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.
On March 18, 2011, the Cleveland Leader reported that Charles and David Koch -- billionaire owners of Koch Industries, an energy conglomerate that also makes a list of familiar household products like Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Lycra and StainMaster carpet -- are funneling $5.6 million to the corporate astroturf group FreedomWorks to run a television ad campaign in Ohio that scapegoats public workers. The ad depicts public workers and their unions as enemies and blames them for budget deficits in Wisconsin and Ohio. It features a discredited and deceptive Fox News video clip of protesters taken in a different state to try and depict Ohio's public-sector union workers as being mean and aggressive.
While Wisconsin protest coverage has focused on GOP efforts to limit public sector collective bargaining, less attention has been given to the Republican attack on the poor and people of color. On Saturday, activists gathered at the Exposing Colorlines event at the capitol to focus on the under-reported aspects of Walker's budget and proposed GOP legislation.
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.
WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT DEBATE BETWEEN INCUMBENT DAVID PROSSER AND CHALLENGER JOANNE KLOPPENBURG
10:00 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports:
With recently-released emails suggesting Prosser has contributed to discord on the state's highest court, Prosser recommended that greater civility could be achieved with "outside studies," and Kloppenburg questioned whether animosity between justices could cloud the decisionmaking process. She asked, "are judges making decisions based on law, or based on personal animosity?" Throughout the debate, Prosser circled back to ads being run against him by the group Greater Milwaukee Committee pointing out he did not prosecute a pedophiliac priest when Prosser was a District Attorney. "This is the worst ad ever run in a judicial campaign," he said. Both sides brought up ads run against former Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler by current Justice Michael Gableman that made the ludicrous suggestion Butler found a "loophole" to free a rapist so he could rape again (Butler was appointed the case as a public defender, got a new trial but lost at the Supreme Court, and the man served his entire sentence). While Prosser joined the half of the court that refused to censure Gableman for the ad, Prosser subtly compared it to the "pedophiliac priest" ad to turn the tables. Kloppenburg pointed out that the ads against Prosser were run by a third-party group, whereas the Gableman ads were produced by his own campaign. Nonetheless, Kloppenburg declined to ask the Greater Milwaukee Committee to take down their ads when challenged to do so by Prosser. The debate flowed into a discussion of campaign disclosure rules, an issue especially relevant in light of challenges to the state elections board expanding disclosure regulations. A case on this matter is currently pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Center for Media and Democracy has submitted an amicus brief in favor of increased disclosure. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court favored disclosure in its Citizens United decision, right-leaning groups making expenditures in the 2010 midterm elections benefitted from secrecy, suggesting that disclosure considerations would be a right-left issue. However, when asked about disclosure, Prosser suggested he would favor it, stating "I want to know who is smearing me in that third-party ad!"
A second judge has castigated Wisconsin Republicans for excluding the public from the legislative process. Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi has issued a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of Governor Walker's union-busting bill on grounds that the conference committee's rushed passage of the bill on March 9 likely violated state Open Meeting laws.
Protesters flooded The Homer Building in Washington, D.C., where BGR Group, an enormous and infamously right-wing lobbyist group has its offices.
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.
"Where did our money go? Down the Walker rat hole!"
Such was the popular chant Tuesday evening outside the downtown Madison Marshall and Ilsley Bank branch. Protesters rallied outside the small bank front on the Capitol Square.
M&I Bank, founded and based in Milwaukee, and its executives were top contributors to Governor Scott Walker's campaign fund in 2010. After Walker passed the controversial "budget repair" bill, eliminating collective bargaining rights for many Wisconsin public workers, M&I Bank found itself smack-dab at the top of two boycott lists.
"Who funds Walker? M&I Bank!"
The crowd of about 100 people gained steam as the protesting continued. At one point, a burly bald man with "M&I Security" emblazoned on his suit came out and told protester Miles Kristan he could not sit against the door of the bank because "it is private property."
Some of the Wisconsin politicians who just voted to destroy worker's rights are headed to Washington, D.C., to be showered in money from lobbyists for some of the biggest national and international corporations and banks.