Category Archives: Wisconsin News

The silence of the left is the Dems’ transparency hypocrisy

Posted in Weekly Newsletter, Wisconsin News on by .

By M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog.org

Last week we tried to imagine how miserable journalism school must be nowadays, given the astonishing degree of self-restraint necessary for the major media to not notice stories that would have had reporters climbing over one another, elbows flying, as recently as—well okay, maybe not so recently—before the Reagan presidency.

That silence is deafening among the left’s best friend, the mainstream media.

The left has remained silent about Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s open records games.

Abrahamson has hired an attorney to defend her in the records request filed by conservative targets of Wisconsin’s unconstitutional John Doe investigation.

That’s the same investigation into dozens of conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker that Abrahamson as chief justice helped administratively put in motion.

It was, according to court documents, Abrahamson who appointed reserve Judge Barbara Kluka to serve as the probe’s presiding judge. Kluka suddenly recused herself in October 2013, not long after signing off on the warrants and subpoenas that fathered the predawn, paramilitary-style raids on the homes and offices of several John Doe targets and the search and seizure of millions of documents. Those subpoenas were eventually quashed by Kluka’s successor, who found no evidence of illegal activity on the part of the targets.

But the state Supreme Court found plenty wrong with the John Doe investigation.  In July, the court found the probe “without reason or law.” Abrahamson wrote the dissenting opinion in the 4-2 ruling.

“My attorneys have requested information about Justice Abrahamson’s communications with other people involved in the John Doe (investigation), to determine the extent of her involvement in the planning and execution of this assault on our civil rights,” said Eric O’Keefe, long-time conservative activist and one of many targets of the probe.

“Instead of complying with our request, Justice Abrahamson is using taxpayer money to hire an attorney to assist her,” added O’Keefe, who has sued the investigation’s prosecutors for violating the constitutional rights of Wisconsin residents.

O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of 29 conservative groups targeted, filed the open records request with Abrahamson’s office nearly two months ago. They continue to wait for a response.

O’Keefe said Abrahamson directed that Kluka be named John Doe judge at the “request of her political ally, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.”

Abrahamson, in a letter to O’Keefe’s attorney, described the records request as “broadly stated.” She insisted that she must alert all of the parties who may be affected by the release of information. She cannot seek advice from Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel because of a possible conflict of interest, Abrahamson asserts.

The AG’s office represents several state defendants in the federal lawsuit Abrahamson recently brought. The justice sued the state after the passage of a constitutional amendment that ended up costing Abrahamson her long-time position as chief justice. She lost. She is appealing that federal court ruling.

“Is it plausible that Justice Abrahamson did this without any idea of the purpose of this supposedly secret John Doe?  We may learn that the one justice who really needed to recuse herself from the John Doe cases was Justice Abrahamson,” O’Keefe told Wisconsin Watchdog in August.

The open records request seeks records of communications between Abrahamson and employees of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, Kluka and former director of state courts John Voelker between Jan. 1, 2012 to the present.

The conservatives are particularly interested in records of communications and meetings between the justice and any employees of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office — including Chisholm, a Democrat, and assistant district attorneys David Robles and Bruce Landgraf.

“Justice Abrahamson has long been a favorite of the Democratic legislators and leaders in Wisconsin,” O’Keefe said. “What do they think about her participating in a John Doe investigation that was ‘without foundation in reason or law?”

“What do they think of her declining to recuse herself from a John Doe investigation launched by a John Doe Judge she named to the position?”

“What do they think of her refusing to comply with an open records request?”

There has been only silence from the left on this transparency issue.

 

Things the Court Got (Half) Right

Posted in Weekly Newsletter, Wisconsin News on by .

Supreme_Court_US_2014Sifting the wreckage deposited by the U.S. Supreme Court’s end-of-term decisions, it’s possible to find a handful of rulings for which we may be thankful. One of those affords some measure of protection to private citizens against government seizure of private property.

Notably, the favorable ruling in Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture came one day short of a decade after an abominable decision concerning eminent domain powers, tiptoeing toward correction of the Court’s mistake in Kelo v. New London.

We wrote several weeks ago about the Horne case, brought by a California raisin grower who balked at the seizure of large percentages of his crop by a New Deal relic called the Raisin Administrative Committee, the continued existence of which, if nothing else, proves that government overreach was not invented by the current crew of amateur totalitarians.

The Court ruled 8-1 that the government cannot confiscate personal property—raisins in this case but the possibilities are endless—without just compensation.  An optimist might also conclude that a brick has been pulled out of the foundation of federal programs designed deliberately to distort pricing in agricultural markets.

In Michigan v. EPA, the Court again went halfway toward correcting bad behavior, this time by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Court ruled, 5-4 that the rogue EPA could not lawfully proceed to regulate power plant mercury emissions without considering the cost, but declined to vacate the rule in place since 2012.  Further proceedings were ordered.

The Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels somewhat overstated the magnitude of the legal victory but in no way exaggerated the preposterous lengths the EPA has gone to justify what was, at its enactment, the costliest regulation ever.

Slim pickings, but steps in the right direction—and reminders of the judiciary’s limitations in securing our freedoms.

Time to give workers a choice

Posted in Jobs and the Economy, Wisconsin News on by .

Guest Column by Lorri Pickens

On Monday, I was pleased to announce the launch of Wisconsin Right to Work (WRTW), a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing freedom in the workplace. I will serve as its first Executive Director. Our primary goal is to ensure that all individuals, whether or not they choose to join a union, have the same benefits, rights and protections.

A Wisconsin-based organization, WRTW has no national affiliations and will advocate for Right to Work reforms through citizen engagement.  We believe now is the time to engage our citizens in a meaningful dialogue with opinion leaders and policy makers.

Wisconsin’s public employees’ strong desire for their right to choose is evidenced by the sharp decline in enrollment in teacher unions following the passage of the ACT 10 collective bargaining reforms. Wisconsin Right to Work believes private sector workers should have the same right to choose.

The benefits of giving all Wisconsin workers the freedom of choice extends beyond the freedom itself. Right to Work states enjoy faster job growth, lower unemployment rates and higher per capita income than non-Right to Work States.

Simply put, our economic future depends on workforce and labor reforms. As Wisconsin residents age out of the workforce, Wisconsin employers will rely, in part, on a young and educated pool of professionals. Yet between 2008 and 2012, Wisconsin lost on average 14,000 college graduates, while Right to Work states saw an increase of 11.3 percent in workers aged 25-34 over an eight year period.

Please visit our website at http://freedomtoworkwi.com, or like us on Facebook  and help spread the word.  For more information, contact Lorri Pickens at lorri@freedomtoworkwi.com.

A Call For Civility From the Journal Sentinel?

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Guest Column by George Mitchell

George Mitchell is an education and public policy consultant based in Milwaukee.

During the 2011 hysteria in Madison over Act 10 I sent an email to Journal Sentinel Managing Editor George Stanley. I observed to Stanley (and others) that opponents of Governor Scott Walker hurt their cause by resorting to thuggish behavior (death threats, nails in driveways, obscene graffiti, comparisons of Walker to Hitler, etc.).  Stanley responded that “both sides” were guilty.  When I asked, “Are you suggesting that the behavior of Walker supporters is comparable to that of his opponents?”  Stanley responded, in part, “I prefer honesty to bulls—.”  After I sought clarification of that comment, he wrote, “…[Y]ou’re just full of s—, that’s all I’m saying.”

Stanley wasn’t finished.  For good measure, he recommended I consider “turning honest…I like to think that every soul can be saved.”

This exchange came to mind as I read David Haynes’ Sunday Crossroads commentary, “A disagreeable state: Can Wisconsin citizens be civil again?”  Haynes, the Journal Sentinel’s editorial page editor, asked why liberals and conservatives “have to be so disagreeable” in discussing policy differences.  He suggested taking a “time out from demonizing one another to try to understand one another.”

There is much irony in such a theme being advanced by a leading editor at the Journal Sentinel. Apart from Stanley’s decidedly uncivil exchange with me, has Haynes not read some of the caustic emails Stanley sent this year to readers who objected to the paper’s John Doe coverage?

In light of its recent track record, the Journal Sentinel surely should think long and hard before casting aspersions about a lack of “civility.”  Indeed, the paper itself has contributed to the divisive climate that Haynes decries.

Nothing illustrates this better than the paper’s four-year stretch of reporting on John Doe investigations involving Governor Walker.  During that time the paper has trashed many principles of journalistic fairness.

For example, in the early years of the John Doe Journal Sentinel reporting relied heavily on sources who transmitted illegally leaked information.  Stories cast many individuals in a negative light, including people who were legally prohibited from comment.  The people portrayed unfavorably in the Journal Sentinel didn’t know who had spread negative information to the paper.  For legal and practical reasons, they could not effectively respond. Consequently, readers received a sliver of information — the opposite of transparency and balance (or journalistic “civility”).

The paper’s stream of damaging innuendo was a key ingredient of the decidedly uncivil stew that contaminated the recall election campaign that Walker faced in 2012.  Relying on Journal Sentinel coverage, Walker opponent Tom Barrett urged the Governor to “come clean.”  Following Walker’s recall election victory, Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate predicted that because of the John Doe Walker would see the “inside of a jail.”

Was there an overriding public purpose that justified setting aside the traditional journalistic principles of transparency, balance, and fairness? None whatsoever. To the contrary, relying on the unlawful release of selective information corrupted and eroded concepts central to our justice system.  This was anything but “civil.”

Fast forward to the current phase of the John Doe investigation, one premised on a “criminal theory” that is at direct odds with federal constitutional jurisprudence.  Haynes’ editorial board and Stanley’s newsroom are sympathetic to this theory.  The result? A series of articles and editorials that cast a dark cloud over activity that two judges have found to be legal.  The Journal Sentinel’s reporting and commentary have led several national media outlets to put Governor Scott Walker at the center of a “scandal.”  This dogged Walker throughout his successful re-election campaign.   Yet Haynes now positions himself apart from — and distinctly above — the rancor and divisiveness spawned in part by the Journal Sentinel.

Near the end of the recent campaign Haynes personally fell off the civility wagon.  A week prior to the election, an online media outlet (The Wisconsin Reporter) quoted a former longtime executive at Trek Bicycle Company as claiming Mary Burke had been fired from the firm.  A day later another former Trek executive effectively confirmed this story, thus exposing the media’s failure to examine thoroughly the portion of Burke’s resume central to her campaign.  Haynes responded with a lengthy editorial under the mantra “consider the source.”  Because the executives have conservative political leanings, the paper judged them suspect.  In an attempt to paper over its failure to vet Burke, Haynes and the Journal Sentinel effectively framed the news as a last-minute smear.

Haynes’ essay describes a time when “we [knew] and [understood] our fellow citizens better, and legislators of every stripe [got] to know one another.”  Set aside, for a moment, that this amounts to an airbrushing of actual history in Wisconsin and nationally.  To the extent Haynes is correct about bygone days, he also might have referenced an earlier era in Milwaukee journalism.  For example, I recall well the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a journalism student, a reporter, and later an official in state government.  The Milwaukee Journal of that period, led by editors such as the late Dick Leonard, was a model for the kind of discourse Haynes advocates.  Leonard would not have resorted to the kind of epithets that Stanley now throws around.

Stanley, Haynes, and other Journal Sentinel editors might consider some introspection.  Rather than blame readers who dispute the paper’s approach — a recurring Stanley posture — they should go “back to the future” (Haynes’ phrase) and consider how to restore a newspaper worthy of Dick Leonard’s stature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally sent to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board. They took a pass on running it.

Forget Impeachment

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Voter Ballot - Democrat or RepublicanWe don’t wish to be unkind to people who mostly share our sentiments, but those demanding to impeach Barack Obama need to brush up on how that works, and then brush up on the politics.  The last time congressional Republicans tried impeachment, with an arguably stronger legal case, it turned the country against them and cost seats they couldn’t afford to lose.

Which is not to say the standard for removing a president should be the opposition party’s chances of escaping political cost. That would give us the banana republic governance Barack Obama seeks to practice: unbridled political muscle and stop-me-if-you-can.

But it emphatically is to say a party seeking to demonstrate that it’s led by grown-ups and serious about constitutional governance—a demonstration we think most Americans yearn for—will ask the country to support stressful and divisive actions only if they can be reasonably expected to succeed. Pronounced tendencies toward theatrics without prospect of ultimate success (e.g., government shutdowns or an impeachment trial presided over by Harry Reid,) are one respectable reason why many voters remain wary of the GOP. The sheer awfulness of the Obama alternative is the key reason fewer stay wary today.

To crystallize the political implications, consider who’s talking loudest about impeachment: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, judging by the spam fundraising emails we see.  They regard impeachment as a gift, rallying a demoralized leftist base. If loose-cannon Republicans hadn’t brought it up, they might have fabricated the threat themselves.

Impeachment is a non-starter if Democrats keep the Senate majority and unnecessary if Republicans capture it.  Control of the Senate means the difference between Obama appointing one or more open socialists to the Supreme Court for life, and Obama appointing nobody.

Forget impeachment. Win some elections.

The Sleazy Way Out

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iStock_000029960092SmallDoubtless there are people who object to the Obama administration on racial grounds, overlooking the legitimate grounds on which they ought to object.

The inevitability of this being true—we’ll always have bigots—can be a powerful if disreputable weapon for one sufficiently shameless to employ the racial manipulation he imputes to others.

Meet Attorney General Eric Holder.

Mr. Holder’s whine—a strategic whine as opposed to a self-pitying one—got another airing on Sunday morning TV as he announced he’d challenge Wisconsin’s presumptively racist voter ID law.

Savor the quotes. This takes practice:

“There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder told ABC. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”

Nice touch. Simulate good faith by graciously conceding that not everyone who disagrees with the Obama administration is bigoted, while planting the suspicion that they probably are.

Let us submit other reasons for “a certain level of vehemence.” For instance, the open attempt to transform the whole country into the kind of place millions fled in recent centuries, preferring to live the way we still try to live here.

Vehemence is the rational response when a faculty-lounge leftist pops up, full of animosity toward the nation that elevated him to high office, saying,” Okay, America, time to turn you into something else.”

The current administration entered office with an unprecedented reserve of goodwill, and was elected twice by this supposedly bigoted nation.  Sleazy accusations of racism are an easy way out, changing the subject from what this administration is to how it appears on camera. The first of those two is what matters.

Burke’s Blunders

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Oops!!We think we’ve finally figured out the core strategic concept behind the Mary Burke for Governor campaign:  Commit every imaginable blunder as early as possible, exhausting the supply of potential embarrassments before most voters start paying attention.

At least that would give gullible Democrats an excuse to believe the past week’s pratfalls were evidence of some crafty strategists at work.

In fairness, the Burke campaign probably can’t be directly blamed for the announcement that its candidate has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. We have a hard time imagining a campaign organization so politically tone-deaf as to ballyhoo the fact that its candidate, a member of the Madison School Board, is who the teachers union longs to see occupying the governor’s office. Have they considered the implications of someone inquiring what the affection between Burke and the teachers’ union means for Madison taxpayers?

Then there was last week’s report that Burke, as Doyle administration Commerce Secretary, sent more than $12 million taxpayer dollars down the rabbit hole to lure a company that had no intention of expanding in Wisconsin and had actually laid off hundreds of employees before Burke’s boondoggle.

But the biggest blunder of all was last week’s proclamation by candidate Burke herself that she would outlaw all out-of-state contributions to candidates in Wisconsin elections. Never mind the apparent ignorance of First Amendment considerations, Burke is evidently so cynical that she expects no one will notice she’s already raised more than $1 million outside Wisconsin.

In recent elections, Wisconsin Democrats have benefited massively from out-of-state contributions, conspicuously from left-wing unions. Burke has clearly embraced the Leninist dictum: Always accuse your adversary of that which you yourself are about to do.

The Bean-Counter Caucus

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keepleftFunny thing, how people who make the loudest proclamations about how skin color and ethnicity have no relevance to a person’s prospects in life, often turn their attention to skin color or ethnicity ahead of anything else.

Along those lines, there were lessons aplenty in the Wisconsin Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus pondering the admission of White legislators who represent districts with predominantly Black or Latino populations. Apparently unacquainted with the concept of irony, the caucus opened the New Year by saying it would allow Whites to meet with their minority peers, but not to vote on caucus issues.

That could have been enough of a story all by itself, but when you’re in the business of racial credentialing, things get complicated. Questions arose over the Legislature’s newest Hispanic member, State Rep. Jesse Rodriguez, being invited to join the caucus.

If you thought that would be automatic, you probably didn’t realize that Rep. Rodriguez, an actual legal immigrant from El Salvador, is—how to put it politely?—controversial, and not in any of the good ways. Rep. Rodriguez, you see, is (cover the children’s eyes,) a REPUBLICAN!

State Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee), who chairs the Black and Hispanic Caucus, commented for a Racine Journal-Times story about Rodriguez’ potential participation.  Seven paragraphs in, Barnes, no doubt inadvertently, tips us off to what the caucus is all about.    It’s not really about race or ethnicity, it’s about peddling the same old Liberal crud. In this case, race and ethnicity serve as convenient firewalls against criticism of failed policy ideas.

Rep. Rodriguez knows how to offer that criticism.  In the Black and Latino Liberal Caucus it might have been a dose of reality even more unwelcome than voting by White legislators.

Fili-busted

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Break the rule conceptIn a decent world—which is to say not in this one—a Republican U.S. Senate majority after a future election might undo the havoc wrought by Harry Reid and his fanatical Democrats last Thursday and restore the protection of minority rights that was part of the Senate’s internal governance structure for more than two centuries.

But a sane Republican majority wouldn’t dare. They would owe it to the country not to do the right thing.

Coverage and commentary on Thursday’s brutish power grab has fixated on ending use of the filibuster to delay confirmation of most presidential appointees. But the harm goes even deeper than that.

It’s now established that any rule of the Senate can be changed at any time by a simple majority vote.

The plain meaning of this is that now there are no rules, because whenever one gets in the way of the leftist agenda, Democrats will feel free to sweep it out of the way. To call this the behavior of a banana republic is to insult the civic institutions of banana republics.

There should perhaps be no surprise, given a Senate majority and executive branch that pay no deference to the laws even they themselves have recently enacted. Nevertheless it’s worth quoting the current chief executive’s words on the Senate floor in 2005, when a Republican majority backed away from the action he lobbied his Democrats to undertake last week:

No majority party, he said, should “change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.”

To do the right thing in respect for so dishonorable an adversary would be suicidal. Ruthless partisanship is the last remaining defense against lawlessness and chaos.

Headlines from Around the State – October 16, 2013

Posted in Wisconsin News on by .

Senate takes up property tax cut; both chambers consider mascot legislation
October 15, 2013 Wispolitics

2014 elections could shake up Wis. government
October 15, 2013 Appleton Post Crescent

House GOP floats a counter to Senate’s debt idea 
October 15, 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Assembly approves 70 mph speed limit for Wisconsin freeways
October 15, 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel