“Special Needs Scholarship” Bill is tale of collusion involving Scott Jensen, AFC, ALEC, GOP

Collusion is defined as a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” The actions of the American Federation for Children (AFC) under Senior Advisor Scott Jensen (ALEC alumni-turned lobbyist), in pushing SB486 with Leah Vukmir and Alberta Darling (American Legislative Exchange Council members) has indeed been secret and deceitful. Secret in the manner the bill was drafted and secret in terms of who it benefits (certainly not the Special Needs children).

The emails in question originate on Tuesday, May 17, from the office of Brian Pleva, a lobbyist for the AFC. The first page refers to the bill requiring a few finishing touches (“not quite soup”), and what follows is itself referred to as “model legislation.” The reference would be obvious to Darling, an ALEC member. The proposed bill coming from the lobbyist to Senator Alberta Darling is virtually verbatim in structure and content to the actual ALEC model legislation. This model “Special Needs Scholarship” was disclosed by the Center for Media and Democracy on their “ALEC Exposed” website recently. The two are virtually identical – this bill, now in committee, was written by corporate lobbyists and presented to Senator Darling for implementation in Wisconsin.

SB486 reads (with a few modifications) virtually verbatim to AB110 (the Assembly version of the bill). As for AB110, it is important to note the dates reported by the Legislative Data Service. AB110 was introduced, given the First Reading, and referred to Committee on April 26, 2011. SB486 didn’t even exist until February 16, 2012, and the Senate Education Committee Chaired by Olsen and Vukmir are holding a hearing today, February 28. The first Public Hearing on AB110 was held on May 3, 2011. According to Senator Darling’s own communication, the Bill was NOT EVEN COMPLETE at the time of the hearing. What was read, referred, and hearing held in regard to? Obviously not the Bill as it currently exists. The Fiscal Estimate was received on May19 - which would have allowed sufficient time for the Bill’s completion and fiscal analysis. SB486 is merely a minor re-working of AB110, and the fact that it is still being considered is the clearest demonstration of collusion between AFC, Scott Jensen, ALEC, and GOP Legislators.  

According to the GAB record of Lobbying Activity on SB486, the only interest in passage into law lies with Corporations who stand to profit – not from any Special Needs Advocacy Groups or Educators. Of the 17 lobbies reporting activity on this bill, only 4 are lobbying in support – The AFC, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (former Jensen staffer Steve Baas is its chief lobbyist, and is highly interested in Privatization with its activities and ties to the Greater Milwaukee Committee), School Choice Wisconsin, Wisconsin Catholic Conference, and Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (no surprises there). The groups lobbying against should be telling to the bill’s sponsors as to who will benefit – and it is not the children. Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin Association of School Boards Inc, Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services, Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin School Social Workers Association have all come out against this bill.

SB486 has been written at the behest of those who lobby for it, and will profit from it – at the expense of Wisconsin’s Special Needs Children. That is the deceitful part of this bill. Each of the Legislators co-sponsoring this bill are responsible for using Special Needs Children to line their own coffers, along with AFC, Scott Jensen, and corporate profiteers. If that were not the case, the diverse groups lining up against it would not exist. The collusion exists when government and legislators ignore the needs and best interests of the people they serve, and legislate to the highest bidder. Alberta Darling deserves her recall and the scorn of every citizen interested in the Wisconsin Idea.

Redistricting Update – Expert Ronald Keith Gaddie gives partisan, expected testimony in defense of maps

In a February 17th blog, Badger Democracy revealed the most influential player for the GOP in drawing the highly controversial redistricting maps, now in the final hours of testimony. University of Oklahoma Professor of Political Science ( while Wispolitics reports Gaddie from Tulane - Gaddie’s primary position is with OU) Ronald Keith Gaddie has taken the stand today as the GOP’s “star” expert witness, and is focusing on the statistical constitutionality of the new districts primarily in Hispanic areas of Milwaukee.

Gaddie’s testimony is countering UW-Madison’s Kenneth Mayer, who testified that a significantly higher number of voters were relocated than were necessary to meet constitutional muster based on census data. As previously reported in Badger Democracy on February 21, Gaddie has a long history of this type of testimony, and will likely offset the expert testimony by plaintiff witnesses…unless cross examination focuses on known ideological flaws in Gaddie’s conclusions. Expect the process itself to receive unprecedented consideration by the three judge panel.

Gaddie has acted as a consultant to the redistricting effort, being paid an undisclosed amount of money through Michael, Best, and Friedrich on behalf of the State of Wisconsin. More secrecy to the process…more change is needed. 

 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel privatizing and union busting like Scott Walker – and Barrett may jump right in

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign spokesman was “very pleased” that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would be stumping at a Barrett fundraiser in Milwaukee on March 28. Tickets are pricey, ranging from $400 to $2500. Rumors have circulated that this serves as a precursor to a Barrett repeat run for Governor against Scott Walker; as a White House/National Democratic Party choice candidate. A Barrett campaign spokesman flatly denies this scenario. A Rahm Emanuel staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Emanuel office has no comment – but would not deny this scenario. Should this prove true, what does it say about Barrett’s alignment with the likes of Rahm Emanuel, and his disconnect with the “Wisconsin Movement”, labor, and what has driven the recall? More importantly, why would Barrett even welcome an endorsement from Emanuel…the same Rahm Emanuel who led the sell-out of National Dems under Clinton to  NAFTA? Under pressure from Emanuel, it is clear that President Obama shifted his mild opposition to NAFTA, pushing additional Pacific Rim free trade agreements.

