Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The little guys beat big media, exposing WisGOP voter suppression

Quite a few interesting stories in Wisconsin this last illustrating how new media and grasroots organizations can beat the big boys - including some leftie Cheddarsphere success.

The first goes to the Root River Siren, with her excellent expose of the Romney campaign and Wisconsin GOP's training of poll watchers, which not only gave out false information to the toolboxes looking to suppress the vote of the "others" (for example, saying voter ID was needed in many instances when it wasn't, and that felons who had completed their parole were stil ineligible), but also suggested tactics such as hiding affiliation with the GOP (claiming to be a "concerned citizen" instead), and to photograph and harrass any group arriving in a van to vote.

Well this sleazy story got around and hit the mainstream when Think Progress printed it yesterday going over the wrong information the Romney campaign was giving out, and by last night, the Obama Campaign was asking Wisconsin A-G J.B. Van Hollen to look into the matter, demanding that Wisconsinites have their right to vote protected. And all starting from a little blog post from a woman in Racine.

There was another event this week showing how Wisconsin's right-wing machine will dredge any depth to try to win elections, and it took behind-the-scenes work by non-mainstream media to shine a light on this. Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation and its right-wing backers were found out to be the ones behind the racist "voter fraud is a felony" billboards that disproportionately went up in minority neighborhoods throughout the Milwaukee area. Scot Ross and the gang at One Wisconsin Now joined with Milwaukee community groups to first call on Clear Channel Outdoor to reveal who paid for the billboards This led the person who put up the billboards to blink, and take down that racist tripe instead of having the guts to stand behind what they put up.

That was cool enough, but this week things got a lot better. The Grio worked with OWN to check some records, and outed the the Einhorn Family Foundation as the people who paid for the billboard, and traced the group's money back to the Bradley Foundation and its web of right-wing propaganda outfits.
Organizations receiving financing from Bradley include American Majority, a tea party affiliated group started in 2008 to train candidates for state and federal office, and which has received nearly $700,000 from Bradley since 2010, the Wisconsin Institute for Liberty, a conservative legal organization funded with a $500,000 from Bradley, and True the Vote, which has claimed it plans to recruit 1 million “poll watchers” to challenge voters’ eligibility and be on guard for alleged “voter fraud” at polling places nationwide.... hmmmm, sounds familiar, don't it?

In 2010, the Einhorn Family Foundation received $10,000 from the foundation “to support a public education project” under the Bradley Foundation’s “civic growth and prosperity” giving category.

The foundation is led by Steve Einhorn, who along with his wife, gave Gov. Scott Walker $25,000 during the recall campaign. [Ed. Note] This guy has given Walker nearly $50,000 since 2005.
And now, here's the part that just cracks me up.
One Wisconsin Now came across the foundation’s name by comparing a list of the top Milwaukee private foundations with a list of major donors to Walker’s recall campaign. Ironically, the identity of the private purchaser became clearer after a Milwaukee conservative radio host, Charlie Sykes, mentioned that he had been in contact with the billboard advertiser, because of Sykes’ own strong ties to the Bradley Foundation and his past work for the organization

Bradley Frontman
Yep, that's correct. Scot Ross unmasked the wuss who put up these racist billboards because of statements from the Wisconsin GOP's mouthpiece, Charles J. Sykes. Absolutely hilarious.

But it doesn't stop there. Now the Grio/OWN report inspired the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice to follow up with Bradley Foundation CEO and Walker campaign chair Michael Grebe, and got Grebe to admit that the Bradley boys gave Einhorn $10,000 to put up the racist billboards in 2010. Of course, Grebe claims his work with Walker's campaign had nothing to do with putting up the money from his day job toward billboards intended to help Walker's chances of being elected.

Yes Mike, and the Kochs' AFP group acts independently of Scotty as well. It's only out of mutual respect that Scotty was slated to appear with the Kochs at a $1,000-a-plate New York City GOP fundraiser tonight.

Well, Walker was supposed to appear in NYC this week, until Superstorm Sandy struck and washed away not only the fundraiser, but pretty much any small chance Mitt Romney had of winning (KARMA STRIKES). Not that Obama probably wasn't going to win anyway, but now people see what a real leader in the White House acts like in a time of crisis. And it sure ain't Romney or a pathetic Republican party whose campaigns set up faulty voter suppression trainings in Racine, and hide behind dark-money oligarch organizations to try to intimidate voters.

Dan Bice has done a great job in following up on these stories after they have broken, and adding on important details (like Grebe owning up to having Bradley money pay for the racist billboards), but where's the pre-emptive work from people in the know from the biggest guys on the block? But the real question is why did it take great acts of reporting by non-traditional media and grassroots organizations to out these disgusting acts? Is traditional media (particularly you, Journal Communications) so owned by corporate, right-wing interests that it refuses to tell on the crooks, out of fear of reprisal from their bosses, or the prospect of lacking access from the politicians?

This is part of the reason why I write at this place as much as I do (in addition to it being an awesome way to blow off steam). I'm nowhere near as successful as the Root River Siren or Scot Ross or Scott Wittkopf exposing WEDC, or the folks at PR Watch (who not only have been reporting on these stories, but also made WisGOP legislators reveal emails that revealed their work with ALEC over the last year), but if enough of us say what we know and connect dots, real news can be uncovered. Since the mainstream media has been taking a dive this campaign season in order to grab huge amounts of political ads, it becomes the non-traditional media and organizations that are filling the void in Wisconsin.

And if this week is any indication, this type of work just might crush the disgraceful WisGOP machine that has sullied our state's good name and clean government reputation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Registered voters ARE likely voters- which means Dems are winning Wisconsin

Been frustrated by some recent news media who are trying to insinuate that the presidential race is somehow tied or that Mitt Romney may even be leading President Obama. These media members are ignoring obvious evidence that proves otherwise, both nationwide, and in Wisconsin. And the biggest failures of the media deal with believing "likely voter" polls over "registered voter" polls, as history shows that registered voters ARE the real likely voters, and should be trusted.

The most recent Marquette Law School poll and media reaction to it illustrate this. This poll said Obama led Romney by 1 among likely voters and Tommy Thompson led Tammy Baldwin by 1 among likely voters. And that was what the media reported as well. But hidden beneath the headlines was the same poll when expanded to registered voters, and it told a very different story.

October Marquette Law poll, registered voters, Wisconsin

Obama 49, Romney 45
Baldwin 46, Thompson 44

Why the disparity? Because Prof. Charles Franklin and company screened out nearly 13% of the voters in the Obama-Romney race, and nearly 14% of registered voters for Baldwin-Thompson, saying they were not "likely voters". And among those in the screened-out group expressing a preference, Obama leads 69%-31% over Romney, and Baldwin leads Tommy 60%-40%. The assumption is that those people are not likely to vote, but past history says that is not true in Wisconsin.

I went to the GAB site in Wisconsin, as they have lists of registered voters, and it can be compared to turnout. while the registered voter numbers only go back to 2008, we can still use those figures as a starting point. And in 2008, the stats were as follows:

2008- Registered voters 3,473,834, total voters 2,996,869 -
13.8% of registered voters did not vote.

So that seems to indicate Franklin is doing an accurate screen. Except for a couple of problems - how many of those "registered non-voters" died and were never replaced? It's probably likely that at least 2% of them have passed on. And then also realize that 2008 was a largely uncontested presidential race in Wisconsin (rightfully so, Obama won by 14%), with much fewer ads and national "battleground state" interest than this year, and no Senate race to drive up interest either.

As the turnout rates show, the closely contested race in 2004 had higher turnout vs. 2008 - 72.9% vs. 69.2% of voting age population (different stat than registered voters voting, but you get the idea). So that's another 2-3% of the "registered non-voter" group you can expect will make it to the polls. So if you even decide to be charitable, and assume 10% of registered voters don't vote, the advantage shifts to Baldwin and Obama, as they grab more of the casual voters.

Nate Silver had a great article on this when discussing nationwide polls a few months back (worth mentioning because Obama gains somewhere between 3-5 points vs. Romney among RVs as opposed to LVs), and says registered voters are often closer to reality.
...It is probably not realistic to expect large shifts in the numbers in presidential election years. In those years, 83 percent to 90 percent of Americans who say they are registered to vote claim to have actually voted. Those numbers may be a pinch high since voters can exaggerate their propensity to vote, as well as their propensity to be registered. But the actual figure is probably about 80 percent.

