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“New GOP Meaning Of Terrorist Warnings”: What’s A ‘Credible Threat’ In Wisconsin? Unions

On Tuesday evening, a Republican committee chairman in the Wisconsin state senate, Stephen Nass, cut short a hearing on an anti-union bill, citing a “credible threat” that union members were about to disrupt the proceedings.

Credible threat? That’s the phrase used in terrorist warnings. But the only union members in Madison were the estimated 1,800 to 2,000 workers, many of them wearing hard hats and heavy coats, who’d gathered peacefully in and around the Capitol during the day to oppose  the bill. They believe it’s an attack on working families designed to weaken organized labor – which it is.

So who was credibly threatening whom?

The Service Employees International Union, which represents low-wage service workers, had planned to protest the committee’s scheduled hard stop of testimony at 7 p.m., because the cut-off was too early to accommodate everyone who wanted to be heard. To avoid that, all the committee chairman had to do was extend the hearing. Instead, by ending it abruptly, dozens of people who had been waiting all day for the chance to speak were deprived of that opportunity – even as the Republican majority on the committee hastily voted to send the bill to the full Senate.

Not surprisingly, when the meeting ended early those who had been waiting erupted in anger and indignation, shouting profanities and “shame,” according to the A.P., and creating so much noise that the roll call vote could not be heard. The result — 3 Republicans in favor, 1 Democrat against and 1 Democrat who didn’t vote because he wanted more debate — was announced later.  For someone so concerned about avoiding a disruption, Mr. Nass didn’t seem too concerned about causing one.

Mr. Nass later said he didn’t want protestors to disrupt the meeting the way they did hearings on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s measure in 2011 to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights. Leaving aside the fact that those rallies lasted for weeks and drew up to 100,000, Mr. Nass said the protestors were trying to “take over the process of representing all of the people of this great state.”

Where does one start to unpack that? The protestors are the people of the great state. The bill in question threatens their pay, their jobs and their values.  They were trying to participate in the process. Democracy, anyone?

 

By: Teresa Tritch, Taking Note, Editorial Page Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, February 25, 2015

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Scott Walker, Terrorists, Unions, Wisconsin Legislature | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Active Republican Insider”: Not So ‘Fresh’; Political Careerist Scott Walker Has Been Running For A Quarter Century

When Mitt Romney, who is anything but a fresh face in the Republican hierarchy decided to forego a third run for the presidency, he announced that, “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders — one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started — may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

Full-on Republican presidential contender Scott Walker just presumed that the man who Republican primary voters rejected in 2008, and who the rest of the American electorate rejected in 2012, was talking about a certain governor of Wisconsin.

Never mind that, in his book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, Walker ripped the party’s 2012 campaign – and, by extension, its nominee – for doing a “lousy job of presenting a positive vision of free market solutions to our nation’s problems in a way that is relevant to people’s lives.” Never mind that Walker griped just days before Romney quit the race that a 2016 run by the 2012 loser would be “pretty hard” to justify. Never mind that Walker, one of the most relentlessly negative campaigners in contemporary American politics, was more than ready to beat up on Romney if that has been necessary to advance his own 2016 run. With Romney’s decision to sideline himself, Walker chirped, “I would love to have his endorsement.”

Walker actually went a step further, going on Twitter to suggest that he was precisely the sort of “next generation” leader Romney was referring to. “Had a great conversation w/ @MittRomney,” Walker announced. “He’s a good man. Thanked him for his interest in opening the door for fresh leadership in America.”

There’s only one problem with this calculus.

Scott Walker isn’t fresh.

The governor is a political careerist who has sought office – as a winner and loser – more times that Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz combined.

In a permanent campaign that began a quarter century ago – when he quit college and launched a losing state legislative campaign against future U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore – Walker has run 24 primary and general election races. That doesn’t include a 2006 bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Wisconsin, which he scrapped after national party officials elbowed him aside in favor of another candidate, or his all-but announced 2016 presidential run.

Hyper-ambitious yet strikingly disciplined, Walker has used every office he has ever held as a platform from which to run for the next. Even when scandals have led to the arrests, indictments and convictions of campaign donors, campaign aides and official staffers, Walker has maintained a steady focus on climbing the political ladder that is perhaps most comparable to that of former President Bill Clinton.

As a state legislator, Walker backed an effort to recall the sitting Milwaukee County Executive and then jumped into the race for that job. After winning his first full term as county executive in 2004, Walker immediately began running for the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

When that run was scuttled, Walker sought and secured a second term as county executive in 2008, only to immediately begin running for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination. After securing the governorship, Walker quickly began positioning himself on the national stage – not just by picking high-profile fights with Wisconsin unions that would, ultimately, lead to a rare gubernatorial recall challenge but by jetting around the country to court the wealthiest campaign donors and to appear in the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire.

Before his 2014 reelection race was complete, Walker was already visiting Las Vegas with other 2016 Republican presidential prospects seeking the favor of billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson. Despite the fact that he said during that 2014 race that he intended to serve the full term he was seeking — “I want to be governor and that’s the only thing I’ve been focused on,”  “My plan — if the voters approve — is to serve as governor for the next four years” – Walker was already actively preparing a 2016 run. He even wrote (well, sort of wrote, with the help of a politically-connected DC insider who had worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush) an autobiography/manifesto that was so transparent in its ambition that Glenn Beck’s The Blaze described as “the archetype of a book for a future Presidential candidate (written) without ever so much as hinting as to any intent to run for President.”

Walker is now well beyond the hinting stage. And the run is going well, so far, with the governor beginning to climb in the polls. One survey even puts him in first place among Iowa Republicans, one point ahead of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and further ahead of prominent prospects such as Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. No surprise there: Walker has a lot more experience contending for public office than most of the other Republicans who are preparing to run in 2016.

Walker ran his first campaign for elective office four years before Jeb Bush and eight years before Rubio. Walker was an elected official in Wisconsin seventeen years before Rand Paul was elected in Kentucky and nineteen years before Ted Cruz was elected in Texas. Walker was running even before party elders such as Mike Huckabee, who won his first election in Arkansas in the summer of 1993 – a month after Walker was first elected to the Wisconsin legislature.

It’s worth noting that, even when he was running in 1993, Walker was not considered “fresh.” When it endorsed him that year, the conservative Milwaukee Sentinel referred to Walker not as a newcomer but as what he already was decades ago: “an active Republican insider.”

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, February 1, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cheese Head Guv’s Sleazy Past”: Scott Walker, One Of The Most Divisive Governors In The Country

Tens of thousands of protesters make for much better television than court documents, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to Scott Walker’s scandal-plagued re-election bid this year—even if it is unaccompanied by the hoopla of his 2012 recall election. In that year, Walker was able to best a weak Democratic candidate in an election where some voters backed him because of concerns about whether a recall was appropriate, and not because they supported his union-busting legislation.

This year, the most recent poll has Walker trailing the Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, by two percentage points among likely voters, and the embattled GOP incumbent has faced new allegations that he illegally coordinated outside spending during his recall election with groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But while the 2012 recall excited liberals across the country (it seemed at times during that election that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz had moved to the Badger State), this year liberals can barely muster a shrug.

Part of this ennui, as Noam Scheiber at The New Republic points out, is that it’s not in anyone’s interest to make a big deal about Walker, despite the fact that he might be running for president in a couple years. After losing to him in 2012, liberals have a kind of political PTSD when it comes to Wisconsin, and are afraid of raising the stakes in the campaign.

Plus, Burke is a relatively moderate former business executive, which makes her a good candidate for a general election, but not exactly the best one to excite the progressive base. And without shots of hordes of protesters like the kind that swarmed the state capital in Madison two years ago, the campaign becomes far less compelling for television, and is thus unlikely to receive much national coverage.

The outrage that Walker is provoking is of a less exciting variety this time around. In 2012, there were teachers and small-town government workers made furious by Walker’s efforts to quash collective bargaining rights for public employees. In 2014, however, there is far less uproar over Walker potentially violating campaign finance laws to encourage corporations to give unlimited donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth—and only the Wisconsin Club for Growth. In an email to a consultant for that group who also served as an adviser to the governor in 2011, a Walker aide emphasized that the incumbent wanted “all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging.”

These efforts are further illustrated in an email that Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker aide, sent the governor before a fundraising trip in 2011, which told him to “stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits.”

Rindfleisch, who has since been convicted of misconduct in office as a result of one of the many investigations surrounding Walker, added that the governor should stress to donors that he could accept corporate contributions that wouldn’t be reported.

A national Democratic consultant familiar with the race took pains to point out what a big prize Walker would be for the left. The Wisconsin governor “is very vulnerable, in a very dangerous spot for an incumbent and the fact that he hasn’t committed to serve out his next term means that what happens in Wisconsin is likely to have an effect on ’16.” But most importantly for Democrats, knocking off Walker would be a major consolation prize if they lose control of the Senate in 2014.

With prospects of holding on to a majority in the Senate uncertain, Walker offers Democrats an enviable scalp to wave in November. After all, he has been one of the most divisive governors in the country, and serves in a key swing state. Plus, Walker evokes so much anger among parts of the Democratic base that would lessen the bite of potential losses in national races.

Although some national progressive groups are starting to focus on the race—Democracy for America announced Thursday that it was backing Burke to “put a stop to the flow of extreme right-wing legislation that has been poisoning” Wisconsin under Walker—the attention is still far less than in 2012, when outside Democratic groups flooded the Badger State with money. The result is that Walker still has a significant fundraising advantage heading into final two months of campaigning.

The question, though, is whether the incumbent can hold on and win in the swing state. Because while Walker may savor the absence of protesters demonstrating against him, his poll numbers are still worse than they were in 2012.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, August 28, 2014

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Damning And Far More Serious”: Wisconsin’s Walker Confronted With Damaging New Details

For all the current and former Republican governors facing serious scandals – Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, et al – let’s not forget about Gov. Scott Walker. The Wisconsin chief executive is in the middle of a tough re-election fight – which he’ll have to win to move forward with his presidential plans – and a lingering controversy is making his task more difficult.

To briefly recap, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. When Walker faced a recall campaign, however, he and his team may have directly overseen how outside groups – including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits – spent their campaign resources.

Late Friday night, the allegations surrounding the governor’s office appear to have grown far more serious. Consider this report from Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal.

Gov. Scott Walker personally solicited millions of dollars in contributions for a conservative group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls, which prosecutors cited as evidence the governor and his campaign violated state campaign finance laws, records made public on Friday show.

Among the groups that donated money to Wisconsin Club for Growth during that time was Gogebic Taconite, which contributed $700,000, according to the records. The company later won approval from the Legislature and Walker to streamline regulations for a massive iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

In an April court filing unsealed briefly on Friday, a lawyer wrote, “Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited.”

I think it’s safe to say these revelations do not cast Walker and his team in a positive light. On the contrary, Friday’s night’s evidence appears quite damning.

As additional reporting from the weekend makes clear, Team Walker, with the governor’s direct involvement, is accused of raising money for Wisconsin Club for Growth, which in turn ran ads to support the governor and helped disperse campaign funds to conservative allies.

In one especially damaging detail, Walker was dispatched to Las Vegas with talking points on the importance of unregulated contributions for the supposedly independent nonprofit group.

“Stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits,” an aide told Walker via email. “Let [potential donors] know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

Wisconsin Club for Growth allegedly funneled these unregulated contributions to allies, all to help Walker prevail in his recall election. Indeed, the reports suggest the governor insisted on Wisconsin Club for Growth maintaining a leadership role in order to “ensure correct messaging.” A fundraising consultant for Walker to one of the governor’s campaign consultants, “We had some past problems with multiple groups doing work on ‘behalf’ of Gov. Walker and it caused some issues.”

The coordination aspect is clearly problematic under campaign-finance laws, but the scandal may also include a possible quid-pro-quo angle.

Other Wisconsin Club for Growth donors included Gogebic Taconite LLC, which has proposed opening a 4 1/2-mile long iron mine in northern Wisconsin. The company gave $700,000 to Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012. Walker signed legislation last year streamlining state mining requirements and paving the way for the project. The documents don’t show whether Walker directly solicited donations from that company. A spokesman for the company did not return a message seeking comment.

There are 71 days until Election Day in Wisconsin. These are probably not the kind of headlines the Republican governor was hoping for as the campaign cycle approaches Labor Day.

Postscript: If you’re new to Walker’s scandal or need a refresher, this Q&A is helpful (thanks to my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani for the heads-up).

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 25, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not That Mythical Democrat”: Republicans Finally Have A Poster Boy For Voter Fraud, But Scott Walker Won’t Like It

For years, Wisconsin Republicans have warned that voter fraud is a scourge that threatens the very survival of democracy in their state.

“I’ve always thought in this state, close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud. One or two points, potentially,” Governor Scott Walker has said.

“I’m always concerned about voter fraud, you know, being from Kenosha, and quite frankly having lived through seeing some of it happen,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus insisted. “Certainly in Milwaukee we have seen some of it, and I think it’s been documented. Any notion that’s not the case, it certainly is in Wisconsin. I’m always concerned about it, which is why I think we need to do a point or two better than where we think we need to be, to overcome it.”

Voting rights advocates have always responded that there is no actual evidence of widespread voter fraud in the Badger State. In April, a U.S. district judge agreed, ruling that the state’s voter ID law was unconstitutional after “the evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” and the state “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past”.

That all changed on Friday, when Robert Monroe was charged with 13 felonies related to his having voted 12 times in five elections between 2011 and 2012. Monroe, an insurance executive from Shorewood, Wisconsin, allegedly voted repeatedly using his own name, as well as his son’s name, and that of his girlfriend’s son.

WisPolitics.com reports:

“During 2011 and 2012, the defendant, Robert Monroe, became especially focused upon political issues and causes, including especially the recall elections,” the complaint asserts in its introduction.

WisPolitics.com reported the investigation into Monroe’s multiple voting last week after Milwaukee County Judge J.D. Watts ordered the records related to a secret John Doe investigation be made public after the investigation was closed.

According to those records, Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory. He was a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker and state Sen. Alberta Darling, both Republicans, and allegedly cast five ballots in the June 2012 election in which Walker survived a recall challenge.

According to the John Doe records, Monroe claimed to have a form of temporary amnesia and did not recall the election day events when confronted by investigators.

That’s right: Wisconsin Republicans like Scott Walker found a perfect poster boy for the in-person voter fraud against which they’ve always warned. But it isn’t the mythical Milwaukee Democrat trading “smokes-for-votes,” to use Priebus’ colorful description. It’s a self-diagnosed amnesiac who broke the law to repeatedly vote for Scott Walker.

And to add insult to injury, the case only went public as a result of Walker’s career-threatening John Doe scandal.

To be clear, Monroe’s apparent fraud is not a valid pretext for enacting the GOP’s nearly nationwide campaign to make it harder to vote. Even taking this one supposed amnesiac’s alleged crimes into account, voter fraud is still practically nonexistent (for example, a typical American is about 34 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than to be caught committing in-person voter fraud). But, if Wisconsin Republicans have any shame, it should at least cause them to pipe down about Democrats stealing elections for a little while.

In other words, Reince Priebus is probably coming soon to a cable news show near you.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 24, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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