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Thursday, February 27, 2014

If Doing Nothing Wrong, Why Does Gov. Walker Need a Second Separate Phone?

Fox News Chris Wallace asks Scott Walker, “Question, if county workers were doing nothing wrong, why should they be using a private email account?

That's the six million dollar question Walker refused to answer. Instead he yammered on, "Well, but that’s exactly to my point. You had a Democratic district attorney spend almost three years looking at every single one of those communications, interviewing people, talking to people and closed the case."

And.....? Nothing. He never answered the question.

Wallace's question can and should be asked repeatedly of the governor by Wisconsin's media, but in addition, include his own recent admission that he now finds it necessary to carry two phones. If you're doing nothing wrong, why have a separate private phone? There's no reason for that second phone. In fact, that extra phone acts as a portable router that stifles the Freedom of Information Act.

I can hear Walker loyalists stomp their feet over that one. Awww man mean, Walker can't have a private conversation at any time while he is governor? Well, yes and no. But a couple things here first.

Walker supposedly created a Code Of Conduct Agreement for his office staff that they must sign in order to remain employed. The agreement defines the hours of his office staff as 8AM to 5PM. That should be the governor's "official" hours as well.

Granted, a governor is expected to be available around the clock if necessary and can be away from the office for an unspecified amount of time, but we should expect the person elected governor to hold the highest standards and at the minimum keep the same hours and conduct as expected of his staff. That means all of his communications during those hours should be done on the state issued network system. That means no separate second phone connection while on the job.

Secondly, a person elected governor or to any major public office has made the choice to serve the public. Sorry to say, but that choice means less privacy during the time being paid on the taxpayers dime. If you want privacy, get a job in the private sector.

Another point is that as technology progresses, laws governing these issues become obviously antiquated and must be updated. That needs to be done. But in the meantime elected officials should be erring on the side of utmost caution, not stretching the laws to the farthest limits of legality.

But speaking of Scott Walker specifically, he has made two admissions that should have raised bells to their highest alarm. Previously, he said mixing political campaign communications during official office hours is routine, and now said he uses a second phone to keep his official duties separate from his political campaign activities.

So when is Scott Walker not acting in his official capacity as governor of the state of Wisconsin? Anytime he answers or uses that private phone.

With his history, that's not good enough for me ...and shouldn't be good enough for anyone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gov. Walker Boasts Expansion Of Publicly Funded Political Media Operation

The JS Online blog article titled, "Gov. Scott Walker: anonymous comments now in the past" reported that while serving as Milwaukee County executive, Walker would have his aides and associates post positive blurbs under adopted monikers in the comments sections below stories on the newspaper's site. The story continued ...

JS Online Excerpt:
"Those are things from the past," Walker said of the past commenting. "What we are trying to do even going forward right now is to comment in every different forum...We live in a world right now where there are hundreds of different media."

Newspaper columns, editorials and their comment sections are so 1980 that they are no longer enough public opinion for Walker's taxpayer funded staffs to anonymously engage with. Unless the JS Online writer made an error in transcription, Walker is clearly describing an expansion, not dismantlement, of a taxpayer funded media manipulating machine for his personal use into every form of social media, from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit to radio and more.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Questions Of Gov. Scott Walker Are Still Controlled By His Campaign

This interview about the Walker Doc dump with MSNBC host, Andrea Mitchell (w/Dan Bice), zeroes in on the mingling of political campaign activity with the staffs of taxpayer paid public office.

Interestingly enough, Mitchell says she (we) talked to Governor Walker's office for a statement that she proceeds to read on the air for viewers. The problem is, is the statement came from Walker's political campaign, Jonathan Wetzel - Friends of Scott Walker. None of the cast members flinched at the irony that questions about Walker's official capacity (as county exec) and taxpayer paid government cached emails are being answered by his political campaign.

It's still business as usual.

The other point is the people of Wisconsin and that includes the inquiring press, deserve answers from the governor directly from the governor and/or through his official government office - not from his political propaganda campaign machine.

Watch the video here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Conditional Statements By Wealthy Land Owner Need To Be Put In Writing

In what seems to be a response to my suggestions about TIF financing to a group of local residents who are objecting to a landowner's campaign to fast-track a development including a new I-90 interchange near Milton, the Janesville Gazette posted a reminder of the landowner's statement that he won't seek capital incentives for infrastructure inprovements of his project.

JG Excerpt:
Watson has said he won't seek municipal incentives for infrastructure for his project and that he'd bankroll the plan, including infrastructure within the industrial area.

I'm glad to hear it. This is good news of course but a very unusual "promise" considering the size and scope of this developer's plan. But it's also an absolutely hollow and useless statement unless it's put into writing on all of his land deeds in the proposed development.

Remember, infrastructure costs for developments and conventional TIF agreements (not forgivable loans, surplus hand-outs, etc.) run with the land, not with the owner.

An interstate highway interchange will tremendously boost the value of the nearest adjacent land for development purposes. Watson could later sell the vacant land and its new owner(s) could then approach the township or municipality for TIF financing. My point here is that his statements about requesting no incentives for infrastructure common of TIF agreements can only be made durable if it is written into a deed condition, prohibition or covenant on the land. But judging by his casual public statements posted in the newspaper regarding this proposal, I doubt he will put it in writing on his deeds.

Just to be clear, it's expected area officials know of this and would insist the landowner list and legally document all of these conditional statements before making a decision. It's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Early Links - Emails Confirm Walker Tied To Illegal Campaign Activity

Scott Walker supporters went on a tangent soon after the release of some 28,000 pages of emails from the first John Doe investigation. At the top of their talking points seems to be a veiled acceptance that Walker is indeed guilty of the allegations, but that the case is closed without charges against him and therefore he is protected by double jeopardy. Strange defense considering they want to run this guy for president.

Walker himself downplayed the importance of the email release calling them years old 'communications from a county employee.'

Below are some of the early links to the email scandal posted on #WIunion

The Progressive - Starting Today, Scott Walker is Officially in Hot Water

The Progressive - The Biggest Revelations from Scott Walker's Really Bad Day

Slate - This Could Be the Start of Scott Walker’s Bridgegate

The Nation - Emails, Charges, Probes! Chris Christie? No, Scott Walker

CapTimes - Records released in John Doe probe of Scott Walker aides — here's what to watch

CapTimes - How deep Will The Damage Be For Scott Walker From The John Doe Email Dump?

DailyKos - Big Wis. John Doe News - Thousands of Emails and Documents Released

Think Progress - Emails Suggest Walker Knew Of Illegal Campaign Coordination

AlterNet - Did Scott Walker Just Tank his Career?

JohnDoeWalker.Com - Dedicated Website For Tracking Walker-related Emails In Cover-Up Scandal

TPM - Investigation Surrounding Walker Even Bigger Than We Thought

TPM - Scott Walker Aide Forwarded A Totally Racist Email

Huff Post - Scott Walker Ordered Doctor Fired Because She Was Once A Thong Model

Blue Cheddar - Quick thoughts on the John Doe document release

The Political Environment - More On Email Showing Walker Wanted Cover-Up In County Patient Death

Washington Post - Scott Walker, eyeing 2016, faces fallout from probes as ex-aide’s e-mails are released

MKE Express - Rindfleisch to Campaign: You Guys Are in the Drivers Seat

JS Online - Unsealed email ties Scott Walker to secret email system

NOTE: Hours later, JS Online changed above title to "Emails link Scott Walker to secret email system."

Wisconsin State Journal - John Doe transcript: Scott Walker must have known of private email, laptop system

Monday, February 17, 2014

Video: Forum - Danger To Democracy With Mike McCabe

Forum was held Wednesday, February 12th in Janesville.

Part 1 is Mike McCabe's introduction. He spends some time talking about the influence of money in government, how a few wealthy donors can neutralize the voices of the many and why it is important to follow the money in order to understand the backwards legislation that is sweeping through Wisconsin.

As can be expected, the news is not good as the majority is vastly outgunned and outspent by outside interests. Parts 2, 3 and 4 are mostly question and answer. This is important commentary. Watch it:

Part 1:

Part 2 (12 min.)

Part 3 (27 min.)

Part 4 (11 min.)

Big thanks to Vckstr89 for the video work and uploads.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Palin: Governors Know What Their Staffs Are Up To

If you can stomach listening to Sarah Palin for about a minute, you might actually appreciate (forgive me) what she has to say in this video about her own experience as governor and how it taught her that politicians and executives know what their paid staff is up to. Our own scandal-ridden Gov. Scott Walker bookends her comment.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Janesville Forum: McCabe On Danger To Democracy

Rock County Progressives present ...

Forum: ‘Danger to Democracy’

Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign...

Wednesday, February 12
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speaker & discussion

**Basics Food Cooperative
1711 Lodge Dr.
Janesville, Wisconsin

(**This is an independent event not affiliated with Basics)

Directions: from Madison route 90 until 1st Janesville exit, south on Route 26 past route 14, look for Toys R Us on the right, right on Lodge Drive, on right across from Toys R Us.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Walker's Local Booster Club Ignores State "Surplus," Heads To DC For Transportation Dollars

The Janesville Gazette posted a short question and answer info-commercial about members of Gov. Scott Walker's local red state booster club, Forward Janesville, plan to fly out to Washington DC to keep the federal cash cow spigot open for their politically connected road building support base.

You might recall that it was the ALEC-like Forward Janesville and their vice-president of operations, Dan Cunningham, who slammed Tom Barrett in election year editorials for suggesting that local taxpayers get back a greater share of the money we send to Madison to help pay for repair and replacement of deteriorating local roads. Unfortunately, Forward Janesville's position prevailed. Gov. Walker returned fewer dollars to local taxpayers for roads, eventually forcing Janesville to enact its first ever municipal wheel (vehicle) tax.

Thanks Forward Janesville. Thanks Gov. Walker.

But because Walker continues to return fewer and fewer dollars back to the locals, Janesville is not out of the woods yet on road maintenance. Two years ago, I predicted that the local wheel tax could soon run up to $80 a year from under the pressure of rising costs, inflation and a backlog of unfunded road repair. Sure enough last October, the Janesville city council suggested raising the one-year-old wheel tax to $48 to pay for road work. That proposal has been shelved, but is likely to come back during the next city budget.

Now however, Forward Janesville has strangely taken to Tom Barrett's "local" approach for transportation dollars.

JG Excerpt:
"We need to make sure that Wisconsin gets back on a dollar-for-dollar basis what it sends to Washington for transportation projects," Cunningham said.

The pecking order is rather obvious. Barrett asked the state to return tax dollars for local road maintenance and now the folks who opposed that say we need to make sure the state gets back dollar-for-dollar from Washington for the same.

Except, Forward Janesville asking the federal government for more money while it's still running deficits is very odd at a time Wisconsin is supposedly posting a "surplus." Why aren't they asking Walker to return some of that money for roads so we don't have to double tax ourselves?

It's even more amazing when so-called non-partisan city employees like Janesville's School Superintendent, Karen Schulte and Janesville's new city manager, Mark Freitag, will accompany the red state lobby group, whose legislative agenda and politics are largely responsible for busting local budgets, on the trip to DC.

Imagine if high ranking city employees were flying instead with the SEIU or Planned Parenthood for some education and health care dollars. The blistering rage would be endless.

Schulte and Freitag are definitely showing their true colors and raising their partisan credentials on this one. It is duly noted.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Comedian Bill Maher Wants To Flip A District. Will He Pick Paul Ryan?

NY Times Excerpt:
Bill Maher makes little effort to hide his own contempt for many politicians, most of them Republicans. Now, he wants to take it to the next level: finding one he might be able to help oust from office.

On his weekly HBO talk show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” on Friday night, Mr. Maher and his staff plan to ask viewers to make a case for their individual representatives in the House to be selected as the worst in the country.

From there, Maher intends to highlight the incumbent congressional on his show in an effort to change the hearts and minds of voters at home.

Of course the lawmaker has to be in a competitive race, but I would think most observers would say the gap continues to close in on Paul Ryan, particularly among the Tea Party base who were stung by his votes on the TARP and bail-outs and again betrayed by his recent positions on the fiscal cliff, amnesty and pension cuts for military veterans. Some Democrats and Liberals who once supported Ryan in his hometown of Janesville now see him as a Koch-bought career politician and a social drag.

There was some concern over whether Maher's little project was legal, but according to Politico, it was confirmed Maher's move is indeed legal -- as long as his efforts are not coordinated with the person he hopes wins. (He will also have to report some activity to the Federal Elections Commission.)

A popular Wisconsin political blog, Root River Siren, posted an article encouraging readers to convince Bill Maher To Flip Paul Ryan and included a dedicated Web page outlining votes, quotes, photos and videos of the damage Paul Ryan had done in Congress during his career. I of course totally agree that Congressman Ryan is the worst and asked Maher to select him for the flip.

This is one of those times to get on social media, preferably the recommended Twitter hashtag #flipadistrict, and start tweeting and retweeting your choice for the flip. There's plenty of competition so Maher needs to hear from you right now.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Simple Math Debunks Walker's Incredible "Grassroots" Campaign

First off, campaign finance reports are all about the cash, so when Gov. Walker's campaign operatives recently claimed that 75% of the reported $5.1M came from donations of $50 or less demonstrates "incredible grassroots support," some of us knew they were trying to pull one of the oldest and lamest tricks in the book.

Journal Times Excerpt:
Walker's campaign manager, Stephan Thompson, said in a statement that 75 percent of Walker's donations came from people giving $50 or less.

"It's the incredible support from the grassroots that will enable Governor Walker to continue moving Wisconsin forward," Thompson said.

Wow! Really? That is incredible ...LOL, but I found that those donating $50 or less comprise less than 20 percent of Walker's total campaign cash. So while they're counting apples, I'm counting cash.

Unfortunately, I don't have a staff to pour through Walker's campaign finance report to count each donor and the amount they gave to prove my point, so what I use is the old averaging concept. It works like this:

Walker's campaign report consists of 2,180 pages listing individual donations. The vast majority of pages have 17 - 18 entries of single donations, but there are also a substantial number of pages with 12 or 13 donors. So I applied an average of 15 entries per page. Most of the single donations of $50 or less are either for $50 or $20 with variations in between and some at $10 and less. With that I chose $35 as the average amount donated by the pool categorized at $50 or less.

I'm also assuming that the 75% figure from Walker's campaign is correct.

So let's roll the tape:

2,180 pages X 15 entries per page = 32,700 donations

75% of 32,700 donations = 24,525 X $35 donation = $858,375

$858,375 is 16.77 percent of $5,119,176 total donations

Obviously, the 16.8% is an approximate figure so I would not doubt it could be off by one or two points either way, but I think you'll agree it's a very reasonable estimate.

Don't get me wrong, $858,375 is a substantial amount of $50 or less donations, but when it makes up less than 20% of the total campaign cash, painting it as a "grassroots" majority campaign is nothing more than cheap spin to deliberately misinform the public.

Using their campaign's own definition for "grassroots" as donations of $50 or less leaves us to conclude that up to 83 percent of Walker's campaign cash comes from deep pocketed out-of-state special interests much like the Texas fundraiser at a billionaire's mansion where Walker is scheduled to appear.

I don't think there is any statement, report or action taken that is not first measured, adjusted and reframed for its highest political value by Gov. Walker and his staff, no matter how lame it is constructed.

Grassroots campaign? Don't make me laugh.


CapTimes - Scott Walker's Big Money Comes From Big Donors Outside Wisconsin

Monday, February 03, 2014

The New Normal For Wisconsin? The People Are Not On The Agenda.

I've been staying out of a story about a wealthy Rock County landowner looking to fast-track a development including a new I-90 interchange near Milton primarily because there appears to be a group of concerned local residents organizing on the issue and regardless of their political stripes, I would not want to effect their position in any adverse way or otherwise.

But here's a few pieces of advice on the subject for whatever it's worth:

#1. The land owner including the Janesville Gazette articles never mention TIF District financing, the slush fund economic development tool that will no doubt be used to finance much of the landowner's infrastructure once the land is annexed. What's important is that the landowner's 1,500 acres earmarked for development (7 times the size of the sprawling GM compound in Janesville) is mostly farmland with features of limestone hardscaping and it is this kind of vacant land that carries a minimal value for tax assessment purposes and gets locked in as the baseline value upon creation of a TIF agreement.

This means that although the parcels with new construction pay the regular rate of assessed value in property taxes as they incrementally improve, local governments and school districts receive only a few dollars an acre as before when the land was undeveloped. This in turn means that property owners in the local townships and cities outside the TIF pay the developers share of taxes for police, fire and other service costs covering the development. This can go on for 15 to 25 years or so depending on the term of the agreement.

#2. At least the Gazette appears to be doing some rare fair reporting on the fast-tracking aspect of the developer's proposal. In this article, (pay site) the newspaper writes well about the disregard of public input and lack of public hearings while local officials and township boards are forging ahead with preliminary road, zoning and legal agreements behind closed doors. If true, open records requests might have to be filed in order to find out exactly what's going on. Sadly, it might be time for the opposition group to get an attorney.

#3. It's easy to blame, target or get angry with the developer even if he has ulterior motives, but I would suggest not to. He's just doing exactly what is expected from a landowner/developer. It's the mayors, councils and township boards who are, at least up to this point in time, appearing to betray the public trust. This may sound overly basic, but they're supposed to work for the will of their constituency, not work to leverage a developer against them. He works for himself.

#4 If local government boards pre-determine a decision in favor the developer, it will be nearly impossible to stop. You'll hear, "we've gone this far and spent this much time and money, why turn back now," over and over again.

#5 Of additional concern should be the developer's campaign to petition directly for annexation - which does not require noticing. This should tell all concerned individuals in opposition that your voices must not merely be public opinions - but just as equal - a campaign.

#6 Read this insightful article about the development game from 7 years ago written by Peter Mckeever, a Madison attorney. It's still very relevant today.