With these relatively strong participation rates, polling firms should generally not be removing all that many registered voters from their pool when they draw up their sample of likely voters, so the partisan advantage for one or another candidate isn’t likely to change all that much.
Media should know this, but because they need to keep eyeballs on their TV screens and onto their websites, they conveniently ignore this so they can keep an impression of a "dead-even" race. After all, it keeps the ad money coming in, and that's what's more important than a quality product for these guys, apparently.

The Republicans do know this, and know they'll lose on November 6, unless they find a way to keep these casual registered voters from voting. So, enter garbage like voter ID, racist billboards on non-existent voter fraud (later taken down when the cowards were called out and asked to reveal themselves) , and other voter suppression methods. Among these are having bimbo GOP beauty queens give wrong information on voter laws to racist old white people in Racine, who will then use this misinformation to try to disqualify voters on Election Day.

When you put together the advantage Democrats have with registered voters with the GOP's desire to restrict the vote, you see how lazy it is for media to accept "likely voter" polls over a more expansive "registered voter" one. And that's why I still feel pretty confident that Democrats win next week, barring some major event that shakes things up. Because both sides know that if casual voters turn out, the Dems' chances of winning keep going up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

U.S. still growing, Wisconsin still lagging

Had a person note on Facebook that "Dems were saying before the recall election that Wisconsin's economy was bad, but now they're saying that the U.S. economy is great. And Republicans are saying the exact opposite. Neither makes sense." Well, actually that's not true, as 3 reports in the last week show that the U.S. economy continues to grow, and may in fact have picked up speed in the recently-ended 3rd Quarter, while Wisconsin lags near the recession level.

The first example is in the jobs market. As has been mentioned several times in the last few weeks, U.S. unemployment dropped below 8% for the first time in Obama's term in September, and that the U.S. has gained private sector jobs for each of the last 31 months. Well, Wisconsin hasn't been quite so lucky, and while the state posted modest job gains in September, it was the first time since March that the state had 2 straight months of job growth. And with the news that the U.S. is looking at upwards revisions of 453,000 private sector jobs and 386,000 total jobs for 2012, the Walker jobs gap is now near 90,000 jobs in only 20 months.

And this is also reflected in Wisconsin losing its low-unemployment advantage. When Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 1.4% below the U.S. rate. In the 20 months since, 2/3 of that advantage is now gone, and Wisconsin's unemployment has gone up in 2012 while the U.S.'s has gone down.

Unemployment rates, Wisconsin vs. U.S.
Jan. 2011- Wis. 7.7%, U.S. 9.1%
Jan. 2012- Wis. 6.9%, U.S. 8.3% (both -0.8%)
Sept 2012- Wis. 7.3%, U.S. 7.8% (Wis. +0.4%, U.S. -0.5%)

Another way Wisconsin is lagging is in the housing market. A big economic headline this week was an 11 percent increase year-over-year in existing home sales prices, the seventh month in a row that prices have gone up for homes. But again, Wisconsin is not joining in the recovery, as the Wisconsin Association of Realtors shows median home sales prices in Wisconsin were only up 0.2% compared to September 2011, and are basically flat year-to-date.

Hmmm, you think cutting take-home pay for public employees and defunding public schools might have something to do with the stagnant Wisconsin home market? It is especially noteworthy that some of the most Baggerific places in Wisconsin are the ones suffering the home price decreases. Check out the changes in the SEWRPC counties surrounding Milwaukee- only Ozaukee saw an increase.

Median home sales price changes, Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012
Ozaukee +19.0%
Waukesha 0.0%
Washington -3.7%
Racine -5.7%
Kenosha -15.7%
Walworth -18.2%

Oh, but they saved $18 on their school taxes. Hope THAT was worth it.

And in the big picture economy, Wisconsin also lags. The Philly Fed Coincident index came out today, and it showed that we're barely keeping our heads above water in Wisconsin, with us turnng a sickly shade of green more befitting the Confederate states than the healthier shade that covers most of the Midwest (and Michigan is only declining after major increases earlier this year).

And it's not just a recent thing. Look at the growth rates over the last year for Wisconsin compared to the rest of our neighbors, and the country at large. Wisconsin has the worst economy in the Midwest and the U.S. has grown at a rate 3 1/2 times faster than we have.

Coincident index change, Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012

Ohio +5.64%
Ind. +4.98%
Ill. +3.06%
Mich +2.97%
U.S. +2.82%
Minn +2.59%
Iowa +1.94%
Wis. +0.80%

So to answer my friend's question- Yes, the Dems are correct. The national economy has grown over the last year, with that growth seeming to pick up a bit, while Wisconsin has flatlined and fallen behind. And yes, I absolutely lay this at the feet of Scott Walker and the Republican Wisconsin legislature. Keep both of these things in mind as you head to the polls over the next 12 days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Think Wisconsin has a budget surplus? HAH!

Last week, Scott Walker tried another installment of his game of "sneak a PR event out, and hope no one remembers things or notices details." This time it was timed along with the state's annual financial report which came out on October 15, which on its face showed a $342 million budget surplus for Walker's first fiscal year and allowed for a transfer into the state's "rainy day" fund of just under $109 million. Walker and his DOA staff predictably used the news to claim his policies were working, and just as predictably, they're covering up that the news isn't close to as good as Walker's folks are making it out to be.

In fact, the budget "surplus" is based on accounting gimmicks, unnecessary cuts, and by tealing federal money intended to help people. If you take a look inside the Annual Fiscal Report's pages, you'll see where these games are played, and how it hides what looks to be an even bigger deficit looming in the near future.

The first tip-off comes on Page 12, where it shows revenues being basically the same vs. what was in the FY2012 budget- the actual numbers came in $18 million above the budget, or barely more than 0.1%. It also illustrates a Walker budgeting failure, as they counted on $118 million in departmental revenues that never showed up(things like fees and tuition and other non-tax revenues that help departments).

So how do you pull a $342 million surplus out of that? $113.6 million in additional, unbudgeted lapses, which turned out to be totally unnecessary given the budgetary circumstances. And even then, that only allowed the FY2012 to come in with a surplus $50 million more than what was in the regular budget, since the approved budget built in a FY 2012 surplus of $291.5 million.

But wait, there's more! Go ahead to Page 15 and Page 24, and you see an interesting line item:


These are transfers from other sources that went into the General Fund and added funds to the revenue side, and led to the "surplus". One of the spots is in the Medicaid fund, which Jon Peacock at the Wisconsin Budget Project exposed last week, where he noted the Walker Administration used federal Medicaid incentives to add to the surplus instead of using the money for treatment programs like....Medicaid. The scheme was shown last February in an LFB document explaining where the state's lapses were coming from, and the Walker Administration plans to do the same thing over the next 12 months.
On December 28, 2011, DHS announced that 23 states, including Wisconsin, would receive FFY 2010-11 CHIPRA performance bonus awards. Wisconsin's performance bonus payment for this year is $24,541,778. This amount was based on a FFY 2010-11 monthly average number of unduplicated qualifying children of 467,963.

The MA budget established for the 2011-13 biennium under Act 32 did not assume that the state would receive any CHIPRA bonus payments for FFYs 2010-11 through FFY 2012-13 to offset the state's share of MA program costs. The administration's intent is to use the CHIPRA bonus funding to replace $24.5 million of GPR funding currently budgeted for MA benefits costs in 2011-12, and lapse $24.5 million from the GPR MA appropriation to partially satisfy agency lapse requirements for 2011-12. Of the $24.5 million the administration expects to lapse to the general fund in 2011-12, $18,561,982 is part of the DOA-allocated lapse plan that is currently before the Committee. The remaining amount ($5,938,018) has been allocated to meet agency specific lapse requirements in Act 32 [the state budget].

The state may qualify for additional bonus payments in FFY 2011-12 and 2012-13. DHS anticipates using any FFY 2011-12 performance bonus award to satisfy 2012-13 lapse requirements authorized in Act 32.
Now, if the Walker folks had all needs covered in Medicaid, maybe this could be OK. But this is not the case, as Walker's DHS has continued to cut the amount paid to BadgerCare Plus providers, putting the program in major turmoil.
Three of the four organizations that manage Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus say they’re losing money on the state Medicaid program, and two of those are at least considering pulling out.