As a Mayoral candidate, Rahm Emanuel slammed Scott Walker’s political methods on the last day of his campaign:

“We’re gonna deal with our fiscal issues by being honest with each other, straight forward and on a level of respect to work out the agreements that are necessary to put our fiscal house in order so our economy can grow,” he said.

The Emanuel Mayoral Record on governing speaks volumes regarding his “level of respect” toward labor, minorities, public employees, and the general population – more so than the “D” behind his name. From early on, Emanuel had every indication that privatization was a priority. He picked Lois Scott as Chicago’s Chief Financial Officer , president of the financial advisory firm Scott Balice Strategies. The firm is well-known nationally for its work on government privatization deals, including proposals to privatize parking facilities in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles that were later put on hold. The firm was also hired by the administration of convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to explore the possibility of leasing the state lottery.

In July, Emanuel issued layoff notices for 625 city employees from janitorial services to library services; clearing the way for newly privatized services and weakening union representation for city employees. Just days after these sweeping layoffs, Rahm named Mark Angelson his Deputy Mayor. Angelson introduced himself to Labor Leaders by saying there is a “new sheriff in town.” Angelson and Emanuel have refused to meet and negotiate with labor leaders regarding wage and benefit negotiations. After a meeting to discuss layoffs, Angelson  refused to “…discuss the meeting with labor leaders as they left the headquarters of Local 399 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. “

Rahm Emanuel continues to govern more in the Scott Walker manner than an Illinois Progressive, making himself virtually unavailable to the public, reserving his time for the wealthy and influential. The “World Business Chicago” group, chaired by the mayor, not only meets in secret, but has its own rules regarding FOIA and Open Records laws – this despite receiving millions of dollars from taxpayers every year. 

Then comes the privatization. Emanuel is selling off the city resources at a breakneck pace, virtually unchecked, that must make Scott Walker green with envy. Recycling programs, City Health Programs, and Public Schools have been seriously impacted by privatizing – to the benefit of private donor-contracts, and to the detriment of public accountability and service to the general public.

As this is being written, an educational war is brewing in Chicago. Yesterday (February 22), the Chicago Public School Board (which is appointed by the mayor) voted to close or overhaul 17 public schools. Most of the schools serve poor and minority areas of the city, and most of those slated for “turnaround” will be done so by a private charter group. Through the appointed school board, Emanuel has declared war on the teachers union, and shown favor to private, non-union charters.

Emanuel is beholden to a slew of big money, big finance, high-powered donors – not the people of Chicago. His actions betray his party affiliation – unless he considers himself a Democrat historically linked to those of the Robber Baron Age. Regardless of party, Emanuel is no progressive – he is a corporatic.

This begs the question – the historical political alignment of Tom Barrett and Barack Obama, and therefore Rahm Emanuel is longstanding. The politics and policies of Barrett and Emanuel, the record shows, also have similarities. If Tom Barrett were to run for Governor, whose Governor would he be? His policies, which break similar to Emanuel’s; as well as Barrett’s campaign donors, do not bode well for Barrett as a progressive candidate reflective of the new Wisconsin Movement.

No less a conservative rag than the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute blog in a Mike Ford article reports on Barrett’s public school issues. While Jim Doyle was Governor, he and Barrett were pushing for the Milwaukee School Board to be mayor-appointed. In addition, Barrett has bowed to Milwaukee Corporate power brokers in his support for voucher schools;  and his opposition to mandatory paid sick leave for city employees.

Barrett is also on board with the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s water privatization agenda, ran on consolidation and privatization as a candidate, and is heavily aligned with the national Democratic Party corporatic elite such as Rahm Emanuel. Should Barrett win re-election as Mayor of Milwaukee, he will have positioned himself with high name recognition for a second run against Scott Walker for Governor of Wisconsin. Whether this is pre-arranged by some behind-the-scenes dealings by the Obama White House, this is the continued nationalization of Wisconsin politics.

While Tom Barrett would be a far cry from Scott Walker, and a vast improvement, whose Governor would he be? After all, did he ever sign the recall petition? Kathleen Falk and Kathleen Vinehout did - very publicly and proudly. Obama and the National Party were absent from the outset of this movement. Their interjection now, when it is politically expedient, is questionable at best.

The selection of a candidate must be reflective of who and what this movement is about – and that is “We, the People” of Wisconsin.

Federal Court to GOP – “Checkmate”

The Federal Court this morning called the GOP bluff in the Wisconsin Redistricting case, ruling that legislators could return to redraw highly controversial and partisan maps at the court’s request. We will know within hours if Republican Legislators will heed the court’s advice, and return to the “drawing board” to create less partisan maps.

As of this writing, GOP lawmakers have yet to contact any Democratic Leadership to consult on a potential new redistricting process. Expect the GOP and their attorneys to proceed with the trial on Thursday morning, relying on “adherence” to the Voting Rights Act as defense of the new maps.

For reference, see the February 21 Badger Democracy Blog for more detailed redistricting information.

