Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scott Walker's "Good Government" Challenge

Scott Walker has become famous for trying to be on all sides of nearly every issue. Sometimes it happens very quickly, as it did with his ever evolving position on taking federal stimulus funds among other issues. Other times he flip-flops over a longer period of time, multiple times, on a broad range of issues. I'm convinced that the only real predictor for Walker's waffling is if it personally benefits him politically in the short term.

On October 8, 1996 then-Representative Scott Walker announced his "Good Government Package" of legislative proposals. I'm sure that he thought that this was a winning issue for him at that time. The true sign of this is that he all but announced the package from the rooftops. Here are the items that Representative Walker was promoting at that time:
  1. Allow individual candidates and political parties to offset up to the amount of independent expenditures spent in any given campaign.
  2. Require full and accurate disclosure of every phone call to a voter and require a copy of the script for each phone call be filed with the Elections Board within 24 hours of the first call to voters.
  3. Prohibit "mega-PACs" by limiting transfers between political action committees to no more than $5,000.
  4. Require that a minimum of 50% of all money spent in a campaign be raised from individuals living within the district.
  5. Allow the Elections Board to develop a system for electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
  6. Ban legislators from working as lobbyists for at least one year after leaving office.
  7. Require legislators to follow the same laws the public does by removing the legislative immunity provision in the constitution.
  8. Ban fundraising by candidates, campaigns, and legislative campaign committees until the enactment of the budget.

Since Walker was sworn in as governor we have witnessed him amassing unprecedented power. Whether it is the legislature so willingly giving him their rule making powers or his wiping out scores of civil service positions to make them politically appointed. Walker's actions as governor show that he must fancy himself as some sort of emperor of Wisconsin. His faithful and unquestioning Republican rubber stamps in the legislature have done everything possible to accommodate him in that self-delusion.

So while Scott Walker is busy ramming special interest legislation through, it would be interesting to see him take one brief moment to ram through the remaining elements of then-Representative Walker's "Good Government Package". He certainly could accomplish it, if he really ever wanted to get those things done in the first place. It would also be a great test for Walker to prove that he actually cares about something more than his own political fortunes.

Reaffirming Representative Walker's "Good Government Package" would be one way to prove this because many of these provisions would run contrary to his actions as a recall candidate. For example, while Walker has been busy raising unlimited cash from special interests, over 60 percent of it has come from out-of-state contributors. Sorry, but that flies directly in the face of Representative Walker's 50% rule.

So I would like to challenge Governor Walker to actually live up to the "Good Government" guidelines as expressed by Representative Walker in 1996. Obviously there is zero chance of that happening, which again proves the original point made here. Scott Walker's number one value is advancing his own lifelong political career and nearly everything else is relative and/or secondary to that self-serving priority.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Kathleen Falk

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do a quick telephone interview with Democratic candidate for Governor Kathleen Falk. Many of the hot button issues that were recently relevant in some circles don't really interest me very much. So naturally I chose to focus on just a few isolated questions that I personally found interesting. Kathleen Falk will certainly do many more interviews with other bloggers, reporters and others during this campaign. So if I didn't ask your question or address your topic, I'm sure it will be addressed at some point.

First I mentioned the fact that both Scott Walker and Kathleen Falk were County Executives of the two largest Wisconsin counties. They served in these positions roughly during the same periods. Since that timing may mean that they also faced similar challenges, I was interested in hearing Kathleen Falk compare and contrast her tenure with Walker's in Milwaukee County.

Kathleen Falk said that her time as Dane County Executive couldn't be any more different than Walker's in Milwaukee County. She said that it wasn't only like night and day in policy but also in terms of values and style of leadership. In terms of style she said that some want to be known by who their political enemies are and they like to pit people against each other. Obviously she was accurately implying that this is how Walker chose to operate as Milwaukee County Executive (and now as Governor).

Falk went on to say that people who tend to operate in such a divisive fashion continually try to make demons out of their political opponents just to advance their own political agenda. She said that this is certainly not her style and that most Wisconsinites do not desire such a divisive approach to policy or even to politics. She said that this is typically true even when people are looking for a change agent. Most simply want competent stable leaders that help to ensure things like their children having good schools, the growth of family supporting jobs, clean air to breath and clean water to drink.

Kathleen Falk went on to give a more specific difference between her time as Dane County Executive and Walker's time in Milwaukee County. She started by acknowledging that the national recession certainly took its toll on local government budgets over the last few years. She said that her response in Dane County was to properly adjust to the major changes in circumstances while Scott Walker chose to just keep doing that same old things. While Walker continued his same ideology-based approach, Falk sought to collaborate with others to solve the challenges together.

