John Doe Investigation and a Rice Lake Harley Dealer…all roads lead to Scott Walker

On the day Timothy Russell pleads guilty to embezzlement as a result of the Milwaukee County John Doe Investigation, another John Doe related story flew under the radar. Christopher Brekken owns a Harley Davidson dealership in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and he is now suing Assistant Milwaukee County DA Bruce Landgraf. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report:

Brekken has sued Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, seeking damages for false imprisonment and abuse of process related to a 2010 subpoena for records about some credit card purchases from Rice Lake Harley-Davidson.

The suit, filed in Barron County Circuit Court in September, claims that Brekken could not produce or obtain the very specific information that had been subpoenaed, and that he told Landgraf he could not.

But a bench warrant was issued for Brekken’s in October 2010 that required him to travel to Milwaukee in November 2010 to again affirm under oath that he couldn’t find out the full credit card number used by a specific person on a specific date at Rice Lake Harley.

What does this have to do with the John Doe and Scott Walker? Recall May, 2010.

Scott Walker as Milwaukee County Executive heads out on his annual “County Executive’s Tour.” Even in 2010, there were criticisms and questions about the tour really being a campaign jaunt on the Milwaukee County dime. This from Graeme Zielinski on May 15, 2010:

So we’re in Greenfield and surrounded by Milwaukee County staff — all of whom are on county time. There’s a county park a few blocks away where they could be mowing the lawn, but instead they’re here to fuss about Scott Walker’s taxpayer-funded campaign junket. Walker, before the horde leaves, makes holy sounds about how this ISN’T a campaign event and how this is about promoting Milwaukee County tourism. If that were true, of course, he’d be headed down to Chicago, the biggest pile of cash in the Midwest. Instead, he’s going to all the media markets that will be involved in his race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, as well as stops in Rockford and Dubuque.

Meanwhile, a county department head is traveling with Walker, who also is shilling for AirTran, the airline with which Walker is negotiating a lease deal. Walker is wearing an AirTran hat and singing the praises of the airline. Who knew the job of the Milwaukee County executive was as corporate pitchman?

The “county department head” travelling with Walker was Timothy Russell. But wait, there’s more.

Badger Democracy has obtained two videos of Scott Walker on his Rice Lake tour stop – at the Rice Lake Harley Davidson.

The first video shows Walker interacting with supporters. At about one minute in, former Assembly Rep. Dave Zien appears, followed by then Assembly Rep. Mike Huebsch, and Assembly Rep. Sheila Harsdorf. A member of the press is seen trying to interview Mike Huebsch, and is told to talk to “Scott” Walker. Tourism – not so much.

The second video continues Walker’s interaction with his supporters. Throughout the second video, Walker is discussing potential gubernatorial scenarios with supporters. He makes half-hearted efforts (nudge nudge, wink wink) at saying “I can only talk about tourism.” At 3:15, one supporter actually tells Walker, “…next time your up here we can talk about legislative initiatives and local governments.” Watch at 3:30 in as Walker supporter Doreen McDonald gives Walker a gift. Try buying your Legislator a cup of coffee sometime and see what they say.  That’s a big no.

At 4:38, former Assembly Rep. Dave Zien begins discussing the “big mining project.” Zien states that Jim Doyle “never did a thing about” a proposed Gogebic Taconite mine expansion. Sounds more like Walker is campaigning for Governor than enjoying a tourism trip.

At the end of the video, Walker can be heard saying, “…see you on Friday,” meaning at the State Republican Convention. Walker’s 2010 stop in Rice Lake had nothing to do with tourism. It had everything to do with mobilizing his supporters. This mobilization was done on the Milwaukee County taxpayer dime.

The Barron County case filing has redacted the name, date, amount of purchase, and partial credit card number.

Scott Walker knows the rules. His hope for the John Doe to end tomorrow is complete denial. Prior to today, no one would have connected Walker’s 2010 County Executive tour with the John Doe proceedings. In 2010, there were already red flags about Walker’s campaign and County office being in violation of state law.

Look like the chickens are coming home to roost.

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“Give Sly The Mic” – a win for progressives and Clear Channel…call to action

In case you haven’t heard by now, there is a very active campaign to “Give Sly The Mic.” Sly being long-time Madison talk radio personality and progressive labor champion John “Sly” Sylvester. The Mic being Clear Channel Madison’s 92.1FM “Progressive Talk” station, which runs nationally syndicated talk shows (Ed Schultz. Stephanie Miller, etc.) all but one late afternoon hour of the day.

For progressives, the calculus is simple. Without Sly, Wisconsin (and the nation) loses one of the few remaining independent voices in talk radio. Unlike the ultra-conservative talk radio voices saturating the state (Sykes, Wagner, Belling, McKenna, Bader), Sly’ opinions are uniquely his own, as it should be. Regular listener’s of Sly have had the pleasure of hearing Democratic Party leadership sweat on the “live line” or in the studio hot seat. Even before Scott Walker dropped “the bomb” of Act 10, Sly was a tireless champion for working Wisconsin. And no one knows state politics like him.

 

As unlikely as it would seem, the calculus works for Clear Channel as well. There can be no doubt that Clear Channel Communications is politically active. Federal Election Commission records show hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to federal campaigns and PACs. Clear Channel Communications has its own very active PAC based in San Antonio, Texas.

While the Clear Channel PAC most definitely leans GOP, there are significant contributions to progressives and Democratic candidates as well. In Wisconsin, Clear Channel PAC gave $1,000 to Tammy Baldwin for Senate – nothing directly to Tommy Thompson. The PAC has also given hundreds of thousands to national Democratic Campaign Committees. The bottom line is that while Clear Channel is leaning significantly to the political right, this decision will not be made on the basis of politics. It will be a business decision. From a business point of view, Sly would be a win for Clear Channel.

The latest Arbitron Ratings for the Fall Period 1 (FallP1) show that WTDY was on an upward trend, with WXXM (The Mic) on a downward trend. WTDY went from a 0.9 in the first quarter of 2012 to a 1.7 in the most recent rating. WXXM had dropped from a 3.7 to a 2.4 for the same period. It is safe to say that “Sly in the Morning” was carrying the ratings of WTDY. Outside of Kurt Baron’s 10 am hour, and two hours of local news at noon and 5pm, the rest of the day’s programming was syndicated. Speaking from personal experience, when Sly was done, I changed the channel and went back for local news at noon and 5pm. The ratings would suggest most listeners subscribed to the same pattern.

That is where Clear Channel would win in “Giving Sly The Mic.” This is also where everyone who reads this can help make this an easy decision for Clear Channel. A savvy station manager and program director should look at the rating increases that Sly listeners would bring to WXXM, new progressive and conservative interest in the station by supporting an independent local format, and a slew of long-time committed sponsors Sly would bring to the station, and reach the decision to “Give Sly the Mic.”

Call to take action TODAY – It is incumbent on anyone interested in supporting local, independent radio to make it abundantly clear to Clear Channel that Sly has an audience and sponsors as committed as he is.

First – go to “Give Sly the Mic”  (www.giveslythemic.com) and sign the online petition.

Second – CALL: 608.274.5450 and tell the Mic:

                       1. I strongly urge you to put Sly in the Morning on your airwaves as soon as possible. 

                       2. I support Sly in the Morning and his sponsors because he is a life-long Wisconsinite who provides an entertaining, insightful perspective that can’t be found anywhere else.

                       3. I would become an eager 92.1 listener and supporter if you decide to add Sly to your lineup.

Third – Send an email to Station Manager Tim Scott (timscott@clearchannel.comand make sure he knows that Sly brings a large number of new loyal listeners, sponsors, and business to 92.1 The Mic.

Progressives, independents,  and middle class Wisconsin need Sly on the air for three simple reasons:

1. Workers need a voice on the public airwaves fighting for them.

2. Small businesses that take good care of their employees depend on Sly’s loyal fan base.

3. Sly and his listeners give progressives the support they need to stand up to Scott Walker.

Clear Channel needs Sly on the air to give The Mic the local political voice it needs to be credible, successful, and grow its audience.

