Breaking News:Federal Judge overturns portions of Act 10 as unconstitutional

In Wisconsin Western District Federal court today, Judge William M. Conley (UW Law School Graduate, Former Foley and Lardner Attorney) overturned two key portions of Act 10 as unconstitutional.

In his 39 page opinion dated March 30, Conley concludes that  “the State’s interest in avoiding the reality or appearance of favoritism or entanglement with partisan politics — is the very reason this court cannot uphold the State of Wisconsin’s apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions.

The court has given the State until May 31 to reinstate automatic payroll deductions for state employee union members. Conley’s decision also found  the annual re-certification by an absolute majority unconstitutional, and cited the US Supreme Court:

“The Supreme Court has indicated that “[t]he absence of precedent for [an act] is itself instructive; ‘[d]iscriminations of an unusual character especially suggest careful consideration to determine whether they are obnoxious to the constitutional provision.’” Romer, 517 U.S. at 633 (quoting Louisville Gas & Elec. Co. v. Coleman, 277 U.S. 32, 37-38 (1928)).”

The court recognized the First Amendment burden of annual re-certification, stating “…the court would be remiss not to at least note the likely burden the annual recertification process imposes on members’ speech and association rights. Indeed, as it works a direct burden on general employee unions, its discriminatory application appears indefensible to a First Amendment challenge. See discussion infra Parts II.A, II.B. Even if not itself a direct violation of plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, the appearance of a partisan division of the two classes of unions is troubling. Id. Case: 3:11-cv-00428-wmc Document #: 107 Filed: 03/30/12 Page 23 of 39”

The court immediately enjoined the annual re-certification by an absolute majority.

Certification of the Walker – Kleefisch recall by the Government Accountability Board, and portions of Act 10 overturned by a Federal Judge. Yes, the Spin machine of the right extremists have their work cut out for them…but the winds of change are blowing throughout Wisconsin.



Scott Walker cites ALEC-influenced study that “Wisconsin is turning around”

A recent study by the Tax Foundation, titled “Location Matters”,  was cited in an Official Press Release merely hours ago by Scott Walker as proving his policies are successful in turning Wisconsin’s economy around. The press release states, in part:

“The new study rated Wisconsin as one of the top five states for new businesses. The study was based on tax laws that were in effect as of April 1, 2011. When additional pro‐job policies are factored into the study in the future, it’s anticipated that Wisconsin will improve even further in the rankings.”

Walker fails to inform readers that The Tax Foundation is hardly a reliable source for a study, nor is it non-partisan. former and current Tax Foundation board members and top “researchers” have direct ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and top economists have given prior reports by the Tax Foundation scathing rebukes.

The top tax policy official for ALEC, Jonathan Williams, is a former top official with the Tax Foundation. Williams is the co-author of the ALEC State Budget Toolkit as well as the study “Rich States, Poor States”, which uses similar flawed methodology as the Tax Foundation recent study.  He is also the Director of the Center for Competitive State Fiscal Policy, a front group that shares the same name as the Tax Foundation’s Center for Competitive State Fiscal Policy.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote on October 11, 2011  wrote:

“They actually find that their version of the “Buffett rule” would collect $120 billion a year, which is a seriously significant sum. But they try to make it look small by comparing one year’s revenue with the total debt outstanding.

I mean, the standard scoring method in Washington involves using 10-year projections — and even that is flawed, because the real budget issues are much longer-term than that. But nobody, nobody thinks it makes sense to estimate the effect of a revenue proposal on future debt by looking only at the first year’s receipts.

This deliberate fraud — because that’s what it has to be — is an example of the reasons knowledgeable people don’t trust the Tax Foundation.” 

“Knowledgeable people don’t trust the Tax Foundation.” This confirms what we’ve known for quite some time about Scott Walker. He is merely a puppet for ALEC and the corporatist robber barons, and will believe any of their propaganda for the purposes of forwarding his extremist ideological agenda. Regardless of the consequences for Wisconsin. This study is worthless as a measure of economic success. Period. The truth is, Walker and his allies have little left in the way of legitimate facts. They will continue to use any means necessary to stay in power – even after the impending recall.

No sleep for democracy.

Gannett sanctioning of journalists promotes a new “McCarthyism”, reeks of hypocrisy

Within hours of each other on Saturday, Gannett News Group’s largest Wisconsin newspaper publishers wrote articles presented as an apology to readers. Several of its journalists in Wisconsin had signed the recall petition against Scott Walker, as discovered by its own Gannett internal investigative team of reporters. This trio of reporters, appointed to the “I Team” by Gannett statewide media include Erik Litke (Sheboygan Press), Kathleen Foody (Wausau Daily Herald), and Ben Jones (Appleton Post Crescent). They have conducted what in essence amounts to a “recall petition check” by an employer against their own colleagues, for the employer to use against them. None of the three reporters had any comment beyond saying that the “I Team” was assembled to cover “broad issues” of investigative journalism. Gannett is now sanctioning what is amounting to a new era of McCarthyism in Wisconsin, led by corporate money and power desperate to maintain the upper hand in state politics.

The articles were all published within hours of each other, and are strikingly similar – the same talking points are used, and in the smaller circulation papers, the articles presented were a more “Reader’s Digest” condensed version. The editorials were attributed to Genia Lovett (Appleton Post-Crescent), Richard Roesgen (Fond du Lac Reporter), Mark Treinen (Wausau Daily Herald), Kevin Corrado (Green Bay Press-Gazette), and Alan Hicks (Wisconsin Rapids Tribune). The links will allow readers to read the full articles and draw their own conclusions. It is clear each publisher is conveying a strikingly similar message.

The internal attacks on their own journalists bear striking resemblance to attacks against Wisconsin Judges discovered to have signed recall petitions by the same “I Team” of Gannett reporters on March 18.  Attacks were also launched against the highly non-partisan Wisconsin Judicial commission by supporters of David Prosser (Media Trackers); in response to their call for hearings on Prosser’s behavior and alleged unethical behavior. The attacks are, of course baseless, as the commission is composed of conservative, moderate, and progressive members of the legal community.

Attacks continue against Dane County Circuit Court  judges, based on their signing of the recall petitions. The Wisconsin GOP has filed a complaint against Judge David Flanagan for his refusal to recuse himself from hearing arguments and ruling on the Voter ID law. As Marquette University Law Professor Edward Fallone points out in a recent faculty blog, the charges are without merit:

“The signing of a recall petition is a right guaranteed by Article XIII of the Wisconsin Constitution.  It is a procedure whereby any voter can request that the continuation in office of an elected official in the State of Wisconsin should be put to the vote of the full electorate.  If a sufficient number of voters sign the petition, a recall election is held.  A recall can only succeed in removing the officeholder if both a sufficient number of recall signatures are filed and a majority of the electorate votes in favor of removal.  The Recall is democratic self-governance in its purest form, and along with the Initiative and the Referendum it is one of the three structural vehicles by which Progressive Era voters sought to bypass the influence that special interests hold on elected bodies.”

A new McCarthyism has arisen in Wisconsin, awakened by desperate Walker defenders. The same constitutional argument holds true for journalists – the recall is not only a Constitutional process, it is by definition a non-partisan process. The searchable  database was constructed with this very intent – a new “red scare” arising from a corporatic party willing to sacrifice the First Amendment for power, and Gannett has played along in shredding the protection of self-governance and expression afforded in the Wisconsin Constitution.

Not only has Gannett been complicit in this new political machine, they are a part of it. 2010-2012 Campaign finance records show that Executives at Gannett are held to a much looser standard of ethics when it comes to political expression. Here are the highlights:

2012 – Lynn Beal, Executive VP, $2,500 NABPAC (Natl. Assoc. of Broadcasters PAC)

Michael Feltz, Director of Sales, $2,500 Hultgren for Congress (R)

David Lougee, President, $3,000 NABPAC

Sandra McCaffrey, $500, Account Executive, Newt 2012 PAC

2010 – Lynn Beal, Executive VP, $5,000 NABPAC

David Lougee, President, $2,000 NABPAC

Douglas McCorrindale, CEO, $1,000 Quayle for Congress (R)

Ashley Thron, Marketing Mgr., $414, Christine Thron for Congress (R)

Robert Weiser, Gannett Inc., Rochester, $200, Natl Republican Congressional Committee

There are more – even some contributions for Democratic candidates. The fact is, Gannett is holding these reporters and judges (in their “unbiased” editorials) to different standards than their own executives, who contribute money directly to partisan campaigns. The result is a failure of journalistic integrity and independence.

All publishers listed in this article are currently at a Gannett conference being held in Washington, DC  and did not respond to requests for comment at this time. Badger Democracy submitted an email inquiry at the direction of Gannett Corporate Media relations. Here are the questions asked of Gannett, exactly as submitted in the email:

1. Under the Wisconsin State Constitution, the right to recall is afforded as non-partisan, and is protected similar to the right to vote. While the editorials summarily dismiss this counter argument, it is a fact that the process is by definition non-partisan. How does Gannett draw the distinction clearly between exercising one’s right to vote and exercising one’s right to sign a recall petition to unseat an elected official in a non-partisan constitutional process? For the record, tens of thousands of declared Republicans signed petitions.
2. Were all of the editorials written independently of each other and solely by the cited authors?
3. Did Gannett Management above the local publishers have any influence over the content of the editorial, or direct each publisher to compose these articles?
4. Does Gannett hold Executive Management to the same standard of ethics as employees and journalists? If so, how do its high level management justify political contributions in the thousands of dollars in recent election?
Badger Democracy is still awaiting a response.

This behavior pre-dates McCarthyism in Wisconsin. In 1901, Charles Pfister purchased the Milwaukee Sentinel, at the time a leading progressive newspaper (see “The Pfister Years” in the link). Pfister was one of the Republican bosses intent on preventing Robert M. LaFollette from attaining the Governorship and power for the Progressives. Pfister and the corporate machine (primarily railroads) used every method of scare tactic and misinformation to maintain power. In the end, they failed because progressives at the time took their fight directly to the people.

The people of Wisconsin deserve more from their news services than companies like Gannett provide, and require more to exercise democracy freely. That is why media conglomerates like Gannett are dangerous – and why the corporatics legislate favorably to them. Gannett in turn, does its part, not as the free “fourth estate,” but as the corporate propaganda machine – extolling the new McCarthyism of the recall.

US District Court Redistricting ruling – process “needlessly secret”, GAB enjoined from enacting law

A three judge panel in the US Eastern District Court  (ruling linked) issued its ruling Thursday, calling the 2011 Wisconsin redistricting process “needlessly secret.” The court found merit in the Voces de la Frontera claim of Voting Rights Act violation in the drawing of the 8th and 9th Districts in Milwaukee, and ordered the Legislature to redraw those lines immediately, so as to not effect upcoming elections. Based on that VRA violation, the court enjoined the GAB to not enact the Redistricting Law.

While the court verbally chided the process as being disruptive and needlessly secret, moving millions of Wisconsinites needlessly out of standing Districts; the court found no precedent for overturning the law on procedural grounds. The plaintiffs in this instance had not proven voter disenfranchisement as Districts drawn satisfied the “one person one vote” test.

The court order requires the Legislature to redraw the 8th and 9th Districts in Milwaukee immediately, and is a victory for the Voces group claiming disenfranchisement. Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald reacted by saying the Legislature had no intention of meeting in Special Session to repair the maps – which would be in direct violation of the Court order.


Wisconsin Tourism Industry loses thousands of jobs in 2011, now at nearly 10 year low

The US Department of Commerce released data on Wednesday showing the nation’s Travel and Tourism Industry benefited from a 3.5% increase in spending in 2011, creating over 103,000 new jobs – an increase in 1.5%. Data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Wisconsin seriously lags behind the national trend in Tourism, losing jobs by the thousands in 2011. All this as the Walker budget increased the State Tourism budget by $5 million in 2011, while making unprecedented cuts in Public Education spending.

A synopsis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2010-2012 shows that from January of 2010 (250.1 thousand jobs) through December 2010 (251.6 thousand jobs), Wisconsin began making modest gains in tourism jobs – coming out of a nearly three-year decline. After consistent growth in tourism jobs from March of 2002 (237.8 thousand) through March 2007 (262.7 thousand), Wisconsin tourism was hit hard by the recession.

