Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wisconsin, I hardly recognize you!

At the turn of the 20th century, Wisconsin government was rife with corruption. Big business and wealthy plutocrats controlled the politicians and thus controlled the government. They had their puppet politicians pass laws that benefited them regardless of who might be hurt by them.

This high level of corruption gave way to a progressive movement led by Fighting Bob LaFollette. LaFollette, who was a Republican, led the way to clean up the government, enacting laws that returned the government to the control of the people. He led the way to busting trusts, enacting election reforms and creating the Wisconsin Idea. The changes brought on by LaFollette and other progressives have well served the people of Wisconsin for over a 100 years.

Ironically, LaFollette was a Republican.

It's ironic because this week, modern day Republicans are in the process of removing the last remnants of LaFollette's legacy of good government.

This week, Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans have started pushing through three bills that would end good government.

The first bill would change campaign finance laws, opening the flood gates for dark money to come pouring in:
The legislation would double the amount of contributions that state and local candidates could receive from individuals, and would adjust that limit for inflation every five years.


Under the bill, political parties and legislative campaign committees could make unlimited donations to a candidate committee.

The bill would allow legislative campaign committees and political parties to receive unlimited contributions, with the exception of a $12,000 per year limit on PAC contributions to those committees and parties.

The legislation would allow unlimited contributions to be made to and transferred between political action committees. Recall committees and referendum committees could also receive unlimited funds, and unlimited funds could be donated to pay expenses related to a recall or recount. Candidates could also make unlimited personal contributions to their own committee.

The proposal would ban candidates from coordinating with outside groups on express advocacy — calls to vote "for or against" a candidate — but would place no restrictions on coordination on issue advocacy.
In an interesting twist and a brilliant maneuver, each and every Democrat recused themselves from the vote, pointing out that they have a conflict of interest because it would directly affect their own campaign committees. The Republicans were at a loss at having their blatant corruption and greed exposed like that, but not enough so to keep them from passing the bill anyway.

Now, obviously, by opening the flood gates for dark money like that, it also opens the door to even more corruption and ethics violations.

To deal with that, the Republicans are also set to dismantle the Government Accountability Board (GAB), a nonpartisan panel of former judges that investigate campaign finance and ethics violations. The Republicans want to replace the GAB with two partisan panels - one for campaign finance violations and one for ethics violations - each consisting of three Republicans and three Democrats. This will leave the committees at stalemates on almost every issue.

On top of that, each committee is given a very small budget to use to conduct their investigations. If the committee would need more money, they must ask the Joint Finance Committee for that extra funding. Of course, the Joint Finance Committee has a huge Republican majority, making it highly unlikely that they would approve any funding to investigate themselves.

It was this kind of set up that allowed the caucus scandals of fifteen years ago to happen. In that scandal, both parties were using their government offices as campaign machines, having government staff spending most of their time fundraising and performing other political operations.

As the gentle reader might have guessed, many of the people caught up in that scandal are also behind the legalization of corruption now.

The only and very small ray of hope is that it appears that some Republicans in the state senate haven't had their moral compasses totally destroyed and are balking at this measure.

Just in case the Republicans might have missed something that still might allow one of them to get caught with their hands in the dark money cookie jar, they added one another safeguard for their crimes - the killing of John Doe probes for political crimes. Walker, who was the subject of not one, but two, such probes, is very eager to get that on his desk before he gets subjected to a third investigation.

Now, there are probably lots of folks that are thinking what Wisconsin needs is another Fighting Bob LaFollette to come and restore good government. In a way they are right.

But what we really need here in Wisconsin is for us to realize that we are the next Bob LaFollettes and reclaim our state.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be in Wisconsin, listen real carefully and you'll hear a whirring sound. That's Fighting Bob spinning in his grave.


  1. You cannot shame these Repubs because they have no moral compass.

  2. It might be time to move to Chicago where the union interests are still held higher than the taxpayers and voters interests.

    1. Nationally, unions are favored by more than 60%. Secondly, taxes are still lower in Illinois. Things are even better in Minnesota. You're really out of touch with reality.

    2. Tell that to my father whose pension was just cut by the teamsters. Yet they found 6 million to give to the democrats last year. Only 11 percent of workers are in a union, so 60% seems a bit high. Tell me you would feel comfortable about your pension if you lived in Cook county? And over in Minnesota, the dems just took back control of that state, so give them some time. It will be CA like before we know it.

    3. Businesses cut employees, not unions.
      Unions have programs that support laid off workers. Hope that clears up your confusion.

    4. You mean away from wo where the interests of wmc outweigh the taxpayers?

    5. Well, my father was not fired. his pension was cut 12 years into retirement even though he paid into it for decades and it was promised to him by his union. Where is his union program to help him now? You can research teamsters central states pension fund. Its a shame, and its why unions will lose even more support in the future.

    6. I really do appreciate the irony of hearing someone who is so vehemently anti-union complaining about the results of the anti-union policies he embraces. Sadly, apparently you don't have the insight to see how you and those you support have hurt your father.

    7. I know that president Carter eliminated ICC's control over the industry, but after that its all on the unions inability to both attract new members and the mishandling of the money they did collect. My opinion that public unions are a drain on the taxpayer and public budgets has nothing to do with the private sector unions demise. Even with right to work, if they were as good for workers as they claim, they would have no problem bringing in new members. But to say weakening public sector unions hurt the teamsters doesn't make any sense. This pension was doomed a decade ago and nobody said anything. Saying we need to force union membership is like saying if we forced more people to invest with Bernie Madoff we could have avoided the end of his pyramid scheme. He seemed to manage his fund like the teamsters.

    8. That is a false argument. Right to Exploit Workers laws are designed to reduce wages - a fact that many proponents of such laws have admitted. If you can't afford to be in a union doesn't mean it has no value. It just means you can't afford it.

      By your logic, since most people can't afford prime cuts of meat, it must mean that they are not very good.

    9. So the answer is to force the union upon them? like health care right? So whats to afford? a pension you cant rely on? A big fat salary for a big fat union boss? Or the 6 million in contributions that they give to the democrat side of politics?

    10. If unions are a dying breed, why do the big govt republicans keep legislating them out of existence and not let the free market decide?

    11. Thanks to the Taft Hatley Act, no one can be forced into a union. So why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make it harder for people to exercise their right to be in a union?

    12. Jeff, the unions used their constituents money to put democrat politicians in place to make laws that favored unions. It was merely union bosses thinking if they could rig the system to their favor they wouldnt have to compete for membership. What has been happening now is only balance being put back into our republic system. People still have the right to form unions, except now you just have to give them a reason to do it. And without having the system skewed in unions favor it is getting tough to do so isn't it? Not to mention tough to hide the mismanagement we have seen at the public and private union funds.

    13. You have no idea how much I wish I could make my own reality like that but I guess in the end it doesn't matter because when it's not true you are the only one living it.

      The unions used the money freely given them to advocate for policies that help them, like every other group in the world. Unfortunately for the workers, every dollar they put in the kochs, diane Hendricks and wmc were giving ten.

      There was no system rigged in their favor, every gain they got they went back three steps. If you study history you know it's never been rigged in their favor. Everytime they get a gain about safer working conditions for example, people have to die horrible deaths to get that gain.

      Now thanks to big money and big government republicans they are being legislated out of existence because allowing the free market to work it would go the other way.

      Under act10 you can still be in a union you just gave to certify yearly( from the guys who hated the recal) and you can not negotiate anything.

      Under " right to work" you can join a union but by law the union has to provide you their benefits anyway.

      The list goes on and on and on.,...

      I will admit that there is occcassionak mismanagement in unions, it's a people run organization and it happens. However the people that whine about that keep pumping millions into wedc which makes it kind of hard to take their concerns serious.

    14. right now, in Milwaukee, the minimum wage for a contracted employee is over $11 per hour. Unless it is a union employee, then there is no minimum. Tell me that wasn't put in place to give union contractors and unfair advantage bidding for public contracts. And then tell me if you think the voting public wanted that, or the politicians that the union backed and funded to get into office? This is the bias we used to see state wide with things like WEA trust insurance. Again what we are seeing now is only a requirement that unions compete without a legislated advantage.
      I too can admit some measures passed are designed to make it harder for unions to flourish, but if they hadn't went to far as to lose the faith of the taxpayer they wouldn't be going through this. There has to be some correction, we can clearly see that unions (like big business) cannot be left without oversight. Again I'll use Cook county Ill. as my example of that.

    15. Umm, wrong again.

      The minimum wage, which is a living wage, is waived for union workers for two main reasons.

      One, they negotiate their own contract. Unlike your RTW laws, this allows unions and employers to set the terms that they both agree with.

      Secondly, because unions negotiate their own contracts, the lower wage is in exchange for safer work conditions and better benefits, which can actually save taxpayers money.

      My advise - read up on the history of unions and how they work. I think you just might be surprised that a lot of the things you now think simply are not true.

    16. I see, its a living wage. Sounds like to me the union shops would not be able to compete without it. Again its legislated in by democrats who are backed by unions. Odd I didn't see this living wage for government contracts on a referendum.
      Secondly, If unions save the taxpayer so much money what is the problem in Chicago? It would seem to me union contracts are bankrupting that city, and maybe the state.
      Its becoming pretty clear to all how unions work as their membership falls.

    17. Hmm, could Chicago's woes be due to a Walker-wannabe governor and a corporate Democrat mayor? And why mention only Chicago? Minnesota strengthened their union laws and increased the minimum wage and are now leaving Wisconsin in the dust.

      And what is so bad about getting people out of poverty anyway, whether it's directly through a union or indirectly?

    18. Well, Chicago is screwed. How unsettling would it be to have your pension held by that city? You would think the union would be doing something about that. Other than blaming the politicians that they did not get elected. I'm assuming their politicians would have them alongside Detroit even quicker. As far as Minnesota, it seems they are just starting down this dark path. They haven't run out of other peoples money to spend, yet. I know that they have done a good job over the years attracting business, It will be interesting how this new minimum wage will affect that. Its been eye opening following the stories coming out of the west coast as they push their minimum wages to living wage levels.
      Doesn't it take away another reason to unionize when government mandates wages? Or is it your opinion that unions should be able to pay less to their employees by working around these laws like in Milwaukee? I guess that is saving taxpayers money, but first you had to cost the taxpayers money to enable that. Which one of us is making his own reality? lol. My father worked for less for that pension. Look where that got him.

    19. I would say that it probably as unsettling as having your pay withheld like it is here in Wisconsin. It's even more unsettling when you know that the pension/pay is being withheld so that corporate controlled politicians can give it to their corporate donors.

      Funny thing about Detroit is that they were doing fine until the state elected a Republican governor. But I'm sure that is just another coincidence, right?

      The west coast is booming, if you hadn't noticed. Or if you're willfully trying to turn a blind eye to the facts that aren't supporting your hate.

      What I am really enjoying is that while you are griping about the effectiveness of organizing and collective bargaining, your Republican presidential slate is using the same things to fight the "liberal media" in order not to be asked the hard questions in debates.

      Finally, I am still savoring the irony that you are still complaining about how the anti-union stance you embrace is hurting your family. I take no pleasure that your father is being harmed by your myopia, but the irony is breathtaking.

    20. Well...I'm not looking for empathy, my fathers pension is a victim of the very system you endorse, regardless of who you want to say is to blame.
      These republican governors were only elected in Ill and Michigan after the voters have seen where democrat politics have gotten them. They are voted in to pick up the pieces and you want to blame them for the problem. It will be the same for president. Obama doubles the debt and we hear crickets. Until there's a republican in office, then I will be forced to read all these articles blaming republicans for it. Unfortunately half of the population is dumb enough to believe the propaganda you seem to endorse.
      The real irony is conservative leadership saving you from the very same end result that was suffered in Detroit and soon to be in Chicago. West coast is booming? Somebody needs to open their eyes.
      and this:
      I don't feel I have an anti union stance, they definitely had their place in history and have helped balance the power between labor and industry. Are they needed anymore? Is it worth paying dues to a public union that wont be able to pay pensions? I guess that will be the workers to decide. Just don't come crying to the taxpayers when your retirement funds are used to elect politicians and there is none left when you are looking to retire because the only news you chose to take in was the reports that re-inforced your dream reality.

    21. Yes, running two unfunded wars would have nothing to do with the debt. Right.

      And yes, I always go to dark money propaganda front groups to get my information. It must be all those economic woes that caused more communities to expand their minimum wages to living wage levels, right?

      And yes, the unions are needed just as much, if not more, than ever before. BTW, public unions don't cover the pensions. That is a fund managed by the government. So if it comes up short, like the Milwaukee County one did, it's because of two possible factors. One, the markets crashed, like it did twice under Bush/Cheney. Two, politicians weren't meeting their obligations, like Walker willfully failing to pay into it.

      Perhaps if the unions had more influence, union busting pols like Walker and the other Republicans wouldn't be elected, the economy would be doing better, and your father's pension would have gone up instead of getting slashed. Own what you did to your dad.

    22. At times I have to stop and wonder how you can justify the statements you make. How can you blame Obama spending on the war effort when he ran on giving up those efforts and effectively putting the middle east up for grabs to anyone, whether or not they are friendly to us. No, Obama did something much more dangerous with the 10 trillion of debt he alone amassed, he spent it on entitlements, essentially addicting half of the population to big government cradle to grave handouts. That alone is enough to topple our democracy, but then again I think that is the goal.
      For whatever reason you want to blame it on, public sector, defined benefit pensions are in trouble all over the country. You say its not union run, but rather controlled by politicians. I say that's even worse for the employees. Almost as crazy as linking our healthcare to federal government. We will see these pension plans moving to defined contribution plans, and it will be another reason the unions wont be needed.
      I know you don't see any logic in this, that is why combined with the lack of understanding basic economic principles like how requiring a living wage to every worker will effect the economy, I can say no, I don't believe unions should have more power to influence politics. And that goal to influence politics is reason enough to say goodbye to the public unions.
      Thank you for engaging.

  3. The Repubs are drastically over-playing their hand and this arrogance of power is being seen for perhaps the first time by the typical Wisconsinite who until now bought the media supported Walker vibe that Wisconsin was moving forward. When the state loses another 1300 jobs in September and Walker and the Republican legislature produces bills that have no bearing on our sinking economy and are of no consequence to the person on the street Ray Charles could see what they are doing. Top this off with Walker wanting to borrow more money for road construction but have the loan paid back out of the General Fund instead of the stand alone transportation fund and we have the perfect excuse for Walker to cut funding for schools, the environment and healthcare! Walker and his Republican's in the legislature have created this fiscal mess and small town and rural people in Wisconsin are seeing that after 4 years of this governing we are sliding backwards and being left behind in the nation. In spite of re-districting favoring Republican candidates and they allowing for tons of dark money to buy elections the people might have had enough come the 2016 elections!!!!!

  4. These actions by Wisconsin State Republican Representatives is an announcement of their fear of prosecution for past political activity and their intent to commit future unethical acts.