Redistricting Update: GOP arrogance continues; why they think the maps will stand – and why they are wrong

Just a few hours after presiding Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller strongly suggested that GOP lawmakers revisit contentious redistricting maps, attorneys for those lawmakers returned with a weak excuse for rejecting the Court’s suggestion. Attorneys for the GOP said leaders  were “…willing to consider making changes to the maps but believed a 1954 opinion by the state Supreme Court prevented them from doing so.” This argument was weakened by emails from GOP attorneys at Michael, Best and Friedrich last year claiming the ability to “redraw the lines” should a recall election necessitate that action. GOP lawmakers did not consult with their Democratic counterparts, and continue a brash show of arrogance  in the Federal Case, set to begin sometime on Wednesday. Judges have told counsel to be ready on “45 minute notice.”

In a surprise development, it appears all but certain that lead redistricting attorney for Republicans Jim Troupis will testify. Voces de la Frontera has subpoenaed Troupis for information relating to emails, specifically regarding drawing of districts in Hispanic Milwaukee districts.  The Badger Democracy blog from February 17 revealed the participation of Professor Keith Gaddie in the Wisconsin redistricting process, and it appears GOP lawmakers and attorneys will be depending on his expertise at trial. Gaddie has a long history of giving “expert testimony” in redistricting trials. His almost certain testimony in Wisconsin will closely echo his testimony in a Maryland case last year.

In the Maryland case, Gaddie addressed the issues which the Wisconsin GOP hired him to secure for them – statistical compliance with the Voter Rights Act, specifically Section 2. Gaddie spent a significant amount of time on this issue in Wisconsin, staying at the Concourse Hotel in Madison from May 25-29th, 2011 with his expenses being direct-billed to Michael, Best and Friedrich. The Federal Courts tend to focus on two key aspects in a redistricting trial – the concept of “one person-one vote” or equal representation; and compliance with the Voting Rights Act. It is apparent from the released emails that the GOP feels they have a strong case in these two areas.  The attorneys specifically reference a “60-54″ Hispanic District (60% total population, 54% voting eligible population) in the emails. Low 50% is usually considered compliant. 

As referenced in the previous Badger Democracy blog linked above, there are many issues with the nature of this map. Not the least of which is the ability of a borderline ideologue such as Gaddie to “overpack” a majority-minority district to dilute the minority vote in surrounding districts – something Gaddie himself has admitted to in his own publication, The Southern Political Report.  Thereby making a minority district surrounded by conservative “leaning” districts with a net GOP gain.

There is a fatal flaw in the GOP strategy, however. In spite of Gaddie and the GOP ability to skew the numbers and demonstrate a loose adherence with the Voting Rights Act (which they know historically to be the Court’s focus), they have ignored several underlying issues in their overbearing arrogance. The court has already sent signals to the parties they are looking beyond these basic issues, and the GOP has ignored the warnings and is proceeding with the defense of an indefensible process. Here are those issues:

Voter Disenfranchisement: There are over 300,000 voters in Wisconsin who would not be able to vote for a State Senator in 2012, not able to vote for that office until 2014. In 1983, a Federal court threw out Wisconsin maps for a mere 174,000 voters disenfranchised. There are challenges to many urban minority districts as well, that the minority vote is diluted (see above).

Compactness of Districts – There are several instances of non-contiguous districts and wards on the new Wisconsin map – even in Dane County. There are also cores of some districts in both rural and urban areas that have been shifted for political purposes.

The Process – This will be the “kicker.” Especially of note is the likely testimony of lead attorney Jim Troupis as to the process itself – which is proven to be partisan and political at its best, fraudulent at its worst. The GOP is most vulnerable in this regard – and their arrogance disallows their admittance to this fact – and it will be their undoing.

From the beginning, the GOP chose this path to redistricting. Indeed, they have chosen this path to governing in 2011-2012; and through protests, recalls, this trial, more recalls, criminal indictments, and John Doe investigations; the time has come for them to pay the piper. If you think they have one ounce of humility or compromise in them – take a look at bills that passed the GOP legislatures today.

This movement cannot rest until Wisconsin is once again a beacon of clean government and the progressive movement.

Solidarity!

The most influential, under-reported player in the Wisconsin GOP Redistricting strategy – Oklahoma University Professor Keith Gaddie

The emails ordered released by a Federal Court on Thursday have received a great deal of attention in the media recently. What has received little to no attention are the emails (see page 18 of the emails)referencing Keith Gaddie(Professor of Political Science – Oklahoma University) , and the critical role Gaddie has played in Wisconsin and other states (Texas, Georgia, etc.) recently in the redistricting process. Gaddie is a renowned expert on the treatment of minority populations in redistricting, has consulted on numerous redistricting processes nationwide (particularly in southern tier states), and was a consulting expert in the 2002 Wisconsin redistricting with then Speaker Scott Jensen. Professor Gaddie has already been cited as an expert in the January 3 filing in Federal Court by Wisconsin Congressional Democrats against Congressional Republicans and the GAB.  A review of Gaddie’s prior testimonies and writings, coupled with the Michael, Best and Friedrich emails, show his “expertise” may well be the basis for minority redistricting in Wisconsin – and its legal defense.