Make your voice heard – today. Solidarity!

 

Scott Walker’s “I am not a crook” moment

This morning, in an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Scott Walker insisted that he was not a target of the ongoing John Doe investigation. Walker went further in saying that if he had knowledge of wrongdoing in his office, he would have put a stop to it.

Gov. Scott Walker tells The Associated Press that he remains “absolutely” confident that he is not a subject of a criminal investigation involving former aides in his Milwaukee County office.

Walker says he had no knowledge of county workers doing campaign work while on the clock for their county job. He says if he had known what Rindfleisch was doing, he would have taken action to stop it.

Less than twelve hours after Walker made that statement, news broke about former top Walker aide Timothy Russell, scheduled to go on trial December 3rd.

A plea agreement has been reached in the felony embezzlement case against Timothy D. Russell, a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said Monday a hearing on the plea deal is set for Thursday but declined to discuss terms of the deal. Russell’s lawyer, Parker Mathers, didn’t immediately return a phone call late Monday.

Russell, 49, was charged in January with embezzling more than $20,000 from a veterans group through a nonprofit organization that Walker assigned him to lead. He’s accused of siphoning money raised for Operation Freedom, an annual veterans fair and picnic at the zoo hosted by Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive.

Russell served as deputy chief of staff and housing director at the county during the period he’s accused of plundering the veterans money. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Thursday will be an interesting day. Of more immediate concern is Walker’s claim on the record that he is a complete innocent. The record will show, eventually, that today was Scott Walker’s “I am not a crook” moment (shades of Nixon). There are several emails that make it abundantly clear that only one of two possibilities is true. Either Scott Walker lied today, or he is an incompetent fool duped by his campaign staff whom he had no control over. You decide…to the exhibits.

Power Point Slide #42

Email from Walker Campaign Manager (Friends of Scott Walker) Keith Gilkes (kgilkes@scottwalker.org) to candidate Scott Walker (skw@scottwalker.org). Copied to County Exec Walker’s staff including Kelly Rindfleisch, now guilty of campaigning on County time, in this case 11am on a Friday. The email is coordinating an official statement from County Executive Walker regarding the County tax levy, prepared for political expediency by his campaign. This goes beyond schedule coordination, and directly involved Walker.

Power Point Slide #44

Email from Rindfleisch on County time (1:30pm  on a Wednesday), from her “secret” Gmail account to bypass County email systems, to Scott Walker and Campaign Manager Gilkes (among others). More direct coordination of messaging and strategy for a WTMJ radio spot, even recommending “SKW might want to do a letter…asking for an appeal.” Noteworthy is that Walker and his state Capitol staff have continued message coordination and control with conservative talk radio pundits, as previously reported.

Power Point Slide #45

Perhaps one of the most damning email chains of all. This email chain is initiated by Scott Walker from his campaign email (skw@scottwalker.org) to combined County/Campaign staff including Rindfleisch and Gilkes. While we are unable to view the full first email, Walker is unhappy with how corporate counsel is handling media inquiries. The end result is Campaign Manager Gilkes telling Rindfleisch that the Walker campaign would “…like him to stop being a lawyer and think political.” Understand, this is a political campaign telling the County government how its corporate counsel should respond to public record inquiries from media, through Scott Walker, candidate. Again, on County time.

Power Point Slide #70

Extremely revealing email. Sent from campaign manager Gilkes to candidate Walker, Rindfleisch, and other County staff.  Sent on Friday afternoon May 14, 2010 when Walker would know Rindfleisch would be on County time. The subject is Darlene Wink, who had just left her County job under fire days earlier. This email is coordinating damage control and spin between the County Executive and Walker Campaign. The exact text (emphasis added):

Scott – we would like to discuss this further. We got a briefing from Kelly (Rindfleisch).

There are a few key thoughts on this that our (sic) critical to a response and diffusing this report.

Make no mistake, this is the start of a cover-up, with Scott Walker fully in the loop. Each of these email slides shows not only knowledge, but full participation in this activity. It is little wonder Kelly Rindfleisch’s attorney Frank Gimbel was beside himself, wondering how his client is the only one currently facing jail time in this scandal. As the emails on display were several of thousands, it is highly likely things are going to get very heated for Scott Walker.  This scandal will end up being of unprecedented scope in Wisconsin politics. A scandal that makes the Caucus Scandal look like a childish kerfuffle…

It comes down to this, and we must consider not only the emails referenced in the Rindfleisch sentencing, but the full record of Scott Walker.

He is one or the other…Walker is either lying; or he is an incompetent fool, completely ignorant and immune while his minions run roughshod over the law and the office just steps away from him.

Which is it?

 

 

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Midwest Family Broadcasting anything but “family,” drives a dagger into the heart of local news

In a cynical and despicable move the day before Thanksgiving, WTDY radio in Madison dismissed its entire award-winning news team and long-time progressive radio personality John “Sly” Sylvester. The following post appeared on Sly’s Facebook page this afternoon:

Message to everybody: I just want to inform you that today was my last day of employment at WTDY. After 15 years, I was told that my services were no longer needed. I would like to thank everybody that’s supported my program. It’s been a pleasure to share this wonderful experience with you. I need to take a big deep breath this weekend and figure out what my future plans are. But, old Winter Soldiers NEVER DIE, and I look forward to letting you know what lies ahead. Solidarity!

-SLY

Also let go are news director Amy Barrilleaux, political correspondent Dylan Brogan, Shawn Prebil, Crystal McKenzie Parker, and Deana Wright. No comment has been received from management at Midwest Family in Madison, though numerous messages have been left by this writer.

A post on Crystal McKenzie Parker’s Facebook page dismisses any rumor that ratings were down:

After the best ratings book in 10 years, WTDY released us all from our duties today! I’m still in shock!

The news team at WTDY had gained a reputation amongst all journalists in the state as being focused on local impact and independent of corporate influence.

Badger Democracy has made several attempts to obtain comment from station management. General Manager Rick McCoy took over at WTDY in June, according to a MWFBG staffer, arriving from a group station in Springfield, Missouri.

According to the station receptionist, Rick McCoy is not in today. A message was left at (608)273-1000, ext. 3606

Rick McCoy’s email is rick.mccoy@mwfbg.net

This Thanksgiving, be sure to include these stalwart Winter Soldiers who kept us informed, entertained, and engaged in your thoughts.

Solidarity!

 

 

John Doe Power Point implicates Walker; Source Discloses Continuing Pattern of Corruption

The seventy-eight slide Rindfleisch power point presentation given by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf is now available for public viewing (follow link). There can be no more speculation as to whether Scott Walker had firsthand knowledge regarding campaign activity occurring in his Milwaukee County Executive office. There was, and he did. Walker’s private campaign email address appears on numerous slides, and the campaign/county staff were one in the same. Significant questions remain.

Does the Milwaukee County DA have the goods on Walker? Or is this part of a coordinated chess match to “flush out” Walker for the Feds? Will the indictment come from Milwaukee County or another law enforcement agency? If this revelation came out in the Rindfleisch sentencing (she is a fairly small-time player in this network), what will come out in the Russell trial starting next month?

The one certainty in all this is that Scott Walker has continued his pattern of building an appointed, political network at the state level to carry out his policies unencumbered; and likely coordinate with his campaign. We already know the investigation has expanded to Madison, and Badger Democracy has previously published an email from Keith Gilkes’ state email account discussing campaign assistance from a Walker supporter.

A highly placed Administration official has recently communicated information to Badger Democracy which confirms Walker’s pattern of crony appointments and corruption continues in Madison. As additional information is disclosed, additional blogs will be posted. Of specific importance are recent events at one of Walker’s newly reorganized agencies – Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS – formerly Regulation and Licensing). All information has been confirmed through independent inquiry.

Cronyism

The Walker Administration has replaced all Division Administration heads at DSPS with political appointees. The last non-appointee left on April 12, 2012. Former DSPS HR head Martha Zydowski retired from her $90,000/year + job earlier this year. Shortly after her “retirement” she was rehired at a part-time job working 3 days a week, earning $67,000/year. She is assigned to working “special projects.”

Only two raises have been awarded since 1/1/11 for full-time exempt employees. One was to Angela Herl, who is married to Dane County GOP chairman Mike Herl. The other was to Kathy Sotak, who was promoted to a Bureau Director. Just months after her promotion, she resigned. State records show Sotak formed “Sotak Solutions LLC” in 2010 – while working for the state. Sotak’s LinkedIn profile claims to have worked at Sotak Solutions since 1999. Her business specialty:

Chemical management and industrial hygiene, risk management, safety, training programs

This is identical to the work she was performing at her state job. Badger Democracy found state Vendornet records showing Sotak as a state subcontractor in 2007 (Kathy Sotak as Safety Consultant 2004-2007). It is apparent that Sotak has spent her time in state government coordinating subcontract opportunities for her own LLC. The revolving door of state government at work.

Further cronyism exists in the appointment of Bill Wendle as Assistant Secretary of DSPS. Wendl is the former CEO of the Wisconsin Builder’s Association (WBA); one of Walker’s largest donors, supporters, and lobby for Scott Walker’s policy agenda. According to Badger Democracy’s source, through Wendle, WBA “bought the codes.” Wendle is said to be planning to write and update the new building codes, favorable to WBA interests “after the committee hearings” are held. Current code updates are said to be receiving “little to no oversight” due to “lack of manpower.” Building Code review is 6 months behind any updating activity.

Secrecy and Corruption

Badger Democracy has received information that a private Gmail network has been set up in more than one Administration Agency – including DSPS. There is also an initiative being pushed to eliminate the IT support at DSPS and transition all IT/Email to DOA. This would place control of IT at DSPS into the hands of DOA. Noteworthy is the private email account which Kelly Rindfleisch conducted her illegal campaign work on was a Gmail account. Also, greater opportunity for corruption exists now that DSPS is led by political appointees of Scott Walker.

As with WEDC, it is apparent that DSPS is now in disarray, sacrificing effective administration for cronyism and secrecy. Badger Democracy will have more information in future posts.

While the John Doe investigation continues to roll on, it is unclear what the next move for the Milwaukee County DA will be.  We now have confirmation that Scott Walker had direct knowledge of campaign work happening in his County executive office. We also know that Walker has continued this at least immoral, possibly illegal activity in Madison.

It is also known that Walker is also being investigated at the Federal level. Of that, we have heard nothing…yet.

 

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Expect more of the same from Scott Walker on Health Insurance Exchange Plan

If there was ever a time for Scott Walker to prove he is willing to work with “both sides of the aisle,” tomorrow is the day. Friday, November 16 is the deadline for states to announce their plan to implement state-run exchanges, or face implementation of a Federal Exchange. Walker and other GOP Governors went all-in on a Romney win, and subsequent repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

Romney lost. “Obamacare” was declared constitutional. Don’t expect anything from Scott Walker – except business as usual.

Once again, Scott Walker and the extreme far-right GOP Legislators are choosing ideology over good governing, and it is the majority of Wisconsin taxpayers who will pay. Sadly, it didn’t have to be this way. The structure of an exchange has been in existence for over one year.

On November 1, 2011 State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) introduced 2011 SB 273 “Badger Health Benefit Authority.”  From the Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis:

This bill creates the Badger Health Benefit Authority (authority) that is a public body corporate and politic that is created by state law but that is not a state agency.

Under the bill, the authority must establish and operate a Wisconsin Health Benefit Exchange in this state, must make qualified health plans, with effective dates on or before January 1, 2014, available to qualified individuals and qualified employers, and must seek federal grants and other funding for the purpose of the exchange. A qualified health plan is defined in the bill, generally, as a health benefit plan that covers the costs of health care services and that meets the certification criteria described in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

In the past, Legislators from both side of the aisle would have spent the year hammering out an Exchange unique to, and to the benefit of Wisconsin. This is how Badger Care came into existence. Not today.

