An Evil Koch Brother speaks again!

Suddenly, Charles Koch, employer of 2,400 Wisconsinites, is getting a lot of media coverage, now on CBS Sunday Morning, interviewed by Anthony Mason:

Fred Koch made his first fortune building refineries for Stalin’s Soviet Union, and became a fervent anti-Communist. In his office, Charles keeps a framed letter Fred wrote to his first two sons, when he took out an insurance policy for them: “‘If you choose to let this money destroy your initiative and independence, then it will be a curse to you and my action in giving it to you will have been a mistake.’ So that’s the way he was.”

Koch also inherited his father’s distrust of big government, and he’s used his fortune to bankroll a network of conservative groups that helped give birth to the Tea Party movement. That’s made this billionaire and his brother among the most vilified men in American politics.

Koch has become a codeword for corporate villainy among Democrats, like Senator Harry Reid:

“The Koch Brothers and other money interests are influencing the political process for their own benefit. They are trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine,”According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, some 53,000 attack ads mentioned the Koch Brothers in the last election cycle.

“Like Harry Truman said, if you can’t stand the heat, don’t go in the kitchen,” said Koch.

“But it’s got to be unnerving on some level?”

“I knew I’d get heat. But I didn’t know it’d be this vicious and this dishonest.” …

And in a new book, “Good Profit,” Koch lays out the market-based management philosophy that drove his company’s phenomenal success, and writes about the values that drive him — personally and politically.

One of four Koch brothers, Charles went to MIT, like his father, but not before bouncing around eight different schools.

Mason asked, “What would you say the source of your rebelliousness was?”

“I’m kind of a contrarian, as you probably know from all the different things I do. I do things differently than other people — ‘What are you doing that for? You’re just creating trouble for yourself!'”

The notoriously private billionaire agreed to his first in-depth TV interview at his Wichita home, where Mason also met Liz, Charles’ wife of 42 years.

An Evil Koch Brother speaks!

Forbes magazine has an interview with Charles Koch, one of The Evil Koch Brothers:

At the Freedom Partners semi-annual conference for rich conservatives in January, Koch officials privately exhorted some 400 rich attendees to spend $900 million over the next presidential election cycle to try and influence U.S. policy on everything from regulation to criminal justice. Koch says only a third of the money will go directly into politics, and he sounded distinctly unenthusiastic about any of the candidates. In fact, he has said “I am not a Republican.”

Q. What are your goals in this election?

A: My view of the political realm, not just now but for many decades, is that the Democrats are taking us down the road to serfdom over the cliff at 100 miles an hour and the Republicans are going around 70 miles an hour. What I want is to reverse the trajectory of this country.

Q. What are the key issues?

A. There are a lot of topics we could talk about but two really big ones. One is we have out of control, irresponsible spending by both parties that are taking us toward bankruptcy as a country and as a government. Related to that is we’re headed toward a two-tiered society. We’re destroying opportunities for the disadvantaged and creating welfare for the rich. This is coming about by misguided policies creating a permanent underclass, it’s crippling the economy and corrupting the business community.

Q. How do you fix poverty?

A. Our priorities are criminal justice reform and eliminating the barriers to low-income people starting a business or even getting a job. The biggest is occupational licensure. There are hundreds of these. You name it, depending on the locale or the state you have to get a license. They’re knocked out of it and of course, this is all cronyism corporate welfare. Those who are in the business don’t want all these newcomers coming in undercutting ‘em and destroying their profit margins.

Q. Who do you like in the GOP field?

A. I’ll let somebody else decide that. I’m not going to talk about personalities or the individuals.

Q. If Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for president, will you support him?

A. We’re not going to talk about that.

Q. Is it true you’re spending close to a billion dollars on the 2016 campaigns?

A. No. The billion dollars is for all these things we do.

Q. How much of that will be from you and your brother?

A. Well, a small fraction.Most of what I give is to my foundation, and the Charles Koch Institute. Almost all of what I give personally (to political action committees like Koch PAC and Freedom Partners PAC) is public and I’m fine with that.

Q. We now know that organizations affiliated with you including Freedom Partners spent more than $200 million in the 2012 cycle. Will we have to wait two years to find out what you’re spending on this one?

A. We’re estimating around $300 million out of the $900 would go to that. But it depends on what the donors give.

Q. The whole $200 million last time wasn’t you and David writing checks?

A. No, absolutely not. No.

Q. Have you had any impact on the Republican Party?

A. It’s tough. Not nearly what we’d hope. (An aide suggests he seems to have succeeded in killing the Export-Import Bank.) But that’s a small issue in the whole scheme of things. I take a much longer view. My brother David is much more interested in the political side. I’ve been doing this for more than 50 years, as you know. I’m more interested in the understanding, the education, the cultural aspects. Because I think that’s what’s going to drive what kind of country we’re going to have and whether can really change the trajectory of the country. To have a white knight come in and going to save us, that may help a little, but you’ve gotta change the hearts and minds of the people to understand what really makes society fairer and what’s going to change their lives. And it’s not more of this government control, and those in power telling us all how to live our lives. Throughout history that has not worked. And the more you have of that, the more people suffer, particularly the poorest people suffer.

Q. So will this presidential election decide anything? It doesn’t sound like you’re enthusiastic about anybody.

A. My ideal candidates would be Calvin Coolidge or a William Gladstone. I mean, you look at what they did. Of course they were different time and place. (Gladstone served as British Prime Minister four times between 1868 and 1894 and helped eliminate tariffs, cut budget deficits and increased government transparency. Coolidge was the famously frugal president from 1923-29) Look what Calvin Coolidge did. He cut government expenditures in half. Cut tax rates by two- thirds, reduced the national debt by a third and cut unemployment from 12% to 2.4%. Now the only thing I hold against him is he didn’t run again so we got Herbert Hoover, who turned a recession into a great depression with his policies.

Q. You mentioned a white knight. What about Trump?

A. Yeah, I mean, he’s… I’m not the only one person who’s frustrated with what’s going on in both parties. But I would hope there would be somebody who would capture that frustration, and what’s behind that frustration, and do what Calvin Coolidge or William Gladstone did and change the trajectory of the country. Now it’s not likely, because I’ve got to go back to Calvin Coolidge to find somebody who did that. I’ve got to go back to Gladstone in 1846.

Q. What about Reagan?

A. In his first term the growth of government was slightly less, but in the second one it was right on target right with what the Democrats had done.

Q. George W. Bush?

A. In fact we got this seminar group (now the semi-annual Freedom Partners summit) started in opposition to Bush 43’s policies. We started in `03. Bush was running on free enterprise, more freedom, more opportunity and then he grew the government more than Clinton. And increased regulation more than Clinton and got us in more wars than Clinton. So I mean my God, what are we doing? He is a fine person. I’ve met him, and know something about him individually trying to do the right thing, but I don’t know, he must have had bad advisors or something.

Q. How about our current president?

A. Well, he’s helping us on criminal justice reform, so we’re grateful on that. And there’s a sign they may be beginning to realize the inequity and the harm that this occupational licensing does.

Q. So you won’t name a favorite?

A. I want someone who’s going to change the trajectory of the country in the ways I said, away from the two-tiered society and away from bankrupting us. And that’s out. And you can’t tell from their rhetoric or their popular appeal. So I need some better evidence on who’s going to do that. And who’s glib and who has the most popular appeal has not been good evidence for bringing that about.

Q. Your conferences in California have been criticized for secrecy, so you invited the press this year. Was that a mistake?

A. We did the last two. As far as I’m concerned we could be completely open on everything. We have participants, donors to this that aren’t as comfortable with being public. And who can blame them? They don’t want to get the kind of abuse I get, the death threats I get. I had 153 death threats last year. Now al Qaeda has me on their hit list. So others don’t want that. They don’t want their names exposed,. So that’s why we’re not more open than we are. But as far as I’m concerned I’m not doing anything I’m ashamed of, I’m happy to tell why I do things, what I stand for, what I’m trying to accomplish. So all my presentations at the conference are open to the press. But I leave that up to the person.

Q. Why do you generate so much hostility?

A. These ideas, the idea that we believe that people are going to be better off when they control their own lives rather than have somebody in power have what Hayek called the “Fatal Conceit,” and Easterly called the “Tyranny of Experts,” think they can tell people, force people to run their lives the way those in power think they should. So this threatens people in power, or people who believe the opposite have a different vision on how society can best function. So I understand it perfectly. …

Koch’s management philosophy is an amalgam of personal experience, an engineer’s obsession with measurement and analysis (Koch has master’s degrees in chemical and nuclear engineering from M.I.T.) along with a large dose of the libertarian economic thinking of economists like Friedrich von Hayek, Joseph Schumpeter and William Easterly. It’s based on “five dimensions:” Vision, Virtue and Talents, Knowledge Processes, Decision Rights, and Incentives.

Q. Explain Market Based Management in 20 words or less.

A. It’s a way for organizations to succeed by helping others improve their lives. Now that sounds like left-coast pyschobabble and it normally would be, but not if you base everything on it. And that’s who you are, and you don’t just have posters on the wall and put all this stuff up for show and don’t implement. (MBM drives) who we hire, the training, having leaders who live up to our values, and then testing everything for results. …

Q. Conservatives like you say the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winning technologies, but Koch employees have to. What’s the difference?

A. We don’t do it from a politically correct or bureaucratic standpoint. We run experiments all the time. And those that prove out, we do. You limit the amount, and then if it doesn’t work, you kill it. Whereas in the government and they get something that politically correct and it doesn’t work then they say “Well, we need to spend more money on it.” So you never kill it.

Q. How would Market Based Management work in the White House?

A. Oh my god. You can just go through the five dimensions. You start with the vision. What capabilities do we have to create superior value and help make other peoples’ lives better? What can we do better than our competitors? Well, that’s the first thing the White House needs to do. What is the nature of government? Government is a social agency of coercion. It has a monopoly of force in a given geographic area. So what kind of activities does force work better than voluntary cooperation and competition? And that’s what government ought to be limited to. You need to test every one. I mean certain things basically involve coercion. Like protecting peoples’ life and property. Like national defense. Like enforcing dispute settlements. To do those things, you need to use force. So those are roles for the government.

Q. Is the Obama administration doing a good job in education, with its emphasis on testing and incentives for improvement?

A. No, I think that the education system should be run locally and there ought to be competition and the students have choice. The main thing is the education system needs to be run for the benefit for their customers. The schools need to be run today for the benefit of the students, with innovation and experimentation, rather than being run for the benefit of the teachers and the administrators. …

Koch Industries is deeply involved in the carbon economy, with refineries, chemical plants and energy-gobbling manufacturers like Georgia-Pacific. Yet Charles Koch lobbied to end ethanol subsidies, favors exports of crude oil that would theoretically raise his price of raw materials, and supports the XL pipeline even though it would force his Minnesota refinery to bid more for heavy Canadian oil. I started by asking him his views on global warming, and he rattled off from memory statistics going back to 1880 comparing atmospheric CO2 levels to temperature.

Q. Is this evidence of CO2-induced global warming?

It’s highly probably that CO2 has contributed to that.

Q. Is it good science to conclude humans are the cause?

A. It’s not settled, it’s not certain. Anybody who says something this complex is settled is not using good science.

Q. Is current energy policy too focused on fighting carbon emissions?

A. The present policies of subsidizing and mandating inefficient alternatives is counterproductive. The enormous cost and unreliability of wind and solar are making people’s lives worse. They’re increasing the cost of energy, they’re corrupting the business community, increasing corporate welfare, and they’re counterproductive. On the other hand, if people believe this is a problem, or could be a problem, then it’s worth investing a certain amount in, not by government mandating, but by letting companies like ours and others innovate to find economic solutions that will make peoples’ lives better today and in the future. Because there are economic alternatives to fossil fuels and because they reduce whatever risk there is that CO2 emissions can cause real harm in the future.

Q. You have engineers working on energy-saving and low-carbon technologies at Koch. How about ethanol?

A. Here’s the thing about ethanol. Remember, we helped get rid of all the subsidies except the mandate. They have this mandate they need to get rid of. And we’re the sixth-largest ethanol producer. Get rid of the mandate and let ethanol to stand on its own feet. Is it really economical? Is it really adding value?

Q. In your book you say you support the XL pipeline even though it would cost you money. Explain.

A. If that pipeline is built it will reduce the cost of transporting Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast by $3 a barrel. So presumably the price of Canadian heavy oil will increase by $3 a barrel compared to foreign competition, which is what the Gulf Coast refiners are running now. So that will increase the cost of our crude oil at our Minnesota refinery by $3 a barrel. We run 250,000 barrels a day of it, so that will cost us $750,000 a day, which is a little less than $300 million a year. But we’re still in favor of it because it makes good sense.

Schools run for students instead of for teachers and administrators? Force ethanol to stand on its own merits in the marketplace? Create economic opportunity for poor people? How radical!

Maybe instead of Scott Walker running for president, Charles Koch (employer with his family of 2,400 Wisconsinites) should run for president. He’d get my vote.


That was fun while it lasted. Not.

Gov. Scott Walker suspended his presidential campaign Monday. Since no one unsuspends his or her campaign, it means that Walker will not be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

This, of course, makes Wisconsin’s millions of Walker-haters ecstatic with glee — the people who despise Walker so much that they would dance in the streets like Arabs on 9/11 were Walker assassinated.

As someone who supports politicians only to the extent that they do what I want them to do, whose favorite Bible verse is Psalm 146:3 (look it up), I don’t particularly care about Walker’s exiting the presidential race. He probably shouldn’t have run, as demonstrated by his inability to capitalize on his early popularity.

The optimistic view for Walker fans is that he is repeating what he did in 2006 — leaving the race to others (in 2006’s case, U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Green Bay), whose loss to Gov. James Doyle proves that voters often get the vote wrong in this state) while keeping future options open. If that’s the case, that’s a bet that a Republican won’t win the White House in 2016. Consider what that says about this country when the three name Democrats for president are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

The optimistic view is what Charlie Sykes says today:

But Walker had made a cold calculation, recognizing that in 2006 his campaign was not ready for prime time. As it turned out, 2006 was an awful year to be Republican and Green was crushed by incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle. Rather than continue an expensive, potentially bloody, and perhaps unwinnable campaign, he withdrew.

Four years later her cruised to the GOP nomination and election in November. He chose to live to fight another day.

Obviously, given the height and speed of his fall from grace in this year’s campaign that formula may not work again. I’ll leave it to others to perform the autopsies on the campaign and speculate on how badly his brand has been damaged.

There is no doubt that the last few months have been a godawful mess, but Walker realized that the next few months were unlikely to get any better. His campaign was burning through cash even as donors faded into the tall grass, but any signs of retrenchment would simply have fed the media death spiral narrative. The poll numbers raised the very real specter that he might have been bumped to the kiddie table in future debates (including one here in Wisconsin in November).

So on Monday, Walker once again cut his losses. He decided a graceful exit was better than limping through the bloody cornstalks of Iowa.

Where does that leave him?

*He gets to return to Wisconsin as a reformer with unfinished business. He still has a bully pulpit for another three years.

*He remains well-known and still popular in GOP/conservative circles, with some of the highest favorables of any candidate.

*He has a SuperPac that is flush with cash.

*He is still only 47 years old.

So don’t bury Scott Walker quite yet.

Readers will recall that I was a skeptic about Walker’s chances of running, let alone his chances of winning, ever since the presidential talk started after the 2014 election. As consequential and important as the Act 10 reforms were, public sector employee benefits and rights are not an issue that seems to interest many voters beyond the state level.

I believe my prediction earlier this decade that no one from Wisconsin will ever be elected president will be correct. (Yes, I wrote “ever,” and given what Barack Obama is doing to this country we may well see the end of this country in our lifetimes.) Wisconsin is a politically inconsequential state, as demonstrated by the last GOP presidential candidate to win this state. (See Reagan, Ronald.)

As with most Wisconsin politicians, Walker lacks TV charisma, and you don’t get elected president unless you look good in 15-second TV soundbites. No one ever gets rich enough in Wisconsin — and by rich I mean Donald Trump-level rich — to run for president. The Evil Koch Brothers’ money isn’t presidential-level money, believe it or not.

The departures of Walker and before him Texas Gov. Rick Perry demonstrate what a traveshamockery getting elected president is. (Independent of the fact that seven years ago Obama wasn’t qualified for a Senate leadership position, let alone president, but don’t let our collapse dissuade you, Dumocrats.) Apparently in order to get the GOP nomination you have to kowtow to Iowa social conservatives, whether or not they have anything to do with your actually being president. (If you’re not from Iowa, why would you choose to spend more time than you had to in Iowa?) Even though Perry and Walker have actually run states, which is much more comparable to being president than blathering in an empty U.S. Senate chamber, apparently that’s not enough real-world experience to get voters interested in you, and they are out before one single vote has been cast.

Truth be told, the current occupant of the White House has so degraded government that I can only conclude that all government sucks, every elective body at every level. If you had met as many politicians as I have, particularly those whose views are contrary to yours, you would have to resist the urge to punch them someplace that would either be very painful or leave permanent marks and ask them in as angry a voice as you possess how dare they presume to tell you what you can and what you can’t do.

Maybe Donald Trump — a reality TV star and moral lowlife who successfully misrepresents his political beliefs in order to get his friend Hillary Clinton elected president — should be the GOP nominee. Joseph de Maistre observed that every nation gets the government it deserves.


The Journal Sentinel vis-à-vis Vos

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is not a fan of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R–Rochester) because of something we journalists hold dear:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has shown that he will make every effort to gut the state’s open records law, no matter what the citizens of Wisconsin think, which raises the question of whether he is fit to represent the public’s interests in the state Legislature.

His utter disdain for transparency in conducting the public’s business should encourage civic-minded citizens in southern Racine County who believe in open, honest government to seriously consider replacing him. We hope Vos will face strong challengers in next year’s elections, starting with the Republican primary in August.

The first sneak attempt in early July by Vos and other GOP leaders to severely limit access to public records drew a wave of protest from an outraged public, and rightfully so. Not only was the intent of the measure shameful, so was the process. Although the records trail now reveals a lawyer in the Legislative Reference Bureau began researching special legislative privileges a full year ago, no one outside of a tight group of party leaders had a hint of what they were planning to do to the open records law until they inserted an item into the state budget, at the last minute, on the night before a holiday weekend with no public airing or discussion.

That was no mistake: It was a calculated tactic by Vos and friends to head off any such discussion and race the changes into the budget bill at a time when, they thought, no one would be paying attention. Thanks to watchful newspapers and conscientious citizens, it didn’t work.

But Vos didn’t learn from what Gov. Scott Walker has since admitted was “a huge mistake.”

Almost immediately, Vos started working on another backdoor approach to shut out the public. As the Journal Sentinel reported last week, public records obtained by the Center on Media and Democracy “showed that an aide to Vos requested a new legislative draft on July 23, seeking a bill to give the Legislature and individual lawmakers a different status on open records from other government bodies and officials in Wisconsin.”

In response to the report, Vos immediately issued a news release claiming he would not advance the changes his office drafted.“It does not change anything as to where our current position is,” Vos said. “We’re not changing the open records law.”

Not now, anyway.

In the release, Vos carefully said he no longer intended to change the law “this session.” So after things cool down a bit, and citizens are distracted by other issues, such as next year’s elections, he’ll try again.

Vos’ first proposal, beat back by an angry public on Independence Day, would have granted lawmakers broad new privileges to hide legislative documents, even when sued, and to ban their staffs from discussing issues even after leaving their jobs. No other state provides such an expansive legal privilege. The new rules allowing massive secrecy would have applied to the governor, the Legislature, town, village, city and county boards; to state and local agencies and department heads; to anyone in government worried there just might be something in the files that could embarrass a public official or raise an objection from concerned citizens.

Under the latest Vos proposal, lawmakers could make their own emails, memos and other documents subject to legislative rules, rather than the open records law. They could write and rewrite their own rules about what records would be publicly available, at any time, with no input from citizens or even the governor. What a deal for lawmakers in power with something to hide.

Vos’ goal, the release said, “was to protect the private and sensitive information of constituents who share their information with legislative offices without realizing it is a public record and could be revealed to the world.”

In other words, he wanted to hide records from you in order to protect you.


This brazen, cynical move had nothing to do with protecting constituents and everything to do with protecting ambitious career politicians — and the lobbyists, donors and special interests they make deals with behind the scenes.

Vos is very good at protecting himself and his position of power. Legislative districts that leaned Republican were redrawn to become staunchly Republican under the partisan redistricting after the 2010 census.

Hiding who is lurking behind the curtains of the Great and Powerful Vos was a horrible idea when it was beaten back in July. It’s a frightening idea now — that an elected leader, the speaker of the statehouse, believes he can turn a deaf ear to public outcry and find another way to bury his secrets.

It’s time, once again, for citizens across Wisconsin to let their public officials know they won’t stand for anything less than transparent, honest government.

James Wigderson replies:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has declared war on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The newspaper reported that Vos asked the Legislative Reference Bureau to look again at drafting legislation to gut the open records law. They followed it with an editorial that called for Republicans to dump Vos as Speaker and for Racine County to elect a new state representative. …

They even ran a paragraph explaining how someone can run for state assembly, which is pretty amazing considering nomination papers can’t be circulated until next June. Start planning now and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will give you all the support you need.

The “Great and Powerful Vos,” as the newspaper childishly describes him, is also guilty of legislative redistricting after the 2010 election. I know, the horror, the horror. But don’t try to find the editorials demanding former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan’s defeat in the 2010 election because he didn’t support redistricting changes, or even because he changed his position on a bill regarding the pay day loan industry while he was dating their lobbyist. Like the Zombies sang in 1965, she’s not there. Maybe it’s because Sheridan was a Democrat.

No, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s wrath is reserved for Republicans like Vos. It’s amazing they don’t demand his recall while they’re at it. Or even a John Doe investigation, as long as they’re making allusions to Oz and pulling back curtains.

Maybe I shouldn’t give them ideas. Or maybe I should just refer their editorial to Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and the Government Accountability Board.

After all, Journal Sentinel Incorporated of Journal Media Group is going well beyond any conservative groups’ issue advertising. The corporation is using its resources to expressly advocate for the defeat of an elected official. They are actually expressly advocating that someone, anyone defeat Vos in the next election.

I’m betting the corporate in-kind contribution to the Democratic Party is unreported. And since express advocacy election spending by corporations is still illegal in Wisconsin, Editor George Stanley and Editorial Editor David Haynes are in really big trouble.

I’m looking forward to the dawn raids on the editors’ homes. With any luck some anonymous tipster will let conservatives know when the raids are taking place. We’ll bring coffee and doughnuts. For ourselves, since I doubt we’ll be able to sneak past the battering ram.

But before the newspaper goes on a holy crusade to rid the legislature of Vos, perhaps they should remember that it was conservative organizations like the MacIver Institute and conservative alternative media that pushed Republicans to back down from the proposed open records changes over the Independence Day weekend. They were somehow spared a mention in the newspaper’s editorial.

As a fan of Wigderson’s, I think his opinion is not entirely persuasive. As a fan of open government and an opponent of the stupidest moment in the history of the state Republican Party, I think the Journal Sentinel’s editorial misses the mark too; it is more a personal attack on Vos (for instance, the irrelevant slam about redistricting) than an argument for open government.

I suspect Wigderson would be just fine with the Journal Sentinel opining for the removal of, say, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D–Milwaukee) or Sen. Lena Taylor (D–Milwaukee) from office. Newspapers have editorialized for and against candidates for centuries. (For instance, U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.) If you can’t stand the heat, politicians, leave office. (Although Vos is unlikely to leave office before he wants despite the Journal Sentinel’s editorial wishes because Vos’ district is extremely Republican.) You would never find a district attorney of any party willing to try to prosecute Journal Media Group for exercising its First Amendment rights, and Wigderson knows that.

Wigderson also knows, and Vos and anyone who supported his hairbrained idea should know by now, that if you want to get anyone in the media angry at you, including people who support you on other issues, make an attempt to gut or evade the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law or Open Records Law or the federal Freedom of Information Act. (Notice the media being less fawning about Hillary Clinton these days?)

The biggest thing the Journal Sentinel ignored is that open government benefits everyone, including Republicans and conservatives. How, for instance, do we know who signed petitions for the recall of Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans among government employees (including attorneys in the Milwaukee County DA’s office) and the media? (Including, to what should be Gannett’s embarrassment, reporters for The Post~Crescent in Appleton and Wausau Daily Herald who now cover Walker.) Because petitions for office and referendum are open records. The editorial also ignores the genesis of this stupid idea, emails from state employees to Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D–Middleton) that Erpenbach tried and failed to be able to hide, and that Vos’ idiotic idea is supported by legislative Democrats and Republicans.

As I’ve said here before, but the Journal Sentinel didn’t: The First Amendment, and the state Open Meetings and Open Records laws benefit everyone. Not just the news media.


Act 10, D.C.

I am told there is another Republican presidential debate tonight. I won’t be watching, because debates have nothing to do with being president, and I have better things to do with my time anyway.

GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker, whose campaign is floundering according to the experts despite not a single vote having been cast yet, plans to stand out from the 432 other GOP presidential candidates by taking his biggest Wisconsin accomplishment national, according to RightWisconsin:

Ahead of a Wednesday debate with GOP rivals, Scott Walker will announce a major plan to overhaul and reform labor laws in the United States. Reid Epstein at the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Republican presidential candidate’s proposal, which he plans to announce at an afternoon speech in Las Vegas, would eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, prohibit federal employee unions, institute right-to-work laws nationwide and repeal the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires the payment of local prevailing wages to workers on federal construction projects, often boosting pay and project costs.

No question, the plan is big and bold.

At Hot Air, Walker explained why the end of federal employee unions will be good for taxpayers.

As president, I will work with Congress to prohibit federal employee unions because it’s the right thing for workers, taxpayers and the future of the American government. I have no illusions that this effort will be easy. Opponents will say that we’re robbing federal workers of their rights and workplace protections. Nothing could be further from the truth. Total compensation for federal employees is already 30 to 40 percent higher than their civilian counterparts and they already enjoy strong workplace protections and high job security rates.

The vast majority of federal workers do an outstanding job and deserve our appreciation and protection, which they will receive under a Walker administration. But taxpayers deserve the same thing. One of the ways I will achieve that is by removing the corrosive influence of federal unions from our government.

This proposal does a couple of things for Walker as his candidacy seeks to find some momentum.

First, it provides more substance to Walker’s candidacy as he seeks to move beyond his reputation as reform governor in the Midwest to a national candidate. With how quick Walker rose in the early part of 2015, he was slow to develop serious proposals to reform federal policy. This, along with his healthcare proposal, are very serious proposals that ought to find favor among conservative pundits, wonks, and the grassroots.

Second, Walker pokes the eye of an old foe. In many ways, big labor made Scott Walker. And he’s hoping they might give him a boost once again. This proposal will draw out big labor into a full-fledged freakout. The reaction will be swift and over the top. In an unsubtle way, Walker is begging for more union protests to bolster the “unintimidated” brand, and he is likely to get exactly what he wants.

Third, this is Scott Walker’s sweet spot. While immigration has been something of a nightmare, and foreign policy has been a work in progress, tackling federal labor policy is right up his alley. This will be framed as an “Act 10” for the federal government. But in many ways, it’s bigger than that. For a candidate who has struggled with driving the agenda, this ought to be a good moment for Walker as he attempts to reset the narrative of his campaign.

What is the one thing all conservatives should agree upon? The excessive scope and cost of government, particularly a government that has managed to generate tens of trillions of dollars in debt that will never be repaid.

Labor costs, both direct (salaries and benefits) and indirect (government projects made more expensive because of Davis-Bacon), have a lot to do with our bloated Govzilla. It remains unclear to me why we overburdened taxpayers should watch our wallets drain further to, ultimately, pad the wallets of government employee union heads, such as anyone who gets a paycheck from the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Government employee unions never have the taxpayer’s interest as a priority.

This also is an issue where Walker stands out from his fellow candidates, because none of them took on unions and won. Ohio Gov. John Kasich tried Act 10-style reforms, only to have them defeated by voters. No one else in the GOP field did what Walker did.

The political problem, though, is whether this will help Walker, who should have introduced union-neutering well before now. Sticking it to a Democratic constituency full of criminals (see Hoffa, James) is well and good, but not probably as important as disassembling the bad effects of Barack Obama in, for instance, his foreign policy of surrender and his other efforts to destroy our country in such areas as crippling environmental-policy idiocy.

The “nonpartisan” non-accountable board

The Wall Street Journal:

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court shut down the John Doe investigation of conservative groups in July, but it turns out the probe was even worse than the judges knew. Documents filed at the state Supreme Court opposing Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz’s motion to reconsider show that partisan motives ran through those who conducted their operations in secret while using gag orders to silence targets.

Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) regulates elections. Emails we’ve seen show that GAB staff, including Director Kevin Kennedy, worked with Mr. Schmitz and the Milwaukee Democratic District Attorney’s office to subpoena and intimidate the major conservative players in Wisconsin politics. The investigation coalesced around the controversy over Governor Scott Walker’s union reforms and pushed the liberal agenda to limit political speech.

In an email to Mr. Schmitz on Nov. 27, 2013, GAB staff counsel Shane Falk encouraged the special prosecutor to keep up the good work and “stay strong” in his pursuit of conservative nonprofit groups and allies of Mr. Walker. “Remember, in brief, this was a bastardization of politics and our state is being run by corporations and billionaires,” Mr. Falk wrote. “That isn’t democracy to say the least, but due to how they do this dark money, the populace never gets to know.”

“The cynic in me says the sheeple would still follow the propaganda even if they knew,” Mr. Falk continued, “but at least it would all be out there so that the influences on our politicians is clearly known.” By “the sheeple” Mr. Falk means Wisconsin voters.

In June 2014, Mr. Schmitz’s attorney, Randall Crocker, issued a statement saying that Governor Walker was not a target of the investigation into campaign finance coordination. “You just lied to the press,” Mr. Falk wrote in an email to Mr. Schmitz, copying Mr. Kennedy, others at the GAB and Milwaukee DA John Chisholm. “See the attached ‘target’ sheets from our search warrant and subpoena meeting. I see ‘SW’ right up there near the top on Page 1. Is there someone else that has those initials?”

The Doe team was also apparently concerned that exonerating Mr. Walker as a target might have an effect on the election or damage the chances of 2014 Democratic nominee for Governor Mary Burke. “If you didn’t want this to have an effect on the election, better check Burke’s new ad,” Mr. Falk continued, “Now you will be calling her a liar. This is a no win.”

Was Mr. Falk reprimanded for his obviously partisan motives? Apparently not. When Mr. Falk left the GAB last year, Mr. Kennedy sang his praises in a departure memo posted on the GAB’s website, saying he “exemplifies all that is great about the people who work at the Government Accountability Board” and that his contributions “have been critical to steering us through some extraordinarily challenging times.” Messrs. Falk and Kennedy did not respond to requests for comment.

We also know that GAB staff counsel Nathan Judnic marched against Mr. Walker’s Act 10 reforms and wrote on Twitter that the state should “Stand in solidarity. Kill the bill. Support public employees and their right to bargain.”

Democrats trying to salvage the GAB’s reputation have pointed to a recent audit by the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau that raised no major concerns about GAB’s handling of ethics or campaign-finance complaints. One problem: The John Doe process was outside the scope of the audit. Mr. Kennedy put out a statement saying that the audit “puts to rest any questions as to whether the six Board Members exercise independent judgment when they make decisions about complaints, investigations and penalties.”

The six board members? What about the staff? Mr. Kennedy says the GAB is a nonpartisan agency, but the GAB was an active partner in the Doe, and there was nothing nonpartisan about that.

Scott Walker’s best friends

If you think the headline is referring to The Evil Koch Brothers, it’s not.

My friend Matt Johnson explains the significance of this photo:

The photograph features Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pointing at a protestor in the front row as Walker was giving a speech at the fair. The protestor is holding a sign. From behind the protestor a person is jumping up to rip the sign out of the protestor’s hand.

The Associated Press cutline reads: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confronts a protestor as a supporter grabs his sign during a visit Monday to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. ‘I am not intimidated by you, sir, or anyone else out there,’ Walker told protesters attempting to disrupt his open-air ‘soap-box’ comments to Iowa State Fair attendees who were mostly supportive of his message. ‘We will not back down. We will do what is necessary to defend the American people going forward.’ … ‘The left doesn’t want me to be your nominee because they know I don’t just talk, I deliver on my promises. I will do that as your next president.’ he said.”

This situation is common at public events like this — especially those featuring Gov. Walker. It’s well known, at least here in Wisconsin, that Walker can’t travel unless it is to a manicured, predetermined destination. The people who like Walker really like him. The people who dislike Walker really dislike him.

So, Walker is speaking at the Iowa State Fair — that’s what presidential candidates do. And a protestor is in the front row with a sign… That can be common. And it can also be commonly set-up by the opposition of the candidate. Furthermore, there’s a guy jumping up to rip the sign out of the protestor’s hand. That certainly could be just some average joe from the crowd who got upset. But it also likely could be a planted Walker staffer in the audience there to do such things.

This isn’t fantasy, it’s been political reality for ages.

You have to think back to the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon Administration. As Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dug into the Watergate break-in, they uncovered all sorts of political subversion tactics used to propel Nixon over many years.

One such practice was outlined in the movie “All the President’s Men” and it has an abhorrent name — because the practice is equally abhorrent.

As is described, and what has become common practice, political opponents try to subvert one another.

“They bugged, they followed people, false press leaks, fake letters, they canceled… campaign rallies, they investigated… private lives, they planted spies, stole documents, on and on,” as it’s explained.

So, when you see somebody holding a sign in a front row at a political event, and when you see somebody jumping out of the crowd to grab that sign — it’s likely part of a bigger strategy. Political opponents are fighting each other to control the presentation of the message.

Walker’s campaign won Monday’s exchange. His quote about fighting for the American people was the focus.

Still, it’s far from polite to hold a sign in front of Walker’s face. Also, who was jumping to rip the sign out of the man’s hand? Was it an average joe? Republican event organizer? Walker staffer?

It’s politics as usual, and you’ll see a lot more of it until November of 2016.

Matt referred to the people who really dislike Walker. And Chris Rickert explains that they are really Walker’s best political allies:

A wooden first-debate performance and the attention-sucking presence of Donald Trump had Walker falling out of the lead in polls in Iowa, where he needs to win or place a strong second in the caucuses next year to have any chance at capturing the GOP nomination.

Then came the kind of boost he relies on.

It would be understandable if it were mostly Iowa union members who acted as Walker’s foils during his remarks Monday at the Des Moines Register’s Candidate Soapbox — a common stop for presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair.

Iowans wouldn’t be expected to understand that it’s the haters — and especially the haters from organized labor — that give Walker his mojo.

But about 50 of the 75 people with the Service Employees International Union were bused in from Wisconsin, according to SEIU officials. They were among those waving signs, heckling, booing and otherwise making it clear they weren’t there for an autograph or a selfie with the candidate.

Worse, a Walker-detractor named Matthew Desmond made his way to the front of the stage with a sign (“Warning: Don’t let Scott Walker do to America what he did to Wisconsin”) so that Walker could point at him and declare: “I am not intimidated by you, sir!”

Dian Palmer, a registered nurse and president of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, said Desmond wasn’t with her group. But that hardly matters.

Less than an hour after the exchange, Walker’s campaign posted 27 seconds of video on YouTube entitled “Scott Walker To Protester: ‘I Am Not Intimidated.’”

“I am not intimidated by you, sir, or anyone else out there,” Walker says in the video, the applause building. “I will fight for the American people over and over and over and over again. You want someone who’s tested? I’m right here. You can see it! This is what happened in Wisconsin. We will not back down. We will do what is necessary to defend the American people going forward.”

Walker is not the flashy billionaire (Trump), the brilliant outsider (Ben Carson), the youthful Floridian to bring in the Latino vote (Marco Rubio), the libertarian (Rand Paul) or the scion of American political dynasty (Jeb Bush).

Without the union types and other leftists to stand up to, Walker is just another middle-aged white guy with a bald spot, a nasally Midwestern twang and some pretty conventional (if conservative) politics. In a crowd of 17 people running for the GOP nomination, he would be easy to overlook.

Cathy Glasson, president of the Iowa SEIU Local 199, said the union would continue to “call out” Walker as he campaigns around her state. …

“Being the bully in the room … gets old,” she said, referring to Walker.But then Walker’s victory in the 2012 recall, his 2014 re-election and his status among the top tier of Republican presidential candidates suggests she’s wrong.

Here is the video Walker’s best friends participated in to boost Walker’s campaign:

One of two things obviously will happen. Either Walker will be elected president, which means he won’t be governor of Wisconsin anymore; Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch then would become governor, and she’s not a moderate either. (I suppose option 1B is that Walker isn’t elected president, but another Republican is, and that Republican names Walker to a Cabinet post, as Gov. Tommy Thompson was named by George W. Bush.) If Walker (or another Republican) doesn’t get elected president, Walker will remain as governor. Either way, the Wisconsin left loses.



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