Act 10, part 2

Waukesha’s city administrator and an urban planner say that public employee collective bargaining reforms — the controversial Act 10 of 2011 — need to go further:

In its Sept. 17 editorial about Gov. Scott Walker’s second term agenda, the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board said, “Act 10 was a mistake” (“Gov. Scott Walker’s second term? Same as the first,” Our View). Act 10 virtually ended collective bargaining for many, but not all, state and local public employees.

It was not a mistake and should be followed up with Act 10.2 and Act 10.3. One would address the expensive early retirement feature included in the Wisconsin pension plan for all state and local public employees, and the other would bring in police and fire personnel, left out in Act 10. Police and fire together amount to about 60% of most local budgets, leaving only 40% covered by Act 10.

Wisconsin was the first state in the Union to allow public employees to bargain collectively, and, by the 1970s, unionization was showing its worst feature. That feature was, and will always remain, that unions cannot resist the temptation to try to control both sides of the bargaining table. They do this by being politically active in electing union-sympathetic public officials and in de-electing taxpayer sympathizers. The state teachers union was the first to consistently apply this power both in local and state elections and was very effective at both levels.

Wisconsin, having first created public collective bargaining, rightfully should be the first state to remove it. Indiana was slightly earlier, but the Indiana public at referendum put it back in place. That action, and the current race for Wisconsin governor, shows just how much unions are fighting to regain this power.

Early public employee unions recognized that public employee strikes did not sit well with the public. In exchange for removing the right to strike, unions were given arbitration, a power that likely gained more for unions than striking. The problem with arbitration is it becomes an averaging of the surrounding lowest and highest wages.

As the wealthier tax bases raise their wages and benefits, over time the lower tax base communities rise to the previous average of the higher base. If they both can rise faster than inflation, which they have done by a ratio of 2.5-3 to 1, in only a few successive contract periods the lower tax base pay equals the former high base levels.

Where bargaining has been especially deleterious for taxpayers is unions began focusing on fringe benefits, which are hidden from public view and often hidden from employees themselves and under-appreciated by them. It is now common for public employees to receive benefits that cost 50% of their total pay, whereas the private-sector ratio is around 25%. This “fringes strategy” has paid excess dividends to public workers in two costly areas: health insurance and pensions.

In health insurance, public employees were shielded from the huge run-up in health premiums because they were able to bargain 100% employer pickup of the cost. Such premiums between 1978 and the 2008 economic slump rose 600%, or double the 300% rise in general inflation.

For teachers, they achieved an extra bonus from their employer-paid health insurance. The local unions bargained, and won in 60% of Wisconsin school districts, that the no-bid contract for health insurance go to the insurance company owned by the state teachers union.

That insurance can be called “cadillac coverage.” Not only did it have five-way coverage — doctor, hospital, drugs, vision and dental — each was top of the line. For example, in private-sector dental insurance, when it existed, $1,000 per year was the typical limit per patient in the family. A few companies offered $1,200, and a very few $1,500. Some teachers’ coverage: $2,000 per patient per year.

Similarly in patient-paid deductibles, zero was a common ratio for teachers. When private-sector family premiums were reaching $18,000 per family a year, the teachers’ company was $22,000 to $25,000. School districts are learning they can retain this high coverage, but by bidding can lower the cost greatly, in some cases so far by over 50%.

In pensions, most private-sector employers contribute up to 3% of wages into the company 401(k) plan, and under 401(k) rules, employees may add another 3%, a total of 6% between them. But because the early retirement feature of the Wisconsin plan is so costly, the plan specifies total contributions as high as 16% a year.

In bargaining, there have been efforts to have the school district pay the entire 16%. Under the “Rule of 85,” a Wisconsin public employee may retire as early as age 55, provided he or she has worked 30 years under the plan. Until age 65, when federal Medicare begins, collective bargaining has won employer-paid health insurance covering that gap for early retirees. Often, it even continues after age 65 for a lifetime, thereby exempting retirees from paying their share of Medicare. Wisconsin’s early retirement is out of step with the times, considering longer lives and Social Security raising its age to 66, then to 67. …

The final, and some public administrators say, the worst aspect of collective bargaining, was how the labor agreement came to supersede some civil service rules and other rightful employer prerogatives. An example is how bargaining contracts typically dictate layoffs be only by least seniority, so the last in is the first out. School districts before Act 10 sometimes were laying off their most promising young teachers because of their recent hiring. Under Act 10, for the first time in four decades, public bodies again are creating their own handbook of work rules and benefits, which are correcting these past union-imposed arbitrary situations.

That last paragraph is all the evidence you need of why Act 10 had to become law, controversial and divisive though it was. The employees do not get to decide who works and who gets laid off. That is properly the role of management, whether or not the employees like the managers.

Gov. Gaylord Nelson’s signing of the law allowing government employees to unionize might be the single worst piece of legislation signed into law in Wisconsin in the 20th century. You’ll notice that neither Walker nor any other Republican has mentioned overturning that law, though it should be overturned.

You may remember claims by Da Union during Recallarama that the teacher unions were willing to bargain bigger employee contributions for their benefits. That was a statement that lacked any credibility for two reasons. First, given that there are 427 school districts in this state, no state union official can speak for every school district union head, let alone a majority of the members of all 427 teacher unions. Contract negotiations also take place behind closed doors, meaning Da Union could say one thing in public and do the opposite in private.

Act 10 is one step, and only one step, to giving taxpayers the power over the government we’re paying for instead of politicians and government employees, whose salaries and benefits are paid for by us taxpayers.




Still taxed enough already

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute puts specificity into a Scott Walker campaign promise to cut taxes further in WPRI’s new report:

Creatures of habit and tradition, Wisconsinites are bound to a tax system that reflects our past and ignores our future.

Wisconsin has become more competitive on the tax front than it once was. The passage of Act 145 in March brought the total amount of tax reductions in the last few years to nearly $2 billion — not an inconsequential sum. And yet, the state still imposes a larger tax burden on its citizens and businesses than most other places.

Economists from Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy have determined through economic modeling that we would benefit long-term from further tax cuts. And yet, they’ve found, Wisconsin doesn’t just suffer from high taxes. It suffers from the wrong tax mix.

While our sales taxes are lower than those in two-thirds of other states, our income and property tax burdens remain significantly higher — an economically detrimental combination. There is a clear need for Wisconsin to step back on firm ground and consider a new tax mix that lowers more harmful income and property taxes and broadens the sales tax base.

WPRI’s report begins with this fact …

Compared with the rest of the country, taxes in Wisconsin are high. Approximately 11.6% of personal income typically goes to pay an array of taxes — a higher percentage than in at least two-thirds of other states. Decreasing that percentage would make Wisconsin more prosperous in specific, tangible ways.

… and then proposes:

Reducing the individual income tax rate by 10% and reducing the corporate rate to the same level as the new highest individual rate of 6.885% would, for instance, be one way to cut the tax burden by more than $900 million and, by 2018, create 11,300 new private-sector jobs, more than $300 million in new investment and more than $1.1 billion in new, real disposable income.

Tax cuts, at the same time, are not the only way to improve long-term economic prosperity in Wisconsin.

Legislators could help spur similar economic growth and lose almost no government tax revenue by simply changing the tax mix, that is, by reducing income and property taxes and making up for them by broadening the sales tax base.

This would not entail increasing the sales tax rate. In fact, Wisconsin could cut the individual income tax by $730 million, cut the property tax by more than $1.1 billion, broaden the sales tax base to include some (but not all) areas that are currently exempt and still cut the sales tax rate from 5% to 4.475%. By just changing the mix — “swapping” one tax for another — the state would gain 10,580 private-sector jobs, realize an increase of $948 million in investment, and see an increase of $892 million in real, disposable income.

Expanding the tax base while lowering the tax rate is preferable to simply raising the current sales tax rate, and there are a variety of ways to structure such a broad-based consumption tax. Various routes deserve further study, as does the issue of how Wisconsin can make sure its tax system fairly treats individuals across the entire economic spectrum.

Some Wisconsin tax history is helpful here. The most unpopular tax has always been the property tax. The income tax was created in 1912 in part for property tax relief. The sales tax was created in 1962, and raised in 1969 and 1983, in part for property tax relief. You’ll notice that complaints about high property taxes (which are based on fact) have not ceased.

Notice I said “in part.” The other part is the reaction to Wisconsin’s long-standing envy of success. The history was reported by WPRI in 2003:

In reading Wisconsin’s history, what emerges is the Badger State’s rare combination of ethnic, religious, and political traditions. Mix Yankee founders and northern European immigrants; combine Protestant reformers and a strong Roman Catholic presence; add the labor activism of the industrial era to agrarian roots; douse liberally with the “Social Gospel,” the Wisconsin Idea, and Progressive-era legislation … and you have Wisconsin’s unusual brand of politics and government.

Just how unusual is suggested by Daniel Elazar, a leading student of states and federalism, who argues that the 50 states are pure or hybrid versions of three political cultures:

Individualistic: This culture “emphasizes the centrality of private concerns,” placing “a premium on limiting community intervention.” The individualistic culture originated in such mid-Atlantic, non Puritan states as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland; it spread west to become dominant in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri; and later it spread to such states as Nevada, Wyoming and Alaska.

