Archive for March, 2011

Standing with Walker sounds more like lying

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

It’s always nice to hear directly from the folks who are out to eat your lunch. I’m on a lot of different lists for a lot of different reasons, so I’ve received several fundraising calls from the Walker camp in the last week and a mailing, too. That’s a lot of action for a guv who is less than three months into a four-year term and for whom I never contributed in the first place.

The pitch is consistent and it rests on three pillars of fantasy, along with one unspoken truth, which is this: Walker’s in a ton of political trouble and so are his enablers in the legislature. But let’s go through the big bullet points here and talk about them a little:

  1. “Former Governor Jim Doyle and his Democrat majorities in the previous legislature created this financial mess.”
  2. Well, not exactly. Back when Governor Doyle and the legislature were preparing to pass Doyle’s first biennial budget, George Mason University Professor of Government and Politics in the Department of Public and International Affairs Dr. James K. Conant penned an article in the June 2003 edition of Public Budgeting & Finance. Here’s what it said:

    “Wisconsin’s lawmakers increased spending and cut taxes during the 1990s. Then, in January of 2001, they faced an estimated $2.4 billion budget gap or deficit for the FY 2001–2003 biennium. They cut spending and generated additional revenue by borrowing against future tobacco settlement income. Still, by January of 2002, the estimated deficit had grown by an additional $1.3 billion, and more cutting and borrowing took place. Despite these actions, a $3.5 billion deficit was projected for FY 2003–2005.”

    The truth is that the structural deficit was almost the same when Doyle began his first term as it is today. It was inherited from Republican governors Tommy Thompson and his short-term successor, Scott McCallum. It’s also worth noting that as the 2003 session of the Wisconsin legislature opened, the GOP held the majority in the Assembly 58-41 and in the Senate 18-15.

    While that structural deficit persists today, a lot has happened since 2003. One trifling matter, for example, was the Great Recession under Republican President George W. Bush. Those Bush tax cuts didn’t do much for employment or prosperity for anyone except the very wealthy:

    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/66809/20100929/income-gap-census-bureau-poverty.htm

    States all across the U.S. are facing fiscal challenges, so to say that our problems here can legitimately be pinned on Doyle and the Democrats, given the history, is beyond ridiculous. (I guess it’s hard to raise money by admitting that a good share of the blame belongs to your own party and the policies it has promoted, including the single most significant factor in play, which is the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.)

  3. “Scott Walker ran for Governor promising to enact the very proposal he has now put forth.”
  4. No, he didn’t. Show me where he talked about busting unions. In talking with editorial board members, going back over coverage, researching statements and reviewing advertising, Scott Walker absolutely did NOT promise “the very proposal he has now put forth.” As the frequent, massive demonstrations and post election polls are showing, he would not have been elected if he had. (He would also not need to be breathlessly trying to raise money right now because most people would be pleased with him. There’s nothing to worry about with recalls when the majority is behind what you’re doing, right?)

  5. “Wisconsin taxpayers can no longer afford to be held hostage by Union Bosses.”

Since that certainly isn’t the case, it’s a moot point. What might be more appropriate to ask is whether we can we afford to be held hostage by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. How about the Republican Governors Association and all their Wisconsin corporate donors? The Koch Brothers? The Club for Growth? Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC? All of them poured big money into the GOP ticket and Wisconsin’s state elections last fall. Besides, a lot of people are looking at Scott Walker contributor lists these days and I don’t want them thinking about me the way I know they’re thinking about a lot of the other Walker contributors.

No, if Scott Walker and the Republicans need more money than they’ve already got, I would suggest that they get it from the very same folks they’ve been getting it from all along – (and it sure as hell wasn’t me.) Look, it’s only fair that the people who are getting a return on their investment be the very same people to make it. I realize that’s not the majority of folks, but hey, that’s just the way it is when you run an agenda that only benefits narrow interests. If the prime beneficiaries of GOP policies don’t want to take a share of their booty to keep their acolytes in office, then that’s just tough luck.

I always like a letter with a punchy close and this one saved the biggest laugh for last, in the P.S. portion. “I have sent this urgent letter to you because you are one of the most generous and loyal Republicans in our state.” Gee, I sure hope that part is true. Because if that’s the case, then the GOP has even bigger problems than they might have imagined… J

JR

Politics Friday: What a week it’s been…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

It’s been an interesting week and the next one promises more of the same if not more.

The Green Bay city council joined many other governmental subunits around the state by unanimously approving extending the city’s contracts with their unions. Meanwhile, the Marathon County Board has voted twice in the past eight days not to have any discussions with county unions. The vote was 22-10 on Thursday, March 17 and 24-10 opposing last Tuesday. Is it too much to ask that somebody public a roll call on this one or was this one of those “show of hands” deals? The City of Wausau passed a resolution opposing Walker’s bill, but apparently hasn’t scheduled discussions with its own unions beyond an agreement with the transit workers to comply with federal funding mandates.

* * *

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race heats up as a state appeals court sends Wisconsin’s “non-fiscal” union-busting budget repair bill to the high court, citing too many issues that require clarification. The usually boring Spring election was already plenty hot and if anyone needed any help figuring out why having a partisan conservative on that panel might be a problem, it should be crystal clear now. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is shaking the bushes for money to protect their guy and the Greater Wisconsin Committee continues to run a very pointed ad on the opposite side. Big winner from all of this noise is Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg.

* * *

It turns out Senator Randy Hopper’s “friend” who picked up a job in the Dept. of Regulation and Licensing – something Hopper said he didn’t help with – didn’t even have to apply for the job. Daily Kos jumps all over it and has no problem collecting cash to run an Internet campaign against Hopper:

 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/23/959418/-Wisconsin-recall-ads-hit-Randy-Hopper-on-his-mistress-getting-a-state-job-with-a-35-raise
 

 

The more money they collect, the longer they run it.

* * *

The La Crosse County GOP opens a headquarters in an attempt to retain the Assembly seat formerly held by Mike Huebsch, who is now Secretary of the Dept. of Administration, as well as fend off recall efforts for GOP Senator Dale Kapanke. Both could be tall orders for them. Along with Hopper, Kapanke looks to be one of the more vulnerable Republican senators in the recall mix. The GOP’s brand in Wisconsin is looking mighty tarnished for a group that swept into the governor’s office and majorities of both houses of the legislature a bit over four months ago. Stay tuned.

* * *

An Indiana prosecutor becomes the second public official from the Hoosier State to lose his job over dumb remarks about the situation in Wisconsin. Carlos F. Lam, a Johnson County deputy prosecutor, resigned yesterday after admitting he sent an email last month urging Walker to discredit labor union protests in his state by orchestrating a fake assault on himself. He joins Indiana Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox, who was fired last month after he suggested that police use live ammunition on protesters who had poured into Wisconsin’s Capitol. Is it any wonder that Dick Armey and FreedomWorks chose Indiana for a meeting this week?

* * *

A group calling itself the “Foundation for State Leadership” begins an ad campaign against Democratic Senator Jim Holperin. It’s hard to say who they are, but probably the usual far right-wing suspects (speaking of tarnished brands.)

* * *

Jesse Jackson has been a regular visitor to Wisconsin over the past few weeks.  He will visit UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point Monday; UW-La Crosse on Tuesday and close his tour at UW-Madison.  

JR

 

Kucinich, Libya, cruise missiles, Obama, Lugar and Indiana

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

As regular readers know, we avoid copyright infringement by using our own pictures – yup, we shoot them — so sorry about the paparazzi style picture of Congressman Dennis Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth. (Hey, I don’t run into him that often so it’s what we have and frankly, a lot of people probably like it better than the usual politician-at-the-podium shot anyway.)

