Friday, March 30, 2012

Does Latest Block News Give Them Pause?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice is reporting that the Feds have opened an investigation into Wisconsin Republican operative Mark Block. Reportedly they are interested in Block organizations like Wisconsin Prosperity Network and Prosperity USA. It appears that the investigation is related to the use of those organizations finances and the start of the Herman Cain comedy campaign for president.

As the Bice column and many other people have noted, Block has a history of crossing a few lines. The most cited example is when he served as campaign manager for former-Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox in 1997. Regulators accused him of election-law violations and he settled with them by agreeing to a 3 year ban from Wisconsin politics and a $15,000 fine. Now we have this newly reported investigation and I have to wonder what Block-connected Republican front groups, operatives and donors are thinking?

For example our fragile friends at the MacIver Institute have been deeply involved with Mark Block since before they were even fully established as an official right wing spin machine. Based on MacIver's IRS filings Block served on their board as "treasurer" in at least 2008 and 2009. He was still listed on their website as being a board member as recently as November 2010. Heck, the organization is even named after Republican operative John MacIver, someone that a Journal Sentinel profile described as Block's mentor.

One of the Block organizations that is reportedly part of the federal inquiry is the Wisconsin Prosperity Network (WPN). Do you remember the first big story detailing that effort? It was a Mark Pitsch 2009 story in the Wisconsin State Journal. It detailed the right wing plans of creating 14 new Wisconsin front groups as part of the newly proposed Prosperity Network. The story listed the MacIver Institute as the very first entity to be formed as part of the scheme.

As of at least February 2011, MacIver was still listed on the Wisconsin Prosperity Network website as a "networked organization". At that time the WPN website invited people to become a member and "prosperity warrior" by giving $500 in annual dues. The "benefits" of giving to WPN included the following:

Prosperity Warrior benefits include membership in Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin Chapter (AFPWI) and subscriptions to The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, First Freedoms Foundation, and American Majority Wisconsin Chapter. Benefits also include complementary admission to WPN regional policy briefings, the WPN annual state briefing, Americans for Prosperity (WI) Defending the American Dream Summit, Tailgate for Taxpayers, annual MacIver Institute Gala Banquet, and a Wisconsin Prosperity Network lapel pin.
I am writing about this as yet another reminder of just how deeply Mark Block has been involved with the extremist right wing infrastructure currently ruining running Wisconsin. And the latest news of a possible federal investigation into Block's various ventures makes me wonder if it gives any of them even a moment of pause?

Fun Fact: This didn't seem to fit anywhere in the actual blog posting, but I noticed that Block's Wisconsin Prosperity Network had a post office box at the same New Berlin post office (53151) that served the MacIver Institute in at least 2008. I'm curious what other right wing Republican front groups have been based in that post office and why it is so popular with them?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MacIver Institute: Delicate Little Flower or School Yard Bully?

Earlier this week I got an email from a Dustin Beilke. I don't know Dustin but it was an opinion column that he wrote about the right wing MacIver Institute. I didn't post it as a guest column on this blog because A. I don't really do that here and B. I didn't have the time to do it properly. But that opinion column did surface elsewhere.

Next thing you know there were reports of people at MacIver disputing things in the column. That is fine, they should do that if they disagree or if they feel the need to correct the record. But at some point it crossed a line in my opinion and became more like bullying of local liberal bloggers and others. I'm hearing that people from MacIver were making both veiled and not-so-veiled threats to drag people into court. People that they know don't have access to the special interest funding that they posses.

With so many old partisan Republican hands over at MacIver, who knew that they would be so super sensitive? Or maybe they are just trying to silence their detractors in schoolyard bully fashion, I can't make up my mind.

Now don't get your wires crossed, this doesn't mean that I personally vouch for every single thing that Beilke said in his opinion column. But I do most definitely agree with the idea that the traditional media should be careful in how they use information that comes from MacIver. Because I do think that it is a right wing spin machine run by long-time Republican partisans with very obvious goals that don't include the production of legitimate straight news. Is having that opinion worthy of being the subject of bullying tactics and threats of lawsuits? No and it sets a horrible precedent.

Previously on this Blog:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Hits: Private Sector Scott, Partisan Judges, Perennial LaBarre

I've been so busy with work that I have been inconsistent with blogging. Sorry, but I have to keep the lights on. However that doesn't mean that I haven't had things to say recently. So I'm going to try doing a quick hits blog posting when appropriate. I may not have the time to dig in deep on various issues but at least I can quickly get some relevant content out there. So here we go...

Scott Walker Going "Back" to the Private Sector?

Last week Scott Walker suggested that it might not be so bad to lose his recall election because then he could make "real money"by going "back to" the private sector. After hearing the comments the first thing that I asked was, "does he really think that his salary and benefits package as governor is not 'real money'?" How out-of-touch can he get...dare I ask?

The second thing that I asked was, "exactly why is he talking about going 'back to the private sector'?" When was the last time he was even IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR? That is a rhetorical question because I already know the answer. It was in the early 1990's when he was still in college and very shortly after he dropped out. What? Is he planning on going back to the Red Cross, IBM or getting back his old part-time gig as a building supervisor at Marquette's Helfaer Recreation Center? "Back to the private sector"...give me a break.

Judges Signing Recall Petitions vs. Straight-Up Partisan Judges

Some in the media and many on the rabid right got overly uptight about a number of sitting judges that signed Walker recall papers. Given our toxic political climate perhaps it wasn't the best move by the judges but in reality it isn't the end of the world either. More importantly I was struck by the hypocrisy and hype of this particular story. For example, did anyone in the media bother to focus this much on Waukesha County Judge Mac Davis' hardcore partisan background when he was busy ruling for Republicans? I'm trying to remember the outrage on the right when Angry Jurist David Prosser didn't step down from politically charged cases even though he was Republican leader in the state legislature. I assume that these same people are going to demand that the embarrassing and unethical Michael Gableman step down from political cases that come before the high court. Remember he was a big time Republican fundraiser for Scott McCallum who eventually appointed him to the bench in the first place. Don't even get me started on former Republican legislator, Walker BFF and all around right wing extremist Mark Gundrum.

If you don't have a problem with these purely partisan judges then kindly don't bother me with those that chose to sign recall petitions.

Please Let Perennial LaBarre Run!

As we already know, the CRG Network filed for two new recalls yesterday. I've already written about how I have doubts about CRG's recall abilities. So I am clearly getting the cart before the horse here, but if there is a recall election I sure hope that Shirl LaBarre is the Republican candidate! She is the person that filed the recall papers for Democratic Senator Jauch. She is a wacky right wing perennial loser-candidate and although her campaign committee name is "Go Far with LaBarre" I wouldn't expect her to go very "far" in an actual election.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Prepare but Don't Fear CRG Bluster

It must be a combination of recall-envy and a prolonged lack of attention. Or maybe it is just a group of longtime Scott Walker zealots trying to exact revenge. In any case the odd right wing club, Citizen's for Responsible Government (CRG) is threatening to launch a recall of Senators Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and Bob Jauch (D-Poplar). They are reportedly talking about it because of only one issue: the senators refused to support mining legislation written by and for one mining company. As far as I can tell the senators were not against a mining bill entirely but were against this free pass legislation pushed by Walker and the Republican mafia in Madison. So given the roots and history of CRG, it is no surprise that they are once again surfacing to make threats.

For those that may not know, CRG has been a Walker-loving club since he was pushing for a recall of Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament in 2002. There was broad based outrage over the pension scandal at that time and a legitimate group of citizens organized as a result. However it didn't take long for right wing talk radio and their various allies to totally hijack that effort. Suddenly it became about promoting Scott Walker and the CRG that we know today was formed. During his train wreck tenure in Milwaukee County, CRG continued to blindly promote Scott Walker's political career.

CRG was successful in pushing Tom Ament out of office in 2002, they were successful in recalling several Milwaukee County supervisors and they were successful in getting Scott Walker elected. But that was Milwaukee County in 2002, it was fresh off the pension scandal and I can't think of a successful recall effort from them since. Oh, they have made many recall threats since then but most if not all of them were total failures. They've threatened recalls against more recently elected Milwaukee County supervisors, at least one Milwaukee Alderman, and other local officials in Wauwatosa, Cudahy and elsewhere. Not to mention the embarrassing effort to recall Governor Doyle.

So before the Senators get too worried about this threat, I hope that they take a moment to examine CRG's historic role of Walker zealotry. I hope that they look at their actual recall-to-threat ratio. Frankly, since their zenith in the early 2000's they haven't been very successful at recalls. That doesn't mean that the senators shouldn't prepare for the possibility, because one sugar daddy could finance such an effort, but they shouldn't fear CRG. Most of what they have been doing over the last decade has been bluster and Walker boosting but little else.

Afterthought: CRG and knee-jerk Republicans might want to fully consider the possible ramifications of recalling Schultz. Given the make-up of that district, it could very well backfire on you if you are successful. What you may end up doing is simply flipping the seat to Democrat.