Category: Wisconsin politics

Remembering “Ronnie Raygun”

One of the features of our body politic is the increasingly hysterical predictions that second-term Donald Trump will cause the earth to boil over and/or lock up everyone in government concentration camps, or something like that.

The funny part for those of us who were paying attention is when your favorite leftist compares Trump unfavorably to a previous Republican president — for instance, either George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

About the latter, Ira Stoll remembers:

The New York Times ad was so effective that four days later …

… Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, and it seemed as though every left-wing college newspaper (but I repeat myself) used the same headline, “There he goes again.” Fortunately for the ad’s signers, none of them appear to have suffered negative career consequences for their non-credible hysterics.


Recallarama and Impeacharama

The Associated Press compares and contrasts Recallarama and Donald Trump’s impeachment:

A divisive leader drove the opposition to extreme measures. The political climate was toxic — with little civil debate or middle ground. The clash ended in a high-risk political showdown that captured the nation’s attention and shaped the next election.

This was the 2012 battle to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, not the 2019 fight to impeach President Donald Trump. But for some who lived through the former, the episodes have clear similarities and a warning for Democrats about overreach and distraction.

“In both cases, they thought just as they were upset about something, everyone was,” Walker said, describing one of his takeaways from the campaign that failed to remove him from office. “Just because your base feels strongly about something doesn’t mean that the majority of other voters do.”

Although moderates declined to join liberals back then in voting to eject Walker, Democrats warn against presuming they’ll break the same way for Trump next year in Wisconsin, a state seen as pivotal in 2020. Voters who were likely wary of undoing Walker’s election via a rare recall face a simpler choice in whether to hand Trump a second term, they say.

“People may not like impeachment, simply because it adds to the drama of his presidency, but that doesn’t mean they are on the fence or sympathetic to Trump,” said Jon Erpenbach, a Democratic Wisconsin state senator.

The Walker recall sprang from a law he signed just months into his first term that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. Walker didn’t reveal his plan until after he was elected in 2010, and the move sparked massive protests that made Wisconsin the center of a growing national fight over union rights.

Angry activists gathered nearly a million signatures to force the recall. Although Democrats had fought hard against the bill, with some state senators even fleeing the state at one point to avoid a vote, they were initially reluctant to embrace the recall for fear it would hurt then-President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes in 2012.

The recall became a proxy battle ahead of the presidential election, with Democrats arguing that Walker unfairly targeted teachers, nurses and other public employees to weaken the unions that traditionally supported Democratic candidates. Walker argued that his proposal shouldn’t have been a surprise since he campaigned on forcing public employees to pay more for their benefits while capping how much they could bargain for in raises. He also argued that it wasn’t proper to use the extraordinary option of recall over a policy dispute.

Walker ultimately won the recall election in June 2012, becoming a conservative hero on his way to a short-lived run for president in 2015. In a testament to Wisconsin’s political division, just five months after Walker won the recall vote, Obama cruised to victory in Wisconsin on his way to reelection.

Trump is accused of improperly withholding U.S. military aid that Ukraine needed to resist Russian aggression in exchange for Ukraine’s new president investigating Trump political rival Joe Biden and his son. Trump has argued that he was within his rights to ask Ukraine to look into corruption and that impeachment is just an attempt by Democrats to remove him from office.

Both impeachment and attempting to recall governors from office are exceedingly rare. Impeachment has only been leveled by the House against two presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later. Richard Nixon was on the brink of it in 1974 before he resigned. Walker was only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall election and the first to survive it.

The rarity of the remedy may help explain why voters are reluctant to do either one, said Charles Franklin, who has regularly surveyed voter attitudes in Wisconsin for Marquette University.

Marquette University Law School poll conducted just as public impeachment hearings were beginning earlier this month showed 53% of voters in Wisconsin were against removing Trump for office, with just 40% in support. National polls have shown a more even divide.

Even more troubling for Wisconsin Democrats was that while 78% of Democrats supported removing Trump through impeachment, 93% of Republicans were against it. That stronger rallying behind the incumbent, with the other side not as unified, parallels what was seen during the Walker recall, Franklin said.

Walker saw his support among independent voters go from about even six months before the recall election to positive 16 points just before the election. The latest Marquette poll also shows independents currently breaking against impeachment, with 47% against and 36% in favor.

Mike Tate, who was chairman of the state Democratic Party during the recall and continues to work in the state as a consultant, cautioned against making too much of where independents are on impeachment — and where they may be next November. After the impeachment process runs its course, Democrats will move on to talk about many other issues throughout the presidential campaign, Tate said.

“Impeachment will be in the rearview mirror,” he said.

But Stephan Thompson, who led the state GOP during the recalls and went on to manage Walker’s successful 2014 reelection campaign, said impeachment is “such a monumental event in history and politics” that it will hang over Democrats the rest of the cycle and make it difficult for them to bring moderate voters back to their side.

“When the left pushes this hard and overreaches, it helps you band together with people because you’re all in the foxhole together,” Thompson said. “I think that’s something they don’t realize.”

Erpenbach, the state senator, was among those who fled to Illinois for two weeks to try to kill the anti-union bill. He argues that unlike the recall, which was motivated by a policy disagreement, Congress was forced to hold impeachment hearings because Trump is alleged to have violated the Constitution.

Democrats are taking a political chance, Erpenbach said, but they’re doing what the Constitution requires, a key distinction from the recall.

“It worries me that it could backfire,” Erpenbach said, “but that’s not the point.”

Oh, yes, that is the point, Jon. The attempted coup d’état Erpenbach’s party spearheaded (against the advice of national Democrats, by the way) and the attempted coup d’état House Democrats are spearheading are indeed mostly comparable.

It is, however, interesting that Erpenbach now admits that Recallarama was all about a policy disagreement and nothing else. The B.S. about workers’ rights and whatever other crap Democrats dragged up was about nothing more than the fact they couldn’t stop Act 10 and wanted to do anything shy of assassinating Walker to stop Act 10. (Maybe I should rethink that last phrase.)

