Wisconsin politics

The John Doe non-investigation

David Blaska sees illegal activity in state politics, but it’s not about Gov. Scott Walker:

The courts released 266 pages of documents [Thursday] afternoon relating to the partisan vendetta against Gov. Scott Walker and conservative free speech.

The headline takeaway is this: It was a partisan witch hunt. Documents released [Thursday] compare the 2010-12 campaign coordination between the likes of Kathleen Falk, Tom Barrett, United Wisconsin, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and President Barack Obama himself.

Today’s document dump includes the heretofore suppressed motions by defense attorneys for Eric O’Keefe and the Club for Growth. Those motions detail how, while Chisholm and his deputy, Bruce Landgraf, “engaged in an ever-broadening investigation in an attempt to discredit Scott Walker and to harass and intimidate his supporters, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office continually refused to investigate credible allegations of misconduct involving Democrats.”

From that filing:

On Nov. 19, 2011, The Committee to Recall Scott Walker … announced a gathering to kick off the Walker recall effort. The event was widely announced as being “in coordination with We Are Wisconsin, United Wisconsin, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin) …” In fact … the timing of the recall was carefully discussed between these members, political candidates, and nationwide Democratic Party leaders, including officials from the Barack Obama presidential campaign.

In one prototypical meeting in October 2011, union leaders met with Obama’s campaign manager and deputy campaign manager for several hours to discuss the timing of the recall. … In fact, the word “coordination” or a derivation was used regularly in [news] articles to describe United Wisconsin’s role in the recall petition. Defendants did not investigate this coordination, much less commence an open-ended investigation into the entire left-wing movement in Wisconsin.

The motion on behalf of O’Keefe and Club for Growth, originally filed Feb. 10, was signed by lead defense attorneys David Rivkin and Edward H. Williams of Washington, D.C. It notes that an organization supporting Kathleen Falk, then running in the Democratic recall primary, ran $1.6 million worth of TV ads. The name of that organization, “Wisconsin for Falk,” was “suspiciously similar … to Falk’s official committee, Falk for Wisconsin.”

Indeed, “the candidate appeared in that ad buy, directly staring at the camera, clearly demonstrating that Falk worked with the group to film the ads.”

The defense filing notes that in January 2010, the City of Milwaukee awarded a no-bid contract paying $75 an hour to a former campaign spokesman for Tom Barrett, who was then a candidate against Walker for governor in the first go-around. “Among other things, [Jeff] Fleming worked on speeches for Barrett, and correspondence regarding this and other campaign activities was sent both to Fleming’s city account and his personal account. … The District Attorney’s Office did not investigate this appearance of impropriety, much less commence an open-ended investigation into Barrett’s campaign.”

In November 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy, a left-wing 501(c)3 hosted a conference call between reporters and its director Lisa Graves, who is well connected with Democratic Party members … statewide. One reporter asked about whether the same activity being investigated had occurred among liberal and Democratic groups. Graves’ response indicated that such activity did occur, but was distinguishable, she said, because “they’re advancing not just an ideological agenda but an agenda that helps advance the bottom line of their corporate interests.”

Prosecutors, the defense motion reads, “did not investigate this acknowledgment of coordination,” either.

Quelle surprise! A Democratic district attorney investigates Republicans and conservatives, but refuses to investigate accusations against Democrats and their apparatchiks.

Categories: US politics, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment


Because I’ve been a little busy the past few days, I haven’t read The New Republic‘s 22 pages on Scott Walker.

Others have, including Ann Althouse:

I live in Wisconsin, and I’ve been following Scott Walker since the 2010 election here, and I have no idea what the “toxic strain of racial politics” refers to. But congratulations to TNR for its eye-catching and weird sexualization of Walker:“Scott Walker Is So Hot Right Now” and for having the nerve to sub-head with “too bad” as you smear him with the accusation of “toxic strain of racial politics.” That “too bad” belongs in the annals of self-refuting statements. Anyone can within one second perceive that The New Republic isn’t the slightest bit sad that there’s this dirt to throw at Walker… this invented dirt for all I can tell. …

I have now read the long article, and the closest thing to anything racial coming directly from Scott Walker is his support over the years for voter ID laws. Much of the article is about the demographics of Milwaukee and the suburban counties around it, including the history — going back into the early 20th century — of how black people migrated to the city and did not — as white people did — relocate into the suburbs.

Milwaukee is an extreme example of this historical pattern, but Scott Walker didn’t make this happen, and given that Scott Walker built his political career in the Milwaukee area, it’s actually impressive that TNR could not find racial incidents and slips to pin on him.

The article also focuses on 2 talk radio hosts — Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes — who have big audiences in Milwaukee. TNR has little direct racial material on them, but it forefronts the one truly ugly thing it has: Belling mocking a specific black person, Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore. Mostly, TNR accuses Belling and Sykes of indulging in dog-whistle politics about crime and dependence on welfare.

I suspect that Alec MacGillis wrote a more balanced and sane draft but that TNR editors punched it up, trying to make it racial so they could justify that ridiculous sub-heading on the cover and the title and sub-head at the article. The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker! Terrible. MacGillis provides some material about Scott Walker’s early life, mostly about how he’s the son of a Baptist preacher who took religion and politics very seriously from an early age. Some of that is sympathetic, though it’s dotted with quotes from individuals who have reason to want to block Walker’s ascent.

The Power Line Blog adds:

This is completely insane. I have followed Walker’s career for a long time, and there is nothing in his record that can plausibly be given a racial tinge. What does TNR have on him? He supports voter ID legislation. That’s it. Of course, every Republican politician supports voter ID, as do a lot of Democratic pols. As for voters, I believe most polls show around 70% support. All of which is to say that the New Republic’s smear is pathetic, made up out of whole cloth.

What we see here is one more attempt to convince voters that it is “racist” to be a conservative. Governor Walker has turned a state deficit into a surplus, lowered taxes, reformed education, and returned power to the people rather than corrupt, coercive public sector unions. What on Earth is “racist” about that? Nothing, of course. People of all races benefit from clean, efficient government and lower taxes.

I often hear it said that people are intimidated because they are afraid of being called “racists.” Can this possibly be true? One wouldn’t think so. At least 99% of the time, the Democrats’ charges of “racism” relate to matters that have nothing whatever to do with race. That being the case, the Democrats’ claims should be met with scorn, derision, contempt, laughter. Their huffing and puffing about race is obviously a symptom of a party that is intellectually bankrupt and morally depraved. It is time to punch back twice as hard.

See, according to Democrats and liberals, if you criticize Barack Obama, you’re a racist. If you criticize Hillary Clinton, you’re sexist. If you criticize U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) or state Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), you’re a racist and sexist. If you criticize U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), you are a sexist homophobe.

What is really racist is asserting that Milwaukee minority families’ children should be stuck in the disaster area that is Milwaukee Public Schools without any better options. What is really racist is the belief that Milwaukee minority families don’t care, or shouldn’t care, about the rampant crime in inner-city Milwaukee. (Know who the most popular victim of black criminals is? Other blacks. The nine-year-old girl shot in a crossfire between two black men is, yes, black.) What is really racist is assuming that someone’s skin color should determine for which party they vote, particularly since the Democrats have done such a horrible job for minorities. (Check out the non-white unemployment rate.)

American Thinker concludes:

I think that what really scares the left is that Walker has gone after public employee unions and made membership optional, not mandatory, severely reducing the number of members in teachers unions and other mainstays of fundraising for the Democrats. And he has gotten results – improving quality of government services while lowering costs. If this spreads nationally, the Democrats are in trouble, because they rely on involuntarily-extracted finds from millions of union members.

In politics, you don’t attack someone you don’t consider to be a threat.

Categories: media, US politics, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

The 2014 election, five months from now

Normal people probably did not pay attention to the Wisconsin Democratic convention in Wisconsin Dells this past weekend.

I’m not sure I’m normal, but I would rather organize my desk than attend a convention of people who are profoundly wrong on nearly every issue facing our state and nation today. (Which doesn’t mean the Republicans are profoundly right on nearly every issue facing our state and nation today. I didn’t pay attention to their convention either.)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke reportedly pledged to be bipartisan in a speech to delegates. Which must have made delegates wonder why she would say something like that. One answer would be she was actually talking to Wisconsin’s unattached voters, all 14 of them, though none are likely to pay attention to politics on a fine summer weekend.

A Facebook wag suggested the Democrats’ idea of “bipartisan” was getting one of the renegade Senate Republicans, Sens. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) or Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), to vote with them. I find that unconvincing, because I doubt anyone can come up with more than one vote that passed because of the votes of all the Democrats and one of those Republicans. (There is one, the metallic mining bill, which failed 17-16 because the Senate at the time had 17 Republicans, including Schultz, and 16 Democrats. The way to fix that, of course, is to have enough of a majority where defectors’ votes don’t matter. Act 10 passed 17-16, with Schultz opposed.)

The more correct definition of “bipartisan” is “the other side surrenders.” Politics is a zero-sum game — one side wins, the other loses — and though that has always been the case, it is particularly true in these hyperpartisan days.

What might be another reason Burke used the word “bipartisan” in a certainly unbipartisan atmosphere? Matt Batzel has an explanation:

Five months is a long time in campaigns, with very few voters closely following the state legislative races this far out. Public polling, while common for US Senate and Gubernatorial races, is non-existent for state assembly ones. A lot can change over 5 months in terms of the national, state and local political climates. But Democrats have already conceded that the political climate will be unfavorable in the fall.

With this climate in mind, Democrats have apparently abandoned their attempts to find candidates for every Assembly seat as they have in recent cycles. Democrats did not field candidates in 23 Assembly seats, including … 10 where Obama received 45% or more in 2012 …

Just before the 2012 election, Joel Gratz, executive director of the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, said Democrats had a “legitimate chance” to pick up 20 seats in 2012 (Republicans ended up picking up one).  Now in 2014, Democrats don’t even have candidates running in three of those seats: 25th (Rep. Paul Tittl), 29th (Rep. John Murtha) and 35th (Rep. Mary Czaja). In the case of Rep. Murtha, the Democrats had a candidate, but he failed to get enough signatures to make it on the ballot.

Democrats also failed to field candidates in three seats where there is no Republican incumbent: 33rd (Rep. Steve Nass- running for State Senate), 58th (Rep. Pat Strachota- retiring) and 59th (Rep. Dan LaMahieu-retiring). Typically, it is easier to win a race that lacks an incumbent and the advantages that come with it (name identification, existing fundraising and organization, etc).

Liberals believe they are facing a bad election cycle. Gov. Scott Walker at the top of the ticket will most likely help Republican Assembly candidates down ballot. The national political winds seem to be blowing in the face of Democrats. Since actions speak louder than words, the Democrats are admitting this year is going to be difficult for them.

Democrats need to pick up 11 seats to get the Assembly majority, which means they have to win 50 of 99 seats. Actually, that’s 50 of 76 seats, since there is no Democrat running in 23 Assembly districts. Assuming they hold their current 39 seats, Democrats have to win 11 of 14 districts currently held by Republicans. (And remember that the GOP is the party that drew the legislative district boundaries.)

Winning 11 of 14 races — on top of keeping every one of your own members — is mathematically unlikely. Even if the Senate flips — which would require probably winning the seats Ellis and Schultz are departing, and those seats’ Republican history goes much farther back than Ellis’ and Schultz’s political careers — the Assembly won’t, which means that the Democratic wish list of eliminating Act 10, increasing the minimum wage and increasing taxes on the “rich” are dead on arrival at the Assembly speaker’s desk.

That scenario also means that the Republican wish list of further tax cuts and expanding private school choice would be similarly D.O.A., which is why the 2014 election remains important. Let’s just say, though, that the Democrats are not exactly dealing from a position of strength as the campaign season opens.


Categories: Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

Mary Burke, Inc.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding its convention in the Wisconsin Dells this weekend. (No, I’m not going.)

On Wisconsin Public Radio Friday we discussed two of the Democrats’ campaign platforms, same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana. To the first, I said that what the Democrats (or for that matter Republicans) did was immaterial since the same-sex marriage issue is in the process of being decided in the federal courts.

As for the second, I pointed out that though there may be majority support for decriminalization, if not full legalization, of the wacky weed, no one who counts in a political sense appears to favor it, including gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, beyond medical use. The Democrats controlled all of state government in 2009 and 2010, yet failed to decriminalize or legalize pot.

To the extent that party platforms are interesting or pertinent to normal people, though, it’s more interesting to read the parts of the Democratic platform that differ with the Democrats’ presumptive top-of-the-ticket candidate, as Nathan Schacht observes:

As reported by mainstreamliberal and conservative media sources, Burke’s family business – Trek Bicycles – has taken advantage of foreign workforces to replace U.S. manufacturing jobs in the vast majority of their bike production.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in 2004 Trek move some of the jobs at its Whitewater,Wisconsin facility abroad. According to the report, Trek said it wanted to transfer some bicycle assembly work to China. Trek seems to have accomplished their assembly work transfers as according to Trek they only produces about 10,000 of the 1.5 million bikes they sell each year in the United States. The liberal magazine, The Progressive, points out that the Trek 520, one of the company’s most well-known bikes, is made in China as of 2013.

According to the DPW platform that Burke would be expected to back, outsourcing is a major problem:

We must resist outsourcing by eliminating tax breaks to employers who ship jobs overseas and creating incentives to bring jobs back to the U.S.

Presumably, this means the Burke campaign should begin pushing for policies that actually attack Trek to force them to bring jobs back to the U.S.

Another Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report from last fall reported that the U.S. Department of Labor found that “up to 20 former Trek Bicycle employees are eligible for special federal aid via the Trade Adjustment Assistant program because they lost their jobs due to foreign trade.” As The Progressive noted, “while it is nice to hear Mary Burke bemoan unfair trade deals, the reality is that she in past has fought for them and personally profited from them.”

Not to worry, because the DPW platform addresses “unfair trade” as well. “We oppose unfair trade,” the DPW platform states. According to The Progressive:

During her time at Trek, Burke served as a board member on the Bicycle Parts Suppliers Association (BPSA), a powerful trade association that, among other things, has lobbied for weakening tariffs and free trade.  In addition, they’ve defended Chinese manufacturing and fought regulations during the recent Chinese manufacturing lead paint scare.

If Burke is to support the DPW platform, as the platform demands, she would have to begin campaigning against Trek’s outsourcing, and the very trade practices she pushed for as an executive.

Actually, Burke’s candidacy represents an opportunity for her to educate her party, which has been anti-business with rare exception (see Lucey, Patrick) since the old Progressives were absorbed into her party in the late 1940s. Whether or not Democrats care to admit it, Wisconsin competes against every other state, and other countries, for businesses. For the most part, Wisconsin doesn’t get businesses to move into this state, because of our unfavorable taxes and overregulation; Wisconsin’s schools and workers’ work ethic are overrated, and quality of life is usually last on the list of priorities of businesses looking to relocate. (As if Wisconsin’s Siberian winters could be considered part of our “quality of life.”) The businesses that are here were created here.

Burke’s company made a bottom-line decision to move manufacturing to China based on what was good for the company. That is because profit — more money coming in than going out — is the number one priority of a company. Nothing happens without profits. Moreover, the purpose of a business is to serve its customers. Employment is the result of serving customers; it is not the purpose of a business. (And, by the way, paying employees more than they’re worth to the business is a good way to eliminate your profit.)

It makes you wonder how serious Burke really is about running for governor. The Democratic Party espouses policies that are and would be bad for state businesses generally and Burke’s family’s business specifically. (Even though Burke claims to not be involved in management anymore, she is still an owner, and thus still gets a share of Trek’s profits.) Burke to date has not done one single thing to change her party’s wrongheaded views, and she’s supposed to be the top of the Democratic ticket.


Categories: Wisconsin business, Wisconsin politics | 1 Comment

On the latest from the shooting gallery

Urban Diogenes says on Right Wisconsin about the shooting of 10-year-old Sierra Guyton in apparent crossfire between someone reportedly arrested 15 times before he turned 18, and someone recently released from prison after a term (of obviously inadequate length) for reckless homicide:

A lot of news reports have classified the bullet that slammed into the head of 10-year-old Sierra Guyton as a “random act of violence.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The “gun” that fired that shot was carefully and elaborately constructed by a community in denial and by community leadership more concerned with personal agendas and political correctness than with confronting real problems and getting actual results. …

Mary Burke.  You exploited the shooting on an innocent child in Milwaukee as a way to attack Wisconsin’s Photo ID Law. You showed that you believe that your political future is more important than the life of an African-American child or than confronting the problems that put her life in jeopardy. Mary Burke: you are the gun.

Mayor Tom Barrett.  Your version of “leadership” in the wake of yet another Milwaukee shooting season is a furrowed brow, anti-violence platitudes, and an ironically violent community Ceasefire Week. Mayor Barrett: you are the gun.

Milwaukee “Community Leaders.” You are always there to march and second guess a cop who shot a criminal or to pressure the judicial system about the “injustice” of keeping so many young black men behind bars. Well, congratulations. You got what you asked for. Sylvester Lewis was one less young black man behind bars. He used his freedom to shoot a 10-year old girl in the head. Community Leaders: you are the gun.

Chief Ed Flynn.  In spite of your shiny uniform and tough talk we have seen again that your police do not prevent crime in this city, they are merely the badge-wearing street sweepers cleaning up the mess after the violence parade has passed by. Your tough talk about your officers catching the bad guys belies your actual impotence in keeping them caught and your timidity to speak out forcefully against the against judicial system that lets them go. Instead, you revert to time-worn clichés about the need to make firearms that are already illegal for a felon to possess even more illegal. Chief Flynn: you are the gun.

Milwaukee Public Schools.  Your district motto should be “Excuse Making Starts Here.” You do a scandalously poor job educating young African-American children, and yet you doggedly resist anyone trying to do it differently or better. You blame your failures on everyone else – Scott Walker, state funding, School Choice, Charters, poverty – and thereby create a culture of low expectations where African American children don’t learn reading or math, but they get a lifetime lesson in unaccountability and how to blame someone else rather than work to improve themselves. MPS: you are the gun.

District Attorney John Chisholm.  Your office spares no expense running politically-motivated witch hunts so the world can be kept safe from political e-mails, and yet you agree to plea deals that put people like Sylvester Lewis back on the street despite a record of 15 arrests before the age of 18.   The state has given you tough laws and stiff sentences for violent criminals, but you have chosen not to use them to their full force or impact. Instead you hold feel-good workshops on how to “divert” criminals from prison time. John Chisholm: you are the gun.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.   You consistently play the role of the speak-no-evil monkey in the face the city’s booming drug trade, its valueless violence culture, its revolving door judicial system, and its army of crooked social service enablers. You pat yourself on the back for running the names and phone numbers of elected officials hesitant to pass a new insurance mandate, but you are too spineless to call out prosecutors and judges by name – much less print their contact information – when they let violent criminals back on the streets. You relegate shootings to the news in brief section and literally whitewash the demographics and the nature of the violence in our city. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: you are the gun.

Urban males.  You think being a man is measured in the sagginess of your pants, the rigidity of your hat brim, your willingness to deal and do drugs, and your ability to treat women as disposable objects for your own pleasure and power. You revel in a culture of immorality, unaccountability, and incivility. “Your god is your appetite, your glory is your shame, and your end is destruction.” Urban males: you are the gun. …

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jean DiMotto.  The blood of Sierra Guyton is on your hands for putting Sylvester Lewis back on the streets. If the community was actually outraged about this shooting they would run you out of office on a rail, and set an example for all judges in the Milwaukee Circuit that we will not tolerate letting dangerous criminals walk the streets again – when in doubt, don’t let ‘em out! Of course, you and I both know nothing like that will happen. You will be reelected with 70% of the vote even as the sheep in the central city hold candlelight vigils and community meetings trying to figure out how “senseless tragedies” like this one happen. Judge DiMotto: You are the gun.

Burke’s response, by the way, was to say that families need to be engaged by politicians, which is the most inadequate response imaginable.

Categories: Culture, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

On Wisconsin’s shooting gallery

Steve Spingola:

Seemingly each year, the reporters and the editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel believe the shooting of a young child, the needless murder of a homeless man, or a large turnout at a candlelight vigil, is the so-called tipping-point on crime.  In this scenario, the residents of Milwaukee’s central city or the “hood,” as the area was recently dubbed by the Journal Sentinel, awake from their Rip Van Winkle-type slumber to forge a new reality — that the conduct of the criminal element will no longer be tolerated.

And, each year, it takes all of two weeks to debunk the Journal Sentinel’s theory, as bodies, sadly, begin filling the freezers of Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office.

Instead of looking to Chief Flynn and his overpriced east coast consultants for answers, the proponents of the futile Rip Van Winkle theory on Milwaukee’s inner-city violence could find solutions at Amazon.com for $10.67, a price substantially more affordable than Chief Flynn’s cabal of advisors.

In February, retired Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) Captain Glenn Frankovis released a new book, Area Saturation Patrol: A Policing Strategy That Works, which spotlights the successful strategy used to suppress crime in MPD Districts Two, Three and Five.

At the request of Glenn’s publisher, I penned the following:

“During the summer of 2001, Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park neighborhood was a virtual war zone.  Fox News 6 reporter Mara MacDonald’s investigation dubbed this troubled area a killing field.  In an effort to prevent more bloodshed, Police Chief Arthur Jones called on Captain Glenn Frankovis.

“Glenn had previously served as the Commanding Officer at District Five, where he implemented an Area Saturation Patrol (ASP) strategy that worked wonders.  In 2002, overall major crime in District Five declined 8.1 percent, shootings plummeted 42.8 percent, and the number of homicides decreased 48.6 percent.  Within 18 months, the near north side policing sectors under Frankovis’ command had witnessed the largest one-year decline in per capita homicides in urban America.

“But could the man with the plan, and his hard-charging foot soldiers, put a lid on the on violence in Milwaukee’s killing field?  After all, Metcalfe Park was surrounded by other neighborhoods teetering on the brink.  Instead of making excuses, requesting a huge influx of new officers, or whining about budgets, Glenn Frankovis met the challenge head-on. In his first full-year at District Three, the commander’s ASP strategy and no-nonsense policing style resulted in 15.5 percent reduction in violent crime, including a 21.7 percent reduction in robberies.”

With such a track record of success, one would think the editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the staffs of local television news outlets, and the political-class at city hall, might take notice of Frankovis’ crime fighting strategy. But alas, the sound of crickets and excuse making are the only concepts being promulgated by the proponents of the Rip Van Winkle theory.
So, each year, as you read the articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regarding the very tragic loss of human life, consider the source.  Then, take notice that the newspaper’s editorial board and city leaders seem more concerned with political correctness than fighting crime. And, as time passes, the public can count on one thing: that editorial board and political pontificators will continue to put their collective heads in the sand while waiting—for eternity—for the elusive inner-city Rip Van Winkle to be jostled from his slumber.

Categories: Culture, media, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

A passing grade that should be an incomplete

Tom Hefty and John Torinus grade the Walker administration on economic development, and their grade is better than mine would be. Click on their names and read and judge for yourself.

Categories: Wisconsin business, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

The last pro-business Democratic governor

David Blaska honors former Gov. Patrick Lucey, who died Saturday:

No one did more than Patrick Lucey to transform Wisconsin into a two-party state. He died Saturday at age 96, the longest-lived governor in state history.

Mr. Lucey was elected to the State Assembly in 1948, the state’s centennial, the same year as my grandfather John M. and a young Ruth Bachhuber Doyle, wife of Jim Doyle Sr. and mother of a future governor. All were Democrats. Warren Knowles and Mel Laird (still living!) were already veterans of the upper house when Gaylord Nelson joined them that year.

Pat Lucey played hardball in his politics, as did his allies, the Kennedys, who were never shy about lubricating the electorate if it would help them win. My friend John Nichols has written a lovely remembrance of the man, true as far as it goes, but Patrick Lucey was no populist, however much John may wish.

He was the last overtly pro-business Democrat to be elected governor of Wisconsin, elected from the hamlet of Ferryville, in picturesque Crawford County, where he was recently honored.

He was very definitely a one-percenter, like Mary Burke, but oh so much more accomplished. Lucey and his combative wife, Jean, deigned not to move into the governor’s mansion; it would have been a step down from their own Maple Bluff home.

In contrast to Ms. Burke, Lucey made his own money and knew how to encourage others to make wealth. It was he who enacted the Machinery & Equipment exemption from property taxes, which resulted in the Wall Street Journal naming Wisconsin “the [economic] star of the snowbelt.”

Yes, Patrick Lucey was a tax cutter, like his hero JFK. He grew the pie instead of cutting it into ever-thinner slices. The Democrat who chairs the party today, as Patrick Lucey once did in its glory years, calls tax cuts a “gimmick.” As my father (he also served in the Legislature) said near the end of his life, I did not leave the Democratic Party, it left me.”

Lucey did the hard work of getting the Democratic Party back into relevancy in the late 1940s, when Wisconsin’s two parties were the Republicans and the Progressives. For being the nation’s oldest political party, the Democratic Party in Wisconsin was rather irrelevant for a long time, until after World War II.

Tom Still, who covered Lucey as a young Wisconsin State Journal reporter (whose work was read by a young WSJ reader), adds:

Lucey, who died May 10 at 96, was elected governor twice in the 1970s before resigning late in his second term to become ambassador to Mexico. A few years later, disappointed in the Democratic president who appointed him, Lucey ran as independent John Anderson’s vice presidential running mate in an election won by Ronald Reagan.

It was his stint as governor, and his knack for campaign tactics and hard-nosed party politics, that defined Lucey much more than his time in the national limelight.

Along with a handful of other familiar names in Wisconsin politics – John Reynolds, William Proxmire, Gaylord Nelson and James Doyle among them – Lucey was an architect of the state’s modern Democratic Party. It arose in the late 1940s and early 1950s, just as the Progressive Party’s influence was waning, and quickly became a force in an otherwise Republican state.

In part, that was because Lucey took political organizing to a new level. During his years as director and late as chairman of the Democratic Party, Lucey made sure the party fielded candidates in virtually every race for the Wisconsin Legislature. That hard work paid off. When Democrats finally won the Assembly in 1958, it was the party’s first working majority since 1933.

Much of the political capital Lucey earned by working in party vineyards was available to spend during his years as governor. He dusted off the idea of merging the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which also included the UW Extension and campuses in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Racine-Kenosha, with the nine-campus Wisconsin State University System. At the time, both systems had a Board of Regents.

He believed a merger would control costs at a time when “baby boomer” enrollments were taxing most campuses, diminish duplication, improve education and give the combined UW System a larger voice.

The move was initially unpopular with legislators in both parties and many people within academia, particularly those on the Madison campus who believed it would water down the quality of the state’s flagship university.

Lucey cracked heads, cut deals, cajoled and threatened (“I had to be pretty heavy-handed – no merger, no budget,” he said later) and won in October 1971 by the slimmest of margins. In some ways, the “merger wars” of that era wage on, as evidenced a few years ago when a proposal to carve out more autonomy for the UW-Madison was shot down, basically from within the UW System itself.

Lucey rarely shied away from a fight. His push for changes in the state’s shared revenue system – the mechanism by which state tax dollars are redistributed to local governments – and the state aid formula for local schools were among other political rumbles.

And while Democrats were closely identified with labor unions then and now, Lucey was still governor in mid-1977 during events that led to a major state employee strike. He was generally suspicious of the civil service, in general, and not afraid to put political appointees in place within state agencies to make sure his policies were being carried out.

Although a tactician who loved the art of organization, Pat Lucey probably wasn’t a politician who would fit in well today. He joked about his own lack of charisma, wasn’t especially telegenic and often disagreed with his own party on major issues.

Lucey represents a bygone, more personally civil, and more politically independent era in Wisconsin politics, as opposed to what we’ve seen in this state since the Scott Jensen/Chuck Chvala era. For one thing, Lucey was a real estate agent, and no legislator until the 1970s had the words “full-time legislator” appear in his or her Wisconsin Blue Book biography. Lucey was the last governor who could say that Wisconsin’s per capita personal income growth exceeded the national average.

The Machinery & Equipment property tax exemption is a tax cut that would never be supported by Democrats today. The M&E exemption was a huge tax break for Wisconsin’s manufacturers, who obviously have a lot of capital tied up in machines. (Including Georgia-Pacific, owned by the Evil Koch Brothers.) Democrats today see business as a necessary evil at best.

Democrat Mary Burke refuses to support tax cuts, including business tax cuts in a state with one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the entire world. Which is interesting because her family organized Trek Bicycles as a subchapter-S corporation so that the company didn’t have to pay corporate income taxes. There is nothing illegal or inappropriate about that, just hypocritical for someone running for governor based on her business experience. It’s also disingenuous for Burke to claim that Trek never made decisions based on tax impact; if a business isn’t taxed on its income (sub-S shareholders get all the company’s profits and thus pay taxes on those profits), there are no tax decisions to be made. And as a manufacturer, Trek certainly has taken advantage of not only the M&E exemption, but of the later computer equipment exemption.

I’m not sure which is more ironic — the fact that Democrats desperately need more business presence in their party (instead of government employees and career politicians), or the fact that their supposed business candidate doesn’t espouse pro-business policies.


Categories: Wisconsin business, Wisconsin politics | 1 Comment

The feds get one right

The Wall Street Journal:

The four-year effort by Democratic prosecutors to criminalize political speech in Wisconsin has hit the wall of the U.S. Constitution. In a ruling that could have consequences nationwide, federal judge Rudolph Randa issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ending the secret John Doe probe of allies of Governor Scott Walker.

We’ve been telling you for months about the secret Wisconsin John Doe, which operates like a grand jury and forces targets to remain silent. The targets are right-of-center groups disliked by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, his special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and the left-leaning state Government Accountability Board that regulates campaign finance.

Prosecutors were able to leak details with impunity until one of the targets, Eric O’Keefe, went public to us last November about the abuse of power. He also sought Washington attorney David Rivkin to file a federal civil-rights lawsuit to shut down the probe, and that’s what Judge Randa responded to [last] Tuesday.

Prosecutors had justified their dawn raids and harassment in the name of exposing illegal coordination between the Walker campaign and conservative groups. But Judge Randa ruled that the investigation was based on a mistaken reading of campaign-finance law that violated Mr. O’Keefe’s First Amendment’s rights. “The defendants are pursuing criminal charges through a secret John Doe investigation against the plaintiffs for exercising issue advocacy speech rights that on their face are not subject to the regulations or statutes the defendants seek to enforce,” the judge wrote.

Mr. O’Keefe, director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, had merely advocated for issues he cares about, which is protected speech. “O’Keefe and the Club obviously agree with Governor Walker’s policies,” the judge added, “but coordinated ads in favor of those policies carry no risk of corruption because the Club’s interests are already aligned with Walker and other conservative politicians.”

It’s worth noting that Judge Randa is the second judge to find that the prosecutors are wrong on the law. In January Wisconsin Judge Gregory Peterson quashed subpoenas that he ruled were based on a misreading of campaign-finance law. Prosecutors are appealing Judge Peterson’s ruling, which we told you about on Jan. 13 though it is under John Doe seal.

It’s worth noting that prosecutors would still be continuing their harassment without legal or political accountability if not for Mr. O’Keefe’s willingness to go public—at considerable personal risk. Mr. Chisholm and his deputy, Bruce Landgraf, are noted Democrat partisans with a vindictive streak.

Whether or not they ever brought charges, they also knew their probe would effectively shut down center-right spending as Mr. Walker and Republicans try to win re-election this year. The Wisconsin Club for Growth spent some $8 million on advertising or grants to other groups in 2012 during the recall campaign against Mr. Walker. In 2013 it spent $1.7 million but has been silent since the John Doe subpoenas hit in October.

Similar damage has been done to conservative groups across the state. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce spent some $4 million during the recall campaign in 2012, but aside from a small local radio campaign about an asbestos trust issue this year, the group has been off the air.

Like the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits, the Wisconsin John Doe shows how campaign-finance laws have become a liberal weapon to silence political opponents. Prosecutors claim to be fighting the risk of corruption from “dark money” in politics. But their enforcement attempts, done in secret and unrestrained by Constitutional guardrails, have become far more politically corrupting.

George S. Will:

The prosecutors’ cynical manipulation of Wisconsin’s campaign laws is more than the mere appearance of corruption. Eric O’Keefe’s refusal to be intimidated by lawless law-enforcement officials produced Randa’sremarkably emphatic ruling against an especially egregious example of Democrats using government power to suppress conservatives’ political speech.

Wisconsin’s sordid episode began, appropriately, with a sound of tyranny — fists pounding on the doors of private citizens in pre-dawn raids. While sheriff’s deputies used floodlights to illuminate the citizens’ homes, armed raiders seized documents, computers, cell phones, and other devices.

As a director of Wisconsin Club for Growth, which advocates limited government, O’Keefe had participated in his state’s 2012 debate surrounding attempts by Democrats and state and national government-employee unions to recall Republican governor Scott Walker and some state senators. The recalls were intended as punishment for legislation limiting the unions’ collective-bargaining rights.

Walker prevailed. The Democratic prosecutors, however, seeking to cripple his 2014 reelection campaign and to damage him as a potential 2016 presidential aspirant, have resorted to a sinister Wisconsin process called a “John Doe investigation.” It has focused on the activities of O’Keefe and 28 other conservative individuals or organizations.

In such investigations, prosecutors can promiscuously issue subpoenas and conduct searches. The identities of the targets are kept secret, and the targets are silenced by gag orders, thereby preventing public discussion of the process. Thus John Doe investigations are effective government instruments of disruption and intimidation. …

O’Keefe and the other harassed conservatives had engaged only in issue advocacy, not express advocacy. That is, they had not urged the election of specific candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that government regulation of political speech is permissible only to prevent quid pro quo corruption — money purchasing political favors — resulting from express advocacy. Hence there is no justification for the prosecutors’ punitive investigation of O’Keefe’s and others’ issue advocacy. As Randa said, this hasno “taint of quid pro quo corruption” and thus “is not subject to regulation.”

The Democratic prosecutors must know this. Again, they ignore it because their aim is mayhem, not law enforcement. Their activity is entirely about suffocating conservative activity. Because the prosecutors know Wisconsin law, they are patently disingenuous in arguing that O’Keefe and others illegally “coordinated” their advocacy with Walker and other candidates or campaigns. Randa said “the record seems to validate” O’Keefe’s and the others’ denial of coordination.

Besides, and even more important, Randa said his court “need not make that type of factual finding.” Wisconsin law forbids coordination between third-party groups, such as O’Keefe’s, and candidates only for express advocacy, and Randa said “it is undisputed” that O’Keefe and his group engaged only in issue advocacy. The prosecutors’ indifference to this is their corruption.

Liberals inveighing against “dark money” in politics mean money contributed anonymously to finance political advocacy. Donors’ anonymity thwarts liberals’ efforts to injure the livelihoods of identifiable conservatives by punishing them for their political participation and thereby deterring others from participating.

O’Keefe’s persecution illustrates the problem his lawyer David Rivkin calls “dark power” — government power wielded secretively for vengeance and intimidation. Judge Randa quoted the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens Uniteddecision: The First Amendment is “premised on mistrust of governmental power.” And he noted that “the danger always exists that the high purpose of campaign regulation and its enforcement may conceal self-interest.”

Randa is insufficiently mistrustful. Campaign regulation, although invariably swathed in lofty rhetoric, is designed to disguise regulation’s low purpose, which is to handicap political rivals. If Wisconsin is serious about eliminating political corruption, it can begin by eliminating corrupt prosecutors and processes, and the speech regulations that encourage both.

Categories: Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

In search of Baghdad Bob

Who, younger readers ask, is Baghdad Bob?

This is Baghdad Bob — or, as the British called him, Comical Ali – Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, Saddam Hussein’s last information minister. Baghdad Bob got his fame and nickname for his grandiose predictions of Iraq’s triumph over the U.S. and that no American boots would ever touch Baghdad soil. Unlike the Iraqi known as “Chemical Ali,” Saddam’s defense minister, who met a fate similar to Saddam’s, Sahhaf now lives in the United Arab Emirates, which puts him above ground, unlike Saddam, his sons, and others on the wrong side of the Iraqi wars.

Baghdad Bob came to mind when I read this from The Hill:

A new poll suggests Republicans have the biggest advantage in a midterm year in two decades.

The Pew/USA Today poll released Monday found 47 percent of registered voters support the Republican candidate in their district or lean Republican. By contrast, 43 percent favor the Democratic candidate or lean Democratic.

Democrats have lost ground on the generic ballot in recent months. Last October, Democrats held a 6-percentage-point lead of 49 to 43 percent. Regardless, they usually need a double-digit lead in order to pick up seats.

President Obama’s approval rating is now lower than at the same point during the 2010 campaign, Pew noted. The GOP later won the majority in the House that November.

While 44 percent approve of Obama’s job as president, half of the public disapproves, the poll found. …

Nearly two-thirds say they want to see the next president offer different policies and programs than the Obama administration. Less than a third want Obama’s successor to offer a similar agenda.

Despite the GOP’s edge on the generic ballot, only 23 percent approve Republicans’ jobs in Congress and 32 percent approve of Democrats’ jobs.

More people, 43 percent, say GOP policies would do more for the economy, compared to 39 percent who say Obama’s policies are more effective.

It is remarkable that only 23 percent approve of Republicans’ work in Congress, and yet 47 percent favor their Congressional district’s Republican candidate. I suppose that could be one of those cases in which those polled hate the Congress but like their own Congressman.

There is no way for Democrats to spin this as anything but bad news. Four years ago, the polls showed a lead for Democrats, and yet Republicans ended up taking over the House and gaining Senate seats. In 1994, no one predicted the magnitude of the red tide, with Democrats losing left and, well, left.

Few observers expected change in the Wisconsin Congressional delegation this year, at least until the unexpected retirement announcement of U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac). Four years ago, few predicted that retiring U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-Wausau) would be replaced by a Republican, Sean Duffy. That makes one wonder if another Democrat — say, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) might be unexpectedly vulnerable in October.

One thought that comes to mind is that maybe Democrats need to have new national spokespeople, not someone as shrill as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as dingbatty as Deb Wasserman-Schultz, or as out of it as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The other thing that would be helpful is for Democrats to realize that the country is not in good shape, and it is mostly their own party’s fault, given that a member of their party lives in the White House.


Categories: US politics, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,116 other followers

%d bloggers like this: