Walker Betrayal of Trust revealed – truth needs to be framed, then repeated…again and again

Unless you were living under a rock, or completely ignoring all local and national news outlets (not to mention Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc.), the release of court documents by Federal Appellate Court Judge Frank Easterbook  today shed much needed light on the conduct of Scott Walker, his campaign, and conservative allied groups leading up to the launch of the John Doe. Read Exhibit C of the released documents – which provide valuable insight into the campaign coordination that went on at a national level (read the links for in depth coverage). Perhaps the most revealing email exchange is from Scott Walker to Karl Rove on May 4, 2011:

Bottom-line: R.I. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in
Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9
Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin
Cities.)

This case before the 7th Circuit is the real deal. Judge Frank Easterbrook is no political hack, unlike Judge Rudolph Randa. Easterbrook is a University of Chicago graduate (JD) and senior lecturer, appointed by Ronald Reagan. Of Easterbrook, Dean of the U of C law school says:

Easterbrook is an important influence on legal education through his judicial opinions. Course after law school course has changed for the better as Judge Easterbrook’s opinions have made their way into the curriculum. So long as he decides cases, and decides them in a way that cuts to the heart of an issue with such skill and pressure, no area of law can be dull.

According to Wikipedia, another of Easterbrook’s colleagues calls him “the world’s greatest living jurist.”

The facts are clear – Walker coordinated with allied conservative groups at a national level during the recall election, and was answering to national conservative powerhouse Karl Rove. As we all know, the facts are not enough and are easily ignored. So how do we frame them effectively…so that even moderate conservatives will understand the significance of these activities?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Walker et al walked the fine line just this side of the law. Why? Because conservative dominance of the courts means that decisions after Citizens United will err on the side of “money = speech.” What is more important are the moral implications of his (and the organizations’) actions. What is really important is the fact that Walker betrayed the trust of everyone who voted for him.

In the conservative moral frame (see previous posts and “Resources” page for detail), the worst thing the strict father can do is betray the trust of the family. The family metaphor applies to the state, and what Walker has done is (metaphorically) cheated on his Wisconsin family with powerful ideologues like Karl Rove. Worse, he is answering NOT to his Wisconsin constituents, but to Karl Rove – someone much more powerful and wealthy than the typical Wisconsinite. Walker has betrayed the trust of the people. 

This frame cascades to every issue in this campaign – who has reaped the benefits of the current administration’s economic policies (and who has been harmed)…who has benefited from his education policies (and who has been harmed)…the give away of our state’s natural beauty to powerful and wealthy profiteers…the list goes on and on.

In greater detail, the public (government) and those who serve the public have a moral obligation to protect and empower those they serve, to the best of their ability. In the progressive moral frame, that means acting on our empathy to be responsible for others as ourselves, and expanding freedom and opportunity for as many people as possible without impinging on the freedom of others (responsibility for others – and again, the mere pursuit of wealth through greed is not a freedom). Even in the conservative frame, there is the idea of accountability to the tenets of being faithful to one’s family – metaphorically, the state.

The way to make these truths about Walker exposed in the John Doe resonate with both progressives and conservatives – say WHY it matters:

Walker betrayed the trust of  Wisconsinites who elected him with people more powerful and rich than they are…

Then say how.

Then say it again.

And again.

And again.

By doing so, you can cognitively change the way people think about this (and every other) issue, and it will have an impact far beyond any single election.

Moving on…and up

It’s been quite a ride. Twenty-six months ago, I launched Badger Democracy blog to comment on what was (and still is) happening politically in my beloved Wisconsin. This blog has also filled in a void of information left by a media that has been steadily in decline. Thanks to the literally thousands of you who have read Badger Democracy over the past two years, and especially those who continue to engage in the political process.

But as the title of this post says, it is indeed time for me to move onward, and upward. As many of you already know, I recently co-founded and am heavily committed to the “Forward Institute.” We are a non-profit, non-partisan policy research and messaging organization, and we are already creating some buzz and making some waves. Our recent study, Wisconsin Budget Policy and Poverty in Education has received statewide press coverage. It is also changing the way policy makers and legislators are thinking and talking about education issues in Wisconsin. We’ve received bi-partisan support, and continue to engage and collaborate with statewide grassroots groups, and other 501c3 organizations.