One difference is that there is a bigger group of Republicans opposed to Trump than the group opposed to Act 10. Other than former Sen. Dale Schultz, who I’m convinced only voted for Democrats after Gov. Tommy Thompson left office, there were a handful of Republicans who voted against Act 10, though they were not anti-Walker. There were no conservative radio talkers who spoke out against Walker or Act 10, in contrast to Trump.

The other, much bigger difference is that Walker did nothing to warrant the vitriol union thugs and other Democrats vomited at him. Trump, as we all know by now, has been his own worst enemy, unless that’s his intent.

Oh, by the way, where was that Walker indictment predicted by MSNBC’s John Nichols the night they lost the recall election? Probably the same place as Hillary Clinton’s election as president.


Hatred: A duet

After the music …

J.D. Tuccille:

What defines a Republican, these days? How about a Democrat? That’s a difficult question to answer. After years of shifting priorities and ideologies, the beliefs of Republicans of today bear little resemblance to those of somebody of that affiliation from a decade ago, and the modern Democrat is just as far removed from recent predecessors. But one thing is clear: Republicans aren’t Democrats and hate anybody who is, and Democrats feel the same about Republicans.

Identity established by mutual loathing is pretty much all there is to go on when partisans of the two factions so rapidly change positions, sometimes despising one another for holding fast to beliefs they themselves once supported. In their struggle for control of the government, it’s all about loyalty and power, without any deeper meaning.

“Six in 10 Republicans say they would rather have a president who agrees with their political views but does not set a good moral example for the country, as opposed to one who sets a good moral example but does not agree with them politically. In contrast, 75% of Democrats prefer a president who sets a good moral example over one who agrees with their issue positions,” Gallup reported last week. “In 1999, Republicans’ and Democrats’ opinions were reversed, with Republicans favoring a president who sets a good moral example and Democrats preferring one who agrees with them politically.”

Of course, Republicans downplay moral issues at a time when the president from their party shows every sign of being morally crippled, just as Democrats deemphasized morals when their own occupant of the White House had his sleaziness on display. Then as now, tribal affiliation overcame any supposed principles.

The primacy of tribal affiliation has also been obvious in the course of semi-regular media pranks when partisans have been deliberately presented with misattributed quotes about public policy issues. Interviewees inevitably become befuddled when they learn that the “bad” opinion they dutifully denounced belonged, not so long ago, to the “good” side.

More broadly, the recent changes in party positions have involved “the transformation of the GOP into the party of Patrick J. Buchanan and Donald J. Trump—defined by cultural resentments, crude populism, and ethnic nationalism,” as Peter Wehner puts it in The Atlantic. At the same time, “the Democratic Party is embracing a form of identity politics in which gender, race, and ethnicity become definitional” along with progressive/socialist economics that are “fiscally ruinous, invest massive and unwarranted trust in central planners, and weaken America’s security.”

Such rapid shifts on issues and ideology have left little time for developing a strong basis of enthusiasm for what political partisans are supposedly for, but that’s left people plenty of energy left to expend on what they’re against.

“We find that while partisan animus began to rise in the 1980s, it has grown dramatically over the past two decades,” Shanto Iyengar and Masha Krupenkin, political scientists at Stanford, reported in a paper published last year. “As animosity toward the opposing party has intensified, it has taken on a new role as the prime motivator in partisans’ political lives. … today it is outgroup animus rather than ingroup favoritism that drives political behavior.”

That means politically partisan Americans are defining themselves not by what they have in common with allies, but by how much they hate their enemies. They may not have a good handle on what they’re fighting about but, damnit, they’re gonna fight.

Fifty-five percent of Republicans said Democrats are “more immoral” than other Americans, and 47 percent of Democrats said likewise about Republicans, as Pew Research noted last month. “The level of division and animosity—including negative sentiments among partisans toward the members of the opposing party—has only deepened” since the last survey three years ago.

Fifty-five percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats say the party opposing their own is “not just worse for politics—they are downright evil,” according to a YouGov survey. Thirty-four percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats say the other party “lack the traits to be considered fully human—they behave like animals.”

Factions that aren’t really firm about what they believe, shift positions, but are dead-set in their hatred for one another to the point of dehumanization? In a weird way, such partisan animus for its own sake sounds an awful lot like the ancient rivalry between the Blues and the Greens—the chariot teams turned political parties that played such a prominent role in sixth-century Byzantine political life. As with modern Republicans and Democrats it was never entirely clear what they stood for beyond opposition to one another, but rioting between the two factions ultimately burned half of Constantinople to the ground.

When the Blues and Greens set about burning down their city, they were encouraged by senators who hoped to seize the imperial throne for themselves. They sought to take advantage of the chaos.

Nothing much has changed over the centuries.

“Partisan negativity is self-reinforcing, that is, political elites are motivated to stoke negativity to boost their chances of reelection,” Iyengar and Krupenkin wrote in their 2018 paper.

Fundamentally, then, what defines Republicans and Democrats isn’t programs or beliefs or ideology—it’s achieving power and destroying the enemy in the process. What’s done once power is achieved—beyond grinding “evil” and “immoral” enemies into dust—is secondary at best.

Since platforms and ideas don’t really matter, there’s no room for finding common ground or cutting deals. Opposing political factions can compromise, for good or ill, on health care bills and defense schemes. But how do you split the difference when what separates you isn’t a matter of firm values or principles, but a mutual desire to seize total control and to smash all who don’t wear your gang colors?

Ultimately, the only way to keep the peace is to make sure there’s no prize to be won. So long as there’s a powerful government over which hateful partisans fight for dominance, we’re all in danger from the battling factions.

When the first priority of a politician is to get more power, you have this, reported by Nick Gillespie:

For a self-styled digital native who stresses “21st century solutions” to today’s problems, presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has a decidedly 20th century way of addressing what he considers to be problems: spend more, regulate more.

As Reason‘s Billy Binion noted, the tech entrepreneur’s proposals about “Regulating Technology Firms in the 21st Century” involve a lot of unwise monkeying around with “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act; the landmark legislation protects social media companies from facing certain liabilities for third-party content posted by users online.” Like many other critics of online platforms (including progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and conservatives such as Josh Hawley), Yang buys into the nonexistent distinction between “publishers” and “platforms” as a means of regulating the speech and economic freedom of social media companies and website operators.

In the same document, Yang also proposes to

  • Create a Department of the Attention Economy that focuses specifically on how to responsibly design and use smartphones, social media, gaming, and chat apps. It will include overall guidelines, as well as age-based ones.
  • Provide guidance (and regulation, if needed) on design features that maximize screen time for young people, like removing autoplay video for children under 16, removing the queues that allow infinite scrolling, capping the number of recommendations per day, reducing notification signs and “like” counts, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine when children are using devices to cap screen hours per day.
  • Establish rules and standards around kid-targeted content to protect them from inappropriate content.
  • Incentivize content production of high-quality and positive programming for kids similar to broadcast TV.
  • Require platforms to provide guidance on kid-healthy content for parents, and provide incentives for companies that work to make user data of minors available to their parents.
  • Include classes on the responsible use of technology in public school curricula and teach children how to distinguish reliable from unreliable news sources online.

It’s this sort of “new” thinking that loses libertarians. In what way does a new, presumably cabinet-level, agency do anything other than expand the size, scope, and spending of government in a way that will inevitably limit speech and expression? That it’s being done in the name of “the children” makes it seem like a punchline from a mid-1990s episode of The Simpsons. Yang asserts that “we are beginning to understand exactly how much of an adverse effect” social media is having on kids and that Facebook, Twitter, and the rest face no “real accountability” even as he rhapsodizes about his 20th century childhood: “I look back at my childhood and I remember riding a bike around the neighborhood, but now tablets, computers, and mobile devices have shifted the attention of youth.”

Spare me the nostalgia and moral panic, which is highly reminiscent of the ’90s panic over the supposed effects on kids of sex and violence on cable TV (lest we forget, Attorney General Janet Reno and other leaders threatened censorship if the menace of Beavis and Butt-head and other basic cable fare wasn’t cleaned up). The social science is far from settled on any of this stuff and the first reaction to perceived problems should never be creating a series of government controls. Social media companies face all sorts of pushback in the marketplace, too, including lack of interest from users (Facebook has posted two years of declining use in the U.S.).

What would any of Yang’s plans cost in terms of dollars and cents? It doesn’t really matter because the visionary will pay for everything with a value-added tax on digital advertising.

Lord knows Republicans, including Donald Trump, are hardly avatars of a new way of governing, but the Democratic presidential candidates have yet to meet a problem that can’t be solved by creating a whole new program or bureaucracy. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wants to shell out $1 trillion to make housing, child care, and college more affordable. Elizabeth Warren wants to raise taxes by $26 trillion and Bernie Sanders wants national rent-control laws while washout Beto O’Rourke yammered on about the right to live close to work before bidding adieu to the 2020 race. Joe Biden wants to spend $750 billion over the next decade to deliver what Obamacare was supposed to do.

Over the last 40 years, federal spending averaged 20.4 percent of GDP while federal revenue averaged just 17.4 percent. That gap, says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is only going to get wider, saddling future Americans with more and more debt, which dampens long-term economic growth, among other bad outcomes.

The federal government spent about $4.4 trillion in fiscal year 2019 (while posting a $1 trillion deficit). Surely there is more than enough savings to be found in that massive sum before proposing big new programs that will be layered on top of a seemingly infinite number of existing efforts to fix all the big and small problems of the world. It shouldn’t be too much to insist that all candidates for president (and every other federal office) explain how they are going to bring revenues and outlays into some sort of balance. But at the very least, we shouldn’t stand for yet more spending and regulation that simply gets layered on top of what is already there.

Regardless of whether the spending comes from a D or an R.

Evers vs. open government

Wisconsin Republicans for many years have been less enthusiastic about open government, specifically the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, than they should be.

Their first lesson should have been the Open Records Law requests that revealed which (allegedly nonpartisan) politicians, future candidates for office and members of the news media signed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Recallarama 2011.

Those Democrats who (correctly) praise open government have an embarrassment in their own party, identified by M.D. Kittle:

Mainstream media outlets are learning what conservative news organizations have known for some time: The Evers Administration is brazenly breaking Wisconsin’s open record laws.

In a piece published Sunday, Fox6 in Milwaukee reported that Gov. Tony Evers denied its reporters’ requests for four weeks of emails to and from the governor and his chief of staff Maggie Gau. The request was denied by an administration lawyer, as was another refined request from Fox6.

“Finally, the Fox6 Investigators asked for Governor Evers’ emails from just one day. Denied,” the news outlet reported. 

Open government experts said the administration’s legal interpretation violates the spirit, and perhaps the letter of, Wisconsin’s open records laws.

Join the club, folks.

Conservative news outlets have been fighting the transparency battle with Evers from the day he took the Oath of Office.

The administration has denied multiple open records requests from Empower Wisconsin.

In an an Aug. 29 letter, Evers’ Assistant Legal Council Erin Deeley denied Empower Wisconsin requests for all communications between Gau and staff members of Protect Democracy to investigate how involved this far left organization was in the executive branch. The requests timeframe was between Dec. 10 2018 through May 5, 2019.  We also sought communications between Gau and the Public Service Commission chairwoman and her chief of staff following reports of improper practices.

Empower Wisconsin was denied because we did not identify a “subject matter,” the same specious legal reasoning others, including Fox6, have been given.

The Evers Administration has already been sued for its transparency problems.

In August, the MacIver Institute filed a lawsuit claiming Evers violated the First Amendment rights of staff members who were barred from attending a Capitol Press Corps briefing on the governor’s proposed budget.

Matt Kittle, Empower Wisconsin executive director, a former MacIver reporter, is named in the lawsuit.

A review of the Evers administration’s open government practices found a “disturbing departure from” the award-winning transparency practices of former Gov. Scott Walker. The analysis, conducted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found the administration to be “dysfunctional and disorganized” in handling requests for public information.

While there are guidelines requesters of government information must follow, the state’s open records law was crafted on the idea that public officials must error on the side of complete public access.

Between Evers’ bad appointments, bad ideas and now ignoring open government, Evers is creating quite a record in his first year in office.


The tourism plot thickens

M.D. Kittle:

New documents obtained by Empower Wisconsin  raise more red flags that Gov. Tony Evers’ tourism chief tried to push out a longtime committee member and rig a leadership election.

The records, sought by state Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) through an open records request, show the Governor’s Council on Tourism held subsequent elections for officers after the first online vote ended in a 6-6 tie between council members Kathy Kopp and Joe Klimczak.

Electronic timestamps show council voting in the first round took place between Oct, 18-21.

Another online vote occurred between Oct. 23-27, in which the election tallied 17 total votes. A final round of balloting occurred between Oct. 28-30, in which Klimczak picked up 10 votes to Kopp’s two.

The three rounds of voting were marred by confusion and controversy. Sources say only some members of the 19-member council were able to vote. In some cases, there were improper votes cast or some council members were said to have voted multiple times.

Tourism officials ultimately declared the votes were “inconclusive.” The election is now expected to be held at the council’s next meeting.

Between the first and final round of voting, Tourism Secretary-Designee Sara Meaney asked Kopp to resign her position on the council as early as December, according to Kopp and other tourism sources. Kopp, a widely respected tourism leader twice reappointed to the tourism council by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, plans to retire next year as director of the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce, but her Tourism Council appointment doesn’t end until July 2021.

“As I indicated to you, I had not thought about resigning early, especially before my duties here at the Chamber are completed,” Kopp wrote in the email to Meaney, which she shared with some of her fellow council members.

State Sen. Andre Jacque (R- De Pere) — chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development — said the records from the online vote are troubling.

“This is just a mess,” said Jacque, an ex-officio member of the council. “After the nominations took place, we know there is this phone call from Secretary Meaney to Kathy Kopp with the intention of asking Kathy to step down.”

“In relation to when the request to Ms. Kopp occurred, the timing is conspicuous,” Jacque added.

Tranel, also a member of the council, said he has been “concerned about the situation that has developed over the past few weeks within the Department of Tourism.”

“At the next meeting, I look forward to having a thorough discussion of what transpired. Kathy Kopp is a fantastic member of the Council and she has my full support,” Tranel wrote in an email to Empower Wisconsin.

Tranel’s office asked multiple times for the documents. Finally the Department of Tourism delivered the records to the southwest Wisconsin lawmaker.

The entire process, which critics say was driven by liberal politics, was unprecedented from the beginning.

Meaney’s attempt to elect officers and members of the council’s marketing committee via an online vote appears to have been a violation of Wisconsin’s open meetings law.

In a letter to the secretary-designee, Jacque noted he is also concerned that unknown individuals voted multiple times, “and perhaps including individuals who are not supposed to be casting a ballot.”

“It appears that the council’s vote itself was not conducted at a meeting that was properly noticed and open to the public,” the senator wrote.

Sources tell Empower Wisconsin the Department of Tourism under Meaney’s predecessor, Stephanie Klett, used paper ballots, and each election was monitored by an official from the state Department of Administration.

A Department of Tourism official did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment, but Meaney and Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan have insisted the secretary-designee is the victim of politics.

“There’s another political hit job on Sara Meaney,” Brennan told WTMJ radio on Friday. He claims the Tourism Department had done “things the wrong way” for the past 10 months because staff was following precedent set by “the previous administration.” Just what that was isn’t clear.

What is clear is that state statute doesn’t allow for online elections of committee officers, a precedent set by Meaney’s Department of Tourism.

Meaney also is under fire for “unprecedented” lobbying of individuals, business owners and tourism organizations around the state to support her confirmation in the Senate. Jacque said he has heard from some organization representatives who said they feared the repercussions of not supporting Meaney.

More broadly, Meaney has been accused of trying to politicize the Department of Tourism, pushing Evers liberal agenda inside the apolitical agency.

“The job of the Department of Tourism is to promote the State of Wisconsin, not to promote a political agenda — checking a racially-based box should not come before qualifications,” Jacque wrote in his letter to Meaney.

The secretary-designee’s confirmation, at the moment, appears to be in jeopardy.

“There’s a storm brewing on Sara Meaney,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) toldWTMJ. 

“There’s a couple of different stories floating out there … that has her in the position of trying to manipulate the tourism board,” Fitzgerald told the radio station.

At this point Meaney seems likely to follow Brad Pfaff, briefly the secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, into the pile of gubernatorial appointment rejects (though Pfaff landed another job with the state Department of Administration). For politicizing something that should not be politicized, and something that no previous Democratic or Republican governor politicized, Meaney needs to go.

Evers vs. hunters

M.D. Kittle:

Talk about tone deaf.

Gov. Tony Evers demands the state Legislature convene a special session at 2 p.m. [Thursday} to take up gun-restriction bills — just 16 days before the start of Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season.

The annual hunting season is a Wisconsin tradition older than the Brandy Old-Fashioned, and cherished by families throughout the Badger State.

The hunt, as should be abundantly clear, involves the use of guns. Unlike many of his predecessors, the governor isn’t what you would call a gun guy. He’s definitely not a deer-hunting guy.

The Madison Democrat is more at home playing pickle ball at the Governor’s Mansion and pushing gun-control policies than he is in a tree stand or tracking whitetail tracks through a snow-covered woods. You’ll find plenty of photos of former Govs. Scott Walker, Scott McCallum, and Tommy Thompson, as well as former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch decked out in blaze orange or camo on the hunt. Evers is more of a tweed sport coat fellow with an eye for regulatory code.

Evers wants the Legislature to move legislation on universal background checks and a so-called “red flag” bill that would give judges and relatives of individuals perceived to be threats increased power to take away guns.