 In a January, 2011 edition of the “Southern Political Report” Gaddie teamed up with his regular collaborator Charles S. Bullock III (University of Georgia) in a piece that previewed a GOP strategy for 2011 redistricting. The strategy they cite leads to a compacting of minority districts (primarily Hispanic) in southern states, minimizing their influence, as a trade-off for increased Republican concentration in surrounding districts:

  “Republicans fully support initiatives to increase minority concentrations in selected districts since each time the minority percentage in one district increases, a concomitant decrease in minorities occurs in one or more adjacent districts.  As nearby districts become whiter, they become more likely to elect Republicans.”

The effect is to “surround” the minority district with several of a “conservative” nature, leading to a net conservative gain. Gaddie is active in conservative “policy research,” contributing to American Enterprise Institute (AEI) publications and testimony regarding Voter Rights Act enforcement and minority representation. Gaddie was cited in a 2006 AEI submission by Fellow Edward Blum to the US Senate Judiciary. AEI was lobbying for Section 5 of the VRA to expire in 2006. Section 5 requires select southern states with historically high voter disenfranchisement history to obtain “preclearance” for election and redistricting plans from the US Department of Justice, to assure equal protection of minority voter rights under law.  Gaddie had led a study which concluded : 

“…there is no longer sufficient justification for the preclearance mandate. Greatly increased minority voter registration rates, minority voter turnout rates, and number of minority elected officials all indicate that the aim of the act has been fulfilled—voting rights and representation for minorities have solidified and section 5 should be allowed to expire.”

While the 2006 Congress eventually voted to continue the Section 5 practice, Gaddie is consistently cited in the final for opposing this minority protection. Indeed, his expertise aligns perfectly well with the recent GOP redistricting pattern and agenda.

Instead of seeking a true representation of the population, Gaddie gives GOP leadership like Fitzgerald the “tools” to manipulate the census data to further “compartmentalize” minority districts. They are then pared down to the lowest possible percentage of voter turnout utilizing a complex statistical equation (which puts a greater emphasis on voter turnout and population growth than representation) to rationalize under-representation (in this case 42.3% in Milwaukee, when the Federal standard is about 52%). Meanwhile, to compensate for a planned and programmed “minority majority” district, surrounding districts must then be drawn to compensate by making them more “Republican” than “tending Democratic.”

In December, 2011, Gaddie testified in Maryland to just such methodology. The emails from Michael, Best and Friedrich referencing Gaddie are consistent in showing this as an intentional strategy – and one they believe they are able to defend legally. The reason for gerrymandering this way is in actually “compartmentalizing” these minority districts, to give them the appearance of complying with redistricting precedent. The reality, sadly, is they are used to justify expanding conservative majorities surrounding these “minority majority” districts; instead of representing the natural population growth and change reflected in the census.

In retaining Professor Gaddie, the GOP knew what they were getting, and what they were doing. The method in which they obtained co-operation from certain Hispanic voter groups in reconciling this process is reprehensible – and the emails show it to be intentional. This is collusion – to defraud and hide their true agenda from the people of Wisconsin in this process. Professor Ronald Keith Gaddie has given them the tools they needed, and he will likely be a key witness for the GOP if the case is heard in court; just as he has in many other states for the GOP.

Badger Democracy has submitted an Open Records Request with Senator and Representative Fitzgerald(s) to explain the amount of taxpayer money Keith Gaddie has been paid in this fraud.

 

 

Fitzgerald torpedoes GOP, open government, environment for WMC and Gogebic Mine…just another day in Fitzwalkerstan

Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader (and subject of a recall effort) Scott Fitzgerald released a statement Wednesday afternoon which, by all accounts, has left his own party in political chaos. The Juneau Republican suddenly dissolved the Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs, and informed the Republican Caucus that the Assembly version of the Mining Bill (AB426) would be taken up in the Joint Finance Committee on Friday; likely to be fast-tracked for a vote next Tuesday.

One of the significant differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill were reportedly creating issues between GOP leadership and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). WMC not only holds the purse strings for many a GOP legislator, but have reported spending 386 hours lobbying for AB426. James Buchen, President of WMC, was recently reported as not favoring the Senate version of the bill. Gogebic Taconite was also resistant to the Senate version of the bill. Both WMC and Gogebic disliked the idea of “Contested Case Hearings” being restored in the Senate version of the bill. Contested Case Hearings would require public hearings, with “expert” testimony occurring under oath and subject to cross-examination. This factor, combined with more reasonable environmental consideration and potential for further public input in the Senate version,  have raised the ire of WMC and Gogebic.

Mining Committee Chair Neal Kedzie had scheduled two hearings – the first in Platteville (appropriate based on Platteville’s history as a center of mining in Wisconsin, and highly regarded mining program at UW-Platteville), the second in Ashland – near the proposed Gogebic mine and in Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch’s District. Kedzie also promised his Committee would consider testimony and input from the Bad River Nation in finalizing the bill; something virtually ignored by the Assembly in Mary Williams’ Committee or the Assembly draft legislation. One member of the Mining Jobs Committee, Republican State Senator Dale Schultz is cited in two reports (Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) as being unable to support the Assembly version of the bill. It appeared the final version of the bill, if it was to pass the Senate, would be significantly different that what Gogebic or WMC wanted.

In one drastic power play, Fitzgerald has eliminated any hope of the Senate Bill seeing the light of day in public hearings. He has assured fast-track passage of the bill out of the highly partisan Joint Finance Committee, to be available for a vote next Tuesday. This type of power play has been used against Senate Democratic members with regularity this session. In this case however, Fitzgerald has left members of his own party (including four – himself included – likely facing a recall election) highly exposed and “holding the bag.” They don’t seem particularly pleased – the question is – will this be the straw that causes the GOP camel to grow a spine?

In interviews Wednesday afternoon, three of the four (Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz – Zipperer’s staff was unreachable) GOP Mining Committee Legislative staffers informed Badger Democracy that none of the Senators were consulted by Fitzgerald, nor were they aware the Select Committee they had served on for 5 months was being dissolved, or that the Senate Bill was virtually dead prior to reading Fitzgerald’s statement. Senator Neal Kedzie released a brief statement Wednesday afternoon, falling into lockstep with the GOP. His staffer added in a follow-up question that Senator Kedzie was “signing on as a co-sponsor ” to the Assembly Bill heading to Joint Finance, and had no further comment.  

Democratic Senators Jauch and Miller released their own statements, expressing  sheer disgust at the “declaration of war on responsible government” (Jauch). Fitzgerald’s actions today are a microcosm of the entire 2011-2012 session, and the blatant power-grab taking place at the hands of Scott Walker, The Fitzgeralds, and the GOP. There is subversion of public participation in the process at every turn, closed-door meetings, behind-the-scenes deals being cut on behalf of Corporate special interests, and an overt sell-out of the resources in Wisconsin to the most powerful and wealthy – at the expense of the majority of citizens and the environment.

The Mining Bill AB426 will pass out of Joint Finance – there is little doubt of that. The burning question lies with the Senate. In throwing his own party under the bus at a time when 4 GOP Senators will likely face recall elections, have the Corporatists and Fitzgerald finally gone too far? Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz were left out (and Zipperer, most likely), as was the entire GOP Caucus. They reportedly spent Wednesday afternoon in meetings which were held to get them “in line.” Were they reminded of the threat from the Budget Repair Bill vote one year ago – vote with the party or face a Tea Party challenge in your next primary…loss of WMC backing…loss of ANY GOP money…?

The past year has seen courageous acts – not by any GOP legislators, but by the Democratic State Senators. The greatest of which was putting their career on the line, and standing up for what is right by denying a quorum to the GOP overreach for power. In leaving the state, they risked their own recall election, but are still standing, and representing their constituents – which is more than one can say for ANY of the GOP Senators.

In order for the Mining Bill to be blocked, two things must happen. The Joint Finance Hearing on Friday must be packed, with citizens in peaceful protest of this blatant disregard for Democracy. Fitzgerald’s actions are living proof of the strangle hold WMC and the GOP have on the idea of open, clean, and honest Government of, by, and for the people.

Finally – ONE GOP Senator must do something courageous. They must risk their political career for what they know is right. One GOP Senator must finally, after one long year, stand for Wisconsin and the people…not WMC or Corporatic interests. That Senator must understand the ends that comes from turning against your own, and the people, in the selling out of Wisconsin…and vote against this bill.

Fitzgerald must think he has (or will get) the votes one way or another, or he would not have taken this action. If the GOP falls into lockstep, yielding to the Corporatics, the New Robber Baron Age will officially be alive and thriving in Wisconsin. Scott Walker’s slogan “Open for Business” will take on new meaning – “Closed for the people and transparent government.” This is why the recall is critical and necessary. The likes of Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald have betrayed not only the people of the state, but their own party in a desire for power and favor with the Corporatist elite. The only remedy is the recall.

Solidarity!

Premature WEAC “Recommendation” in Democratic Primary – blatant disregard for members and the movement

On the same day State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) officially announced she was in the race for Governor in an impending recall election, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) announced its “recommendation” of Kathleen Falk to represent Democrats against Scott Walker. The announcement has been met with a strong backlash from WEAC members on social media sites, including a petition on change.org to “reconsider the recommendation of Kathleen Falk.”  While WEAC spokeswoman Christine Brey maintains the “recommendation” process occurs with input from members through their regional representatives, the backlash should send a message to other unions and party power brokers what and who this movement is about – the people.

Brey defended the early WEAC endorsement by noting the “unprecedented” short time frame before a potential recall election, and that WEAC members would “ultimately decide who they support in the primary.” The fact is, these are unprecedented times, and WEAC is doing a disservice to the teachers who marched in the first protests at the start of this movement. WEAC should let the members decide, not a panel holding behind-the-scenes interviews (as WEAC and other unions have held for potential candidates). This endorsement smacks of the type of “closed door” dealings that this grassroots movement stands against. State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) summed up WEACs endorsement (and the talk of AFSCME endorsing her) in a brief statement: “I think it is a big mistake and somewhat of an insult to the thousands who walked in the cold to protest and get signatures. This is a grass roots campaign, not a union bosses campaign.”

Jauch and other critics of this early endorsement are correct in their judgement. There are other potential candidates testing the waters (Barca, Kagen, Barrett, to name three); and a big union endorsement such as WEAC can go a long way to limiting the field. Cutting off potential financial and resource support through an early endorsement could very well frighten off potential candidates. In a race that will have record spending levels, that type of impact on a potential candidate could be enormous and that is NOT what this movement is about. This movement is about the people taking back their government and power – not yielding to opportunistic union leadership like Mary Bell. Recall in February Bell urged teachers to return to classes rather than continue vehement protesting at the Capitol. After outcry and backlash from members, Bell showed up days later to speak at a rally. Leave it to Mary Bell and the leadership at WEAC to put a political power play over the best interests of a grassroots movement.

