that the history of Kathy Nickolaus’  blatant disregard for the public right to fair and open elections does indeed rise to the level of criminality, as demonstrated in previous elections and her refusal to comply with GAB, and Waukesha County Board recommendations. Her conduct has done irreparable harm to public perception of elections, and she is accountable to every person who has cast a ballot in what they believe is a fair election process. The refusal of the GAB to intercede and act to sanction Nickolaus and hold her accountable also has created serious doubt as to their ability to uphold fair election standards. In addition, this continued farce being perpetrated by Nickolaus is an embarrassment to Waukesha County, and only fuels public perception of political corruption and patronage at the highest levels.

Kathy Nickolaus has a duty to resign immediately, and the call should come from Waukesha County, and the voting public of Wisconsin. The GAB must stand up to the political forces (GOP) in power, and do their job to insure fair and open elections in Wisconsin by recommending hand counted, paper ballots throughout Wisconsin, and strengthen the security chain for cast ballots. This is now the only way to insure the People of Wisconsin fair and open elections. Especially in light of the Nickolaus report, and her continued misconduct.

 

From Madison, with Love – Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the World

The peaceful occupation of Wall Street is virtually unreported in the mainstream media – save a brief update on MSNBC this evening. New York City Police have begun an attempt at quelling the protest through use of force, unprovoked and without cause. Why, in the United States of America, would this happen? How can the First Amendment rights of so many be restricted – to the point where Twitter will not allow #occupywallstreet to trend, even though it is exploding worldwide? One needs only look back about seven months to the occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol to find the answer.

The mass protest and resistance to Corporatic anarchy created a stir across the nation, and around the world. To neo-Conservatives, using Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald-led Legislature as puppets, Wisconsin became the “tip of the spear” in the rising class warfare. Destroying the Labor movement was just the beginning, as we all have seen. Something profound happened in February and March; something the neo-cons could not have anticipated in their attempted “shock therapy” for Wisconsin. The people resisted. 14 Senators left the state, denying the quorum necessary to pass  Act 10 – and waking up the entire country to what was happening in Wisconsin. In that time, people also began to wake up – prematurely, for the neo-cons, to the agenda being imposed upon them. People all over the United States began to wake up.

While much of the right-wing agenda has been implemented, some is stalled. In Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and other states, the right-wing has not gotten everything it wanted – and some things they have gotten are ripe for recall. The movement is growing – the people are poised to take back what is rightly theirs. Democracy, and equal representation regardless of class, race or social status. The blackout of “Occupy Wall Street” is a desperate attempt at censorship, by those who have become desperate to retain the power it has taken them 30 years to amass. In that desperation, comes the ability to do anything to hold onto power – including arresting innocents. Or, in the case of Troy Davis, executing a man who didn’t deserve to die. Or cut nearly $1 Billion from Wisconsin Public Schools, and strip public workers of their Rights to Collectively Bargain. Or cry “deficit crisis” as a rationale for decimating America’s social safety net and ever-shrinking middle class. Or allow hundreds of thousands of jobs to be “off shored” to increase the profits of 2% of the population, while hundreds of thousands are unemployed. Yes, the Corporate Anarchists are becoming desperate – and that makes them dangerous.

United we stand…this will be a heated Autumn – on Wall Street, Main Street, in Wisconsin and around the world. The People are rising, and the tide is turning. It must do so peacefully. Why? The right is increasingly looking to create antagonistic situations – as much has been said by pundits and politicians alike in Madison and Wisconsin, the same is true everywhere. Truth is on our side…heed the advice of Gandhi and Dr. King, protest peacefully, and we shall stand together united – to “proclaim liberty throughout ALL the land unto ALL the inhabitants thereof.”

It is our obligation to spread the word…follow #occupywallstreet, watch the video feeds on youtube, follow Occupy Wall Street on Facebook, and share the story. More importantly, share OUR story. The People’s story, and stories of our neighbors, families bring us together and bind us in the common cause of freedom from Corporate Tyranny. We send to Wall Street, and to Main Street all over the world, love from Wisconsin – to the People’s Revolution.

Our time has come. People are waking up in Wisconsin and around the world. Spread the word – this matters. This is a pivotal moment in the People’s History, and it is for us to write – what will your chapter read when it is written?

SPREAD THE WORD, and Forward in Solidarity!

Scott Walker has Failed Wisconsin…part 5 – Public Education

Scott Walker has failed Public Education in Wisconsin not only by his budgetary policies of drastically de-funding public education, but by creating deep political rifts in the institution upon which Democracy relies. In a letter to his legal mentor, George Wyeth, from August 13, 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

               “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness…Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [tyranny, oppression, etc.] and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

The nearly $1 Billion in cuts to Public Education did not give municipalities “tools;” it restricted their ability to manage their own districts’ finances, forced school boards and administrations into political battles at the expense of public education, and used children as pawns in an ideological battle for power and control. Wisconsin’s public education system was not in a crisis – until now. Thomas Jefferson would be outraged at Scott Walker’s treatment of Public Education in Wisconsin.

School Districts have fallen in line with Walker, based on political ideology, even before Act 10 or the Budget was passed. Districts such as New Berlin and Kaukauna have flaunted their success and new “freedom” - thanks to Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature. On March 16, 2011, New Berlin School District leaders joined Walker in a press conference to tout the benefits they would see in the biennial budget. New Berlin is facing revenue shortfalls in the longterm, thanks to the restrictions on revenue (property tax levy) raising imposed by Walker’s budget. This will result in larger class sizes, record early retirement of experienced teachers, and cutting of art, music, and other “extra curriculars.” New Berlin Administration refused to comment for this article, standing by their support of Scott Walker’s budget. There are numerous studies (peer-reviewed and scientific – sorry Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, ALEC won’t publish these studies) that detail the detriment of large class sizes and lack of teacher mentoring to the educational process. The lack of transparency in the District’s dealings with its own teachers alone is evidence of politics taking precedence over education. Days after meeting with NBEA representatives engaging in good-faith negotiations, District Administration stood with Scott Walker at the aforementioned press conference, without the teacher’s knowledge. The District shut out teachers in preparing the new handbook, in lieu of a contract. The handbook has created a greater rift between the District, teachers at the heart of the schools, and students. New Berlin has chosen politics over education.

Kaukauna schools, also heralded by Scott Walker as a resounding success story, has been reported on previously in Badger Democracy. The July 8 posting provided proof of the District manipulating its own budget to create a “deficit” crisis that only Act 10 could save. In reality, the District was in sound financial condition, its support of Scott Walker being a political – not fiscal or educational decision.

In some school districts, the effects of Scott Walker’s policies are being dealt with in a cooperative and realistic way. Most are anticipating a difficult 5 years, being hamstrung by Walker’s budget and Act 10. The Elmbrook School District is one of the most affluent and educationally successful districts in the state. The District is also very open and realistic about the impact on education with Scott Walker’s policies. Even though Act 10 “saved” the District $3 million by forcing cuts in teacher salaries (increase in benefit contributions is a pay cut – as indicated in district documents pointing to the average teacher pay reduction of over $450 per month – over 8%); the district is LOSING over $6 million in revenue due to tax levy restrictions in the budget. Payouts from the pension fund are up over 50% due to record teacher retirement (thanks to Act 10), and the district is facing a shortage of experienced, mentoring teachers. The fiscal outlook has Elmbrook facing a $17 million + deficit over 5 years. All thanks to the current budget, in one of the largest tax bases in the state. The only choice Elmbrook has – increase class sizes, close schools, cut class offerings, at the expense of the students’ public school experience. Elmbrook Schools Superintendent Dr. Matt Gibson was out of town and unavailable for comment. Mayor Steve Ponto told Badger Democracy that in spite of voter’s fiscal conservatism toward property taxes, they would prefer to pay a little more to support quality schools – as polls would support. In fact, the average homeowner will see a savings of about $400 (on a $350,000 home) on their ANNUAL property tax bill (teachers lose more than that on their monthly paycheck). To balance the books, and maintain current services, the increase would have been .5% annually for three years, at most. In addition, Elmbrook included teachers and the union in assembling the new handbook. The manual was approved by teachers and the board alike – not a perfect solution, but in the absence of collective bargaining rights, one that was inclusive and respectful of teachers, and in the end, the students. Thomas Jefferson would agree – a small price to pay to maintain quality public education. Scott Walker has deepened the political rift between teachers, school districts, taxpayers, families, and the children who so desperately need a public education to sustain the Democracy Thomas Jefferson envisioned.

 Scott Walker has put money and power over the essential public education of our children – he has failed Wisconsin.         

“Walkergate” Update: Archer Emails, and Van Hollen partisanship

The Center for Media and Democracy released emails received from Open Records Request, detailing the high level of Cynthia Archer’s involvement in the Walker Administration. One of the Archer emails specifically contains a response to a request from Archer herself, on behalf of the Adminstration. Archer requests the top three overtime earners for state public employees. The corresponding spreadsheet shows that most of these public union employees are employed by the State Health Services (Nurse) or Department of Corrections (Corrections Officers). Scott Walker has long been on record as supporting privatization of Prisons AND State Health Services (especially health services in prisons).  It is not difficult to connect the dots from Scott Walker’s agenda as County Executive/Governor to “pay-for-play” political promises of privatization.

With the involvement of Archer, the trail is already on Walker’s doorstep. Not only evident by the $60,000 retainer paid to Steven Biskupic at Michael Best and Friedrich, but by JB Van Hollen’s partisan decision to not assist in the investigation. It should be noted that immediately prior to that decision, Van Hollen had already assisted the Milwaukee County DA in Election fraud cases. Adding fuel to the partisan fire, is the request of the Department of Justice to have Cynthia Archer’s Deposition withdrawn in the Federal Case against the Act 10 Collective Bargaining Law. Union Attorneys have petitioned the Court to allow the Deposition to be retained and made public. It would appear that JB Van Hollen’s office is continuing its practice of selective, partisan law enforcement. The timing of the withdrawal request does more than fail the smell test – it reeks of political favoritism, attempting to quell potentially damaging testimony from one of Scott Walker’s most trusted (and rewarded) aides de camp.

 As details continue to unfold, we are beginning to see higher-level connections to Scott Walker’s Administration. It is only a matter of time before Walker himself is directly connected.

“Walkergate” Player’s Link to Privatization point to Scott Walker agenda as County Exec, Governor

Last week, Cynthia Archer became the third high-level Walker aide to have a computer seized in an ongoing John Doe investigation of political corruption. If you count Tom Nardelli, she is the fourth Walker ally and appointee with ties to the investigation. As has been the case from the beginning, she joins the long list of people who claim to “know nothing,” – including Scott Walker. Someone knows something, and they are talking as the John Doe investigation rolls on. It may be weeks (or months) before all the details are known; but the information available already connects key players with a commonality of purpose. That purpose is shared by Governor Scott Walker himself, and could likely bring the investigation directly to the Governor’s Office. Darlene Wink was just the tip of the iceberg, as her emails likely led investigators to the major players in the investigation. All of whom share Scott Walker’s passion for privatization and de-regulation – first for Milwaukee County, then for the State of Wisconsin.

Tim Russell - Russell’s computer was seized at the end of August, 2010. Russell was the Milwaukee County Housing Administrator, whose employment with the County ended amongst a swirl of accusations of cronyism and political favoritism. More importantly, he had been Tommy Thompson’s Milwaukee Campaign Manager, and Walker Assistant Chief of Staff – behind Nardelli. Russell had been with Walker since his 2002 County Executive campaign, Treasurer for the Milwaukee County GOP, and a fierce advocate of Walker – Specifically, his privatization and consolidation of Milwaukee County Government.

Tom Nardelli – After serving as Walker’s Chief of Staff as Milwaukee County Executive, the former Aldermen received a generous position as the Administrator of the State Division of Environmental and Regulatory Services – under the re-organized Department of Commerce. Even upon Nardelli’s departure, questions arose over whether the Walker Milwaukee County Administration had properly preserved records as required by law. While in the Walker Milwaukee County Administration, Nardelli was a staunch advocate of the Greater Milwaukee Committee/Smart Government. Inc. proposal to privatize Milwaukee County Government. A view which Walker promoted and embraced while County Executive. Nardelli has also “lawyered up,” claiming no knowledge of impropriety. Nardelli abruptly resigned his post earlier this year. Under the new Administrative Rules Laws, Nardelli would have had significant impact on relaxing regulations for Builder’s Associations – a significant Walker Campaign Contributor.

Cynthia Archer - Had served as Walker’s Director of Administrative Services in Milwaukee County. Under Walker’s Milwaukee County, she was a point person in developing County Budget proposals and had full knowledge of Scott Walker’s agenda as County Executive. A loyal supporter, she followed Walker to Madison, becoming one of the top appointees in the Department of Administration – Deputy Secretary Of the Department of Administration. Under the new Rulemaking Laws, she would have had broad authority to affect current state policy toward business and development. Her sudden departure to Children and Families, along with her continued paid medical leave of absence remains unexplained. Archer, as with all others implicated, claims to know nothing.

The largest commonality between all these players is their committment to Scott Walker’s agenda – both as County Executive and Governor – of a “pay to play” game of favorable legislation and rule making to benefit Corporate Contributions. More specifically, the ability of the State to push Municipalities into Privatization of Services through “fiscal stress test” legislation, and “transparency” legislation. Exactly the type of Legislation being covertly worked on by another law firm, Foley and Lardner, and exposed several months ago.

At the time, sources at Foley and Lardner and The Greater Milwaukee Committee stated that the legislation would be forwarded as part of a broad municipal government reform in May or June. As the Summer wore on, the interest in the media of this legislation waned as nothing was introduced. In fact, as of today, nothing resembling this type of Legislation is even in Committee. It is important to note that this initiative was so important to Scott Walker, he spoke about it on the campaign trail, even prior to becoming Governor. Lobbyists arranged meetings regarding this Legislation prior to Walker even taking the oath of office. Today, sources at Foley and Lardner, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and Smart Government Inc. are virtually mute to the subject. The only statement being that “there is no activity on this legislation.” No longer denying its existence, they are merely stating the obvious. Why would Scott Walker and his allies leave one of his key initiatives, a passion he pursued even while County Executive, just die on the vine?

The answer may be found in the complexity of the ongoing John Doe Investigation. In Scott Walker’s “pay to play” world as County Executive, now Governor, the promise to Corporate sponsors of access to County and State services may have been too good to pass up – and too good for Walker to miss out on. The positions Walker placed his key Lieutenants in were perfect for executing the types of rules and policies Corporate thugs would have paid good money for. All they are missing is the Legislation to create the standards for “fiscal stress” – which is nowhere to be seen, as Walker’s Lieutenants dive off his sinking ship like rats.

If the Investigation is focused on this type of communication while Walker was County Executive, it will surely reach him – as he well knows. One does not hire an expert (and ethically challenged one, at that) in Steve Biskupic without having something to hide or defend oneself from – especially for $60,000. If legal communications and records were preserved, as required by law – we  will see the search party surely come to Scott Walker, as it did for Rod Blagojevich. Walker’s passion and zeal for cronyism, privatization, and his overreaching agenda are consistent with the actions of his Lieutenants in Nardelli, Archer, Russell, and Wink. Walker has abandoned his dream of Municipal Governance reform for a reason. The John Doe Investigation brings it too close to Scott Walker…

The Captain always goes down with the ship.

Scott Walker Has Failed Wisconsin…part 4 “The Wisconsin Idea” – Fighting Bob Edition

Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin by abandoning “The Wisconsin Idea” of State Government for a Corporate – sponsored plutocracy. This year’s “Fighting Bob Fest” is the most important since its inception; both as an opportunity for activism, and more importantly its message of “Class Warfare.”

The “Wisconsin Idea” of Government was forwarded by Robert M. LaFollette, Jr. to combat the overwhelming corruption created by Corporate “Robber Barons” influencing State and Federal Government. It states that Government should function to the benefit of the greatest number of citizens in the state, not the fewest and most powerful. That money and corruption had such influence that it was affecting Legislation which awarded favors (at taxpayer expense) to Corporations in exchange for continued campaign support. The Progressive movement in Wisconsin was a direct response to that influence – and was a successful grassroots movement in countering that Corporate influence. What is happening today in Wisconsin (and worldwide) is historically parallel. Class warfare began thirty years ago through tax favors to corporations and union busting, and has come to a head in the last six months. The message and political philosophy of “Fighting Bob” is the key to winning the day in the current struggle.

Through the influence of Corporatists and “Shadow” Organizations such as ALEC, the corporate influence on Wisconsin Legislation was evident early in the process this year. The influence continues in recent Bills, such as AB196, which limits and restricts the Government Accountability Board authority to monitor corporate election expenditures. The importance of “Fighting Bob Fest” is  in combating the propaganda pushed by Scott Walker and his allies. The way the People and Progressives bring back the “Wisconsin Idea” is by uniting against the Corporate Anarchists taking over our state and nation. That means uniting, educating, communicating, and spreading the word to each other and our friends and neighbors.

Scott Walker has sold out the people and the state for his political and financial gain. The winners are the Corporations which will reap record profits in this environment. The losers are the people – children, families, women, seniors, teachers, and anyone who will (at some time in their life) require a little help from their neighbors. “The Wisconsin Idea” means we help each other out in times of need, and building a just and fair society for all. The People will win when more and more citizens come to the realization that this is indeed “class warfare” being waged by the extremely wealthy against middle class working families. As economically insulated people living in Waukesha County begin being affected by companies like GE relocating to China, the people will win. As the lies being told on Conservative talk radio are debunked by those of us screaming out the truth, the people will win. As Scott Walker’s political house of cards comes crashing down in corruption, the people will win. When people’s neighbors and family talk to each other about record corporate profits and salaries, people will win. When people understand the effects of record poverty amongst record wealth, people will win.  “Fighting Bob Fest” is an opportunity for us to come together, share our experiences, stories, and gain the weapons of truth to fight this war – and win.

Scott Walker has failed the Wisconsin Idea, and in doing so, all the people of Wisconsin. This is why we protest, sing, write, shout, message, volunteer, serve, campaign, make signs, and share our passion for justice and truth in politics – and why we must continue to do so – to a wider audience. The people of Wisconsin have a right to the truth, and we will give it to them. As more and more working people of Wisconsin begin to grasp the enormity of this Class Warfare we are fighting – we will win. It is our obligation to the spirit of Fighting Bob La Follette.We will carry on The Wisconsin Idea of Government for the sake of the future.

See you at Fighting Bob Fest this weekend – Solidarity!

Breaking : FBI conduct search at former Walker aide, DOA Deputy Secretary Home

Breaking News – from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online, FBI and Dane County Sheriff Deputies executed a search warrant at the home of Cynthia Archer, former aide to Walker (then Milwaukee County Executive), former Deputy Assistant to DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch.

Archer recently left the DOA to take a position and cut in pay (although at a higher rate than her predecessor) at the Department of Children and Families. Archer was an aide to Walker during the timeframe currently under John Doe Investigation for Campaign Finance violations.

No comment or further information was given by the FBI or Sheriff’s Department, citing an “ongoing investigation.”

Perhaps this is an indication that we should refer to the Governor as Scott “Blago” Walker…

Stay strong…we’ll be here long after Walker is gone.

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