Enter the ideological crusaders. So extreme are these ideologues, nine of them have gone on public record as promoting legislation authorizing the arrest of any Federal Employee who would attempt to enact ACA in Wisconsin – including a Health Exchange.

Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin; Reps. Don Pridemore of Hartford; Erik Severson of Star Prairie; Tom Larson of Colfax; Scott Krug of Wisconsin Rapids; and three Republicans elected for the first time last week who will be sworn in early next year – Rob Hutton of Brookfield, Mark Born of Beaver Dam and Dave Murphy of Greenville. (MJS)

These are not responsible legislators. They are hacks.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin recently released an email from DHS to Walker Administration officials containing a Power Point presentation – the closest thing we have seen to a blueprint from the Governor’s office.

We can be certain of one thing. The Walker plan for a Health Exchange will be consistent with his previous governing record. The WEDC Block Grant fiasco, the current Talgo breach of contract lawsuit, cronyism in Administration appointments and State Agencies, and corporate patronage at the expense of fiscal responsibility are now the hallmarks of the Walker Administration.

The Walker plan for a Health Exchange will be nothing more than a sub-contracted, privately operated online market “clearinghouse” serving existing for-profit insurance companies – and doing nothing to reduce costs or increase access to the nearly 500,000 uninsured Wisconsinites.

The result will be the same as well – a giant boondoggle which will set up a significant battle with the Federal Government over whether the Wisconsin Exchange conforms to the ACA. And we all will lose.

Scott Walker will again live up to our expectations of him, which are continually decreasing.

Walker, Vos and Darling Train Fiasco – Everybody Pays…twice

The day before Election Day, Badger Democracy reported on the train maker Talgo filing a lawsuit against Governor Scott Walker, DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb, and the state for “default of contract.”  In brief:

Train manufacturer Talgo filed a “Default of Contract” suit against Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb in Dane County Circuit Court today. Court documents filed today show that the Washington-based train manufacturer notified the state on April 4, 2012 that the “trainsets” were ready for required service testing to be conducted by WisDOT.

The state has attempted to claim that Talgo is responsible for testing, but the contract makes clear that WisDOT bears that responsibility.

The trainsets in question were not ordered for the controversial rail expansion to Madison. These trains are for use on the highly traveled Milwaukee to Chicago “Hiawatha” line. Coming on the heels of the WEDC/HUD block grant fiasco, DOT Secretary Gottlieb quickly issued a statement on November 5 to Badger Democracy, in full damage control mode:

The Department of Transportation participated in a formal mediation process with Talgo just last week in a good faith effort to resolve disputes related to the delivery of completed trainsets. We are disappointed that process was not successful.

Talgo has failed to complete or test the trainsets and they do not meet even basic federal standards, such as those required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The department will defend against this action and continue to act in the best interests of Wisconsin taxpayers.” (emphasis added)
Badger Democracy forwarded Secretary Gottlieb’s response to Lester Pines, Attorney for Talgo. In an interview, Pines offered the following response:
1. As stated in the lawsuit filing, the State of Wisconsin failed to make a $4.5 million contract payment to Talgo, as a means to attempt to force Talgo into conducting “pre-revenue” testing of the trains. Per the contract, this “pre-revenue” testing is the state’s responsibility. Contract excerpt below:
All parties acknowledge and accept that 49 CFR 238.111 provides that the Operator (or railroad, as the case may be) not the Contractor is responsible for performing a pre-revenue service acceptance testing plan. Contractor will diligently work with Department and such Operator to ensure that the Operator’s pre-revenue service acceptance testing plan is efficiently implemented.
2. The state is alleging in the statement that the trainsets do not meet ADA accessibility requirements. This is not true. The trains have been warranted by Talgo to meet every FRA and ADA standard. One minor deficiency has been corrected by a simple part replacement.
3. The state has had an escape clause in the contract which it could have used at any time. It did not. The state could also have declared Talgo in breach of contract at any time for legitimate reasons. It did not.
4. The state of Wisconsin put up a $50 million capital bond issue to pay for the trains. If the state is found in breach of contract, Talgo gets their trains back, and the state no longer will own the capital for which the bond issue was made. The state would be required to repay the $50 million – out of General Program Revenue.
A Legislative Fiscal Bureau March 14, 2012 memo to Robin Vos and Alberta Darling’s Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) confirm many of Talgo’s assertions. The memo also  gave legislators plenty of advance notice on this issue, and made specific recommendations (emphasis added):