Last month, Evers told reporters he would consider mandatory government “buybacks” of assault weapons, a la the proposal called for by failed Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A government “buyback” is a strange characterization of a what it really is: government seizures.

That kind of legislation feels like an assault on the Second Amendment and gun rights to a lot of hunters, some of whom use semi-automatic weapons on the hunt. Restrictionists have attempted to apply the moniker of “assault weapon” on just about anything that fires. While liberals like Evers insist that weapons bans and background checks aren’t designed to go after the average hunter’s guns, guns-rights activists have good reason to be concerned about the slippery slope of expanded government control.

Evers may not be into tracking deer, but he and his liberal advisers are political animals. The governor wants the political show a gun-control floor debate would create. Republican leadership isn’t biting.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have said they are not interested in taking up legislation that restricts gun rights of law-abiding citizens.

“Wisconsin’s sporting heritage should be celebrated – and has been by leaders in our state for years. Sadly this year, I’m hearing from hunters all over southeastern Wisconsin that they’re afraid of what Tony Evers is up to just two weeks ahead of deer season. We weren’t elected to take away Second Amendment rights and I don’t plan on starting now,” Fitzgerald told Empower Wisconsin in an email statement.

Fitzgerald on Tuesday said Republicans expect to gavel in and gavel out without taking up any of the Democrats’ proposals. Dems worry the GOP majority won’t give them the show they’re looking for.

First, as a non-hunter and as someone who drives throughout this state at night (I had to swerve around a dead deer last weekend), including during the deer rut and deer hunting seasons, I fully support deer hunting because every deer a hunter shoots is one I won’t hit with my car. Evers’ party, on the other hand, is infested with animal rights activists who not only avoid hunting, but believe no one should be able to hunt or fish. (Or eat meat, or wear leather or fur.) Add to that the usual anti-gun types, and that’s the toxic mixture Milwaukee and Madison voted into office in November.


More from The Evers Follies

It appears that predictions of the incompetence of the Evers administration following his election one year ago were too optimistic.

Beyond his attempts to raise taxes by $1 billion, his abuses of the First Amendment and his attacks on Wisconsin businesses, the Evers administration is rapidly demonstrating incompetence at non-political things, like letting your constituents and the news media know where you will be, while politicizing what should be nonpolitical things, with bad results.

Today’s exhibit A is reported by M.D. Kittle:

Not known for controversy, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism has become a hive of intrigue in the Evers era, in which liberal politics seem to touch even the most benign levels of government.

And not even Packers legend Donald Driver is safe under the new regime, sources tell Empower Wisconsin.

Several media outlets this week reported Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney has been criticized for reportedly trying to push out Kathy Kopp, a longtime member of the Governor’s Council on Tourism. The department also is in hot water for apparently violating Wisconsin’s open records laws, an all-too-common charge lodged against the Evers administration.

Kopp declined to comment for this story, but in an email to Meaney she notes the secretary had asked Kopp to resign her position as early as December. Kopp, a widely respected tourism leader twice reappointed to the tourism council by former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, plans to retire next year as director of the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce. She’s held that post for nearly 30 years.

“As I indicated to you, I had not thought about resigning early, especially before my duties here at the Chamber are completed,” Kopp wrote in the email, which she shared with some of her fellow council members.

Meaney, in her response to Kopp, wrote that she was disappointed in what she described as Kopp’s “gross mischaracterization” of their conversation and in Kopp’s “choice of this public channel to communicate.”

Multiple sources tell Empower Wisconsin that there was no mischaracterization of Meaney’s intention of getting rid of Kopp, who represents southwest Wisconsin, a region of the state not “diverse” enough for Meaney’s liking.

Officials from the Department of Tourism did not return Empower Wisconsin’s phone calls Tuesday seeking comment.

State Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) in a letter to Meaney expressed his concerns about what he described as the secretary’s repeated suggestions that Kopp resign. He claimed that the requests occurred in several phone calls that Meaney initiated.

Jacque wrote that he is concerned about Meaney’s indication that her criteria for future council appointees “are primarily weighted toward ethnic and cultural diversity, especially as tourism stakeholders outside of Madison and Milwaukee have repeatedly indicated anxiety that tourism investments will increasingly shift to those two largest urban areas of our state.”

Meaney and Evers have said they want to in particular to devote more focus on Milwaukee, site of next year’s Democratic National Convention.

It’s no surprise that Meaney, a longtime Milwaukee resident, would lead the department in a Milwaukee-centric direction. It is concerning to some observers that the nonpolitical agency has become so partisan.

The Department of Tourism these days is populated by plenty of left-leaning partisans. Craig Trost, the department’s comms director, previously served as political director for U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), chief of staff for state Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), and as an aide for state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison).

Deputy Secretary Anne Sayers previously worked as deputy state director of For Our Future, a progressive political action committee, where she pushed issues such as climate change and racial justice. In that capacity, she also led political operations in Wisconsin in which she worked to “build the influence of partner organizations” such as Big Labor, which dumped north of $12 million into For Our Future’s political action coffers in the last election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  

Jacque — chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development — also raised concerns about tourism’s attempt to elect officers and members of the council’s marketing committees via an online poll. Doing so is a violation of the state’s open meetings law.

“It appears that the Governor’s Council on Tourism may have violated Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law, which is deeply concerning to me — even more so as there are revelations that unknown individuals are voting multiple times, and perhaps including individuals who are not supposed to be casting a ballot. It appears that the council’s vote itself was not conducted at a meeting that was properly noticed and open to the public,” the senator wrote.

Kopp and another member were in the running for chairperson of the council.

Tourism leadership also prevented legislative representatives on the council from casting ballots, which also appears to be against the law.

Empower Wisconsin also has learned that the Department of Tourism has decided it will no longer feature Green Bay Packers legend and “Dancing with the Stars” champion Donald Driver in its ad campaigns. Driver, sources say, is contracted to serve as tourism spokesman through 2020.

What possible reason could there be to no longer use Driver, one of the most popular Packers during and after his playing career?