Traditionalistic: This is a political culture that “accepts government as an actor with a positive role in the community,” but seeks to “limit that role to securing the continued maintenance of the existing social order.” Not surprisingly, the traditionalistic strain of American politics is a major factor in all of the border and southern states, extending west to Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Moralistic: The “moralistic” culture considers government “a positive instrument with a responsibility to promote the general welfare.” This culture is predominant in 17 states that stretch from New England through the upper Midwest to the Pacific coast — what several observers of American history and politics have called “Greater New England.” Even more significantly, this moralistic approach is virtually the only political culture found in nine states: Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and, not surprisingly, Wisconsin.

The states in this last group, Elazar notes, were “settled initially by the Puritans of New England and their Yankee descendants … [who] came to these shores intending to establish the best possible earthly version of the holy commonwealth. Their religious outlook was imbued with a high level of political concern.” Most significantly for states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, “they were joined by Scandinavians and other northern Europeans who, stemming from a related tradition (particularly in its religious orientation), reinforced the basic patterns of Yankee political culture, sealing them into the political systems of those states.”

I argued early in this blog that the “moralistic” approach blended the worst features of the political cultures of states older than Wisconsin. Add to that the protosocialist cultures of the countries whose emigrants came to Wisconsin (Germany and the Scandinavian countries), who in trying to escape the old country forgot to leave behind the bad features of their former countries, and you get a state whose citizens don’t value success and envies people with more money than they have, and then act surprised when we are chronically behind the rest of the country in businesses, business incorporations, personal wealth and personal income growth.

Given that unfortunate cultural history, the report includes these fighting words:

Ongoing changes to tax law and collections are being implemented in Wisconsin as well as other states. Wisconsin’s overall ranking may have improved slightly in recent months as a result. But Wisconsin does not appear to have fallen more than a handful of places and is still in the top third. Combined with recently enacted cuts, the largest tax reductions modeled for WPRI would bring Wisconsin closer to, though still slightly higher than, the average for all U.S. states.

Wisconsin has not conducted a comprehensive tax-impact study for more than a decade. But outside analyses indicate that the system remains progressive overall. And it will continue to be so even with recent changes under Act 145. In other words, low earners pay less in Wisconsin than their counterparts in most other states. High earners pay more. According to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Analysis, Wisconsin’s income tax was the 10th most progressive in 2010. A 2009 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showed Wisconsin’s total state-local tax system to be ninth most progressive by its measure (ratio of tax burden of the bottom 20% to the top 1%). Although those data are relatively old, recent tax law changes may have made the system even more progressive.

One of the questions this state must address is whether the relative progressivity of its tax system, which is advantageous in the near-term to some individuals at the lower end of the economic spectrum but is the product of tax choices that harm Wisconsin’s long-term potential and productivity, can be retained in a way more aligned with the realities and opportunities of the modern economy.

The report includes four possible tax reform packages, each of which is funded by a broader sales tax. The most radical is probably replacing the state income tax by increasing the sales tax to 9.5 percent. (Insert obligatory demagoguery from Democrats here.) The fourth package, which would cut income and property taxes, also includes a broader, though actually lower than now, sales tax.

Of course, politics interferes with what might be the best possible tax cut plan. You may recall when the aforementioned AB 145 was being created in the Legislature, newspaper polls indicated that voters preferred property tax cuts to income tax cuts. So AB 145’s property tax cut was four times the size of AB 145’s income tax cut, whether or not property tax cuts are more effective than income tax cuts to improve economic prosperity.

Quite obviously, the only way anything remotely close to this will happen is if the correct candidates win Nov. 4. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it will certainly not happen if the wrong candidates win Nov. 4.


The Department of (Insufficient) Commerce

Mary Burke has been touting her business experience (which seems, as you know, rather amorphous) and her experience as Gov. James Doyle’s secretary of commerce.

It turns out that Doyle apparently didn’t care for Burke’s work, while Burke apparently didn’t care for the agency she ran. Media Trackers reports:

An email between then-Gov. Jim Doyle and his chief of staff, Susan Goodwin, show Doyle was looking to replace Mary Burke as commerce secretary a full month before Burke announced she would leave the job. The chain of events that followed Burke’s resignation leaves questions about whether Burke was ready to leave the position of her own accord.

Burke, who is the Democratic challenger to Gov. Scott Walker (R) this fall, served as Wisconsin’s commerce secretary between 2005 and November 2007. Burke announced her resignation from the post on October 12th, 2007. But an email between Doyle and Goodwin on September 12th, 2007, shows Doyle and Goodwin were already in the process of looking to replace Burke.

Burke and Doyle were both on a trade mission to China and Japan at the time of Doyle-Goodwin exchange. Records show Burke racking up thousands of dollars in expenses on the taxpayer paid trip just a month before her resignation – including 1st class flights that Media Trackers previously reported on.

While it may not seem unusual that Doyle and Goodwin were looking for a replacement for Burke, assuming they were aware she planned to depart, the chain of events following Burke’s resignation indicate Doyle may had been caught off guard.

According to news reports at the time, Doyle did not have a replacement in place when Burke announced her resignation and he did not name a replacement until a month later, leaving the position vacant for several weeks.

The answer to why Doyle may have been looking to replace Burke may be found in an October 20, 2007 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. According to the article:

Shortly before announcing her resignation as Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce, Mary Burke issued a harsh criticism of her agency…The Commerce Department, which ought to be among the state’s most influential economic players, has sat on the sidelines while other states vie to recruit new businesses, she said…”We are not out there selling the state and attracting the companies,” Burke said late last month, echoing private-sector criticism.

The article goes on to note criticisms of Burke’s agency by those in the business community.

Burke’s criticism of her own department in September, as well as concerns raised in the business community about the ability of her agency to do its job, may indicate a rift between Doyle and his commerce secretary, giving credence to the likelihood that Doyle may have been looking to push Burke out before her resignation.

Another indication of the unplanned nature of Burke’s resignation is that as the sister of the president of Trek Bicycle, and a former Trek executive herself, one would assume Burke could have easily worked her way back into her family’s company. But a report from Right Wisconsin indicates that instead, Burke – who was 48 years old at the time of her resignation – has not worked since abruptly leaving her position as Commerce Secretary.

Doyle may have been the only person who cared for the Department of Commerce during his administration. Readers of my previous blog may recall the harsh criticisms of the DOC by not just Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, but his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett.

Go back to the aforementioned Journal Sentinel story:

“We haven’t been there when we need to be,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, hopes Doyle names someone with a track record of industrial attraction “in other states or someone who’s done it in this state. …

Other states vastly outspend Wisconsin, Burke and others conceded.

The nonprofit Forward Wisconsin agency, which does marketing but not industrial attraction, has a budget of $600,000, with half that amount supplied by the state and the rest from non-taxpayer donors. In his current budget proposal, Doyle wants to add $590,000 for business attraction. …

By contrast, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development proposes spending more than $500,000 next year to market rural economic initiatives alone, a spokeswoman said. And the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has one full-time staffer who routinely shuttles to Europe and another who travels regularly to Japan, both spending much of their time luring businesses to that hard-hit state, a spokesman said.

“You ought to call the folks in Texas – their capacities and funds are at least five times greater,” said Mike Shore, a spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Burke directed the agency for 2 1/2 years. Her predecessor, Cory Nettles, left after about two years.

“Both did well with the resources they had, but they have probably one of the weakest tool sets of any state commerce secretary in the country when it comes to incentives, tax breaks, flexible training dollars,” Sheehy said.

In the 2006 governor’s race, Doyle’s Republican opponent, Mark Green, criticized Doyle for economic passivity.

Doyle administration officials respond that the state has focused on growing its own businesses. His aides talk about “economic gardening” – tending to the soil with tax incentives and taxpayer aid to see what sort of operations spring up without importing industry.

“There is a real opportunity here for the state to put its best face forward for national attraction on key industries,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to focus on business attraction, you need to be charismatic, do the business of the state, get the governor to the table when you need him.”

This is another example that elections have consequences. Had voters correctly chosen Green instead of Doyle in 2006, Green would have not continued Doyle’s approach, whatever that was.

The view from outside

Eliana Johnson provides an outside-Wisconsin view of the governor’s race:

The daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke, the woman gunning for Scott Walker’s job, is the scion of a prominent Wisconsin family who’s had the wealth to flit from one career to another.

In an election being litigated primarily on economic issues, Mary Burke has touted her business experience. But it’s the sort of business experience only an heiress could afford: a couple of years spent toiling at a failed start-up company and two stints working for her father. Between her two tours at Trek, Burke spent a couple of years “as a snowboard bum in Colorado.” (That’d be from the Harvard Business School alumni bulletin, not her campaign website.) At Trek, she ran the company’s European division, and has said she increased international sales by a whopping $47 million, but the company denied PolitiFact’s request to verify the number.

The private sector, it turns out, wasn’t really for her. “While I have the business background, I really — how should I say this? — I prefer the work in the public sector,” Burke told Politico in an interview.

By her mid 40s, she’d left to become a philanthropist and told Democratic governor Jim Doyle’s political team when it expressed interest in bringing her aboard — she was eventually appointed to run the state’s Department of Commerce — that she wasn’t sure she wanted to “reenter the full-time work force.” The only elected position Burke has ever held is a seat on the Madison school board. Now, she wants to become governor.

Burke has cited her Harvard MBA and her business savvy as evidence that she has the know-how to revitalize Wisconsin’s economy. So it says something about her candidacy that large portions of her jobs plan — and of several other plans she has released, on subjects such as entrepreneurship, small-business development, and public-private partnerships, where one might expect her to bring her experience to bear — were lifted word for word from those of several other (mostly failed) gubernatorial candidates.

Burke blamed a Harvard-educated consultant for the incident, and he was promptly fired, but she stood by her borrowed plans, telling reporters that Wisconsin need not “reinvent the wheel.” Burke is offering Wisconsin voters public policy recycled by a political consultant — policy rejected by voters in Virginia and Indiana, to boot.

But the race is tight, and Burke’s latest flirtation with a serious career has given her a real shot to unseat one of the GOP’s top presidential contenders. The most recent Marquette University poll has her tied with Walker, 46 all. How did that happen?

That the race is so close is a testament both to Wisconsin’s political polarization and to the fact that, though it has at times looked purple, it remains a blue state. Walker, like his colleagues Sam Brownback, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, and Susana Martínez, among others, was elected in the GOP wave of 2010. Democratic majorities in the Wisconsin state assembly and the state senate were wiped out that year, too, but 2010 proved to be a political outlier. …

Walker rose to national prominence when he succeeded in getting legislation passed to curb the collective-bargaining rights of the state’s public-sector unions, and he caught the attention of top-dollar Republican donors when he beat back a union-led effort to recall his election. As throngs of left-wing protesters rushed the state capitol, he looked like the adult in the room, and he won the recall election by a greater margin than he was elected with in 2010. …

In an election that has centered on the performance of the state’s economy, Walker’s record has been scrutinized. There are things to boast about: Since Walker took office in January of 2011, unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent from 7.6 percent. It’s half a percentage point below the national average.

But one of the central promises Walker made on the campaign trail in 2010, to usher in the creation of 250,000 private-sector jobs, has come back to haunt him. Even though the state has seen the creation of more than 100,000 jobs on his watch, the unmet campaign promise looms over him, and Burke is leveraging it in her ads. One Wisconsin Republican likened it to the “read my lips” moment that sealed George H. W. Bush’s fate in the 1992 presidential election.

It’s not just victory that matters for Walker, but the margin of victory. In modern times, all of the governors who have gone on to win the nomination of a major party have not been reelected narrowly but have galloped to victory. “Obviously, he’d like to win by more than five points,” Republican strategist O’Connell says. …

Top Republicans are also quick to point out that Walker has qualities that can compensate for his failure to waltz to victory in November. Though he is the top target of unions this cycle, Walker, who doesn’t have a college degree, has tremendous potential appeal to blue-collar voters, who largely supported him in 2010. That’s a group that Republicans, with Mitt Romney as their standard bearer, struggled mightily with in 2012, and it will undoubtedly become a focus in 2016. The son of a Baptist preacher, Walker is also popular among religious conservatives. And he’s one of the few potential GOP nominees with a foot in both the establishment and tea-party camps.

Walker also likes to say this is his third race in four years and, if he wins in November, his primary selling point may be his proven ability to repeatedly win drag-out fights in a left-leaning state.

And what do non-Wisconsin readers think?

  • Ah, the idle rich. Reminds me of the Kennedy’s in many respects. Politics is a toy.
  • When the author contacted the Trek company to confirm her quoted international sales number, they refused. In my eyes, if Daddy could back up her claims then he would be very boastful about her accomplishments. The unions will vote against Walker as opposed to voting for a qualified candidate. What’s a little plagiarism among friends.
  • Was she instrumental in raising international sales at her father’s company? The company’s not saying. Nor will they talk about whether or not she was involved in the outsourcing of production by the company to foreign locations, displacing WI workers. As to her time in the state commerce dept., the record is what the record is as stated by the author. If there were some fantastic program or project that she created while there, I have no doubt it would be blared out to voters by her campaign – but there is none.
  • Real business background – Entrepreneur – as in successful startup, not going to work for Daddy.
  • I have met her on several occasions. Years ago, in a context having nothing to do with politics. She is an entitled airhead whose position at Trek was a sinecure with neither responsibilities nor regular hours.
  • What is wrong with Wisconsin? Scott Walker should be ahead by 20 points just for his record of breaking the hold that public employee unions had on the state. Instead the polls show that an accomplished governor is in a close race with a dilettante socialite with no real ideas other than those she purloined from other losers like herself.
  • Two lib cesspools, Milwaukee and Madison, war with an otherwise small town, rural state. Most people in Wisconsin appreciate the constitution and the value of our dwindling lib oppressed freedoms. Burke does not earn any votes based on her record or intellect. Sadly, half our population is composed of idiots who choose socialism over the benefits of freedom.
  • It’s pretty clear that she has very little experience at anything and she was chosen by the Ds as a female candidate that they can build an image around who will do their bidding after election, as she is likely to show as much interest in governing as she’s shown for everything else in her life. Government of the union, for the union and by the union will return to WI with a vengeance.
  • It’s a safe bet that if she does win the governorship, her first task will be to reward the unions by returning to the rule that if you wanted to work for govt you had to be a member of the union. Expect Wisconsin to resume its descent into irrelevancy that was interrupted by Walker.
  • Mary Burke has nothing to offer. She’s just another useless power grabber — one who can’t run her own life too well, but who has a million ideas how we should run ours and wants government power to jam them down our throats. She has been assisted by a Democrat prosecutor who keeps totally bogus charges against Walker plodding through the courts — the Democrats’ favorite ploy (see also Perry, Delay, Hutchinson in Texas). I’m sick of rich little morons who have theirs and seem to think government’s main job should be killing opportunities for the rest of us, not to mention taxing us to death. No creative thinking here, only two ideas: more regulation, more taxes. When Walker won the recall, I had hoped Wisconsin might shake off its liberal fascist tendencies. Come November, we’ll see how strong the totalitarian temptation still is.
  • Wisconsin is neither blue nor red. Having recently escaped the cess pool that is Illinois to become a cheeze head, I am struck by the upside-downedness of Wisconsin. The people who ought to be conservative voters in every respect seem to be Democrats. Those who would be liberals under normal circumstances have connected the dots between socialism and the poverty it engenders. Unemployed former union members have an almost universal distrust of Big Labor and a healthy scorn for Blue Sky collectivist promises. They’d rather work full time for minimum wages than be unemployed on a picket line. Meanwhile, farmers and big business here seem to be nuttier than Greenpeace. Any good that Walker has accomplished will be quickly undone with a Burke victory. It’s 50-50. Perhaps the difference will be the recent transplants from my former state who will certainly not be pulling the lever for the bicycle babe. One can only hope.


While the media reports that Mary Burke apparently borrowed her ideas from several different sources …

… it turns out someone is swiping her ideas, wherever those ideas came from.

(By the way: I came up with the headline last week, though it showed up on Facebook Saturday by two of my Facebook Friends.)

Breitbart reports on South Dakota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer:

BuzzFeed reported Thursday that Susan Wismer, the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee in South Dakota, has been caught plagiarizing from the already plagiarized jobs plan of the party’s Wisconsin gubernatorial nominee, Mary Burke. Wismer also plagiarized from the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee in Texas, Wendy Davis.

Until this plagiarism of a plagiarized plan story broke on Thursday, Wismer liked to point out the similarities between herself and Burke of Wisconsin.

On her campaign website, for instance, the lead story in her news section cites an article published in the Washington Post last month, which reported that “Mary Burke made Wisconsin history Tuesday. She and South Dakota’s Susan Wismer — both of them Democrats — this year became the first women since 1970 and likely ever to secure a major-party nomination for governor in their respective states, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.” …

The instances of plagiarism first identified by BuzzFeed on Thursday (shown below) are numerous and blatant:

Mary Burke’s Jobs Plan:

She knows how to make responsible decisions that keep a balance sheet in the black while creating jobs because she’s spent her career doing it. Scott Walker has taken a different approach. Despite making historic cuts to education, he’s turned a projected budget surplus into a deficit, and state spending has shot up by $4.6 billion.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document:

As an accountant, Susan knows how to make responsible decisions that keep a balance sheet in the black while creating jobs because she’s spent her career doing it. This governor has taken a different approach. After making historic cuts, he took a $127 million dollar budget surplus and padded his reserves rather than giving back what was cut to areas desperate for funding.

Mary Burke’s Jobs Plan

Mary believes Wisconsin schools should be among the best in the nation—and she knows that making historic cuts isn’t the way to do it. She’ll work every day to strengthen our public education system, from K-12 to our technical colleges and university system.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document:

Susan believes South Dakota schools should be among the best in the nation and making historic cuts isn’t the way to do it. Susan will work every day to strengthen our public education system– from K-12 to our technical colleges and university system.

Wendy Davis’ Campaign Document:

Wendy Davis will build a well-trained workforce of teachers by engineering guaranteed pathways to careers in education and ensure ongoing support by raising teacher pay to be in line with the rest of the country.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document:

Susan will build a well-trained workforce of educators and ensure ongoing support for them by raising salaries to be on par with the rest of the country.