The state has cut its payment rate by 11 percent over the past two years as it struggles to balance its budget, and the state Department of Health Services says it’s working to develop rates for next year to make sure adequate options are available.

Nonetheless, UnitedHealthCare is dropping its contract with the state within weeks, and Molina Healthcare Inc. has warned that it may need to do the same, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Both say they’re losing millions of dollars on the program because the state isn’t paying nearly enough to cover the claims filed by its BadgerCare Plus patients.
Think using that $24.5 million bonus payment could have helped solve this problem and made the providers happy?

It's shades of this Spring, when the Walker Administration used more than $25 million in federal foreclosure aid to pad the surplus further, instead of using the money to help underwater homeowners and assist in bringing back property values in distressed areas. Between this and the Medicaid bonus money, these 2 moves account for the entire $50 million in above-budget surplus, with nothing gained in return for the vast majority of Wisconsinites. And that doesn't count another $187 million in unanticipated transfers in, nor does it mention the $558 million in debt refinancing that the Walker Administration pulled this year, which will cost taxpayers an exctra $156 million in extra interest costs down the road.

Lastly, this fiscal year isn't off to such a great fiscal start in Wisconsin. This shouldn't surprise you, as the state added a piddling 1,300 private sector jobs for July, August and September combined, and state unemployment rose to 7.3%. The Department of Revenue released its first 3 months of revenue numbers for FY2013 last Friday, the numbers were disappointing.

Income taxes held up, at a 4.9% increase year-over-year, but all other taxes lagged. Sales taxes were up only 0.6% year-over-year. Corporate taxes DOWN 8.7%. Excise taxes down 2.7%, and total taxes only up 2.1%. This is worth noting because the sales, corporate and excise taxes are all below budget, and it'll only take a small leveling off in income taxes for this gap to appear more. The FY2013 already has nearly $600 million in lapses as well as $137 million getting thrown into the Transportation Fund as a gift to the Road Builders for the FY2013 budget. Any revenue gap will quickly make that $342 million "surplus" turn to deficit in the 2-year budget.

So don't be fooled. Even with the Walker Administration's green eyeshade budgeting, which avoids needed services at the expense of better numbers on paper, it still isn't a fiscally responsible budget. And when that becomes apparent early in the next legislative session, watch for the implosion of whatever might be left of the age of Fitzwalkerstan. I just hope there'll be something able to be saved and redeemed by 2014.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scotty's travels and poses > Scotty working on WEDC

Well, we found out on Friday what the "dramatic steps" would be from our fair gov'ner when it came to fixing the unaccountable and failing WEDC. The dramatic steps included revealing that WEDC is even more of an unaccountable disaster than we ever imagined.
As Democrats continued to knock him for secrecy and mismanagement at the state's job creation agency, Gov. Scott Walker on Friday announced he was hiring a temporary director from the private sector and a private company to search for a permanent chief executive.

Administration officials also disclosed that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. lost track of $69 million in loans — including $9 million in past-due loans — because no one was assigned to oversee them when the agency was created in 2011.

Officials also said they were auditing all corporation functions and that the agency's chief financial officer, Mike Klonsinski, resigned effective Friday.
Oooh, making the Number 3 guy fall on his sword for the team. That' absolutely nothing. Especially given that he wasn't the guy who dropped the ball in the transition from the Department of Commerce in Summer 2011, when no one was assigned the duty at WEDC of figuring out where the loans went. Oh, and WEDC is paying a WMC Board member $10,000 a month as the temporary CEO, and taxpayers are putting out another $40,000 in a no-bid contract to QTI to do a national search for WEDC's 3rd CEO.

Of course, media wasn't able to ask follow-ups of Walker about this mess, even though he chairs the WEDC Board, because Walker was out of town.
"It's imperative that we have a strong leader [for WEDC]," Walker said, participating in the board meeting via telephone.
And what was Scotty out of town for that he couldn't make this important meeting in person? To attend "job creation" photo ops that included.... tax credits handed out by WEDC.
A year from now, Alta Resources could have as many as 1,700 people working at its downtown Neenah headquarters.

That would be nearly 400 more than the projected 1,310 people the provider of customer care and fulfillment outsourcing services expects to have on-site by the end of this year. Company representatives said it has hired more than 600 people the past six months, aided by $1 million in state credits issued through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (That's about $16,666 a job, folks) ...

Jim Bere, co-founder and CEO of Alta, said the additional workers to be added next year are sustainable positions.

“They definitely are,” he said Thursday after remarks made by Gov. Scott Walker, who visited the firm’s Neenah headquarters.
WEDC is under major heat for randomly handing out excessive tax credits without criteria or accountability, but Walker's still out in public propping up this corrupted, failing strategy. And I'm guessing Scotty didn't take questions about how and why this firm was chosen, either. Pathetic.

But hey, Scotty's a traveling man, and he's got appointments to keep. Like showing up at a fund-raiser and rally tomorrow in Missouri with GOP governor candidate Dave Spence. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that this event is one day after the Packers' win in St. Louis. But if it's not a coincidence, it wouldn't be the first time Scotty's pulled that type of stunt, if you remember that Walker took a trip to see the Pack in Super Bowl XLV and made taxpayers shell out for his security detail, and never revealed who paid for his ticket and travel.

So while 30-year-old wonderboy (and lifetime GOP hack) Ryan Murray is allegedly going to work on figuring out where the missing $69 million in taxpayer-funded loans went to, WEDC Board Chair Scott Walker continues to bounce around the country and kiss up to oligarchs as if nothing sketchy is going on with the agency. Guess it tells you where Walker's real priorities are at- and it has nothing to do with actual, you know, WORK AND GOVERNING.

This week in GOP corruption Part 4- Michael, Best & Friedrich

Two stories in the last week illustrated the cronyism that has benefitted Wisconsin law firm Michael, Best & Friedrich (who will be called MBF the rest of this post). Both show the incestuous nature of MBF and the Wisconsin Republican Party.

The first is the revelation that MBF continues to obstruct on the release of emails related to the redistricting Wisconsin went through last year. It turns out there were 34 emails that MBF hid from groups suing the Wisconsin GOP on redistricting.
The report, filed this week as required by a panel of three federal judges, once again reveals that lawyers with Michael Best & Friedrich weren't forthcoming in providing subpoenaed documents...The judges previously charged the law firm some $17,500 for filing frivolous motions to try to block the release of other records.

A related investigation on why the emails weren't released earlier is ongoing, and the plaintiffs in the case said they may seek sanctions against Michael Best & Friedrich. They're also calling for a more detailed review of the law firm's computers, as well as those used by consultants and legislative employees.

"We still think there are significant resources out there that haven't been checked," attorney Doug Poland said. "There is information that remains to be revealed."

The suppressed emails cover the methods Republicans used last year to draw new legislative and congressional maps that will give their party an edge for the next decade.
Now how did MBF get to be the Wisconsin GOP's pet law firm? It always helps to have good connections. The Walker Administration has hired lawyers at firms with direct connections, (such as Ray Taffora, who left the DOJ to sign MBF's contract to do work on Act 10), and along with the Troupis Law Firm MBF has received no-bid legal contracts from Walker and WisGOP that have brought in well over $1 million in taxpayer dollars over the last 21 months.

This week's revelation wasn't the first time MBF hid information on redistricting over the last year. MBF and WisGOP made legislators swear to screcy on the redistricting discussions and even had top aides for both Fitzgeralds work out of the MBF offices in Madison to try to avoid Open Records Laws. Then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald concealed the reasons behind the drawing of the district lines for more than a year.

It took the Democrats taking over the Wisconsin Senate this Summer to get the first set of redistricting emails released to the public (and it also took Democrats taking over the Senate to get hearings on WEDC and Logisticare, keep this in mind this November). MBF finally released the redistricting documents this July, and they revealed such classy nuggets as this.
In one email, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, offered these thoughts about redrawing her district: "Western Wauwatosa — yes (more GOP)," "West Milwaukee — No (forgot to mention this part of current district — VERY Dem" and "Milwaukee — cop wards if needed."

She also wrote in the May 4, 2011, message to Tad Ottman, an aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, "This is such a big task. So glad we are in control!"

Ottman worked on the redistricting plan out of the office of law firm Michael Best & Friedrich, which helped write the plan.....

One document released Tuesday detailed how many districts would be safe for Republicans, GOP-leaning, swing districts, safe Democratic, or lean Democratic under at least one version of the redistricting plan. It showed a dramatic increase in likely GOP seats, but Ottman said that chart did not represent the final breakdown.
Also helping to draw up the maps were GOP backers such as convicted criminal Scott Jensen and fellow RW voucher school hustler Zeus Rodriguez. You know who wasn't allowed a voice? The vast majority of Wisconsinites, even though they were paying MBF to do this work.

The MBF/WisGOP family made news in another way in recent days- Jason Thompson, son of flailing Senate candidate Tommy Thompson. Tommy's idiot son currently works at MBF, and why do you think he got that job? (Answer: Probably because being Tommy's boy is a pretty good guarantee to keep the money flowing from taxpayers through WisGOP to MBF). He followed MBF alum (and RNC Chair) Reince Priebus at a GOP fundraiser, telling the old white folks they should send President Obama "back to Kenya."

So how did MBF respond to one of its own making a racist statement like this? With mealy-mouthed disapproval.
Michael Best & Friedrich, the firm where Jason Thompson works, issued a statement Monday distancing it from the comments, calling them "regrettable."

"Jason has apologized for the comment through the campaign (and to his colleagues at the law firm) and the matter is being dealt with between father and son," the statement said.
Please, the only thing MBF regrets about Jason Thompson's act is that the d-bag was caught on tape saying something that hurts the chances of them having more connections to taxpayer funds through the Thompsons getting a job in D.C.

MBF kept Thompson on the payroll despite the fact that he played a role in Kelly Rindfleisch's arrest and eventual conviction for working on Walker-supported campaigns while pulling down a taxpayer salary, as Capper caught 9 months ago.
One of the things that stands out is that [current State Medicaid Director Brett] Davis appeared to be the candidate of choice for the WISGOP machine. The Republican Party of Waukesha County, one of the reddest counties in the state, sent out mailers which endorsed Davis for Lt. Governor. Davis was also endorsed by the Republican Party of Milwaukee County (home of Darlene Wink, Tim Russell and other names that have been popping up in the Walkergate investigation), Tommy Thompson, WMC and MMAC.

As a point of interest, and to further cement the ties that bind, Davis' campaign treasurer was Jason T. Thompson, son of Tommy Thompson, and currently an attorney at Walker's favorite law firm, Michael Best & Friedich.
Rindfleisch's plea deal got Jason Thompson off the witness stand last week, but that sketchiness mattered little to MBF. They know WisGOP connections like Jason Thompson are an ATM for them, and that's why he'll continue to collect his wingnut welfare at MBF.

It's a sick incestuous circule that envelops MBF and the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and it has cost Wisconsinites millions in taxpayer dollars, along with a large amount of the state's integrity. So the question is- how do you make this costly cronyism stop?

I think the answer's simple- SEND THE MBF LAWYERS TO JAIL for refusing court orders to release information to opposing sides in the redistricting cases. And make MBF pay back all the funds they got from taxpayers for taking on GOP causes over these 21 months of the Fitzwalkerstan era.

Making it not worth their while to work for the corrupt WisGOP is the only way that MBF will stop stealing our money. And we need to make these corrupt connections clear over the next 15 days, to remind folks of the cronyism and lack fo transparency that happens when Republicans are put in charge of anything.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This week in WisGOP corruption pt. 3- WEDC

The ongoing disaster that is the Scott Walker-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) continues to get worse. It was revealed this week that WEDC has lost track of 1/6th of the loans the gave to businesses since it started in June 2011 - approximately $8 million in taxpayer dollars. They just can't find where these loans were or how much taxpayers are owed for it, and WEDC's Chief Operating Officer (you know, the 30-year-old whose entire career has been as a GOP hack with no private sector job experience?) told a legislative panel that they just found out about these missing loans THIS WEEK - 16 months after they started.
The failure was discovered as the agency prepared materials for an ongoing legislative audit, [COO Ryan] Murray said, adding that the agency is still investigating how the mistakes were made, why it took so long to discover them and what will happen to those employees who failed to keep tabs on the taxpayer-funded loans.

"Clearly, a ball was dropped here a year ago but the system worked in uncovering it," said Murray, who went on to clarify what he meant. "The system to detect this worked but the system to collect on loans obviously did not."....

Murray said that he had informed Walker, who is also the chairman of the WEDC, late last week about the loan problems and that on Wednesday he had informed the WEDC's board members about it. A spokeswoman for Walker did not respond to a request for comment....

Murray said the WEDC had sent out a letter Wednesday to some of the businesses with past-due loans and would start making more contacts with all of the businesses in the coming days. He said the agency would likely ask the state Department of Justice to sue some of the businesses to recover the money. The state has also retained a law firm specializing in debt collections to assist in the process, he said.
Hmmm, and I'm sure that law firm doing the collections is getting a nice bunch of taxpayer money for that work. Not a bad gig if you got the right connections, eh? Wonder how they landed it.

And this isn't the first time WEDC money has gone missing. Last month we foud out about $8.6 million in WEDC money that was transferred into another account in December 2011 without WEDC Board approval. And who can forget the horrendous misuse of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Not only did WEDC improperly use HUD and CDBG funds, which led to HUD ordering WEDC to take its hands off of CDBG funds and leaving millions of dollars in aid in doubt, WEDC also was exposed of playing favorites when it came to handing out forgivable loans and tax credits. Remember this statement in HUD's letter?
Certain jobs were considered more valuable to the state, so limits were exceeded, projects received forgivable loans.
Makes you wonder if some of the $8 million in missing loans were from some of those places whose jobs "were considered more valuable to the state," doesn't it?

Scott Wittkopf has been all over this story, and he continues his excellent series on WEDC by showing the pattern of Scott Walker appointees misusing HUD and CDBG funds. It goes all the way back to Walker's days in Milwaukee, and Walkergate crook Tim Russell plays a big role in it. (I'll add emphasis to key places where the WEDC fail pattern repeats)
On March 15 2012, just one month prior to HUD suspending WEDC from administering the block grant program, HUD sent a letter to the new Milwaukee County Director of Health and Human Services Hector Colon (Full March 15 2012 letter here). The letter informed DHHS Director Colon that after a HUD review of additional information supplied by the County, 23 of 29 block grant awards failed to meet federal requirements, and the County could face repayment of over $500,000 in grants. An additional 3 programs required further documentation.

The Milwaukee County program was being administered during that time period by Timothy Russell, at the time Walker’s housing director now facing trial in the John Doe investigation. Another key Milwaukee Walker Administration person in the block grant program was Lisa Jo Marks, director of DHHS under Walker. Marks is now the DOA Housing director in the current Walker Administration.

Lisa Jo Marks was Walker’s Child Support Enforcement Director from 2007 – 2009 before being named interim director of DHHS. Marks replaced Corey Hoze as DHHS director when Hoze left for a job as Associated Bank Vice President of Government Affairs. Hoze also now serves on the WEDC Board of Directors....Marks and Hoze undoubtedly work together in their capacities in DOA and WEDC (respectively) grant programs. Marks has also appeared as a presenter at the ultra-conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute during her Walker Administration tenure.

Badger Democracy has obtained a 2009 HUD spreadsheet from the CDBG program demonstrating continuing administration problems with accountability in the program. The spreadsheet lists 2008 programs for “LMJ and LMH” (low-mid income housing and jobs) which failed to document accomplishments as required under federal law. HUD analysts informed Badger Democracy that two of the three had eventually fulfilled the reporting requirements. One had not. Program number 3254 in the amount of $12,258.52 was made to Wisconsin Community Services in 2008. WCS has received no block grant money since 2008, and to this day has not fulfilled the reporting requirement....

Milwaukee County Community Business Development Partners (CBDP) is a county agency that administers the Disadvantaged Business program, and is a public/private partnership. The CBDP received over $27,000 in federal block grant money in 2011 for “micro-enterprise development.” HUD has determined that this violates the program guidelines, as all clients are in the city of Milwaukee, not the County (non-city). On July 19, 2012, then director of CBDP, Frieda Webb, was arrested by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. Webb stands accused of defrauding the County through falsifying contracts for services not fulfilled and double-billing the county for some classes and services rendered. The FBI has been involved in the investigation. Webb was hired by Scott Walker to serve as the agency’s director.
The article goes on to mention people that Walker appointed to WHEDA also have received CDBG funds and nice contracts on work related to government handouts under Walker. The pattern of cronyism and corruption under Walker and at WEDC is obvious.

Which makes a sign I saw on I-94 all the more absurd. It instructed people to vote Romney/Ryan to "end crony capitalism." It's laughable on many levels, especially given that Romney made millions off of the auto industry bailouts got $1.3 billion in government help for the Salt Lake City Olympics, and worked to get the FDIC to bail out Bain Capital in the early '90s.

But even more silly is that the person (or more likely, the person who rented the land to a Koch outfit who put up the sign) should look closer to home if he or she wants to end corrupt crony capitalism that funnels taxpayer dollars to corporations. Because there is no better example of this abuse than what we've seen in Wisconsin at WEDC in the 16 months since Scott Walker and WisGOP voted to create it.

(LATE EDIT) Should be a fun WEDC Board meeting tomorrow, especially now that Walker is promising to bring up some "dramatic moves" to take care of this misuse of taxpayer funds. Hey moron, most of us would have recognized the potential for problems BEFORE they happened, and not be left reacting to them after the inevitable screw-ups. But when you're an incompetent, corrupt leader like Scott Walker, that's the way things do happen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

WisGOPs, first class all the way

First, it's Paul Ryan trying for a "common man" look, and ending up mastering the "d-bag politician clearly out of his element" look instead, as he visits a St. Vinny's in Ohio.
The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

Ryan had stopped by the soup kitchen for about 15 minutes on his way to the airport after his Saturday morning town hall in Youngstown. By the time he arrived, the food had already been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned.

Upon entering the soup kitchen, Ryan, his wife and three young children greeted and thanked several volunteers, then donned white aprons and offered to clean some dishes. Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.

But I suppose it could be worse for Pau-LIE. After all, it's not like he dropped a racial bomb on the president or anything. Like another high-ranking WisGOP figure did.
Jason Thompson, the son of the former Wisconsin governor, was caught on camera during a Sunday brunch hosted by the Kenosha County Republican Party.

"We have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago – or Kenya," said Jason Thompson, an attorney at a large Milwaukee law firm. The comment drew laughs from the crowd, [an audience that included RNC Chair Reince Preibus, by the way] with one woman joking, "We are taking donations for that Kenya trip."....

Jason Thompson, 38, has been involved in his father's efforts to win a Senate seat and has represented the candidate at some events.

"The governor has addressed this with his son, just like any father would do," the campaign said in a statement. "Jason Thompson said something he should not have, and he apologizes."

Michael Best & Friedrich, the firm where Jason Thompson works, issued a statement Monday distancing it from the comments, calling them "regrettable."
Ah yes, Michael, Best & Friedrich, the same law firm that has pulled down hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars representing Scott Walker and other Republicans during WisGOP's many legal foibles in the last 2 years. Nice group, aren't they? And I'm sure Jason Thompson didn't get hired by them because of his Daddy's connections to WisGOP, either.

Then again, Jason might have been feeling a bit frisky, because he was Brett Davis's Campaign Treasurer while Kelly Rindfleisch worked on his campaign out of Scott Walker's office. And Rindfleisch's plea deal kept Thompson off the stand in the Walkergate trials (as noted by Capper in this post), at least for a little while. Guess you can't blame a d-bag for getting a little hubris after breaking the law and not having to pay the price for it (yet).

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is one sick, cynical crime syndicate. They must go NOW.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This week in WisGOP corruption pt. 2- absentee ballot fraud

Last Friday, the LA Times reported the Wisconsin GOP paid a company headed by scumbag election fraudster Nathan Sproul over $500,000 in last year's recall election, and today the Journal-Sentinel picked up the story (although they have conveniently buried it in their "Newswatch" segment.) As the L.A. Times reported on Friday, this is a newly-named company called Issue Advocacy Partners and the company
has been advertising for $15-an-hour workers for “conservative voter identification” in Virginia, Wisconsin and Iowa.

‘No experience is necessary!” says the ad, first reported by the liberal blog BlueNC. “All you need to qualify is a positive attitude and a strong work ethic to get the job done.” The ad says applicants must pass a criminal background check.
And you didn't think Republicans believed in job-creating programs...

This is especially interesting given Sproul's background and the GOP's attempts to keep their connections to his company hidden from the public. Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee were working with Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting this year, until they allegedly fired Sproul's company in September after SAC was found to be committing voter fraud. Among other items, Florida officials
discovered numerous registration forms that appeared to be filled out in the same handwriting, some including wrong addresses and birthdays. Some of the forms switched addresses and party registrations, including changes from Democratic or Independent to Republican, said [Palm Beach] county elections supervisor Susan Bucher.
But it's not like this was the first time Sproul was accused of fraud, as the article points out
[Sproul] said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the request of the Republican National Committee because of the bad publicity stemming from the past allegations. In 2004, there were allegations in states such as Nevada and Oregon that employees of his firm -- which had a similar contract with the RNC -- registered Democratic voters and then destroyed their forms. (Sproul noted that no criminal charges were ever filed.)
The Republicans knew they were dealing with a sleazebag when they gave Sproul the contract - they just hoped they wouldn't get caught.

Now compare this to a story that came out the week before the recall elections, where  there were several reports of duplicate absentee ballot requests in pro-GOP Waukesha County. And the complaint sounds a whole lot like what Sproul's company was accused of in Florida.
[Delafield City Clerk Gina] Gresch said that on Tuesday her office received in the mail two absentee ballot applications with similar handwriting.

One of the applications was for an address on Hillside Road and the other was for an address on Hillside Court. Both addresses are in the Hillside Road neighborhood south of Highway 83/I-94.

Because of the suspicious appearance of the applications, Deputy Clerk Ellen O'Brien contacted the telephone numbers listed on the applications. Individuals who live at those addresses told her they did not request ballots and said they would be voting in person in the election next week, according to Gresch.

Gresch said the applications appeared unusual to O'Brien because in each case one application sought ballots for two individuals, and both applications were in the same neighborhood.

"We also find it very odd that the handwriting is very similar on both cards," she added....

After confirming that he was a registered voter, an absentee ballot was mailed to him. However, later in the afternoon he arrived at City Hall and cast an absentee ballot.

After election officials discovered he had cast one ballot and another had been mailed to him, Gresch contacted him.

The man said he did not recall applying for an absentee ballot. However, he said a couple of weeks ago a man came to his door and asked him to sign something, according to Gresch.

"(He) said he was asked to sign something with other people's names on it, but he wasn't really sure what he was signing and that it seemed weird," Gresch said.
So when Sproul's company was hired by WisGOP to do "door-to-door canvassing" ahead of the June 5 recall elections, you have to wonder what they were really doing for the GOP. It may be mere coincidence that what was reported before Wisconsin's recall election is the same type of thing that got Sproul in hot water in Florida, but as I've said before, there is very little in politics that is coincidence.

Related to that, Internet journalist Greg Palast mentions another form of absentee ballot fraud that may have happened in the Wisconsin recall election, as part of an interview on GOP voter suppression Palast did with Stephen Whitney that went online this week.
I was just up in Baraboo, Wisconsin this week, and in Baraboo Obama won [in 2008] by 28%. That’s a crush, right? And yet, in the recall vote, Scott Walker won it big time. (EDIT: Palast is right about 2008's election numbers wrong about the recall election stats, Barrett won it 54-45, but there were other rural Wisconsin areas that had strange blue-to-red flips). Now, come on, how does that happen? Well, let me let you in on a little secret. The secret is called Themis. Themis is the Koch Brother’s magical vote munching machine. It’s a data mining operation. It does two things. It’s capable first of something that’s creepy but legal. They fill out ballots for their own voters, mail them and tell them to sign it. It’s all perfect so they’re beyond challenge. So their voters are all taken care of basically, they’ve already been voted for if they sign.

Then, the Themis machine is capable of doing all the caging, all the challenging, the purging, and the blocking at the polls to keep away the voters....

The Koch Operation, Americans for Prosperity, had its Chief set up a front called United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, which appeared and then instantly vanished after the recall vote, using the Themis machine, were able to identify likely Democratic absentee voters in key recall areas. Because there were also votes, by the way, on legislatures. The Themis machine was able to get the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin to identify Democratic voters, send them letters saying here’s where you mail in your ballot, and here’s the deadline. The address was a phony, it was their own, and the date was after the legal date for submitting an absentee ballot. So, either way, you were fucked like a duck. The Sportsmen basically were hunting Democrats. That’s how it worked. And again, as Bobby Kennedy says – he’s Dean of Law School at Pace University – this is a crime. And it’s a double crime when you add in the fact that most of this is racially targeted.

Keep it in mind when you start seeing mailers and commercials from groups you've never heard from over these next 3 weeks- they're probably front groups like "United Sportsmen of Wisconsin."

There's even more on sketchy absentee ballot procedures for November from Baggerific Waukesha County, as earlier this month it was reported that voters in the open Senate district race in that area may be getting duplicate absentee ballots. And the confusion goes directly to decisions made by Scott Walker's office.

First, Walker hired current State Senator Rich Zipperer in July to be his Deputy Chief of Staff, replacing 30-year old GOP hack Ryan Murray who left to take a 6-figure, taxpayer-funded job at the troubled WEDC, despite zero private sector experience. Then, Walker had the choice on when to have the election for Zipperer's replacement, and he decided not to choose to have the GOP primary during August's primary elections (which would have saved quite a bit of money for the local communities) or in September, either of which would have put the general election in November along with every other race. Instead, Walker chose to have the primary during the November elections, with the general election following in December.

There's a big problem with this- it's forced two types of ballots that have to be printed. As the Lake Country article notes
the deadline for filing candidacy petitions for the primary election is not until Oct. 9, which is well after the time when state and county election officials print and distribute absentee ballots for the November general election. Consequently, voters who apply by mail to cast absentee ballots will receive two ballots - the second to accommodate the primary candidates once the filing deadline has passed.

According to the state Government Accountability Board, individuals who have applied for absentee ballots by mail will receive a paper general election ballot ("G" ballot) that does not include the state Senate primary contest. Voters who receive this ballot may cast it immediately, if they want.

If the ballot is returned immediately, it will not be counted until the Waukesha County election canvass is conducted on the Friday after the election (Nov. 9).

The absentee voter might opt to wait until mid- to late-October, when they will receive the second ballot. This ballot ("S" ballot) will include the state Senate primary as well as all of thecontests in the regularly scheduled general election.

If the absentee voter casts the "S" ballot, local election officials will reject any "G" ballot the voter might have cast earlier.
Well, unless they're not diligent about noting who voted, then they might "accidentally" count these votes twice. You know, kind of like how there were 17,000 more votes than ballots cast for the 2006 A-G race in Wisconsin, which allowed J-B Van Hollen to win over Kathleen Falk. And even though she is leaving office in January, Kathy Nickolaus is still in charge of elections in Waukesha County, and two months ago she nearly destroyed Waukesha County's recall election ballots in violation of state law until public pressure made her back off.

But again, maybe Walker's wasn't thinking too clearly when he made the hire of Zipperer and set off this chain of events that led to Waukesha County Republican voters getting 2 types of ballots for election day. Just like Walkergate, maybe Scotty's just that stupid.

And if you accept that explanation at face value, you probably would be surprised by the sun rising in the east tomorrow. I put nothing past WisGOP malfeasance, and hiring cheaters like Nathan Sproul and "accidentally" having duplicate ballots in Waukesha County would be right in their wheelhouse.

This week in WisGOP corruption pt. 1 - Walkergate convictions

Quite a remarkable run this week for the Wisconsin Republican Party and stories about sleazy behavior and corruption. Let's review.

1. The John Doe convictions of Kelly Rindfleisch and Kevin Kavanaugh. Both were appointed by Scott Walker in Milwaukee County, and both flagrantly broke the law during their time in office. Kavanaugh was found guilty of stealing more than $51,000 from veterans while working for Walker, as part of Walker and WTMJ's sponsored "Operation Freedom" campaign. As I mentioned last week, Operation Freedom may have been a noble charity, set up to give aid to the families of fallen and injured vets, but some skeptical minds might also note that it also seemed to be a GOP source of support for one Scott Walker. And I am one of those skeptical minds, as I mentioned last week
Kavanaugh was a Walker appointee who handled Operation Freedom funds for several years, and is accused of embezzling the money between 2006 and 2009. After Walker's Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli noticed the funds missing (note, it was NOT Walker who brought this up), Walker gave control of Operation Freedom funds over to a local American Legion post in early 2009. Interestingly, later in 2009 Walker took away the handling of funds for Operation Freedom from the American Legion, and gave it over to a non-profit headed by...Tim Russell. And Russell allegedly began to embezzle the funds for his own use, as well as a "Scott Walker for Governor" website.

The other part people forget about the Kavanaugh and Russell cases is that a lot of the donations for Operation Freedom came from some connected names and businesses, as mentioned on Page 17 of the Tim Russell criminal complaint. Kavanaugh is alleged to have used donations by then-State Rep. Mark Gundrum (who Walker would later appoint as a Court of Appeals judge), and Russell also got some of his Operation Freedom funds from GOP backers and politicians.
In addition to Russell (whose trial is slated to start in December), Rindfleisch's criminal complaint quotes her as "doing Operation Freedom" when she landed Russell's old job in Walker's office in early 2010. She was given a sweet deal, where she pleaded guilty to 1 of the 4 felonies of misconduct in office she was accused of. Rindfleisch then tried to weasel out of that great deal by pleading no contest (admitting no guilt) and trying to maintain her voter eligibility (which the felony would take away). She was laughed out of the courtroom, with the record showing her as guilty, and the GOP loses her vote for November (barring voter fraud, which we know the GOP is totally against, right?).

Now what did Kelly tell the Milwaukee County D-A's to get such a good deal? Guess we'll find out soon enough, and you can bet it'll be good.

2. We also had an update regarding the first person convicted under the John Doe investigation- former Wisconsin and Southern Railroad CEO William Gardner. Gardner was found guilty of two felony counts last year of telling his employees to give contributions in 2010 to Walker's campaign and others, and then paying those employees back, and got fined over $166,000 for doing so.

Since Gardner's conviction, WSOR got bought by Kansas-based Watco, whose says its biggest customer is Koch Industries, and has given huge donations to Kansas Republicans over the years. But I'm sure that's all coincidental.

Just like I'm sure that it's coincidental that Watco announced plans to move 30 jobs out of Wisconsin and into Kansas, and that other managers had already left the former WSOR. And Gardner? He's already parachuted out of there. So this WSOR pay-to-play deal helped Scott Walker's campaign, helped Bill Gardner and WSOR grab quite a few taxpayer funds, and increase the amount of rail availability for Koch Industries. In return, the state of Wisconsin fewer jobs and less integrity. Cool trade-off, eh?

The more you look into these incidents, the less isolated they are. Common tactics, common contrbutors, and connected people. It's very hard to think that Gardner, Kavanaugh, Rindfleisch, and Russell were all going rogue, and I have a feeling the Milwaukee County D-A's office knows it as well.

So just wait for the dots to be connected, and realize that there are other shoes to drop on the organized crime synidcate known as the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wrong is WRONG. It is not "debatable"

Last night Bill Maher hit on an anooyance of mine for the last several years. When right-wingers screw up, their record of error is never held to account. The main point starts around 2:00 in.

See, you can throw your opinion out there and see if it happens. It's a free country and that's what we call freedom. But WHEN YOU'RE WRONG, you lose credibility. When you say "tax cuts increase revenue" and ignore the last 30 years of evidence which show that argument to be a fallacy, you should be ignored and taken out of any kind of serious discussion. But instead people like Paul Ryan are allowed to continue to be let on Sunday morning talk shows to portray this image of some kind of "expert" on economic issues. WHY?

And it's not like these things aren't available to the public. Hell, here's Ryan from 10 years ago arguing in favor of stimulus as a way to help a stagnant economy.

  And we know that Ryan asked for stimulus funds in his district, with evidence that Ryan asked for even more government pork than we already knew. But yet Ryan was up there at Thursday night's debate saying he's never backed stimulus and that it "never works." Neither of these statements are true, and as I've mentioned before, the drop in the U.S. unemployment rate under Obama really isn't much different than when a teenage Paul Ryan was saying it was "Morning in America" during Ronald Reagan's re-election in 1984.
And remember these charts, which show when taxes are cut for the rich and corporate and trade barriers are taken down, money has been funneled away from wages and into profits for the last 30 years? And the only exception to this was in the 1990s when the top marginal tax rates were raised to 39%.  
Wages as % of GDP
Corporate profits as % of GDP
Top 10% incomes vs. bottom 90%, last 100 years
Income distribution 1979-2007

Trickle-down HAS FAILED and it has failed for a long time. Right-wingers lie and get it wrong. So how can anyone knowing these FACTS (not opinions, GOP, but facts and records) give these people any credibility at the ballot box?

To paraphrase Biden from Thursday (and what I'd better hear from Obama next Tuesday) "Use your common sense and experience, folks. You know the GOP's economic policies don't work. So why would we ever go back to them?"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Now that's the way you tell em, Joe!

That was one gratifying BEATDOWN by Biden last night on that fool Paul Ryan. I sure hope a lot more people are fired up like I am after watching that, and the biggest reason is because we finally saw lying supply-siders get exposed as the frauds that they are.

I wasn't the only guy happy with it. Matt Taibbi continues his run as the finest journalist in America by backing Biden's tactics, and further exposes the emptiness of Romney/Ryan's plans.
Think about what that means. Mitt Romney is running for president – for president! – promising an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut without offering any details about how that's going to be paid for. Forget being battered by the press, he and his little sidekick Ryan should both be tossed off the playing field for even trying something like that. This race for the White House, this isn't some frat prank. This is serious. This is for grownups, for God's sake....

Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can't report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit.

The Romney/Ryan ticket decided, with incredible cynicism, that that they were going to promise this massive tax break, not explain how to pay for it, and then just hang on until election day, knowing that most of the political press would let it skate, or at least not take a dump all over it when explaining it to the public. Unchallenged, and treated in print and on the air as though it were the same thing as a real plan, a 20 percent tax cut sounds pretty good to most Americans. Hell, it sounds good to me.

The proper way to report such a tactic is to bring to your coverage exactly the feeling that Biden brought to the debate last night: contempt and amazement. We in the press should be offended by what Romney and Ryan are doing – we should take professional offense that any politician would try to whisk such a gigantic lie past us to our audiences, and we should take patriotic offense that anyone is trying to seize the White House using such transparently childish and dishonest tactics.
Some (tightie-righties) may complain about the tone that Biden gave, openly mocking and confronting Ryan when Pau-LIE would try to throw out one of his numerous deceptions. I say fuck that. Respect is something that is earned, not given, and when someone is throwing out factless crap to your face, the proper reaction is mockery and humiliation, to show innocent bystanders what a dimwit this person really is. This keeps the bystanders from being confused and potentially tricked by snake oil salesmen like this.

It was offensive to hear Paul Ryan try to say Social Security is "bankrupt," when Social Security's own report says it can pay full benefits for the next 20 years without any changes at all. After that time, there would have to be cuts to keep it going...for the next 50 years.
Redemption of trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury will provide the resources needed to offset the annual cash-flow deficits. Since these redemptions will be less than interest earnings through 2020, nominal trust fund balances will continue to grow. The trust fund ratio, which indicates the number of years of program cost that could be financed solely with current trust fund reserves, peaked in 2008, declined through 2011, and is expected to decline further in future years. After 2020, Treasury will redeem trust fund assets in amounts that exceed interest earnings until exhaustion of trust fund reserves in 2033.... Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2086.
Biden rightfully ridiculed Ryan's false alarmism, and reminded people of how screwed they'd be if Ryan and Bush and company got their wish in 2005 to sell off part of Social Security and leave people's retirements up to the market instead of with the stability and promise of the current system.

And of course, if millionaires like Paul Ryan paid the same percentage I did in Social Security, the system wouldn't have to change anything else for several decades- in fact it could cover more people, encouraging earlier retirements and decreasing unemployment. Amaing how this obvious reality never comes up in the "liberal media."

Also amazing is how Ryan tried to argue that the current economic recovery is proof of Obama/Biden failures. As evidence, Ryan said that the job gains were lower in September than August (and they were, 114,000 vs. 162,000), but the average of the last 3 months is just over 145,000, right in line with the 12-month average of 150,500 jobs. And the chart of the last 3 years of job numbers sure doesn't indicate a stalling out to me.

Ryan has seen these numbers, but continues to try to lie to the public because he thinks they'll be ignorant enough to buy it. But when you see consumer confidence at its highest level in 5 years, I get the feeling that Ryan's whinin' about the "slow" economy is going to fall on deaf ears outside of the conserva-bubble.

Same goes for Ryan's crocodile tears about the deficit and national debt. As Biden pointed out, Ryan sure didn't give a shit about this when he was voting for two wars, two Bush tax cuts, and the Medicare Part D spending explosion in the early 2000s. These moves are the largest reasons behind our current structural deficits, and the financial crisis made it a double-whammy with deeper deficits (a crisis brought on by policies that Ryan favored).

Know something Ryan didn't say about the deficit? It it went down by more than $200 billion in the fiscal year that just ended on Sept. 30. Sure, it's still at $1.09 trillion and it needs to go down further (with raising taxes on the rich being the best way to do this), but it's at least the deficit's going in the right direction, and it's a decrease of more than 15% from last year. One of the biggest reasons why? Increased jobs and increased profits, as revenues were up more than 6% compared to fiscal 2011.

In contrast to the rising unemployment and recessions in austerity-afflicted Europe, U.S. deficits are going down while jobs are going up. So why are Romney/Ryan asking for European-style solutions for our growing U.S. economy?

Good question, and one I'd love to hear Obama make Mittens have to answer at the next debate on Tuesday the 16th. Obama was shown a lesson in how to treat these GOP charlatans from old master Joe Biden last night, now it's time for Barack to turn that lesson into action.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dear Mr. President

Well, our media seems to be getting a bit of the horse race they've wanted, as the polls have tightened some in the last week. And it probably is because of President Obama's lame performance in the Denver debates, as well as the media's pro-Romney reaction to it. Driving through Western Wisconsin this week, it seemed there was an uptick in Romney/Ryan bumper stickers and yard signs, although there are also plenty of Obama/Dem signs as well, and it certainly doesn't feel like 2010, when you were swamped with GOP signs in rural Wisconsin.

Since everyone likes to use lame sports analogies in politics, I might as well join in here for my take on what happened and where we are. Obama was up 17 points early in the 4th quarter before the debate happened. He dropped into prevent defense and let Romney walk right down the field in a 2-minute drive. Now it's a 10-point game and it feels like Romney is working on another drive to make this a 1-possession game. As we found out last Sunday in Indianapolis, bad things can happen when you put your foot off the gas with a lead.

Obama still leads, both in the U.S. and in Wisconsin, but it's time for the Blue team to make a play and fight some of this momentum off. A good 2 weeks will still put this thing away (GOPs can only get away with hate, constant lying and deflection for so long), but now it's going to take work instead of coasting in and maybe getting a landslide-style blowout.

I'm sure hoping it starts tonight, with the ol' vet Joe Biden teaching that little kid Paul Ryan a thing or two. Unlike 2008 vs. Caribou Barbie, Biden doesn't have to pull his punches to avoid looking like a bully, and this could be quite a bit of fun to see Ryan get his comeuppance once and for all.

And maybe it'll teach Obama a lesson- being a nice guy and assuming the average person will figure it out won't cut it. You'd think 3 1/2 years as president would have taught him that, but sometimes he still thinks elections are an academic debate, and they're not. If Obama likes his current job and wants to keep it, it'd serve him well to listen to this tune for the next 26 days.

Dear Mr. President, PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walkergate- go back to the future for the full picture

The web that is Walkergate is really starting to spin, and quite possibly out of control for our fair guv. The news came down yesterday that Gov. Walker was subpoenaed in the Kelly Rindfleisch case, and is scheduled to take the stand next week. Let's go back a bit to remember what Rindfleisch is on trial FOR- working on GOP campaigns while she was on the taxpayer dime as Walker's Deputy Chief of Staff in Milwaukee County.

If you read Page 4 of the criminal complaint against Rindfleisch, she tells her friend in a webchat "half of what I'm doing is policy for the (GOP 2010) campaign, it's policy stuff but it's for use [for the campaign]." Rindfleisch also admits in the webchat she's using the special County Exec Office's special wireless router that was installed 25 feet from Walker's office.

