Hot Water for Scott Walker
An unpopular governor, facing a near-certain recall election in the spring, gets caught up in an ongoing political corruption scandal. How do you think that scenario might turn out?
We may get a chance to find out, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stands at the edge of an FBI probe. What the feds are investigating is unclear at this point, but it’s almost certainly more serious than the original complaint.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Last year, a John Doe investigation began in Milwaukee County involving a staffer to then-Milwaukee County executive Walker. The staffer, Darlene Wink, was accused of using county resources to leave anonymous pro-Walker comments on political websites. Illegal, yes — but not the biggest deal ever. Wink resigned. But the feds seized Wink’s computer as evidence to build the case.
And it was at that point that the investigation seems to have widened.
Whatever was on Wink’s hard drive seems to have led investigators to Walker’s old Milwaukee County exec chief of staff Tim Russell. Authorities seized his computer and cell phone.
And now this:
Talking Points Memo:
The FBI on Wednesday raided the Madison home of a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, as part of an ongoing investigation.
The home of Cynthia A. Archer was raided Wednesday morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Archer had previously been a top aide to Walker when he was Milwaukee County Executive. She has owned her Madison home since 1988, rented it out during her years working for Walker in Milwaukee County, and then moved back when he became governor.
There is currently an ongoing investigation into whether county employees engaged in political activity for Walker when he was the executive.
Walker himself has lawyered-up, which — to be fair — isn’t a sign of anything, really. At least, nothing other than a recognition of the seriousness of the situation. But in politics, appearances mean a lot. Worse, the investigation is clearly growing.
"It’s worth emphasizing that the allegations, according to local media accounts, are focused on potential misdeeds committed before Walker became governor," writes Steve Benen, “the accusations focus on whether county staffers did political work for Walker when they were supposed to be doing official work for the public — but the controversy can still do some real damage.”
Polling shows that most Wisconsinites oppose a recall election — by the slimmest of margins — but that, were a recall to be held, the race would be a toss-up. Throw in a big corruption case and I think we can all see which way things would lean. And, of course, Wisconsin Democrats are more aggressive than their Washington counterparts, so they’re not letting the opportunity to ding Walker slide.
"The news of a criminal investigation involving aides to Scott Walker is disturbing," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement. “During his time as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker played fast and loose with ethics and created a pay-to-play culture of secrecy and deceit. The people of Wisconsin need assurance that this has not carried over to his term as governor. We look forward to the day when Walker himself gives a full explanation of his role in today’s raids.”
Even if he manages to stay only within the orbit of this investigation in a legal sense, the gravity of the situation could pull Scott Walker down in a political sense.
News Roundup for 8/10/11
Ron Paul supporters arrive in Iowa
-Headline of the Day-
"Ron Paul busing 30 family members in to Iowa."
One of the more entertaining aspects of watching Paulistas is their habit of creating realities that they later celebrate. You’ll check in on a messageboard or a comment thread on Reddit and you’ll see a link to an online poll or something about who’s gonna win what race in what state sometime maybe. All the Paulistas will rush off to totally skew the poll in their direction, then they’ll later point to the poll as proof that RON PAUL IS DEFINITELY GONNA WIN!! They have as good a grasp on the concepts of logic, evidence, and cause and effect as their creationist, global-warming-denier hero. Seriously, when you look at it objectively [ED: get it?], it’s freakin’ hilarious.
Anyway, the latest adventure in manipulating reality so that RON PAUL IS DEFINITELY GONNA WIN comes from the Great Man Himself, Ron Paul. In order to make sure that he comes out near the top in the Iowa straw poll, Ron’s packing up 30 “sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and more” to the Hawkeye State to wander around “wearing their Ron Paul T-shirts” and “their Ron Paul dresses” and probably hats and pants and buttons and tattoos on their foreheads. Then all the Iowans are going to look around and say, “Wow, this Ron Paul guy is just super-popular — I’m gonna hop on that bandwagon! All these people who coincidentally look like Ron Paul can’t be wrong!”
And then Paul wins the Iowa straw poll, which automatically makes him the President of the United States. After that, we all live in a Libertarian paradise — like Somalia.
You ever hear that phrase, “That’s so crazy it just might work?”
Yeah, that’s always bullshit. (Politico)
-Speaking of logic and evidence-
Some miracles just cannot be explained.
Click to embiggen
Clearly, this young man is a prophet. (SMBC)
"Wis. Dems: The Recalls Were A Win For Us!”
Wisconsin dem chairman Mike Tate: “[How can Walker] claim this is a real victory for him and his agenda, when his party lost two senators on his watch to recall elections? How can that be a win for Scott Walker when he lost two seats?”
Math always seems to hate Republicans as much as Republicans hate math. (Talking Points Memo)
Seriously Scott Walker, What Did You Expect?
After dealing what he probably believes was the death blow to public unions in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker got about as far from Madison as it was possible to get. Way the hell and gone up north, where the only thing separating him from Canada was one great big lake. Way up to the town of Washburn, where he’d celebrate his victory with a representative of the Koch brothers, one reality TV star, and a few big money donors. A big steak and champagne fundraiser, where he’d collect on delivery of his unpopular agenda.
"While thousands of nurses, firefighters and teachers are about to lose their jobs, and Wisconsin’s standard of living is driven into the dirt, Hollywood Sean Duffy and Scott Walker find time to raise champagne toasts to their Koch Brothers masters," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in an statement. “It is an obscene display, but at least we see Walker and Duffy now for who they are — true enemies of Wisconsin’s working families.”
A little hyperbolic maybe, but it seems to have done the trick. While the Bayfield County GOP chair said he had reservations about having “this controversy to deal with,” he was more excited than worried. He had it backwards.
Duluth News Tribune:
Wisconsin’s protracted family fight over the budget and public employee unions moved to this Bayfield County town Saturday evening, as embattled Gov. Scott Walker spoke at an invitation-only event and was greeted by at least 2,000 angry protesters outside.
Walker arrived in a convoy of six unmarked police cars that pulled up at
5:45 p.m. to the Steak Pit for a Republican Lincoln Day fundraiser. The large, boisterous crowd, which had been lining the streets leading to the restaurant since 4:30, quickly recognized him and erupted in boos and shouts of “Recall Walker.”
The protesters followed Walker to the restaurant and spoiled the whole shindig. The report tells us “they continued the protest within earshot of the Republican Party faithful inside.” How big is a 2,000 person protest for Bayfield County? “[T]he protest probably at least doubled the size of Washburn, which has a population of 2,271,” we’re told.
So yeah, pretty big.
That was Friday. On Saturday, Wisconsin turned out a huge protest at the state capitol. As many as 100,000 protesters greeted the Wisconsin 14 back home as if they were astronauts returning from the moon. It was a massive demonstration; one that outnumbered the largest of the Tea Party rallies by about 30,000. Recall petitions are now flying around the state, with one activist describing signature collection as being “like taking candy from a baby.”
It’s at this point that I begin to wonder how Scott Walker and the his pet Republicans in the legislature saw this all turning out. In fact, all evidence points to gross incompetence. They obviously did no polling on the issue, no groundwork was laid, no base of support built beforehand. They just went ahead and did it, apparently assuming everyone in Wisconsin shared their opinions. Trapped in an insular little Republican world, they spoke only to each other, to corporate lobbyists, and Tea Party activists — then they assumed those people spoke for everyone.
There’s a word for that and it’s one that, ironically, the right has been known to throw around — elitism. That this description of the Walker GOP is more apt than calling blue collar dems elitist is probably lost on them. But they live in a little bubble of a world, where Utopian theories are treated as fact and corporate control is better than democracy. Millionaires and billionaires, political bigwigs and corporate lobbyists, they are all elitist to the core and now it’s destroying them.
They’ve gone to great lengths to protect their ideas from reality, never testing them or questioning them or even seeing if anyone agreed with them. And now it’s become clear that those protected ideas can’t survive in the wild. The whole thing’s coming down around their ears and you really have to wonder how they saw it turning out any differently.
Wisconsin Fight Not Over by a Long Shot
On Tuesday, Bob Schwoch — a UW communications professor and a former chief of staff of two Wisconsin Republican state senators — circulated an open letter to current Republican senators. Gov. Walker was leading his party to ruin, Schwoch warned, and he was doing it for reasons other than a love for Wisconsin.
This governor is not hard to read. He’s a giant fiery ball of ambition. When he sneezes he compares it to how Reagan sneezed. His first major act, after netting a modest 52 percent in a GOP wave election, was to pick the most dangerous and inflammatory political fight he could think of. His next major act was to propose a budget that might get him re-elected in Texas, but not Wisconsin. Why?
Clearly he doesn’t care about getting re-elected in Wisconsin. He doesn’t care about protests, or poll numbers, or recalls. He barely even cares if what he’s proposing passes. So long as he gets attention for proposing it.
Scott Walker is driving a fast bus to Washington, estimated time of arrival 2012. Fourteen of his Senate passengers jumped off and hid the moment they knew what was happening. The other 19 might want to wake up before their own districts disappear in the rear-view.
Last night, all but one of those nineteen senators ignored that advice. Republicans stripped the collective bargaining issue from the “budget repair” bill and passed it as stand-alone legislation. In doing so, they admitted that their argument all along has been a lie — by passing it as a policy bill, they got around the rule that requires a quorum for passing fiscal legislation. The law passes, not as a necessary budgeting mechanism, but as the naked power grab it has been all along.
The Democratic response to the maneuver was uncharacteristically harsh.
"Using tactics that trample on the traditions of our Legislature, the Republican leadership has betrayed our state," Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party Mike Tate said in a statement. “Republicans have rubber-stamped the desire of the Koch Brothers and their godshead Scott Walker to cripple Wisconsin’s middle class and lower benefits and wages for every single wage-earner in our state. The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this never was about anything but raw political power. We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall.”
Those districts Schwoch warned would “disappear in the rear-view?” Yeah, there they go.
But before those districts go, there are other statewide elections. The first since Walker’s kamikaze run at the future of his party will be a race for the state Supreme Court between incumbent David Prosser and assistant attorney general Joanne Kloppenburg on April 5th. Like the US Supreme Court, Wisconsin’s highest is conservative by a slim majority and this election could flip control. Anyone who thinks that all or part of Walker’s power grab isn’t going to wind up in court has simply not been paying attention.
Throughout, Republicans have used illegal tricks and maneuvers to push this thing forward; from scheduling a vote for a certain time and trying to vote secretly before that time, to Gov. Walker’s “Koch call,” to the current move, which Rep. Peter Barca argued violated the state’s open meetings law:
David Prosser was a Republican legislator before his appointment to the high court by then-Governor Tommy Thompson. And, judging from the mood of the state right now, “David Prosser is a Republican” is probably a winning enough message for his opponent. Prosser won his primary with 55% of the vote, but that primary happened just as this whole thing was getting started — I was at the first protest at the capitol that day, then voted on my way home. It hadn’t snowballed into the giant political fiasco it has become. Now that the political landscape here has changed, what everyone assumed was Prosser’s easy walk to reelection has probably gotten a lot more competitive. With Wisconsin residents already impatient for recall elections, Republican David Prosser’s already existing statewide election may have changed drastically. The courts are undoubtedly where this fight is heading and Justice Prosser has the great misfortune of being right there, out in the open, ready to be picked off.
Further, if former shoe-in Prosser goes down, it’ll put starch in the shorts of Republican legislators. What will their prospects look like if they don’t distance themselves from this unpopular governor? Walker may be dreaming dreams of a VP slot or even the presidency, but what about those he ruins on the way up? Are they just going to let it happen?
"Just let it happen" is what they did last night. Let’s see if a bucket of cold reality snaps them out of it. Vote April 5th.