One specific example that she used was that she went to union leaders and let them know that she would like to speak to front line county workers. So she went to talk to people like snow plow truck drivers and mechanics. During those discussions she talked over the issues and listed the various choices. She said that this collaborative approach lead to county employees giving up 5% of their salary. She says that she knew that this was not an easy choice for Dane County workers but after being included in the process as a valuable partner, they were willing to make that sacrifice. After the budget issues were resolved, Falk bragged about Dane County workers rather than trying to score political points for herself. In the end she said that public employees want to be respected just like everyone else and voters want quality public services. Falk said that the approach that she used toward budgetary challenges accomplished both.

During my discussion with Kathleen Falk I also mentioned the role that special interests like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce played in her 2006 run for attorney general. They have become nothing more than a financial arm of the Republican Party and in 2006 they proved it by dumping millions of dollars into the AG race attacking Kathleen Falk. Even with their millions in attack ads, that race ended with a historically razor thin margin. Given that experience and seeing that a potential run against Walker would dwarf that special interest attack, I asked Kathleen Falk how she planned to address the situation.

The first thing that Kathleen Falk mentioned was just how vicious and inaccurate the WMC ads were in 2006. She also noted that even though they spent some $3.5 million against her that year, they didn't spend any of it in Dane County. She said that WMC didn't run their over-the-top attack ads there because Dane County knew her record and would have known that the attack ads were false.

In terms of what she would do in an election against Scott Walker, she said that she will count on the voters of Wisconsin to rely on other sources rather than just nasty attack ads from special interests. She further said that an election against Walker in 2012 will not be the exact same situation that existed in 2006. She said that polls have already shown that many people have already made up their minds about Scott Walker and the direction of the state.

Falk further pointed to the fact that even though Walker and his special interest allies have already spent millions of dollars in unanswered ads, the polls show that the dial has not really moved for them. In fact she said that the Walker campaign apparently knew that their ads were not working because they stopped doing them and then started sending out massive numbers of expensive direct mail pieces. All of these facts seem to indicate that massive amounts of attack ads may not provide the same bang for their buck as they have in past elections.

After all of the turmoil and division that Wisconsin has faced on Scott Walker's watch so far, Kathleen Falk says that people are more ready than ever to get away from the extremism and go back to the idea of a competent and stable state government.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Tim Russell's "Time Away During the Work Day"

Over the last several weeks the John Doe investigation into Scott Walker's campaign/county operations has certainly provided many compelling revelations. One of the most telling was the email that Walker sent to Tim Russell after Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Bice broke the news about Darlene Wink posting political online comments on county time. In the email Walker said the following:

"We cannot afford another story like this one. No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc."

This statement has been analyzed in many different ways. Some have focused on the fact that Walker sent an email about official county personnel matters from his campaign account. Others have understandably questioned why Walker would communicate with Russell on a personnel issue given the fact that he no longer worked in Walker's office. Most have also focused on the "no lap tops" portion suggesting that it shows that Walker knew about the secret network that was set up in his executive offices. But today I'm personally wondering about the last part of that email because I haven't heard much commentary on it. Specifically the "no time away during the work day" part.

What exactly did Walker mean when he said "no time away during the work day"? Did he know about members of his administration going to campaign events or meeting and planning with political operatives during the work day? Now that most of his top aides have either lawyered up (including Walker) or have been formally charged/convicted of crimes, we certainly can't rely on any of them to enlighten us on the issue. So I went looking for any possible examples of "time away during the work day" that I might find from Walker administration emails from April-June, 2009.

Obviously it is a very small sample size but I can only use what I actually have to try and determine what kind of "time away" that Scott Walker could have been talking about. In those 2009 emails I found one email chain that stood out from the rest in this area. It involved longtime Walker campaign/county aide Tim Russell and the President of the right wing MacIver Institute, Brett Healy. You might recall that this group has frequently tried to provide cover for Walker's extreme agenda. Recent examples include their rather desperate "it's working" campaign. The latest manifestation of it includes a Koch Brothers fueled $700,000 ad buy.

Brett Healy was formerly the Chief of Staff to former Republican Speaker Scott Jensen. In fact he testified in 2006 regarding the caucus scandal. At the time of Healy's April 2009 email exchange with Tim Russell, he had recently been appointed as President of the then-newly formed MacIver Institute.

On Monday morning April 6, 2009 at 10:07 a.m. Healy emailed Tim Russell at his county email address on what appears to be a work day. After requesting Russell's contact information, they both plan a meeting at the Marquette University Starbucks for Thursday April 9th at 9:00 a.m, which also appears to be on a county work day. In planning the "time away" Russell and Healy exchanged some 7 emails in less than an hour. Milwaukee County taxpayer dollars hard at work! Thank goodness we were all paying Tim Russell to exchange emails and eventually meet with the head Walker enabler at MacIver.

This Russell/Healy meeting happened only a couple of weeks before Scott Walker officially announced his campaign for governor. Did Russell and Healy talk about that coming event? These are two long time political operatives, did they discuss anything political during this meeting during the county work day? A look at the MacIver website several weeks after this meeting shows a continual diet of bashing Walker's perceived opponent at the time, Governor Doyle. Their website also featured the typical gushing over Walker that has become MacIver's hallmark.

In any case, was this Russell/Healy meeting the kind of "time away during the work day" that Walker later banned after he got the bad Wink-related press? Given the facts that we have learned from the John Doe investigation recently, it would certainly be interesting to know more about what Walker was referring to in that statement.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Introducing WalkerInvestigation.com

Find out everything that you ever wanted to know about Walkergate at a new Democratic Party of Wisconsin website: WalkerInvestigation.com

Friday, February 03, 2012

To Quote Walker's 2002 "Ament/Amen" Ad...

"Corruption cannot exist where there are no hiding places"
[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/17/02]

Walker Administration Emails 2009

Anyone that was reading this blog in 2010 is probably familiar with my struggles in getting records from Scott Walker's Milwaukee County administration. I only received certain records 9 months and hundreds of dollars after requesting them. Even then, they only sent some of them after a reporter questioned them about the long delay. I've repeatedly written about Walker only "turning on the light" for friends, including an anonymous shill blog that may have been run by some of Walker's county staffers.

Some of the records that I did finally receive included a ton of county emails from 2009. Given some of the recent developments and the news surrounding the John Doe investigation, I decided to search those 2009 Walker emails from a new point of reference. FYI, this blog posting may very well turn into the first of a series.

One thing that certainly stood out in the recent criminal complaints was the email from Scott Walker, using his campaign account, to address the Darlene Wink situation with right hand man Tim Russell. After seeing that Walker used his campaign account to discuss county business, I decided to again search my 2009 Walker administration emails for similar examples. I wanted to test whether Walker's intermingling of his campaign email and county business was a common practice.

Please note that the Walker administration used Lotus Notes and the electronic email records that they finally sent me are in that format. Since I don't have Lotus Notes the emails are a bit of a maze of Lotus Notes code and other data. To check out the emails that I am going to reference below, see them HERE. It is admittedly a pain to read but I've tried to make the reading easier by putting relevant information in bold. I've also deleted vast amounts of the Lotus Notes code. If you are interested in the original version with all of the code, let me know. There could be interesting discoveries hiding in that code.

Here is a summary of interesting items that I found in Walker 2009 emails (instances of Walker using his "skw@scottwalker.org" email address for county business):

  • The first email chain listed in the above linked doc appears to be Walker sending a response to a Public Policy Forum draft report on the county budget. Walker seems to be sending it to his county staff. But he sends it to their private emails along with the business emails for Keith Gilkes (his campaign manager) and RJ Johnson (someone that served his campaign as a consultant). If I'm following this right, it then looks like he then forwarded that message from his campaign email to his county email.

  • There are at least two examples of Walker forwarding Wispolitics emails from his county address to his campaign address. Both examples include prominent reporting on Walker's campaign for governor. One mentions the RPW convention in 2009 and that Walker won the straw poll and the other mentions his "very special announcement" from April 2009. I'm wondering if the county paid for the Wispolitics reports, exactly how could he legally forward them to his campaign email? Is that giving something of value from the county to his campaign? Does it violate Wispolitics policy against forwarding their products to others?

  • An email that appears to be from Cynthia Archer to Walker at his campaign email address (and copying other staff...including Walker campaign consultant RJ Johnson). In that email she spells out their various "options" after a greatly anticipated arbitration hearing. It looks like Walker then takes that Archer email and forwards it from his campaign account to his county account.
Again, what is up with this mixing of county issues and campaign emails? Am I the only one that finds such free email usage suspicious? Did these emails happen before the establishment of the secret network that has been described by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office?

NOTE: When requesting the email records, I only asked them to go from April - June of 2009. So these emails only represent a sampling from those 3 months.