Then I'll take you back to Jud Lounsbury's point from this January, that when Walker sent the infamous "we cannot afford another story like this one" email about Darlene Wink's illegal campaigning to Tim Russell in 2010 Rindfleisch had taken Russell's job, and therefore ol' Timmy should not have been the one Scotty talked to. According to Lounsbury, this meant... the time Walker gave the order to Russell, he had no official oversight capacity over the County Executive Office staff indicated in Walker's email-- his only role at the time was as the defacto head of illegal campaign operations in the County Executive's Office. In fact, Russell wasn't even supposed to be in the county executive's office-- his official job was more than a mile away at the Health and Human Services Building.

Or, to look at it another way, if Walker truly had no idea what was going on and simply wanted to send out a directive ensuring no more illegal campaign activity why wouldn't he send the email to those officially in charge of oversight of his office: Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli or Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleish?

Clearly, Walker emailed Tim Russell because he knew Tim Russell was in charge of the illegal campaign-at-work set-up.
And if Walker knew about the fake router, he probably had more than a clue about that Rindfleisch would use it when Walker hired her. As I said last April, it's one hell of a coincidence if Walker did not know this, since he signed off on Rindfleisch's hiring in 2010. And he must have approved of what Rindfleisch did in her short time in Milwaukee County, because Rindfleisch was part of Scott Walker's entourage at fund-raisers in early 2011, before she was charged in Walkergate.

Lastly, let's also not forget that Rindfleisch mentions in her webchats "I'm also doing Operation Freedom." That event is in the news this week as the trial of Kevin Kavanaugh started up. You may remember that Kavanaugh is the POS accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Operation Freedom (money intended for the families of killed and wounded veterans) and using it to try to pay off his own debts. What people shouldn't forget is how Kavanaugh got access to that money in the first place.

Kavanaugh was a Walker appointee who handled Operation Freedom funds for several years, and is accused of embezzling the money between 2006 and 2009. After Walker's Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli noticed the funds missing (note, it was NOT Walker who brought this up), Walker gave control of Operation Freedom funds over to a local American Legion post in early 2009. Interestingly, later in 2009 Walker took away the handling of funds for Operation Freedom from the American Legion, and gave it over to a non-profit headed by...Tim Russell. And Russell allegedly began to embezzle the funds for his own use, as well as a "Scott Walker for Governor" website.

The other part people forget about the Kavanaugh and Russell cases is that a lot of the donations for Operation Freedom came from some connected names and businesses, as mentioned on Page 17 of the Tim Russell criminal complaint. Kavanaugh is alleged to have used donations by then-State Rep. Mark Gundrum (who Walker would later appoint as a Court of Appeals judge), and Russell also got some of his Operation Freedom funds from GOP backers and politicians.
During the months of late Winter 2010 and Spring 2010, Operation Freedom continued to collect more donations for the July 2010 event for military veterans. These donations included generous sums from (now-U.S. Senator) Ron and Jane Johnson, Rockwell Automation, WE Energies, M&I Trust Company, Associated Bank, the Republican Party of Milwaukee County..., J.P. Cullen and Sons, and the Forest County Potowatomi Community.
Now maybe these people and organizations just wanted some good PR to show they supported the troops. Or maybe they were finding a good way to go around donation laws to Scott Walker's campaign - especially given that Walker's campaign is where some of that money ended up.

This is the real story. The money-funneling and organized crime syndicate that the Wisconsin GOP may well be exposed in the next 2 weeks. As Charles P. Pierce writes today in Esquire's political blog
It appears that, in the words of Lamar Parmentel, the crooked New Orleans lawyer in The Big Easy, Walker's old office in Milwaukee was "a marvelous environment for coincidence."
And in politics, "coincidences" aren't usually coincidences.

P.S. Apparently now Rindfleisch will plead guilty on Thursday, keeping Walker off the stand for now. This smells like a cover-up/ stalling maneuver by Corrupt Kelly. I'm not sure it'll work, as I'm guessing the Milwaukee County D-A has plenty of other items on Walker if they want to.

But wow. These people really are like the Mob.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

That 7.8% and job increase is REAL, bitches

Here's my quick take on the huge employment report that came out yesterday, which probably has cemented Obama's victory (if there was any doubt before). The data largely matches up with historical trends of the last 2 1/2 years, all treasonous GOP whining to the contrary.

First of all, the drop in unemployment below 8% is understandably the biggest development, and let's look at the report to see where it came from. First thing to remember is that the unemployment rate is a separate survey from non-farm payrolls, and so it is therefore not unusual for it to be a bit different than the non-farm payroll survey. And the household survey showed 775,000 more people reported to be "employed" in September than in August. Quite a bit more than 200,000 in the non-farm payroll report, but if you look over the last 2 years, the difference isn't all that much at all.

Change in NSA "employed," Sept 2009- 2012
Sept 2009- Sept 2010 +636,000
Sept 2010- Sept 2011 +787,000
Sept 2011- Sept 2012 +2,831,000
TOTAL +4.254 million

Change in NSA non-farm payrolls
Sept 2009- Sept 2010 +114,000
Sept 2010- Sept 2011 +1,784,000
Sept 2011- Sept 2012 +1,822,000
TOTAL +3.722 million

So the household survey is slightly nicer to Obama over 3 years, at another 500,000 jobs, but over the last 2 years, the numbers are within 12,000 of each other. So it's quite logical to think that there is a regression to reality for both these numbers over the course of time. Certainly no funny business as far as I can tell.

Let's not get too peachy though, because the "employed" increase isn't all rainbows and ice cream, as is was partly due to a huge increase in part-time workers in September. And to it credit, the BLS report minces no words on it (unlike a Walker DWD report, where this information would be buried or not even mentioned).
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose from 8.0 million in August to 8.6 million in September. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
Sounds like back to school time certainly played a factor here. But a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings is a good sign, as the biggest missing piece in this recovery has been wage growth (despite record profits, proving once again that trickle down is a load of crap).

And no, the 7.8% number is NOT due to people dropping out of the workforce (unlike the August decrease), as the workforce numbers actually grew on a seasonally-adjusted basis for September

Change in U.S. labor force, Aug, Sept 2012

August DOWN 368,000
Sept. UP 418,000

There's an interesting reason for this discrepancy, and it relates to my theory of seasonal adjustments being obsolete. If you look at the non-seasonally adjusted numbers, the 2-month change in the workforce isn't all that different than the last 5 years (except for the Depression year of 2009 and the re-entry year of 2011).

2-month change in labor force, N.S.A
2006 -1.394 million
2007 -1.471 million
2008 -1.791 million
2009 -2.638 million
2010 -1.416 million
2011 -0.790 million
2012 -1.451 million

Know what's interesting? 2007 also has a huge amount of its dropouts be in August with few in September, just like 2012. Know else 2007 and 2012 had in common? Same calendar. 5 Fridays in August in both years and Sept. 1 and 15 falling on a Saturday (for example), and it makes me wonder if the survey schedule was messed up as a result. It washes out after 2 months, but it makes the month-to-month numbers look different than a typical year, and it makes the "seasonal" adjustment different as well.

But no matter the reason, the 7.8% is good news, and the continued drop in unemployment makes Obama's first term continue to look at lot like Reagan's "Morning in America" first term. In fact, I'd argue this graph makes Obama look BETTER, because things were falling apart more in January 2009 vs. January 1981, and Obama stopped the bleeding a whole lot quicker.

As for the non-farm payroll survey- it showed a relatively mediocre 114,000 new jobs created in September, but when you add in upward revisions for July and August, we really had 200,000 more jobs created, which is pretty good. It also counteracted the 41,000 in downward revisions in the last report, worthy of mention as well because it means only +45,000 in revisions over the last 2 reports, which isn't all that much and certainly doesn't indicate any messing with the numbers.

In fact, the non-farm payroll numbers illustrate the steady recovery we've had from the worst economic collapse in the last 80 years, and Obama's first term continues to outpace the first term of George Bush's without the boost in war/government employment that Bushie got.

So after looking at this data, I have 2 simple statements.

1. Yes, the decrease in unemployment and job growth reported by BLS is REAL. Unlike the numerous quarters of inflated profits that Jack Welch reported at GE, BLS statisticians didn't lie, and have no reason to lie.

2. Since we've been going in the right direction for the better part of 3 years, why would you want to go back to the failed GOP/ trickle down policies that got us in the mess that we had to get out of?

Yeah, I think we should stay the course with Obama. How bout you?

And with that, it's time to tailgate.