Archive for January, 2012

Rep. Seidel launching 29th Senate District run

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. Donna Seidel of the 85th Assembly District appears set to launch a run for the 29th Senate District seat held for the past year by GOP Sen. Pam Galloway. The all-but-certain announcement will be made at a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Seidel is well known in the most densely populated part the district, having served for 16 years in the elected position of Marathon County Clerk of Courts prior to being elected to the Assembly, where she is now in her fourth term.

More than 21,000 signatures were filed earlier this month to force the recall election for Galloway. While there were other potential candidates, including Marathon County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Johnson, Seidel’s entry into this race is a game-changer and she is likely to become the consensus candidate for the Democrats. We’ll have to wait to see if the GOP still has sham candidates as part of its recall strategy in this go-around, but just eyeballing it, the election should occur sometime between late May and mid-June.

The 29th Senate District is no cakewalk for a Democrat, although Russ Decker held it for 20 years prior to being upset by Galloway in the Republican wave of November 2010. There was significant spending by outside groups to support Galloway’s bid. (Decker upset long-time GOP Sen. Walter John Chilsen to take the seat in 1990.) Of the three Assembly seats in the 29th, the GOP holds two of them. Seidel’s seat has been a safe one for Democrats for a very long time and it’s likely to remain that way, even as an open seat election and with or without the redistricting alterations encompassed by Act 43. Jerry Petrowski’s 86th Assembly District seat may really be more about being safe for Jerry than it is about being safe for Republicans, in general. It has swung between parties at times, but Petrowski has held it solidly since 1998.

Republicans picked up four Wisconsin Senate seats to control the majority 19-14 after the 2010 elections, but they lost two seats in 2011 recalls, leaving them with a precarious 17-16 advantage in the chamber. If the Democrats can pick up any of the four seats being contested in this round of recalls, it will tip the balance over to the Democrats for the remainder of this session. Beyond the recall elections in late spring to early summer, general elections will be taking place in November for even-numbered Senate seats.

Other Senate seats up for recall include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, along with Sen. Van Wanggaard of the Racine area and Sen. Terry Moulton of the Chippewa Falls area. Van Wanggaard’s district is grossly altered by Wisconsin Act 43 to carve out the City of Racine. But even if that interesting reconfiguration withstands challenges, it won’t be in time to help him with the recall and he’s looking at a very competitive scenario involving a lot of voters that he’s probably never going to be seeing again (one way or another.) Wanggaard has the dubious honor of being the Senator with the most petition signatures for his recall; more than 24,000.

Like Galloway, all GOP senators up for recall except for Fitzgerald have only a year in the Senate under their belts, although Moulton served two terms in the Assembly from 2005 to 2009. Moulton is all but certain to face former Assembly Rep. Kristen Dexter, who was elected in 2008, serving one term in the same district Moulton represented before losing in 2010. Dexter also has a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Odd piece of trivia: though some have been here for a long time, none of the four Republican senators up for recall are Wisconsin natives and neither is Scott Walker. (It’s no big deal. Neither were Jim Doyle or Bill Proxmire.)


Cap Times: Looks like Dems will win control of Wisconsin Senate:

The plot thickens as the cast expands in Walkergate

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

This from the Jan 26 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.

One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions. This is the first indication that the multifaceted John Doe investigation may be pursuing charges of evidence tampering.

“Milwaukee County prosecutors also made the surprising disclosure that top Walker aides set up a private Internet network to allow them to communicate with one another by email about campaign as well as county government work without the public or co-workers’ knowledge.

“The emails Walker officials traded via the shadow network could provide investigators with a trove of information as they pursue other angles in the case. Earlier this week, the Journal Sentinel reported that the probe was focusing on possible bid-rigging and other misconduct in the competition to house the county Department on Aging in private office space.”


We also gained insight into why Walker’s press spokesman, Cullen Werwie, might have needed immunity in the ongoing investigation. He was on the campaign staff of then Sen. Brett Davis, who was running for lieutenant governor until he was knocked off in the September 2010 GOP primary. Even more interesting – but not particularly surprising – is that it looks like Davis was the favored pick in the Walker camp before political novice Rebecca Kleefisch came out on top in the primary. (After the fact, Walker said he voted for Kleefisch, too. And Bill Clinton said didn’t inhale.)

Davis was apparently too moderate for the hard right Tea Party crowd. Happily for him, he ended up with a position in the Walker administration watching over the Medicaid program and we all know what happened with Werwie. Neither is talking to the media about any of this. Werwie knows there is no immunity in the court of public opinion or, more importantly, from the opinion of Walker. Davis has a similar issue, although it’s easy enough to believe that he didn’t have any idea about what was going on inside Walker’s Milwaukee County administrative offices, isn’t it? I mean, if Walker didn’t know about it – which is what Walker is trying real hard to sound like he’s saying – then how could Davis know? (But let’s keep in mind that there is a big difference between saying that there were policies in place prohibiting certain behavior and being able to say that Walker was running a clean operation, which we already know that it wasn’t.)

And when you stop and think about it, how much less do you think Brett Davis knows than Cullen Werwie, who needed immunity? But regardless, people in these positions who find themselves in these situations don’t necessarily do the deciding about what they will address with the media, if they want to stay on the payroll. The Medicaid gig is a pretty good one for Davis, who lives within easy commuting distance.

I ran into Davis after the primary and before the general election in the fall of 2010. It was a chance meeting, since we were both outside the capitol building due to a bomb threat. I have to tell you that I kind of liked the guy. He used a good share of the time that we spent under the evacuation order to talk with a school tour group that had shown up for their day at the capitol, only to be denied access. Thanks to Davis, the students had the opportunity to learn from a three-term senator instead of just standing around wasting their visit and I thought that was admirable. Also out on the perimeter sidewalk was Democratic Senator Dave Hansen, who made no bones about the fact that he felt the Republicans had blown it by not selecting Davis for their ticket. (But again, being able to get along with colleagues of the other party isn’t really an asset in a GOP primary and depending on how it is spun, it can actually prove to be a substantial liability.)

Lieutenant governors tend to be more of an afterthought in Wisconsin general elections, since they run on a ticket with the governor. Weird things can happen along the way and this is not the first time that a governor didn’t get his first pick in the lieutenant governor’s office and subsequently gave his guy – an ex-senator — a job in his administration, (as Kevin Shibilski can tell you.)

It will be interesting to see Kleefisch running on her own in the upcoming recall and it’s something for which we have no useful precedent. One of the challenges reported by some recall signature gatherers was her much lower name recognition, in comparison to Walker’s. She’s personable enough, but the Dems will have no problem coming up with some Palin-esque quotes to help define her, such as comparing same-sex marriage to marrying tables, clocks or dogs. And then there is the matter of simply pairing Kleefisch up with Walker, which is why she finds herself in this situation to begin with and there’s no shaking it. Will party operatives be willing to cough up funds for Kleefisch and her independent race to keep her job – particularly with Walker needing so much in the way of resources, himself?

I have no doubt that if Brett Davis had become lieutenant governor, he would be up for recall now, too. And should the recall go badly for Walker, he’s going to be just as much out of a job. Some people think he should be out of a job right now. But since there is no need to be a team player when you’re not on the team, my guess is that Walker won’t be firing him any time soon, no matter how culpable or innocent he eventually turns out to be. I’m also going to guess that Davis may not even show up very prominently in the screen credits of the growing cast of Walkergate. Of course, I have no idea. And right now, nobody’s saying.


Criminal Complaint for Kelly Rindfleisch:


Wisconsin State Journal graphic shows the present state of Walkergate:

It’s not working: Walker’s perfect record on job losses

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Wisconsin lost 3,900 private sector jobs last month, a number that once again bucks the national trend. The U.S. had a gain of 212,000 in December, which was better than most economists were expecting. Most of the jobs lost in Wisconsin were in service sector industries, as well as hotels, restaurants, leisure and hospitality. A lot of these are businesses that have to do with discretionary income. That’s something that is in shorter supply since the guv’s budget took effect July 1. While he crows in his campaign ads about thousands of jobs being added in the last year, the truth is that all of those jobs were added under his predecessor’s budget and he knows it. Walker’s policies have been carving down on the positive balance accrued under the last six months of Jim Doyle’s budget ever since July in perfectly uninterrupted fashion. The nearly 28,000 jobs lost in the last six months of 2011 under Walker left the state with a net gain of around half that for the entire year. (It was probably a good thing for Walker that the year ended when it did, so it could still show any gain at all.)

When your team is 0-6, is it any wonder that there are a million signatures in the Government Accountability Office demanding that the manager’s tenure be reconsidered in a recall election? And is it any wonder that Scott Walker – after showing up for his right-wing media pals Rush Limbaugh and Fox News – has said he won’t be taking any interviews from Wisconsin television media this week? Is it any wonder that he needs to traipse around the nation to gather out-of-state money so he can bankroll his bogus claims of out-of-state interests forcing his recall election? Did he notify the media about his non-availability this week through that press spokesman with the immunity deal for the corruption probe among his Milwaukee County aides?

There’s something about those million names Gov. Walker needs to understand and it’s pretty simple: they’re all from Wisconsin. No matter how many slick, swift boat ads he funds with his far-flung fundraising forays, he’s eventually going to figure out that there aren’t any votes for him in Texas, Florida, Washington DC, in New York at AIG or out at the Reagan ranch in California. The Koch brothers can’t vote for him, either. He’s going to have to answer for himself, right here, among the people he’s actually supposed to be working for. They’re the ones that he promised those 250,000 jobs to. They’re the ones that he didn’t bother to tell about his anti-middle class, voter suppression, jobs-killing agenda during his last campaign and he probably won’t be talking about much of that stuff during this one, either.

But the monthly job numbers in Wisconsin tell us something that Walker’s campaign ads and his right-wing apologists never will: It’s not working. And by next July or so, there may finally be a job loss occurring in Wisconsin that Walker really cares about.


Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out this graph from:

Rick Perry’s Turkey comment won’t hurt him with his base

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Gaffe master and rapidly sinking GOP presidential hopeful, Texas Governor Rick Perry, caused quite a stir this week with his uninformed comments about Turkey, an important and strategically situated U.S. ally that shares borders with Iraq, Syria and Iran:

“Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then … not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it.”

It kind of makes you wonder if he’s getting his foreign policy briefings from the same people that took care of Sarah Palin’s, somebody that another GOP presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, now assures us he would like to see play a major role in his administration. (Speaking of strategically situated, she can see Russia from her house.)

It’s not as though there aren’t any Republicans that know anything about foreign affairs, but they may be trying to get rid of them as fast as they can. If Newt had said that GOP Senator Dick Lugar would be his first pick for Secretary of State, for example, he might have been worth listening to for another 20 seconds. Lugar is the most senior member of the U.S. Senate, a Rhodes scholar, former mayor of Indianapolis and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has been instrumental in reducing the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons around the world. He gets it. Sarah Palin never has.

Unfortunately, none of that stuff means much with narrow-minded nationalists and they seem to hold great sway in GOP primaries. Now in his sixth term, Lugar faces a primary threat from a TEA Party candidate after a stellar career in public service because when they talk about foreign relations at all, too many in the Republican base value bravado, saber rattling and jingoism over things like world peace and international cooperation. In fact, you don’t really have to talk about any of that foreign stuff at all, unless it’s to mention that you want to increase the budget for the military. I have nothing against the military since I spent a half dozen years in a uniform myself, but it’s often the most costly and crude way to pursue foreign policy goals. It’s something we resort to when we’ve failed elsewhere along the way, for whatever reason.  (The TEA Party also likes Sarah.)

Working off that same kind of sentiment, Gingrich is running ads picking on Romney for knowing some French. That’s the kind of stuff that plays well to his freedom fry eating supporters and it’s a problem for the Republican Party, in general. Their standard bearers like Rush Limbaugh and other narrow-minded mouthpieces regularly suggest helpful things like saying that the U.S. should quit the United Nations because it is anti-American. That may be why their greatest contribution to true patriotism is that of making Canadians forever grateful that they don’t have to live in the United States of America. (And just to show you how these things can come full circle, remember when Rick Perry talked about having Texas secede from the union he now wants to lead?)

As for Turkey, they’ve got some issues, but probably nothing that Rick Perry would ever be likely understand or be able to help with. We do, too – and he doesn’t get a lot those, either.


UPDATE:  Then again, Rick Perry may not have much of a base. Word that he’s dropping out of the race:

How Europe became a dirty word in the U.S. election:

Lugar loses Indiana U.S. Senate Primary:

Some thoughts on the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

It’s Martin Luther King Day and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to do a reading from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” tonight at UW-Marathon County. Please come and join us in the new Center for Civic Engagement at 6:30 p.m. But whether you are able to do that or not, here is a piece that I wrote in June 2009 which seems appropriate to the occasion. In the two and a half years since I wrote it, NAOMI, the group that Rev. Ellwanger has been working with here, has become involved with trying to keep public transportation available in the Village of Weston. So far, the village board has resisted and bus service ended in 2012. Not everyone thinks it’s about the money:

* * *

Four little girls
Who went to Sunday School that day
And never came back home at all–
But left instead
Their blood upon the wall
With spattered flesh
And bloodied Sunday dresses…

(From a poem by Langston Hughes)

* * *

Other than a stint in the Air Force for a half dozen years, I’ve lived in Wausau pretty much all my life. I say “pretty much” because I’m actually a native of Milwaukee; my family moved here when I was two years old.

We went to Milwaukee to visit my grandparents and they were members of Cross Lutheran Church on North 16th Street. The neighborhood had been populated by German and other European immigrants in the 1800s and by the 1960s, it had a significant African American population. Since Wausau was literally one of the “whitest” communities in the U.S. in the 1960s, it was the only place that I ever saw and met black people — but most of the kids I knew in Wausau probably never had that opportunity at all. My grandparents were active in the church and for many years, my grandfather and a couple of other guys were in charge of opening the envelopes and counting the money, which was something that they did every Sunday afternoon in a cloud of cigar smoke at the kitchen table.

In 1967, a new pastor came to Cross by the name of Rev. Joe Ellwanger. These were times of great racial tension in our country and Milwaukee was no exception. I can remember the family driving to Cross from my grandparents’ home on 84th Street and passing armed National Guard troops in the late 1960s. This was a tumultuous period.

In 1968, we took a family vacation and we could see the orange glow of burning buildings as we passed some of the large cities on our way to New York. Joe Ellwanger was insistent on working for racial equality and justice; a real urban warrior. That much I knew, even as a kid — but it wasn’t until yesterday when I ran into Pastor Ellwanger again that I learned something about what made him that way.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Rev. Ellwanger had been a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama. On September 15, 1963, four members of the Ku Klux Klan set off a bomb consisting of 122 sticks of dynamite at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The church had been at the center of the struggle for racial equality in the south. Four girls were killed in the attack, three of them 14 years old and one of them 11. (Interestingly, one of the girls killed was Denise McNair, a friend and schoolmate of future U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.)

Birmingham erupted in violence and by the end of the day, 16 year-old Johnny Robinson had been shot and killed by police after throwing rocks at cars with white people in them and another 13-year-old boy had been shot while on bicycle ride with his brother by some passing white kids. As if it hadn’t been before, Birmingham became Ground Zero in America’s racial turmoil.

How could those Klansmen think that they could do something like that?

“With things the way they were at that time,” says Rev. Ellwanger, “they thought they would never be arrested. Or even if they were arrested, they would never be charged. Or even if they were charged, they would never be tried — and even if they were tried, no jury in Birmingham, Alabama would convict them and they would never go to prison. And for 25 years, they were right.”

It wasn’t until 2001 and 2002 that Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Edward Blanton Jr. were convicted of murder in the incident. Robert Edward Chambliss had been convicted in 1978 and a fourth suspect, Herman Frank Cash, died in 1994 without ever being convicted.

“If you’re going to blame anyone for getting those children killed, it’s your Supreme Court,” asserted former Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor at the time. As outrageous as that sounds, you have to remember that George Wallace was governor of Alabama – a man whose most famous quote may be from his 1963 inaugural address earlier that same year: “… segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” Wallace later changed his views, along with a lot of other people in this country. Sadly — and even after all we’ve been through — some will never change.

The funeral for three of the girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing attracted thousands. Dr. Martin Luther King gave the sermon. One of the girls was a member of a nearby Lutheran congregation and her family asked their pastor to read the lessons. It was Rev. Joe Ellwanger.

Although he is retired, Joe Ellwanger is as busy as ever and still working for justice. Wisconsin needs to think about why we have more than 23,000 people in prison while Minnesota has only around 7,000 in their state penitentiaries, he says. The crime rates aren’t really any different, but what we’re doing here is costing a fortune and it isn’t working. We need to change. The group he represents is called WISDOM and they advocate for treatment instead of simply punishment because the former offers some promise of success at lower cost. We already know how well the latter is working and what it’s costing us. (Of course, WISDOM’s effort took a step backwards in 2011 with Gov. Walker signing a bill to end Wisconsin’s modest early release program. Feel safer?)

What I can tell you is that Joe Ellwanger has been around the block a couple of times on issues of justice and he sure was right the last time. It was good to see him again.


Walker will have all the campaign money he needs

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

As regular readers know, I get a kick out of fundraising letters and I read every single one of them. That’s not to say that everyone can expect a contribution. My resources are more limited than the people who regularly ask me for money are, after all. But what I will tell you is that you don’t have a prayer if you call me on the phone. For one thing, we don’t contribute on the basis of inbound phone calls because we may only have the caller’s word on the legitimacy of the request. Another reason is that for whatever I may lack in being poor, I try to make up for by being cheap.

Yesterday’s mail brought a request from Scott Walker, talking about “out-of-state hired guns” and the need for $600,000 in start-up capital in the next 30 days. I found this curious for a couple of reasons. First, the governor has been running ads for months so there is no ‘starting up’ about it. He and his pals have already spent millions (and as far as I know, his numbers haven’t moved since Halloween.)

And as for starting up, I received one of those glossy, 8-1/2×11 oversized postcards from the Walker campaign in the mail yesterday, too. (Technically, it wasn’t specifically from the Walker campaign – just some real good friends of his who must already have their “start-up” capital lined up. I’ll bet they’d give him some, as long as they’re spending so much campaigning for him anyway.)

The other thing that’s odd is all the attention on things out-of-state. You’d think the guv might want to soft-peddle that aspect, when you consider that his most recent campaign finance report showed him raising $5.1 million since the start of the recall effort mid-November, with $2.4 million coming from outside Wisconsin. (Hey! Isn’t that about four times the “start-up capital” he said he needs to raise, all by itself?) The governor would need 10,000 people like me coughing up $25 apiece just to cover what just one Texan, Bob Perry, gave to his campaign.

Despite that, Walker was sputtering about all of that nasty out-of-state money again the other day, (as he was raising money out-of-state, in Washington DC. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.) Of course, none of this would be necessary at all, if people would just shut up and let him rule with impunity.

“From first-hand experience, I know how our political rivals operate and how far they’ll go to recall me,” the guv tells me.

Well, the truth is that they don’t have very far to go anymore. We’re going to see next week that hundreds of thousands of people — none of them from out-of-state — have signed to recall Governor Walker. No matter how many lame barriers, hollow objections and technical issues the GOP breathlessly raises over the next couple of months, there is eventually going to be an election. It will cost tens of millions of dollars just to try to keep Scott Walker in office through the end of the term that he was already elected to serve. Worse yet, it may not work. But regardless, I have no doubt that he will be able to raise all of the money he needs, even if he never gets another nickel from a Wisconsinite.


UPDATE: Scott Walker, Texas (money) Ranger, cashes in:

UPDATE: Four out-of-state donors pony up $1 million for Walker; most of his campaign money is from out-of-state in recent report:

Good riddance to 2011 and prepare for a tumultuous 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

As we were looking forward on 2011, the Wausau Daily Herald called and asked me about New Year’s resolutions. I offered something pretty simple:

“If I were offering a New Year’s resolution, it would probably be that we should resolve to employ a more civil and reasoned tone to our public dialogue. I think it would go a long way toward resolving some very difficult issues with public policy that we will be facing at all levels in the year ahead.”

They adopted it under the heading of “disagreeing without being disagreeable” and we all embarked upon the adventures of 2011:

“When passions run hot, it’s easy for the issues to become personalized. Let’s resist those temptations. The fact is that in any complex issue, there will be more than one point of view that has merit. … Let’s all resolve to show respect to those who hold viewpoints that are not our own.”

Today, the Herald is looking back on those resolutions to ask how we did and this particular resolution stands out in its stunning failure:

“Results: Absolutely terrible. Last year was the worst year ever for disagreeing without being disagreeable. Whether it was protesters’ signs depicting Gov. Scott Walker with a Hitler mustache or angry denunciations of public school teachers as lazy parasites, it’s fair to say there was a massive failure of empathy in our state’s public debates last year.

We certainly don’t want the passion drained from anyone’s argument. Political activists feel strongly because the stakes in these arguments are very real. But we would all do better if we could from time to time take a step back and try to understand another’s viewpoint.”

I can’t argue with that assessment and I’m not going to bother with calling for more civility in this New Year, either. As low as the bar is now set and as easy as it might therefore seem to accomplish some improvement, that’s not going to be happening in 2012. We’re opening the year with a recall election of Wisconsin’s governor being a virtual certainty. Walker and the GOP used their November 2010 victories to stomp all over their opposition and they already have the loss of several legislative seats in 2011 recall elections to show for it.

What Wisconsin Republicans are assured of for now is the opportunity to spend tens of millions of dollars in a game where the best they can possibly do is break even in the first half of the year and which will set the stage for the fall elections. They will continue to object, obstruct, obfuscate and delay the inevitable until they are eventually forced to face reality and that reality is this: far more Wisconsin voters than required have already signed petitions to demand a new election for governor. Continuing to insist that it’s any different is not going to be a winning strategy and denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Of course, 2012 was going to be a big election year anyway – from the presidency to federal legislative races, state legislative races and all the way down to local councils and boards. Much may be riding on developments in the economy, over which there will be many factors beyond the control of candidates or for which office holders have failed to have positive impact.

Before 2011 began, I warned people to fasten their seatbelts. We’re not turning off the seatbelt light for 2012 and in fact, we’re turning it up and making it flash. And as much fun as it is for people like me to just watch it all from the sidelines, I’ve decided to throw my hat back in the ring with a run for Marathon County Board. It’s going to be a year of big change, with long-time board chair Keith Langenhahn leaving to take a legislative liaison position with the Wisconsin Counties Association.

While it often flies under the radar, county government is frequently where the rubber hits the road in terms of how state services are delivered locally. Dramatic changes in direction at the state and the possibility of more on the way have made these into especially challenging times for Marathon County. With new districts in play and a number of incumbents deciding to call it quits, it should be a very interesting term for the board and I would like to be there for it, so we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, can somebody explain why the music bed on Walker’s holiday ad is “The Ballad of Barbara Allen?”