Badger Democracy channel now on YouTube…”Where do we go from here in the Progressive Movement”

The first video posted to the “Bdgrdemocracy” channel on Youtube was taken at the Jackson County United Wisconsin Recall Celebration. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout and County co-chair Gaylord Oppegard  invited me to address the question of “where does the Progressive movement go from here?”

After reading, consulting, and listening to many points of view; these remarks on the history of the movement looking forward were assembled and presented to the volunteer group, and posted on Badger Democracy blog January 27th. These remarks represent a starting point for this movement going forward, apart from any party or organizational platform.

Share and help engage in the process, for the people to recover a progressive Wisconsin…

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Part 3 –



From Rural Wisconsin – What it meant for one United Wisconsin County Coordinator to “Carry a Box”

Sheila Danielson (County co-coordinator) shared this story with the Jackson County recall celebration last Thursday night in Black River Falls. Nearly one hundred volunteers, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, and staff from Congressman Ron Kind’s office were in attendance to thank each other for their efforts in gathering 3,000 signatures to recall Scott Walker countywide. The goal  for Jackson County was about 1,700 signatures to recall Walker based on 25% of the vote in the Gubernatorial election. The volunteer effort collected  25% of the total eligible voters signatures in the county; a representation in Rural Wisconsin that this is a statewide effort, even in truly “purple” regions of Wisconsin. I was particularly moved to hear this, and other personal stories as to how Scott Walker’s policies have negatively affected neighbors and friends.

Please share this moving tribute to those who “carried a box”, gathered signatures, and sustain this grassroots movement:

“What It Meant for me to carry a Box 

Oh my, what it meant to carry a box?  You would think the words and feelings would come easy.  Right?  Happy?  Yes.  Excited?  Yes?   Proud?  Yes!  I was elated when I heard we had 1,000,000 + Signatures.  And yes, I was making history.  But still those words didn’t cover what I was feeling? 

Aah, then I realized what I felt.  Responsibility!  People trusted me with their future. Here I am carrying a box filled with signatures representing people’s dreams, their despair over how their lives have changed because of job loss and loss of job benefits, their loss of health insurance, their loss of long-time friendships, their loss of family relationships, loss of security, loss of their homes.

And their fear.  And on top of that, Wisconsin and the world were watching me!!  No wonder the box was so heavy!! 

And then came anger because we shouldn’t have to be having a recall.  Wisconsin’s constitution, Article 1, under the Declaration or Rights  tells us that we have certain inherent rights, and among those is/are? life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   For me, the word that stands out in Article I is liberty, which means freedom from a government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power; liberty means the power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, according to choice, and these liberties are being taken away from us.  

Then I realized those signatures represent much more than that.  They represent hope, happiness, security, liberty, and most importantly – power.  We are no longer powerless!!   We are taking our power back!!!  1,000,000 + Wisconsinites are no longer powerless!!  We have started the process of taking our power back. 

Now my box wasn’t so heavy anymore!!!!”


Solidarity – and Forward!



The New Progressive Movement in Wisconsin – Where We Go From Here

A little over one week ago, volunteers from all over the state gathered in Madison and turned in over one million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker. A little less than a year ago, that same Governor dropped the bomb known as the “Budget Repair Bill” on the people of Wisconsin, triggering a movement that can only be characterized as a true grassroots resurgence of Progressivism in Wisconsin. When mass protests and grassroots activism take place because of the actions of a power hungry governor or Party, people don’t think in terms of “isms” – they think in terms of what is right for the state and its people. For decades, prior to Scott Walker and the new Corporate “Robber Barons”, that is what Wisconsin government was all about. That is the government we, as the heart of the grassroots movement, must strive to attain once again.

At the beginning of the Progressive movement in Wisconsin a century ago, Robert LaFollette – “Fighting Bob” – was fighting the same corporate takeover of government we are facing today. The original “Robber Barons” were using state and national government to increase profit, pay lower taxes, seize resources, and consolidate their political staying power through buying legislators and elections. This caused him to abandon the Republican Party, and form a new party of the people – the Progressive Party. In 1911, LaFollette defined the “Wisconsin Idea” of government as ensuring “well-constructed legislation aimed at benefitting the greatest number of people.”  The idea that government could be clean, honest, and accountable to the people was revolutionary during that time, and he characterized the challenge in a 1912 speech, saying:

“Free men of every generation must combat the renewed efforts of organized force and greed to destroy liberty.”

For Democrats and Progressives, this was a call to action that we have since left in the past – until last year. Scott Walker was a wake-up call in Wisconsin for all of us to re-engage the political process, and “combat” the “forces” of “greed” seeking “to destroy liberty.” The first shot in that battle was the mass protests that took place from February through the summer. The right of protest has been questioned and quelled by the GOP powers throughout this process, with varying rules and laws being floated to subvert the First Amendment Right of citizens to” petition their government for redress of grievances.” This right was recognized by Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech to Montgomery Bus boycotters:

“There is never a time in our American Democracy that we must ever think we are wrong when we protest. We reserve that right. When labor all over this nation came to see that it would be trampled over by capitalistic power, there (is) nothing wrong with labor getting together and protesting for its rights.”

The protests in Wisconsin last year started a wave across the nation, of people waking up to the reality of corporate money and power stealing our Democratic birthright – just as they did one hundred years ago. Those protests were just the beginning.

The second shot to restoring liberty has been the gathering of reportedly 1.9 million signatures to recall not only Scott Walker, but the Lieutenant Governor and 4 Republican State Senators – an overwhelming amount of signatures that has shaken the political landscape in Wisconsin and the nation. Because of all your efforts, along with citizens across the state; the political debate is now focused around central issues of fairness, justice and equality in government and how people are governed. These issues are central to our grassroots movement, and being a progressive. Without needing labels, we, as Wisconsinites, know instinctively what is right, and how the government of the people should function. This inherent and instinctive knowledge must be exercised to bring about change in our political system – both parties. That is where this movement has a responsibility to take the struggle, for future generations.

It has been lost to history, as those who now control the politic rewrite our history books, that our founding fathers were keenly aware of the role of government in this experimental Democracy. Striving to create a Republic where “all men are created equal”, and all have the inherent right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” this government was to be different than the monarchies of Europe.

In a letter to Robert Morris in 1783, Benjamin Franklin wrote of economic justice and fairness:

“All the property that is necessary to a man, for the conservation and the propagation of the species, is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Public, who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him live among the savages – he can have no right to the benefits of society.”

It is striking how relevant that is today – as the wealth and income gap grows to greater extremes not seen since pre-Great Depression, multinational Corporations pay less in taxes as a percentage of net profit since the 1950’s, and these same corporations have a strangle hold on our Democratic and Judicial process. That is why what is happening now in Wisconsin is as critical as any political event in the history of our state. The people are again rising up – and through grassroots action, will take back what has been lost and restore our “Wisconsin Idea” of government.

The recall elections, and subsequent elections will require all of us to choose the candidates that will represent us. The success of our movement rests on the electoral process, and the leaders we choose. With that in mind, here are what I believe are the three keys to our future success.

First and foremost, we must do everything in our power to ensure citizens eligible to vote are registered and have the proper ID to exercise their Constitutional Right on Election Day. We must hold our elected officials and the Government Accountability Board “accountable” to facilitating this process, and hold “get out the vote” drives and educational programs to talk to our fellow citizens about the importance of voting. Until this “Mississippi-style” voter ID law is repealed, we have a lot of work to do – but the resources are there, and this is the keystone of Democracy – the vote.

Secondly, we must assure that votes are counted fairly, legally, and accurately. The current scanning and electronic voting machines have been suspect in recent elections, and many do not leave a paper trail to check against during an audit (as in Waukesha County during the State Supreme Court race). There is a movement that we must support in our local elections, and push statewide – and that is for hand counted, paper ballots. In most scenarios, this method actually saves the taxpayers money, is more accurate, and can easily be audited in case of a recount or error. It is also the only way to ensure that election fraud is not taking place systemically – as local and state officials have no way of controlling or auditing programs set by the manufacturer. A manufacturer that has close ties to Conservative Republican interests.

Finally, we must elect the candidates that will represent us, the people of Wisconsin – not corporate special interests or high-powered financial contributors looking to turn state resources into profit. With that in mind, here is the beginnings of a “People’s Platform” – while it is not perfect, it is a starting point which we can build on for the future: 

  1. The people have a right to organize unions for the purpose of negotiating for pay and benefits, and for the redress of grievances against an employer. We base this right on the United Nations establishment of the International Labor Organization in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, and which the US adopted in 1934. This treaty recognizes the right to organize as a “basic human right in a civilized society.” In his State of the Union Address just prior to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, “It must be understood, Labor is prior to and independent to capital. Capital is only the fruit of Labor, and could NEVER have existed if Labor had not first existed. LABOR IS THE SUPERIOR OF CAPITAL, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
  2. Ensure the solvency and public accountability of Social Security and state pensions, so that citizens may retire after dedicating their lives to supporting our society.
  3. Commit to a not-for-profit, single payer health care system recognizing that to achieve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” one must have full access to quality health care, regardless of socio-economic status.
  4. Commit to the highest quality available Public Education system supported by and accountable to the community for the good of our Democracy, and the welfare and success of future generations.
  5. Public Works/Public Housing – Commit to creating programs that will not only work with existing trade and technical colleges to train new workers, but create an infrastructure recovery plan that will put these people to work, for the benefit of the community and state at large – thus creating a new influx of middle class, not diminishing it.
  6. Lobby for and support a continued progressive tax structure to assure those who are able to pay do, in support of our better society (see Franklin, above); and those who are the working poor continue to have access to the earned income credit for their relief.
  7. Any corporation desiring to tap the human, environmental, or financial resources of the state for their private profit must have accountability to the taxpayers, be subject to public audit and disclosure, and share those profits with the people of the state – without whom they would not have achieved said profits.
  8. Clear and concise regulation of financial institutions, with full legislative fiscal accountability.
  9. Increased and enforced protection of civil liberties and environmental regulations under state and federal law.
  10. An end to all offensive wars not formally declared or authorized by Congress and an end to US Imperialism around the world, focusing on diplomatic relationships and building security at home. Any entry into war should be in defense of an imminent threat to the United States and its citizens.
  11. Citizens United must be repealed or a Constitutional amendment approved to take unlimited corporate money out of politics, corporations are not people, and money is not speech.
  12. Trade policies must be repealed and rewritten to PROTECT the American worker and middle class – not decimate it and give incentives to multinational corporations to move overseas for cheap labor, only to line their own pockets.

These issues are at the forefront of this movement, and it is time for all of us to carry the message forward. For too long, as Democrats and Progressives we have run away from these ideas – they are now critical to the future of Wisconsin and the nation.

A clean, honest government that works for the betterment of a majority of the people – not the 1%. These are the ideas and initiatives that must move us forward…or we are doomed to repeat the mistake of being disengaged, and allowing the Scott Walkers and Fitzgerald brothers of the world to give away this wonderful, progressive state we love. This grassroots movement is our hope for the future, and we will not fail if we stand together.

Update – State Senator Kathleen Vinehout to announce Gubernatorial bid soon, source says

A source close to the office of Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout  has informed Badger Democracy that the Senator from the 31st District in Western Wisconsin will soon be announcing her candidacy for Governor – to run in the impending recall election against Scott Walker.

The two-term Democrat serves a largely rural District, and has won two highly competitive elections to win and retain her seat – beating an incumbent Republican in 2006, and defeating the late Ed Thompson to retain her seat in 2010. Vinehout was one of the few democrats to survive the Republican wave in 2010, and is considered to be an expert in grassroots campaigning. She was outspent by Ed Thompson nearly 2 to 1 in the 2010 Campaign . She also survived an onslaught of outside special interest spending against her in 2010 by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and The Republican State Leadership Committee.

The source indicates a formal media statement will be made within the week. When the formal announcement is made, Vinehout would join Kathleen Falk as having declared candidacy for Governor. 



John Doe Investigation closing in on Walker aides, administration in alleged “pay-for-play” deals

On the day a new Marquette University Law School poll, conducted by Charles Franklin, shows an inexplicable rise in Scott Walker’s “favorable” rating in the face of an unprecedented sixth straight month of job losses; the John Doe Investigation being conducted in Milwaukee County appears to be getting closer to the Walker (as County Executive) Administration – this in a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel reports sources close to the investigation as disclosing a “pay-for-play” scheme to award lucrative County Office contracts to private real estate companies. The article links the contract award process with Walker supporters, donors, and inside work by the Walker Administration on the deals in both 2005 and 2010.

As this investigation rolls on, with additional arrests being made within the week according to the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice; Real Estate broker Andrew Jensen (and close Walker ally) is again compelled to give testimony today or face further contempt charges and jail time. It is difficult to imagine Walker having no knowledge of these dealings, based on one of the emails from a Walker supporter and one of the real estate parties involved specifically references then County Executive Walker. From the article:

In the email, obtained by the Journal Sentinel, Gregory Reiman alerted commercial real estate broker Scott Revolinski of RFP Commercial that the county was discussing moving workers from the county-owned City Campus to the Reuss Federal Plaza, which already housed the Aging Department.

“I told Scott Walker that I would mention this opportunity to you and see if RFP might be interested in this building. If you are interested I will put you in touch with Scott’s Chief of Staff, Tom Nardelli.”

As this investigation closes in on Scott Walker and his closest staffers/allies, one wonders which action will remove Scott Walker from office – recall or indictment.

The polling results are surprising, and Badger Democracy is working with an independent statistician to evaluate the methodology to discover any bias – as the reversal in Walker’s polling numbers is questionable based on the current economic and political climate.

The grassroots must continue to drive this movement. Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, we must communicate the details of malfeasance, fraud, and lies perpetrated by Scott Walker to the people of Wisconsin…as the recall election represents the will of the people and must be won to right the wrongs done by Scott Walker.

Mining Bill Hearing in Committee today – amendments offered add insult to injury for local citizens, Bad River Nation

The Mining Bill (AB426) is scheduled to be debated in Rep. Mary Williams’ (R-Medford) Committee on Jobs at 10:00am today. On Friday, Williams offered 8 amendments to the bill in an attempt to put a band-aid on a cut that requires a tourniquet. Unfortunately, the Williams amendments merely skirted the issues publicly addressed in two hearings, leaving the Corporate giveaway in the bill intact. The Fiscal Estimate prepared by the DNR for the Department of Budget shows the negative revenue impact of the bill – increasing costs to the state, taxpayers, and municipalities. This Mining Bill will cost the state millions of dollars in lost fees, revenue, and recovery costs. While Williams did not consult with any Democratic members of the Committee in drafting her amendments, it is obvious the Gogebic Taconite Mining Company was heard loud and clear, in spite of the citizen outcry during two public hearings.

In an article published in today’s Indian Country Today Media Network, the 10 guidelines presented to the Walker Administration in September by the Bad River Nation are reviewed: 

1. The definition of iron mining should be clearly set forth to exclude any project proposal that has the potential to cause acid mine drainage.

2. The completeness of iron mining–permit applications should be clearly defined and the burden of preparing and submitting a complete application should be entirely on the permit applicant.

3. The permitting time frame should be reasonable, flexible and consistent with federal agency time frames. It should also provide sufficient time for the DNR, the public, federal agencies, and affected Indian tribes, to fully review and participate in the permitting process.

4. Wetland protection standards should be maintained and the federal/state partnership in the environmental review process under state and federal law should not be jeopardized.

5. Federal clean water act implementation by DNR should be corrected and not weakened.

6. There should be contested case hearings to allow full participation by interested parties, including Indian tribes.

7. There should be no preemption of local control.

8. Citizen suits should be maintained to make sure permit provisions and legal restrictions on new mines will be enforced.

9. Consultation with Indian tribes by the DNR should be required as part of the permitting process.

10. Interested party financing should be provided for the contested case hearing process.

In addition to these critical points addressed by the Nation, there are points critical to the counties and Municipalities affected by the mine:

1. There is no funding of infrastructure required before a mine becomes operational – roads, sewer upgrades, etc. This cost falls directly on municipalities, with no funding until after the mine is operational and generating revenue.

2. The revenue to local communities is reduced under this bill – even the amendment offered only increases local revenue from 50% to 60%. In previous mining legislation, there is a dedicated local fund that receives 100% of state revenue for local support of infrastructure and impact.

3. The permitting fee was $1 million, raised to only $2.2 million under the amendment – still only a fraction of the actual cost to fund a study by the DNR/US Army Corps of Engineers. The state would have to make up the remaining cost, and thus the taxpayers.

None of the amendments offered by Williams fully address ANY of the above concerns, which range from environmental to fiscal. The long-term impact of this bill is being ignored by Williams and the GOP who are more interested in a gift to Gogebic Taconite. Expect the bill to pass out of committee on partisan vote today – with concerns raised by Democratic members brushed aside by Williams and the GOP members. It is likely the bill will pass in Assembly on Thursday, with it advancing to the Senate for approval. The pressure must be kept up on this bill, with the Senate politic in flux due to recall influence, and Dale Schultz acting as a wildcard.

This is a bad bill. Period. Not even partially responsible government, it is a blatant giveaway to a GOP friendly corporation that will be one more of many to reap enormous profit at the expense of the current and future generations of Wisconsinites.



Grassroots Activists Letter Regarding Candidacy of Kathleen Falk

Last week several Wisconsin grassroots leaders and activists asked this writer to compose a letter expressing our discontent with the candidacy of Kathleen Falk for Governor. The text of the letter appears below, along with a hypertext link to the word document in the title of the letter. This letter is being sent to the Falk Campaign, Wisconsin Democratic Party, and communicated with Labor Leadership. It is our hope that stronger, more progressive statewide candidates will emerge from this process that will defeat Scott Walker in the imminent recall election.

You are invited to add your voice to this opinion (if you agree) by sharing and forwarding this letter to the following email addresses:



As many of the grassroots activists who have fought against the radical policies of Scott Walker and the current incarnation of the GOP,  we have stood in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the state, been on the frontline of gubernatorial and senatorial recalls, and believe it is time for a Progressive resurgence in Wisconsin reflecting the spirit of Robert M. LaFollette; therefore, we will not support or endorse Kathleen Falk as a primary gubernatorial candidate representative of this grassroots movement.

The movement that began when UW-Madison teaching assistants brought valentines to the governor’s office in February, 2011 has made history by delivering over one million signatures to recall Scott Walker – led by volunteers from around the state engaged as never before in Wisconsin history. Wisconsin is on the verge of a new populist progressive movement not seen since Fighting Bob LaFollette. We are on the verge of a new politic; wrought by the sweat, tears, strength, and solidarity of millions of Wisconsinites.

But this movement is still fragile, at a crossroads that will take it forward to reform the very nature of government in Wisconsin; or backwards into the abyss of Corporate and Party morass. It is for this reason we express our concern over the candidacy of Kathleen Falk.

While Kathleen Falk is an honorable politician and person, and we respect her right to run for Governor of Wisconsin, we feel she represents a politic supported by establishment and corporate Democrats. The very staff she has hired to coordinate and run her campaign are representative of the same capital “D” democrats that gave us Jim Doyle and Tom Barrett – two politicians who are not reflective of progressive values or this grassroots movement. Falk will certainly raise a significant amount of money thanks to her professional Democrat staff, but that is not the measure of the candidate needed for this movement.

We believe Falk is vulnerable in a statewide election, regardless of current polling. She has lost significant recent statewide elections, engaged in a contentious campaign against Peg Lautenschlager (winning only to lose to JB VanHollen), and left her position as Dane County Executive mid-term. For these reasons alone, she demonstrates great vulnerability in a statewide race. Falk’s election history and being surrounded with establishment, big money Democratic Party operatives demonstrate a level of opportunism towards this movement – and we will not support or endorse such a candidate.

As a grassroots movement, we support an open Democratic primary to allow the people to choose the candidate to challenge and defeat Scott Walker. It is our express desire that this primary take place, without restriction or interference by the Democratic Party, and that the emerging candidate be representative and accountable to the people in their commission. While we respect that Kathleen Falk may emerge from that process as the candidate, we will not support her during the primary process, as we feel there are candidates that will better represent the values we seek to forward this emerging progressive movement.


Respectfully Submitted by Concerned Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin