Monday, May 25, 2015

About GOP hopefuls, righty columnist Kathleen Parker talks "studly"...

Is May is the cruelest month? Wisconsinites will immediately note the omission to the column question about how to choose which GOP candidates get to take the debate stage - - "Who's the stubbliest of them all?" 
...why not just select our senior superlatives the way we did in high school? Who is something-est — the tallest, handsomest, smartest, wittiest, friendliest, cutest, nicest, toughest, most likely to succeed and, not least, most likely to attract about 40% of the Hispanic vote? 
Oh, and who can beat Hillary Clinton? Lest I be a spoiler, I'll let you fill in the blanks. I'd be willing to bet that the superlatives selected will be the 10 contestants — I mean, candidates — appearing on the big stage come August. Hints: Jeb Bush is 6-feet-3; Marco Rubio and Bush speak Spanish fluently; Ted Cruz speaks Spanglish; and Mike Huckabee is pretty funny.

Doctors Lazich, Walker practice medicine, soft-pedal rape, incest

Plus, Wisconsin taxpayers are about to waste a lot more money on legal fees, but the only thing that matters to far-right GOP office holders is pandering to their base voters. I grant that it's a serious and sensitive issue, but it looks awfully partisan and timed to fit with Walker's Iowa caucus agendas.

GOP now a subsidiary to Koch brothers party

Solar site at Milwaukee County's airport? Good thing Walker is gone as Co. Exec.

Our anti-solar Governor in servitude to the Koch brothers, ALEC-defined fossil fuel policies would no doubt have squashed this green, cleaner-air opportunity and proven modern technology on Milwaukee County property.
A proposed 5-acre solar energy farm at Mitchell International Airport took one step forward this month with a consultant's report showing there are a dozen open spaces large enough for a broad array of sun-tracking panels that would not interfere with aviation or traffic control.
If the project is built, Mitchell Airport would join as many as 70 airports in the U.S. with solar farms, the consultant's report says.
More on our status as an anti-solar 'leader' is contained in a recent industry newsletter, here:
Gov. Walker has made much throughout his tenure of supporting business interests and proclaiming Wisconsin is “open for business.” He has also been closely associated with conservative, pro-business organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity
Such groups frequently work against renewable energy on the national and state levels, presumably influenced by their close ties with the fossil fuel industry. In an interview this summer, ALEC’s new CEO, Lisa Nelson, named Walker a model for promoting limited government, and applauded him for promoting “growth and competition.”

Ugly data show Wisconsin at cusp of zero-growth

A couple of days, when analyzing policies of Walkerite Republicans that make Wisconsin unattractive, I'd written:
It would not surprise me if Wisconsin's population gain slows or plateaus as a result of these punitive, small-minded and overtly hostile GOP programs, guaranteeing Wisconsin's long-term status as a low-wage, slow-to-no-new job growth entrepreneurial and lifestyle backwater.
So make sure you read to the bottom of this long, chart-illustrated story posted Sunday by the Madison Capital Times to find the population change statewide from 2013-2014: a gain of 0.25%

A quarter of one percent.

A quick Google survey finds, for example, that Indiana's growth at 0.51%, was twice Wisconsin's, as was Iowa's.

And, yes, we're doing better than Michigan, though given Michigan's complex problems related to the US auto industry, that hardly makes Wisconsin look like Nirvana.

Now I know that there a lot of factors involved, including birth and death rates, but I haven't heard anyone in the Walker administration touting a population growth rate of one-quarter of one percent as proof that people and employers are flocking to a state recently described as hollowed-out.

They could actually spin it this way: it's a better number than other years of clear-cut out-migration during the Walker administration, but that strategy is similar to Walker's spinning that redefines his failure to create the promised 250,000 new jobs as a -so-called success because about half that number were added on his watch. 


Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Wisconsin, the Tiffany is not a gem

There was a time not that long ago that it would have been bad form in Wisconsin politics to be as openly subservient to special interests as is State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and this added, under-the-table example involving private timber cutting in state forests on top of his water carrying for Scott Walker, or conservative State Supreme Court justices, or wolf-for-sport hunters, or iron and sand mining interests - - here, or here, or here- - shows that Wisconsin under the GOP's complete control is now wide open for political business that undermines - - no pun intended - - core democratic, citizen-focused governance.

Scott Walker facts little known outside Wisconsin

Updated again from Saturday, 3/21, with recent news:

* Walker has been removed from the board and chairmanship of a floundering job-creation agency he established in 2011 after a second, scathing state audit and investigative reporting found more bad loans and evidence of political influences.

* One bad loan is getting a lot of attention, but there are others, and all stem from a lack of oversight, professionalism and non-partisan management.

* Media are catching on to the contradictions, gaps and falsehoods in Walker's narrative. Here is one list of links to important stories.

* Walker's Revenue Department confirms state's slow jobs growth; national rate is 50% higher, data show.

* Walker's 'no-photo-op' trip to Israel - - how words - - turning into the predictable photo op trip, with Walker himself posting campaign-style photos on his Twitter feed, with his initials that signal he's the one using it. A classic example of having to decode Walker to see the facts.

Another damning audit that found the job-creating agency Walker chairs and created to produce evidence he could successfully add employment in Wisconsin had failed to follow state law, document jobs created, track loans, and otherwise properly manage millions of public dollars - - state and federal.
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He stalked the stage and wowed the crowd at an Iowa Tea Party event less than two months ago and climbed so fast on the right wing's depth chart that before you could get a fix on Scott Walker, The New York Times was reporting he'd already had a makeover.

But you out there beyond Wisconsin - - what do you really know about the guy, and the faux, 'Regular Joe' line he's touting nationally?


[4/25 - - Most recent update: Under Walker, Wisconsin has fallen to 40th among the states in job growth and 42nd in wage growth.]


 - - Adding a link to a comprehensive legal and financial investigative report on Walker by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News, here.


Here are a few fun facts you outsiders might not know about Walker that Wisconsinites have learned the hard way:

About those emails:


*  Though he ripped Hillary Clinton for using a private email account, records show that Walker, his campaign staff and his official Milwaukee County staff also used a private email account in 2010 while he was Milwaukee County Executive.


The system ran through a private Internet router that was installed, used and then removed from Walker's office suite by Walker county staffers who were later convicted of felonious behavior that came to light after the secret system was discovered.


"Emails link Walker to secret email system," The Journal Sentinel headline and story noted.


* A Walker campaign spokeswoman had said in an email found among records unearthed in the prosecutorial probe that led to six convictions that the system served the campaign, or "the dark side;" a senior Walker county/taxpayer-paid administrator who said at the time she used the system to communicate with Walker and others also welcomed a since-convicted Walker aide to the system's "inner circle" and urged the aide to check the system often, records showed.

*  Records discovered in that investigation showed Walker and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign staff strategized to deflect from Walker, or the County, any potential responsibility for the fatal collapse of a 26,000-pound concrete slab at a county-owned-and-maintained parking garage built prior to Walker's election as County Executive in 2002.


* Separately, but in the same internal procedural vein, Walker, his campaign and his county staff worked to block the release of news about the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County by the family of a female patient who starved to death in the county's mental health complex. Emails also show a senior Walker county aide demeaning the victim.


* Walker's County chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff exchanged racist emails.


One of those emails echoed a racist posting found separately by federal authorities in official email accounts in Ferguson, Missouri. 


About The Tea Party:


*  While potential Walker rivals like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and others are routinely labeled "Tea Party" candidates, Walker is not, though he told CNN in 2013, "I am the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."


About truth-telling:


*  As of March 22, 2015, the Journal Sentinel's fact-checking service PolitiFact has examined 130 Walker statements. His most frequent rating is "false," totaling thirty-five, and added to ten more rated the most-dishonest, or "pants on fire," those forty-five findings are exactly triple the fifteen Walker statements rated fully "true."


* Sometimes Walker's mistakes are so ridiculous, so devoid of factual citation or foundation ridiculous that they sound like talk radio or bar talk.


*  Sometimes they are laughably infused with Walker's penchant for finger-pointing, like this example of a costly program Walker blamed on his predecessor, Jim Doyle, when the prpgram had actually been created by Doyle's predecessor, Republican Tommy Thompson - - with an affirmative vote cast by then-State Rep. Scott Walker.


* During large protests in and around the State Capitol building in Madison that gathered after Walker's sudden legislative initiative to strip public employees statewide of nearly all collective bargaining opportunities, Walker was taped saying he had considered planting provocateurs in the crowd. He did proceed not with the plan - - not because it was wrong, or illegal - - but because he was afraid that resulting negative media might force him compromise with the protesters, the transcript shows.


He made the disclosure, among other unsavory examples, to a blogger who had pretended on the call to be the right-wing funder David Koch whom Walker was eager to impress.

* Walker frequently tells national audiences various accounts of protesters having blocked, rocked, beaten on his state police-driven vehicle and endangered his life during an appearance in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Yet exhaustive efforts by La Crosse and Milwaukee media to document the episode - - from interviews, records searches and even the use of Google Earth - - have all failed.


His campaign-related autobiography "Unintimidated" also tells the story, and also recounts Walker reading to his staff a Top Ten list of ways you can spot a public employee, including:

It takes longer to fire you than the average killer spends on death row...You know by having a copy of the Holy Koran on your desk your job is 100% safe...You have a Democratic congressman’s lips permanently attached to your butt.
About creating jobs:

*  Walker promised repeatedly during his 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns that he and his conservative fiscal plans would create 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin after one term in office. 


In September, 2014, following a string of disappointing official reports of slow, sluggish job growth in Wisconsin on Walker's watch, PolitiFact rated it a "promise broken."


*  In mid-March, 2015, as Walker was criss-crossing the country and claiming to have turned Wisconsin around, federal data was released showing Wisconsin's job-creation ranking among the states had fallen during the last full year analyzed to 40th place from 31st, with new jobs added at one-half the national rate.


* Numerous articles have been written about neighboring Minnesota's far better economy and job creation record during Walker's four years in office. There was recent testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature during its rush to pass so-called 'right-to-work' legislation that the bill - - now law through Walker's sudden change of heart about it - - would add to Wisconsin's relatively high bankruptcy filing total.


*  After his 2011 inauguration, Walker, touting the private sector model, abolished the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and replaced it with a public-private corporation, which he chairs, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC. The job of the WEDC was to centralize state resources - - loans, grants, tax credits, federal pass-throughs, etc. - - for Wisconsin job-creation.


Since its beginnings, WEDC has been plagued by negative audits, multiple resignations by executive directors and chief financial officers, loans made inappropriately or beyond the ability of regulators to track them. A summary post is here


A Madison television station reported that 60% of WEDC loans went to Walker or GOP donors, and also reported that some WEDC financial aid went to businesses for job creation overseas.


Now, in late March, that focus has intensified.

* To make an ideological point in 2011, while also dissing President Obama and out-going Democratic WI Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker forfeited $800 million in Amtrak expansion funding to build a fast Midwest regional train line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, the state's two largest cities.

* Walker's stance cost Wisconsinites thousands of rail line construction jobs over three years, has isolated the University of Wisconsin-Madison from rail connections to the University of Minnesota and all of Chicago, forced the closing of a train assembly plant and maintenance facility in a low-income, predominantly African-American Milwaukee neighborhood and transferred hundreds of millions of federal dollars in rail line and train assembly funding to other states, principally Illinois. A detailed posting about it all, here.


5/13 update: 

* To keep its budget balanced, as the law requires, the state recently skipped debt payments, remains far behind the national job growth rate, leads the country is a shrinking middle-class and is hardly a model of success as Walker continually claims:

National media, state reporters and all opinion-makers who respect solid numbers over campaign rhetoric should acknowledge and spread widely the recent official economic forecast for the state released by the Scott Walker's cabinet-level Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

It says, among other fact-based conclusions:

Wisconsin employment will grow 1.5% in 2015, while the national employment increases 2.3%. 
So the US jobs growth rate will exceed the Wisconsin rate by 50%.

Several charts in the same report at the same site go into greater detail, but there's no way Walker can continue to sell, as he continues to spin out there nationally that the state's lagging job growth makes Wisconsin under his leadership a model to replicate.


Taken together with other recent findings, it's clear that Walker's trickle-down tax cuts have not stimulated business to create jobs here.


If his 'plan' had worked, the state would not have missed its budgetary revenue projection or found it necessary to skip more than $100 million in debt payments to keep its budget balanced, as the law requires.


Middle-class incomes are disappearing faster in Wisconsin than in any other state, non-partisan, independent data analysis is showing and Wisconsin's falling ratings measured against other states has repeatedly been documented.