Power plays appear to be what this Democratic primary is about, however. As this is written, AFSCME and SEIU seem poised to endorse Falk as well – further consolidating the “inside” Democratic Party apparatus behind Falk. While the Party cannot work for a candidate, the Falk campaign staff  reads as a “who’s who” of state and national Democratic Party operatives:

Meagan Mahaffey, Campaign Manager. Mahaffey has extensive statewide experience, most recently as Executive Director of United Wisconsin, the grassroots organization that led the collection of the more than one million recall signatures. In addition to other work, Mahaffey has led the statewide grassroots organization Advancing Wisconsin, served as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and worked on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Scot Ross, Communications Director. Ross has served as communications and research director for numerous statewide Wisconsin candidates and campaigns. Most recently, Ross was the Executive Director of the statewide progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. Previously he worked as a communications director for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

Brittani Garner Worringer, Finance Director. Garner Worringer previously worked as finance director for organizations including United Wisconsin and Advancing Wisconsin. She has also served a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Brita Olsen, Scheduling Director. Olsen has worked for various organizations including the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Advancing Wisconsin. Olsen has also worked for the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Paul Maslin, Polling Director. Maslin, of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) is Wisconsin’s leading Democratic pollster and one of the most respected strategists in the country. He has worked for Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and was Kathleen Falk’s pollster in her 2006 campaign for Attorney General and 2009 re-election campaign for County Executive.

John Kupper and John Del Cecato, Media Consultants. Kupper and Del Cecato are partners at AKPD Message & Media, a national consulting firm that served as President Barack Obama’s lead media firm in the 2008 election. They have a long history of involvement in Wisconsin politics, including serving as Sen. Herb Kohl’s media consultants.

Ben Coffey Clark, New Media Consultant. Clark is a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a firm formed by staffers from Obama’s 2008 campaign that is the largest digital marketer of the Democratic Party and brand. He is a veteran of several political campaigns and first got his start in Iowa working for Gov. Howard Dean in the 2004 primary. Since then, he has played a role in several high profile campaigns including Rahm Emanuel’s recent mayoral campaign.

Today, Mike Tate and Falk pollster Paul Maslin are speaking at a “non-fundraising recall event” at AKPD Message and Media in Chicago – David Axelrod’s  media firm, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. The people’s hope for a statewide competitive primary outside the Dane County center of power will rest with the people who started this movement – all of us.

With this premature endorsement, an opportunity has been missed. In these unprecedented times, it would have served the greater good for WEAC and other Labor to do something unprecedented. As opposed to endorsing a primary candidate, why not band together (in true Solidarity) and sponsor a series of statewide debates and candidate forums. This will be a very short election cycle, and the best interest of this grassroots movement would be to evaluate and choose candidates on their merits – not through the endorsement of WEAC and other party power brokers. As the People, we should demand this forum occur statewide.

We need a populist progressive to pull this state out of the Walker quagmire. Mary Bell and WEAC, in this endorsement, have promoted a self-serving “recommendation” over the greater interest of the majority of this movement. Yes, restoring collective bargaining rights is at the center of this debate – but its foundation is the power of the people. WEAC and other Labor are poised to disregard that foundation, and miss a golden opportunity for REAL SOLIDARITY.

Primary Debate for Democratic Candidates must focus on Walker, recall passion

The only two candidates to file with the GAB, and show engagement in running for Governor against Scott Walker are two Kathleens – Falk and Vinehout. As the two formulate their campaigns and messaging, there are significant differences emerging between the two. Falk is being positioned as the establishment Dane County Democratic candidate; her staff and campaign media agencies are a clear demonstration of that effort (including the report in the Chicago Tribune that DPW Chair Mike Tate will be traveling to Chicago with Falk pollster Paul Maslin for recall-related “non-fundraiser” business meeting at a DNC media consultant this Thursday; and reports have Theresa Vilmain acting behind the scenes as a “consultant” to the Falk campaign). Vinehout would be relying (as she has in each of her Senatorial Campaigns) on a volunteer grassroots organization. Where the attack on Vinehout originated from late last week is unclear – the Falk campaign stood back and watched, as pro-choice groups began a series of assaults on one of the “Wisconsin 14.”

The assault began with social media posts of a 2008 Planned Parenthood Statement expressing grave concern over Vinehout’s position on SB232 relating to Pharmacists’ dispensing  of contraceptives. Vinehout had offered an amendment to the bill (SB 232 Amendment 2) which would allow Pharmacists to opt out of dispensing contraceptives on moral or religious grounds, provided the prescription could be fulfilled “elsewhere.” 

 Vinehout clarified her record with a press release explaining her position on choice, and the offered amendment. Her explanation, in brief, was to put the pharmacy itself in the obligatory position of filling a prescription, while respecting the right of the Pharmacist as an individual to “ethically” refuse.

NARAL contributed to the debate with its own press release on Friday, stating “Senator Vinehout Backpedals on Anti-Choice Women’s Health Position.” NARAL accused Vinehout of “…(misrepresenting) her record on women’s health.” It should be noted that the NARAL op-ed contained an inaccuracy, in that 2007 SB398 (which would have rescinded a century-old law making abortion a crime) never received a vote in committee. NARAL claimed Vinehout “cast the deciding vote in committee” to kill the bill.  An op-ed written by Lisa Subeck, Executive Director of NARAL, appeared in the Capitol Times on Tuesday, February 7  also brought into question Vinehout’s record along with that of Dave Obey. While recognizing neither is as extreme as Walker, “it’s not clear they could be counted on to protect women’s health when it comes time to veto bills limiting access to birth control or abortion care.”

In 2006, Vinehout issued a policy statement on abortion, which she claims has remained consistent. Vinehout summarizes her position as abortion should be legal and safe. A woman should not be a criminal for having an abortion.” In 2008, she outlined her position in an op-ed, “It is easier to Attack Than Agree on a Workable Solution.” In it she addresses the concern over Pharmacists’ not filling prescriptions and how current state law would handle that situation:

“The last time a complaint was made against an individual pharmacist was six years ago and that pharmacist was severely disciplined.  There is a procedure in place for pharmacists with conscience concerns to inform their employer and for the employer to make alternative plans to fill the prescription. We know the system works – it was upheld by the courts in a decision just last week.

The Wisconsin constitution offers greater protection for the right of conscience than the US constitution.  Article 1, Section 18 of the state constitution requires that NO “control of or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted.” As a State Senator, I swore to uphold our constitution.

 In supporting the right of women to have their contraceptive prescriptions filled without hassle, I also recognize the role of conscience. A balance can be reached. The reasons for the attack on me are political rather than substantive.

Those who have attacked, claim that women will have to “endure a shameful and public rejection at a local pharmacy, and then somehow find a less ideological pharmacist somewhere else.” This claim is imaginary and false; designed to inflame emotions, not to inform with facts. Under the amendment I proposed, such an action would have resulted in discipline of the pharmacist.

As a recent Wisconsin court decision stated, the pharmacist “is allowed to work as a pharmacist and to exercise his beliefs about contraception; he is merely prevented from doing so in a manner where he deprives patients of their legal health care rights. … The imposition of the proposed discipline, training and practice guidelines strike the appropriate balance between the interests of an objecting pharmacist and the need for protection of the public in this action.”

The record on Senator Vinehout is public, for all to decide on the merits; as well as the issues raised by pro-choice groups. Project Votesmart lists Vinehout’s Planned Parenthood rating  on reproductive rights at 75%; while not perfect, it is higher than any Republican, and higher than a few of her Democratic colleagues. The danger here, with all due respect to the pro-choice community (this writer being a staunch advocate for reproductive rights and education), is not a hypothetical Vinehout veto of pro-choice legislation. The danger is in turning this primary into a referendum on choice issues – and by default, making it a single-player primary, as Falk would have the endorsement of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL over any other candidate still expressing interest in running against Scott Walker.

The direct debate between the candidates must begin soon, as the clock is ticking. As polls show, statewide voters know little about any of the candidates, and debating the issues that caused this recall effort to begin is paramount to our success. Labor and Collective Bargaining Rights must be at the fore, along with the issue which polling shows has overwhelming support of most Wisconsin voters – Public Education, and the Walker cuts to said programs. The precious little time and money candidates will have need to be spent in very visible, open, and honest debates about each other’s records and plans in regard to these issues, along with the broader issues of saving Badger/Senior Care from funding cuts.

Rest assured, if any future Democratic Governor would position themselves to veto any pro-choice or reproductive rights legislation, this writer would be the first to pick up the phone, keyboard, and a sign. The Choice community has made its concerns known, and voters have access to the information through this and other writings by advocates and candidates. If this primary devolves into a single issue – we  all lose an opportunity to present broader, statewide messages against Scott Walker and his policies during the campaign. And, the risk of scaring away other potential candidates is greatest when issues become so narrowly focused – that is not what Democracy looks like.

The Marquette-Franklin poll…What wasn’t reported in the media

The recent report of the Marquette Law School Poll conducted by Charles Franklin in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was headlined “Walker leads potential Democratic opponents in new statewide poll.” Like lemmings into the sea, statewide mainstream media followed the Journal Sentinel’s lead on this story; including the much improved 51% approval rating of Scott Walker, and the lead Walker enjoys over several presumed Democratic opponents. As is often the case, the real story of this poll was missed – primarily for a lack of due diligence on the part of reporters to dig just below the surface of the poll, in favor of a three-paragraph story that grabs a headline.

To dig deeper, Badger Democracy enlisted the consultation of two experts in the field to examine the methodology of the poll, and interpret the results. One expert is a professional pollster in Wisconsin, the other an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (that’s biostatistics in lay terms) at the University of Illinois – Chicago. The results were not only surprising, but eye-opening. Both were contacted and interviewed independently, and both arrived at the same conclusions about the poll.

Both experts verified the legitimacy of the poll. There was no “hidden bias” or deliberate attempt at a conservative bias in the way the poll was conducted, the samples taken, questions, or formulas used to arrive at the poll results. One of the experts remarked at the thoroughness of information available as a result of this poll. So, what does it REALLY say?

