Thursday, October 30, 2014

Connect the dots on Marqutte Poll, and a pro-Walker result makes sense

I wanted to follow up from my article yesterday on the flawed analysis of what Marquette University called a “likely voter” (and we're already near 1,000 page views since I posted it). Let's flash back to 2012, to give you some perspective on why my BS detector was going off when I saw media running with the “Walker by 7” result that is nowhere near reality.

Let me guide you to a couple of articles showing how the Marquette Poll came to be, and the people who started it up. First of all, take a look at Bruce Murphy’s column in Urban Milwaukee from October 2012 where he described how the right-wing oligarchs at the Bradley Foundation got their stink tank at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute in bed with PoliSci professors in Wisconsin.
[Then-WPRI President George] Lightbourn brought on Ken Goldstein, a highly regarded professor of political science at UW-Madison with a national reputation as a top pollster, who was a frequent expert guest on broadcast media shows. Goldstein’s polls — which included surveys of cell phone users — didn’t come cheaply. The WPRI’s federal tax form for 2010 shows it paid him $398,250 for the year.

But liberals were suspicious of the university lending its name — and star scholar — to a conservative think tank. Scot Ross, who then ran the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, requested Goldstein’s emails with Lightbourn, and found a couple eyebrow raisers, as the Associated Press reported....

In reaction, UW officials asked the WPRI to stop using the university’s logo and stopped providing graduate students to work on these polls. Within a year, Goldstein stopped doing polls for WPRI and soon took a job as president of Kantar Media CMAG, a Washington, DC-based political consulting firm. He also teaches at George Washington University.

Not long after this the Marquette Law School cut a deal with Goldstein’s longtime colleague at UW-Madison’s Political Science Department, Charles Franklin, to do polls for MU. Franklin, who co-founded Pollster.com, is also highly regarded nationally, and has a deal to do polls through the entire 2012 year.
And the Journal-Sentinel then cut a deal with Franklin to have him as sort of their in-house pollster under the guise of his job at Marquette Law School. In addition, the J-S hired WPRI hack Christian Schneider as a regular columnist, and allowed Mike Nichols to continue to have regular column space in their paper after Nichols replaced Lightbourn as WPRI’s president in 2013. Between that and the pro-GOP and anti-Burke framing from “watchdogs” like Dan Bice and the increasingly absurd “Politi-crap” segment, and you wonder why we think there might be a right-wing bias afloat down at Fourth and State in Milwaukee?

Now let’s go back to One Wisconsin Now’s lawsuit to get UW-Madison’s open records on its deal with WPRI and Ken Goldstein’s polls in 2010. Here’s what the people at OWN found out.
Scot Ross, a liberal muckraker who runs the group One Wisconsin Now, was critical of the deal from the beginning. He said his "worst fears were confirmed" after he obtained e-mails under the open records law showing WPRI President George Lightbourn lobbied Goldstein to publicize results from one question in a way favorable to its agenda.

The question asked whether government funding should be used for school vouchers, which WPRI supports. A majority of residents statewide were opposed, but those surveyed from Milwaukee County were in favor.

Lightbourn wrote Goldstein he was concerned critics would portray the data as showing a lack of support for vouchers and asked for the Milwaukee County results to be emphasized. The university's press release read: "School choice remains popular in Milwaukee."

And of course, Franklin’s setup with the private Marquette Law School comes with the perk of the public not having the right to know what’s really happening (much like the issues relating to Scott Walker leaving the school in 1990, come to think of it). In 2012, Ed Garvey at the old Fighting Bob blog discussed the ability to get info on these polls from UW and Marquette, with some interesting differences in disclosure.
We were intrigued by the partnership and asked the UW legal department, under Open Records, to provide all the details to Fighting Bob [in 2010]. The UW complied. We read the documents and learned a lot. For example, WPRI and UW Poli Sci tried to remain outside the reach of open records. Transparency was not a goal! They actually put in the memorandum of understanding that indeed they could keep all the information from the public. The memos were fascinating because it was clear that Poli Sci would do the heavy lifting but WPRI would own the material, frame the questions, own the results, and would give the poll results the "spin" desired. And WPRI could simply toss the results they didn't like, and no one would ever know. The partners agreed that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dave Umhoefer would get the data before any other reporters. After his story was written, other media people could obtain the polling results. JS pants on fire, soul missing in action.

