Wisconsin politics

Democrats and business: The continuing oxymoron

I was on Wisconsin Public Radio yesterday debating family-friendly workplace policies, as now advocated by Barack Obama.

It was a civil discussion, but as politicians will, Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D–La Crosse) stuck to her own talking points and failed to answer any of my points about why family-friendly workplace policies are wrong when mandated by law or regulation. She didn’t even react to my suggestion that Obama brought this up to divert attention from his craptacular performance on the economy. (To wit, economic shrinkage of 2.9 percent in the first quarter.)

This shouldn’t be surprising, because Democratic ignorance on business has lasted the entire Barack Obama presidency. (Obama, of course, not only has never gotten a private-sector paycheck, but he has spent his term denigrating business, the “rich” and the successful.) Shilling’s biography on her state Senate web page lists a whole bunch of political experience, but no private-sector experience other than mentions of the La Crosse and Viroqua chambers of commerce.)

I have yet to read any acknowledgment of the cost of what Obama and Shilling espouse — paid leave and higher minimum wages — on businesses. Take, for instance, a 10-employee business, of which there are many in small towns throughout Wisconsin. If someone is taking paid leave, the business is paying that employee to not work, and meanwhile 10 percent of that business’ workforce is absent and not contributing to the business. That means the remaining workforce has to do the absent employee’s work, and usually without compensatory additional pay.

Because education must be reinforced, I’ll repeat what I’ve been writing for, well, years here and elsewhere: A business exists to serve its customers, not to employ people. Employment is the result of the business’ existence. The number one priority of a business is profit, because without profit nothing else, including paying employees, happens. Employee pay and benefits are usually the largest portion of a business’ expenses.

(And, by the way, everyone casting aspersions about Walmart and McDonalds and other publicly traded companies are beating upon 0.1 percent of the businesses in the U.S. That is a point utterly missed by a Democratic state Assembly candidate I spoke to earlier this week, who appears to me to be basing his run for office on his past and present employment discontents.)

Democrats and their apparatchiks are basing this campaign on their belief that every American workplace is a horror out of Charles Dickens, where employees are chained to their desks or infernal factory machines, paid slightly more than slave wages. As usual, Democrats fail to respect the American business owner. I don’t find particularly credible the complaints of someone (for instance, Obama) who has never signed the front of a paycheck, who has never wondered how he’d make enough money to pay his employees, who goes without paychecks so his employees do get paid, and who works nights, weekends and holidays when his employees don’t.

It is one thing for businesses to decide on their own that they need to increase employee pay or benefits to attract and retain employees. That is up to the individual business. (In the 1990s, for example, minimum-wage jobs paid more than minimum wage because that’s what it took for employers to get people to work for them. That’s what a healthy economy does, as opposed to our Recovery In Name Only.) It is not up to government to decide that businesses need to pay their employees more or provide better benefits.

It’s also not clear to me why business people would support these mandates, unless they see them as a way to make their smaller competition less competitive, if not eliminate them entirely. If a business can provide better employee benefits and yet remain profitable, why would that business want to give away its competitive advantage?

Obama used three examples of businesses that provide benefits he thinks businesses should provide their employees — Google, Cisco and JetBlue. The first two are large employers in an area of business, IT, in which there is intense competition for employees. IT is certainly not representative of American business as a whole. In most other areas, profit margins are considerably smaller.

I am highly skeptical that Shilling (who as a state senator makes almost $50,000 a year, which is considerably more than most of her constituents) has spoken to anything remotely resembling a cross-section of businesses in her Senate district on this subject, and I am skeptical that she’s gotten the opinions of a chamber or commerce or a business group on this subject either. Most small businesses would find a paid-leave mandate or higher minimum wage a significant burden on their ability to do business. On the one hand, both cause higher prices, and when prices go up, people buy less; on the other hand, when employee costs get too expensive, employees get cut. (McDonald’s restaurants in Europe are replacing their front-counter employees with kiosks. That is the U.S.’ future if the $10.10 minimum wage becomes law.)

William F. Buckley Jr. once said that he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard University. I’d rather be governed by any chamber of commerce board in this state than any elective body in this state. That certainly includes the state Legislature. Unlike the Legislature, business people have to work for a living.


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From tax hell to tax purgatory?

Nearly a year ago, Gov. Scott Walker floated the idea of eliminating the state’s income tax.

That theme was picked up by 55th Assembly District Republican candidate Jay Schroeder yesterday:

A constituent brought to my attention the much-needed shift in tax policy in the State of Wisconsin. I agree.
Many speak of creating jobs in political fliers but how do we move to implementation? In Medicine, you treat the cause and not the symptom. I believe the cause is burdensome tax policy. Government does not create jobs.
My first legislation as an elected Assemblyman would be working on much needed tax reform in the state of Wisconsin. I look to job creation research and economic data. From 2002 to 2012, in the 9 states, which had no income tax, 62% of the new jobs were created. If one looks over the last 50 years, still the states with no income tax had higher job growth! Furthermore,data shows these states lead in population growth and labor force growth, with an increase in tax revenues.

We need to stop taxing our retired citizens out of Wisconsin away from their grandchildren and lessen the tax burden of the hard working middle class of this great state. Websites such as savetaxesbymoving.com shows how much one’s taxes change depending on where one would relocate. In most states moving from Wisconsin saves on taxes. This must be changed.

Another area of study could be instituting a flat tax in Wisconsin to make us more competitive and simplify the tax code. These conversions could be accomplished over what is called a glide path, over a couple of biennial budgets to provide a smooth, stable transition.

As your Assemblyman I would work on income tax reform, which I believe, would lead to population growth and labor force growth in Wisconsin.

As you know, I am skeptical about eliminating income taxes, for several reasons. The Legislature could end — that is, reduce to zero — income taxes in the 2015–17 budget, but that is only temporary unless the state Constitution is amended to prohibit income taxes.

Eliminating income taxes creates a big math problem. Back in December I pointed out that if the state was going to eliminate income taxes, that would require some combination of three choices:

  1. Increase the state sales tax from 5 percent.
  2. Increase property taxes (or cut so much state aid to counties, municipalities and school districts that they raise property taxes to make up the lost state aid) in a state that is already in the top 10 in median property tax bills, in terms of taxes and in terms of percentage of personal income and property value. The income and sales taxes exist today in large part because of efforts at property tax relief. Those efforts, of course, failed.
  3. Cut state spending. Not just reduce the increase, but cut it. By a lot.

Back in December I noted the lack of support among the average Wisconsinite for any of those three, let alone all of those three. Democrats demagogue every tax cut and every spending cut because they believe people don’t pay enough in taxes, and that government doesn’t spend enough money in this state. Too many Wisconsinites persist in the mistaken belief that our government services, including our schools, are great values, when they’re not, in either what we’re paying for them or their quality.

The other political fact is that income taxes are not the most reviled state tax; the property tax is. The income tax was created in large part for property tax relief, and the sales tax was created and expanded three times for property tax relief. This state proves that creating or increasing other taxes to reduce other taxes never works to reduce taxes.

Wisconsinites probably would be happy if our tax burden was more like 25th nationally than fifth, as is the case now. To do that, however, requires not merely cutting taxes, but preventing taxes from being raised in the first place. That in turn requires spending and taxation limits that are constitutional, not statutory, since one Legislature can wipe out the previous Legislature’s decisions by changing the law. You can never, ever trust politicians to do the right thing; you have to prevent them from doing the wrong thing.



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Republicans vs. the Journal Sentinel, or vice versa

Wisconsin conservatives are firing back at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state’s largest newspaper, over its coverage of what prosecutors wanted to do in the John Doe investigation.

That would be, remember, the John Doe investigation that two federal judges stopped. That would be the John Doe investigation that resulted in no criminal charges being filed.

Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg uses the Journal Sentinel’s own web page:

The Journal Sentinel’s Editorial Board thinks that the law is clear: Outside groups cannot coordinate with a candidate without being deemed to have made a contribution to the candidate — even when the ads run by the group do not advocate for the election or defeat of anyone.

But lawyers who practice in this area can’t seem to reach the newspaper’s serene confidence about what is and is not permitted. The two judges who have ruled on the matter certainly didn’t agree with these journalists. Let me explain why.

We must start with the Supreme Court’s distinction between “express” and “issue” advocacy. Express advocacy is any communication that has no reasonable interpretation other than a call to elect or defeat a candidate. Everything else is issue advocacy — even if the speaker mentions a candidate and “really” intends to influence an election.

State law says that a person or group who spends money to advocate for or against the election of an expressly identified candidate must file an oath of non-coordination. But that applies only to express advocacy, not the kind of issue advocacy involved here.