Wendy Davis’ Campaign Document:

When responsibly invested, economic development funds can help bring new businesses and jobs into the state, promote innovation, and encourage technological advancements. But under the wrong leadership and without accountability, too often they become giveaways to special interests and insiders that drain valuable resources from essential investments like our schools and increase taxes on working Texas families.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document

Susan knows that the best businesses for communities are usually local businesses. When responsibly invested, economic development funds can help create new businesses and jobs, promote innovation, and encourage technological advancements. However, under the wrong leadership and without accountability, too often they become giveaways to special interests, corporations, and insiders that drain valuable resources from essential investments.

Wendy Davis’ Campaign Document:

As Governor, Wendy Davis will:

Promote transparency, accountability, and responsible investment of economic development funds to ensure they actually create jobs, as well as encourage innovation and development that benefits all Texans.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document:

As governor, Susan will promote transparency, accountability, and responsible investment of economic development funds to ensure they actually create jobs and encourage innovation and development that benefits all South Dakotans. She will establish strong, independent oversight of our incentive funds. Susan will ensure transparency and accountability of tax exemptions.

Mary Burke’s Jobs Plan:

The Walker administration has taken a different approach. Rejecting hundreds of millions of our own federal tax dollars means our money goes to cover health care in other states, and leaves us paying more as a state to cover fewer hard working Wisconsinites. It’s an example of what happens when you put politics ahead of progress. And it’s just wrong.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document

The Daugaard administration has rejected hundreds of millions of our own federal tax dollars, money that is covering healthcare in other states, and leaves us paying more to cover fewer hard-working South Dakotans. It’s an example of what happens when you put politics ahead of progress.

Mary Burke’s Jobs Plan:

Mary will overturn the current administration’s refusal to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of our taxpayer money back home to our state, where it belongs.

Susan Wismer’s Campaign Document:

Susan will overturn the current administration’s refusal to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid, bringing over $272 million of our taxpayer money back to South Dakota, while providing 48,000 South Dakotans with access to affordable, preventative health care.

Breitbart News requested a comment from the Wismer campaign but has not received a response.

There have been no reports yet that any other Democratic gubernatorial candidates have plagiarized Wismer’s plagiarization of Burke’s plagiarized plan. But with another 40 days still left until election day, it is still too early to discount the possibility of a third generation of campaign document plagiarization among Democrats this cycle.

It’s getting to the point that a diagram will be needed to connect who swiped which ideas from whom. One also wonders how many incorrect facts are in Wismer’s plan, such as the inaccurate claim about job growth in small business since the Recovery In Name Only began.

Of course, as I’ve pointed out ever since this hit the interwebs, the big issue here is much less about stolen ideas (though it speaks to Burke’s personal character) as it is the quality, or lack thereof, of those ideas. Advocating policies that will chop 120,000 jobs from the state doesn’t qualify under any sane person’s definition of “best practices.”

About those ideas, the Club for Growth observes:

On hearing Friday’s news that Mary Burke’s job-creation plan was plagiarized from other Democrats running for governor, in Delaware, Tennessee, and elsewhere we thought, well…there are think tanks whose business is to share such ideas.

But Burke reacted less calmly, firing the consultant responsible for the cut-and-paste job. Why? For duping her into thinking she had a jobs plan?

More intriguing than Burke snatching ideas that may be interchangeable among Democrats is her apparently scant familiarity with what she is proposing.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quoted her saying “This is my plan on how to drive Wisconsin’s economy forward,” later adding that she had made it “the centerpiece” of her campaign—begging the question of why she wouldn’t recognize material that wasn’t her own. The lingering impression is that the content doesn’t matter, least of all to Burke.

So what does matter in this singularly odd campaign?

A jobs plan outsourced because there had to be one; a resume mixing employment by a company her family owns with periods of prolonged unemployment and activity Burke strains to define.  A privileged baby-boomer in a candidacy disconnected from achievement, based solely on Mary Burke not being Scott Walker.  That. Is. All.

As Jim Doyle’s Commerce Secretary, effectively his chief job-creation officer, didn’t Burke have ideas of her own?  Dare we ask how they worked out? Weekend stories detailed more plagiarism that couldn’t have involved the fired consultant. Has Burke no agenda she can safely reveal?

If anything about the Democrats’ handpicked nominee seems familiar, seems to resonate with current realities in America, it’s the apparent detachment from the necessities of governing. A vaporous, unfocused figure glimpsed occasionally through swirling mists, the anti-Walker, nothing more.

Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) points out:

Indeed much of Burke’s plan was copied, but not just from other campaigns.  Burke also plagiarized copyrighted material.  Her jobs plan, “Invest for Success”, directly copied material from “Manufacturing’s Secret Shift”, a study copyrighted in 2011 by Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms.

Take a look at these two passages, the first from Accenture, the second Burke’s.

“Companies are beginning to realize that having offshored much of their manufacturing and supply operations away from their demand locations, they hurt their ability to meet their customers’ expectations…” 

“But today, many companies are beginning to realize that moving their manufacturing and supply operations overseas has hurt their ability to serve their customers.”

This is sometimes referred to as mosaic plagiarism, the splicing of key phrases with only minor changes within the same sentence structure and meaning.  A Harvard grad like Burke might know this.  The rest of us can Google “Harvard mosaic plagiarism.” That Burke plagiarized copyrighted material is beyond doubt, but there is more.

Mary Burke might “take the time to read the whole” Accenture study she was plagiarizing. It might help her understand why her proposals for Wisconsin are so misguided.  Accenture asked manufacturers to identify the most important factors in selecting locations for their operations.  Respondents ranked as most important these factors: labor costs, proximity to the customer, skills of workforce, taxes, transportation costs, and government regulations.

Wisconsin must be more competitive in attracting and keeping manufacturing in our state. We need to improve the skills of our workers, reduce taxes and streamline regulations. Mary Burke’s mistake is much bigger than plagiarism. Burke is advocating failed liberal ideas that would move us in the wrong direction on labor costs, taxes and regulations.


Another sign of political infestation

Cass Sunstein appears to have found another form of discrimination:

If you are a Democrat, would you marry a Republican? Would you be upset if your sister did?

Researchers have long asked such questions about race, and have found that along important dimensions, racial prejudice is decreasing. At the same time, party prejudice in the U.S. has jumped, infecting not only politics but also decisions about dating, marriage and hiring. By some measures, “partyism” now exceeds racial prejudice — which helps explain the intensity of some midterm election campaigns.

In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent. Republicans have been found to like Democrats less than they like people on welfare or gays and lesbians. Democrats dislike Republicans more than they dislike big business.

Consider one of the most influential measures of prejudice: the implicit-association test, which is simple to take. You see words on the upper corners of a screen — for example, “white” paired with either “good” or “bad” in the upper left corner, and “black” paired with one of those same adjectives in the upper right. Then you see a picture or a word in the middle of the screen — for example, a white face, an African-American face, or the word “joy” or “terrible.” Your task is to click on the upper corner that matches either the picture or the word in the middle.

Many white people quickly associate “joy” with the upper left corner when it says “white” and “good” — but have a harder time associating “joy” with the left corner when the words there are “black” and “good.” So too, many white people quickly associate “terrible” with the left corner when it says “black” and “bad,” but go a lot more slowly when the left corner says “white” and “bad.”

To test for political prejudice, Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, political scientists at Stanford University, conducted a large-scale implicit association test with 2,000 adults. They found people’s political bias to be much larger than their racial bias. When Democrats see “joy,” it’s much easier for them to click on a corner that says “Democratic” and “good” than on one that says “Republican” and “good.”

To find out whether such attitudes predict behavior, Iyengar and Westwood undertook a follow-up study. They asked more than 1,000 people to look at the resumes of several high-school seniors and say which ones should be awarded a scholarship. Some of these resumes contained racial cues (“president of the African American Student Association”) while others had political ones (“president of the Young Republicans”).

Race mattered. African-American participants preferred the African-American candidates 73 percent to 27 percent. Whites showed a modest preference for African-American candidates, as well, though by a significantly smaller margin. But partisanship made a much bigger difference. Both Democrats and Republicans selected their in-party candidate about 80 percent of the time.

Even when a candidate from the opposing party had better credentials, most people chose the candidate from their own party. With respect to race, in contrast, merit prevailed.

In a further test of political prejudice, Iyengar and Westwood asked 800 people to play the trust game, well known among behavioral scientists: Player 1 is given some money (say, $10) and told that she can give some, all or none of it to Player 2. Player 1 is then told that the researcher will triple the amount she allocates to Player 2 — and that Player 2 can give some of that back to Player 1. When Player 1 decides how much money to give Player 2, a central question is how well she trusts him to return an equivalent or greater amount.

Are people less willing to trust people of a different race or party affiliation? The researchers found that race didn’t matter — but party did. People are significantly more trusting of others who share their party affiliation.

What accounts for the explosive growth of political prejudice? Modern campaigns deserve some of the blame. Iyengar and his colleagues show that when people are exposed to messages that attack members of the opposing party, their biases increase. But the destructive power of partyism is extending well beyond politics into people’s behavior in daily life.

First: It is wrong to discriminate against people based on immutable characteristics — for instance, race. It may or may not be wrong to discriminate against someone for non-immutable characteristics. Do you want a convicted child molester working with your children?

As usual, you have to sift through a load of it’s-the-other-side’s-fault comments to get to the crux of what Sunstein identifies:

  • While politics and party ideology are the easy targets, the culprit is the continuous expansion of the size, scope and reach of the US government.
  • Why would that explain the animosity towards opposing political parties which is greater than racism?
  • Because as more and more of your life is exposed to and impacted by politics, the more threatening someone with opposing political views becomes.
  • I would generally agree with that premise only to add that they become more threatening as an individual ties their own well being to that of a political party. So when their party or any of their ideas are assaulted in some manner, it’s taken personally.
    Still, I’m curious why the original poster would suggest this has anything to do with the size of government. It just seems like a sidestep of the original issue presented in this article.
  • You’re missing the point. it’s not that people’s well being is tied to a political party, it’s that as governments grows, the non-political sphere shrinks. To paraphrase Trotsky, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you. The federal government dictates the heath insurance I must purchase, the gas mileage my car must get, what kind of light bulbs I can buy, what’s in my kid’s school lunches and a thousand other things.
    If the government’s role was limited to what a strict reading of the constitution allows, very few people would be interested in anybody else’s political leanings. But, for better and for worse, that’s not the world we live in.
  • We have reduced politics to a sport in which people display passionate but blind loyalty to their own team while heaping vitriol on the other. The spirit of respectful and reasoned debate backed by a willingness to compromise has been lost, and our democracy can’t function effectively without it.
  • Maybe there isn’t anything valuable being put forth. Maybe the politicians themselves invent problems and crisis and the perception that they can fix them. Maybe Americans have finally started to realize that government is inept to solve problems and thus should be a minimized “necessary evil”
    “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” – Thomas Paine
  • I’d suggest that what the article reports upon is quite real — widespread revulsion with liberal and conservative viewpoints, to the point that an increasing number of people cannot be paid off to go along with either one.
    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a fairly large number of self-described conservatives are not particularly conservative, they are best described as “vehemently opposed to the liberal agenda.” In fact, when “their” conservative agenda is attacked, they have little to say in favor of conservatism, responding almost entirely with anti-liberal venom.
    Ditto a fairly large number of self-described liberals.
  • The political divisions that exist in this country are driven more by media than anything else.
    At ground level I have friends and work associates of all political persuasions and we rarely quarrel or hate over those differences.
    Want to feel hate and contempt? Turn on the TV or jump on the Internet. Want to avoid those negativities? Spend most of your time among actual people. People in person rarely quibble about politics, practical concerns make up the day.
    The author not only does a poor job isolating media as a major factor but also plays up the divisiveness for the sake of a column.
    The media is owned and run by the powers-that-be; evidently they’d much rather we quarrel with each other than with them.
    That in fact is the crux of the matter; divide-to-rule is one of the oldest and most pervasive power strategies in the book. See the button-pushing clearly for what it is.
  • Attempting to draw conclusions about reality from artificial “studies” with limited participation (while a favorite hobby of Sunstein’s) is fraught with risk.
    That said, are we really surprised that politics trumps race in the “trust” test? A white person and a black person are not, necessarily, adversaries in any particular sense. But political parties are, necessarily, antagonistic: in any given house, senate or presidential race, only one candidate wins. So if I give $10 to my opponent and they receive $40–and the only thing I know about that person is their political affiliation–I now know that this person has every rational reason to keep $40, even if that person is kind and trustworthy.
    Of course, this has no bearing on reality. In real life, there are reasons why people may reach across the aisle–the most obvious being that life is a repetitive game and someone in a majority position today may be in a minority position tomorrow. There is zero reason to expect that to be replicated in the lab.

It may shock some readers to know that I have liberals in my own family. In fact, at one of our Christmas celebrations talking about politics was banned by the powers-that-be. (Mothers, of course.) I also have friends whose political viewpoints differ substantially from mine.

The fact is, however, that politics is a zero-sum game. One side wins, which means the other side loses. Next year maybe the winner and loser switch sides, but the zero-sum game remains, with, unlike a sporting event, no end. (Except, of course, for John Maynard Keynes’ observation that “In the long run we are all dead.”) As Douglas MacArthur said about war, in politics there is no substitute for victory, even if the victory is often fleeting and sometimes Pyrrhic.

There are some political issues that are truly zero-sum. If you believe that, for instance, abortion or war are truly evil, then the correct number of abortions or wars is zero. If you believe that life begins at conception, then reducing the number of abortions in half still means that that number of lives are being snuffed out. If war is the worst thing on this planet, then you’re not very happy with, well, any presidential administration since Herbert Hoover.

Some of this, I suppose, could be blamed on our I-am-the-center-of-the-universe society. Try talking to a diehard Bears fan about the Packers. Try talking to a Government Motors enthusiast about, say, Toyota. Suggest to a Beatles fan that the band might be overrated, but you had better have a leg pointing in an escape direction. I know huge fans of fantasy football, but I question the use of a made-up sport that, frankly, measures the wrong things instead of what counts in sports — wins and losses.

Of course, you can choose to watch the Bears or Packers (or no football at all), you can buy one brand of car instead of another, and you can choose or not to participate in a particular pastime. Trotsky’s alleged statement (which sounds like something Yakov Smirnoff would say) is absolutely and unfortunately correct.

I don’t have a sister, but I do have children. I am positive I will have no input on their choice of spouse. That question is moot, because parents don’t have a vote. (Entertaining side note: My mother, raised a Methodist, was to marry my father, raised Roman Catholic. Before the wedding day, an ex-boyfriend of my mother’s called my grandmother to implore her to forbid my mother from marrying one of those Catholics. My grandmother, also a Methodist, told the ex where he should go.)

The thing about people with political views that differ from your own, it seems to me, is the extent to which your political opponent feels the need to jam his or her views down your throat. My observation from experience is that liberals base their arguments on emotions, whereas conservatives base theirs on logic, but that doesn’t necessarily always apply. (The same could be said by replacing “liberals” with “women” and “conservatives” with “men,” irrespective of the political viewpoints being expressed, but that could be a generalization too.) I know liberals and conservatives who literally cannot shut up about politics, and even the ones I agree with can become annoying.

Politics should not be the be-all and end-all of your life. It is possible that if you meet someone who has different political views from yours, that person may have other different views that makes that person incompatible with you. Or maybe they just have different political views. Mature people should know what is important.


Chisholm vs. Lutz

Stuart Taylor follows up on his report of the real character of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm:

After missing a scoop on Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm’s long-running investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writers, along with the district attorney’s staff, hunted down the key source who had asked for anonymity, fearing retaliation.

That story, produced by the American Media Institute and published by Legal Newsline last week, said that the district attorney’s wife was a teachers union shop steward, had taken part in demonstrations against the Republican governor’s proposal to curb public employee unions and was repeatedly moved to tears by governor’s legislative crusade.

Chisholm, a Democrat, said privately that it was his “personal duty to stop Walker,” the confidential source said.

AMI’s confidential source was a former prosecutor in Chisholm’s office who feared his reputation and his law practice would suffer if he were unmasked.

The district attorney’s staff launched a Nixon-style “mole hunt” to find the anonymous source, a Journal Sentinel columnist said, and was annoyed that the description of the confidential source wasn’t precise enough to identify him. The staff developed a list of roughly a dozen suspects, the columnist said. The Journal Sentinel never reported this secret search.

The feared retaliation was not long in coming. The Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, whose “political watchdog” column is titled “No Quarter,” appeared after dark at the source’s home on Sept. 11. Bice’s persistent door-bell ringing and heavy knocks awakened and frightened the source’s sleeping 12-year-old daughter, he said. The noise was so loud that a neighbor came out to investigate the din, he said.

When the source, a decorated and disabled-in-the-line-of-duty police officer, Michael Lutz, came to the door, he opened it a crack to hear Bice demand to know if he was the person quoted in the story. He did not deny it and speaks exclusively on the record in this story for the first time.

Lutz says he has been friends with John and Colleen Chisholm for more than a decade. He admires the district attorney, considering him a role model and mentor. He says he worked with Chisholm as a police officer and in the district attorney’s office, first as a law school intern in 2010 and as a special prosecutor in 2011 – a period of more than a year, not the five-and-a-half months reported by Bice.

(An editing change in this reporter’s Sept. 9 article identified Lutz as a “longtime Chisholm subordinate,” which has been faulted as inaccurate. Even if valid, the criticism has little or no relevance to Lutz’s credibility in light of what can now be revealed about him. In any event, police officers can be called subordinate to the district attorney.)

Lutz says he met with Chisholm in his private office in 2011 and was surprised when he heard the district attorney say that his wife had wept repeatedly and joined demonstrations against Walker, who was fighting for and winning legislative approval of his union reforms. Lutz said Chisholm demonstrated what he called a “hyper-partisan” bias against Walker.

Lutz’s motivation for speaking out was based on principle: “I don’t like what he [Chisholm] has done in regard to political speech that he disagrees with.”

Revealing how Chisholm allegedly spoke of his wife’s anguish in connection with his own determination to “stop” Walker, Lutz said, wasn’t meant to harm her. “I never did anything to hurt anyone,” Lutz said. “I just wanted to speak the truth because I don’t think it’s right the way they are stifling speech.”

Citing one previously unreported example, Lutz mentions not being “allowed” to express an opposing viewpoint. He wrote in an May 20, 2012, email to an unidentified person:

When “I was a Special Prosecutor in the DA’s office and [Wisconsin Supreme Court] Justice [David] Prosser approached me to do a [pre-election] video spot about how the decision authored by him about the guy who shot me was a very important ruling for Police officers in general, DA Chisholm … stated that he couldn’t allow me to do it and he wants to stay as far away from these Republicans as he can … Fast forward 8 months and HIS [Chisholm’s] liberal block of DA’s, 80% of them, are actively campaigning, emailing, and even verbally bashing Walker at meetings. I think Chisholm has left the reservation and now has his flag firmly planted in the liberal left’s camp.”

Prosser won his election in April 2011. He voted with the majority on July 31 when the state Supreme Court upheld Walker’s reforms by a vote of 5-2.

Lutz felt he had a lot to lose if his identity were revealed, which Bice and the Journal Sentinel did on Sept. 12. Lutz felt that if he were exposed as the source, it would be hard to find clients once everyone in the county knew that the district attorney was now his enemy.

Most journalists’ first instinct is to protect the identity of whistleblowers against powerful people likely to retaliate against them. Not columnist Bice or the Journal Sentinel. They have devoted their energy to exposing Lutz’s identity, subjecting him to attacks, and seeking to discredit him.

Chisholm’s wide-ranging investigation into Walker, his staff and 29 nonprofit conservative groups was accompanied by sweeping subpoenas for documents, phone records, emails, cell phones, computers and more; predawn raids on conservative activists’ homes without allowing them to call their lawyers; and “gag orders” about the investigation. These gag orders silenced virtually all of the conservative movement in Wisconsin by denying its leaders the chance to defend themselves publicly.

This was by design, say critics who characterize the investigation itself as a political vendetta by a Democratic district attorney against a Republican governor.

Over the years, Chisholm’s office has consistently denied political motivations, stressing the roles of two Republican district attorneys who opened proceedings to help enlarge his investigation’s territorial reach, and that of Francis Schmitz, a political independent who was made Special Prosecutor and titular head of the investigation in August 2013.

The entire investigation was found unconstitutional and temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in a May 8 decision that is now on appeal. During the Sept. 9 oral arguments, one of the three federal appellate judges, Frank Easterbrook, noted that the gag orders appeared to be “screamingly unconstitutional” while expressing doubt (as did Judge Diane Wood) that the case belonged in federal court. …

Lutz provided additional information and documents that call into question the objectivity of the Journal Sentinel’s reporting.

As a police officer working in Milwaukee, Lutz was named “Professional Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” in 1997 and again in 2007. He received the Milwaukee Police Department’s Purple Award of Valor in 2009, commendations for heroism in 1996 and 2006, and an Award of Merit from the FBI in 2006. In all, he won 11 honors and decorations.

Injured in the line of duty, he retired on disability pay and went to law school, earning his degree in December 2010. He worked in Chisholm’s office to gain experience from June 2010 to July 2011.

When Lutz went into private practice, Chisholm wrote a memo to him on July 27, 2011, that said his service “has been exemplary,” that his “dedication and hard work … have proved to be invaluable,” and that “I am extremely grateful for the service you provided.”

In a previous letter of recommendation from November 2007, Chisholm wrote that Lutz had been “one of the best investigators in the Milwaukee police department” and had “removed some of the most dangerous offenders from the streets of Milwaukee” while combining “a remarkable memory with unceasing hard work and courage.”

Critics of the Journal Sentinel’s coverage of Chisholm’s investigation of Walker, his staff and his allies have long complained of what they call biased reporting and commentary, especially by Bice, overseen by Managing Editor George Stanley.

“Dan Bice and the Journal Sentinel have abandoned journalistic standards in covering the long-running investigation of Gov. Scott Walker, his staff, and allied conservative advocacy groups,” said George Mitchell, a former journalist who worked for former U.S. Rep. Les Aspin and former Wisconsin Gov. Pat Lucey – both Democrats.

“Bice and the paper have relied heavily on material that originated from illegal leaks. They have smeared numerous innocent people who were barred by secrecy orders from responding to rumors and leaks. They have dishonestly portrayed completely legal and widespread political conduct. The list goes on. It is long.”

Lutz says he has no animus toward Chisholm, adding he gave $200 last month for a Chisholm campaign fundraiser. He has visited the Chisholms’ home several times and gone to dinners, after-work functions, and other outings with one or both of them over the years.

As to the effect of the Journal Sentinel campaign to discredit him, Lutz said in an email:

“I have relocated my kids to prevent them from being brought to tears by any more J-S reporters and to protect them from the onslaught that has already begun. All for telling the truth.”

The consequences for telling that truth are already being felt, Lutz writes. “My law practice … is over in MKE [Milwaukee]. There is no doubt, as one person has put it, that I am already blacklisted. . . . . Supporting the family will be difficult. Of course, it has been a huge undertaking to go through 4 surgeries, take care of 2 children, drive back and forth to Madison daily in order to get my law license … only to be persecuted for simply telling the truth.”

In response to suggestions by the Journal Sentinel that Lutz must not be telling the truth because no other current or former employee of the district attorney’s office has corroborated his allegations, Lutz says: “No one in the current DA’s office or any practicing attorney in Milwaukee would dare speak up against Chisholm or even mention a suggestion of partisanship. Their [private] practice would be killed in Milwaukee. Mine is finished but I can still rely on my police pension.”

Mitchell adds:

In a responsible newsroom, Chisholm and Lutz would get equal scrutiny and balanced reporting.  There’s obviously no chance of that happening.

In a responsible legal environment, Lutz’s claims would get independent scrutiny, perhaps by the state’s Judicial Commission.  Chisholm is an officer of the court.  The Commission’s “task is to enforce high standards of judicial behavior, both on and off the bench, without compromising judicial independence. [It] strives to maintain public confidence in the judiciary by providing a forum for the expeditious and fair disposition of complaints of judicial misconduct and disability.”  If ever there was a case of where “public confidence” is at issue, this is it.

Intellectual laziness, incorrect facts and bad ideas

Mary Burke made news last week, and not news of the good kind for a political candidate.

If Burke’s jobs plan seems familiar, there’s a good reason, M.D. Kittle reports:

Buzzfeed, which has had its own PR black eyes with plagiarism, reported late Thursday that Burke’s plan, “Invest for Success” pilfers entire passages from the jobs plans laid out by Delaware Democratic Gov. Jack Markell in 2008, and Democratic gubernatorial candidates Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009 and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012.

A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an “expert” named Eric Schnurer, “who also worked on the other campaigns(,) as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism.” Schnurer is founder and president of Philadelphia-based consulting firm Public Works.

Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Schnurer was let go as soon the camp was made aware of the BuzzFeed report.

Zepecki defended the swiping, telling the newspaper the sections represented “fewer than 10 paragraphs of a 49-page plan.” …

BuzzFeed cited several passages in Burke’s plan pulled nearly verbatim from the work of others, including:

Ward Cammack’s plan:

Expanding intern programs to provide help to small farmers and also give students direct agricultural education and experience.

And here’s Burke:

Expanding intern programs to provide help to small farmers and also give students direct agricultural education and experience.

Here’s Gregg:

At the same time, small-and medium-sized businesses have been hiring new employees at a faster rate than large companies since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009.

And here’s Burke:

And in the short-term, small-and medium-sized businesses have been hiring new employees at a faster rate than large companies since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009.

You can read all of Cammack’s plan here … if you have nothing better to do.

This is one of the things that as someone with a degree in political science (for what that’s worth) and in journalism (for what that’s worth), I just shake my head. It is just lazy for Schnurer to copy and paste his own work instead of rewriting it, particularly in an era in which your own previous work is probably somewhere on the World Wide Web. This certainly doesn’t reflect well on the Burke campaign either, because someone working for the campaign evidently didn’t vet Schnurer enough, as demonstrated by Schnurer’s firing for the offense of publicly embarrassing his employer.

The next thing that comes to mind is that only one of the three Democrats got elected with this plan, whoever belonged to it first, and him in a generally Democratic state. Since the first goal of politics is to get elected, this document is one for three on that test, which is good in baseball and volleyball hitting and nowhere else.

This is more a case of intellectual laziness on the part of Burke (who, remember, derided Scott Walker’s 2010 economic plan as appearing to have been written by an eighth-grader) than plagiarism, even though if you put your name on it, it’s your work whether or not you actually did the work. (Which I suppose makes Burke an accessory to self-plagiarism, or something.) Wisconsin is neither Indiana nor Tennessee nor Delaware. Apparently Burke, or Burke’s campaign, could not be bothered to create a Wisconsin-centric document, which makes you question how serious Burke is about being governor. (Which is, of course, different from getting elected governor.)

BuzzFeed reports that that’s not the only instance of Burke’s borrowed work:

In Mary Burke’s Invest in our Rural Communities  plan:

Here’s a Council Of State Governments report from 2003:

At a time when U.S. manufacturing employment is generally on the decline, the production of wind equipment is one of the few potentially large sources of new manufacturing jobs on the horizon.

And here’s Burke:

While manufacturing employment in general has been declining for years, the production of wind equipment is one of the few potentially large sources of new manufacturing jobs.

In Mary Burke’s recent Plan for Wisconsin Veterans:

Here’s a 2013 Dunn County News column:

The opposition argued that the bill would impose additional burdens on those that were injured — and in some cases plaintiffs could die before their cases made it through the lengthened court process.

And here’s Burke:

This places additional burdens on those who were injured and in some cases plaintiffs could die before their cases make it through the lengthened court process.

Here’s the Wisconsin Food Cooperative’s website:

The WFHC helps local farmers by providing them with the opportunity, through marketing, sales, aggregation, and logistics, to access wholesale markets they could not access easily before.

And here’s Burke:

Promoting the replication of Food Hubs for helping small farmers get their produce to retail markets, profitably. The Food Hub model, exemplified by the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative (WFHC), helps local farmers – through marketing, sales, aggregation, and logistics – to access wholesale markets.

Here’s the National Rural Health Institute:

Although only one-third of all motor vehicle accidents occur in rural areas, two-thirds of the deaths attributed to these accidents occur on rural roads.

And here’s Burke:

And although only one-third of motor vehicle accidents occur in rural areas, two-thirds of automobile fatalities occur on rural roads.

Here’s the Journal of Extension on incubator farms:

An incubator farm is typically a place where people are given temporary, exclusive, and affordable access to small parcels of land and infrastructure, and often training, for the purpose of honing skills and launching farm businesses.

And here’s Burke:

An incubator farm, like other entrepreneurial incubators, is a place where aspiring farmers can have temporary affordable access to small parcels of land and infrastructure, training, practice, and mentorship for the purpose of honing skills and launching farm businesses.

The plagiarism, if that’s what you want to call it, is actually the least of the issues here. No one is concerned when good ideas are borrowed from someone else. Did Bill Clinton plagiarize from Tommy Thompson when Clinton came up with federal welfare reform? Who cares? Welfare reform was something whose time was long overdue. When Ronald Reagan proposed income tax cuts when he was running for president, I doubt Arthur Laffer cared whether or not Reagan gave him credit. Are all of the Democrats running on increasing the minimum wage guilty of plagiarism from whoever thought of it first?

Wisconsin lefties have been complaining for years about the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Gaia forbid if one of their ideas ever ends up in a bill in the Legislature. A good idea — for instance, fiscal responsibility, a big ALEC issue — stands up regardless of whether it’s an original idea or not. (More on that later.)

Since perception is reality in politics, Jerry Bader notes how this hurts Burke:

In my formative years in talk radio someone once taught me: “don’t answer questions people aren’t asking.” That’s a radio consultant’s clever way of saying be relevant with your topics. In politics the strategy of answering questions people aren’t asking is often employed to avoid answering the questions people are asking. It’s the politician’s equivalent of the magician’s sleight of hand; get the audience to watch one hand so they won’t notice what the other hand is doing. With the media playing the role of her lovely assistant, gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke is attempting to pull off such a trick. …

All of this is decidedly answering a question no one is asking. Burke isn’t under fire because Schnurer “plagiarized himself.” She’s under fire for passing off his ideas as her own. With Governor Scott Walker falling short on his pledge of 250,000 jobs created in his first term, Burke unveiled the plan in an effort to establish her economic gravitas. And as noted above, there was little uncertainty at the time that this was being presented as Mary Burke’s plan, created by her based on her Ivy League education and personal business experience. We now know that’s not true. Yet Burke isn’t speaking to that point and the media isn’t pressing her to answer a question people are indeed asking. …

Yet, in this case, Burke is the hapless victim of an unscrupulous consultant. When they called the plan “thoughtful and substantial” back in March, was there any doubt the JS was lauding what it believed to be Burke’s thoughts and substance? This is a case of plagiarism, but not on Eric Schnurer’s part. Burke passed off his ideas as her own when she unveiled this plan. Of course, given that most of the ideas are well established liberal pabulum (full disclosure: The Weekly Standard called them that before I did) we should have known they weren’t Burke’s original thought. That might be her most honest possible defense of all.

Beyond its lack of originality, Burke’s, or Schnurer’s, plan needed an editor and a proofreader because, Tom Blumer reports:

The real problem with Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s “jobs plan” … isn’t its plagiarized material. It’s the content. The presence of certain obviously wrong facts and patently pathetic assertions indicates that Ms. Burke, a successful entrepreneur who one would think should have known better, hardly scrutinized her plan at all before allowing its publication. …

Burke’s plan claims that “small-and medium-sized businesses have been hiring new employees at a faster rate than large companies since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009.”

Bloomberg reported in January 2013 that “Payrolls at firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for less than 50 percent of the total workforce for the first time in 2008 during the recession and have barely recovered.”

In March of 2013, Joel Kotkin at Forbes wrote:

… small business is still in recession. The number of startup jobs per 1,000 Americans over the past four years fell a full 30% below the levels of the Bush and Clinton eras…. a recent Brookings study reveals … (that) larger businesses came out of the recovery stronger, not their beleaguered smaller counterparts.

Burke’s material here in this regard isn’t just plagiarized; it’s dated boilerplate. The statement about small business was predominantly true for decades before the most recent recession; since then, it has not been. This tells me that Burke and her team didn’t really vet the material they were presented, not only for originality but for simple accuracy.

Another claim copied verbatim was made in plagiarized materials about other states in previous years:

Our university and college systems have made great progress in aligning requirements for course work to make transferring credits easier.

Given the plagiarism, it would seem fair to assert that even if this statement is true, it’s only by accident, and not the result of any specific research into Badger State higher education practices.

Going to the detailed jobs plan, even the most basic claims Burke makes don’t hold up, like this one:

When I served as Wisconsin’s Commerce Secretary, Wisconsin had 72,000 more jobs than it does now, based on the latest data.

The plan specifically refers to the following table at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and is as of roughly February of this year:


There is no point in time during Burke’s 2005-2007 tenure when Wisconsin’s statewide employment was 72,000 jobs higher than at the right end of the graph. The largest difference is roughly 55,000.

Burke also claimed, as if we’re supposed to be impressed, that:

The state’s annual average unemployment rate was never higher than 4.8% when I was Commerce Secretary – but unemployment has never been below 6.1% under the current Administration.

At the time it was written, the state’s February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was 0.6 points below the national average. Its August rate of 5.6 percent was a half-point lower. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in February of 2005 was 0.6 points below the nation’s 5.4 percent. In October 2007, the last full month of Burke’s tenure as the State’s Secretary of Commerce, the state’s unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was the same as the rest of the nation. Compared to the U.S. as a whole, Wisconsin squandered its lead under Burke, but has stayed ahead under Governor Scott Walker. Wisconsin’s current unadjusted unemployment rate is only 5.1 percent, which under the left’s “new normal” definition, is actually below, i.e., better than, full employment, which they now define as 5.5 percent unemployment.

I could go on, but I don’t need to. Readers can see that plagiarism is the least of the problems with Mary Burke’s jobs plan. Basic accuracy is its primary shortcoming.

The better question is whether or not Burke’s plan (or whoever wants to take ownership of the plan) would actually create jobs. Collin Roth gives four reasons the exact opposite would happen:

1.) The Minimum Wage - Mary Burke supports the nationwide initiative to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Burke has said, “I think increasing the minimum wage leads to people being able to support themselves and their families, and we can do it in a way that’s not going to hurt job creation.”

But according to a study by Dr. David MacPherson of Trinity University commissioned by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association (WRA), hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 could cost as many as 16,500 jobs in Wisconsin. The WRA study finds that “increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would eliminate 16,500 jobs—over half of which are jobs held by women. The bulk of the job losses would be concentrated among individuals with a high school degree or less, and among people who work in the retail or leisure & hospitality industries.”

2.) The Northern Wisconsin Mine - Mary Burke was made it very clear that she opposes the GTac mine and if elected would work to put a stop to it. “I’m against that mine,” Burke told a Madison radio show in 2013.

The GTac mine is a $1.5 billion investment in Northern Wisconsin and is anticipated to support 3,175 jobs during the two year construction phase. Once constructed, the mine would create around 700 jobs at the mine while supporting 2,834 jobs in the 12 county region surrounding the mine.

3.) Obamacare - Mary Burke has made expanding Obamacare in Wisconsin a centerpiece of her campaign. In 2008, Burke campaigned for President Obama and touted his healthcare reform. An MSNBC interview said “Burke is an unequivocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act.”

But once again, studies have revealed that the Affordable Care Act is, and will, take a toll on the Wisconsin economy. A recent study from the American Action Fund found that Obamacare has already cost 4,239 jobs at small businesses in Wisconsin. And when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the ACA could result in 2.5 million job losses by 2024, Americans for Tax Reform broke that down into each state. ATR projects that Wisconsin could lose 51,633 jobs.

4.) EPA Regulations - In an interview with Politico, Mary Burke was given the opportunity to explain any policy or position that she might disagree with President Obama. After a 12 second pause, Burke took the life preserver from her aide and said trade issues.

President Obama’s new EPA regulations are anticipated to be nothing short of a bomb dropped on the Wisconsin economy. A study from the Heritage Foundation found that Wisconsin could lose 11,702 jobs by 2023 due to the EPA regulations on carbon emissions. In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that new ozone standards being pushed by the EPA could be the costliest regulation in history. In Wisconsin, the new ozone standards would result in 52,031 lost jobs or job equivalents.

Burke’s positions on these four issues prove that Burke really knows nothing about Wisconsin business beyond her family’s own business. Whether or not someone gets a business degree, someone in business at some point learns that things that increase expenses (wage increases not based on improving the business, ObamaCare) are bad for business, which mean they’re bad for employees.

Someone probably should tell Burke that the three biggest business sectors in Wisconsin are manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. If Burke knew that, she might realize, or someone might be able to get her to understand, that the EPA’s dumping 52,000 Wisconsin manufacturing jobs would be bad for Wisconsin. And then maybe someone could get Burke to understand that a higher minimum wage’s dumping 16,500 jobs in one part of tourism would also be bad for Wisconsin. And then maybe someone could get Burke to understand that ObamaCare’s trashing 51,000 jobs across every sector of Wisconsin business would also be bad for Wisconsin.

You need not use Invest for Success in Delaware/Indiana/Tennessee/Wisconsin as evidence that Burke is not serious about being governor. Burke’s positions on her supposed strength, business, prove that she’s not a serious candidate for governor. Mitch Henck wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal Sunday that Burke “has to convince voters she’s a pro-business Democrat …” when the only correct word in that phrase is “Democrat.”

No sense of Democratic decency

The headline refers to something that happened 60 years ago …

… which makes what is happening in the governor’s and attorney general’s races ironic, in addition to indecent.

Start with the governor’s race and the reaction to the apparent motivation for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s John Doe persecution, from Right Wisconsin:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fulfilled their mission Friday morning to out and smear Michael Lutz, the whistleblower who was the source for Stuart Taylor’s report on partisanship in Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s office. The smear is indeed ugly and the reporter even went so far as to imply that Lutz’s PTSD did not make him a credible source.

But who is Michael Lutz?

Currently, Lutz is an attorney in private practice with the firm Canfield & Lutz. He served on the Millwaukee Police Department for 17 years before obtaining his law degree in 2010. During his 17 years on the force Lutz was involved in two high profile incidents…

In 2003, Lutz was involved in an incident that left Timothy Nabors paralyzed in a high profile shooting. Nabors claimed he was unarmed, but soon admitted he was indeed armed. …

In October 2005, Lutz was involved in a very high profile incident as a Milwaukee Police Officer that ended with Lutz being shot in the arm. Steve Spingola recounts the incident in the Spingola Files.

On October 3, 2005, as he had done for the past 16-years, Mike Lutz arrived for duty with the Milwaukee Police Department.  Little did he know that this would be—for all practical purposes—his last official day as a street cop.

Lt. Mike Dubis, Sgt. Mike Hartert, Sandoval, Lutz, and Officer John Osowski rolled-up to execute a no-knock search warrant for weapons at 905 W. Harrison Street—an apartment building wedged between the street and the Kinnickinnic River to the south.  Sgt. Hartert was in full uniform, while the other officers present were dressed in civilian attire with their badges plainly visible.  A man, who was outside when the officers arrived in their unmarked squad cars and shouting “police” and “search warrant” in both English and Spanish, ran inside Apartment Four—the search warrant’s targeted location. When the officers attempted for force the door, the man tried to hold the door shut.

“I proceeded to the door. I announce ‘Milwaukee police. Milwaukee police,’ Lutz testified. “I have my gun in my right hand extended before me, and I have my left hand out to push open the door, and I start pushing open the door as I’m yelling, ‘Milwaukee Police.’

“The door gets open approximately 12 inches. And I’m able to see a refrigerator to my left, and I see Mr. Payano leaning over the refrigerator pointing a gun at me. It happened very quickly.

“Just as the door was opened and I glanced, I didn’t have the time to bring my gun over. I heard one shot fired.”

As a defense, Payano claimed he did not know that the men forcing the door were police officers.

Common sense should have kicked-in here, as the location is a rough part of the city of Milwaukee—an area where street gangs have operated for years.  The officers were driving unmarked Ford Crown Victorias and Sgt. Hartert was wearing a police uniform.

But common sense is not always so common.

A Circuit Court judge shot down Payano’s claim of self-defense, although the court of appeals then overturned the lower court’s ruling.

The case then reached the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

“We conclude,” wrote Justice Prosser for the majority, “that, because the circuit court made its ruling using the appropriate legal standards under Sullivan, sufficiently explained its rationale on the record, and came to a reasonable conclusion, we must affirm its decision to admit the other acts evidence against Payano.”

Because of this ruling, prosecutors were able to obtain a conviction of Officer Lutz’s assailant.

The shooting, however, seriously damaged Mike Lutz’s arm.  He later received a duty disability. …

Micheal Lutz’s credibility and integrity have been on the line before and he has proven himself time and again. He served heroically on the Milwaukee Police Department and took a bullet in service of the community.

Chisholm could claim that Lutz was a disgruntled former employee … oh wait, he can’t:

According to a new letter obtained by RightWisconsin, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm commended former MPD officer and special prosecutor Michael Lutz for “exemplary” service to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office upon completion of Lutz’s short tenure with the DA.

Chisholm’s letter, dated July 27, 2011 commends Lutz, now identified as a whistleblower and source alleging partisanship in the DAs office, for his service as a Pro Bono Service Special Prosecutor. …

This letter from DA Chisholm contradicts some of the narrative that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provided when it outed Lutz in a Friday story. Columnist Daniel Bice wrote:

Reached Thursday, Chisholm said he was surprised that Lutz would make the allegations about the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.

That’s because, Chisholm said, Lutz was simply an unpaid intern for five months in the county office who spent his time filling out grant applications for the community prosecution program.

At some point, the word “intern” was edited out of Bice’s column as a descriptor of Lutz, whose title was Pro Bono Public Service Special Prosecutor.

George Mitchell added, before Lutz was identified:

But the paper’s watchdog columnist Dan Bice believes he knows who Taylor’s source is.  As for the source’s credibility, Bice sent a terse and stunning email yesterday:

Wow.  This is the same paper where Meg Kissinger has reported extensively on issues involving mental health.  Now it’s ready to disparage someone with a medically recognized condition — one apparently caused by an incident in the line of duty.

According to Taylor, the source in Chisholm’s office asked for anonymity because he feared retaliation. Those fears are now being realized. Reporters visited his family home and JS staffers threatened to publish disparaging information provided by Chisholm. …

When asked to comment on the implication of his email, Bice said, “I believe if you read my email, you will see that I am explicitly agnostic about [the source's] credibility.”

Agnostic? We’ll see.

But Stuart Taylor isn’t buying it.

“I can’t comment on my source but if some journalist is sliming the credibility of a person he thinks is my source because the man is on disability, that is stunningly dishonest and disgusting,” said Taylor. “If I were the employer of such a journalist, I would fire him.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s race has had its own nastiness, which Charlie Sykes summarizes:

How badly is this going for Susan Happ?

(1) Faced with an ethics complaint from a sexual assault victim, Happ remains silent, hiding behind campaign staffers and surrogates, instead of addressing it herself.

(2) One of those surrogates is former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who was ousted from that job after being busted for drunk driving. (What, Anthony Weiner wasn’t available?)

(3) Happ and Lautenschlager are reduced to attacking the credibility and motives of the victim. This comes just a day after the victim said that Happ’s office had tried to shut her up.

So: To preserve the chances of Mary Burke becoming governor and Happ becoming attorney general, Democrats slime a police officer who was shot in the line of duty (I wonder how the police unions feel about that) and a sexual assault victim.

However, banana republics have better weather

Not that they care, but the persecutors in the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office are giving Milwaukee a bad national name, as demonstrated by the Daily Signal:

The fact that such a secret persecution of citizen advocacy organizations even occurred ought to be an embarrassment to a state that prides itself on being a progressive bastion of individual freedom. It is more reminiscent of a banana republic than the world’s foremost democracy.

We interrupt this blog to point out: Wisconsin is not now, nor has it ever been, a “bastion of individual freedom.” The Progressive Era brought us the income tax. Nothing free there. And banana republics have tropical weather, which this state does not.

To allow an investigation of issue advocacy based simply on allegations of collaboration between elected officials and the public would chill core political speech. The right of citizens and their membership associations to directly engage elected leaders is all the more important on politically charged questions of public policy. Such collaboration is the norm in the political arena, where there is extensive interaction between citizens groups and elected officials about proposed legislation. In fact, such coordination is vital to a functioning democracy.

Under the warped view of the democratic process exhibited by the local prosecutors involved in this investigation, public officials would be strictly prohibited from speaking to the public about important public policy issues. Advocacy groups — no matter what their political persuasion — also would have to avoid any contact or discussion of issues with government officials and each other for fear of their conduct being considered criminal.

The public’s right to engage in issue advocacy, including coordinated activity, cannot be limited in this way and is as protected at the state level as it is at the federal level. Wisconsin is failing to draw the sharp line that the FEC and the courts have drawn between regulating express advocacy that is intended to support or oppose particular candidates running for office and grass-roots advocacy on important public policy issues. As Bob Bauer, President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, recently said, we should “value, not distrust, collective political action and the strategies through which it is effected.” …

In fact, not a single decision by the U.S. Supreme Court or the 7th Circuit upholds the type of punishment of coordinated issue advocacy that Wisconsin prosecutors were pursuing. Why? Because the prosecutors were trying to punish political speech.

I hope that the civil rights lawsuit filed against these prosecutors is successful and results in a large judgment that deters this type of investigation from ever happening again. But this also should spur the Wisconsin Legislature to repeal the laws allowing such secret — and, frankly, un-American — political investigations and to get rid of campaign finance regulations that are unconstitutional and an insult to the First Amendment rights of Wisconsin citizens.