But when the partners realized that their work would be subject to Open Records, the partnership immediately dissolved. They would find a new way to hide the polling material. Aha, go to private school Marquette--not covered by open records! Huzzah. Poli Sci prof Charles Franklin became ubiquitous throughout the recall process. The Journal Sentinel used the Franklin information to inform who was leading, who was behind, etc. The voters had no choice but to accept the Marquette findings.

We asked who was paying for the Marquette Law School poll but never got an answer. We asked who staffed the Marquette Law School polling operation. No response. Back to the money. It costs about $10,000 to do the calling for each poll. Who pays? Who designs the poll? Who frames the questions asked?
Hmmm, and notice Franklin always asks a few voucher questions in each of his Marquette Law polls, and he never mentions the reality that vouchers take away state funding from Wisconsin public schools. You don’t think the Jesuits at Marquette (whose schools benefit from voucher funding) and other Bradley Foundation-related funders of the Marquette Law Poll might want a certain outcome on that question, just like they did in 2010? I’m not saying Franklin’s lying or covering up when it comes to the voucher issue or pro-voucher candidates (like Scott Walker), I’m just saying it’s an interesting parallel to what happened with Goldstein at UW-Madison.

I’d also strongly encourage you to read Dom Noth’s write-up of the Marquette Poll and the pro-Walker Journal-Sentinel’s slavish devotion to it as the “facts on the ground.” Remarkably, Noth wrote this article 2 days BEFORE the last Marquette Law Poll.
The pollster and opinion makers recently discussed their thinking in an interesting Milwaukee Press Club panel. Watch carefully though and you will see justification rather than explanation for how well Burke as a political newcomer is doing against those entrenched politicos. Charles Franklin doesn’t dwell on the reasons (his final Marquette poll comes out Oct. 29), perhaps because he realizes that he got far more JS coverage when Walker was five points ahead Oct. 3 rather than recently when Burke eliminated the gap (and is ahead in some respected polling models).

But here’s a funny and it comes right back to JS honesty. Another respected polling company, Gravis based in Florida, had Burke up five points the same week Marquette had Walker up five points, yet not a mention in JS. The Gravis people told me they noticed and were amused since they thought their sample and methods were as comprehensive. (also noteworthy is how Gravis reversed course, and said they had a bad sample in their original poll, “correcting” to a 4-point Walker lead days after Marquette Law had “Walker +5.” No sketchiness there.)

There are unnoticed reasons why JS is playing up the Marquette poll so heavily. First, it is local and it is reputable, run by a university. But it is also advised by former Journal Communications regulars Mike Gousha and Alan Borsuk. During their tenure Journal Communications had its own expensive and careful Journal polling division, regularly used to headline newspaper and TV opinion reports, much as Marquette’s poll is used now. A private university has filled the gap of the newspaper’s fading fortunes and is being pumped into prominence equally hard.
Note that the oligarchical interests of Marquette Law and the Journal-Sentinel would likely be helped with a Walker re-election, and is it really ridiculous to think they might be encouraging a tweak there and a nudge here with this big newsmaking poll?

I freely admit that I may be biased and off-base here, and maybe there’s nothing sneaky going on. I credit Charles Franklin with making his poll results as available and in-depth as he does, because I wouldn’t have discovered the reasons behind the odd disparity between the two sets of polls yesterday if that wasn’t the case. Maybe all Franklin is guilty of is the innocent mistake of an overly-restrictive “likely voter” screen that overestimated Scott Walker’s support, and underestimated Mary Burke’s.

But you should admit that the 6-point gap between “likely” and “registered” voters in that poll gives Franklin an out regardless of what happens with the November 4 results. If Walker somehow wins by 5 points or more (which is well above what most thought the race stood a few days ago), any sketchiness in that number could be covered up by saying “See, the Marquette Law Poll said he was pulling away.” Likewise if the election results are close and/or Burke wins, Franklin could say, "Well, I did have it be a 1-point race with registered voters, and that’s within the margin of error. Looks like Dems that supported Burke ended up turning out."

Hey, you can credit Franklin’s registered and (to a lesser extent) likely voter polls for ending up right in 2012, and that is worthy of lending some creedence to these numbers (although I noted, MU Law was way off in the two presidential polls prior to the final one in October 2012). I also look at the interests of the people paying his salary for these polls and combine it with the pro-Walker bias that has been endemic to the Journal-Sentinel in this 2014 campaign, and that poll has an awful strong whiff of BS to it.

Bottom line, let’s get out and vote on November 4, and don’t let the sketchiness of one poll out of numerous ones that have been taken be something that prevents history from taking place.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guv's race still even, as "likely voters" =/= ALL voters

Yes, the numbers that were part of the Marquette Law School poll that came out today in Wisconsin for the governor's race was shocking, and there is a reason why. Because it doesn't reflect reality. Marquette’s definition of a “likely voter” does not capture all of the voters that will go to the polls, which goes a long way toward explaining how a 46-45 Scott Walker lead in a poll of registered voters can turn into a 50-43 lead among “likely voters.”

Why is there such an (absurd) disparity? Because the Marquette Poll thinks no one who says they aren’t 100% certain to vote isn’t a “likely voter.” The amount of people who responded that they were “Very Likely” to vote are 8.9% of the registered voters, and those that said they were “50-50” about voting are 4.9% of the voters. It is reasonable to assume a majority of this 13.8% will end up voting in the November elections, especially given the amount of attention that these races are being given. But the media lazily is running with the Marquette “ certain likely voter” screen as a snapshot of what things look like, and it’s simply not true.

Those “very likely” and “50-50” voters lean heavily toward Mary Burke. You’ve already gotten a hint at this with the difference in Party ID from the LV to RV poll shifting 5.5 points toward the Dems. But look at where the “will probably vote” types end up.

Very likely/ 50-50 voters
Burke 52.4, Walker 32.0

And unlike the “ certain likely voter” group, this group isn’t so approving of Scott Walker.

Walker approve/ disapprove
Likely voters- Approve 52, Disapprove 46
“Very likely, 50-50” voters- Approve 37, Disapprove 51

That’s a 20-point swing to the negative among a group that will have most of its members voting, but were not captured in the “likely voter” poll. The same dynamic shows up in the favorable/unfavorable numbers, where the “unlikely but in reality quite likely” voter really prefers Burke over Walker.

Favorable vs. unfavorable, Very likely/ 50-50 voters
Walker 33.0%-51.0% (-18)
Burke 34.3%-31.0% (+3.3)

There is also a racial element to this, as there is a notable difference in the ethnic breakdown of the electorate in these two polls

Race of respondents, Marquette Poll Oct. 23-26
Likely voters- White 86.1%, Black 3.7%, Hisp 3.7%, Other/Misc 6.5%
Registered voters- White 83.1%, Black 5.0%, Hisp 4.3%, Other/Misc 7.6%

Percentage of racial group that are “Very Likely, 50-50 voters”
White- 8.0%
Black- 25.1%
Hisp 22.2%
Other/Misc 21.2%

Gee, you wonder why the Dems are hitting on “TURNOUT” as a big theme the last two weeks? It sure helps explain why President Obama was on the north side of Milwaukee yesterday urging Wisconsinites to get to the polls.

These discrepancies show up in another category in this poll that I’ve discussed before -the “Party ID with leaners” category, where the vast majority of Mary Burke’s “rally” from 5 points down to even in the last Marquette Poll was simply a function of not oversampling Republicans, and shifting the sample back toward a more typical party ID for a midterm. Well, the same dynamic holds here, where the overly white, more pro-Walker poll of “likely voters” has a heavily Republican slant.

Likely voters- R +2.7, Result: Walker +7
Registered voters- D +2.8, Result: Walker +1.4

And as mentioned in that same article, a typical midterm electorate is likely to be around D+2 or so. So take the registered number as the one more likely to be reality.

In addition, a wonky figure showed up within one of the ethnic groups in the poll that I don’t trust. It’s related to the Hispanic respondents. This goes back to a point I made in light of a fivethirtyeight.com article 3 weeks ago, where Hispanic respondents in polls can be disproportionately Republican (based on who will pick up and answer and English-speaking poll), and not fit the reality of the Hispanic electorate.

All Hispanic voters- Walker 48-39
Hispanic voters who already voted- Burke 78-15
Hispanic voters favor Voter ID 53-37.

May I remind you that Hispanic voters went 66-32 for Obama in Wisconsin in 2012, so unless there’s been a 40+ point swing to the GOP in the last 2 years in the Hispanic community, and that they’re now agreeing with the xenophobic backers of voter ID who want to “catch the illegals,” I’m going to guess that these figures a little off as well.

Bottom line, there’s really no change with this poll, and do not buy into the lazy media memes that will try to claim “Walker takes a lead” in order to discourage Dem hopes and Dem turnout. Now maybe Walker leads by 1 or so in aggregate in the polls, but as I’ve brought up, Dems have outperformed the polls in November by 3 points in each of the last 2 November elections in Wisconsin. Which means with a good Dem turnout, Mary Burke and Susan Happ (who’s tied in the RV polls) will likely be victorious on Tuesday night.

SO MAKE IT F’ING HAPPEN!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Walker's ad shows his FAIL on unemployment, not success

I was watching Monday Night Football last night in bed with my wife (it’s never a bad thing when the Cowboys lose), and a Scott Walker ad came on. Since the wife had the remote for the channel, I had to throw up my phone in front of my face to avoid having to deal with most of the BS in the ad, but I did catch one part of the ad where Walker talks about Wisconsin’s unemployment falling from a peak of 9.2% to the 5.5% today, and Walker takes credit for it.

Of course, Walker is being dishonest from the start, because he was 1 year from taking office as governor in January 2010, and those final 12 months of the governorship of Jim Doyle and a Dem-controlled Legislature featured the largest 1-year drop in Wisconsin unemployment during the recovery from this recession. Wisconsin’s unemployment was down 7.7% by the time Walker took office, a decrease of 1.5%, and has only fallen by 2.2% in the 44 months measured since then.

Bad enough that Walker is trying to take credit for the work that Jim Doyle and the Dems did to get the start going in the right direction in 2010 (we also added more jobs in 2010 than in any year under Walker), but he’s also taking credit for the Obama Recovery that has dropped unemployment all over the country, and especially in the Midwest. Take a look at this chart, which compares the rise and fall in unemployment for the U.S. as well as Wisconsin and three of our Midwestern neighbors since before the start of the Great Recession, which began at the end of 2007.



It’s interesting to note that Wisconsin’s unemployment started at 4.8% (the “bad old days” when Mary Burke headed up the Department of Commerce), and actually stayed below 5% until September 2008- 5 months after all of the other states had broken that barrier, and the U.S was shooting past 6%. You can also see that Wisconsin never reached the double-digit peaks that both Indiana (10.8%), Illinois (11.4%), and the U.S. as a whole (10.0%) would hit, and started dropping in 2010 faster and farther than the country as a whole.

With this chart in mind, here’s how Wisconsin shaped up compared to these Midwestern neighbors and the country as a whole when Scott Walker took office in January 2011.

Unemployment rates, January 2011
Ill. 9.4%
U.S. 9.1%
Ind. 9.0%
Wis. 7.7%
Minn 6.8%

So Wisconsin was 0.9% higher than Minnesota, 1.4% below the U.S. average, 1.3% below Indiana, and 1.7% below Illinois. Now compare that to where we are at the last month that was measured, in September 2014.

Unemployment rate, September 2014
Ill. 6.6% (-2.8% vs Jan 2011)
U.S. 5.9% (-3.2% vs Jan 2011)
Ind. 5.7% (-3.3% vs Jan 2011)
Wis. 5.5% (-2.2% vs Jan 2011)
Minn 4.1% (-2.7% vs Jan 2011)

So all of these places, as well as the country as a whole, have reduced unemployment at a notably faster rate than Wisconsin has since Scott Walker took office in January 2011. Minnesota is especially interesting to note, as they started from a lower rate and yet have reduced its rate further, to full-employment levels of 4.1%. Wisconsin is not close to doing the same.

Here’s another way to look at it, where we compare these four states with the U.S. rate. So a number below 0 would indicate a rate below the U.S’s amount, and a number above would be a higher rate. In addition, if a state is losing ground to the rest of the nation, the number on this chart will move “up”, while if they’re reducing unemployment at a faster rate, the number will drop. Take a look at the trends since the start of 2007.



Look at how Wisconsin’s numbers dive from early 2009 through October 2010- the time period that Jim Doyle and the Dems had complete control of Wisconsin’s government. Sure, these weren’t great times because we were undergoing the worst economy in 75 years, but compared to the rest of the nation, us and Minnesota were doing pretty darn good. By comparison, look at how first Indiana and later Illinois got hammered with the recession, and while both recovered by late 2010, Illinois missed out on the drop in the unemployment that followed nationwide over the next 3 years, but has dropped by quite a bit recently.

You also can see that Wisconsin has missed out on a significant amount of the nation’s 3.9% drop in unemployment during the last 4 years, as our “advantage” over the next of the nation declined from 1.9%, when Walker was elected in November 2010, to 0.4% by the end of 2013. It’s varied between 0.4% and 0.8% for all of 2014, while Minnesota’s “advantage” has stayed between 1.6% and 1.9% for the year, and is still 1.2% below us. With the exception of a few good months at the start of 2014, Indiana has mostly been in tandem with the U.S. rate over the last 4 years, and now sits exactly between the unemployment rates for the U.S. and Wisconsin, at 5.7%.

So in looking at this chart, it is absurd for Scott Walker to take credit for any of the drop in unemployment that has happened in Wisconsin in the 56 months since unemployment topped out in January 2010. The first 12 months featured the fastest drop in the state’s unemployment under the Jim Doyle Administration and Democratic control of the State Legislature, and the lower unemployment in the 44 months since comes down to two words- “THANKS OBAMA!”

In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that Wisconsin should be in a much better spot than we are today, with our neighbors in Minnesota continuing to add jobs to the point of full employment, and Indiana and even Illinois getting a sizable amount of their people back to work in 2014 after particularly tough times. The fact that Walker has to cherry-pick these figures and be this dishonest at this point in the campaign should give you an idea just how bad this guy’s record is. And it's also why he needs to be gone before the Obama Recovery ends, and our region and our country faces the next economic slowdown.

Wisconsin righties still clinging to joke of trickle-down

I try to avoid seeing or listening to Scott Walker on my TV when I can, but apparently he gave some more insight and excuses into his economic theories when he was interviewed by Mike Gousha over the weekend. I got word that Walker said cutting taxes would raise revenue for the state, and he cited something called the "Kohl's Curve" in doing so.

Now, a quick check of the Google didn't show a hint of this "Kohl's Curve", but I think I've heard a similar thing from the retail world, and it basically has to do with putting items on sale. That there's some point where people start buying enough items as prices drop that revenues go up for the store.

Translated over to the tax world, this means that lowering taxes to some point makes people earn more money, and then tax revenues go up for the government. Or in other words, the Laffer Curve, discredited garbage from 40 years ago which has not worked anywhere since federal tax rates for the rich were lowered past 50%.

And there's a second part to Walker's statement that is extremely offensive, because he's implying that the average person can randomly work harder when taxes go down and they'll magically be paid more. Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy? Just snap your fingers and hey, we get paid more! There's only one group of people that get the luxury of picking their own compensation- trust funders and CEOs who decide how much money they can skim off the top for themselves before giving any compensation to the people below them.

For 99% of us, the ability to choose your own compensation is rare (at best), and not that related to the effort you've put in for the last few months. But such ridiculousness is fitting of someone who hasn't worked a real job in his adult life other than living off of the largesse of right-wing donors and GOP bubble-worlders.

So keep this in mind as the election nears next week. After 4 years of underperforming job numbers and revenue shortfalls after last year's tax cuts, Scott Walker is still listening to the 1%ers and PACs that fund his campaign when it comes to economic growth, and he thinks of people's take home incomes to be as disposable and optional as clothes or appliances. These people have no clue, and must be removed from positions of power as a result.

Monday, October 27, 2014

George Will's rant reiterates right-wing money-laundering in John Doe

DC right-wing bubble-worlder George Will decided to wander into the governor's election in Wisconsin, as well as the issues surrounding campaign finance in the ongoing John Doe investigation. You can click here if you want to read Will's rant, which is really no different than the spin you could get on any AM right-wing GOP-aganda station in Wisconsin. The great Charlie Pierce responded to that article by showing the absurdity of Will's argument and the conflicts of interest that Will didn't disclose to the readers. That conflict comes from the fact that Will is on the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, whose president and CEO is Michael Grebe. The Bradley Foundation has funneled dark money to a large number of right-wing groups to influence policy and elections, and Grebe has also been the chair of Scott Walker’s three campaigns for governor since 2010.

As this chart from One Wisconsin Now’s Bradleywatch.org shows, Grebe and Bradley Foundation influence (and their money) goes far beyond the walls of its downtown Milwaukee offices and the Walker campaign.



These funds include a $250,000 Bradley Prize that George Will received in 2005, which was given out for “strengthen[ing] the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the [corporatist, right-wing] ideas to which they were committed.” As the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch noted back in June, the Bradley Foundation has also backed many of the people under investigation in the John Doe investigation.
[The Bradley Foundation] has given $3,006,220 between 1998 and 2012 to groups directed or founded by Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, who sued in federal court to halt the investigation.

Bradley has donated $205,000 between 2003 and 2010 towards the George Mason University “judicial junkets” attended by Judge Rudolph Randa, the federal judge who ordered the destruction of evidence gathered in the probe (the judge whose ruling Will mentions in his article, a ruling later overruled by the Court of Appeals. Randa also has suspended rules prohibited coordination between parties until after November’s election). This includes $115,000 during the years that Randa is known to have attended.

Bradley Foundation board members have donated over $100,000 to Walker in his two gubernatorial races. Other Bradley board members have close ties to Club for Growth.
And another one of the places PR Watch notes that the Bradley Foundation has thrown large amounts of money to is organizations that print right-wing propaganda rags like the Wisconsin Distorter Reporter- a publication that has written numerous articles attempting to discredit the John Doe investigation as well as Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm.

Now, I may have taken my Journalism classes at UW-Madison 20 years ago, but I seem to recall that we were supposed to disclose any potential conflicts of interest to our editors when we wrote columns about organizations we might be involved in. Will apparently doesn’t believe those ethics apply to him, nor does he reveal that it is likely that the Bradley’s Foundation’s doings over the last 4 years are a part of the elaborate right-wing money-laundering and tax-evasion scheme in Wisconsin that the John Doe investigation is all about. Not that we didn’t know Will was a fact-challenged right-wing DC shill who hasn’t had an thought-provoking idea in decades, but to not reveal that he belongs to an organization that is engaged in the sort of activities being investigated is sleazy, and does a disservice to unknowing readers (well, if anyone still reads George Will in a serious manner).

And speaking of John Doe.... the Center for Media and Democracy isn’t just shining the light on what the Bradley Foundation does, they filed a complaint today with the IRS against the John Doe targets at Wisconsin Club for Growth. The CMD claims that CfG abused its tax-exempt, 501-c-4 “social welfare” status by collecting and funneling millions of dollars to help Walker and other GOP politicians in Wisconsin.
For example, Walker and his staff referred to fundraising for WiCFG for the purposes of “raising money for Walker’s possible recall efforts.” When Walker raised funds for WiCFG, he was instructed to tell potential donors that, in contrast with direct donations to his campaign or those of state senators, “donations to WiCFG are not disclosed and [it] can accept corporate donations without limits.” Walker boasted to Republican operative Karl Rove about the role of WiCFG in the 2011 senate races, writing “We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities).”

WiCFG spent at least $9.1 million on Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and funneled almost $10 million more to other politically-active groups—some of which were controlled by WiCFG officials—yet told the IRS that it spent $0 in political activity in 2011 and 2012. Almost the entirety of WiCFG’s $20 million budget over those two years was spent on influencing elections rather than on “social welfare.” WiCFG’s primary focus was political campaign activity, CMD’s complaint alleges, thus making it ineligible for tax-exempt status.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that WiCFG operated primarily to advance the private interests of the Walker campaign and the Republican Party. An organization is not eligible for tax-exempt status if it operates for a substantial private purpose, and activities undertaken to provide a partisan benefit are considered to serve private interests, rather than the common good.

WiCFG was led by Walker’s top paid campaign advisor, R.J. Johnson, and campaign staff instructed Walker to refer to WiCFG as “your” 501(c)(4) when fundraising for the organization. Donors gave to WiCFG for the purpose of supporting Walker’s agenda; the memo line of one $50,000 check to WiCFG reads “501c4-Walker.” Millions in WiCFG funds were transferred to groups that campaigned for Walker, and millions more were spent protecting the seats of the Republican senators who supported Walker’s agenda.
You can read more on the CMD’s complaint against the CfG in these documents here, and you can even access all 200+ pages of exhibits (most of which come from previously-released John Doe documents) at the website as well.

And this is where it all traces back to DC and George Will’s interest in this Wisconsin John Doe case. Because it doesn’t just involve Will using the media to GOP-agandize for his fellow Bradley board members, it involves the entire dark money train that is the lifeblood of today’s Republican Party. Look who's at the top of that picture showing Michael Grebe and the Bradley Foundation's money-laundering- it's former Wisconsin GOP Chair Reince Priebus- the current head of the Republican National Committee. There is little doubt that this is going on in a much larger scale at the national level, and this is why Congressional Republicans shrieked and obstructed the IRS’s investigations into whether these organizations were illegally ducking taxes and laundering money, because it would give away just how nefarious and deep-reaching these schemes are, and would reveal to the public just who gives the orders that these politicians follow (HINT: it’s not anyone you or I associate with on a daily basis).

George Will, Michael Grebe, Scott Walker and the other oligarchs that they front for don’t think we deserve to know who the puppetmasters are in this country and in this state, and that’s why they’re doing everything in their power to get in the way of justice in the John Doe investigations. It has nothing to do with “free speech” (that somehow costs millions), but it has everything to do with hiding who these people are, who they’re working for, and what agenda they’re really up to.

And it won’t change till they are voted out, and/or indicted and made to pay a severe price for their law-breaking. And that’s why PR Watch’s move to demand an IRS investigation is such a good one, because an IRS audit and the information that comes out of it could be what blows the entire right-wing money-funneling operation wide open.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

This week in WisGOP corruption- selling DOT building to buddies

The Capital Times' Mike Ivey deserves credit for unearthing a big story this weekend. It relates to the plans the Walker Administration has for the DOT's Hill Farms State Transportation Building, and it's not something they wanted us to know about before this election.
he state earlier this month quietly posted a request for proposals (RFP) for a developer to design and construct a 600,000 gross square foot office building on the 21-acre site along Sheboygan Avenue. Parking would be a mix of a ramp and surface spaces.

As part of the deal, the developer selected by a special committee would purchase the remaining land at Hills Farms along with the existing 400,000 square foot Department of Transportation office building that would be vacated.....

“This is the first I’ve heard of the RFP ….. and I’m on the State Building Commission,” state Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) told The Capital Times late Friday afternoon.

The RFP was posted online Oct. 13 with interested parties required to register by Oct. 15 for a mandatory tour of the facility. Proposals are due Nov. 7.
Hmmm, 2 days' notice for a "mandatory tour of the facility?" I'm guessing there was a guest list in mind, since it'd be pretty hard to have decision-makers at an organization to drop everything to go on this tour, and then put together a multi-million dollar package for such a large property in a matter of three weeks.

In addition, Ivey's story mentions that the RFP asks for the purchaser to also buy the state's property on Badger Road that houses the Department of Employee Trust Funds, and eventually the Public Service Commission would move into the newly-renovated Hill Farms Building. And the 2013-15 capital budget included the remaking of the Hill Farms property in it, adding $147 million in borrowing, bringing its total cost to $197 million. Sounds like it would be helluva project for someone to get their hands on it, and to a piece of a state contract to do the construction on it.

This is where the second part of the story comes in, because there's a reason this story should be ringing some bells for you. Remember a story from the AP's Scott Bauer last year, where failed GOP Senate candidate and general scumbag Terrence Wall wanted to use his backroom connections to come up with a heckuva business opportunity?
One of Wisconsin’s largest real estate developers wrote to Gov. Scott Walker to express his interest in buying several prominent state office buildings at the same time the Legislature was considering doing away with competitive bidding for such sales, according to newly released records.

Terrence Wall offered his cellphone number in the letter, urging that the “appropriate person” call him to discuss possible deals for properties including the state crime lab, records obtained by the Associated Press show. Wall also offered his support for the change in the bidding process, an idea that originated with Walker.

Wall sent the letter on June 10. The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed 11 days later to allow no-bid sales of state properties over the objection of Democrats, who argued that it opened the door for political cronies to be cut special deals....

Walker called for legalizing no-bid sales of state properties in the budget he proposed in February. The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed in June, after adding a requirement that any sale negotiated by the governor be approved by the budget committee. The state Building Commission, which Walker chairs and is controlled by Republicans, would also have to approve.
And what was one of Wall's biggest targets that he mentioned in the letter? The Hill Farms complex. Funny how these things work out, isn't it? Might not be a bad situation for T. Wall to buy this land from the state at a reduced price, then lease it back (along with any other development around it) for a whole lot more profit once the new building is built.

The timing of the RFP is also VERY interesting, trying to be snuck through while the elections are going on and much of the media is looking elsewhere. It also could lock in a "pennies on the dollar" kickback for campaign donations deal for the connected developer that might get those properties before new governor Mary Burke and a newly-configured Joint Finance Committee (which could be split between Dems and GOPs) would get a chance to veto such a deal, because all decisions associated with the RFP are expected to take place by the end of this year. Which would be before Mary Burke or Susan Happ or any new state legislators would take office.

And if Walker were to somehow survive the election, selling state properties could be a source of a one-time shot of revenue to fill the massive budget holes that lurk in the next budget- while shortchanging taxpayers of the true value of those properties, and leaving an even bigger budget hole for later years (after Walker has gone on to his bigger paycheck at Fox News or some other GOP wingnut welfare).

It seems fitting that the Greater Wisconsin Committee released this ad, describing Scott Walker's "private club", which gives its members big-time benefits.



So yes, this story on the plans for the Hill Farms Building is a big f-ing deal, because it shows that the corruption and cronyism will not change in a second Scott Walker term, and the plans for such schemes have already been drawn up- most just haven't been revealed to the public yet. The way these and future Chicago-style deals can be stopped? Voting in Mary Burke, Susan Happ, and Dems in the Legislature. Period.

Is Burke leading? Past November elections indicate yes.

There is no question that this governor’s race is as tight as they come when you look at the polls. But there’s an interesting trend in Wisconsin over the last 2 November elections that may be understating Mary Burke’s level of support.

Take a look at this page of Talking Points Memo’s Poll Tracker, which has the Walker/Burke race along with the figures from the two big statewide races in 2012- the presidential race between Obama and Romney, and the Senate race between Baldwin and Thompson. Now let’s compare what the Poll Tracker said with what the final results were in 2012.

Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin 2012
Obama-Romney Polls- Obama +5.3%
Actual Result- Obama +6.9% (Dem +1.6% vs polls)

Baldwin-Thompson Polls- Baldwin +0.1%
Actual Result-Baldwin +5.6% (Dem +5.5% vs polls)

That’s a pretty significant swing to the upside for the Dems in 2012. But that was a presidential election, which Dems tend to do better at in Wisconsin (Dems are 12-0 in Senate and Presidential elections in Wisconsin in presidential years since 1984). Let’s look at the GOP year of 2010 and see how the Dems did against the polls. In that year, we had the Governor’s race between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, and the Senate race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. We’ll use TPM’s Poll Tracker again.

Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin 2010
Walker-Barrett polls- Walker +8.7%
Actual Result- Walker +5.7% (Dems +3.0% vs polls)

Johnson-Feingold polls- Johnson +7.7%
Actual Result- Johnson +4.9% (Dems +2.8% vs polls)

Hmm, so even in a strong GOP year with Dems demoralized, the Dems still outperformed by the 2010 polls by about 3%.
That being said, the pollsters largely got the recall election of 2012 right.

Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin recall 2012
Walker-Barrett polls- Walker +6.8%
Actual Result- Walker +6.7%

But let’s be honest, a lot of Walker’s win was due to people who voted against the concept of a recall, and likely would not have voted for Walker otherwise. I think the polling in that election was a different animal, because there was a different reason to vote FOR Walker- to vote against recalls. If you think the final numbers are legitimate, there is little doubt that many late-breakers stuck with Walker solely out of fear of pulling the trigger on his governorship because his term was up. In 2010 and 2012, it's worth noting that Walker led in all polls in the final month of that race, and generally by 5 points or more.

That is definitely NOT true in 2014, as 3 polls this week all showed a 1-point race- Walker winning 2, Burke winning 1. Add in the fact that Dems have overperformed the polls in statewide Wisconsin November elections by an average of about 3 points in both 2010 and 2012, and if the "likely voter" polls continue to say it's an even race, it makes it quite likely that Burke would win on November 4.

The Capital Times has been performing a similar analysis, adjusting for Wisconsin's voting history and polling house effects, and they have Burke winning by 3 points at this time.



Gee, you wonder why Walker and WisGOP have been sounding increasingly desperate in the last week or so? All of those polls have had party IDs with electorates around D+0 or D+1, and if the Dems turn out at a more-typical midterm electorate of Dem +3 or Dem +4 on November 4, Scott Walker and the GOP can't win.

So make that happen, and GOTV.