The first point of interest is the Margin of Error (MoE). The margin of error for the overall poll is 3.8%, based on the sample size and respondents. What the  Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert, and other media, failed to report is the difference in the margin of error for the head-to-head presumed Gubernatorial race. That MoE is higher – anywhere from 7.0% to 7.2%. This difference was cited in the Marquette University press release, but ignored by media and conservative pundits. According to Professor Franklin, as explained in an email to Badger Democracy, this detail is not uncommon, and leads to “confusion” in poll reporting:

“…if each candidate has a 3.8 moe, then one could be up and the other down by 3.8 each, suggesting a 2×3.8 MOE for the DIFFERENCE between the two. The actual formula makes a result a little less than that because there are also other candidates or “don’t know” or undecided and taking them into account reduces the moe for a difference to a bit less than twice the moe for individual percentages. Most pollsters don’t report the MOE for a difference, no doubt because it is hard to explain. But I felt that since the Walker lead over the top 3 dems was just a bit inside the MOE it was important to point that out to clarify that while he led it wasn’t quite statistically significant. That was the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph of the release but hasn’t been much noticed.”

(For you stats geeks, Franklin attached the formula explanation which you can download here: DiffPropAmStat1983)

The next point of interest also affects the outcome of the head-to-head races polled. The Methodology Statement, page 3, shows that the political leaning of the respondents (reached at random) in total is 4% higher than state average Republican (based on Gallup polling). The Gallup poll utilized is the most recently available (January-June 2011), but does not reflect any shift in the statewide difference over the summer. One expert pointed out that there are many reasons for this – 3% more males responded than in the general population (males tend more conservative), cell phone respondents in polls tend to be more conservative (due to the nature of cell phone numbers that reach pollsters), etc.

While this is not intentional, it is important. The respondents tended to be registered voters, leaning Republican, and that 4% higher Republican respondent came directly out of the Independent voter classification, according to the methodology. The independent, non-registered voter lacked representation in this poll – by chance of the random dialing and who responded to the poll. United Wisconsin has reported that nearly 30% of recall signatures came from voters who were not registered at their current address, and likely considered themselves “Independent” voters. Indeed, Franklin’s email states that the “not eligible” …”includes 65 who said they were not registered and did not intend to register. If so we didn’t interview them” That 65 represents nearly 10% of those that actually completed the survey. The poll does not reflect current “who MAY vote,” only “who HAS and WILL vote.” With that in mind, the head-to-head results and Walker’s approval rating look VERY different.

Here are highlights to take away from the Marquette-Franklin full poll results:

Questions 8, 15 - The Scott Walker approval and favorability ratings, as mentioned above, is reported as 51%-46% (favorable), 50%-45 (approval). The 3.8% MoE, coupled with a 4% Republican lean in the poll eliminates any positive for Walker.

Questions 16-20 - Opinion of potential Democratic  Candidates – Only Tom Barrett has a “haven’t heard enough about” rating under 50%. All potential Democratic candidates “favorable” ratings are within the MoE save one – Kathleen Falk at 19%-25%, 6% being outside the 3.8% Moe; although 51% of respondents felt they haven’t heard of Falk enough to respond.

Questions 26-28b - Head-to-head candidates – Remember, the MoE in this question is about 7%, and the poll has 4% higher Republican respondents than the general population. First, Walker 49%, Falk 42% – within the MoE. Second, Walker 50%, Barrett 44% – again, within the MoE. Third, Walker 50%, Cullen (the least known candidate) 40% – outside the MoE, but recall the 4% higher Republican response. Finally, Walker 49%, Obey 43% – again, within the margin of error. Noteworthy in a Republican-leaning poll (by 4%), Walker does not garner over 50% of the “vote.”

Question F11 - Income distribution is extremely close to the state’s average.

Question F12 - Only 32% of respondents stated the recession had a major effect, finances not recovered in their personal economy. A full 38% stated the recession has had NO effect on their personal financial situation. This indicates a significant level of economic insulation found in many Walker supporters.

The “crosstabs” regarding frequency of newspaper reading provide tremendous insight into who supports Scott Walker, and their level of engagement in current state politics.

Among those who read a newspaper 7 days a week, Scott Walker’s approval rating is only 45.5%, while his disapproval rating is 50.2% (3.8% MoE). Among those who NEVER read a newspaper, Walker’s approval rating jumps to 62.8%, with only 35.3% disapproving. Amongst all statewide candidates listed in the poll running for Herb Kohl’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, the only candidate with an unfavorable rating outside the MoE is Jeff Fitzgerald, at 16.8% favorable, 26.3% unfavorable, with over 50% not knowing enough to respond. In addition, people who do not read a newspaper have a higher favorable rating of the Tea Party.

All these factors, taken together as a whole, give us a good snapshot of Wisconsin politics. The state remains a purple battleground state. Despite the rhetoric and multi-million dollar ad campaign, Scott Walker cannot garner more than 50% against any lesser known Democratic challenger, and according to the poll, even highly conservative voters support funding public education and Badger Care. Walker’s approval rating continues to be below 50%, even in a moderately conservative poll. According to the crosstabs, the most likely Walker supporter is a high income ($75,000+), white male who does not read a newspaper, but rather gets their news from local television newscasts.

The other picture that is clear is the impact the Independent, unregistered, new voter will have on any future election. Those are the voters we, as Progressives, need to focus on. Mobilizing, educating, and connecting at the grassroots level will be able to overcome any amount of money spent in future elections. The people are more powerful than corporate money in Wisconsin politics.

That is the big story missed by the mainstream media. Solidarity.