Tag: Wisconsin

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?

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.

Round Two in Wisc

After their spectacular failure in the Wisconsin judicial race, the Democrats managed to pick up two seats in last night’s recall election. One of these was a heavily democratic district, the other involved a senator embroiled in scandal. So really, they didn’t gain much. And they’ll still have to defend two flee-bagging seats next week.

This can’t be anything but a colossal disappointment to Democrats. A few months ago, they were certain that anti-Republican hatred and a surge of union money would tip the courts, oust six Republican senators and topple Satan Himself, Scott Walker. It was the re-igniting of the revolution. Now … they’ll gain a senate seat or two, for all their efforts, at a peak of GOP unpopularity. It turns out that the public really isn’t very pro-union. And it also turns out that while the public hates the Republicans, that doesn’t mean they like the Democrats.

I expect them to try to recall Walker next. I hope they do. I will be wonderful to see them pointlessly burn through even more of their political warchest.

The freak show in WI getting better.

For those of you that might have missed the aftermath of the Wisconsin off schedule special judicial elections I an update. But first a little background. The new governor of Wisconsin, the republican Scott Walker, ran and won the election on a promise to fix Wisconsin’s woeful fiscal state. As one of his first moves, he pushed for a law that would break the stranglehold public unions had on the state. The main issue was the cozy relationship between democrat lawmakers and the public union bosses, the two parties that ended up sitting across from each other during negotiations, where mandatory union dues, used by these bosses to live lavish lifestyles and to buy these democrats come campaign time with huge donations, that had left Wisconsin tax payer with impossible to pay for financial obligations.

Walker’s bill simply killed the practice of having union dues be deducted automatically. This would have basically meant the end to the union bosses’ ability to rake in massive amounts of cash while killing the stranglehold the democrats they bought had on any elections by the sheer volume of cash they received from these public union bosses. So the democrats, in an attempt to prevent this move that would have saved the Wisconsin tax payer but doomed them and their union boss buddies, fled the state to avoid a vote hoping that they could force the other side to drop the bill as they orchestrated a well backed, media supported, campaign of disinformation about what the deal really was. The media and even the WH came to their aid, and instead of the focus remaining on the real issue – how the democrats and the public union bosses had ripped off the Wisconsin tax payer to the point that the state was looking at the same fiscal future of California or Greece – they made it look like this was an anti-union movement period. It didn’t work well.

In the end the republicans found a perfectly legal way around the requirements that democrats be present for a vote and passed the bill anyhow. The left immediately went to their friends – the heavily partisan courts – to try to block it, and Judge Sumi, a hack of the first order, in an unprecedented move, issued an unsolicited injunction against the bill. A delaying tactic that didn’t do much good and was practically immediately turned over/vacated by the superior judge. Seeing that this would then make its way to the top, the left decided to focus on an off year special election for the Wisconsin supreme court where the sitting candidate, Judge Prosser, was already seen as a shoe in to win.

This election then grabbed national headlines as the left – both local and national democrats and their union buddies, whom the whole brouhaha that the law by Scott Walker was over – decided the way to stop the law was a simple majority on the supremes. Every union around the country and even the WH poured money and the usual astroturffer bussed in protestors in the hopes of propping up the left’s handpicked candidate, one with very little judicial or legal experience but whose qualifications as a partisan hack were impeccable, and challenged the foregone conclusion that Prosser would win. As usual with election in these lefty controlled strongholds, they waited till the last moment, when the other side’s tally was done, to send in just enough votes counted in the most heavy democrat precinct, to have their candidate win. In fact, with only a razor thin 250 or so vote margin, the democrat candidate Kloppenburg, declared victory. Only they either got outsmarted or justice prevailed, as their schemes used fell apart the next day, when it became obvious there had been a miscount that had kept all votes from a heavily republican precincts from being counted, and that with that vote, Prosser had won the election by picking up over 7.5K votes.

Kloppenburg’s team, whom had declared victory with a razor thin 250 vote margin and felt there had been no need to trigger the recount mandated under Wisconsin law when they where ahead, immediately called for a recount now that they where behind by some 8K votes. Ironic, huh? Anyway, the recount happened and in the end it was impossible for the left to “find” enough uncounted votes to prevent Prosser from wining anyway. Fade out Kloppenburg. But things got better: WI supremes threw out Sumi’s ridiculous stay, clearing the way for the bill to become law in a big win for the Wisconsin tax payers.

Anyway, the left did not give up, even after going down in flames, twice. Seeing their chance to use the supreme court in WI to simply overturn a law they didn’t like – the legality be damned – they decided to pursue other courses of action. Attempts were made to blame their defeat on money from the “evil” Koch brothers, all while ignoring the enormous amount of money poured in by the unions & the democrats and all the astroturffing efforts leading all the way up to the WH, that dwarfed anyone else’s involvement in this freak show. They even started a movement for recall elections, on both sides, which then strangely had the democrat’s request for recall elections against republicans certified, while those by republicans against the democrats that fled the state mysteriously suffered setback after set back and couldn’t be run at the same time. Nobody expects these elections to do much, but expect massive cheating from the left.

With the bill going into law every democrat in the state that could, started throwing out challenge after challenge, in the hopes of delaying the law’s enactment as long as possible for the democrats and the union bosses to quickly negotiate themselves one final deal. A deal that would stick it as hard as possible to the tax payers and the republican law makers trying their best to get the public spending in Wisconsin back under control. But in the end, Prosser was going to be seated and the Walker bill was going to be law of the land, and once the union members realized how much money they now had to voluntarily turn over to their union bosses, that practice was going to end quickly.

So the union bosses are now left hoping that either the recall election or door to door canvassing was going to save their lucrative money making scheme. I hold very little hope for the recall elections going their way, and I am not going to be surprised to find out strong arm tactics are going to factor heavily into coercing these union members to give up money once they don’t get it automatically deducted. It looks bleak.

But the left is anything but tenacious, and that’s where this story comes in. It seems the left now has an orchestrated campaign to go after Prosser based on the claim nobody will corroborate and the purported victim even remains silent on, that Prosser got physical – not sexually but the claim is he choked her – with another judge, and they are all ecstatic that they now can go after Prosser. They are all gleefully thinking this will give them their opening to get rid of Prosser. What a bunch of idiots.

If Prosser goes, and if he did this he should go, guess what happens? Scott Walker replaces him! Even more important is all the silence from everyone involved, including the supposed victim. There is only one logical scenario for this to be playing out as it is: This female judge Bradley started the attack, and Prosser retaliated. Both realized what that meant for them career wise, and decided to drop the issue. Now the left is hoping to use one side of the story to get rid of Prosser, and not even bright enough to realize that even if they successfully keep Bradley’s whole role in this out of the limelight, Walker gets to replace Prosser, likely with someone much younger and more dedicated too. But worse, that if they can’t hide Bradley’s role, and in the era where the blogosphere no longer allows the MSM to control the narrative and the truth will come out, that Walker gets to replace not just Prosser, but Bradley too. Like everything else they have done to prevent their cherry deal at the expense of the tax payers of WI from going away, it looks like the left is about to shoot itself in the foot yet again. Sweet!