Archive for the ‘Wisconsin Recall Elections’ Category

Greed is the Enemy

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?  On the surface, there doesn’t seem a lot to be happy about in Wisconsin right now.  So what have those crafty corporatists been up to during the last few days? (photos at end of post) The republican majority called an Extraordinary Session in order to pass a reprehensible budget with as little interference as possible. This budget is so one sided, it may as well be a Teahadist fantasy come to life. The budget puts in motion a plan to award $2.3 billion in tax breaks for corporations over the next decade, strips $834 million from already cash-strapped public schools, expands the school voucher program that does nothing more than lay the groundwork for Education, Inc, cuts $250 million from the  UW System, and $71 million will evaporate from the Wisconsin technical college system. All of these cuts are necessary, says Governor Walker, because the state is broke. But it isn’t so broke that he’s willing to spend up to $2 Billion as a giveback to the Road Builders. To add insult to injury, the GOP snuck into the budget yet another special gift to private industry; James Rowan of The Political Environment Blogreports that:

…as the Joint Committee on Finance wound down towards the three-day Memorial Day weekend, it voted to add to Scott Walker’s proposed budget a fresh giveaway to the road-builders: a requirement that all 72 Wisconsin Counties hire private contractors for any job over $100,000.  And the measure bars counties and other municipalities from performing such work for another unit of government – – so a village can’t contract with a County to get an intersection rebuilt, for example, if the cost exceeds $100,000. All this work is to be privatized – – even though the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has said and documented that private contracting for road-building costs the public more money. These items are in the Omnibus Transportation Motion, sections 18-20, which was sprung as motion #352 before Joint Finance Friday around noon, and was sponsored by the co-chairs, Republicans Robin Vos and Alberta Darling.

There is no question that republicans are endeavoring to make the rich wealthier while ensuring that workers get less of an education and remain subservient to monied interests. Make no mistake; this is not a class war, this is a full-on putsch orchestrated by groups and individuals such as ALEC, The Koch Brothers, Americans For Prosperity, corporate-backed think tanks, large banks and others to destroy democratic institutions in order to facilitate the creation of a permanent majority.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in record time,  conveniently overturned Judge Marayann Sumi’s decision that voided the GOP’s attempt to remove collective bargaining rights for thousands of public employees.  It is now clear that the open meetings law is pointless and the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s high court is more interested in pandering to right wing idealogues than exercising the rule of law. Justice David Prosser, the conservative incumbent who nearly lost to little known challenger JoAnn Kloppenberg, should be especially ashamed. It wasn’t long ago that he desperately tried to characterize himself as independent. Everyone knew it was a sham, and his actions just serve to prove it. On her conservative colleagues, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson had this to say: “The majority justices make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891”.  How convenient that Assembly GOP Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald threatened to put the collective bargaining measure back into the budget if the Supreme Court didn’t act on the original measure by Tuesday.  In Fitzwalkerstan, the Judicial Branch now serves the Legislative branch as evidenced by an e-mail obtained by WKOW- TV that suggests republican lawmakers knew the court would act ahead of the budget sessions.

Republicans Gone Wild – Encouraged shill candidates to run as democrats in order to force primaries. 

The Republican party fielded Republican candidates to run as Democrats in all six of the recall primaries, with the purpose of giving their incumbents an extra four weeks to campaign before facing general elections. The state’s recall law would require general elections July 12 unless there is more than one candidate in either party, in which case the election would be a primary, with the final general election held Aug. 9.  By engaging is such shenanigans, the self-described party of “ecomonic responsibility”  will fleece taxpayers to the tune of more than $465,000 by running fraudulent candidates and forcing primaries. This figure comes from election clerks in the recall districts. So much for concern about the mostly manufactured budget crisis.

Here’s a list of the fake democrats who should be ashamed of themselves:

Senate District 2 Incumbent: Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez). Challengers: Democrat Nancy Nusbaum of De Pere, fake Democrat Otto Junkermann of Green Bay.

Senate District 8 Incumbent: Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). Challengers: Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-River Hills), fake Democrat Gladys Huber of Mequon.

Senate District 10 Incumbent: Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Challengers: Democrat Shelly Moore of River Falls, fake Democrat Isaac Weix of Menomonie.

Senate District 14 Incumbent: Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). Challengers: Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), fake Democrat Rol Church of Wautoma.

Senate District 18 Incumbent: Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac). Challengers: Democrat Jessica King of Oshkosh, fake Democrat John D. Buckstaff of Oshkosh.

Senate District 32 Incumbent: Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse). Challengers: Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), fake Democrat James D. Smith of La Crosse.

This is further proof that these people will stop at nothing to hold on to power while making  a mockery of the electoral process.

Tuesday’s Mass Rally on the Capitol Square. 

Once again thousands of citizens massed in Madison to protest the corporate republican-backed horrendous budget and the war on working families. As expected, the calls for fairness and pleas for compassion went unheeded. Just before the rally started at 5pm, the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced that it had reversed Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s decision that voided the original measure.  Instead of feeling defeated, protestors and activists were outraged and looked toward the upcoming recall elections as the next battle.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME referred to the capitol as a “marble whorehouse” and announced to republican legislators that “we’re going to be spending  our summer in your neighborhoods”.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24.

Video of Reverend Willie Briscoe’s speech

Introduced by Mahlon Mitchell, Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President speaks.

Ellen Carlson speaks about budget impacts on education

Kim Hoffman, middle school teacher and 17 year veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard

Francisca Miras, member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle of Voces de la Frontera.

Mahlon Mitchell, President of Firefighters Union and Jackie Pokorney, SEIU member

We’re not going anywhere. We will fight, we will recall, we will keep the Wisconsin Idea alive until we successfully return a measure of sanity to the legislature, and ultimately, the governor’s mansion. The immoral actions of the republican majority will not be forgotten. What they’ve created is a new generation of activists, and ultimately a new national progressive movement. On Thursday, thousands of labor activists rallied at the NJ State Capitol to protest my home state’s bid to severely restrict collective bargaining rights. Just more evidence that this is a nationwide effort to destroy unions and advance a radical right wing agenda. Say goodbye to women’s reproductive rights, strong public schools, and critical social safety nets.  Unless we organize and fight.

Photos from the Wisconsin rally on Tuesday.

Firefighters and supporters at the July 14th Wisconsin Capitol Rally

Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO president.

Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council

Ellen Carlson and Son, speaking about education

Middle School Teacher and Wisconsin Army National Guard Veteran

Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Firefighters Union.

Rev. Willie Briscoe

Francisca Miras, Voces de la Fronterra

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24

Mahlon Mitchell, Firefighters union president.

And finally…the inspiration for the article title:

Welcome to Walkerville, Population: Awesome.

While the national media relentlessly covers Weiner-palooza, (if only the man himself had the sense to keep it covered) the Wisconsin Uprising continues.  Evoking comparison to the “Hoovervilles” of the 1920’s, an encampment dubbed “Walkerville” has sprung up on the Wisconsin Capitol square in order to keep up the pressure as legislators work through the Governor’s Budget.  If passed intact, the budget will provide millions of dollars in corporate giveaways while increasing taxes on Wisconsin’s working poor.

Tents on the square

The encampment is well organized and each day  has a particular theme. Yesterday’s focus was on Public Services and began with a march involving over a thousand nurses, police officers, teachers, steelworkers and concerned citizens led by Madison Firefighters around the capitol square.   The procession stopped at M&I Bank, which received approximately $1.7 million in federal TARP funds, and shouts of “Banks got bailed out, We got sold out!” could be heard reverberating off the glass, brick and steel of nearby buildings. Protesters flowed into the lobby at an alarming rate until they were physically removed by police. 2 protestors were arrested.

If brains was lard, Scott Walker couldn't grease a skillet.

In the evening, unions sponsored a “Mock Listening Session” in order to inform the public about services they provide. The panel featured  the US history-challenged Sarah Palin, David Koch, Governor Walker and a host of union characters like Rhonda the Road Worker and Helen the Healthcare Worker. Each of the various characters explained how their jobs are essential to maintaining infrastructure, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and providing care to the sick.  More info from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO blog here.

Mock Panel with Sarah Palin, David Koch, Gov. Walker and others.

Two Journalists Arrested At Wisconsin State Capitol. 

Meanwhile, more sinister events were unfolding inside the capitol building where two journalists were arrested. Watch the following video captured by a bystander to see how the Walker Administration views members of the press.

Burlington, Vermont based videographer Sam Mayfield and her assistant were arrested by State Police while shooting footage for a documentary about collective bargaining rights.  A police officer waved the two into the capitol when he learned they were members of the press, then completely turned on them when he realized they were capturing video of police pushing protestors.

From Bluecheddar.net

Sam Mayfield describes the incident, saying there was an entrance to the Capitol that was open. They walked in and in her own words:

“clearly (the situation had) already escalated…this was evidenced by him (the officer) running at people who were walking into the Capitol telling them to leave. He was forcefully grabbing and touching people who were literally just walking past.”

“He grabbed me. He told me to leave.” Mayfield identified herself as a journalist and he flagged her through. The officer also flagged Alex through after she explained she was working with Sam. Alex decided to stay in the area and film what was happening because, “he was being very aggressive with the protesters, physically.”

The officer pushed as many protesters as he could out the doors. He then pursued Alex, pushed her into the wall, and proceeded to handcuff and arrest her. He told her that when she tried to keep her camera from falling on the ground she was resisting arrest.

The two reporters were charged with “disorderly conduct”. Alex says she thinks she was arrested because she was filming a police officer pushing people out the door. Sam says she was told she was obstructing the officer’s ability to make an arrest. She says what actually happened is that she caught Alex’ falling camera, and started to use it. And then things changed:

“I think that when he saw she and I working together on that level,  he actually dragged Alex and dropped her to the ground …and he ran after me..I asked the cop “Why are we being arrested?” I really don’t understand at all. As soon as Alex gave me her camera he said, “You’re going to be arrested, too.” and then he grabbed my arm.

Both journalists were arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct.

On several occasions while working on stories for themudflats.net, I’ve been inside the capitol with press credentials. Generally, the police have acted professionally except for one incident where an imported rural officer confronted me and attempted to issue an order for me to stop taking photos.  I politely refused and showed him my press pass to which he responded “I don’t care”.  He then became distracted by others and walked away from me. Based on that experience, Sam Mayfield’s arrest doesn’t surprise me.

Wisconsin Republicans Back Spoiler Candidates in Recall Elections. 

Realizing that their recalled senators are deeply in trouble, the Wisconsin Republican Party has openly supported the recruitment of spoiler candidates in order to force primaries, affording the incumbents additional time to campaign. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the plan for Republican spoilers to run as Democrats in primaries for seats held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.  They know their senate majority is at risk and are now openly playing dirty in order to continue forcing their agenda on the people of Wisconsin.

Stephan Thompson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement Monday that Republican state senators face recalls for doing their jobs, unlike Democratic senators who he says deserted their constituents for Illinois.

Thompson said the Republican senators are busy crafting a state budget, which puts them at a disadvantage to challengers to have time to campaign.

“Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved,” he said in the statement.  Essentially, this would force democratic challengers to spend money on bogus primary challenges instead of saving it for the general election.

Sen. Mark Miller, Senate Minority Leader,  called the effort a “partisan, coordinated attack on democracy.”

“These dirty Nixonion tactics have no place in Wisconsin,” he said in a statement Monday. “And we don’t need to waste taxpayer money on phony elections to help these Republicans duck the voters and needlessly delay these elections.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained letters sent by local Republican parties to “fellow conservatives” asking them to support fake Democratic candidates.

Fake Democratic candidates.  Wisconsin citizens certainly deserve better than this.  The party of so-called fiscal responsibility, who balked loudly about the expense of the recall elections in the first place, has no qualms about increasing that financial burden to taxpayers as long as they themselves are the beneficiary.

 

 

 

Bye Bye Senate Majority

Madison, WI. Showing signs of sheer desperation, three GOP senators up for recall elections on July 12 have now resorted to asking the courts to stop the election citing dubious alleged “irregularities” in the filing of recall petitions. Never mind the wholesale recall petition fraud perpetrated by the Wisconsin Republican Party; substantiated with scores of affidavits and reports of dead people signing their names, felons stealing items while circulating papers, and the involvement of a shady out of state group that helped organize the republican efforts against democrats.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse; Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; and Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, all want judges to block the state Government Accountability Board from calling elections based on the recall petitions filed in April by groups seeking to recall the GOP senators.

Clearly, they know they are in trouble.  Two of these senators, adherents of the GOP “family values” mantra,  are essentially the crippled sheep in the Republican herd. Easy pickings if you will.  The third is simply guilty of supporting union busting. Let’s take a look.

Hopper and his mistress, Valerie Cass

Sen. Randy Hopper, R- Fon du Lac -Fortunate Son shacks up with young mistress, lives in Madison. 

Sen. Randy Hopper began his political career by winning his race in a 163 vote “landslide.” A member of the northern Wisconsin gentry, Hopper is the owner of Mountain Dog Media, a radio station and broadcasting company that owns Fon du Lac’s two major radio stations, KFIZ (1450) and WFON (107.1)  In addition, Mountain Dog owns WCLB (950) in Sheboygan and Chilton‘s WMBE (1530). It is more than likely that Mr. Hopper was the recipient of generous seed capital from his wealthy father, William Hopper, whose grandfather had founded Hopper Papers,  a company eventually sold to Koch Brothers-owned paper giant Georgia Pacific.  After selling the company and staying on a few years, Randy’s dad bought a majority stake in a small bank in Taylorville, IL and grew his interests to $150 million. The bank then merged with another banking firm in Springfield, Ill. When that combined company grew to $2 billion in assets, it merged once again with another bank, and that’s when Hopper sold out. He also owns/owned a 50% stake in a string of Illinois car dealerships.  My point is that young Randy is no self-made man.  He was born of privilege and grew up in Taylorville, IL while summering on a lake estate in Arbor Vitae, WI- the same lake that is home to Standard Oil’s lavish former retreat, Red Crown Lodge.  Sen. Hopper has little in common with the average Wisconsinite he pretends to represent.

In March of this year, recall volunteers accidentally knocked on his door and encountered Hopper’s estranged wife who was more than happy to announce that “Randy doesn’t live here anymore.  He’s living in Madison with his 26 year old mistress Valerie Cass”. She then wrote a letter to Milwaukee radio station WTMJ confirming her statement. Imagine the shock! According to Mrs. Hopper,  Randy began having an affair with the then 25 year old Cass who at the time was employed as an aide to  Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield). After Senator Kanavas decided against another run,  Ms. Cass became employed by the aptly named political consulting firm “Persuasion Partners, Inc.”  Incidentally, Persuasion Partners counts as one of its clients the Koch brothers-funded front Americans For Prosperity. Yet another Koch connection to a Wisconsin legislator. To make matters worse, it appears that Sen. Hopper may have used his political connections to secure a sweetheart deal of a job for his mistress in the Walker Administration, circumventing the civil service process.  Regardless of your political persuasion, is this the type of man that would be inclined to represent you? Or would he be more comfortable championing the cause of corporations?

Sen. Dan Kapanke

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse – Ethically Challenged and Paid no Taxes. 

In August of 2010, Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke admitted to “unintentionally” violating the state ethics code by using his lobbyist funded charity as a personal slush fund to pay for improvements to the LaCrosse Logger’s Baseball Park. He and his wife own the LaCrosse Loggers, a summer collegiate baseball team.. The payments from the LaCrosse Logger’s Foundation to the City of LaCrosse totaled about $32,000 against a  $225,000 loan.

In 2009, Government Accountability Board representative Jonathan Becker said  Sen. Kapanke should not have used campaign funds for two “Economic Forums”. This was after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit asserting that his staff improperly coordinated the forums. The board declined to take action against Kapanke, but fined his aid who worked at the second campaign-sponsored event.  Kapanke took responsibility for the actions of his aid and agreed that he shouldn’t have used campaign funds for those activities. The party twice requested records about the event and each time was told they did not exist.  During testimony as part of the Democratic party suit, a top Kapanke aide admitted that she routinely used personal email for state work. The state’s Technology Services Bureau recovered information from a backup that confirmed that Kapanke had been sending work related emails to a yahoo email address. Rose Smyrski, Kapanke’s chief of staff and capitol employee since 2000,  incredulously stated that she never received open records training and that she didn’t check her personal email in response to the Democratic Party open records request.

Once again, Kapanke maintained that this was an “honest mistake”.  He seems to make lots of “honest mistakes” involving campaign-related financial issues and obscuring information. In Sept, 2009 the taxpayers of Wisconsin paid $38,000 to settle his legal fees as a result of the suit. It should be noted that taxes to average Wisconsin citizens increased under his watch while he himself paid nothing in 2008. Full information about Kapanke ethics issues and the source article is here.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon. 

Sen. Luther Olsen has long been considered one of the more moderate republicans in the legislature. In the early stages of the Wisconsin Uprising, Sen Olsen was one of the very few republicans who expressed reservations about removing the collective bargaining rights of unions. “The concept is pretty radical,” he said.  “It affects a lot of good working people.” Olsen said he could support the changes on pensions and health care but had reservations about taking away other bargaining rights.  That spark of independence died when he voted lock-step with the Walker machine ultimately setting himself up for recall.

GOP Recall Organizers Call for Chief Election Referee to Resign

Finally, in another blatant act of desperation, the Wisconsin Republican Party recall organizers are calling for Kevin Kennedy, the Executive Director of the Government Accountability Board, to resign. The GAB is tasked with overseeing elections in Wisconsin and has been given the monumental task of certifying 9 simultaneous recall elections. This is unprecedented. Wisconsin republicans are crying foul because all recall elections against the GOP have been certified, while serious questions remain about the validity of the signatures collected by out of state firms against the democrats. In at least several cases it appears that signatures were forged from information contained within phone books. Most notably, the signature of the long deceased father of Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan appeared on one set of papers turned in by republican operatives.

The recall elections were scheduled for July 12th.