Amidst the ongoing labor struggle in Wisconsin and national efforts to cut programs while giving breaks to business, the race for a swing vote seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has heated up.
Billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries are funneling $5.6 million through the astroturf group FreedomWorks for an Ohio TV ad campaign starting March 18, 2011 that continues the attack on labor unions that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker started in February. FreedomWorks, a non-profit group heavily involved with organizing the Tea Party, does not disclose its corporate donors. The 30-second TV ad focuses on Ohio, but features discredited Fox News footage taken of an out-of-state protest, inserted in the ad order to depict Wisconsin union protesters as being aggressive. The ad blames unions for what it claims is a debt "crisis" in Ohio. It says, "We won in Wisconsin, but the fight must go on," and urges viewers to call a phone number to "Thank Governor Kasich for leading the fight against Union corruption in Ohio."The ad doesn't mention that a Wisconsin judge temporarily blocked implementation of Governor Walker's anti-union bill over a potential violation of open meetings laws incurred in the way the highly-contentious bill was pushed through Wisconsin's legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has backed off a March 14 announcement that he would effectively eliminate Senate Democrats' right to vote during committee hearings and sessions. At first glance, it may appear that Fitzgerald and company are retreating from weeks of out-of-control decision-making, but the more likely explanation is that blocking votes may be unconstitutional and illegal. Plus, the move was completely contrary to Fitzgerald's prior claims that he was only trying to force the fourteen back into Wisconsin and "back to work." In a temporary win for legislative sanity, Fitzgerald seems to have backed down for now.
The MacIver Institute, also known as the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, is a Wisconsin-based, free-market think tank formed in 2009 which also acts as a "news service," supplying videos and reports to media outlets, like newspapers and television broadcasters. But just who is the MacIver Institute?
The Utah-based "American Patriot Recall Coalition" (APRC) registered recall committees online February 18 for eight of the 14 "AWOL" Wisconsin Democratic senators, leaving the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) -- and many Wisconsinites -- with raised eyebrows.
"Any group from anywhere can register a recall committee, however that group must have a local person who lives in the district of the officeholder who's being recalled," explained Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Public Information Officer Reid Magney.
MADISON--Citizens from across Wisconsin have been calling the Center for Media and Democracy to complain about robo-calls they received pushing Scott Walker's agenda against public workers. The robo-calls have been bought and paid for by a shadowy Washington, DC-based group that calls itself the "League of American Voters" (LAV).
As the Center has reported previously, LAV has one employee, a failed politician from West Virginian named Bob Adams, and is the pet project of FOX "analyst" Dick Morris, a pollster who was fired in disgrace in 1996 for conducting phone calls with the President while conducting business with a prostitute serving his foot fetish at DC's Mayflower Hotel. After Morris' falling out with Democrats in the aftermath of the scandal, he became a frequent talking head on FOX and a serial author of books bashing Democrats. The latest book he is pushing is one that praises the reactionary positions of some of the politicians elected last year, like Walker: "Revolt! How the Governors Are Changing American Politics ... Permanently." His pulp pieces are peddled on LAV's website as rewards for donations.
Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's confession that he talked with political allies about potentially hiring "troublemakers" to disrupt the peaceful protests in Madison have drawn more questions from lawyers, police, Wisconsin state legislators and the mayor of Madison -- and a lot of spin by Walker. Through a spokesman, Walker has said that throughout the prank call he accepted with a fake "David Koch" that he "maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse." He continues to insist that the budget repair bill is about the budget, and that people other than him suggested using troublemakers to disrupt the crowd. Walker also maintains that he says the same thing in private as he does in public. But despite these responses, questions continue. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz sent a letter to Walker asking him who made the suggestion to disrupt the protests, what was the nature of the suggestion, and asking what was Walker's immediate response to the proposal. The mayor also asked Walker why he rejected the "troublemakers" proposal due to political considerations rather than on legal and moral grounds. Walker has so far failed to publicly answer the growing number of questions about his statements, and public interest groups have been forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the details of Walker's conversations about stirring up violence.
The conservative American Recall Coalition, a group from Salt Lake City, Utah, is leading the charge to reel in eight Democratic Senators in Wisconsin who are among 14 lawmakers who left the state in protest of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB).
The out-of-state group last week filed with the GAB website to recall the Senators, but initial filings did not have anyone from the local senatorial district as part of the recall requests.
"They didn't have any local people involved, so we contacted them and said they need to have one local person in each district," said GAB spokesman Reid Magney. "They withdrew those initial filings and made new ones and we are waiting for the signed paperwork."
The Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves appeared on Democracy Now to discuss the financial and political links between embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the industrial billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. "This is a situation in which a billionaire is exerting extraordinary influence, far more influence than tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents who have come out to protest his outrageous effort to destroy the unions here," Lisa said. She reminded viewers of the history of the Koch family and their political activities in the U.S.: "David Koch's father was a co-founder of the radical 1950s group the John Birch Society which opposed civil rights laws," Lisa stated. David Koch ran for president once back in 1982 on the Libertarian ticket, on a campaign platform much farther to the right than Ronald Reagan, in which he opposed Social Security, the minimum wage and other safety-net programs. After he lost that race, he spent the next 30 years forming a series of groups to advance his agenda of far right-wing positions. You can watch the entire video of the interview here.
Data gathered by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows no direct correlation between the size of a state's budget deficit and whether a state has collective bargaining or not. Wisconsin is projected to have a 2012 fiscal year budget deficit of 12.8 percent, but North Carolina, which is non-unionized and prohibits government employees from bargaining, has a significantly higher deficit of 20 percent. The state of Ohio, whose Republican governor, like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, is also pushing to curtail collective bargaining rights, faces a deficit half the size of North Carolina's. This shows that collective bargaining is unrelated to the size of a state's budget deficit. Rather, the size of a state's deficit is the result of the relative impact of the recession within that given state. What these Republican governors have failed to explain is how curtailing collective bargaining rights will create good jobs in the private sector or improve the lot of the struggling middle class -- the main concerns of citizens at the moment.