Wisconsin Ruling Has a Partisan — And Possibly Corrupt — Odor
Something is not right here. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin threw out a lower court’s ruling that, in passing Gov. Walker’s union-buster, legislative Republicans had violated the state’s open meetings law. In doing so, the court cleared the way for the law to take effect — mere hours away from Republican’s arbitrary and self-imposed deadline for passing it themselves.
The problem for Republicans: they didn’t have the votes to pass the thing and everyone knew it. In other words, the conservative majority on the court swept in and saved the bill from dying. Something is not right here.
Let’s start at the beginning. In March, Senate Republicans stripped a provision that would remove collective bargaining rights for most state employees from the state budget and passed it as a stand-alone bill. They did this because the state’s rules require a quorum for passage of all bills that have a fiscal impact and Democrats had famously denied them that quorum by fleeing the state. In order to do this, they had to skirt open meetings laws. They also had to admit that removing collective bargaining was a policy issue with no fiscal impact. This admission was later confirmed by Gov. Walker himself, while testifying under oath in Washington. File this little tidbit away for later.
The violation of the open meetings law was brought before a Dane County judge, who put a restraining order on publishing the law. At this point, the remedy for Republicans was simple; hold another vote with adequate prior notice and pass the bill. There would be nothing Democrats could do on their own to stop it. They simply did not have the numbers. But Republicans didn’t reschedule that vote. Apparently, under the pressure of recall elections for some and public opinion for others who weren’t eligible for recall, the votes were no longer there. The window of opportunity to pass the bill on an up or down vote had closed. None of this was stated outright, but later actions by Republicans made it obvious.
For example, instead of rescheduling a vote and bypassing Judge Sumi’s order, Republicans chose to defy the order. In the end, this didn’t work and Republicans were left to wait.
But waiting was too much for them.
Wisconsin State Journal:
Assembly Republicans plan to add Gov. Scott Walker’s limits on collective bargaining for most public workers to the state budget as soon as Tuesday if the Wisconsin Supreme Court hasn’t acted by then.
“If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again because it is such an integral part of not having those services slashed and those people laid off,” Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said of the plan, which is currently held up in court.
Now remember, even the governor himself admitted that union-busting wouldn’t save any money and Senate Republicans originally passed it as a policy bill without any fiscal impact. Fitzgerald’s claim that people would have to be laid off and services would have to be “slashed” without it was pure BS. There was no emergency that required passing this bill, other than to put the whole thing behind them in the face of upcoming recall elections. The obvious purpose of Fitzgerald’s “Now, now, now!” rhetoric was to create a false urgency.
And so the clock ticked toward Fitzgerald’s arbitrary deadline. He had basically called his own bluff and would soon have to hold the vote. It would pass the Assembly, but die in the Senate. Of this I have absolutely no doubt. You don’t violate a restraining order to do something when you have the votes to do it without controversy and/or scandal. The bill was dying.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.
The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.
Fat officially pulled from the fire. Something is not right here.
The timing, of course, is perfect. The Supreme Court was under no obligation to render a judgement before Fitzgerald’s self-imposed and arbitrary deadline. Writing for the majority, even Judge Patrick Crooks admitted to “a hasty decision.” Yet here the court was, rushing to beat a clock set by a partisan bluff.
It all seems coordinated. There may be a very big scandal in the pipe. Something is not right here and we are by no means done with this story.
Republican Austerity is Already Failing
It’s contrary to every Republican economic talking point, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I found it on page eleven of my local paper and why no television talking heads have brought it up. An Associated Press piece explains that austerity measures are holding economic recovery back and that Republican governors share a large part of the blame. May “was the seventh consecutive month of public-sector job losses,” the piece tells us. “Rather than add to U.S. economic growth, states and cities are subtracting from it.”
The Great Recession officially ended two years ago this month. During previous recoveries, state and local governments were engines of growth by this point: In the two years after the 1990-91 recession ended, for example, they had added 430,000 jobs. They had added 249,000 two years after the 2001 recession ended.
This time is different. More than 467,000 state and local government jobs, including 188,000 in schools, have vanished since the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Weird. And here I thought government spending “crowds out” private sector spending. If government — including state and city governments — starts making big, draconian cuts, then in pours all that sweet, sweet private sector cash. Right?
“There’s a whole slew of private companies that have to cut back when they don’t get the [government] contracts they had been getting,” Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors told AP. “You can’t balance a budget and say everything’s going to be beautiful.” And you can’t lay off state workers in droves and then wonder why unemployment is so high.
Here in Wisconsin, there’s a great example of Republican economic flateartherism. Republicans in the legislature are forcing the University of Wisconsin to return $37 million to the federal government. That money would’ve paid for broadband internet to tie campuses, schools, and libraries together and to help with distance learning.
“The legislation would also prohibit UW System campuses from supporting WiscNet, a cooperative that brings high-speed Internet to most schools and libraries across the state,” the Wisconsin State Journal reports. “Campus leaders say they fear the change could cripple the network.”
What’s the problem here for Republicans? “Republican lawmakers say the university should not be in the business of providing telecommunications services. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he was concerned the new broadband networks would compete with an already existing network called BadgerNet.”
Is private industry breaking down the door to do this? Well, no. But that’s not the point. Government shouldn’t do what businesses can do, say Republicans. Even, apparently, when those businesses have no interest in doing it. By GOP logic, we should all sit around waiting for construction companies to build bridges on their own initiative — even though there’s no reason for them to do so and it’s never going to happen. This is what the founders intended, because the founders were morons, I guess.
So $37 million-worth of jobs goes out the window, never to return. Schools and the university suffers. Private industry — which would’ve built the damned thing — now doesn’t get the business. Finally, tax money that Wisconsinites paid to the federal government doesn’t return to Wisconsin — so it’ll go subsidize a project in some other, saner state. This is beyond idiocy and they call it “fiscal sanity.”
But what about the media? As I said, the AP piece was buried on page eleven. We have real world proof that austerity measures don’t help the economy, that they in fact do the opposite, and we’ve got Republicans and conservatives on teevee saying, “You know what we need? More austerity!” Meanwhile, talking heads and pundits nod like idiots and tell us — oh so seriously — that this is the wisest thing they’ve ever heard. The economic plane is crashing again, so the smartest move is to point that nose straight at the ground and gun it.
Austerity isn’t headed for failure, it’s failing now and that’s barely being reported.
Republicans and Homegrown Terrorism
This is terrorism, right?
Wisconsin State Journal:
A Marshfield man who drove to Madison to kill an abortion doctor faces federal charges after he was arrested Wednesday night when his gun went off in his motel room not far from the Planned Parenthood clinic that he planned to attack Thursday.
Ralph Lang, 63, told a Madison police officer at the Motel 6, 1754 Thierer Road, that he had a gun “to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies,” according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.
Lang said he planned on shooting the clinic’s doctor “right in the head,” according to the complaint. Asked if he planned to shoot just the doctor or nurses, too, Lang replied he wished he “could line them up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down,” the complaint said.
In fact, this is religiously-motivated terrorism. According to the report, Lang had been in Madison a week earlier — with a gun — “but was having ‘spiritual struggles’ and was not ‘100 percent in sync with God’ so he did not shoot anyone.” The Madison clinic was apparently to be the first of many, as he had “a map of the U.S. with dots in each state and the handwritten words ‘some abortion centers.’” Also on the map: the words, “Blessed Virgin Mary says Hell awaits any woman having an abortion.”
Yeah, this is terrorism — good old-fashioned religious extremist terrorism. Lang was found out after accidentally firing a bullet through his motel room door. If it weren’t this example of responsible gun-ownership, it seems likely that he would’ve been able to carry out his planned shooting spree.
According to the National Clinic Violence Survey (pdf), carried out by the Feminist Majority Foundation, nearly one quarter of abortion providers experienced “severe violence” at their clinics in 2010.
Overall, the percentage of clinics experiencing severe violence has increased to 23.5% of all abortion providers participating in the survey in 2010, compared to 20% in 2008 and 18.5% in 2005. Moreover, this marked the highest level of violence recorded since 1997 when 25.0% of all clinics experienced one or more incidents of severe violence.
The right often makes the hyperbolic claim that liberals are “in bed with terrorists.” Many of the birthers believe that President Obama is a terrorist. Yet, if this clinic violence is homegrown terrorism, then the party most associated and sympathetic with terrorists is the Republican Party. If you tell people over and over that abortion is murder, this is the predictable result. If you want to make sure this is the result, you lie to people and tell them they’re paying for all the “murder” with their tax dollars.
It was, after all, House Republicans who attacked Planned Parenthood funding earlier this spring, portraying the organization as an abortion provider only and completely ignoring the services it provides in the field of women’s health. It was Republican Sen. Jon Kyl who claimed that abortion was “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The reality is three percent — none paid for with taxpayer dollars.
What would Republicans say if Democrats were telling the same lies that are told by al Qaeda? I think we all know the answer to that. Yet Republicans repeat the lies told by anti-abortion terrorists on a regular basis. Maybe it’s time to ask the question of Republicans that they would no doubt ask of Democrats in a similar situation.
“Why are you siding with terrorists?”
Red State = Welfare Queen
Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal ran a piece comparing two states: Wisconsin and Missouri. For the most part, Missouri didn’t come out well in the comparison. In only one category — small business survival — did Missouri surpass Wisconsin (at a glance graphic here). On that point, Missouri is 19th in the nation, while Wisconsin is 33rd. On everything else, Wisconsin won.
Why pick Missouri for comparison?
Wisconsin State Journal:
Missouri, perhaps more than any other Midwestern state, provides a long-term prototype of policies championed by Walker: a state government that’s less lucrative for public workers but more friendly to businesses and tax-averse citizens. A look into Missouri’s past could provide a glimpse into Wisconsin’s future.
Some of the predictions being made by Walker’s opponents haven’t proved true in Missouri. For example, weaker public-employee unions has not led to Republican domination at the polls that some have predicted for Wisconsin.
But Missouri does lag Wisconsin in many quality-of-life indicators that unions and their Democratic allies claim is the trade-off for lower taxes and lower pay for public workers.
In fact, it’s not much of a trade-off and proves one cornerstone of Republican economic theory wrong — a rising tide does not lift all boats. If Missouri has a better climate for business — including small business — it hasn’t helped the economy any. The median income is lower than the Badger state’s by $5,000, the state’s life expectancy is 38th in the nation (Wisconsin is 18th), and Missouri’s incarceration rate is 509 per 100,000 (Wisconsin’s is 369). Good for business is good for you? Sure doesn’t look that way.
One measure that WSJ didn’t look at was deficit reduction — which is supposedly a big worry for Republicans. It’s a proven fact that, on average, red states take more federal money than they pay in, while blue states pay more and see less return. To put it in Republican terms, red states are the greedy welfare queens getting a free ride, while blue states are the responsible citizens taking up their tax burden.
In this comparison, Missouri performs poorly. While Wisconsin paid a buck for every eighty-six cents returned in federal money in 2005, Missouri paid a buck and got $1.32. The Republican idea of “fiscal responsibility” at the state level is a drain on the federal government. All spending has to come from someplace, so while states like Missouri are cutting taxes — to very little effect — they’re doing it by depending on federal tax money coming from other states. If liberals are “tax and spend,” Republicans are “tax out of state and spend even more.”
You see the problem here, right? All of these Republican policies are propped up by blue state money — which means that, as more states become Republican, fewer tax dollars will be available to make up the shortfall. If Republicans are as successful at the state level as then want to be, then eventually this house of cards will collapse. Cutting spending in Washington, fewer states to make up the difference, deficit hysteria in the media, all line up to a Great Red State Unraveling as federal funds dry up and there’s nothing to plug up the budget holes anymore. It has to happen. It’s just math. What happens to Missouri when it doesn’t have Wisconsin’s fourteen percent to play around with anymore?
If Republicans have their way, their own “success stories” will come down around their ears. The gravytrain will stop, because there will be no states left to take up the slack. When the smoke clears and all the mirrors are broken, Republican policies will finally be shown to be failures — at great cost to economies on both the state and national level.
And all to maintain higher incarceration rates, lower wages, and poorer education. Not the best deal, when you actually sit down and look it.
Stories to Watch: 4/10/11
Sunday. Baking bread. What else is new? Now here’s the news…
The left isn’t extremely pleased with the budget deal. Drastically reducing spending means reducing demand during an economic recovery. Not the smartest thing anyone’s ever done. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof is especially harsh; “It’s unclear where the adults are, but they don’t seem to be in Washington. Beyond the malice of the threat to shut down the federal government, averted only at the last minute on Friday night, it’s painful how vapid the discourse is and how incompetent and cowardly our leaders have proved to be.” He lays the blame both on Democrats and Republicans — with the lion’s share going to the GOP. Krugman points out that the deal — since it includes extending tax cuts for the top one or two percent — actually increases the deficit and that the Obama administration seems to be following the same political strategy that served them so poorly just last year.
Todays “The GOP’s 2012 field keeps getting more ridiculous” news: Sarah Palin dips a toe in the birther waters.
Meanwhile, the White House is pleased that nutjobs like Donald Trump poll well with Republican voters. “I saw Donald Trump kind of rising in some polls and given his behavior and spectacle the last couple of weeks, I hope he keeps on rising,” adviser David Plouffe said in an interview. “There is zero chance that Donald Trump would ever be hired by the American people to do this job.”
Way, way, way after it matters, the Wisconsin State Journal runs a story examining Gov. Walker’s claim that the state is “broke.” The verdict: it depends on who you ask. If you ask Walker, we’re broke. If you ask any objective observer, we’re fine. This is the “two sides to every story” crap taken to the extreme — they examine a claim by Republicans by asking experts and Republicans whether it’s true. Result: no consensus, so who even knows? It’s a big Scooby-Doo mystery. And way to strike that iron while it’s still hot, guys. Still, Republican claims don’t come out looking very good in the end.
GOPer: “Stop being mean to Big Oil!”
Finally, Eric Cantor gives away the GOP’s not so secret plan: ” We’ll protect today’s seniors and those nearing retirement, but for the rest of us, all of us, who are 54 and younger, I know the programs [i.e., Medicare and Social Security] are not going to be there for me when I retire.”
Is Prosser’s Magic Lead the Result of Fraud or Just Incompetence?
Let’s just say that there’s cause for some skepticism here. On Tuesday, an extremely close state Supreme Court race between JoAnne Kloppenburg and incumbent David Prosser stretched into the night — and then into the next day. By Wednesday, it was reported that JoAnne Kloppenburg had — unofficially — scored the slimmest of victories. With 100% of precincts reporting, 204 votes separated the two candidates, according to the count by the Associated Press. A narrow win, to be sure, but more votes are more votes — the lead you officially need is one. Kloppenburg declared victory and the canvass of the votes began.
Then a funny thing happened. A whole bunch of Prosser votes suddenly appeared…
Wisconsin State Journal:
Incumbent Justice David Prosser gained a 7,500-vote lead in the hotly contested state Supreme Court race Thursday after the clerk in conservative-leaning Waukesha County announced she undercounted the votes because of an inputting error.
If the new results stand, they would swing the election to Prosser after unofficial results Wednesday showed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was the winner with a 204-vote lead out of nearly 1.5 million votes cast.
But this story wasn’t broken by local news media. The first major publications reporting it were the National Review and the Weekly Standard — both journals of opinion and not known for investigative journalism. In other words, the story had been leaked to the conservative press, where the news would be greeted with a lot less skepticism than the story would call for. For their part, the AP still hasn’t changed their count. As far as they’re concerned, it seems, Kloppenburg’s win still — albeit unofficially — stands. And local press remain unconvinced of the new numbers.
The Capital Times editorial board:
Wisconsinites should respond with… skepticism to the news that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former Republican legislative staffer who worked for Prosser when he served as Assembly speaker and with Gov. Scott Walker when he was a GOP rising star, has found all the votes that justice needs to secure his re-election and that the governor needs to claim a “win” for his agenda.
There is no need for a conspiracy theory. The facts raise the questions that election observers are now asking.
“Nickolaus claims that it was ‘human error’ that caused her to ‘lose’ the Brookfield results on her personal computer where she had secreted away the data,” CapTimes reports. “Yet, she apparently knew of the ‘mistake’ for 29 hours before reporting it and then handed the information off to conservative bloggers and talk-radio personalities.”
Nickolaus has a bad history when it comes to running elections. In 2006, she was involved in a minor scandal in which the winner of a Republican primary was reported incorrectly [pdf]. In the end, the real numbers showed a different candidate had won by a “significant margin.”
Nickolaus was also under scrutiny last year from county officials for her handling of voting data, because “she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network — and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office — for security reasons.” Nickolaus’ “security” was later found to be poor, since several staffers shared a password because “it would take too much time for one employee to log off before another one logged on with a different user ID.”
Further, in 2002, Nickolaus worked for the state Assembly Republican Caucus, which “has since been eliminated by the state Legislature for alleged violations of several state election rules.” Prosser, as Assembly Speaker at the time, would’ve been her boss. According to WSJ, Nickolaus”worked for seven years as a data analyst and computer specialist for the Assembly Republican caucus” and “headed up an effort to develop a computer program that averaged the performance of Republicans in statewide races by ward.” In other words, she was electioneering on the state’s dime. Nickolaus was given immunity to testify in the case. The good people of Waukesha County, being forgiving sorts, put a woman involved with illegal electioneering in charge of the county’s elections.
Finally, 7,500 votes is an awfully convenient number. In Wisconsin, the state pays for a recount if the difference in the totals is less than 0.5% — Prosser is just outside that now, making a challenge by Kloppenburg expensive (you can help out on that front here).
In Nickolaus’s defense, a Democrat on the county board vouched for her story, saying, “Everything that we went over yesterday afternoon and today, it jived up, and we’re satisfied that it’s correct. And I’m with the Democratic Party, vice-chair of Waukesha County, so I’m not gonna stand here and tell you something that’s incorrect.” However, Nickolaus is a computer expert — albeit an incompetent one, if her story is to be believed — and the dem, Ramona Kitzinger, is not. At least, not as far as I can tell.
I have no problem believing that Kathy Nickolaus is simply as incompetent as she claims. Republicans believe that government can’t do anything right for a reason; that reason being the evidence they find in their own careers. If it weren’t for her involvement in the caucus scandal, I’d be a lot more inclined to believe she simply screwed everything up. After all, she has a history of it.
But there are enough questions here to justify calling any suspicions of wrongdoing healthy. Citizen Action of Wisconsin is calling for a federal investigation into these magically appearing votes. It should happen. With the state fully red at the moment, an investigation into Nickolaus’s office would simply be the Republican Party investigating claims that the Republican Party cheated.
We’ll be needing a little more assurance of our elections than that. And the people of Waukesha County need to know whether their Clerk is a crook — or just hopelessly incompetent.
News Roundup for 4/6/11
A win is a win
-Headline of the day-
“Kloppenburg declares victory over Prosser in Supreme Court race.”
The race that came to be seen as a proxy war between Gov. Scott Walker and pretty much everyone else has produced a winner. JoAnne Kloppenburg defeated incumbent Justice David Prosser in a stunning come-from-behind victory with a decisive landslide of… 204 votes. The next time someone tells you that every vote counts, nod knowingly, ‘cause it’s so true.
The race went all freakin’ night — back and forth, back and forth, until everyone was tired of it — as districts overwhelmed by high turnout struggled to get a vote count out while it was still election night. Three failed. Two Milwaukee County districts and one Jefferson County district were left when I checked this morning. While the Jefferson County vote had been leaning strongly toward Prosser, when the remaining district finally came in it reflected the rest of the state — Prosser closed the gap by only two votes. With only Milwaukee County left, it was all but hopeless.
Then Milwaukee County finally came in and, yeah, it was hopeless. With nothing left to count, Kloppenburg took the prize.
For now. The Prosser campaign says they’ll file for a recount, which they can have done at state expense, since the vote total is so close. So who knows, really?
Still, round one goes to Kloppenburg. And the people of Wisconsin. (Wisconsin State Journal)
-Not good, not good…-
Apparently, GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty’s campaign staff is dedicated. While everyone else is asleep, they’re still out there pounding the pavement and knocking on doors — which is weird because, as I said, everyone else is asleep.
According to the report, “A 15-year-old [Iowa] girl found a campaign worker from Alabama banging on her Ankeny family’s back door early Wednesday morning” — “early” being three in the morning. Apparently, the T-Paw worker, Benjamin Foster, was doing some sort of creepy Night of the Living Dead impression. At least, that’s what I got out of the girl’s description of it.
“His arm was in my back door, trying to get in and I screamed and went upstairs to my parents room and I continued screaming,” she said.
Cops were called and Foster was taken in for “public intoxication and trespassing.” No word on what the fuck he thought he was doing.
For his part, Pawlenty says he’s “extremely disappointed” in Foster and fired his sorry ass on the…
Oops! Misread that. Pawlenty has place him “on a two-week unpaid suspension.”
That’ll learn him. (KCCI, with video)
“Bachmann: Why I’m qualified to be president.”
“As you know, when Abraham Lincoln founded this country in 317 BC, he had the help of Jesus, Superman, and a bag of magic beans…” (The Hill)
A Last Chance to Vote?
I get to vote today. I don’t really see it as a duty — although I believe it is — but as a privilege. I get to vote today.
I confess that I’m still torn on my choice for mayor here in Madison. Between Paul Soglin and Dave Cieslewicz, I’m having a hard time imagining myself disappointed with an outcome — which may be bad news for incumbent Mayor Dave. The Capital Times endorses Soglin, Wisconsin State Journal endorses Cieslewicz. That alone may be enough to finally seal the deal for me — when in doubt, go with TCT.
But you don’t care about that. There’s only one reason for anyone outside this state and this city to give a crap about this particular election — the state Supreme Court race between JoAnne Kloppenburg and David Prosser. There’s more than just Scott Walker’s union-buster at stake here — conservatives hold a one seat majority on the court — but also the fact that you get to vote. Like the union-buster, a voter ID bill (still in the works at this point) is headed for the state’s highest court. This is an absolute guarantee. In other words, if Wisconsinites don’t vote in this election, they may find it harder to vote in the next.
If passed, Wisconsin’s voter ID bill would be the most restrictive in the nation. Voters would be required to provide one of only three forms of ID. Not even passports would be accepted — or student IDs. Since most students don’t bother to get a license because they don’t need (or can’t afford) cars, this would severely limit students’ ability to vote. Further, the law requires that the ID list your current address, so people who move often — like students — would be required to get a new ID every time they changed addresses.
If you doubt that the bill is a move to suppress the student vote, keep in mind that the Republican legislature has resisted adding student IDs to the list of accepted cards and has likewise resisted the pointless address requirement. In their defense, the GOP will only say that college IDs increase the potential for voter fraud, without explaining exactly why they believe that. They just say it and it’s so.
Also consider that there’s no evidence that voter fraud has ever been so widespread that it’s thrown an election. Sure, there’s a case here and there, but no one is “stealing elections” through voter fraud and no one — not even the bill’s most passionate backers — can explain why Wisconsin of all places needs such a draconian bill. Or even a bill at all. It’s meant to suppress the vote and backers are barely hiding that fact.
But requiring people to buy something in order to exercise their right to vote may represent a poll tax. Especially when other forms of ID are acceptable for identification in all other cases. You can use a student ID to buy beer or cash checks or at a new job, but you can’t use it to vote because… Well, just because, OK?
In other words, a legal challenge is a certainty, as is a turn before the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin.
The court’s current majority — to which incumbent Prosser belongs — is ideological, not impartial. They’ll vote the same way the legislature votes. Because as much as candidates argue that the Supreme Court isn’t a political office, it is. You can’t put candidates before the voters and claim otherwise. People are going to vote for the justices who they believe will go the way they want them to, just as they do with every other elected office. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is a nonpartisan, unpolitical office in pretense only. If the Koch brothers are dumping millions into this race — and they are — it’s not because they want an impartial judge to rule over their cases. You don’t spend that kind of money because you want your day in court to be a crap shoot. They’re buying outcomes. The money is politically motivated because this is a political office. They see it that way and so should you.
So, if you’re like me and like it when you get to vote, vote today. If you’re outside Wisconsin, keep your fingers crossed. This election may decide whether we get to vote the next time and whether the state goes blue again in 2012 or red forever.
Remember the old saying, “If voting changed anything, they’d stop letting you do it.” The fact that the Republican Party wants to stop letting certain people vote tells you all you need to know about how powerful it is.
Before Scott Walker, There Was Russ Decker
While Gov. Scott Walker’s getting all the flack in Wisconsin for his anti-labor push, Democrats and union members should remember another name — Russ Decker.
Wisconsin State Journal, December 16, 2010 (pdf):
After 18 months, more than $100 million in concessions, and negotiations that were painfully close to completion, union leaders again find themselves back at the table — and they’re not happy about it.
When outgoing Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Wausau, reversed course Wednesday night and voted against union contracts for some 39,000 state employees, he doomed unions to continue talks that have already taken longer than any in recent memory.
Union leaders on Thursday expressed anxiety about future labor unrest and rage at the man they say has betrayed them. Decker, a former bricklayer with union ties, voted for the contracts in the Legislature’s joint employee relations committee hours before he cast the deciding vote against them in the Senate.
“Russ Decker is a whore,” said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents 22,000 state employees. “Not a prostitute. A whore. W-H-O-R-E.”
Decker said the clock had simply run out for the current administration and the matter should be left to the next governor. Beil called the reversal a betrayal.
Behind the rhetoric is a palpable fear of what comes next for unions. New contract negotiations will have to run a GOP gantlet bracketed by Gov.-elect Scott Walker and a hostile Republican Legislature, both of which promise to take a hard line, demanding employees contribute significantly more toward their pensions and health care benefit.
Decker’s reversal was widely seen as a punishment of unions for not being supportive enough of Decker’s losing campaign. In other words, a petty dick move. Look where it got us.
Wisconsin Democrats would be smart to see to it that Decker never has a place in the party again, because unions aren’t going to forget him any time soon — even if the media already has.
A Setback for the Walker Administration’s Union-Busting
When Gov. Walker’s union busting bill was passed by the state legislature and signed into law, there was only one thing standing in the way — Secretary of State Doug La Follette. The law would need to be published by the office of Sec. La Follette and the Secretary decided he’d publish it at the latest date allowable by law, which was ten days after signing.
This was, apparently, nothing new. “I’m doing what I normally do,” he explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was publish the law at the latest possible date, in order for opponents to have a chance to file legal challenges. La Follette estimated at the time that this was the case with 96% of the bills that come through his office. If it’s not an emergency, it cools off for a bit.
It turned out to be a good practice today, as a judge put a halt to implementation of the law:
Wisconsin State Journal:
A Dane County judge Friday issued a temporary order blocking implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial measure limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees, saying a legislative committee likely violated the state Open Meetings Law when it rushed passage of the bill March 9.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order around 10:30 a.m. in a lawsuit brought by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.
Of course, Rep. Peter Barca tried to warn Republicans that this was coming.
As you can see, they ignored his warning. Wisconsin law requires twenty-four hour notice be given prior to this sort of a vote, with an exception made for emergency legislation — which still has to have a two hour warning. Even if you could argue that banning collective bargaining constituted an “emergency” — and it’s extremely difficult to see how you’d do that — Republicans were in such a rush to get this done that they published notice one hour and fifty-five minutes before the meeting took place.
The moral of this story, children, is if you’re going to skirt the law, stick as closely as possible to the absolute minimum requirements of that law.
So, what happens now? There seem to be two possibilities; the Walker administration fights this in court or the legislature gives twenty-four hour notice and votes all over again.
In the first case, the outcome isn’t exactly guaranteed and — at this point at least — seems to lean against Republicans. In the second… Well, that’s probably less foreseeable than you’d first imagine.
See, it’s because of this bill that eight Republican senators are facing possible recall elections and it’s because of this bill that as many as three to five of them could lose their seats. This whole “bust the unions” thing is what got them in hot water in the first place — now you want them to do it again? Nuh-uh, buddy. If three Republicans bail on the law or even skip the vote, the whole thing goes down.
I suspect that one of the reasons why they originally had to vote on it now, now, now, now, now was that a few GOP senators were wobbly and in danger of tipping over. It was reported as a sudden, surprise vote to the absent Democrats, but I think it also might have come as a surprise to more than one Republican. Republican leadership wanted to get the vote done while every one of their caucus was still on paper as a supporter.
If I’m right — and granted, this is all deduction, not fact — then the votes won’t be there this time around. The only way I can be proven wrong is if a re-vote is scheduled and the bill passes again — and it doesn’t sound like anyone’s extremely confident of that.
“This legislation is still working through the legal process,” a spokesperson for Gov. Walker said in a statement. “We are confident the provisions of the budget repair bill will become law in the near future.” A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, calling it “an ongoing legal issue.”
So, it seems a legislative fix has been ruled out for now. It is strictly a legal issue. The window of opportunity for passing this dog of a bill seems to have closed.