About being "Midwestern nice:"


* While claiming to be "Midwestern nice," a label gifted him by a conservative talk radio host, Walker, as Governor, has:


Blocked any increase in the Wisconsin wage above the federal floor of $7.25 per hour; has said he sees no value in having a minimum wage altogether; is proposing in his current budget now under legislative review to reduce a person's lifetime receipt of public assistance in Wisconsin from five years, total, to four; is also proposing that all adult assistance recipients be required to take and pass a urine screening for drugs to receive food stamps or medicaid; has turned down available federal funding to expand medicaid coverage in Wisconsin even though the state has had to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fill just part of the gap; and is proposing to upend and privatize existing home-care assistance and treatment coverage for the long-term disabled. Many links, here.


* While Walker says potential rival Jeb Bush will have access to the most GOP money, business media refer to Walker now as "king of Kochworld," and Michael Grebe, the top official at the heavyweight, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has served as chairman of Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, co-chair of Walker's transition team, and chairman of Walker's successful 2012 recall campaign committee.


About some relationships with donors, and the environment:

*   4/25 update - - Seems the Koch brothers want to give Walker their $900,000,000 campaign fund.


*  Walker was among at least fifteen conservative activists and power brokers, including an official with the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, which met in 2007 somewhere "on the shores of Lake Michigan" to plan a GOP/Tea Party capture of Wisconsin, as has been reported, but not widely.


*  Walker signed the Koch brothers 'no climate change action' pledge in 2013.

*  Documents released by a Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago showed that Walker helped coordinate the donation of $700,000 from an iron mining company to a third-party, so-called independent group which he wanted to coordinate sympathetic messaging for his successful 2012 recall campaign and re-election. 


The iron mining company helped write a new iron mining law for Wisconsin that eased its ability to dig a massive open-pit iron mine in a water-rich range of hills in NW Wisconsin close to Lake Superior and very close to a Native American reservation where wild rice is grown on estuaries.


Walker had campaigned for the new mining bill and signed it into law. The mining plan has been suspended because the site contains even more water and wetlands than the company says it initially knew about, though a drop in iron ore prices, opposition from the nearby Ojibwa reservation, environmental and conservation-minded organizations were obstacles the mining plan could not overcome.


* One of Walker's very first actions as Governor spoke volumes about his approach to environmental protection. He got the Legislature to approve a special bill to suspend before completion an ongoing environmental review by the Department of Natural Resources so that one of his 2010 campaign donors - - a car dealer and developer - - could build a retail project for Bass Pro Shops, a destination fishing and outdoors retailer on a site that included a wetland close to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 


Bass Pro Shops pulled out of the project when it became controversial, but once the wetland filling permission was granted by the Legislature and signed into law by Walker, Cabela's, another large outdoors merchandiser, built on the site.

* In the years that followed his inauguration, Walker installed what he called "a chamber-of-commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, traditionally a science-based regulatory agency driven by citizen participation. Basically, Walker remade the DNR into something of a reconfigured Department of Commerce, of sorts, with a new business service division and pro-corporate attitude.


Through new laws, budgets and industry-friendly appointments, Walker cut the DNR staff, reduced citizen participation and policy oversight, and enabled relaxed agency pollution and reduced investigation and enforcement. The DNR is now selling 10,000 acres of public land and, with all state funds except for campaign and permit fees removed from parks operations in Walker's budget, the DNR may sell naming rights for the parks to corporate interests.


A summary posting, here.


About dropping out of college:


*  Much attention has been paid to Walker's departure from Marquette University before finishing his degree. Walker has said, variously, that he left school in his senior year, or a few credits short of graduation and did not return and finish his degree because he got married, then had children.

But PolitiFact established in a lengthy, setting-the-record-straight piece that Walker left Marquette in 1990 two credits short of attaining typical junior status. In 1988, Walker lost a hotly-contested race for student body president in which his campaign committee was sanctioned for rule violations.


Walker married in 1993, and his first child was born in 1994, by which time he had already run twice for the State Assembly (losing a run in the City of Milwaukee in 1990 to now-US Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee), before being elected to an assembly seat in a 1993 special election in the relatively-conservative Milwaukee suburb of the City of Wauwatosa, where he still lives.

About his faith:


* Media frequently note that Walker is the son of a Baptist preacher, which is correct. While the fact can efficiently help flesh out a Walker feature story, for the record - - Walker is a member of the non-denominational, Christian evangelical Meadowbrook Church, located in Wauwatosa.

Meadowbrook was founded in 1989 as one of thirteen "daughter," or spun-off, churches founded by Elmbrook Church, a fast-growing Christian, evangelical non-denominational mega-church in Waukesha County, according to its website.

* Walker says his faith has guided his life and decision-making. Here is one item, with an audio link to a Walker talk about it.

About the law:

*  Wisconsin is the land of famous environmentalists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac), and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Former Gov. Nelson shares with ex-GOP Governor Warren Knowles the founding inspiration of the state's signature, bi-partisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, a public land acquisition and access program that reserves woodland, wetlands and shorelines for hikers, hunters and anglers.


But Walker, having already cut the program's funding, wants to suspend it through his new budget for thirteen years.


* He and his GOP allies changed Wisconsin wetlands law to make filling and encroachment easier. Developers openly crowed about their role in drafting the bill, even citing the behind-scenes work, and Walker signed the bill to a standing ovation at a  Realtors convention, the AP reported.


Walker served the same special interests when he backed legislation that severely restricted wind turbine citing in Wisconsin, while neighboring Iowa and Minnesota lead Wisconsin in green energy production and employment.


In fact, Walker's new budget which cuts early everything contains a fresh $250,000 to produce a 'study' proving that wind energy causes health problems. Somehow Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and other states have escaped the harm.


* Walker's DNR and Public Service Commission staffs now led by industry insiders or sympathizers are suing the US EPA over new federal clean air standards; Walker's DNR has stripped nearly all mention of climate change from its website and his current budget further reduces UW and DNR energy and environmental science. One posting, here with details.


* Walker's DNR is green-lighting the capacity expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline north-south across the entire state without a full environmental route of route, despite its proximity to Wisconsin farms and water supplies. To date, the DNR has only held a hearing on an air quality permit covering the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in Superior, WI, on the deepest of the Great Lakes shared with Canada, Lake Superior.

The pipeline, targeted to move more oil than the much-more-publicized Keystone XL, is owned by Enbridge, the same Canadian firm with a record of oil pipeline spills and construction damage in Wisconsin, Canada and other states


The New York Times put it this way: 

While the ire of environmental activists remains fixed on the Keystone XL pipeline, a potentially greater threat looms in the proposed expansion of Line 61, a pipeline running the length of Wisconsin carrying tar sands crude. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, a $40 billion Canadian company, which has been responsible for several hundred spills in the past decade, including one in 2010 near Marshall, Mich., reportedly the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in American history. 
Enbridge is seeking to increase Line 61’s capacity threefold, making it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL. 
It is also same firm responsible for a catastrophic spill into the Kalamazoo River in neighboring Michigan that led to a one-billion-dollar-plus cleanup, the biggest inland spill event in US history. 

Walker made a campaign-style stop at the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in 2014 without mentioning the substantial environmental issues inherent in the pipeline expansion. 


* Walker supported an appeal to the US Supreme Court and won on March 23rd which approved Voter ID in state elections, but lost a separate bid to maintain state constitutional prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Both issues are staples of right-wing Republican and Tea Party ideology and agendas that use state power to disenfranchise and marginalize minority communities. 


* A bill he supported and signed into law that established onerous restrictions on Planned Parenthood clinics was blocked and slapped as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Friday.


* Long before he began his pre-presidential campaigning, Walker had said that Diane Sykes, a very conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, would make a fine appointee of his to the US Supreme Court. were he ever President. 


Sykes, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court jurist, led a three-judge federal appeals court panel which ruled in favor of Wisconsin's controversial and restrictive Voter ID law, a Walker priority, only to see that ruling stayed by the US Supreme Court.


* As pressure mounted against the use of school and sports team logos, nicknames and mascots that Native Americans find degrading and offensive, Walker signed a bill into law that made it easier for Wisconsin schools to maintain and use such logos, nicknames and mascots. Walker said it was a First Amendment issue, a position castigated by experts.


* About all Wisconsin groups and individuals disrespected and manipulated for political reasons during Walker's term:


This one posting updated over the last half-year contains numerous links which catalog some of the aggrieved, fyi.


More later.







Saturday, May 23, 2015

Federal $$ for dubious WI Highway 23 expansion blocked

[Updated 9:59 p.m.] This blog has been following for years the outrageous attempt to build a costly expansion of State Highway 23 connecting Fond du Lac and Plymouth - - posts, for example here, and here.

Now we are learning about a huge win in Federal court against the use of federal funds to pay for the Highway 23 project, so hat tip to 1000 Friends of Wisconsin - - and here is the group's news release about it - - for sticking with the issue.

And we really need to learn a lot more about how this $146 million boondoggle found its way into the budget and the so-called "enumeration" process about 15 years ago by which road projects in Wisconsin are selected, as this news story disclosed:

The U.S. Eastern District Court on Friday halted a road project that would have expanded Highway 23 into a four-lane highway between Fond du Lac and Plymouth... 
According to the 26-page court decision by District Judge Lynn Adelman, an environmental impact statement released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation failed to justify higher traffic volumes or explain how recently updated demographic data (slower growth projections) might affect traffic projections...
An internal DOT email quoted in the ruling states: "This project was placed in the budget by a certain legislator. That legislator either got the project into the budget in a trade for support or something else ... given that it happened behind closed doors and outside the (Transportation Projects Commission) there are no rules."
Note also the similarities in the ruling to Judge Adelman's earlier rulings in cases involvingWisDOT and its deficient planning and spending on State Highway 164 west of Milwaukee and on I-94 expansion in the Zoo Interchange at the Milwaukee County/Waukesha County border where WisDOT left out transit improvements for low-income residents with access to cars.

Strong Green Bay op-ed on Walker's 'hollowing out WI'

This one by UW-GB business professor Meir Russ is a keeper:
The hollowing-out of Wisconsin

...as predicted, the [Walker] policies accelerated the slide to a low-cost, low-wage economy while hurting the higher income portion of the population (the top 25 percentile) the most (relatively).
This would suggest that high-paying jobs are leaving Wisconsin either through attrition (retirement or downsizing) or migration, and are replaced by low-paying jobs. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin ranks highest in the nation on losing the middle class and 38th in new jobs creation; the picture is not pretty.
Now let's turn to education. Wisconsin ranks second in high school graduation but only 20th in higher education, 31st with advanced degrees, and 33rd with doctoral degrees. Further, Wisconsin is ranked 37th in state appropriations for higher education, and 47th in percentage growth in higher education spending. All of these rankings are prior to the new cuts suggested by the governor... 
Maybe the results of the first four years will change some minds in regards to the governor's budget proposals for public and higher education. If not, we will see in the next four years how much lower Wisconsin will go.


For your Scott Walker/People Are Catching On weekend update

[Updated 1l:50 Sunday.] We've done our due diligence on this blog by following Scott Walker's career, record and activities - - one summary posting with ongoing updates, among many, is here - - and it's good that traditional and digital media are looking to see what's really behind the curtain. Here are a few recent examples, and props to The Madison Capital Times for a dedicated Walker-watch page, and to Dee Hall at The Wisconsin State Journal - - and soon relocating - - for raising the bar:

The Washington Post.

Esquire.com.

New York Magazine.

The Atlantic.com.

The New Republic.

Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times.

Yahoo.

The Chicago Tribune.

The Daily Beast.

National Review.

Salon.com.

The Washington Post.

Slate.com

Mother Jones.

Raw Story.

Huffington Post.

Walker's WEDC tied to several troubled loans, practices

[Updated, 1:55 p.m.] Yes, there is a politically-tainted $500,000 bad loan in the news made by the state jobs agency Walker created and chairs, and yes, we are learning that the the agency - - Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is now throwing six figure sums of the public's money at private lawyers to try and collect the debt - - but it's hardly the only loan or internal practice about which questions have been raised and documented.

I point you to this 2012 story:

MADISON (WKOW) -- The chief financial officer of the state's flagship jobs agency resigned, as state leaders vowed better accounting practices, after the agency lost track of more than $7 million in unpaid loans.
This second of two 2014 WEDC postings on the same day:
Working my way through the full text of the jaw-dropping state audit of the operations at the Scott Walker-conceived-and-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 
Virtually every page documents an agency not meeting rules, standards or law or failing to provide documentation, accurate data or procedural follow-through - - as state funds were disbursed willy-nilly.
Or this 2014 story: 
One of the high profile companies to receive backing from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is again delinquent on its loans with the state. 
Superior-based Kestrel Aircraft Company — a firm touted by Gov. Scott Walker as an example of his business recruitment efforts — hasn’t made any payment on its $4 million in loans since October. It is supposed to pay $6,600 monthly and is now over $26,000 in arrears.
And this 2014 story: 
MADISON (WKOW) -- A liberal advocacy group reports that nearly 60 percent of the financial assistance money awarded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has gone to businesses whose owners or employees have donated money to the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) or the Republican Governors Association (RGA)...
One Wisconsin Now found that 192 donors associated with businesses receiving WEDC grants donated a total of just over $1 million directly to Gov. Walker's campaign and another $1.1 million to the RGA.  The RGA is a special interest group that spent $13 million to help get Gov. Walker elected in 2010 and then defeat the recall effort in 2012.
One Wisconsin Now reports that $570 million of the $975 million in funds awarded by the state's leading economic development agency went to the companies of those donors.
(Disclosure: I sit on the One Wisconsin Now C-3 board but was not involved in the group's work on the WEDC portfolio.)

WEDC puff piece now looks even more propagandistic

[Updated] Eight days ago I wrote a posting suggesting that an op-ed about the scandal-plagued WEDC and signed by its CEO and Board Secretary Reed Hall in the Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee BizTimes was more propagandistic than informative.

It appeared a couple of days after The Wisconsin State Journal began its important series about multiple lending and accountability problems at the agency that had first been highlighted in 2013 by state auditors. 


The series began with this blockbuster headline:
WEDC under fire again for not tracking loans, losing top executives
The key words there - - "again."

The job-creating and development agency was established in 2011 by the Legislature at the behest of Scott Walker. He has served as its only board chair - - thus to get more credit when the WEDC because the success he assumed it would be - - but the agency has been plagued with legal, fiscal and political problems from its beginning, saddling Walker with more blame and bad media for his
 broken signature election promise in 2010, and repeated in 2012's recall campaign, too, to create 250,000 jobs for Wisconsin.

In the week following the op-ed's publication, Walker continued to praise and defend the agency, but then abruptly ended the WEDC's lending role and distanced himself further from the agency as the State Journal expanded its series to include the details of an egregiously bad and politicized $500,000 loan down the drain.


All of which undermined one of WEDC CEO Hall's op-ed claims:

There have been lessons learned along the way. WEDC's first state audit – released in May 2013 – documented our need for better systems to track loans, oversee expenditures and monitor the performance of award recipients. After that audit, we have implemented significant changes to rebuild accountability, transparency and public trust in its operations.
By the end of the week, and just days after Hall's op-ed, Walker said he wanted to step down altogether from the board and abandon its chairmanship; GOP legislators also were saying he should step down, so they voted to do just that and removed him on a 12-4 party-line vote at the Joint Committee on Finance, the Legislature's budget-writing arm.

Nobody wanted to be close to the WEDC right now, making Hall's boasts and assurances about the agency ring all the more hollow.

Despite the devastating (and second) audit detailing accounting and oversight laws and procedures not followed, and more revelations about one particularly bad loan, WEDC's Hall had spun things this way in the op-ed:

While the new audit highlights some of WEDC’s improvements, it also raises some issues about WEDC that require clarification. For example, one of WEDC’s core purposes is to work with businesses to help create and retain jobs. We want to ensure the public that our efforts are having a measurable, positive effect and are actually growing jobs in the state. That’s why we have implemented stringent measures that include requiring companies to provide detailed payroll records and a signed attestation to verify their job creation and retention figures. 
WEDC invariably follows state statutes and its own policies. Some of the main issues raised in this area are a result of differences of opinion between WEDC and the audit bureau about how the organization administers its contracts. For example, the audit bureau noted that WEDC contracts use the word “may” instead of “shall,” even though the same audit noted that the word “shall” does not in any way affect WEDC’s legal ability to enforce the contract.
Summing up:

In a few days, Walker went from being WEDC's creator, only board chair and reliable cheerleader to board chair, retired. 

So are you telling me that Walker decided to end WEDC lending, then agreed to either be booted from or to quit its board only after the WEDC produced that glowing op-ed?


As I also wrote: What did he know and when did he know it?


I think Walker and his political handlers knew they needed to get rid of that WEDC albatross, but wanted to buy him some time for a smoother, cleaner getaway, and the op-ed was to distract the public from the agency's troubles by creating for it, and thus Walker, by association, an undeserved, positive image.


Maybe events moved faster last week than Walker had hoped, but that doesn't mean they weren't trying - - unsuccessfully - - to get reporters to cool their jets.


Reread that op-ed for yourself. It's still on the agency's website.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Note new Walker appointee to Dane County Bench

This will be short-lived service, as I doubt Dane County voters will go for Walker's naming naming Jim Troupis, a go-to GOP attorney mentioned in this story, to the local circuit court bench.
Lawyers in GOP redistricting case withheld 34 emails from groups
Also mentioned in this separate, earlier story: 
Federal court issues harsh order that GOP must release redistricting records
More commentary, here.
Seriously? Judge Troupis?
Always interesting, though, when the party of cut spending/shrink government finds partisans willing to take a state salary and benefits. 

Will GOP claim Feingold is Californian, having breathed air there?

Consult this flaming PolitiFact ruling for even nuttier context.
Pants on Fire!

How Ron Johnson would react to major climate/sea level news

About news like this. Johnson's attitude, with his status and his millions, is pretty much tough sh**, as I just said.

Little wonder he is the Senate's most-vulnerable member. He doesn't recognize the vulnerability of millions of human beings.

Honoring my former colleague Don Walker on his passing

[Updated] People who worked with Don Walker at the newspaper, or who came into contact with him in his old neighborhood in Story Hill, or at City Hall where he did some of his late-career work before heading off to Marquette on a fellowship are all mourning the sudden death today of our pal Don Walker at age 62.

You don't get to work with many people who are always so fair-minded and friendly and fun to be around.  He was at the old Journal when I got there in 1983 and showed me the ropes. When they later made me an assistant Metropolitan Editor for a couple of years, Don was the assignment editor and bailed me out of too many jams to remember.

Everybody loved him and always wanted to be involved in his projects.

This is a tough one.

Here is the first story I've seen about it.

Also a very nice take in the paper by his friend Don Behm, then expanded by Crocker Stephenson.

Flashback Friday editorial quote of the day

As Walker is expeditiously booted from or quitting the chairmanship of the failing jobs agency he created, we reprise for context the opening of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2010 Scott Walker endorsement:
Scott Walker has said repeatedly during his campaign for governor that he will develop strategies to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.
It's a big promise - one that has been derided by his critics. But for the sake of Wisconsin, Walker had better be right.

Walker cares not that GOP legislators killed his elderly tax

Forcing the elderly by state law to pay more for prescription drugs was even too much for Scott Walker's increasingly disloyal GOP-led legislature, but Walker could care less, just as he doesn't care if the same legislators rolled back his plan to neuter the Natural Resources Board, or whether the feds block his plan to drug-test public aid recipients..

He kicked Wisconsin to the curb months ago, having openly made his national ambition priority #1. As I wrote six months ago:
Let's be clear about why Scott Walker says and does anything from now on: 
His audience is national, not local. How does the curb feel, Bucky, now that Walker's not that into you? 
More to the point - - Walker's audience now - - and actually since the 2007 conservative summit meeting along the shores of Lake Michigan about which the media, other than Salon.com, refuses to report - - is the hardest, rightist core of activists and voters in the Republican and Tea Parties, and their loyalties for 2016.
Think of Walker as that self-absorbed, pampered baseball player who is getting a tryout with the big club, and is finally flying first class and getting the big meal money and air time on Sports Center. Do you think he remembers the fans in those minor league parks who got his autograph for free on $1 hot dog night?

So whether people in the state are mad at him for raising overnight camping fees in state parks, for example, or have finally figured out that some of the funding they need to fix the roof on their rural elementary school will end up paying for other kids' private schools in Milwaukee?

Walker is so far beyond such political minutiae.

He's hobnobbing with world leaders, now, and is accepting the cheers of right wing audiences from Iowa to South Carolina to Arizona and even feels free enough to threaten to attack someone though he doesn't yet and should never have have his finger on the red button.


Ron Johnson to people at sea level: Your drowning is insignificant

They say he's the Senate's most-vulnerable member. Certainly his dismissal of climate science makes the dumbest, and most heartless.
“We’ll learn to adapt,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told reporters. “I’ve never understood why we think this is the sweet spot in human history and in geologic time that we’ve got to spend hundreds of billions, if not trillions, trying to maintain this temperature. A lot of people write a slight warming of the Earth would be pretty beneficial.

Candidates meet the darndest people

You may have read about the child molestation admissions yesterday by Josh Duggar, a conservative activist, family values lobbyist and 'star' of the reality show "19 Children and Counting."  Here's what he was also up up to last week.
Great meeting today w/ ! He has a very passionate vision for America. #2016