As a final request on this blog, I am asking all of the 1,000 ++ who follow this blog to keep up with, and follow the Forward Institute’s research and future work, and even engage with us wherever possible. We founded to fill another void. We are Wisconsin’s first truly independent think tank, and we are here to do the research and messaging work that grassroots organizations can’t do themselves, then share it statewide.

We are doing a great deal of that work right now…in fact we’ll be in Black River Falls this weekend to take part in the Regional Frac Sand Mine Conference. We are also looking for independent funding sources outside of relying on the people we will be serving and working with. But as many of you know, that is always slow to develop. Our expenses are relatively small right now, but any contribution of any size would be greatly appreciated, to help offset the little things we need as we continue to grow. And yes, we are a 501c3 – so just let me know, and I can get you a receipt. You can use the donation button below, or contact me with any questions.

We are all making a difference. Stay engaged, stay strong, and please keep in touch through Forward Institute or email. Badger Democracy will stay on this site, as will the archives. Thanks again, and I look forward to the day when we are all back in the Capitol celebrating the restoration of our Wisconsin, always moving FORWARD!

Solidarity,

Scott Wittkopf

Chair, Forward Institute (scott@forwardinstitutewi.org)


			

And here we go again in Wisconsin…of idiots and ideologues

Hear me, people: We have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our Fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. (Chief Sitting Bull, Powder River Conference, 1877)

Is there a better processional for the parade of idiots and ideologues in the 2013 Legislative Session? The People who were here long before Wisconsin became a state were led by visionaries that understood the motivation of a white man corrupt with power.

A Mining Bill is poised to pass out of both committees this week, on the fast track to a swift vote within weeks. A bill which would mean devastation to one of the world’s great supplies of freshwater. Water which means life not only to an indigenous people, but those who have since settled and call the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior Basin home. But damn the torpedoes, science, and those inconvenient geological facts…full speed ahead Mr. and Ms. Chairman/Woman, we have (paying) corporate constituents to serve.

The only hope for defeat of this bill lies in the Republican-controlled Senate, and the possibility that four of its members still listen to a little voice most of us hear as a conscience. Dale Schultz, Mike Ellis, Robert Cowles, and Luther Olsen may be the only sane Republicans left in this biennial assemblage of insanity we still call a “Legislature.” This writer holds out hope that the smokescreen of empty jobs promises is wearing thin in a state moving closer to honorable entry into socio-economic “Dixie”…and further away from its progressive roots.

Has there been a time in our state’s recent history which more closely resembles oligarchy than democracy? The unholy triumvirate of Walker, Fitzgerald, and Vos…let’s face it, in 2010 Jeff Fitzgerald was nothing but a figurehead. Vos is, and has been pulling the strings all along. I digress. This triumvirate has the state government in lockdown, controlling the message in and out, controlling debate, the media, and god forbid anyone should sing in the Capitol. Every moment of every day is a campaign. Public policy is built on a campaign strategy, and supported by money. Lots of it. If you are on the right (literally) side, the money pool is almost unlimited. If you are on the wrong side…well, money doesn’t follow losers. And no money, no access.

Even the Capitol press corps is being kept on a short leash, with passes and access being strictly controlled by the powerful few. Say the wrong thing, write the story the wrong way, come across as the least bit partisan (read – report what we tell you to), and no access for you. End of story, end of job as a Capitol correspondent. This sort of power concentration is rare in Wisconsin. Scott Walker has power, and he is using it.

Walker is raising unprecedented amounts of money, and spending a lot of it on his legal defense fund. Let’s all be honest here…something stinks about the way Walker has campaigned, raised money, and conducted his business in and out of office. His administration is loaded with insiders, fixers, and power mongers. No interest in governing, just power and money. Crooks, liars, sharks. The smart money is that there is something illegal here…but that same money doubts the political will of a Milwaukee County DA to take on the Walker machine. But the Feds? Reminds me of something…

Richard Nixon in 1972. Re-elected, destroying McGovern in a landslide. Everyone knew, but few said it, that Richard Milhous Nixon was a crook. The media knew – but sat on the story until after the election. Once there was blood in the water, the media went in for the kill. Before Watergate, Nixon was untouchable, and had concentrated more power than almost any other president in history. The scary part is, once the scab was ripped off, no one knew how bad the wound was, or how long it would take to heal. Maybe it never has…and maybe we failed to learn the lessons of too much power in the hands of a man like Nixon…or Scott Walker. And so here we go again…in Wisconsin.

There is some light, in this dark time of plutocracy. There are voices rising above the din, who don’t rely on a Capitol press pass. We are getting one back tomorrow. John “Sly” Sylvester is back on the air Monday, February 4th from 3 – 6:30 pm. Sly will be on one of the last remaining locally owned and independent stations in the entire country – 93.7FM WEKZ. He’ll now have a three state reach – Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Sly will also be contributing to the good fight against Democrats who are mere posers in our neighboring states – like Rahm “NAFTA, TIF King, Kill Public Schools” Emanuel, and Pat “screw the pension fund” Quinn. Station link to listen live here.

I’ll be listening. Why? Because in this time of incredible propaganda, Sly is honest about what he says and believes. He’ll question and confront both Republicans and Democrats who turn their back on Wisconsin working families. And that is important.

The new debate on economics and education will continue to demonize teachers and other public employees. It will perpetuate the myth of impending fiscal doom to preserve the wealth of those paying to spread that myth. Scott Walker will continue to do what Sitting Bull warned about in 1877: They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.” It is voices like Sly’s we need to call out the Walkers, Fitzes, Vos’ Emanuels, Ryans, and Johnsons of our time for what and who they are. Greedy, power-hungry, sharks and fixers who are out for blood. The life blood of Wisconsin – its people and resources in exchange for money and power.

A final quote before sign-off…a warning shot across the bow of our fragile democracy:

When democracy granted democratic methods to us in times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we…never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used the democratic methods only to gain power, and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in times of our opposition.

No, that was not from a Walker secret conversation with Robin Vos.

It was Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, 1935 propaganda pamphlet, quoted in Vol. I “Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,” US Government Printing Office 1946 

Vigilance. Always vigilance.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and “Conscious Capitalism” – putting lipstick on a pig

John Mackey is the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, its founder, and a self-proclaimed independent libertarian. Mackey has also recently authored a book, “Conscious Capitalism.” While he speaks in platitudes about corporations acting as conscientious citizens of the world, Mackey’s actions as CEO of a major corporation betray his real motivation.

Mackey was forced to back pedal from his comments on the Patient Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.

Mackey is dead wrong on the government-corporate relationship under fascism. Italian historian and fascism authority Emilio Gentile gives the authoritative description:

Corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions. (Payne, Stanley G (A History of Fascism, 1914-1945). University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 5–6)

More importantly, it is time to call Mackey’s vision of capitalism (and Whole Foods Market) what it is, and this writer does not use this term loosely. “Corporate fascism” is an accurate and apt description of the Mackey philosophy. Consider Gentile’s definition. above, in light of Mackey’s actions and writings.

Mackey is a staunch proponent of a corporate-centric economy, with no government or regulatory intervention. Both Whole Foods Market and Mackey are anti-union, anti-worker’s rights. The Mackey philosophy would see a collaborative corporate control over the means of production, to achieve its own goals of power through corporate solidarity (WMC, US Chamber of Commerce, etc.). Preservation of private property and class division are a necessity for the Mackey vision, as there can be no cheap labor production without class division. Ironically, Mackey is a proponent of the expansion of state intervention, as long as it is on behalf of corporate welfare expansion. There is plenty of proof to support this assertion…

On November 16, 2011, Mackey penned an op-ed by invitation in the Wall Street Journal, titled “To Increase Jobs, Increase Economic Freedom.”  In a response to Mackey’s article written on February 1, 2012, Badger Democracy addressed the fundamental arguments in the op-ed:

1. Cut the size and cost of government – 100 years ago, government spending was 8% of GDP; today it is 40% of GDP. This additional money spent by the government could be used to “create jobs.”

2. Cuts should be made in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense – many of these services could be privatized, using the “success” of Chile and Singapore as models.

3. Stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and regulations – Mackey explains that cutting taxes would “increase revenue… as entrepreneurs create new businesses and new jobs and as people earn more money.”

In his own op-ed, Mackey supports further provisions which would continue the US economy down a dangerous path. Greater corporate consolidation of power, greater consolidation of wealth, greater class inequity, and greater corporate influence on policy which would regulate said power.

The dagger in Mackey’s theory is a recent report in the conservative-leaning Financial Times, also reported in the New York Times. The article cites a steady decline in earned wages and a steady rise in investor income through profit and interest:

“58%…is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much. If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740 billion this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations.”

More power and wealth for the corporate fascists, with less taxes and accountability means more money to influence and drive politics and policy:

 

Corporate Taxes Paid by US Corporations, 1950-2010

(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis)

Corporate income tax graph

 

Cheap labor production is possible due to the expansion of the wealth gap and class disparities:

 

 

John Mackey’s Whole Foods Market has also forced employees to “vote” to cut their own wages and benefits. Wages have been cut due to reduction in hours, and employees will be forced to contribute more in spite of enormous corporate growth:

In 2007, WFM profits (after taxes and expenses) totaled $182.7 million. Four years later, in 2011, profits totaled $342.6 million – nearly double in 4 years.  For the first sixteen weeks of 2011, total profits were $88.7 million; for the same period in 2012, profits totaled $118.3 million. Store expenses have decreased by 38 points in 2011, including 28 points due to wage cuts. In real numbers, most stores have executed 3% cuts in labor over the past fiscal year, resulting in most employees seeing a 5-8% cut in wages (due to hours being cut).

Of course, Mackey built Whole Foods with his own two hands, with no government help (sarcasm)…therefore, government should stay out of his business. This is the great lie of corporate fascism. Mackey and his ilk want the government to work for them. The doctrine of so-called “corporate conscious” follows in the words of Gentile:

…broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power.

The corporate fascists would have us believe the great lie of their own self-determination and success, that personal strength and sacrifice alone built their empires. Mackey is as guilty of this as any of them. Whole Foods is a prolific recipient of government intervention and welfare on its own behalf.

In 2011, an $8 million tax break for a new Washington DC Whole Foods development raised questions of return on public investment and why public money was even needed:

And why does this project require a special subsidy to move forward in the first place?  This Whole Foods already would qualify for a set of tax incentives for grocery store development, including a 10–year property tax break on the store itself.  Moreover, while some projects near Nationals Park have languished in the recession, this area is likely to be part of the emerging rebound, thanks in part to prior public investment by the District.  Finally, if a Whole Foods will revitalize this neighborhood as it did in Logan Circle, why won’t private market interests step up to make it happen?

In the same year, Whole Foods received $4.2 million in tax subsidies to open a Detroit area store, uncovered only by FOIA requests:

The documents, obtained by the Chaldean News under the Freedom of Information Act and provided toCrain’s, show that Whole Foods is asking for $4.2 million in city, state and federal incentives to open a store in downtown Detroit.

According to the exchanges, the 21,000-square-foot project is expected to get $1.5 million in local and community foundation funds, $1.2 million in federal tax credits under the New Market program and $1.5 million in state incentives.

Michael Sarafa, president of the Bank of Michigan and co-publisher of The Chaldean News, questions the use of incentives to lure a national grocery chain to Detroit. He said there are 83 independently-owned grocers in the city, many of them owned by Chaldeans, who did not receive incentives.

 

Controversial “TIF” funds are being used for construction of a Whole Foods-anchored development in St. Louis, hardly in a blighted area.

The new Whole Foods development in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago is being partially funded by an $11.3 million “TIF” in an already well-developed area.

Mackey is now on the record confirming that Whole Foods will begin eliminating full-time employees as a result of “Obamacare” being fully enacted. This in an interview with Greta Van Susteren:

…there will be a strong temptation for businesses to keep people under 30 hours, so they don’t have to provide health care. And you will have a lot of part-time workers and fewer full-time workers, a lot of people underemployed.

Whole Foods prided itself, we’ve always had a higher mix of full-time to part-time workers like 80 percent full-time and 20 percent part-time, which is very rare in retail. But as I suspect as our health care costs are driven up by health care reforms then we’ll end up gradually lower our full-time ratio to a much lower number.

There is no fiscal truth to this statement. As proven in Whole Foods’ own financial statements and a previous Badger Democracy blog, the company’s health care costs per employee are actually lower than they were before “Obamacare’s” passage. The reason for Whole Foods’ higher total costs is simple – the company is growing. With government and public help.

It is time to take the lipstick off the pig. The philosophy of John Mackey should be called what it is. Corporate freedom, rights, and independence over all – even the individual. No worker’s rights, no government regulation or intervention EXCEPT on behalf of the corporation and its own interests. In short…corporate fascism.

And Mackey calling “Obamacare” fascism? Pure projection.

 

“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?

 

 

Help support independent journalism!


			

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.

Time for Wisconsin Progressives to get to work…again

A short time ago, the AP called the election for Barack Obama, and Tammy Baldwin – with Wisconsin leading the way. Earlier today, Badger Democracy posted predictions and commentary on the state races. Fortunately, I was correct on the Obama/Baldwin win. Unfortunately, I was also correct in saying the GOP would take back the State Senate. It appears Wisconsin will be controlled at the state level by a very conservative GOP led by Scott Walker.

We should take the next 24 hours to celebrate. As Wisconsin progressives, we have led the way in re-electing Barack Obama, and sending Tammy Baldwin to the US Senate. After the celebration, we have along road ahead of us. The recent redistricting has assured an uphill climb for the next decade to maintain a balance in the State Legislature.

More importantly, as progressives, it is time to change the way messaging and campaigns are run at the state level. The Democratic Party, on the whole, has been beaten badly in that regard over the last 18 months – and appears not to have learned from its mistakes. It is time to remedy this as progressives, and again lead the way to change the way we communicate our values and our message – because what is being done now is not working.

The election is over. The campaign for a progressive Wisconsin is in its infancy. See you in the trenches…

Solidarity!

 

 

Election 2012 – Prognostication and Portends

Election 2012 is in full swing, and by all accounts Wisconsin will have record turnout. That is encouraging, as the Voter ID provisions still in effect do make new voter registrations more difficult.  Based on voter registration data from 2008-2012, turnout will be key to an Obama victory and the hope that there will be a “coat-tail” effect in Wisconsin.

Voter registration data from the GAB shows that the slow and steady attempt by the GOP to disenfranchise younger voters (who vote more Democratic) has been having an impact – even in Wisconsin which has same day registration (numbers in thousands):

Year 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+ Total
2008 340.8 576.1 955.1 932.8 668.9 3,473.8
2009 336.2 614.3 930.4 926 675 3,481.90
2010 327.5 554.8 900.8 984.3 692.5 3,460
2011 273.9 506.3 826.1 967.2 697.2 3,270.60
2012 332.9 560.4 855.9 1,013.20 738.6 3,501

Notice the trend over the past 5 years. As this table shows, the under 50 age group registrations have dropped, while the over 50 registrations have increased (numbers in thousands):

 

U50 total 50+ total
 2008 1872 1601.7
 2009 1880.9 1601
 2010 1783.1 1676.8
 2011 1606.3 1664.4
 2012 1749.2 1,751.80
Diff 2008-2012 -122.8 150.10

 

122,800 less under 50 voters registered, as there are 150,010 more over 50 registered voters.

When expressed as a percent of the total registered voters, it is clear why turnout is key:

 

 2008 0.54 0.46
 2009 0.54 0.46
 2010 0.52 0.48
 2011 0.49 0.51
 2012 0.50 0.50
Diff 2008-2012 -0.04 0.04

 

The two age groups have converged, each comprising 50% of the registered voters. Badger Democracy has compiled graphs on this data as a PDF available at this link:

Voter Registration Graphs 2008-2012 PDF

A quick look at the 2011 registrations are one significant reason the Walker recall election failed. Another will be referenced later. Now, on to the prognosis.

President – Barack Obama defeats Mitt Romney. I believe in math and statistics. Nate Silver has the most unbiased, mathematically sound analysis and he has a history of being right. This morning, Silver updated his Five Thirty-Eight blog to give Obama a 90.9% chance of winning – largely due to Obama momentum gains in key swing states. Silver’s analysis takes into account the possibility of a bias for Obama.

In order for Mr. Romney to win the Electoral College, a large number of polls, across these states and others, would have to be in error, perhaps because they overestimated Democratic turnout. It’s this possibility, more than the chance of a successful hail-mary in a state like Pennsylvania, that accounts for most of Mr. Romney’s remaining chances of winning the Electoral College.

The chances of Romney winning the electoral college is given in poker terms by Silver:

…in poker, making an inside straight requires you to catch one of 4 cards out of 48 remaining in the deck, the chances of which are about 8 percent. Those are now about Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College.

If Obama were to lose, I would consider the results very suspect – especially if the difference is Ohio and the vote suppression methods under way there (addressed below).

While I expect Obama to win the electoral college, Hurricane Sandy has made the possibility of Romney winning the popular vote a bit higher. The area affected by Sandy typically accounts for about 30% of the total popular vote nationwide. There is a good possibility that enough people will be unable to vote due to the storm, still giving Obama the electoral vote win, but reducing the poplar vote outcome in the Northeast corridor. Can’t wait to hear what Rush Limbaugh would say about that…

Obama will win Wisconsin as well. The final Marquette Law School Poll shows Obama with a 51-43 lead over Romney. The Marquette poll called the recall election nearly spot-on, and had been consistently accurate. That brings us to the Senate.

The Wisconsin Senate Race – Nate Silver has Tammy Baldwin at a 79% chance of defeating Thompson, but the poll margins are extremely close. The voter registration numbers referenced above make the split even closer. The last Marquette poll gives the slightest edge to Baldwin as well, 47-43 (just outside the Margin of Error). I’m going to use another factor in making my prediction – momentum.

The January Marquette poll  showed that 50% of respondents had not heard enough of Tammy Baldwin to form an opinion of her. Only 17% said the same of Thompson. Baldwin had a 23% favorable rating, Thompson 49% favorable. By the June Marquette poll, 39% had not heard enough of Baldwin, 12% had not heard enough of Thompson to form an opinion. The favorability gap was closing – 27% Baldwin, 48% Thompson. In the first head-to-head poll of likely voters, Thompson had a 49-41% lead over Baldwin.

Fast forward to the second August Marquette poll. Baldwin continued to close the recognition gap; 27% not knowing enough of Baldwin, 17% not knowing enough of Thompson. The favorability gap also continued to close – Baldwin at 32%, Thompson at 40%. Among likely voters, Thompson continued to lead 50-41%, virtually unchanged from June.

The second September Marquette poll shows a greater shift in momentum taking place. Only 20% of voters had not heard enough of Baldwin to form an opinion (down from 50% eight months before), with Thompson holding steady at 12%. In the favorability rating, Baldwin had closed the gap – 37% Baldwin, 36% Thompson (compare to 23-49% January). In likely voters, Baldwin gained her first lead in the poll, 48-44%.

That brings us to the last Marquette poll pre-election. Among likely voters, only 13% had not heard enough of Baldwin – about where Thompson started. Favorability ratings are identical – 38% to 38%. More importantly, as more people have come to know Tommy Thompson, his unfavorable rating is 6 points higher than Baldwin’s, 51 – 45%. This was the first poll Thompson had a 50%+ unfavorable rating.

My prediction – based on the momentum of Tammy Baldwin, and the corresponding “coat-tail” effect of Barack Obama winning in Wisconsin by a fairly wide margin, that will be enough to give the razor’s edge victory to Baldwin. Tommy won’t go down without a fight – expect a recount. In the end, Baldwin wins and the Wisconsin US Senate is split.

This entire scenario relies on a fair and accurate election – which is in question and highly suspect. The Brad Blog  has been at the forefront of following election hijinks perpetrated by private corporateers who control the software and data involved in elections. It is astounding that in the first democracy, our election system is controlled by private corporate profiteers with significant conflicts of interest and political agendas – much as would be expected in a third world country election.

Investigative reporter for the BBC Greg Palast has (and continues) to follow the systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters in state like Ohio and Florida – with hundreds of thousands  of registered voters being dropped from voter rolls. Voter registration and ID laws are working in that regard – look at Wisconsin data above. Younger, more Democratic voters are being intentionally purged from the voting rolls – and it is worse in states without same day registration.

If the fix is in, we are in for a long 4 years. Under a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Administration, the United States would become a vulture capital economy. After all, Ryan was Paul Singer’s (“The Vulture”) number one pick to be the GOP Presidential candidate. Mitt Romney was Singer’s last pick – Ryan was the VP pick to satisfy Singer.

The vultures would run the show – and the economy. What Singer and Elliott Management are doing to Argentina would become the model for domestic and foreign economic policy. Romney’s financial dealings as a profiteer aligned with Bain Capital and Singer’s Elliott Management would become the new business model in the US. The whistle has just been blown on Romney’s dealings and profiteering – and if he is elected would never see the light of day.

The Obama Administration and mainstream banks like JP Morgan Chase understood the threat to worldwide economics when they recently filed amicus briefs in favor of Argentina’s sovereignty, and against Paul Singer and the vultures. There are theories this election is a battle of the titans for control of the US (and world) economy. Obama wins, and more reasonable heads prevail. A Romney win, and it is back to the Robber Barons – only on steroids with the Vultures in charge.

My concern is for State Senate and Assembly races. All politics are local, and while there may be a small carry over from Obama to the state races – it will be limited. A miracle is necessary for the Democrats to maintain the State Senate. The retirement of Jim Holperin (D-Eagle River) made that a difficult retention with the pro-GOP redistricting. The Assembly may become more evenly divided – but will remain GOP controlled. That leaves Wisconsin where we were after the 2010 election, with the need to remain ever vigilant, the struggle to continue.

There were lessons from the recall that went unlearned by state Dems, as has been written of previously. It must be our priority as progressives to push for a change in messaging and campaigning at the state level to counter the GOP machine. Wisconsin will likely remain under control of the GOP, with some balances at the federal and local level. Again, unless the fix is in. Our election process must be reformed and taken away from the privateers.

Get out and vote – and do your part to protect your right to vote. As for Scott Walker and the GOP in Wisconsin, I’ll be here along with other progressive bloggers long after the election is over to expose their continual abuse of power.

I leave you with the words of Thomas Paine, patriot:

“It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting,
but it is impossible to exclude them from the right of
rebelling against that exclusion.”

What is your right to vote worth?

 

 

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Investigation: Walker Administrations in Milwaukee and Madison – incompetence or corruption?

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee held a public hearing today to take testimony and commence an audit of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Unfortunately, Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) left the hearing prior to the testimony of outgoing WEDC CEO Paul Jadin. If he had stayed, Vos would have heard Jadin call for “more legislative oversight and accountability” of WEDC in his testimony.

The recent criticism of WEDC and the Department of Administration (DOA) mismanagement of the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) from US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) directors uncovered what appears to be a pattern following Scott Walker from his County Executive office in Milwaukee to the Governor’s office in Madison. Is it sheer incompetence, or inherent corruption and cronyism?

On March 15 2012, just one month prior to HUD suspending WEDC from administering the block grant program, HUD sent a letter to the new Milwaukee County Director of Health and Human Services Hector Colon (Full March 15 2012 letter here).  The letter informed DHHS Director Colon that after a HUD review of additional information supplied by the County, 23 of 29 block grant awards failed to meet federal requirements, and the County could face repayment of over $500,000 in grants. An additional 3 programs required further documentation.

The Milwaukee County program was being administered during that time period by Timothy Russell, at the time Walker’s housing director now facing trial in the John Doe investigation. Another key Milwaukee Walker Administration person in the block grant program was Lisa Jo Marks, director of DHHS under Walker. Marks is now the DOA Housing director in the current Walker Administration.

Lisa Jo Marks was Walker’s Child Support Enforcement Director from 2007 – 2009 before being named interim director of DHHS. Marks replaced Corey Hoze as DHHS director when Hoze left for a job as Associated Bank Vice President of Government Affairs.   Hoze also now serves on the WEDC Board of Directors – another agency currently involved in CDBG program controversy under Walker. Marks and Hoze undoubtedly work together in their capacities in DOA and WEDC (respectively) grant programs. Marks has also appeared as a presenter at the ultra-conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute during her Walker Administration tenure.

Badger Democracy has obtained a 2009 HUD spreadsheet from the CDBG program demonstrating continuing administration problems with accountability in the program. The spreadsheet lists 2008 programs for “LMJ and LMH” (low-mid income housing and jobs) which failed to document accomplishments as required under federal law. HUD analysts informed Badger Democracy that two of the three had eventually fulfilled the reporting requirements. One had not. Program number 3254 in the amount of $12,258.52 was made to Wisconsin Community Services in 2008. WCS has received no block grant money since 2008, and to this day has not fulfilled the reporting requirement.

Key individuals in the Milwaukee Walker Administration not under investigation in the ongoing John Doe investigation have been selected by the governor to be involved in the current CDBG program. A series of department memos from May-June 2010 show that Timothy Russell, Lisa Marks, and Cynthia Archer were all involved in the block grant award process, and had to have firsthand knowledge of grantors and awards. Only 29 awards were distributed in 2011.

A subsequent memo from October 2010 shows that Walker, Russell, and Archer were directly involved (along with the County Board and DHHS) in grant awards. A full list of past and present grants are included in the memo. On September 10, 2010, DHHS Interim Director Lisa Marks presented the list of CDBG awards to the Committee on Economic and Community Development for approval.  In spite of the numerous checks and balances in the system, the grants were made and approved on the basis of trust in the Walker Administration’s assurance of their qualifications.

A close examination reveals a pattern of questionable awards, personnel, and activities. County CDBG funds must go to non-city programs in Milwaukee County. The basic violation of the programs is that they serve constituents in the city of Milwaukee, not the county (non-Milwaukee city). Of note is the money awarded to similar organizations for similar purposes. A vast majority of the grants are awarded to private charities for either job training or facility improvements/construction. While the mission of these charities is largely legitimate, who receives the grant money at the contractor level is a very large question. Under the circumstances, it should receive much greater scrutiny – especially in the following three cases.

Milwaukee County Community Business Development Partners (CBDP) is a county agency that administers the Disadvantaged Business program, and is a public/private partnership. The CBDP received over $27,000 in federal block grant money in 2011 for “micro-enterprise development.” HUD has determined that this violates the program guidelines, as all clients are in the city of Milwaukee, not the County (non-city). On July 19, 2012, then director of CBDP, Frieda Webb, was arrested by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. Webb stands accused of defrauding the County through falsifying contracts for services not fulfilled and double-billing the county for some classes and services rendered. The FBI has been  involved in the investigation. Webb was hired by Scott Walker to serve as the agency’s director.

Webb allegedly conspired with Homer L. Key, owner of 5 Star Construction and Renovation in Milwaukee in the scheme to bill the County for thousands of dollars in services. While neither Webb or Key have yet been charged, the Milwaukee County DA’s office “could not comment on the investigation.”  All indications are this is an ongoing investigation. Webb has since been released from county jail. Key is having extensive legal issues in Milwaukee County. Neither party returned calls for comment.

Northcott Neighborhood House received $27,720 of block grant funds for renovation and construction in 2011. Executive Director of Northcott, McArthur Weddle, has recently been appointed to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) board for a four-year term by Scott Walker. Weddle joins close Walker associate and ally Wyman Winston (WHEDA Director) on the WHEDA Board.

Winston recently came under scrutiny after a report surfaced that he was over one year late in paying property taxes on rental property amounting to payments over $30,000. 

The WHEDA connection leads to a third grant award in question – in Milwaukee’s Park East Corridor now under development using millions of dollars in tax credits, subsidized loans, and grants. For years, the city and county have been on the hook for development in the corridor amid a series of lucrative financing deals for developers.

The St. Catherine’s Residence received a veto override vote from the County Board in 2007. Since that Walker veto, St. Catherine’s has even received donations from the Walkers on an annual basis. The residence has been built and continually renovated, remodeled, and expanded largely with public money from block grants and WHEDA. St. Catherine’s recently received a share of 2012 grant awards from WHEDA to “expand security measures, remodel kitchens and bathrooms, replace or repair roofs, elevators and boilers, and make restrooms handicapped accessible.”

It is not the charitable organizations themselves that should receive heightened scrutiny. Both Walker administrations rife with cronyism have demonstrated a consistent level of incompetence – or they are corrupt. It cannot be both. Walker has taken the same people with him to Madison to run these programs, and they should (by now) know the rules. Which makes the WEDC/HUD/DOA fiasco even more outrageous.

Who are the contractors who have been paid millions of dollars over the years from the CDBG program in Milwaukee County  under Scott Walker, and has this program become a giant boondoggle for them? How many no-bid contracts have been awarded by allegedly corrupt officials like Frieda Webb? Is this what Walker hoped to accomplish with WEDC – on a statewide scale? At risk are millions of dollars to municipalities which are critical to local development – particularly in areas of poverty.

No one from the previous Walker Administration in Milwaukee, WEDC, DOA, or WHEDA returned calls for comment. An open records request pertaining to this information has been filed and acknowledged with WEDC and DOA.

This story will be updated as it continues to develop.

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