Tag: Scott Walker

Walker Vindicated … Again

Color me surprised:

Dealing Gov. Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign gets underway, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Thursday ruled the governor’s campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws.

The ruling means the end of the investigation, which has been stalled for 18 months after a lower court judge determined no laws were violated even if Walker’s campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe.

This is the infamous “John Doe” investigation where government agents basically had an ongoing far-reaching investigation that involved, essentially, harassing Walker’s supporters and any other conservatives within reach with midnight raids, gag orders and endless investigation:

In international law, the Western world has become familiar with a concept called “lawfare,” a process whereby rogue regimes or organizations abuse legal doctrines and processes to accomplish through sheer harassment and attrition what can’t be accomplished through legitimate diplomatic means. The Palestinian Authority and its defenders have become adept at lawfare, putting Israel under increasing pressure before the U.N. and other international bodies. The John Doe investigations are a form of domestic lawfare, and our constitutional system is ill equipped to handle it. Federal courts rarely intervene in state judicial proceedings, state officials rarely lose their array of official immunities for the consequences of their misconduct, and violations of First Amendment freedoms rarely result in meaningful monetary damages for the victims.

Investigators would conduct armed police raids on the houses of Wisconsin conservatives. They seized computers, phones and as many documents as they could get their hands on. They then issued gag orders preventing the targets their neighbors what was going on. All this because of supposed violation of campaign finance laws; laws we now know were not broken.

You can read more from the WSJ:

For the past few days, I’ve been talking to the targets of the task force of Milwaukee Democratic prosecutors, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Their experiences, on the record here for the first time, reveal the nasty political sweep of an investigation that invaded privacy with surveillance of email accounts, raided homes with armed law enforcement, and swarmed individuals with subpoenas demanding tens of thousands of documents while insisting on secrecy.

Gabriel Malor shows just how empty this investigation was:

The theory of the prosecutor’s case was that conservative groups had illegally coordinated with candidates for office by means of issue advocacy. Applying well-settled principles of election law, the Wisconsin high court holds that this goes too far because “[d]iscussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election.” The courts have long treated express advocacy—that is, speech directly supporting a candidate for election—as wholly separate from issue advocacy—that is, speech about political issues. The court explains that, insofar as the Wisconsin statute purports to regulate issue advocacy the way that it does express advocacy, it is overbroad and vague under both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Wisconsin’s own Article 1, Section 3.

Read the whole thing. The judges were brutal on the prosecutors saying their investigation was “unsupported by reason” and “employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing”. This isn’t just saying there’s no evidence; this is saying the investigation was a complete travesty designed entirely to harass Wisconsin conservatives.

The Democrats had a lot riding on this. Just a few months ago, they were writing smug posts on how the John Doe investigation was going to crush Walker’s Presidential campaign. Now the investigation is in ruins, their slimy tactics open for the world to see.

I am honestly amazed by what we’ve seen in Wisconsin. Vicious election fights. Recall elections. The legislature fleeing the state. An aggressive intrusive useless investigation from the people who’ve spent the last decade vilifying Ken Starr for his “politicized investigations” that … um … produced thirty felony convictions.

And all of this just to get one governor. What the heck?

The Fear of Walker

It is currently March of 2015. The next presidential election is safely 20 months away. For the moment, Hillary Clinton is the presumed front-runner for the Democrats. She hasn’t declared yet because she knows the allegations of corruption and incompetence will come pretty quickly. Her hope is that she can ride her current popularity through the inevitable shitstorm. The shorter that ride is, the more likely it is to end at 1600 Pennsylvania.

(A big shoe dropped this week when it was revealed the Clinton was using her personal e-mail to conduct State Department business in violation of State Department rules. More will come.)

The Republican field is still in flux but Scott Walker is emerging as a potential candidate. Walker has a good chance since he’s conservative enough to rally the base but has also won three elections in a blue state.

So how do you react to this if you’re a Democrat?

You panic.

A couple of weeks ago, Rudolph Giuliani made a silly statement about Barack Obama. Walker refused to comment on it. This was not evasion; this is Walker’s style. He prefers to avoid political bullshit and concentrate on policy. During the debates for his last election, his opponent tried to goad him into some kind of outburst and Walker refused, sticking to the boring trivia of, you know, running the state.