From March 2007 through November 2009, Wisconsin tourism lost over 13,000 jobs, bottoming out at 249.6 thousand in November 2009. 2010 showed modest growth, growing from 250.1 thousand in January to 251.6 thousand in December 2010.

From January 2011 (251.9 thousand) through December 2011 (243.5 thousand) , the Wisconsin Tourism Industry hemorrhaged over 8000 jobs. Even if preliminary January 2012 numbers stand at 246.8 thousand jobs; this represents the lowest numbers of Tourism-related jobs since August 2003. At the height of recession job-losses, Tourism in Wisconsin still employed 249.6 thousand people – 3 thousand more than January of 2012.

In Wisconsin, the average Service Occupation employee earns $11.04/hour, or $22,950/year. The average Food Preparation employee makes $9.66/hr, or $20,090/year, according to the most recent Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The lowest number of Tourism jobs since pre-recession. With fewer manufacturing jobs, tourism is one of the last employment opportunities for non-degreed job seekers willing to work their way up in a highly competitive, low-paying, low-benefit industry. The data show even this “opportunity is evaporating under Scott Walker. Is this how your plan is working, Governor?

For Scott Walker and WI GOP, the 2011-2012 Legislative Session ends as it began – with a lie

The text of Scott Walker’s Inaugural Speech references the Wisconsin State Constitution as the basis for how the state will operate during his term as Governor:

“Today, I stand before you – not as the governor of one party or another; or the governor of one part of the state or another. Today, I stand before you as the Governor for all of the people in this State of Wisconsin…Just moments ago, I took a solemn oath to defend our Constitution…Our constitution is a document of, by and for the people…When the citizens of the Wisconsin Territory approved our Constitution in 1848, they envisioned a brighter future for themselves and their children. It was a Constitution born of conflict and controversy. First rejected, then approved as the people came together to forge a pioneering vision to drive our state Forward.”

The first lie of Scott Walker was stated in his inaugural speech, as he promised to govern Wisconsin under the Constitution of the state, as Governor of “all the people.” Walker and his speechwriters must have had limited access to the history of the Wisconsin Constitution. Had they done a little research, they would have known from their early days in office the Progressive history that flows throughout Wisconsin.

The first Constitution (1846) rejected by the state was done so for reasons we are too familiar with today. Voters influenced by moneyed and powerful banking interests in Eastern Wisconsin; and carried by an all white male voting population rejected highly progressive clauses adopted overwhelmingly by the Territorial Legislature –  affording the Right of Suffrage to African-Americans and Women, as well as prohibiting commercial banking establishment. The 1848 compromise took out the voting rights of women and African-Americans, but afforded the Legislature the ability to expand – but not rescind – future rights of suffrage. As for the banking…Wisconsin was just then, as now, ahead of its time. Walker twisted even the intent of the State Constitution in his first address to the People.

From that first speech on, the people have been subjected to a triumvirate of power in Wisconsin focused not on “jobs, jobs, jobs” (also from that same speech), but a Fundamentalist Ideological Crusade of Mississippian proportion. There has been a noticeable lack of governance; but a noticeable presence of social re-engineering, corporate pandering, and outright propaganda. Walker and the GOP used the lie “Wisconsin is broke” to push their early agenda on already hurting  Wisconsinites, and reward their wealthiest contributors.

The fact is, before Scott Walker came into office, Wisconsin was nowhere near broke. In a Legislative Memo to Joint Finance Chairs Robin Vos and Alberta Darling on January 31, 2011 the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported a $56.3 million net fund balance (in the positive) through June, 2011.  Walker and the GOP sprung into action – if they were going to kill unions and collective bargaining, they needed a crisis. What better way to create a crisis than to decrease revenue by giving tax breaks to already wealthy individuals and their corporate patrons?

Acts 1 ,2,3,4 and 5 accomplished the task in an early “Special Session”. Each was a tax break for the top 2% wage earners in Wisconsin and large corporations – most of which were considerable donors to Scott Walker, and members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Act 7 (see previous link) created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and Act 9 created the need for a supermajority to raise taxes for the General Fund. Finally, Act 10 (see previous link) ended collective bargaining as it had existed for decades.

Despite Walker’s claim to have run on all these initiatives, and that “no one should be surprised if they were paying attention during the election,” this Governor was acting not in accordance with temperance and moderation as he had promised in his inaugural speech. He was, in fact, following a script of ideological domination where the ends justifies the means. Even lying. Caught in this lie in front of the Oshkosh Northwestern Editorial staff (at 7:50 of the video), Walker states that he would work with labor unions to achieve “necessary pension contributions…as he did as Milwaukee County Executive.”

Throughout the 2011 Legislative session, this power grab and fundamentalist agenda has been on full display – resulting in Acts not for the benefit of Wisconsin, but for the select few in power. Acts 19 (de-regulation of water disinfecting), 21 (giving the Governor rule-making and killing authority), 23 (Voter ID – now on temporary hold), 43 and 44 (redistricting), 47 (expansion of Milwaukee private school choice funding), 68 (neutering the Department of revenue), and 118 (wetlands de-regulation) do nothing to help the hurting lower and middle class in Wisconsin. That fact has been recognized by many, and this writer would welcome ANY submission of proof that ANY jobs will be created by these Acts.

The initiatives and lies of Scott Walker and the GOP have actually harmed the state of Wisconsin. A (D-Monona) from June 2011 reports that the Walker tax breaks will increase the state deficit in revenue – over $331 million over the next 5 years. Walker is building the deficit on the backs of the middle class, to reward those he serves – the corporate elite.

Contrary to the current Walker lie, “Our plan is working”, Wisconsinites are not – and not by their own choice. The latest Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data prove that while Scott Walker has been Governor, his policies are not creating jobs. The state has lost over 12,000 jobs in 2011 (leading the nation), and the state labor force has declined by over 15,000 people in 2011. There are people who have given up looking for work, leaving the ranks of the labor force.

The pushback has increased, resulting in four additional recalls against GOP Senators (Fitzgerald, VanWangaard, Moulton, Galloway). Pam Galloway has retired, and will not face recall (although under statute, the recall election must still be held). Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will face recall elections. Three GOP Assembly reps are also stepping down – Dan Meyer (Eagle River), Richard Spanbauer (Oshkosh), and Michelle Litjens (Vinland), further reducing the GOP hold on power. In spite of this clear message for a return to sanity, progressive values, and true moderation, the GOP continues their quest for a social and economic “grail” in this crusade at “breakneck speed” (in the words of Scott Fitzgerald).

In the waning days of the Legislative session, the GOP turned its focus toward attacking women’s rights and changing the Board structure of MATC in Milwaukee.  SB237 repeals the requirement for medically accurate sex education in public schools – allowing for abstinence only education. SB275 puts control of MATC into the hands of non-Milwaukee based corporations, and away from a co-operative partnership of academia and business – which had previously resulted in a 92% job placement rate.

This Legislative year has clearly been about one thing – and it is not (as Walker lied about from his inauguration) jobs and the Constitution. It has been a fundamentalist ideological crusade to remake Wisconsin into a Mississippi-style, single party state. Scott Walker and the GOP have done little to no governing in Wisconsin – they have taken us backwards, and that is not the Wisconsin way of government. This consistent barrage of lies is why the recall is necessary, and the People must take back Wisconsin.

Breaking:Ethics Violations Filed against Supreme Court Justice David Prosser

A little over one hour ago, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission decision (document linked) was released finding that Justice David Prosser willfully violated State Judicial Ethics Code of Conduct. The filing with the Wisconsin Supreme court (as required by law) cites numerous “intentional and willful” violations of SCR 60.02, the statutes governing Judicial Ethics.

The report outlines 16 specific points which will have to be taken up either by a three-judge appellate court panel or the high court itself under Wisconsin Law, which also decides penalties under Wisconsin law. 

Penalties under the law range from fines to written reprimands, censure, or even removal from office in extreme cases.

Justice Prosser’s office had no immediate comment.