To quote ’80s commercials, but wait! There’s more! reports:

With Gov. Tony Evers making an unusual appearance on the Senate floor, Republicans voted Tuesday to fire the Democratic governor’s embattled agriculture secretary.

The denial of Brad Pfaff’s nomination to head the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection comes after a last-ditch effort by several Democratic lawmakers and agricultural groups to secure Pfaff’s job. The vote marks the latest partisan clash between Evers and Republicans, who hold the majority of the Legislature.

The Senate voted 19-14 along party lines to deny Pfaff’s nomination, with all five Republicans who voted in favor of Pfaff in committee — Howard Marklein, of Spring Green; Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon; Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point; Andre Jacque, of De Pere; and Kathy Bernier, of Chippewa Falls — changing their votes Tuesday.

A governor’s appointee has not been denied by the Senate since at least 1987, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Evers told reporters he attended the Senate floor session to hear arguments for and against Pfaff, whom he regards as “one of the most distinguished agriculture leaders” in the state.

His appearance is likely the first time in modern history that a Wisconsin governor was present for a floor vote. A staffer for Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1956, said the senator could not recall a Wisconsin governor ever being present for a Senate floor session, although former Democratic Gov. Patrick Lucey once phoned him on the floor.

After the vote, Evers expressed his stern disapproval, peppered with expletives, and lamented what he said was a chilling effect the Senate’s action might have for cabinet secretaries who are not yet confirmed. Pfaff was fired ostensibly for offending Republicans in comments this summer. …

After the Senate session Tuesday, Fitzgerald said there might be other nominees who have yet to garner enough support from Republicans, including Sara Meaney, secretary of the Department of Tourism. Fitzgerald did not elaborate on why Meaney might not have support from Republicans.

In addition to Meaney, Fitzgerald said Dawn Crim, secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services; Craig Thompson, secretary of the Department of Transportation; and Andrea Palm, secretary of the Department of Health Services, also may have trouble getting support from enough Republican senators to secure approval. …

After the vote, Marklein said in a statement that he has been disappointed in Pfaff since he and other committee members approved Pfaff’s nomination in February.

“At the time, I was hopeful that Mr. Pfaff would be a positive, strong leader for an agency that has traditionally been nonpolitical and focused on the industries it supports,” he said in the statement.

“Mr. Pfaff has played politics with information and has attacked the Legislature to the detriment of his agency. He was willing to use political talking points to further a political agenda, when he should have been focused on doing what is best for farmers and consumers.”

Pfaff, who served as deputy administrator for farm programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture under former President Barack Obama and most recently was deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, drew the ire of some Republicans in July when he criticized the Legislature’s budget committee for failing to release funds for mental health assistance to farmers and their families.

Noting DATCP had funding at the time for just five mental health counseling vouchers for farmers while the suicide rate among farmers was rising, Pfaff told committee members they had a choice to make: “Which five farmers will it be.”

At the time, Fitzgerald called the comment “offensive and unproductive.”

DATCP also has also been under fire for proposed updates to the state’s farm siting regulations. The proposed regulations would update the state’s nearly 14-year-old livestock facility siting rule ATCP 51, which is used by participating local governments to set standards and procedures — focused on setbacks from property lines, management plans, odor, nutrient and runoff management, and manure storage facilities — that must be followed by new or expanding livestock facilities. …

Two other cabinet secretaries up for a vote Tuesday, Mark Afable, commissioner of insurance, and Rebecca Valcq, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, were approved by the Senate.

The fact that Afable and Valcq were confirmed gives the lie to the accusation that the Senate GOP is doing nothing other than playing politics.

The Senate should in fact not confirm Thompson, whose entire career has been about nothing other than calling for building roads at whatever price taxpayers need to pay, and Meaney, who has turned the Department of Tourism into a partisan disaster area even before she officially has the job.


We’re number four!

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently issued this news release:

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a new memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that analyzed the tax law changes since 2011. The analysis reveals Republicans cut taxes by more than $13 billion since 2011. In income tax rate cuts alone, a typical Wisconsin family will save $2,000 over the ten year period. This news comes as Democrats across the country are proposing ways to increase taxes on American families.

“One of our top priorities has been to allow Wisconsin families to keep more of their own hard-earned money,” said Speaker Robin Vos. “Republicans have proven we can cut taxes, fund essential state programs and grow the economy.”

The review looked at statutory changes that directly reduce a person’s tax liability. As illustrated in the memo, the current budget grows the annual tax cuts to more than $2.3 billion, which includes reductions by more than $1.2 billion in income and franchise taxes and economic development surcharges, $18 million in other general fund taxes and $1.1 billion in property taxes.

“I’m proud that Republicans led the way in the recent budget process and reversed Governor Evers’ plan to increase taxes by more than $1 billion,” said Speaker Vos. “In the end, the taxpayers in Wisconsin win with a stronger economy and a smaller tax burden.”

Even before the latest round of tax cuts in the current budget, the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that the tax burden in our state dropped to the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Its report examined state and local taxes as a share of income.

There also has been progress in the national tax climate index. In 2011, Wisconsin was in the top ten worst taxed states in the country. The Tax Foundation currently ranks the state at #32, a marked improvement over the last eight years of surveys.

“Assembly Republicans have followed through on our promise to reduce taxes whenever possible,” said Speaker Vos. “Since 2011, we’ve lowered taxes every session that we’ve held the majority in the Wisconsin State Legislature.”

Wisconsin Republicans hold a 63-36 seat majority in the state Assembly.

I agree with The Cap Times!

The former editor of the newspaper formerly known as The Capital Times, Dave Zweifel:

The much-maligned sculpture dubbed “Nails’ Tales” has disappeared from its spot at the corner of Regent Street and Breese Terrace, one of the gateways to Camp Randall and the old Field House.
While some praised it as a piece of art that did what art should do — draw attention and provoke comments and discussion — most amateur art critics couldn’t have been happier when it was removed. They considered the $200,000 sculpture an eyesore that, instead of depicting the strength and virility of Badger football, looked more like a cob of corn or a phallic symbol.

It has been replaced, although across the street on city property, with a 10-foot-long sculpture of Bucky Badger created by the late Harry Whitehorse, the acclaimed Ho-Chunk sculptor and painter from Monona. He created the life-like Badger so it could be touched and sat on by people who came to see it.
We were talking about that at a luncheon the other day, when Joe Hart, who spent much of his newspaper career on our sports staff, including as sports editor, piped up.

Wouldn’t it be fitting, he said, if the UW would commission and install a statue of one of the football program’s greatest heroes who, unfortunately, seems to be largely forgotten? A kid from Lancaster, Wisconsin — Dave Schreiner.

He indeed was a hero, not only on the Badger football field, but in World War II, where he gave his life in the battle of Okinawa, only a few weeks before the Japanese surrender.

After graduating from Lancaster, Schreiner became one of Badgers football’s most revered players. He was a two-time All-American at end (he played both offense and defense), and was named the 1942 Big Ten Most Valuable Player. As a co-captain of that team, he led the Badgers to an 8-1-1 record. The loss was to Iowa, 6-0, and the tie was with Notre Dame, 7-7, while the big win was over number-one ranked Ohio State.

Following the ’42 season, he joined the Marines and two years later found himself in the Pacific Theater as a lieutenant and company commander in the Marine regiment that was fighting to clear the island of Okinawa of the Japanese.

After he had left to join the military, he was picked as a second round 1943 draft choice by the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, at age 24, he was shot by a sniper after his unit had been part of the victorious last battle on Okinawa.

Schreiner’s career with the Badgers and the following horrors on the front lines during World War II are detailed in the outstanding book, Third Down and a War to Go, written by Terry Frei — the son of Jerry Frei, one of Schreiner’s teammates on that storied ’42 team.

“In that era you had to be multi-faceted and he was tough and clever,” the author noted. “Most important of all he was a leader by example. Others tended to follow in his wake.”

Camp Randall, of course, was the training center where young Wisconsin men were stationed before being sent to the front lines to fight to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

What an appropriate place to permanently remember a young man who represented everything that is best about Wisconsin football.

Zweifel, a retired Army National Guard colonel, is absolutely correct. It is unlikely to happen, of course, in this era in which, depending on which college student you ask, this country is either no different from any other country or the focus of all evil in the world, any reference to the military glorifies war, and students cannot possibly fathom the idea of sacrificing their own lives toward something more important than they are.


Tony and the Incompetents

The latest thing the Evers administration has screwed up is explained by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:

Congressman Sean Duffy resigned from the House of Representatives effective September 23, 2019. Upon his resignation, Governor Tony Evers called a special election to fill the now vacant 7th Congressional District seat with a special general election date of January 27, 2020.

If more than one candidate from any political party runs and obtains the necessary nomination signatures, then pursuant to Evers’ schedule there will be a special primary election on December 30, 2019. Nomination signatures from potential candidates are due four weeks before the potential special primary election, on December 2, 2019.

A primary election is all but a certainty in the special election as two GOP candidates have already entered the race.

Issue: Federal law (called the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (“UOCAVA”), 52 U.S.C. §§ 20301 et seq.) gives overseas voters like deployed servicemen and women the right to vote via absentee ballot. In 2009, UOCAVA was amended by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (“MOVE”) Act, to add the mandate that such voters receive a ballot 45 days before an election. Evers’s scheduled dates violate this federal law for both the proposed primary date and the proposed general election date.

Evers has now admitted that his Executive Order setting these dates violates federal law and he is in the process of setting new dates.

Analysis: Evers appears to have followed the same timelines used by himself and former Governor Scott Walker to call special elections for state legislative seats, but why he did so for a federal election is unclear. UOCAVA imposes requirements for federal elections which make these timelines unlawful. As a result, and as Evers has now recognized, the originally proposed election dates are unlawful.

Courts have found violations of UOCAVA and issued declaratory and injunctive relief when States have established election schedules that did not allow military voters the federally mandated 45 days to vote. In United States v. Alabama, 778 F.3d 926, 929 (11th Cir. 2015) and United States v. Georgia, 952 F. Supp. 2d 1318, 1333 (N.D. Ga. 2013), for example, state laws required runoff elections to be held less than 45 days after the corresponding election.  The courts held that these state laws violated the UOCAVA.

The governor has said he will change the dates to comply with the law, which is good because it is all but certain a court would have required that anyway. This is especially true given that Wisconsin had clear notice that our election laws violated UOCAVA: in June of 2018, the state entered a consent decree with the federal government requiring the state to “take such actions as are necessary to assure that temporary overseas voters will receive all of the protections of UOCAVA in all future elections for Federal office…” The current Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator actually signed that consent decree, and yet the Commission proceeded forward as if it was fully intending to have the election that plainly violated federal law. Why no one at the Election Commission blew the whistle on the unlawful dates set by Evers is a question worth asking.

Insofar as Wisconsin law conflicts with federal law with respect to election deadlines, Wisconsin law is preempted. Any special election for the Seventh Congressional District must comply with UOCAVA. It must also comply with any state law not in conflict with federal law.

Which prompts Dan O’Donnell to comment:

In his desperation to avoid holding a special election to replace the now-retired Sean Duffy in the 7th Congressional District on the date of the Spring Election, Evers spun a web of deceit in which he now finds himself tangled.

Either he can admit that he lied about when state law required him to hold that special election or he can admit that his Administration was too incompetent to read applicable federal law before issuing his executive order.

One might imagine that neither is especially appealing.

When Duffy officially resigned his seat on September 23rd, Evers issued the head-scratching order to hold a special election for the seat on Monday, January 21st instead of the more logical Tuesday, January 22nd.

State law, his office told, dictated that the earliest the primary election could be was Tuesday, December 24th.  Since Evers didn’t want to hold a primary on Christmas Eve (or New Year’s Eve the following Tuesday), he had no choice but to move the election to Monday, December 30th.

Naturally, he didn’t realize that this date marks the final night of Hanukkah (and the fifth day of Kwanzaa), and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos “respectfully demanded” that the primary be moved.

“It is unnecessary to require Wisconsinites to exercise their civic duty to vote on a day they have set aside for a religious purpose,” Vos wrote in a letter to Evers on Friday.  “Our Constitution allows us to freely practice a religion if we so choose and as public servants, we must treat people of all faiths with the same dignity and respect.”

Evers did not publicly respond to this, but on Monday was forced to confront an even more pressing challenge to his planned special election—a federal law requiring 45 days before a federal election for military and overseas voters to receive and return their ballots.

Since the congressional race is a federal election, the primary would need to be 45 days before the general. Moreover, state law provides that no special election can occur after February 1st unless it coincides with the Spring Election (held next year on April 7th).

Evers wanted to avoid a special election in the heavily Republican 7th Congressional District on the date of the Spring Election because it would provide a draw to the polls for conservative voters who might otherwise stay home.

After all, the Spring Election will feature Wisconsin’s presidential primary and since the Democratic Party has a wide open primary while President Trump doesn’t have a serious Republican challenger, conventional wisdom assumes that there will be significantly higher Democrat turnout.

This would tend to buoy the chances of liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Jill Karofsky and Ed Fallone as they try to unseat incumbent conservative justice Dan Kelly.

Assuming Kelly advances out of the primary on February 18th, either Karofsky or Fallone would have a significant inherent advantage against him in the general election because they will presumably have hundreds of thousands more Democrats than Republicans at the polls for the presidential primary.

That advantage would be somewhat muted, however, if 26 of the most conservative of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had a special congressional election in which to vote as well.  Their votes might just be enough to counterbalance the expected overwhelming turnout in the heavily Democratic Milwaukee and Dane Counties and put Kelly over the top.

Evers couldn’t allow that, but he also couldn’t be seen as so Machiavellian in his political scheming, so he came up with a nonsensical reason that he just couldn’t hold the special election on April 7th: The constituents of the 7th Congressional District would be unrepresented in the House of Representatives for far too long—six months instead of four.

Those two extra months meant so much to Evers that he is now considering holding the special election on May 5th just so that he won’t have to hold it on April 7th.  The Evers Administration has already demonstrated that it doesn’t examine the calendar closely enough to notice Jewish holidays, and now it’s apparently conveying that it doesn’t know that seven months is a longer time for residents of the 7th Congressional District to be unrepresented than is six months.

Of course, Evers actually does know this, but his lack of knowledge of federal law has revealed his dishonesty.  Now that he is required to hold the special election on April 7th at the earliest, he is looking for a later date just so that his preferred candidate in the Supreme Court race can maintain a massive voter turnout advantage.

He never cared about residents going unrepresented at all; that was just the web he spun.  Now, though, karma has tangled it and Evers is caught.  Does he admit that all of his sanctimony was disingenuous and order the special election on May 5th, or does he stick to his supposed convictions and schedule the election for April 7th even though it might hurt him politically in the Supreme Court race?

The Evers (mis)administration is nine months old, and already is working hard to be the political equivalent of the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight. Anyone who had any dealings with the Department of Public Instruction when Evers ran it should have known this was going to happen, but apparently none of Evers’ Madison and Milwaukee voters knew or cared.

Understand that we are not talking about such policy issues as Evers’ demands to raise taxes or his jonesing to ban guns. Evers and his minions can’t get the nonpartisan, nonideological political and nonpolitical things right either.

For instance, Evers decided to sneak into Platteville to visit UW–Platteville and a Platteville school without telling anyone in the news media, for reasons no one has even attempted to explain. When Scott Walker was governor, media were told at least 24 hours in advance via email, and then Walker’s media people followed up with a phone call to the media.

The corollary is Evers’ refusal to speak to unfavored news media, specifically the MacIver Institute, when he is perfectly fine with speaking to One Wisconsin Now, which meets no one’s definition of “news media.” MacIver is now suing the Evers administration for doing something Walker never did either.

It’s not as if Evers’ administration is trying hard in media relations outside of conservative media. Newspapers that used to get more detail than they could possibly use about the daily whereabouts of Walker, his wife Tonnette, or former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch now get nothing from this governor or lieutenant governor. That is Media Relations 101, and given the number of ex-journalists working in state government as public information officers you’d think one of them might say something to the party hack who is supposedly handling Evers’ media relations.

Speaking of relations, or lack thereof, Evers’ office and appointees are apparently not on speaking terms with legislators (as in non-returned emails and phone messages) whose last names are not followed by the letter D. I got that piece of information from two of them, who interestingly represent an area of the state considered to be a swing political area.

This state used to have a fantastic tourism secretary, Stephanie Klett. Since tourism is one of the three biggest pieces of this state’s economy, one would think Evers would find someone competent. One would be wrong to think that. From what I’ve been told by people in the tourism industry, the new tourism secretary, a self-proclaimed world traveler, has not been to most of this state, and her department is uninterested in promoting most of this state, perhaps because of all of those unwashed Republicans who live outstate.

Remember, following Evers’ pledge to not raise taxes, Evers’ budget proposal to raise income taxes and gas taxes? Neither happened. In fact, the 2019–21 state budget, other than Evers’ budget vetoes, bears little resemblance to what Evers proposed. It’s as if Evers didn’t even attempt to negotiate with legislative Republicans, hoping that Democrats can take over both houses of the Legislature in 2020, when the tea leaves are not favorable for that happening, at least 13 months away from the election.

As far as the election date, this state has an attorney general whose office, one would think, should be cognizant of, or at least be able to research, federal election law. Or not, it seems.

This is what voters in Milwaukee and Dane County voted into office last November — not merely liberals, but liberals incompetent at the basic functions of state government, such as media and constituent relations. The administrations of Gov. Tommy Thompson — whose years in office had more Democrats than Republicans in charge in the Legislature — and James Doyle — who governed with a Republican Legislature six out of his eight years in Office — were nowhere near this incompetent.