Nevertheless, the media exploded when he refused to condemn Giuliani’s remarks. Similar accountability is never applied to Democrats. Hillary Clinton will not be asked to denounce everything said by Al Sharpton or Robert Reich or Bernie Sanders. But apparently if Walker refuses to denounce a fellow Republican for an unofficial remark, it’s the end of the world.

Then, of course, you have the union thing. The WaPo ran a piece on Walker’s union-busting, conveniently forgetting that the legal changes were entirely about public employee unions. (Since the article was written, the Wisconsin legislature has passed a “right to work” law. I’ve written about that before.)

Thus far, a couple of warning shots. Nothing major. But this weekend, it got really stupid. First Jezebel, then the Daily Beast, then every left wing blog on the planet ran an article claiming that Scott Walker had stopped Wisconsin universities from reporting sex crimes. That report turned out to be total crap:

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

The fail here — apparently involving a reporter who wrote a recent ill-informed hit piece on Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept — is amazing. They ignored that sex crime reporting is a federal requirement and can not be overridden by a state. They didn’t bother to call Scott Walker’s office or the University of Wisconsin to confirm it. They didn’t apply any degree of skepticism. They went right to some bizarre idea that this was macho posturing by a Republican candidate.

The thing is, there is substance to go after with Walker. He’s set to sign a right-to-work law after saying it wasn’t a priority. He has changed his position on immigration. He just cut $300 million from the State university system. And after balancing Wisconsin’s budget, he enacted an ill-advised tax cut that could plunge the state right back into debt. Maybe you like those policy decisions; maybe you hate them. But criticizing him for those policies would at least be substantive.

I have no idea why they are going after him for this garbage except that … they have to demonize Scott Walker. Not just for practical reasons, but for emotional ones. To the Democrats, any Republican president seems demonic. And nothing is more demonic than a Republican candidate who could win.

Another Walker Probe

This is interesting:

Americans learned in the IRS political targeting scandal that government enforcement power can be used to stifle political speech. Something similar may be unfolding in Wisconsin, where a special prosecutor is targeting conservative groups that participated in the battle over Governor Scott Walker’s union reforms.

In recent weeks, special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has hit dozens of conservative groups with subpoenas demanding documents related to the 2011 and 2012 campaigns to recall Governor Walker and state legislative leaders.

Copies of two subpoenas we’ve seen demand “all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communications” both internally and between the subpoena target and some 29 conservative groups, including Wisconsin and national nonprofits, political vendors and party committees. The groups include the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity—Wisconsin, American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, Friends of Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

One subpoena also demands “all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing to the corporation.” In other words, tell us who your donors are.

The President of the Wisconsin Club For Growth states that there have been dawn raids on political entities where computer records and files have been seized. And they are demanding the names of donors that groups are not legally obligated to reveal.

The subpoenas don’t spell out a specific allegation, but the demands suggest the government may be pursuing a theory of illegal campaign coordination by independent groups during the recall elections. If prosecutors are pursuing a theory that independent conservative groups coordinated with candidate campaigns during the recall, their goal may be to transform the independent expenditures into candidate committees after the fact, requiring revision of campaign-finance disclosures and possible criminal charges.

The thing that make me skeptical, as the article goes on to mention, is that this has happened before. A previous investigation alleged that Walker had used his office as Milwaukee County Executive to campaign illegally. That three-year investigation was used by Walker’s recall opponent to slime him but produced only a handful of charges against a few staffers. It looks like the Democrats are using the same playbook — throw out a huge investigation so that Walker’s 2014 opponent can portray him as corrupt. And that they might intimidate Republican donors makes it all the sweeter.

We’ll see what comes out of this. I suspect the investigation will, like the previous one, drag out through the election, find some small violations and proclaim victory. But it’s yet another sign of how frustrated the Left is getting. They really thought that Wisconsin was some kind of turning point in American politics. It was … for conservatism. And they’re still hoping mad about it.

Walker Wins Again

Another setback for the unions:

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights in a decision hailed by Republicans but not undoing a state court ruling keeping much of the law from being in effect.

The decision marks the latest twist in a two-year battle over the law that Walker proposed in February 2011 and passed a month later despite massive protests and Senate Democrats leaving for Illinois in a failed attempt to block a vote on the measure.

There are a huge number of related lawsuits involved in this, including the state court ruling that the law couldn’t be applied to schools and local government employees. I suspect, at some point, this will come under one umbrella before SCOTUS.

The Wisconsin Judiciary Strike Again

Hmmmm:

Gov. Scott Walker’s law repealing most collective bargaining for local and school employees was struck down by a Dane County judge Friday, yet another dramatic twist in a year and a half saga that likely sets up another showdown in the Supreme Court.

The law remains largely in force for state workers, but for city, county, and school workers the decision by Dane County Judge Juan Colas returns the law to its status before Walker signed the legislation in March 2011.

Colas ruled that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by capping union workers’ raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts. The judge also ruled that the law violated the “home rule” clause of the state constitution by setting the contribution for City of Milwaukee employees to the city pension system rather than leaving it to the city and workers.

The decision could still be overturned on appeal – the Supreme Court has already restored the law once in June 2011 after it was blocked by a different Dane County judge in a different case earlier that year.

I think this is likely to be overturned on appeal again. Colas’ arguments seem a bit weak. The Wisconsin court has specifically recognized that unionized and non-unionized employees are different and can be treated differently; otherwise what is the point of a union? The judge’s logic seems to be that unions can be treated differently when it’s to their advantage, but not when it’s to their disadvantage. I find that prospect dubious.

This is the second legal case to go to the Supreme Court after the “fleebagging” and multiple recall elections. It is amazing the lengths the Democrats will go to to bankrupt their own state and assure the firings of thousands of state employees.

Update The more I think about this, the more it annoys me. Both the courts and the Democrats have signed off on numerous laws that restrict free association: card check, forced unionization, collection of dues from non-union members. Both are fine with punishing people for not being unionized. Now they suddenly get constitutional religion?

Walker Wins

It looks like Scott Walker has won the recall. More than that, he appears likely to win it by larger fraction than his initial election in 2010. But this has no national implications. No siree Bob.

Discuss amongst yourselves. And think about all the money burned on recalling a governor not over malfeasance, incompetence and corruption but over a policy disagreement — a disagreement that instantly vanished from the recall campaign.

Wisconsin Update

There are various signs that Scott Walker may survive the recall effort. He is leading in the polls. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal endorsed him. Barret, in last night’s debate, crossed me as a man without ideas, simply repeating the line that Scott Walker “divided the state” over and over again*. He is still not saying how he would balance Wisconsin’s books. This is probably because he can’t tell the truth — that he would leave Walker’s reforms in place — without being slow roasted by his supporters.

(*I love the logic here. Passing reforms? That’s dividing the state. Fleeing to Illinois? Bipartisanship!)

I won’t relax until the votes are counted. And recounted. And challenged in court. And recounted. And the subject of a stupid Michael Moore movie. But there are reasons for hope. And the biggest reason for hope? The Democrats are already saying that the Wisconsin election has no national implications. Nope, no sir. It’s been said in a lot of places, but let’s just go with the Miss Verbal Diarrhea herself:

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said Friday that if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) doesn’t prevail over Gov. Scott Walker (R) in next month’s Wisconsin recall election, there won’t be any ramifications for Democrats nationally.

“I think, honestly, there aren’t going to be any repercussions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a broad-ranging interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

“It’s an election that’s based in Wisconsin. It’s an election that I think is important nationally because Scott Walker is an example of how extreme the tea party has been when it comes to the policies that they have pushed the Republicans to adopt,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But I think it’ll be, at the end of the day, a Wisconsin-based election, and like I said, across the rest of the country and including in Wisconsin, President Obama is ahead.”

This is, to quote the President, a cowpie of distortion. If Walker is defeated, how long do you think it will take for the Democrats to declare that this a national referendum on budgets, unions, the Tea Party, Mitt Romney, conservatism, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the designated hitter rule? Ten nanoseconds? If Walker loses, there will be a bloodbath of people stampeded by Democrats rushing to the nearest camera to declare that the American people have finally had enough of crazy Right Wing agendas. In fact, DWS tries it in that very interview, saying this has no national implications except the rejection of Tea Party extremism.

They’re scared. They’re scared that more states will follow Wisconsin’s lead (as many — both Republican- and Democrat-controlled — already have). They’re scared that all the efforts of the party, their MSM propaganda wing and the various Hollywood celebrities who paraded around Madison will come to naught. Wisconsin was supposed to be where the tide turned, where the thinking people of this country finally turned back the wave of Tea Party craziness. It may still happen. But if it doesn’t, they are going to be bitter.

Hence, the backing away and avoiding eye contact.

The Wisconsin Elephant

The big story for the next month is going to be the recall of Scott Walker. The Democratic primary is on Tuesday and they seem to be coalescing behind a semi-electable candidate. And then, in June, we’ll have the recall election. If you want to keep up, I highly recommend Ann Althouse (actually, I recommend her even if you could give two shits about the election). She’s front-and-center of the fight, objective and insightful.

For obvious reasons, I see this is a critical election. State employee benefits are the bomb hovering over the fiscal futures of many states. And it matters who is making the decisions. Steven Malanga explains why:

Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person.

Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.

The reason is because Illinois employees get extremely generous healthcare benefits and pensions, funded entirely by the state. Even Rahm Emmanuel is beginning to notice businesses fleeing for Indiana and Wisconsin. Illinois is the disaster Walker wanted to avoid.

But there is a political price to pay for that. Or … maybe not. The funny thing is that the Democrats aren’t running on the issue that sparked the recall.

Since last summer, unions have been throwing millions at defeating the man who reformed collective bargaining for government workers and required union members to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums, modest contributions compared to the average in private business. As the May 8 Democratic recall primary nears to determine who will run against Mr. Walker on June 5, this should be their rhetorical moment ne plus ultra.

So, let’s see. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front-runner, has focused his campaigns on jobs, education, the environment and “making communities safer.” One of Mr. Barrett’s ads singles out “Walker’s War on Women,” with nary a mention of collective bargaining. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by union groups, but even her issues list makes only passing reference to collective bargaining.

There’s a very good reason they aren’t running against Walker’s reforms: because they’re working. Wisconsin property taxes fell for the first time in two decades and their business environment is now ranked as top 20. The state has already saved a billion dollar, mostly by allowing governments to shop for health insurance rather than forcing them to buy it through the union. And, in fact, the changes saved union jobs, allowing costs to be cut without firing teachers. Thousands of union employees still have their jobs today — albeit with lesser benefits — thanks to Walker and the Republicans.

The Democratic refusal to run on this issue is an acknowledgement that Walker was right.

The unions can see how dangerous this is. The only way we are supposed to deal with these problems is by raising taxes. If Walker is re-elected, it will not only vindicate his reforms but show that politicians can take on the unions and still win re-election. And so they are pulling out the stops.

(Of course, this stop out-pulling is coming without the media terror that would ensue if this were a Right Wing recall. If Sarah Palin talked about “taking out” a governor, she’d be forced to apologize, unlike Richard Trumka. If outside money were pouring in, we’d hear about Koch Brothers and Citizens United. And I’m sure the unions will try to re-ignite the protests — only without the hand-wringing that accompanies Tea Party rallies. The fight in this election is on many fronts, the media being one.)

Keep an eye on this election. And if you live in Wisconsin or know those who do, encourage them to vote like hell. This may end up being more important than the November election.

Walkering the Bottom Line

It’s been a little over a year since Wisconsin exploded in response to Governor Walker’s reforms. What are the results? Well, we won’t know for many years. But early returns are
good
:

For the first time in decades, school administrations are now actually able to administer their districts without union interference, and the savings have been huge. The MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin think tank, reports that of the 108 school districts that completed contracts with employees, 74 of them, with 319,000 students, have reported savings of no less than $162 million.

The biggest area of savings have been in health insurance. The teachers union insisted that districts use the union’s own health insurance company to provide coverage. No longer forced to use a monopoly provider, districts have either switched providers or used the threat of switching to force the union health insurance company to dramatically lower premiums. Savings have averaged $730,000 in districts that have switched providers or forced competitive bidding.

One of the result of this has been fewer layoffs of teachers. This despite shrinking state aide.

The unions and their supporters will respond that the negative impact will take a long time to be felt when fewer people want to go into teaching. That’s a fair point. But given that they also claimed these reforms would not save much money, I would take that with a grain of salt.

I worry that this debate will miss the important point. The biggest problem with our education system is not that we pay teachers too much, although the pensions and benefits are a big budget issue. The larger problem is that teachers, principals and administrators are hamstrung by red tape and regulation. What’s really needed is more local authority, not top-down solutions. There have been some proposals recently to allow a majority of parents to fire teachers or privatize. While I agree with Neal McCluskey that this is probably a bad idea, I think the philosophy behind it — more accountability, more educational freedom and more local control — is fundamentally sound.

Scott Walker, Real Job Creator

For those 25 million out of work, relief is about 1 week away. Although nobody will be watching (let’s see, do I want to watch the Packer/Saints game or Obama stumble through yet another attempt at a big government solution to something it was never suited for? Tough call) a cutting edge sure to please the sycophantic easily impressed WH press corps jobs proposal will be presented, thumb? Meet hole in dyke. With a shovel in one hand and a shiny new costly stimulus plan in the other, we will be introduced to the results of all that brain storming between bike rides on his new Schwinn and all the gopher killing golfing. But no sooner did he secure some air time when this was announced, something people really want to see.

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have decided to have a pillow fight, in lingerie, on September 8th. The event just happens to coincide with Obama’s jobs plan speech. Coincidental like. Purely accidental.

Asked for comment, Obama said, “f*ck you.”

Giving the president an early boost Wis. governor Scott Walker has already grabbed some bull horns, and managed to get rid of some dead wood in the process:

Pity Ginny Fleck. She is a 69-year-old German teacher in the Green Bay Public School District who has decided to retire as a result of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s requirement that teachers now pay in to their pension accounts.

According to the state Department of Public Instruction, Fleck’s total compensation package was $88,292 last year ($58,750 in salary, the rest in benefits.) She estimates Walker’s reforms will cost her $8,000 this year — so her compensation package would only be around $80,000 — an apparent slap in the face for a teacher nearing 70 years old. According to this Associated Press article, Fleck has decided a salary of zero would be preferable to taking eighty grand of Walker’s blood money.

In retiring, Fleck has joined with nearly 5,000 other public-school employees in hanging it up this year. That is nearly twice the number of retirements Wisconsin school districts traditionally see in any given school year — 2,527 called it quits in 2010. That’s 5,000 teachers who have decided, in the words of a famous Pearl Jam song, that they would rather starve than eat Scott Walker’s bread.

It should be noted that this old biddy will not be starving or earning zero in salary, she will have a nice fat cushy pension to keep her warm at night. A pension which she was paying zero dollars into for all these years but now with Walker spurred changes, teachers will have to actually contribute some of their own money into their pension, oh, the outrage. What has caused all these altruistic doing it for the children and not the money teachers to say ,”What? the gravy train is over? see ya” is that now they will have to pay 5.8% of their monthly salary into their own pension plan and 12.6% into their own healthcare (still a bargain, wait till Obamacare kicks in).

Another thing to consider and something that affected me personally, walking away from working and retiring is easy to do with a pension to fall back on. Wisc. teachers use the highest 3 years salary to calculate pensions, they can max out at 70% (for me it was 90%). 70% for doing nothing vs. 100% (minus these new changes that will reduce the monthly payout)for continuing to work, depending on your financial situation, not such a tough call after all.

All these new openings for teaching positions will spur the Wisc. economy and reduce unemployment (two people paying taxes into the system, one still working and one retired) but where before there was one teacher doing one job, now there is one teacher at that job and one ex teacher drawing a pension sitting at home. Whether that is a net gain for productive output, probably a wash.

I will probably Tivo Obama’s job speech, not missing NFL, and I hope the smartest president in history and all those ivy league pinheaded academicians on the WH payroll can come up with something remotely in line with free market capitalism/private sector job growth, but more than likely this will be another petulant “killing my buzz” attack on those that have so far impeded his progress and more expensive debt growing big government “been there/done that” stuff of the past.