Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Waiting for Wall's Second Epistle

I don't think that anyone was expecting the interview that former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall gave to WTDY. In it he accused establishment candidate Ron Johnson of everything from paying off people at the convention to tampering with convention voting. After hearing Wall's comments I assumed that it was just a moment where his emotions got away from him and that it was probably the end of it. Clearly I was wrong because now Terrence Wall has gone into even more detail by writing a small epistle about a RPW "culture of corruption".

Wall's latest blistering attack on Ron Johnson and the RPW establishment that cornated him included all kinds of new accusations. They include some of the following:

  • Hiring away Wall's direct-mail vendor

  • Trying to hire away Wall staff at the convention at "above-market compensation"

  • Party officials ordering Wall staffers to vote for Johnson at the convention
  • A Brown County official ignoring his county's rules which called for "no endorsement".
  • People being given their ballots back and told to vote for Johnson.
  • People allegedly asking Wall supporters "what do we need to give you to get you to switch your vote?"
  • A man with a woman's credentials trying to vote.
  • People that were upset about the way the convention vote was handled but being silenced.
  • Swiping Wall ballots so that they were never counted.
  • A misinformation campaign on the convention floor.
  • Wall being threatened that if he ever wanted a "career in politics" that he would remain silent about the alleged activities at the convention.

  • The piece ends advising the readers to "stay tuned" because Wall has more to tell next month. He promises that it will be a more "humorous edition" but something tells me that the RPW and what Wall describes as "kingmakers" don't find any of this to be very funny. If the recent endorsements of David Westlake are any indication, it looks like the Tea Party doesn't find much of this funny either.

    As for me, given the remarkable accusations in this first Wall epistle, I will certainly be waiting for the second (regardless of its humor quotient).

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Casting Pearls Before Swine

    On Monday the Public Policy Forum (PPF) posted an item on its blog that it categorized as "PPF Pearls". The item used the millions of dollars that are now needed to correct problems at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex as an opportunity to make a larger point. The point being that PPF made several budgetary suggestions last year for Milwaukee County and very little (if any) of them were ever used.

    One of their suggestions which they featured in Monday's blog posting was the following:

    "The Forum's 2009 budget review recommended establishment of an independent entity - along the lines either of the independently elected city comptroller or the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau..."

    The PPF idea is certainly worthy of note but it is not the first time that such a suggestion has been made. Very early in Scott Walker's tenure as County Executive, a special commission made a very similar recommendation. In Bruce Murphy's 2005 piece, "The Great Imposter", he reminded us that Walker had all but ignored that very same reform-minded suggestion.

    I will personally look forward to more "PPF Pearls" but I hope that they don't expect Walker to enact any of them. To borrow a convenient biblical idiom, if the past is any indication, proposing real reform to Walker is like casting those "pearls before swine".

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Someone Find the Voter Fraud Task Force!

    Thanks to Terrance Wall and his recent allegations, we may have a new "voter fraud" investigation involving Ron Johnson! Where is J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County ADA Bruce Landgraf when you need them? They seem to chase any and every "voter fraud" allegation, both real and imagined. I seem to recall that they were the primary forces behind the "voter fraud task force" launched in 2008. Seems like we may have had a "voter fraud" incident right here in Milwaukee County, at the RPW convention. Quick! Someone find the task force! (or Batman...whoever responds first)

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Ron Johnson's New Policy Advisor?

    Last week I tried to pin down the small and rather odd list of policy positions held by Ron Johnson. Now this week we are learning where he may be getting some of his off-the-wall ideas. On Wednesday, Johnson's hometown paper reported that he played a major role in bringing controversially extreme right-wing author Charles Murray to town.

    Murray co-authored the book, "The Bell Curve" in 1994. One of the more infamous claims of the book includes the idea that genetic differences between blacks and whites account for poor performance by African-American students. Murray has also suggested that some kids should simply not be encouraged to go to college.

    Assuming that Ron Johnson ever gives us an actual policy position on education, I'm eager to examine it for Murray's influence. Depending on what we find, we may have to assume that Charles Murray is Ron Johnson's newest policy advisor (assuming that he actually has anything other than political handlers in the first place).

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Walker's Record of Obstruction Continues

    It is a shame that a sitting Milwaukee County Supervisor may have to take legal action to obtain county information from Scott Walker's office. I am certainly not surprised at Scott Walker's obstruction on open records requests. He has a long history of playing all sorts of games with any requester that is not a close ally. Consider some of the following examples:

    In 2004 Walker's opponent for County Executive, David Riemer, requested signed pension waivers of all "at-will" Walker employees. When the request was made, Walker didn't have many of the waivers signed even though it was one of his original promises. He proceeded to stall Riemer's request and dealt very deceptively with it. The full truth wasn't learned until after the 2004 election and it resulted in a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. That complaint led to a nasty letter from a DOJ attorney which commented saying the following:

    "In sum, this episode evinces a case of how government officials ought not to do business...Nobody honored to serve in public office ought to manipulate public records in this fashion -- that is the opinion of this office."

    I have personal experience with Walker's obstruction as I have outlined in a previous blog posting. Last June I submitted an 8 part open records request of Walker's office. It took several months to even obtain the first few applicable records. The real outrage was that it took 9 months and an inquiring reporter to motivate them enough to finally produce the calender and email record portions of my original request. As they are trying to do with Supervisor Weishan right now, they charged hundreds of dollars for the privilege of finally being able to inspect public records.

    Just last week One Wisconsin Now put out a press release suggesting that the Walker Administration is apparently stonewalling one of their open records requests for his pension records.

    And now we have him blocking a sitting Milwaukee County Supervisor from obtaining Milwaukee County records. Maybe a lawsuit is the only remedy at this point. Maybe it will be the only cure to Walker's record of obstruction.

    Aside: Compare the above pattern of obstruction to the Walker Administration's responding to an open records request from the now defunct shill blog, ScottforGov. The request was not even signed by an actual person, only by "" (an actual name may not be required on an ORR but this still seems very strange). Their request last year was handled originally by the same Walker staffer that resigned because of her political blogging on county time. I can't help but wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that ScottforGov's request was fully processed for free in about 2 hours? When I think about it that way, maybe the Walker Administration does legitimately have something to fear from Supervisor Weishan's open records request.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Flipping the Script

    Zach at Blogging Blue put together this clever take on the recent Republican Governor's Association attack ad. I love it when people flip the script like this!

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    I'm Sensing a Theme Here...

    It seems that Ron Johnson is part of some strange right wing club. The membership of that club is apparently required to hold very extreme and rather odd "policy" positions. They apparently are further required to hide and otherwise dodge the legitimate media. I wonder if someone in Wisconsin's media can give Johnson the same grilling that his fellow club member received in Nevada recently?

    WMC Prez for a Day

    Last week we learned that James Haney, President of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) plans to retire. I instantly thought that it could be an opportunity to chart a more constructive course. Under Haney WMC has essentially ceased to be an organization that really represents the best interests of Wisconsin business. On his watch it has become little more than the sugar daddy arm of the Republican Party.

    All of this made me think of what I would do if I were WMC Prez for even a day. Some of my immediate plans might include some of the following:

  • Shut down the WMC's "Issue Mobilization Council" which spent approximately $4 million to buy two seats on the State Supreme Court in 2007 and 2008. They have also spent massive amounts trying to sway other elections in other years.

  • Invest that money in a program with a laser-like focus on Wisconsin entrepreneurs that bring new technologies and ideas to the table. Maybe it involves grants for training programs (perhaps partnering with the Department of Commerce which is already doing something similar) or maybe it involves grants to help worthy projects develop their technology or idea. Maybe the grants could help already established businesses grow or expand in ways that are critical to their success. The bottom line is that the current partisan slush fund could be put to much more constructive use.

  • Pardon me, but could we focus a bit more on actual small business? I know that the typical WMC idea of "small" comes from some special dictionary in an ivory tower somewhere. I'm talking about actual small businesses here. Think of "mom and pop" shops around the state. They could use more attention from an org the purports to represent them.

  • Its legitimate to lobby for and against specific pieces of legislation, but WMC should make sure that their messengers and the message is equally legitimate. All too often both have been little more than an expensive exercise of hyper-partisanship. Perhaps we could start by focusing on a major issue where there could be constructive compromise and collaboration rather than focusing on rigid ideology and isolation.

  • Speaking of rigid ideology. I would put a select group of WMC's research/policy folks on probation until they have proven that they can do their work based on facts and data rather than running every single thing through a hard right filter.

  • And the most important change. I would ban all WMC employees from wearing bow ties on company time.

  • For all I know, WMC could be doing some of these things already. If they are then they should be doing more of it and making it even more visible. While Haney has been in charge, WMC has been increasingly known for one thing, electing Republicans. That has to change or they will eventually lose all relevancy. They are not the only game in town anymore. There are newer biz orgs that are focused on actual ideas and solutions rather than hyper-partisanship. If I were WMC Prez for a day, it would look a lot more like New North and la lot less like Mr. Burns.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Ron Johnson's Odd Collection

    Early on Ron Johnson admitted in an interview that he was still working on his policy positions. As I recall, he would only commit to supporting "freedom" at the time. Now we are starting to gather quite an odd mix of policy positions from Ron Johnson. Here is the list that I have so far:

    Favors Drilling for Oil in the Great Lakes
    We Shouldn't Pick on BP
    He is glad that there is global warming
    He was one of only a few private citizens to testify against the bipartisan Child Victims Act
    Supports the Patriot Act and Real ID but only when a Republican is President
    Supports massive unfunded federal mandates (see his support for Real ID)
    Praised Russ Feingold for opposing Wall Street bailout
    He is willing to take away new protections for children with preexisting conditions

    That is one heck of a list of policy positions, no wonder he is trying to avoid real questions from both the media and from Tea Party people. With such an odd collection, its no suprise that even the RPW chair didn't want to talk about it.

    UPDATE: Illusory Tenant reminds us that Johnson also supports teaching creationism.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    So When Can We Officially Ignore CRG?

    I personally started ignoring Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) shortly after they were hijacked by partisans that had an almost creepy infatuation with Scott Walker. But it doesn't really matter when I first started disregarding them. The real question is when will the media finally look at the CRG for what they really are? When will the media start disregarding their hyperbolic attempts for publicity, their self serving actions and their blind infatuation with Walker?

    Consider just a short list of their willful blindness regarding Walker:

  • When Scott Walker kept and even promoted aides that were very close to Tom Ament why didn't they go on the warpath? Even when two of those aides stood to get the same big-time pension payouts that caused all of the outrage in the first place? [MJS, 4/18/2004]

  • When Scott Walker broke his promise of having "at-will" employees sign waivers to refuse lavish pension benefits, where was CRG to hold his feet to the fire? Walker didn't even make an attempt to get those waivers until after David Riemer filed an open records request for them.

  • What about the 2007 pension scandal that happened five years into Walker's watch? Where was CRG then?

  • Where was CRG when Walker broke a campaign promise by giving himself a $50,000 raise?

  • Where was CRG's fake concern about government spending and tax increases when Walker was proposing budgets that increased both categories by 35% and 18% respectively?

    You get the idea. Being phony (not to mention self serving) seems to be in the DNA of CRG. It seems pretty clear to me that their primary reason for being is to help advance the political career of Scott Walker. So I guess it makes perfect sense that they would seek to silence what is probably his most determined critic.

    CRG filed a complaint with the Milwaukee County DA claiming that our friend Capper, who is a county employee, was doing political blogging while at work. Again with the phony...where was CRG when a longtime Walker staffer was caught doing political stuff on the job? That activity was in support of her boss's political campaign and appears to have taken place directly from his office!

  • We don't even know if their allegations against Capper are true. If you look at the response that Folkbum posted on this topic, it appears that the alleged dates are either furlough days or days that Capper had off. Folkbum was able to determine this by spending 5 minutes on Google. Was CRG so eager to silence a Walker critic that they didn't bother doing the slightest bit of due diligence?

    I don't know exactly what is going on in the DA's office about this but if CRG ends up being proven wrong (as the above item suggests), are they going to publicly apologize? Are they going to do the RESPONSIBLE thing and reimburse taxpayers for the time and resources that were used by the DA's office? Those questions are important but perhaps the most important is what else do they have to do to lose all credibility with the media? When can we collectively and officially start ignoring their mania?

    UPDATE: Also read Illusory Tenant, Brew City Brawler, and Haas 414 on this issue.

    Pretend Plan Won’t Absolve Past Policy

    While Scott Walker has been Milwaukee County Executive, it seems that every year or two there is another preventable tragedy at the Mental Health Complex. As Walker's irresponsible budget/staff cuts have had time to sink in, those tragedies have expanded.

  • There was a starvation death, a near starvation and the facility receiving the most serious citations possible by the state.
  • A 50% increase in assaults on staff.
  • We now know that preventable sexual assaults occurred which threatened federal aid.
  • A Walker BHD appointee's screw up put the entire county budget into near chaos.

  • In 2010 (so far) we have at least two long lists of code violations, safety and other issues. Now we are learning that it could cost Milwaukee County taxpayers some $15 million.

  • These tragic results really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. You only needed to look at Walker's politically motivated policies to see what was coming.

  • In 2001 there were 1,053.1 funded position equivalents. In 2008 that number went down to 890.9 and in his 2010 proposed budget he wanted to put it all the way down to 746.7.
  • In 2001 overtime costs stood at $2,807,027 (or the equivalent of 77.5 positions). After all of these years of drastically cutting staff at BHD, actual overtime in 2008 shot up to $4,719,383 (or the equivalent of 87 positions).
  • I have to imagine that all these overtime costs helped contribute to greater long-term spending. In the 2002 adopted budget, BHD was slotted to have $136,850,224 in expenditures. In the 2009 adopted budget, that number jumped up to $187,598,123.

  • I imagine that Walker and his political cronies are in full damage control mode right now. In the coming days I fully expect him to make some sort of announcement hoping to deflect attention from his never ending mess at BHD. Hopefully the media will not forget one key question: How can we trust any Walker "plans" to correct his problems when his policies helped cause them in the first place? Sorry, a pretend plan will not absolve your past policies.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Stunt Wars: Neumann vs. RPW

    I attended the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's convention in Middleton over the weekend. I am no expert on political conventions but I enjoyed most of it. Although there were several entertaining moments I have to highlight what I sense is only the first installment in an ongoing Republican production of what I'm dubbing "Stunt Wars". This initial episode involved the Republican Party of Wisconsin vs. their Republican nemesis Mark Neumann.

    I don't know who first thought up the rather desperate stunt of showing up at the Democratic Party's convention but both Mark Neumann and the RPW tried to grab some attention that way. On Saturday Mark Neumann showed up with his wife and two supporters (whose identity I don't know). Most people knew about his stunt before it happened so he was greeted and surrounded by Tom Barrett signs. He was allowed to answer questions from the media and he also openly engaged with some of the individuals that surrounded him. Maybe I missed it but he didn't appear to have a handler of any kind trying to control the situation. As a result he was in all of his extremist glory, not appearing to recite a prepared script. After engaging a bit, he went on his way.

    It seems that every day brings new revelations of the internal war going on between the Republican Party of Wisconsin establishment and Mark Neumann and his (tea party?) base of support. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they would try to out-stunt each other at the Democratic Party's convention.

    A couple hours after the Mark Neumann stunt, RPW Executive Director Mark Jefferson showed up with a handler. The only people that seemed remotely interested in Jefferson's (already used) stunt were a few reporters and a few bloggers. Jefferson read his canned talking points in response to any and every question. He made zero effort to actually engage anyone in a substantive way and it appeared that his handler was there to ensure that he didn't get thrown off his script.

    After both rather desperate stunts were over, it was clear that Mark Neumann's gained much more attention in every aspect. In fact I had a hard time even finding a few media reports on Jefferson's script reading session. So if we have to declare a winner in the first episode of Stunt Wars, you have to give it to Neumann.

    As a public service, we will continue monitoring the Republican Stunt Wars as they are surely going to increase in number and in levels of absurdity.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Wisconsin Weekend Events Abound

    This weekend the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will hold its convention. I will be there attempting to break the world record for passing out business cards. If you are not attending, you can check out the various speeches at the link above.

    Once again on the very same weekend, Wisconsin's LGBT community will be celebrating at Pridefest. The headliners this year will include Kathy Griffin (Friday), Patti LaBelle (Saturday), and Joan Rivers (Sunday).

    Wednesday, June 09, 2010

    Oxymoron of the Day: WMC Optimism

    Using the words "WMC" and "optimism" in the same context is moving very quickly up my favorite list of oxymorons. I discovered this very rare usage today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The story reported the results of a survey of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce board of directors and members. In unprecedented fashion they actually showed some optimism for a change.

    WMC has been notorious for constant negativity and the bashing of Wisconsin's business climate. They are also a major force behind the entire "tax hell" myth, even as Wisconsin's rankings have gone way down under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. The lowest tax rankings in 49 years in fact. Remarkably, a majority of those surveyed identified the effects of the (Bush) economic downturn as their number one concern (44%) as opposed to taxes (19%) and regulation (16%). A full 45% said that they planned on hiring over the next 12 months. Again, these are large companies that are members of WMC, not just companies in general. Given where these numbers are coming from, I find them remarkable. WMC and (slight) optimism, who would have thought it was even possible?

    Now for a survey of one. Given its record of being the sugar-daddy arm of the Republican Party, I fully expect WMC as an organization to flip on these latest survey results as the political season continues to heat up. It simply isn't in their narrow political interests to be optimistic about anything going into a political season. So you can expect them to go right back to the Republican "Party of No" playbook: doom, gloom, negativity and general bashing of Wisconsin.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2010

    But How Will Walker-Neuman Pay for It?

    From One Wisconsin Now

    Klauser to Tea Party: Fall in Line!

    Former GOP big-wig Jim Klauser must still fancy himself the kingmaker of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. All of the former Klauser-haters like right wing talker Charlie Sykes are now pointing to his latest open letter. One of his first open letters came last year when he wrote about how much better Mark Neumann would be as a Republican candidate. Now he is promoting an open letter to Neumann telling him to basically shut up and fall into line. Neumann's big sin appears to be two-fold: 1. Staying in a close race after the party bosses have already coronated Scott Walker and 2. Using Walker's own record of phoniness against him. Not only is Jim Klauser commanding Neumann to fall in line behind Walker, but he is also by extension saying the same thing to Neumann's supporters.

    During the RPW convention, I commented that the throwing of non-establishment candidates under the bus could very well backfire. In this case, Mark Neumann is clearly running an insurgent campaign within the Republican Party. The most passionate elements that will vote in the Republican primary are probably tea party people. Many of them also categorize themselves as insurgents. Naturally, Neumann has made a huge play for their support and as far as I can tell he has made significant progress since last year. I would suggest that this is the reason that the polls have tightened in this primary.

    I certainly don't claim to be an expert on the Tea Party movement in Wisconsin, but I think that they have a focus on being ideologically pure. Those that actually compare Scott Walker's rhetoric to his actual record can't help but want a right-wing alternative. But the RPW and party bosses like Jim Klauser are not having it and they are actively trying to eliminate those choices. I can't imagine that those barking orders from the Republican establishment play particularly well with folks that have already expressed their frustrations. I would suggest that the harder the Republican establishment pushes the true right-wing believers, the more likely the strategy will backfire.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010

    If They’re Cooked Numbers, Then Walker’s the Chef

    Republican candidate Mark Neumann took what was probably his most direct shot at Scott Walker thus far in the primary. Today he held a press conference right outside of Scott Walker's official office and exposed him in ways that progressives and Democrats have been doing for months and even years. Finally he called bogus on Walker's rhetoric versus reality on government spending.

    Walker responded by saying that Neumann's numbers were "cooked". If I were Neumann I would say, "Oh Yeah? Well if they are cooked you were the chef Scott!" The reason that this is the perfect comeback is because it is simply the truth. The numbers that Neumann is using are Scott Walker's numbers from Scott Walker's own proposed budgets.

    I've been harping on this for many months now, along with many others. Every year that Scott Walker has proposed a new budget it has included more spending. In his budget for 2003 he proposed $1.1 billion in spending, for 2010 he proposed $1.5 billion. Sorry, those are his numbers and the last one is 35% larger than the first one.

    This is certainly not a news flash, but for me responsible spending increases are not a problem in and of themselves. In fact I look at it more as an investment in the common good. The problem here is Scott Walker's breathtaking dishonesty and the willful ignorance of the cult that follows him. You can't rail against government spending while increasing it every year. At least you can't anymore.

    So while we are talking about Walker and cooking, maybe he should also fix up a full serving of crow. His phony rhetoric just wont fly for much longer.

    UPDATE: Scott Walker tried to present a weak "fact check" of his own numbers yesterday. Essentially he is saying "yeah but if you don't include this part of my spending increase the number goes down." Yeah, and if I don't include my mortgage payments, my spending level goes down dramatically too! In making this argument Walker actually invokes the fact that he has taken advantage of Recovery Bonds which came courtesy of the federal stimulus. Too bad Mark Neumann has his own stimulus-related hypocrisy to worry about or he could capitalize on yet another opening that Walker has given him.