The state purchased two passenger car train sets in 2009 from Talgo, a Spanish train manufacturer.

A total of $68.9 million in passenger rail development bonds has been approved for the purchase of the rail cars ($48.5 million), as well as other costs related to construction management, purchase of maintenance equipment, and a temporary maintenance facility.

The train sets are now nearing completion, and are scheduled to be delivered to the state for initial testing in mid-March. Following testing, the cars would be ready for use on the Milwaukee to Chicago service, likely in late 2012.

Under that agreement, the state is responsible for providing a facility for the maintenance and for making payments to Talgo for
ongoing maintenance costs. [In anticipation of the completion of the Talgo cars, 2011 Act 32 provided $4,450,000 SEG in 2011-12 and $6,700,000 SEG in 2012-13 in the Department's passenger rail service appropriation for start-up maintenance costs.]

According to the LFB memo, maintenance costs were an issue of significance. Alternative solutions were offered, including a renegotiation of the maintenance agreement:

ALTERNATIVES

1. Approve the Department’s request for the approval of $2,500,000 in passenger rail development bonding for final design engineering for a permanent maintenance facility for the
State’s passenger rail cars.

2. Deny the request.

3. Deny the request and direct the Department to reimburse any expenditures for the maintenance facility preliminary engineering that were made with bonds from the Department’s SEG appropriation for passenger rail service, to the extent that unencumbered funds are available in that appropriation.

4. Deny the request for additional funding and direct the Department to attempt to renegotiate the maintenance agreement with Talgo to reduce ongoing maintenance costs and, if feasible, the cost of the permanent maintenance facility. Direct the Department, in any subsequent request for funding for maintenance-related services, to report to the Committee on
the status of these negotiations.

Walker, Vos, and Darling all knew exactly what this contract entailed. They wanted to kill any new rail development as payback to their transportation construction political cronies, so they did nothing – even though it would cost taxpayers millions above and beyond the cost of honoring the contract. Vos and Darling were very vocal about how they were “saving taxpayers money” in a May 2012 edition of the Conservative-Digest.

Unfortunately, they failed to tell the whole story about the Talgo contract, and the specific issues surrounding the inevitable trainset replacement costs. You can read the entire LFB memo linked above. The LFB estimates do not include extra costs associated with continuing to use Amtrak maintenance – so the Vos/Darling  article is conveniently leaving out key details. The last few lines of their joint article are the most important:

Luckily, the state has options. According to
the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if no funds were
given for the Talgo maintenance facility, the
“agreement can be terminated by either party.”
So that’s where we are now.

Wisconsin taxpayers were taken for a ride by
Doyle and the Democrats. We’re proud to say
that the ride is coming to an end.

Not quite Governor Walker, Representative Vos, and Senator Darling. When Talgo wins this lawsuit, Wisconsin taxpayers will be the ones paying back the $50 million in revenue to replace the bond issue – as you will have lost the capital purchased by those bonds.

And the trains – they will still have to be replaced in just a few short years anyway. In essence, we will end up paying for them twice. Though, after defaulting on the Talgo contract, will anyone do business with Wisconsin? Maybe we’ll be able to ride Chinese trains from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Lost loans at WEDC, federal block grant money distributed without authority, contract breaches, lost capital from bond issue, former aides convicted…

This is acting “…in the best interests of the taxpayers of Wisconsin…?”