It’s now or never on RTW…change the conversation, change the vision for the future!

The only Senate hearing on “corporate greed” and “wage theft” legislation is underway. Conservative Republican legislators (and Democratic legislators) continue to evoke the powerful conservative metaphor of “right to work.” To Senator Wirch’s (Democrat – Kenosha) credit, in early hearing questioning of Senator Fitzgerald (Republican – SB 44 Author), he asked Fitzgerald about it being “wage theft legislation.” Fitzgerald paused and did not respond. Literally refused.

There is always hope – to change the conversation and present a completely different vision for people to identify with and believe. It is something we MUST ACCOMPLISH if we are to avoid living out the Albert Einstein definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. The current defensive template playing out on Corporate Greed and Wage Theft Legislation (SB 44) is identical to Act 10.  It’s not too late…here’s what progressives need to begin communicating to their State Senators and Representatives on both side of the aisle. Critical points are highlighted.

This is fundamentally about two critical truths, which must be effectively communicated to people. First, there is the basic truth about the relationship and roles of corporation and worker. Second is the basic truth about The Public.

1. A private corporation is a form of governance created and existing for one reason – the pursuit of profit. Beyond that, there is no moral mission that it serves. To that end, the corporation hires workers to create profit for the corporation. The workers of Wisconsin are the profit creators. Take away the workers, and you take away the ability of the corporation to generate a product of service from which they profit. It’s that simple – “Workers are profit creators.”

A union, therefore, is the democratically elected representation of those workers who have a MORAL right to receive a living wage portion of those profits – which they create. The union protects and empowers the profit creators as their voice, making certain that they receive that living wage portion of the profit which they have created. Without the union, the profit creators will be subject to corporate greed, never receiving their fair portion of the profits they have worked to create. This truth ought to be the basis for a general strike in Wisconsin!

Any legislation which takes away the right of the profit creators to receive a living wage portion of profit, opens the door to corporate greed and servitude, and contributes to Wage Theft.

2. The Public (government), unlike corporations, exists with a moral mission to protect and empower the people it serves. Legislation which does the polar opposite of that mission represents a betrayal of trust on the part of legislators who support such a measure. Why? As shown in point 1 above, such legislation opens the door to corporate greed and wage theft, and impedes the right of the profit creators to receive their fair portion of profit.

Most importantly, it is critical to communicate an honest vision of what is happening in Wisconsin. Extreme conservative ideologists are pushing on Wisconsinites a corporate form of governance. In direct contrast to Public governance, Corporate Greed and Wage Theft legislation represents one step closer to a corporate form of governance where the sole mission is profit.

The Public is all of us, acting together to protect and empower each other, expand freedom and opportunity for everyone, and calls on us to take responsibility for each other. Unions are consistent with that model, democratically elected and representative to protect and empower private sector profit creators. Every worker who creates profit for their employer is helped by a union. Conservatives would have you believe that The Public (which is all of us) is evil, immoral, and that it must be destroyed. This belief guides every one of their policies – including Corporate Greed and Wage Theft legislation.

Since when is it immoral for people to come together, take responsibility for each other, and help expand freedom and opportunity for all? If you value and want that for your family, why not everyone else? And why do you want to destroy the institutions (The Public and Unions) that empower and protect people from corporate greed and servitude?

These are the questions to ask of Republicans. This is the vision to change the conversation and the status quo.


US Senator Ron Johnson disposed of securities holdings…by creating a charitable foundation

Tax returns and financial documents filed by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson show the first-term Republican has disposed of securities holdings, as promised in his campaign. Instead of a blind trust, however; he and his immediate family started a non-profit charitable foundation which was gifted several large securities formerly held by Johnson. The foundation then converted the securities into cash assets, which have been the source of minor donations over the past three years – keeping much of the cash assets in tact, and in direct control of Senator Johnson.

As early as Fall 2009, Ron Johnson began appearing on the Tea Party speaking circuit. Just prior to that, on May 12, 2009; Johnson and several of his immediate family members (and one faithful campaign contributor) registered a non-profit corporation in Wisconsin – The Grammie Jean Foundation, with Ron Johnson as the Registered Agent. Examination of financial records for Johnson and the Foundation seem to confirm the intent was to help Johnson clear a path for “disposing” of potential financial conflicts in preparation for his 2010 campaign. Johnson had a great deal of work to do.

In August, 2010, it was reported by Daniel Bice that Johnson’s PACUR Corporation had changed the company’s history on its website, to eliminate controversy over a railroad grant to Johnson’s company. According to the Johnson Campaign in 2010 (from the Bice article):

Ron Johnson moved to Wisconsin in June of 1979 and started Pacur, which has become a true Wisconsin success story,”  (Johnson Campaign Website)

The only problem with Johnson’s timeline, however, was Pacur’s own website, which put its founding in 1977. It is not unusual for companies to adopt the corporate histories of their predecessors or firms they acquire, especially if it makes them look like they have deeper roots in a community. Wisconsin Industrial Shipping was owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law, Pat Curler.

But by Wednesday – voila! – Johnson’s company website had been brought in line with statements by Johnson’s campaign. 

By August 2010, Johnson had been well on his way to getting his finances in order – especially securities which could pose a potential financial conflict of interest.

The 2009 Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) filed by Johnson show significant shares (among many multinationals) of Monsanto and Exxon Mobil stock (page 4 of the document).  According to the 2009 form 990pf filed with the IRS, on May 5, 2009 (3 days before the corporate registration with Wisconsin DFI), Ron Johnson “gifted” the Grammie Jean Foundation 104 shares of Monsanto securities and 2,728 shares of Exxon Mobil securities with a fair market value reported as $194,069. In addition, Ron and Jane Johnson personally gifted $56,347 on the same day – May 5, 2009.

Three days later, on May 12, 2009; The Grammie Jean Foundation (being run by Johnson) sold 104 shares of Monsanto for $8,489, and 1,328 shares of Exxon Mobil for $56,137. Later that year in November (well after Johnson had started the Tea Party circuit), The Foundation sold the remaining 1,400 Exxon Mobil  shares for $83,593. The total net cash assets generated from these transactions was $148,219 + $2,322 in dividends. 

Tax returns show the Grammie Jean Foundation awarded only $68,500 in grants in 2009, leaving the foundation with over $130,000 in cash assets at year-end. All but one award went to out-of-state charities, primarily in Minnesota – Johnson’s home state. Badger Democracy interviewed the administrators of several of the charities who all had consistent accounts of their grants. They had been awarded the grants unsolicited; and the awards (in most cases) have been repeated in the two consecutive years of 2010, 2011.

The Directors of the Foundation are Ron Johnson, Dean Johnson (“Hometime” creator and Ron’s brother from Minnesota), Barry Johnson (Ron’s brother and PACUR officer), Dale Johnson (Ron’s father – also in Minnesota), and Lynn Bleckinger – a faithful Johnson campaign donor from Bloomington, Minnesota.  The Bleckingers gave $7200 to the 2010 Johnson campaign. None of the officers report any salary from the Foundation.

Johnson’s SEI for 2010 and 2011 show a clear pattern of these large securities falling off the Senator’s investment holdings. A June 6, 2011 article in the Appleton Post-Crescent told part of the story, this quote from Johnson:

“I sold every liquid asset so there would be absolutely no chance for conflict of interest,” Johnson said in an interview Wednesday with Gannett. “Throughout the campaign, I had said I’d put money into a blind trust. Those things take so long to set up, I thought the best thing would be to turn all those (stocks) into cash and set up a blind trust in the future.”

Johnson has not set up a blind trust. The 2009 financials show that Johnson has indeed “sold every liquid asset.” It would appear that he has maintained control of the cash assets, however, through the charitable foundation he set up with his family (and donor).

Meanwhile, Johnson continues to promote the interests of big oil (even supporting Great Lakes oil development) and agri-business (like Monsanto and Exxon).

It is important to point out that should the Grammie Jean Foundation dissolve (say, after Johnson leaves office); it’s assets (including cash resulting from securities sale and re-investment) could very well revert back to the registered agent – Ron Johnson. The Senator is poised to maintain complete control over his fortune from sale of securities; and hypothetically, re-invest post Senate tenure – using all the insider knowledge gained from his experience.

For the record, the Grammie Jean Foundation phone number registered with the Wisconsin DFI is that of PACUR. A PACUR spokesperson referred Badger Democracy to Senator Johnson’s office for requests to view the 2010 and 2011 990pf filings (as required by Internal Revenue Code). The Senator’s office has not yet responded to this request.

After speaking with the IRS, Badger Democracy has initiated a request with the IRS to view the financial records for Johnson’s Foundation, and will update as available.

Help keep progressive, independent journalism and investigation alive…Solidarity!

Scott Walker – prove you want to “work together”…

One of the first things out of Scott Walker’s victory speech on Tuesday night was a pledge to “work together to move Wisconsin forward.” Never mind the true meaning of the word “forward” is lost on Walker…

The Wisconsin State Senate is now controlled by the Democratic caucus, with the presumptive election of John Lehman to unseat Van Waangard in a Senatorial recall election in Racine. Dems will control the Senate by a 17-16 margin after the GAB certifies the election.

A challenge to Scott Walker. Badger Democracy has just received the aggregated jobs data(through open records request from DWD) from the 4th quarter of 2011 – the numbers Walker claims to “prove” his success in job growth; and which are highly disputed. The full report on those numbers will be published in the next 48 hours after they are reviewed and analyzed by enlisted experts. At first glance, it is apparent that the Walker Administration held back the release of information until AFTER the election for a reason. For Scott Walker to claim these numbers are a success is a new definition of “success.”

Meanwhile – the challenge. Scott Walker, if you are serious about your pledge to “work together” to put Wisconsinites back to work, call a Special Session NOW. After your gubernatorial brat and gloat fest, bring both parties together and actually work across the aisle to create real jobs. My understanding is the Democratic Senators have some very viable solutions.

This could be a first – for you to actually act in a manner consistent with what you say.

We’re all waiting.

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.


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.

New Labor Report shows big losses for Wisconsin in 2011…slowest “growing” labor market in US

The recent data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for the year January 20111 – January 2012, Wisconsin has lost a cumulative 12,000+ non-farm payroll jobs; and trails the nation overall in job growth.

Despite Governor Scott Walker’s claim that his reforms are working to create jobs, the data shows that Wisconsin is well behind other midwest states in job growth. Here are the numbers (in thousands):

Education and Health Care – 407.9 (Jan 2011) – 412.6 (Jan 2012)

Manufacturing – 251.9 (Jan 2011) – 246.8 (Jan 2012)

Hospitality and Tourism – 416.1 (Jan 2011) – 402.7 (Jan 2012)

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca issued the following statement  today:

“While the nation has added jobs every month for 17 straight months and neighboring states all posted job gains the past year, Wisconsin has fallen far behind under Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature.
“Wisconsin is one of only six states in the nation to lose jobs in the past year, and our job losses are more than three times higher than the next state on this unfortunate list.
“Gov. Walker pledged to work in a bipartisan fashion on job creation initiatives such as venture capital and mining. Instead, he refused to show any leadership or roll up his sleeves and get to work on what he said were his top priorities. Now he is blaming others for his failure to lead.
“The legislative session is nearly over, and Republicans have shown no desire to devote any serious focus to job creation. I strongly renew my call for a bipartisan process to select bills that will help put people back to work quickly.”

“Unfortunately – as we’ve seen from the bills set to be taken up this final week of session – Republicans continue to focus on undermining public education, power grabs and an extreme social agenda that harms women’s health, instead of jobs. Wisconsin’s middle-class and struggling families deserve better.”

The Assembly is in session today taking up final bills before the end of the session, pending any “special session” on mining promised by Governor Walker. As evidenced by the linked Assembly Calendar previous, none of the bills calendared today have any job growth relevance.  

The Walker Administration did not respond with a comment to requests for a statement.


Current version of the Mining Bill will likely die today…giving momentum to the new political movement, overcoming corporate money

(UPDATE: As of 5:20 pm, the bill has been sent back to committee…this is the last gasp maneuver for the GOP Legislators to prevent the bill from dying after a 17-16 vote favoring rejection, with Schultz and all Dems voting to reject. The bill can remain in Committee until it is again calendared for a vote (should the GOP get a vote flipped), called out in a Special Session, or the regular session expires, at which point the bill would die.)

After passing out of the Joint Finance Committee with Vos/Darling Amendments in place late Monday, AB426 (aka The Mining Bill) will be taken up by the full Senate at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon. Despite some compromise by Representative Vos and Senator Darling, the current version of the bill does not allow for “contested case hearings” until after a permit is issued. The omission of public hearings in the contested case format, lack of local control, and environmental concerns continue to be the death knell for current mining legislation.

Over the weekend and into Monday, Democratic State Senators from the Milwaukee area faced a barrage of pressure from corporate interests in support of AB426 (Bucyrus, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce). New bill supporters emerged in some Labor Unions, after Gogebic Taconite committed to hiring union workers for mining labor. A report surfaced on Blogging Blue late Monday that Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) was prepared to vote in favor of the bill. Speculation and concern has been rampant overnight on the vote to occur today – as Robin Vos expressed confidence in passage of the bill in an interview with Dylan Brogan on WTDY AM1670/FM 106.7

Dale Schultz held an impromptu press conference immediately after the Joint Finance hearing, where he stated:

 “I would say that the compromise that they just offered is no compromise at all. In fact, it makes a bad idea worse. We would like to make progress towards making it easier to mine in Wisconsin, but we’re not willing to do that at the expense of the environment that we all love and cherish.”

Schultz also pointed out the weakness of the compromise in contested case hearings. Under the amendment, the burden of proof would shift to favor the mining companies, and could only occur after the permit is issued. Bottom line – Schultz will be voting against. What about the Democratic Senators?

In an interview Monday afternoon with State Senator Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee), Badger Democracy was told that the entire Milwaukee contingent of Democratic Senators are united in their opposition to the bill. Coggs confirmed he had been contacted by pro-mining bill corporate interests, but that calls from his constituents over the weekend in opposition ran 50-1 against the bill. Coggs stated that the caucus looks to Senator Bob Jauch as the leader on the mining issue, having spent a significant amount of time studying the issue in-depth. Coggs agreed that the corporate interests may attempt to “pluck” a vote out of the Democratic Caucus or Senator Schultz, but he felt the votes will not change, nor would the opposition from constituents and citizens statewide.

 The GOP and Scott Walker will not have the votes – unless an outright theft of a Senator’s vote occurs. The hallmark bill of this Republican – controlled Legislature will not pass today. If it does, the reaction by citizens of Wisconsin should be at the level of the initial protests one year ago. After months of debate, hearings, and testimony, it has become clear the politic in Wisconsin is shifting centered around this bill. It’s demise will be a great victory for the people of Wisconsin – regardless of party or affiliation. The only losers in the defeat of this bill are out-of-state (and some in-state) corporate interests, who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect politicians to push their agenda over the interests of Wisconsin. The defeat of this bill marks the first significant defeat of those corporatic interests and politicians.

It cannot and will not be the last. In a little over one week, this legislative session will come to a close – and the damage to progressive Wisconsin cannot be understated. There will be great work to reverse the damage, and elected officials must be held accountable by the people. The momentum of this movement must continue, as the people engaging in Democracy are the only counter to the millions of dollars set against them. Let this Mining Bill be the Waterloo of the Corporatic GOP in Wisconsin.

“Which shall rule – wealth or man; which shall lead – money or intellect; who shall fill public stations – educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?”  Edward G. Ryan, Chief Justice Wisconsin Supreme Court, June 1873