State law also says that if a “committee” that cooperates or consults with a candidate is deemed to be a subcommittee of that candidate, contributions to and expenditures by it are treated as a contribution to the candidate and subject to all the limitations on candidate contributions

Even the state Government Accountability Board thinks that definition is too broad to pass constitutional muster. But there is a larger problem. A group can be a “committee” only if it receives contributions or disbursements for a “political purpose.” Do groups that do only issue advocacy act for a “political purpose”?

State law defines “political purpose” as anything intended to influence an election. A 1999 state Court of Appeals decision, Wisconsin Voter Action Coalition, relied on that definition to hold that coordinated issue advocacy could be considered a contribution. “Political purpose,” it said, is not limited to express advocacy.

We now know that the WVAC decision was wrong. Last month, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in a case called Wisconsin Right to Life vs. Barland held that the definition of “political purpose” relied on in WVAC is unconstitutional. It said that “political purpose” must be limited to express advocacy or its functional equivalent, i.e., communications that cannot be reasonably interpreted as anything other than a call to elect or defeat a candidate.

WVAC was the basis for the Doe prosecutors’ theory. No one disputes that these independent groups did anything other than issue advocacy. The two judges who so far have rejected the prosecutors’ theory may have simply anticipated the 7th Circuit’s decision rejecting WVAC’s approach.

Perhaps limits on coordinated issue advocacy can be reconciled with Barland. But, at the very least, it means that coordination must be defined very narrowly to protect the constitutional rights of candidates and independent groups. It seems, for example, that much, if not all, of the “issue advocacy” alleged to have been coordinated with Walker actually took place in elections in which Walker was not running: the Senate recalls. To say that a group cannot coordinate with a candidate who is not running because he “wants” some other candidate to win would be unprecedented. Such a theory has almost no chance of surviving judicial review.

In addition, even if regulation of coordinated issue advocacy can somehow survive Barland, the First Amendment requires clarity and breathing room. There must be a very strict definition of coordination requiring an express agreement between a candidate and an independent group on the particulars of the communications to be made by the group. Coordination cannot be implied from fundraising, common consultants or more general communications between a candidate and a group.

Any more expansive definition would unduly burden normal political speech and the freedom of association. Indeed, it night even sweep President Barack Obama into its net. As The Wall Street Journal has reported, his campaign blessed fundraising for Priorities USA, a liberal super PAC. If that is unlawful coordination (and I say it’s not), then perhaps our governor and our president can share a cell.

Outside the print side of Journal Communications is Matt Kittle:

It’s been pretty clear where legacy news outlets statewide and nationwide stand on the Republican governor who toppled public-sector collective bargaining in the Badger State — a very dangerous man for organized labor and the armies of the left.

But last week’s headlines from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to the Washington Post screamed of Walker’s “criminal scheme,” taking up the John Doe prosecutors’ descriptor as the gospel truth.

Buried far beneath in the mainstream’s coverage are the key facts in the John Doe story: two judges, including the presiding judge of the long and secretive investigation, have declared the prosecutors’ theory that dozens of conservative organizations illegally coordinated with Walker’s campaign is wrong.

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa shut down the probe last month, arguing the prosecutors probably wouldn’t prevail in a civil rights lawsuit against them. …

What the nearly two-year-old John Doe probe into these conservatives shows is that the prosecutors and the state Government Accountability Board don’t understand campaign finance law, haven’t kept up on U.S. Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance and the First Amendment and, more frightening than ignorance, is the allegation that the left is attempting to use prosecutions and the accompanying “paramilitary-style” raids as a way to change laws they do not like.

The mainstream media doesn’t seem to consider that possibility, however.

Perhaps mainstream outlets can take solace in the fact that left-fronted organizations across the country have simply loved those “criminal scheme” headlines so much they’ve taken them as their own.

The correct editorial stance is from the WSJ — not the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wall Street Journal:

The news reports are jumping on snippets of some 266 pages of documents that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals released to the public on Thursday. The breathless page-one stories claim that prosecutors believe Mr. Walker and his allies were part of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate their activities and thus violated campaign-finance laws.

The key point to understand is that this isn’t an indictment, and it isn’t even evidence built into a legal case. It is merely a prosecutorial theory floated to justify a secret grand-jury fishing expedition. The documents have been under seal. The Seventh Circuit released them only because they are related to a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the Wisconsin prosecutors that has already resulted in a federal judge stopping the John Doe with a preliminary injunction.

The other crucial point is that the two judges who have looked closely at the evidence have found no violations of law. To the contrary, both judges have ruled that the prosecutors’ theory of illegal campaign coordination is faulty and itself a violation of the defendants’ right to free political speech. The document dump amounts to prosecutors losing in court but then having the press treat the prosecutors’ claims as if they were the gospel truth.

Take the phrase “criminal scheme,” the words used by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz in December 2013 before John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson. The Wisconsin state judge demolished the charge in his ruling a month later in which he quashed the prosecutors’ subpoenas and ordered seized property returned to those under investigation.

The prosecutors failed to show evidence of probable cause that a crime had been committed, Judge Peterson wrote, because the political groups engaged exclusively in issue advocacy, which is protected by the First Amendment. “Before there is coordination, there must be political purposes,” the judge wrote. “Without political purposes, coordination is not a crime.” …

As it happens, the “coordination” prosecutors have decried in Scott Walker’s case is nearly identical to the “coordination” employed during the 2012 presidential campaign on behalf of President Obama. In February 2012, Mr. Obama’s official campaign committee “blessed” (as the Politico website put it) fundraising for Priorities USA Action, a liberal SuperPac that supported Mr. Obama and other Democratic candidates. The big dollars soon followed.

The disgrace is that all of this has been known for weeks or months, yet the media reports on Friday ignored or buried it. A reader of the New York Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had to read far down the news stories to see any reference to this judicial repudiation. We realize that these liberal publications have been asleep on this story, but you’d think they’d have more respect for First Amendment law.

Meanwhile, the document dump is serving a political purpose that prosecutors have intended from the start—to tarnish Mr. Walker as he seeks re-election. The prosecutors “by their position appear to seek refuge in the Court of Public Opinion, having lost in this Court on the law,” Judge Randa wrote this week in an order on the unsealing of documents in his own court, shortly after the Seventh Circuit made its documents public. Their position in favor of unsealing is “at odds with their duty as prosecutors which is to see that in any John Doe proceeding the rights of the innocent are protected in pursuit of a criminal investigation.”

This is typical of the behavior of Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and Assistant DAs Bruce Landgraf and David Robles from the beginning. The Democrats hired Mr. Schmitz, a nominal Republican, as special prosecutor to put a nonpartisan gloss on an investigation that the DAs realized would be seen for the political prosecution it was. …

The real “scheme” in Wisconsin is the attempt by prosecutors to criminalize political speech. This has national echoes in the attempt by the IRS to target nonprofit groups that also wanted to participate in politics. The courts sometimes catch up with these dirty tricks, but in the meantime in Wisconsin they can smear candidates and their supporters who have done nothing wrong.

The ridiculous thing is that liberals are supposed to believe in the concept of being innocent until proven guilty. Walker was not proven guilty. Walker was not charged with anything at all.

Kevin Binversie describes Journal Sentinel John Doe reporting as “headline porn”:

“Headline Porn,” or as it is more commonly called in marketing circles, “Clickbait” has exploded in recent years. With mass media becoming more and more reliant on revenue from their online presence, click rates (how often a webpage is accessed or link is “clicked”) have become media’s most important metric. Things like “getting the story right” have been replaced by “who got there first” and “how many eyeballs saw it?”

Why is that? Because if a website can show their ad buyers click rates are up, they can then start increasing ad rates. The more people are clicking at salacious headlines, the more revenues for the website or its parent company.

That’s why it is impossible to not see “Headline Porn” in the way papers like the Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel handled last week’s document dump in the John Doe. Both clearly could have had more balanced headlines on the release, but instead made conscious decisions to focus on the failed “criminal scheme” angle pushed by prosecutors. “Criminal scheme” and other loaded headlines ensure people will latch onto the clickbait. From there, the paper gets more clicks in the papers’ forum as readers “debate” each other.

Media ethics experts have long had a hard time handling sensationalized headlines, since they have long been a tradition of mass media and newspapers (in fact, it’s how Deadspin defended itself from “clickbait” charges) from its earliest moments. Often times, you’d get a defense of “While it may sell individual editions, they’re rarely the lion’s share of newspaper revenue.”

You can’t say that anymore. With the collapse of classified ads thanks to sites like Craigslist, newspapers have increasingly exploited their online presence through click rates and online paywalls to maintain revenue streams. With more and more online options available to a public with diversified tastes, online new sources now make it a large part of their business plans.
How far off would one be to accuse the Journal Sentinel editors of not only pursuing the angle they are on the John Doe not only for ideological reasons, but because it’s a revenue gold mine for them?

Thus is the media landscape we now live in. Objectivity and hard news have taken a back seat to “headline porn.” Is it any wonder the media is looked upon so poorly by the public? 

How does the Journal Sentinel feel about such criticism? Media Trackers has an answer:

Marty Kaiser is one of the most important people at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and in a lengthy e-mail to an angry reader, he tipped his hand to the bias that exists at the struggling – but still influential – newspaper. Kaiser’s official title is editor and vice president for digital content, and that is perhaps why he chose to respond to a reader e-mail criticizing his paper’s reporting about a John Doe investigation involving conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker. …

Kaiser claimed in his defense of Journal Sentinel reporting about the two John Doe investigations that, “Scott Walker was never known to be a target of the first John Doe investigation that has been closed.”

Kaiser’s assertion is important because the Journal Sentinel‘s coverage of the released documents has focused on Walker, with the paper even going so far as to create a graphic mapping out the prosecutors’ discredited theory of Walker’s alleged criminality and presenting it as if it were very possibly fact.

But if Kaiser knew that “Walker was never known to be a target of the first John Doe” that raises serious questions about his editorial skills and his paper’s impartiality.

On March 10, 2012, Daniel Bice – a columnist who also contributes to some news stories – wrote that Walker had created a legal defense fund to pay for mounting legal fees coming as a consequence of the first John Doe probe. “Several election lawyers said creation of the defense fund serves as a tacit acknowledgment that Walker is under investigation for election law violations,” Bice wrote.

The story noted that other Wisconsin politicians have set up legal defense funds when they are the targets of criminal investigations.

Two days later, on March 12, 2012, Bice went on the air with WTDY radio in Madison to explain what the legal defense fund said about the state of the John Doe probe and Walker’s relationship with it. While he didn’t say specifically that Walker was a target of the probe, he did reiterate that some lawyers he spoke with thought the move revealed Walker to be a target of the probe. He also reiterated his personal knowledge that other Wisconsin politicians who did this were an integral part of a criminal investigation.

On November 26, 2012, the Journal Sentinel published a report by Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer that shared Walker’s assertion that he was not a target of the probe, but also reiterated developments and partisan claims that suggested Walker might have had a role in what led to the investigation.

By running stories that gave voice to the theory that Scott Walker was part of the first John Doe probe, the Journal Sentinel made a lie of Kaiser’s claim that Walker’s involvement with the second John Doe was big news because “Walker was never known to be a target of the first John Doe.”

It was Journal Sentinel reporting that heavily contributed to the theory by some that Walker was a target of the first John Doe.

Another claim Kaiser made is that Wisconsin’s campaign finance regulations are determined by elected officials. While partially true, the claim is also critically false in two key respects. “Wisconsin’s elected representatives passed campaign finance laws years ago as an effort to thwart corruption and let the public know who were the primary financial backers of election campaigns,” Kaiser wrote.

But two campaign finance regulations that impact fundraising, spending and political coordination (three things involved in the now-stalled John Doe probe) were fabricated wholesale by the unelected experts and staff at the state Government Accountability Board.

After the U.S. Supreme Court altered the landscape of campaign finance with its famous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the GAB was forced to modify the way it regulated political speech in Wisconsin. It quickly promulgated GAB 1.91, a rule that applies “most PAC duties to organizations” that want to engage in political speech.

Another rule, GAB 1.28, was modified to move “all issue advocacy that refers to a candidate in the lead-up to an election into the state PAC system.”

While a federal appeals court has treated both rules harshly, they were both created by the GAB without a legislative vote or specific statutory authorization to do so.

By overlooking his paper’s reporting – which fed speculation that Walker was the target of the first John Doe – and by broadly and incorrectly classifying all campaign finance regulations as results of the legislative process, Kaiser demonstrated his unfamiliarity with the issues involved in this second John Doe, and revealed that his paper is willing to overlook past reporting and present facts for the sake of a sensationalized headline.


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The John Doe non-investigation

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

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

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

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

From that filing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others have, including Ann Althouse:

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

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

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

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

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

The Power Line Blog adds:

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

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

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

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

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

American Thinker concludes:

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

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

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The 2014 election, five months from now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Categories: Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

Mary Burke, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Categories: Wisconsin business, Wisconsin politics | 1 Comment

On the latest from the shooting gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Culture, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

On Wisconsin’s shooting gallery

Steve Spingola:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A passing grade that should be an incomplete

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

Categories: Wisconsin business, Wisconsin politics | Leave a comment

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