This from the CBS News Political Hotsheet Monday:

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told Hotsheet today that it’s an “indisputable fact” that President Obama committed an impeachable offense by authorizing a military attack without congressional approval.

“The next question is what does Congress do it about it,” Kucinich said, adding that he hasn’t said he’s introducing a resolution for impeachment.

“This is a teachable moment,” he said. “The American people should understand that our Constitution does not provide for the president to wage war any times he pleases.”

Kucinich and other lawmakers — including both liberal Democrats and some Republicans — are raising concerns about the air strikes the U.S. military is conducting in Libya to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from killing civilians who oppose his rule.

* * *

I go back a ways with cruise missiles. Back in the late 1970’s, I used to provide media support for an annual bomb loading competition, which the Strategic Air Command held at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. It was an Olympics-style event in which crews from the various SAC bases would load dummy nukes and the teams were scored on their techniques. It was always a lot of fun and I like the Black Hills.

Defense contractors had little advertising specialties they handed out — lighters, pens, note pads; the usual tradeshow fare. I really should have saved some of that stuff. One year, as I recall, General Dynamics and Boeing were involved in a competition to see who would get the contract for the new cruise missiles. They had the coolest trinkets. (It all had a happy ending when one company got the contract for the air-launched version and the other got the sea-launched device.)

Cruise missiles aren’t cheap because what you’re really talking about is a rather sophisticated, single-use aircraft — so they run about $1.5 million a copy. The planes I’m seeing on TV for the Libya thing right now are all smaller aircraft and a couple of guys punched out of an F-15 this morning, but a B-52 can carry a pretty good load of them and they are launched from a rotating clip like a six-shooter. I’m not sure how many a sub can carry and there are ground-launched versions, too. Regardless, we’ve blown through about $112 million worth of them in the past couple of days. (I think Raytheon makes this stuff now and to the extent that these things have to be replaced, I’m guessing they’re probably doing pretty well on this thing.)

As for what Kucinich is saying, I’m for anything that would cause this country to greatly back off from military adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere. I was opposed to entering Iraq and I think we should have accomplished our mission in Afghanistan by now, too. It seems to me that part of Barack Obama’s appeal in the 2008 election was the idea that we needed to extract ourselves from some of these things, while being less eager to involve ourselves in the first place. I support President Obama, but that doesn’t mean I agree with each and every action he takes. I’m sick of the money, the funerals, the lack of focus and the fuzzy strategic aims.

One thing that makes things like this difficult to sort out is that along with people who may have the purest of motives in these discussions, there are also political opportunists who circle like vultures over any significant decision made by the President. A person I always want to hear from on this type of issue is Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and here’s part of what he had to say yesterday, as reported on the Dow Jones Newswire:

* * *

Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was one of the first to warn loudly about the potential cost and risks of U.S. involvement. After silence on Friday, when he participated in the meeting with Obama, Lugar renewed his warnings on Monday, saying in a statement that “there needs to be a plan about what happens after Gadhafi.

“Who will be in charge then, and who pays for this all. President Obama, so far, has only expressed vague hopes.” He also said that “the facts are that our budget is stretched too far and our troops are stretched too far.” He said that “the American people require a full understanding and accounting, through a full and open debate in Congress.”

* * *

That makes sense to me, as Senator Lugar often does on matters of foreign relations. In fact, Lugar is so sensible that Koch Brothers missionary Dick Armey of FreedomWorks (an evil twin of Americans for Prosperity) will be leading a few days of ragging about him down in Indianapolis later this week – something that was planned way before the Libya thing. They will also have the opportunity to carp about Democratic state legislators of Indiana, who spent weeks hiding out in Illinois to block reactionary GOP changes to education and labor policy in the state.

Does any of this sound familiar?

 http://www.freedomworks.org/location/indianapolis

Their hope is to find a ‘REAL Republican’ to take Lugar’s seat in 2012. Whoever that person turns out to be, being able to find Libya on a map won’t be one of the requirements.

So I’ll bet you were wondering how a strange title and a piece that started out as differently as this one could possibly end up being just another story about the Koch Brothers. But the really funny thing is that it’s not that hard to do. They don’t call it the Kochtopus for nothing.

JR

Will the Supreme Court race track Walker’s poll numbers?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is a bit of an art aficionado and I talked with him a couple of times when he stopped by Lt. Governor Lawton’s office for “Art in the Office” receptions, which she regularly held during her tenure. Those events are a thing of the past, the Wisconsin Arts Board that Lawton still chairs may be essentially disbanded by Governor Walker’s budget and Prosser probably has other things on his mind now, too.

A little over a month ago, Prosser looked like he was in great shape for re-election. He comfortably took more than half the votes in the February 15 primary and his closest competitor, Joanne Kloppenburg, polled less than half as many votes. The conservative Club for Growth accounted for 70 percent of the ad spending for all candidates in the primary, spending $321,000 to back Prosser in the lightly-attended February primary.

A former GOP Assembly speaker, David Prosser was originally appointed to the court by Governor Tommy Thompson in 1998 and subsequently elected to a 10-year term on the high court in 2001. When he started his campaign for re-election last year and kicked it into high gear after the fall midterms, there seemed little downside in visibly linking to the conservative wave and Scott Walker. Wisconsin Republicans had picked up seats in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House that had long been held by Democrats, along with a sweep turnover of the state senate, assembly and governor’s offices. Who wouldn’t want to ride that kind of Tsunami?

But that was then and this is now. Governor Walker rolled out his assault on collective bargaining just prior to the Supreme Court primary and since then, hundreds of thousands of protesters have visited the capitol. While they’re busily gathering signatures for recall elections around the state that could take place as early as June, Joanne Kloppenburg has emerged as a symbol in a Supreme Court race that might have otherwise slid quietly by with Prosser easily winning another decade on the bench. It might not work out that way.

Conservative interests like Club for Growth and the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers & Commerce all but sponsored two of the last three winners in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court races. While WMC-backed justices Annette Ziegler and Mike Gableman both had issues raised relating to their ethics, they remain on a court that tilts a bit to the right. Prosser made no bones about his right-wing credentials early on.

Now, his remarks about acting as a ‘complement’ to Walker and saying his views ‘closely mirror’ Walker’s are coming back to haunt him – along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising from the progressive Greater Wisconsin Committee reminding everyone what he said. What’s coming out as the bumper sticker message is that “Prosser Equals Walker” – something that might have been okay early last November, but could well be a losing strategy for April 2011, if his detractors can keep that message front and center. (See www.prosserequalswalker.com .)  Looming recalls, an expensive fall election season last year and a post-budget repair bill ad blitz in February may also be factors in how much support Prosser can expect.

An experienced assistant attorney general, Kloppenburg actually raised more money than Prosser leading up to the primary by a few thousand dollars. But with the well-worn playbook for the conservatives relying on third-party groups to buy up millions in media advertising for their picks and Kloppenburg not being theirs, it didn’t seem like it would matter.  While Prosser may still get some help from the usual quarters, it may not be as helpful as it might have been in the past with a tuned-in and enthusiastic opposition group just waiting for evidence that the usual suspects are involved. 

To make things even more interesting, here’s the lead from a story in the March 19 edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Madison– As the deeply divided state Supreme Court wrestled over whether to force one member off criminal cases last year, Justice David Prosser exploded at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson behind closed doors, calling her a “bitch” and threatening to “destroy” her. 

* * *

That’s quite a story to have emerging with such impeccable timing:

 http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/118310479.html

 I must admit that one of the more entertaining tirades I ever watched on the Assembly floor was courtesy of Prosser when he was minority leader, so I didn’t find the account of a colorful explosion to be all that surprising.

With the vote a little more than two weeks away, Kloppenburg is crossing the state and finding herself very welcome. Her name is regularly showing up on the signs of supporters demonstrating in Madison and elsewhere – something that is not lost on her. Kloppenburg’s stump speech is upbeat and she stresses her independence, unlike Prosser’s early stance that relied on his association with the Republicans. The April vote could be substantially heavier than the February primary, with the office of Milwaukee County Executive and Madison mayor on the ballot.

Opponents of Walker and the Republican majority in the legislature know that an early and powerful message they could send would be to dump Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and Joanne Kloppenburg is looking very good to them. The controversial budget repair bill is already stalled in one court and legislative redistricting might also end up in the high court. A “complement” to the guv and the GOP legislature is the last thing that people opposed to the current agenda want to see.

Judicial races are a little strange. Since they’re ostensibly non-partisan and the candidates can’t talk about issues likely to come before the court, they rely mostly on the occasional dog whistles to partisans and whatever image of judicial experience and temperament the candidates can cultivate about themselves and each other. That can leave little in the way of issues beyond the candidates themselves. In this race, David Prosser – whose early dog whistles were accomplished with a vuvuzela — is becoming a bigger issue every day.

This is a race that Prosser could have easily have won two months ago and the primary showed it. With Walker and the legislature sticking its thumb in the eye of a good share of the Badger State’s electorate since then, it’s far less of a sure bet now.

JR

Greater Wisconsin “rubber stamp” ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxta4gfm1rU 

UPDATE: Internal polls indicate that unlike the February primary, it’s now a very close race:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/report-wis-supreme-court-race-running-close-in-internal-polls.php?ref=fpb

That giant sucking sound

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

Back in 1992, independent candidate for President Ross Perot talked about the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement as “that giant sucking sound” of American jobs leaving the country. A lot of things have happened besides NAFTA over the past couple of decades, but there is little doubt that plenty of jobs have been lost to foreign outsourcing. Discover Card even spoofs it with their ad featuring “Peggy,” a fictional character with a strong accent handling customer service calls for “USA Prime Credit.”

The ad is funny, but one of the reasons is that so many of us can relate to the experience. What’s not funny is that so many jobs have moved offshore because corporations can hire people for peanuts in comparison to labor costs in the U.S. Here in the Badger State, Mercury Marine, Harley Davidson, Kohler Company and others have pressed contracts in recent years that involved substantial concessions, pay freezes and often, new pay tiers for new hires that will offer even less to future workers. Those are the big deals that we know about because they involved labor unions. Unrepresented employees have been taking freezes, pay cuts, diminished benefits, furloughs and layoffs without the same fanfare.

It is against this backdrop that Governor Walker is exploiting the current labor market and fomenting envy between public and private employees. While most people agree that public employees shouldn’t be living in a parallel universe where none of the realities of today’s labor market exist, they should think about who will really be better off after another raft of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin employees find themselves with diminished purchasing power. They should consider what it means to extend the lowering of standards that has been occurring in some portions of the private sector over to the public sector, as if that’s been some kind of grand accomplishment.

Walker is also going after medical benefits for the poor and cutting the earned income tax credit to wring a few hundred out of working poor families, now that his first priority of cutting corporate and capital gains taxes breezed through a compliant, lock-step GOP legislature with barely a discussion.  Together, they are insisting that the burden of resolving the state’s budget issues can only be placed on a relatively limited group of people without even a cursory look at the negative impact.  

So what happens when more people can’t afford much beyond their basic needs because they have been forced to accept a lower standard of living in the name of corporate profits, lower taxes (for a few fat cats) and preserving jobs? Who’s going to be better off? Here’s a hint: not you.

In Wausau, a small diner and a tire shop recently put signs in their windows to let people know that they support public employees. Many more around the state are doing the same or will share their views, if you ask them. They understand that when their customers lose discretionary income, they lose business. And for those shortsighted people — those who think that they will somehow be better off if some of their neighbors are a little worse off — the truth will become apparent soon enough.

“We expect more job growth with Wisconsin’s new, business friendly image under Governor Walker,” trumpeted Department of Workforce Development Secretary Manny Perez in a Wednesday press release that showed the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in January compared to 7.1 percent in December. The very lowest unemployment rate in the state was Dane County — the seat of state government and the University of Wisconsin – (and a place where Walker captured less than 31 percent of the vote in November, well before anyone knew about his union-busting plans.) But Dane County will be a poorer place under Walker’s budget, along with just about every place else in Wisconsin.

The thing is, “business friendly” is entirely different for the businesses of Main Street, compared to the businesses of Wall Street or Koch Industries. It’s also entirely different for the business of being a middle class household and it doesn’t much matter what you do. There’s capitalism and then there’s corporatism. They’re very different.

Sucking money out of local economies all over the state is not an effective way to grow jobs. What it really does is diminish the capacity of those economies to create wealth for most of the players involved in them. It makes the pie smaller. The hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue cuts being absorbed by counties, municipalities, school districts and public employees across Wisconsin through smaller paychecks won’t be redirected to other purposes in those communities. They’re just going to be gone. Taking more out of employee paychecks isn’t going to make your taxes go down. The poor will be poorer, services will be diminished, college tuition will be higher and some of the money that used to recirculate around your community will have disappeared like a corporate bailout.

These are fiscally responsible priorities? It sounds more like morally bankrupt and a recipe for taking all Wisconsin workers a little closer to the 1930s.

JR

UPDATE: Study says Walker’s budget could cost nearly 22,000 jobs:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_8c50dc92-52f7-11e0-993d-001cc4c03286.html

Local governments to Walker: keep your tools

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

Secretary of State Doug LaFollette is waiting until the last possible moment to publish the “non-fiscal” budget repair bill rammed through by Governor Walker and the Fitzgerald Brothers last week. While we wait, there are cities, counties, school districts and transit systems running contract extensions through for approval before the guv’s union-busting bill takes effect. Asked about this on one of his nearly weekly closed-to-the-public state media market tours in Wausau Tuesday, Walker attributed it to union support of local officials in elections. You can watch the tape here: http://www.waow.com/Global/story.asp?S=14253609

Like a lot of things Walker says – redirecting federal high-speed rail money into Wisconsin road projects, bogus refinancing deadlines for him to kick the can down the road, etc. — it doesn’t hold up very well to even cursory examination. There could be no better example than Wausau, the place he chose to make the statement about why so many local governments are walking in the other direction on his still-waiting-to-be-published union-busting law.

Just as many other local governments in Wisconsin have done recently, the Wausau City Council passed a resolution opposing Walker’s budget repair bill and its heavy-handed stripping of most collective bargaining rights — what Walker euphemistically calls “tools.” Also like other communities, the city settled with its transit union. It was done in an effort to stave off the loss of federal funding for its bus system, which is a likely outcome under Walker’s poorly vetted legislation. The school district approved labor contracts, too.

The governor’s contention that these actions by local elected officials reflect campaign support by unions is pure fiction and it’s pretty insulting, too. Walker can talk about his own motivation in those terms and it matches up well with the ad blitz by his supporters, the millions they poured into his election and his comments to fake David Koch in the now infamous 20-minute phone call. There is ample evidence that Walker puts special interests and campaign donors well ahead of most Wisconsin citizens under the rationalization that what is good for his ideological soulmates is inherently good for everyone else in some trickle-down universe.

But school district representatives, county board members and city council members in this part of the world run what are known as exempt campaigns. What that means is that they agree to spend less than $1,000 annually on campaigning. For most of them, whatever they actually do spend comes directly out of their own pockets. They don’t hold fundraisers and if co-workers, friends or family members happen to throw in a few dollars, then that’s about the extent of it. In short, it’s not about power. It’s about service. These thankless, time-consuming and sometimes emotionally draining jobs pay around $100 a week or less.

Between the Wausau City Council and the Marathon County Board, I stood for a dozen elections beginning in 1998 and ending in 2010. I had opposition in most city council elections. Union support was scant or non-existent most of the time. Some unions endorsed my opponents in some years. I was never offered a nickel in contributions from a union and I don’t know that my opponents were either, even when they were endorsed. It’s just not the way those things are done around these parts, for those particular offices. It might be different in Milwaukee. It’s different for state and federal legislative races. It’s probably the case in Chicago and New York. But it’s not that way here.

Even though my formal support from unions was spotty to non-existent most of the time and even I had to sit on the opposite side of the table from time to time, I never felt that unions didn’t have a right to be there, unlike Scott Walker. In fact, I accepted it as an article of faith that they did and I still feel that way now.

Whether serving in schools districts, villages, towns, cities or counties, most local officials I know do their level best to be fair to taxpayers and employees alike. They try to strike a balance. That’s something that Governor “I’m-not-negotiating” Walker never made an attempt to do. If the legislation he foisted on local governments and school districts in Wisconsin wasn’t enough to prove it, then the reaction of those various bodies to his “tools” that most never asked for most certainly is. Monday, a leadership committee of the Waukesha County Board couldn’t agree to a resolution supporting Walker’s bill after it had passed. Seeing even a conservative bastion like that having issues with the state’s overreach on collective bargaining ought to tell people something.

Local officials around Wisconsin aren’t standing up for unions so much as simply standing up for what they think is right and refusing to buy in to something that they were never even consulted about. Contrary to Walker’s public pronouncements and the television ads supporting his reactionary views, this is not a case of public employee unions against everyone else. There just aren’t enough union members to create the negative numbers that the polls are showing and the downward spiral hasn’t stopped yet.

Scott McCallum tried a much more modest slap at local government during his short stint as governor and he paid for it by losing the office to Jim Doyle in the 2002 election. Local government officials are not the problem. They didn’t create the state deficit – not then and not now. Many don’t take kindly to laws that usurp their legitimate authority and force them to do the dirty work for a high-handed and increasingly unpopular governor who has no respect for local control or working relationships that have been built over many decades without any help from him. And he tells them if they have to lay off workers under his budget, then it’s their own fault for not using his tools (sort of like ‘Hey, I chained you to this machine gun so you could shoot your way out of this!’) No, Governor Walker, it’s your scheme and it’s your fault.

JR

A case of bad timing for recall target Hopper?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

Long-time readers of this blog know that we occasionally enjoy the salacious tidbit here. The photo above is Howard K. Stern arriving at Anna Nicole Smith’s home in the Bahamas, where I piled in with the tabloids and legitimate media shortly after her death in February 2007. We ran it in the prior edition of this blog because, well, everyone else was doing it. (Yes, I know those palm trees are confusing to Fox News and they probably think this is Governor Walker heading up to the gate at the Executive Residence in Madison. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.)

When the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pointed out that Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan had something going on with a lobbyist for the payday loan industry, it was dutifully noted here. When Jerry Bader of WTAQ was telling a big, fat lie about Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton for which he was eventually suspended, I covered that, too. Larry Craig’s mugshot? Check. We even checked out the Portland, Oregon hotel where Al Gore got his infamous and expensive massage.

But somehow, the Journal-Sentinel and Jerry Bader haven’t had much to say about GOP State Senator Randy Hopper, who is one of the top-tier recall targets and may have one of the more interesting narratives since Dennis right now. I’ve talked about Hopper before because he visited Wausau after only six months in office peddling something that was masquerading as a legislative report on jobs, but actually seemed to be more of a partisan treatise.

 https://jimrosenberg.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/politics-Monday/
 
Anyway, Raw Story has hit the streets with an interesting little tale that has since gained ink in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and New York Magazine (at least online, anyway.)  It goes something like this (and we thank Frenchy’s House Party.com):

Protesters who marched at the home of Wisconsin state senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) were met with something of a surprise on Saturday. Mrs. Hopper appeared at the door and informed them that Sen. Hopper was no longer in residence at this address, but now lives in Madison, WI with his 25-year-old mistress.

Blogging Blue reports that the conservative Republican’s much-younger new flame, Valerie Cass, is currently employed as a lobbyist for right-wing advocacy group Persuasion Partners, Inc., — (You can’t make this stuff up!) — but was previously a state senate staffer who worked on the Senate Economic Development Committee alongside Mr. Hopper. Her bio has been scrubbed from the Persuasion Partners’ website, but a screen-grab is available here*. (Actually, it’s not – so I’m dropping Valerie’s photo in from what we understand to be a public domain source, subject to correction. It’s unclear to me if she is still employed with the firm.)

Sen. Hopper has worked closely with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to implement the state’s new anti-labor laws and enact policies favorable to the interests of big business. Like Walker, Hopper is one of the Republican politiciansnamed in a massive recall effort spearheaded by Wisconsin Democrats.

According to Wisconsin law, state elected officials who have served at least one year of their current term are eligible for recall by voters. Hopper was elected state senator for district 18 in the fall of 2008, making him eligible for recall, whereas Governor Walker will not be eligible until 2012.

Blogging Blue also reports that Mrs. Hopper intends to sign the recall petition against her husband. The petition has already been signed by the family’s maid.

Just to add a little intrigue to all of this, it seems that among its clients, Persuasion Partners represents – you guessed it – Americans for Prosperity. And Senator Hopper reportedly cancelled an appearance at a St. Patrick’s Day parade over the weekend, citing security concerns.

Of course, we are in no position to verify any of this first-hand. All I can say is that the story is pretty much viral, I’m looking for a denial and Wisconsin media doesn’t seem to be touching it – even though it doesn’t appear they’ve made a policy of avoiding such stuff in the past. Moreover, Hopper owns several radio stations, so one would think he could get the word out if he wanted to straighten things out.

In the meantime, Wisconsin Dems have collected more than 56,000 signatures on recall petitions. One would guess that more than a few of them are for Senator Hopper, who may not have much better luck than Mr. Sheridan did when the voters had a chance to unseat him after his questionable relationship with a persuasive partner of his own last year.

JR

UPDATE: The Hopper story began showing up in Milwaukee TV sites late last night. Here’s WISN’s version:

http://www.channel3000.com/politics/27196630/detail.html

Hometown newspaper frames it as a residency issue? Well, sure but…

http://www.fdlreporter.com/article/20110315/FON0101/103150360/State-Sen-Randy-Hopper-not-residing-Fond-du-Lac-home

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UPDATE:  Hopper denies role in state employee’s hire —

http://www.wkow.com/Global/story.asp?S=14266183

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UPDATE:  The pay went up $11K for state job, compared to predecessor:

http://addins.wkow.com/blogs/scoop/2011/03/salary-boosted-for-worker-with-ties-to-hopper

UPDATE: Journal-Sentinel’s Daniel Bice traces Valerie Cass’s path to her current state job:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/noquarter/118341669.html

One Wisconsin Now weighs in and includes a new pic:

http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/blog/2011/03/did-hopper-vote-for-a-job-for-his-alleged-mistress.html

Update from Daily Kos – No record of even applying for the job?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/24/959621/-Randy-Hoppers-mistress-never-formally-applied-for-Wisconsin-state-job

Update from Daily Kos – Administration explains salary increase.  (Free PR advice: This is one of those rare cases when “No comment” would have probably worked better…):

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/22/959016/-Wisconsin-Republican-hypocrisy-deepens-on-35-raise-for-Randy-Hoppers-mistress

UPDATE: Former Sen. Randy Hopper arrested for OWI:

http://www.bluecheddar.net/2011/10/17/former-state-senator-randy-hopper-arrested-for-drunk-driving/

UPDATE: Hopper resigns from economic development post following OWI arrest:

http://www.sheboyganpress.com/article/20121031/SHE0101/310310325/Hopper-resigns-head-economic-development-corporation?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE