Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Weak is the Wisconsin Right Wing?

We are only a week from the April 7 election and it appears that the right wing candidates for statewide office are not going to air even one single TV ad. Neither Randy Koschnick nor Rose Fernandez have been able to muster the kind of support that translates into donations and ads. Furthermore it does not appear that any of the usual right wing organizations are doing ad buys to support either candidate. Many of them certainly have the means, so why the complete and total ad silence? I think that this is remarkable and I'm actually starting to wonder if the right wing in Wisconsin has simply given up or if they are just too weak? Certainly there are zealous followers, as with any campaign, but I'm talking about the real movers and shakers and all of the usual funders of rightwingology. They have the funds to create a new right wing organization every year but they don't have it to support their right wing candidates? If they haven't given up, then this is truly a peculiar strategy leading up to an election. Maybe they are counting only on the right wing radio yackers to give them the usual nonstop free ad-time preaching to their choir.

You can't really blame the right wing and the Republican Party of Wisconsin for being a little shell-shocked right now. They again lost the Presidential race here (by a much wider margin), they have lost all control of the state legislature, and they couldn't beat Congressman Kagen even though it was a top priority. That followed by the lack of financial support in this election, makes me wonder just how weak the Wisconsin GOP is right now. While Reince Priebus has been managing the Michael Steele train wreck in Washington, are Wisconsin conservatives crashing and burning? And now they are starting to gear up for a bitter and divisive primary battle for governor?

Obviously I don't have a crystal ball, but the recent track record and the observable evidence reminds me of a classic TV commercial. Since the right wing isn't offering any TV ads during this election cycle, I'll submit this one on their behalf.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Two Strikes"

"Two Strikes" from Chief Justice Abrahamson on Vimeo.

A Right Wing Fan Club Doesn’t Equal Education Experience

We already know that Dr. Tony Evers is eminently qualified to head the Department of Public Instruction. He has some 34 years of experience at all levels of education, not to mention the fact that he is a parent and a grand parent of public school children. With such an accomplished background as an educator, it is no wonder that he is almost unanimously supported by teachers, principals, and superintendents in every corner of the state.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have Rose Fernandez who has zero background, training or experience in education at any level. She has not worked in a public school for even one day, much less dedicating 34 years of her life to education in Wisconsin. In fact, the only experience that she has that is even remotely related to education is her leading of what looks like a front group for the for-profit company K12, Inc. This is the same out-of-state company that bragged about making some $5 million from Wisconsin taxpayers by selling their products for homeschooling via the internet. In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if K12 and their connections in this state haven't been intimately involved in the propping up of this candidate from very early on in the process. Unfortunately none of this translates into Rose Fernandez having the abilities or training to head DPI.

Although Rose Fernandez has zero experience in education, she does have an education and experience in nursing. Coming from that background, one might expect that she at least has the backing from people in that important profession. Unfortunately for Fernandez, the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals just came out to endorse Dr. Evers for Superintendent. Wow, that one has really got to hurt!

When you take a look at Rose Fernandez complete lack of training/background in education, you can only assume that she is receiving support from the right wing simply for espousing all of the preferred talking points. Unfortunately for Wisconsin students that includes the "voucherizing" of their schools and basically taking the "public" out of the DPI. That may translate into having a large right wing fan club, but that does not equal being good for leading education in Wisconsin.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Number 0, Brought to You by...

The Party of No...Ideas

The Many Faces of Randy Koschnick

We have already seen many examples of there being several versions of Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick. On crime and punishment we have seen Attorney Koschnick and Candidate Koschnick who seem to hold very different views. We have seen Randy Koschnick talking about running a "clean campaign" only to witness a constant practice of low-road rhetoric. Now we are being introduced to an entirely different set of Koschnicks. One that believes in free speech even if it is "messy" and the other that wants to silence speech that he doesn't like.

Even though his entire campaign has been practicing a constant smear of the Chief Justice of our state's high court, he now has the audacity to complain about an ad by a third party group. Actually, his own boilerplate list of partisan talking points practically wrote the ad itself. Even so, he is now trying to get Television stations to pull the third party ad, simply because he does not agree with it. That is very different from the free speech loving Randy Koschnick that we saw as recently as March 19 in a La Crosse debate appearance. In that debate he was asked about public financing of campaigns and he gave the following answer:

I have no problem with public financing being made available so that viable candidates can run. However, if there's any restriction (inaudible) of such a plan on free speech
rights, I would be against that strongly. We cannot restrict the rights of individuals and groups to voice their opinions about candidates. Does it get messy once in a while when we have a democratic process? Yes. Does the First Amendment create some messy situations? Yes. Do we tolerate speech
that many of us find offensive? Yes.

But I don't think that the answer to concerns about third-party groups being involved in campaigns is to try to suppress the free speech rights of individuals and groups. I think the answer to the problem of offensive or troublesome speech is more speech. And so if somebody says something that's
not true or inaccurate, I think the answer, rather than trying to suppress that speech, is to allow the candidates and others to come out with a response and put the truth out there and let the public decide. So to the extent that public financing proposals would restrict free speech as many of them do, I don't agree with them. If it's public financing with no strings attached, it's a wonderful option.

Lofty rhetoric but as soon as he was given his first chance to practice it, he decided to flush the constitutionally correct argument in exchange for the more politically convenient one. If he really meant what he said in that debate, then he should stop trying to "suppress that speech" and "come out with a response" to it (to borrow his own words). Why doesn't he just get out there and finally show us who he (really) is? It will be interesting to see which Koschnick ends up winning this internal argument. Will it be the one that supports free speech or the one that wants to silence it?

Where is the “Turnaround Team” for the Voucher Program?

Recently an analysis verified what many well informed people already knew, that Milwaukee voucher schools performed at just about the same level as Milwaukee Public Schools. People like DPI candidate Rose Fernandez and others on the extreme would have us "voucherize" the entire state claiming that these schools are somehow superior to public. This new study provides a much needed dose of reality for anyone that really cares about education in this state. One of the main tenets of the Fernandez campaign is to create what she calls a "Turnaround Team" for Milwaukee Public Schools. Since the voucher program is working as good (or as bad) as MPS, why hasn't Rose Fernandez proposed a "Turnaround Team" for the voucher program? And while I'm asking questions, is she proposing that we spend half as much on MPS or twice as much on the voucher program or both?

It seems pretty clear that Rose Fernandez wants to spread the voucher program all over the state. Since the voucher schools are functioning at the same basic level as MPS, is she saying that Milwaukee schools level of performance is acceptable for the rest of the state? She is talking about "changing" things but I don't think there are many around the state that would welcome that change. Either she is suggesting that we lower educational standards across the state or she is being strictly partisan and extreme in her blind support of the voucher program. It doesn't matter which it is because both are bad for our students and both are bad for education in Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

“Young Gun” Unloaded by Pretend Budget

On the same day that he was announced as a GOP "Young Gun" by his fans at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Paul Ryan was thrown under the bus by his own party leaders. The Politico has the following report:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) raised objections to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

The argument, coming a week before the full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the budget, underscores the minority party's woes in a mounting unified opposition to President Obama's $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget proposal.

Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.

But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.

The 19-page document, prepared by Pence's office, was distributed two days after President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.

"In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.

Quite simply this amazing "Young Gun" of the Republican Party was promptly "unloaded" today, and by a small 19 page pretend budget no less.

“Young Gun” with the Same Old Dogma

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted Congressman Paul Ryan again. That paper loves them some youngish Republicans! The story focuses on a program within the GOP called "Young Guns". By including Paul Ryan, apparently the only criteria is his age as it is compared to the average age in Congress. Being part of this club has very little to do with anything new like – say, fresh ideas.

Paul Ryan is a perfect example. Although he may be younger than most in Congress, he still has spent his time there following the GOP leaders right off the cliff that was the last two election cycles. He was a faithful rubber stamp for George W. Bush and I can't think of even one example of him doing anything other than towing the party line…the same OLD party line.

Now Paul Ryan has positioned himself as part of the obstructionist posse in Congress opposing everything and offering little to no real ideas. Despite the fact that his blind support of Bush helped put us in this current economic mess, he still relies on the same old talking points. Tax cuts for the rich will solve everything, zero regulation on big biz and anything from the government is bad. Pardon me, but I think that I have heard those talking points someplace before - like for the last 20 years!

So Paul Ryan being in a new club called the "Young Guns" may qualify as front page news in some papers, but it doesn't mean much when he still relies on all of the same old dogma.

UPDATE I: Now Read "Young Gun Unloaded by Pretend Budget".

UPDATE II: Have a laugh by watching "The Number 0, Brought to you by..."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Scott Walker Does His Best Rose Fernandez Impression

During last week Friday's DPI debate, Rose Fernandez did her best Scott Walker impression by waffling on an $800 million question. Now Scott Walker is repaying the favor by doing his best Rose Fernandez impression. I told you that these two spent too much time together at all of those rabidly partisan events! They really are two peas in a pod! Rose waffles on investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Wisconsin kids' education. Walker refuses investment in Milwaukee County, and then pledges to send 230 more Milwaukee workers into the unemployment line. All of that just to pander to the extreme right wing!

So while Rose and Scott continue to impersonate each other, the rest of us need to make note of their actions and reject that rigid ideology. Anything less would be a very expensive mistake for both Milwaukee County and the entire State of Wisconsin.

UPDATE: So now Scott Walker is backtracking on his promise to send 230 workers to the unemployment line. Typical Walker, the second he thinks that it might be bad for him politically, he adjusts to what he thinks is expedient for his own future. That may be one way to run a campaign but it is NO WAY to govern.

“101 Ways to Get Rejected”

After going through a long series of difficult events, many people turn to writing because it can be rather therapeutic. With the string of rejections that Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick has been experiencing lately, I suggest that he start putting a pen to paper soon. Here is just a sampling of what he has endured:

90 percent of the Milwaukee Bar Association declared the Chief Justice qualified, while only 25 percent described Koschnick as such. The spin after that tally seemed to be that they just don't know him well enough.

Enter the majority of Jefferson County Judges, that I assume know Koschnick very well. Two of the three judges endorsed the Chief Justice, with one enthusiastically editorializing about it in local papers. Along with the nonpartisan judges, some 60 plus prominent officials and residents in Jefferson County picked the Chief Justice over Koschnick. Since the Koschnick Campaign couldn't say that they didn't know him, they turned to saying that these were all Democrats. Contrary to that argument, one of the Abrahamson supporters is a former Republican legislator and at least one supported Koschnick back in 1999.

After having heard from Koschnick for over a month since the Milwaukee Bar Association survey, Dane County Lawyers still overwhelmingly declared the Chief Justice qualified. The actual number was again close to 90 percent whereas those describing Koschnick as qualified was an embarrassing 9 percent. The suggested talking point after that, was the same tired "liberal Madison" excuse.

Well surly a similar survey of Waukesha County lawyers would correct this "partisan" trend right? After all, Waukesha is known as the most Republican/conservative county in the state right? So what were the results of Waukesha County Lawyers? Out of the 176 lawyers, 127 rated the Chief Justice as highly qualified compared to only 33 that described Koschnick in the same way. To make it even worse, more of these Waukesha County lawyers described him as not qualified (43).

Unfortunately Koschnick is not even able to fall back on endorsements. Just look at how lopsided some of those are:

Police Chiefs

114 for Abrahamson and 24 for Koschnick


33 for Abrahamson and 22 for Koschnick

Law Enforcement Organizations

7 for Abrahamson and 2 for Koschnick

District Attorneys

40 for Abrahamson and 12 for Koschnick

And now for the really embarrassing one, Judges

262 for Abrahamson and only 7 for Koschnick

If he does decide to put pen to paper about the last few months, I'd like to offer a possible title: "101 Ways to Get Rejected" by Randy Koschnick.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WIL Fernandez Join the Whining about WEAC?

Talker Charlie Sykes has already started what is sure to be a chorus of right wing whining about the ads that WEAC might run in the DPI race. It seems odd that they would actually complain about anyone running ads since they are usually silent when an organization on the right runs them. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Coalition for Americas Families come to mind as a couple of sleazy examples from last year.

There is another organization that will be interesting to watch, to see if they decide to jump into the DPI fray – that would be the Wisconsin Institute for Leadership (WIL). They appear to have been mothballed ever since their executive director, Brian Fraley, left to run the Rose Fernandez campaign. At that time, I commented that the Fraley/WIL/Fernandez connections were a little troubling in my opinion. It seemed to me that the whole arrangement was a little too close to a few important lines.

Although WIL has not really done anything since Fraley left, one must wonder if they will suddenly start taking actions supporting the campaign that their ED now runs. Last year they took actions against certain legislative targets. One Wisconsin Now has reported that the for-profit out-of-state company K12 was the only donor to WIL's affiliated 527 which ran the ads. K12 reportedly gave some $50k to help fund those activities. It seems reasonable to ask whether K12 will hand over more cash to WIL or some other organization, if they haven't already. They certainly have a huge special interest in the DPI race in particular, so it wouldn't be surprising if they have been investing in this race since before the primary. Their special interests in the DPI race are crystal clear to anyone that knows about the various connections between the Rose Fernandez campaign and K12.

Equally as interesting will be the reaction of Brian Fraley to any possible WEAC ads. As Rose Fernandez campaign manager, will he complain about it while saying nothing about any possible K12 funded attacks? Before he or the campaign that he is running starts complaining they may want to revisit some of Fraley's past public comments. As previously mentioned, WIL targeted legislative candidates last fall. At that time some of their actions brought about a complaint that was filed with the Government Accountability Board. In the middle of that entire episode, then-WIL ED Brian Fraley commentated that "…WIL has a right to discuss the important public policy issues facing Wisconsin." Should they join the whining about WEAC chorus, the Fernandez Campaign must answer the following question: Don't Wisconsin teachers have that same right?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rose Waffle Should Give Us Pause

On Saturday I wrote about how Rose Fernandez waffled on a question, about accepting federal stimulus funds. As I have already mentioned, this appears to be little more than a Walker-style pander to the furthest of the right wing that makes up her base. The obvious problem is that she apparently is willing to put her base before the education needs of the kids in this state. Rose Fernandez should be pressed further about her troubling response because these stimulus dollars will have a real impact on education in Wisconsin.

According to the Recovery.Gov website, Wisconsin would get significant help in some very important areas of education. Here are just some of the items that Rose waffled on in the last debate:

  • $208,200,000 for Special Education Part B, Section 611

  • $180,929,364 for Title I Education for the Disadvantaged

  • $9,276,172 for Head Start

Special Education funding has consistently been a top challenge for the states and Wisconsin is no exception. To have someone waffle on further federal help in this area, makes zero sense and would only hurt students, their parents, and education in general. Similarly, Title I funding is critical to ensuring solid education opportunities for disadvantaged students. The extra funding in these two areas alone would be huge for districts like MPS which has large numbers of students that fall into both of these categories.

Less investment in education can often lead to larger class sizes and laid off teachers, neither of which are good for students. In these desperate economic times, that is exactly the kind of thing that the stimulus funding is meant to avoid. Refusing funding based on little more than ideological purity, would constitute a serious dereliction of duty. The case can also be made that refusing the stimulus funds for education could actually translate into higher property taxes. We have to run these programs and they have to be paid for in one way or another. The less that we get from the federal government, the more that the school districts will probably need from property taxpayers.

Rose Fernandez may have managed to stay ideologically pure for her fans on the extreme right, but her waffling on such a basic question should give the rest of us pause. Larger class sizes? Teacher lay-offs? Higher property taxes? Less quality? Those are certainly changes, but they are not the kind of changes that we need in Wisconsin education.

UPDATE: Walker, Fernandez and now Sarah Palin. What a cast of characters!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rose Doing Her Best Scott Walker Impression

Last night the two candidates running for Department of Public Instruction participated in a We the People debate. In one of the more interesting moments, Rose Fernandez tried out her best Scott Walker impression. The priceless moment came when the candidates were asked if they would accept the federal stimulus money that has been designated for education in Wisconsin. Dr. Tony Evers welcomed the chance to pump $800 million dollars into our state's schools, rightfully commenting that "educators are the lever that can turn our economy around." Rose Fernandez on the other hand took what should have been a softball and turned it into a strike out. Fernandez waffled as to whether she would accept the unprecedented federal investment in Wisconsin education and Wisconsin students. Quite an odd thing for someone that wants to run the Department of Public Instruction. Although it is not a surprise.

Apparently Rose Fernandez has spent too much time with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker at all of those partisan events all over the state. Who can forget Walker's infamous refusal to bring home our own federal tax investment to meet the many needs of our own county? He may have pleased the hardest of the right wing primary voters, but he was broadly panned across most other lines. Apparently Rose doesn't want to offend her base of support on the far far right, so she waffled on an $800 million question.

It's not a good sign when someone with zero qualifications and a questionable administrative history, follows it up with turning down an $800 million federal investment in the students of Wisconsin. It is even worse when that is a candidate for the Department of Public Instruction. I know that they probably spent a good deal of time together at these hyper-partisan events, but the last thing that anyone needs to do right now is imitate the Walking failure from Wauwatosa.

Now Read Part II: "Rose Waffle Should Give Us Pause"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Taking the Public Out of the DPI

As she has been running to head the Department of Public Instruction, Rose Fernandez has said that she supports public schools. But you wouldn't know it if you looked beyond her campaign rhetoric. A 2005 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about her children attending a Virtual School, revealed that they had previously been homeschooled. Some of her older children that were featured in that story now attend a private school. So there was homeschooling, then virtual schools, then a private school. This pattern seems to show that she has never been a big fan of public schools - that is until she decided to run for public office. Apparently we are supposed to just accept her campaign rhetoric without asking why Public schools were never good enough (at any point) for her own children.

Unfortunately Rose Fernandez has zero track record to look at beyond her campaign promises and current rhetoric. Let's face it, Rose Fernandez has zero experience with or investment in our state's public schools. This seems odd since she wants to lead the Department of PUBLIC Instruction. Voters are really being asked to take quite a big leap of faith indeed. They are being asked to take a person that has zero experience as an educator at any level and allow her to lead the entire state's education system. The public is being asked to make someone the head of the Department of Public Instruction that has never shown a real commitment to, well…public instruction.

If Rose Fernandez severe lack of real-life support is not enough, just look at some of her stated positions. When responding to questions from the wildly extreme Wisconsin Family Council, Fernandez sounded all of the right anti-public school talking points that they prefer to hear. In that document she supports not only removing the cap on the number of voucher schools in Milwaukee but then expanding it all across the state. In doing this she would essentially be lifting money out of the pockets of our public schools all over the state and handing it over to what she truly prefers – private schools. Her comments to the Wisconsin Family Council are unmistakable and they clearly show that she plans to "voucherize" Wisconsin schools.

Rose Fernandez not only has a preference for private schools but also apparently has a soft spot for private and for profit out-of-state companies. Rose Fernandez is connected in several different directions to the for-profit, Virginia-based company K12, Inc. She actually started surfacing in news stories, such as the one referenced above, directly in relation to K12 and virtual schools. K12 contracts with school districts using virtual schools and has made a handsome profit on Wisconsin dollars. In one K12 prospectus (pg. 69) the firm bragged about possibly capturing some $5 million dollars from the State of Wisconsin in the fiscal year 2008. Making this kind of scratch, K12 certainly has been able to fund all sorts of lobbyists and others to protect their Wisconsin gravy train. Rose Fernandez has been a loyal supporter of this private company and they would like nothing more than to see her gain a position that could realistically translate into even larger profits. It makes me wonder if they have or if they will invest any more of their loot into this race in one way or another.

Rose Fernandez wants to take over the Department of Public Instruction, even though she has never shown any observable support for public schools. Over the years she has personally avoided them, she has zero investment in them, and she supports taking away funding from them to prop up private schools and even a private company. One thing is now painfully clear, Rose Fernandez plans to take the Public out of the Department of Public Instruction.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some of the AIG Outrage is Simply Outrageous

You can't turn on the news without seeing some Congressional Republican trying to get face time by jumping on the AIG outrage bandwagon. The problem with many of the Republican leadership in Congress is that they held the exact opposite view only a short time ago. Last month when Congress was debating executive pay, key members of the Republican leadership were totally against capping such payments.

At the time that capping these kinds of payments was being considered, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) protested such caps saying, "I really don't want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do." That seemed to be the Republican talking point on the subject as Senate Banking Committee ranking member Richard Shelby said, "It should be up to the board of directors of a private corporation to set the compensation of an executive; it shouldn't be Congress's role."

Those two are certainly not alone:

  • Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) says that he feels "outraged" about the AIG bonuses, but he opposed salary caps back in September.
  • Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) now says that it is "unacceptable" to pay the AIG bonuses but in early February he said that the worst thing that could be done is "to tell business how to run themselves."
  • Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is complaining about shoveling money out the door "with no strings attached" but just last month he got all sanctimonious saying, "I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay and how much to pay?"

Not to be left out, the Republican Party of Wisconsin is now trying to channel their inner-populist, attempting to desperately leverage it any way that they can. Rather than issuing over-reaching press releases, maybe they should first figure out the correct talking point from Republican leadership in Congress. Given their conflicting statements, it could prove to be a near impossible task.

H/T to Think Progress who has been all over this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The People that Know Koschnick Best are Backing the Chief

John Nichols is reporting that many prominent people in Jefferson County are getting behind Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson rather than their own Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick. That group of people includes prominent police chiefs, lawyers, a former Republican legislator and even two of the three other judges that serve with Koschnick. The full list that was released yesterday totals 65 prominent residents of Jefferson County. It seems pretty clear that those who know Koschnick the best, are backing the Chief.

Included with the release, the retiring 18 year veteran on the Jefferson bench, Judge John Ullsvik, made several very clear points as to why he was endorsing Abrahamson over Koschnick. His comments were originally sent to the local papers in Jefferson County and stated some of the following reasons for his endorsement:

  • The Chief Justice is "recognized for her impartiality, intellect, knowledge of the law, leadership, courage and hard work."
  • Koschnick's "primary concern has been how fast cases can be finished" but he has a "below-average affirmation rate (74%) when his decisions are appealed."
  • In his 10 years as a judge, "he has rarely written a decision, which is an important skill for a Supreme Court Justice."
  • He also suggests that Koschnick is lacking in "collegiality and humility" which are "also important for such a position."

It should really not be a huge surprise that a majority of Koschnick's fellow Jefferson County judges are not backing him. It was only a short time ago that the Capital Times reported on all of the internal strife that happened in the Jefferson County courthouse on Koschnick's watch. The real surprise is that these Jefferson County judges are joined with many other prominent lawyers, law enforcement officials and others.

In a desperate attempt to spin his way out of this troubling development, the Koschnick Campaign put out a late and wandering press release yesterday. While listing many of his absurd talking points, which are totally unrelated to this issue, Koschnick tries to explain away these local endorsements claiming that these people are Jefferson County Democrats. Upon even just a partial examination, this argument doesn't hold water. First and foremost, one of the most prominent people on the list is former Republican legislator. Furthermore, Jefferson County Judges Ullsvik and Erwin hold nonpartisan offices, don't appear to be affiliated with partisan politics and don't appear to have given any political contributions to anyone of any party (check WDC database). Even more interesting is the fact that at least one of the people on the list is a local lawyer that originally supported Koschnick when he first ran for Judge in 1999. Apparently this lawyer and the other Jefferson County folks know Randy Koschnick very well and they also know that he does not belong on the high court.

Monday, March 16, 2009

To the Right of Comrades Folkbum and Capper

Jay at Folkbum’s Rambles and Rants posted the results of two political quizzes today. I’m sure that he did this on purpose, knowing full well that I can’t resist this sort of thing.

The first is “the Progressive quiz” sponsored by The Center for American Progress. It argues that the country is increasingly getting more progressive, a point with which I totally agree. It states that the average American scores about 209.5 on a progressive scale which tops out at 400. Jay reports that he scored an “extremely progressive” 342 while Capper tells me that he scored 340. I didn’t realize that I was so “right wing” as I came in at 234!

In the same blog posting, Jay also posts his “Political Compass” placement. Again, mine is just a hair more “Authoritarian” and just a touch more to the “Right.” I hope that my comrades on the left don’t start taking me off of their blog rolls for this showing!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March Badness!

While everyone is thinking about the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, One Wisconsin Now has produced their own bracket-based contest. They are calling it March Badness, where you can cast your votes for the worst of the worst on the right. They have picked 16 unsavory acts by the usual suspects which are divided into The Hannity Division and the O'Reilly Division. Take a few minutes to visit the March Badness site, complete with a printable bracket and cast your votes for the worst of the right wing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What MacIver Forgot to Mention Today

Today the latest right wing organization, the MacIver Institute, finally named a leader. In a press release they announced that on April 1 Brett Healy will take charge of the organization and apparently replace the invisible staff with actual people. In the press release, they list some of Healy's past work but conveniently fail to mention a rather famous portion. Among other things, Brett Healy is perhaps best known for serving as former Republican Rep. Scott Jensen's Chief of Staff. He didn't just serve in that capacity but served at the same time that Jensen was brought up on criminal charges. Looking at any of the coverage of Scott Jensen's first trial, you are very likely to see Brett Healy's name mentioned.

I'm not really sure who is writing the press releases for MacIver anymore, but if it is still Scott Jensen, it is unfortunate that he "forgot" to mention the part of Healy's career that involved working for him.

Virtual 990s Lead to Real Complaint

Since Rose Fernandez is running for the top education job in the State of Wisconsin, I thought that I would check into her background in education. Since she has apparently never been a teacher or an administrator at a school or school district, my available areas of inquiry were very few. The closest thing that I could find was her leadership of the advocacy organization, Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families (WCVSF). Since this appeared to be my only way to learn more about what she has done related to education, I decided to request this organization's IRS form 990's. This is a form for all organizations that are recognized as a nonprofit by the IRS. It gives all kinds of useful information, that could aid me in my effort to further understand the organization that Rose Fernandez had run for the last several years. Unfortunately I quickly found myself on an odyssey trying to obtain information that is regulated by the IRS and should be readily available for members of the public.

The IRS rules regarding public disclosure of 990 forms are pretty clear. The public can request a nonprofit's 990's by mail or in-person. Requests by mail should be fulfilled in 30 days and in-person requests are to be fulfilled by the organization on the same day that the request is made. For this reason, most organizations keep copies of these documents on hand so that they are always available for public inspection during normal business hours. I chose to request the WCVSF 990's in-person because obviously I don't have 30 days to wait before learning more about Rose Fernandez and the organization that she led.

On Thursday March 5, 2009, I went to the WCVSF web site but found only a P.O. Box address. I looked on every page and couldn't find a street address anywhere. I looked for any possible instruction or link given advising the public of exactly how they could obtain the organization's 990's. Since there was no street address or instructions for how to obtain this information, I quickly found myself investing way too much of my own time trying to track down that which the organization is obligated to provide. Suspecting that WCVSF was a recognized corporation in the state, I searched and found their incorporation records on the Department of Financial Institutions website. That listing also provided the name and address of their registered agent. The average person probably would not have known to look for such information, nor should that be required of them. The registered agent was listed as MIBEF Corporate Services INC, located in downtown Milwaukee.

Since WCVSF gave me no other options for making an in-person request, I decided to make an in-person request for their 990's later in the day on March 5. When I arrived at the office, it ended up being a part of the Michael, Best and Friedrich law firm. I spoke with a paralegal there who seemed unsure as how to process my in-person request. She asked me for my contact information and advised me that she would work on my request. I was sure to remind her that the IRS rules state that WCVSF was required to comply with my in-person request the same business day.

On Friday March 6 at noon, I had still not heard from anyone regarding my in-person request from the previous day. I called the paralegal that was trying to help me but only got her voice mail. Later, I found myself in the downtown area of Milwaukee and decided to just stop in again to check on the status of the request that I had made almost a full 24 hours prior. The paralegal advised me that she has been unable to communicate with the organization. She further offered that this has been a challenge with the organization's leadership for some time. She then gave me the name and phone number of the new President of the WCVSF, Bob Reber. Before leaving the building I called him and notified him of my nearly 24 hour long odyssey to obtain his organization's form 990's. I gave him my contact information, and he told me that he would work on tracking down these forms that are supposed to be available to the public upon request. On the evening of March 6, I finally got a call from Mr. Reber advising me that he would have the 990's delivered to me by fax by Monday morning, March 9.

Monday morning came and went and I received no communication from Mr. Reber. Later that afternoon I tried to call his number but got no response. Finally after four full days and much of my own time spent, I received the WCVSF 990's via fax.

It was pretty clear to me early on that this organization had no process in place to comply with this important public disclosure rule. Their web site gives nothing but a post office box, they appear to have a chronic lack communication with their own registered agent, and they didn't appear to know the location of their important IRS documents. Although they may have been pulling in decent amounts of money from their donors, those funds have not appeared to produce good administration up until this point.

For an organization that spends thousands of dollars on its website each year, one would think that it should not be that hard to give at least discreet instruction for obtaining what they are obligated to provide. If they insist on having a P.O. Box for an office location, they could avoid this problem in the future by simply providing a link to a pdf copy of the documents that they are required to disclose. Over the years, they have clearly not put a priority on this important requirement, and even after a week of this drama, they have still done nothing visible to avoid this disclosure problem in the future. It is for this reason that I have filed a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

Needless to say, based on this experience, my personal impression of Rose Fernandez administrative skills is not very high. If this is how casually these important requirements have been treated, how many other areas have been neglected on her watch?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Was Attorney Koschnick “Hostile to Law Enforcement”?

Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick continues to go down a low and unfortunate road in his quest to sit on the high court. He has succumbed to the worst elements of recent judicial races by using absurd descriptions such as "pro-criminal" when talking about complex matters of law. I'm not sure if it is out of desperation or a win-at-all-costs attitude, but Judge Koschnick has finally gone over the edge with these types of juvenile accusations. After Wednesday's debate, he put out a press release saying that his opponent showed a "hostility" towards law enforcement. We already know that Koschnick is prone to holding his opponent to a completely different standard than the one that he requires of himself. His irresponsible rhetoric forces me to ask the question, would Candidate Koschnick also say that Attorney Koschnick was "hostile" toward law enforcement?

As we all know, Randy Koschnick served as a public defender for 14 years before becoming a Jefferson County Judge. It is a necessary and noble profession and I have had the honor of working for many defense attorneys and know much about their good work, often in difficult circumstances. But this isn't about me, it's about Candidate Koschnick and the progressively absurd charges that he is trying to level for political gain. He has accused the Chief Justice of our state's highest court of being "hostile" to law enforcement because he disagrees with very specific rulings on some of the most complex matters of law. If Candidate Koschnick is willing to describe this as "hostility toward law enforcement" then what would he say about the many legal arguments that have been made by Attorney Koschnick over the years? Would he label his former self the same unfortunate way?

In a criminal defense career of 14 years there are many examples that could be used, but in this instance it is easier to use examples from his one famous case - Ted Oswald. I would say that Attorney Koschnick was just doing his best to represent his client at the time, but again, this is not about me, it is about what Candidate Koschnick would say about making some of these legal arguments. Would he hold himself to the same absurd standard that he has now set? Consider the following:

  • Attorney Koschnick filed a motion and argued to suppress mounds of evidence that he argued was illegally seized by law enforcement. Essentially he was accusing law enforcement of repeatedly and purposefully breaking the law when they searched the Oswald home and vehicles on the property. Would Candidate Koschnick call this legal argument "hostile to law enforcement"?
  • Attorney Koschnick filed a motion and argued to suppress the statements of Ted Oswald because he claimed that law enforcement acted inappropriately in the questioning of his client after he had clearly asked for an attorney. Would Candidate Koschnick describe these legal arguments as showing "hostility toward law enforcement"?
  • Attorney Koschnick filed two different motions and argued to have 15 of the counts against Ted Oswald dismissed. While making these arguments, Attorney Koschnick claimed that the District Attorney's office "overcharged" with some of these counts. He continued by saying that the state had filed charges that "…are much more serious than is warranted." In other examples Attorney Koschnick made a probable cause argument in asking that the counts against Ted Oswald be dismissed. Would Candidate Koschnick call these legal arguments "hostile to law enforcement"?
  • Perhaps the most ironic part was when Attorney Koschnick references a footnote in an opinion by then-Justice Abrahamson while making his argument to dismiss counts. Particularly interesting was the point at which the judge essentially accused this "strict constructionist" of basically reading into Justice Abrahamson's meaning. After making so many false accusations against the Chief Justice, would Candidate Koschnick allow such (mis)use of her rulings?
  • While arguing to dismiss the numerous counts of Attempted First Degree Intentional Homicide, that resulted from the Oswald's shootout with law enforcement, Attorney Koschnick made a particularly odd argument. Even though one Police Captain had already been killed, Koschnick essentially argued that because the Oswalds were merely shooting in the general direction of the officers (page marked 71)that didn't mean that the Oswalds intended to kill them. He goes on to argue that if that was their intention the Oswalds would have shot, "at the officer's upper body areas where one would expect a person who was intending to kill another person to fire." The State had a very interesting and common sense response to this argument. Again, would Candidate Koschnick call this argument "hostile to law enforcement"?

Candidate Koschnick has put himself into a no-win situation by using his absurd "hostile to law enforcement" slogan. If he is concerned about being in any way consistent then he must charge Attorney Koschnick with being "hostile to law enforcement" also. On the other hand, if he rushes to the defense of Attorney Koschnick, then he is guilty of a very clear double standard. It is a terrible situation to find yourself in but alas he is the one that chose to go down this road.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shady ORG Lies about Jensen Ties

Last week I wrote about the imminent launch of the latest right wing organization, The Maciver Institute. I titled that blog after former Republican Legislator Scott Jensen. Bruce Murphy from Milwaukee Magazine had been reporting for weeks that Jensen was trying to start this organization and that he had seen documents regarding potential pay. Last week after I posted my blog, The Maciver Institute launched via rushed press release and apparently without an executive director or a staff.

Right after their launch, the following report ran at Wispolitics:

It has long been rumored that former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen would be
associated with the group. But MacIver spokesman Bob Reddin said that while
Jensen was one of many people to offer the organization assistance and guidance
as it launched, he has no formal role. There are currently no plans to add him, either,Reddin said.

Scott Jensen has no "formal role" with Maciver? Well, as it turns out, Jensen is actually the person that is writing the Maciver press releases. If you take a look at the properties of the last two press releases that have been sent out by The Maciver Institute, the author of those pdf files is none other than Scott Jensen! I would say that writing multiple press releases for an organization qualifies as a "formal role." The bottom line is that The Maciver Institute and their alleged "spokesperson" lied about Jensen's role. When a spokesman and the organization that they represent tell a blatant falsehood, they should be given absolutely no credibility. Anything that they produce going forward is tainted and should be held completely suspect.

The Maciver Institute launched with a big thud over the last week, getting almost no attention for their launch or for their poll. Given their collective dishonesty about Jensen's real role, that should not change. If the media does decide to do any story on The Maciver Institute, it should first focus on why they were dishonest with both the media and the public and why they sought to hide the actual involvement of Scott Jensen.

UPDATE: And Scott Jensen's name also appears in the properties of the powerpoint presentation that is on their site.

Win-At-All-Costs Can Sometimes Cost You Your Support

Last week I blogged about candidate for Milwaukee Branch 15, Daniel Gabler and a disturbing flyer that he sent out before the February primary. It used that same sleazy kind of attack against his opponents that was saw from Michael Gableman last year. Essentially he attacked his opponents as being "pro-criminal" because they had "a record of defending criminals." Although this win-at-all-costs strategy may have propelled him into the general election, he is now starting to pay a price for the kind of attacks that only undermine our legal system. Apparently some of his own supporters in the legal community are pulling their endorsement as a result and one person even filed an ethics complaint against him. Thankfully this attention is coming before the April election and not after.

Although most of the focus is on the worst of the three flyers that he sent out, the other two are not gems either. One pictures him standing in front of a police car, arms folded with a serious scowl on his face and it reads "Tough, Fair." Yes and I'm sure that Mr. and Ms. Defendant would immediately think that you are going to treat them "fairly" when you are posing like you are going to throw them in the back seat and haul them off to jail yourself.

The other flyer that I have seen seems to hit on an abortion theme even though it does not specifically mention it. That flyer is covered with promises of Gabler "protecting life." To me this seems to be a pretty transparent attempt to reach out to a very specific constituency in Milwaukee County. Gabler should know that he wouldn't be making any decisions about abortion from Branch 15, so why hit that theme?

In my view it seems that Daniel Gabler is the ambitious kind of candidate that wants to win at all costs. Unfortunately for him, his tactics seem to be backfiring and now they are sure costing him something alright – costing him support.

Koschnick vs. Koschnick

Almost a month ago, Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick started attacking his opponent for receiving donations from attorneys that are scheduled to have cases before the high court. At the time, I thought it odd that a Judge would make this kind of attack so central to his campaign. As a judge he likely took his share of contributions from local attorneys that ended up having cases before him. Shortly after Koschnick began making the argument, I took a look at his last available campaign finance documents which were from his original run for Judge in 1999. I identified at least six contributors in those documents that gave to him and later ended up having cases before him. Most of those contributors had cases before him only months after donating to his successful campaign for Jefferson County Judge. I blogged about this only days after Koschnick started using it as an attack and I have wondered why no one was confronting him with these facts. Finally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has begun raising the issue and forcing Koschnick to try and square the big circle that he has made for himself.

It almost seemed like the weeks of zero scrutiny from the media made Koschnick more irresponsibly bold in this particular attack. In his last debate with the Chief Justice, he went as far as to say that he "just couldn't do it" and that he would recuse from a case if he received money from one of the lawyers in it. He went as far to say that a judge couldn't be fair in such a situation. If that is how he really feels then it naturally makes you wonder if he is admitting to being unfair in his own list of cases involving campaign donors. Today's report in the Journal Sentinel begins to address this issue and finally makes him answer for his convenient hypocrisy.

Koschnick's absolutist thinking began to crumble under just a little scrutiny as he quickly began to make exceptions for himself and his presiding over his donors cases. Suddenly he wants to qualify his earlier critiques with all sorts of new exceptions. He responded to the MJS reporter's questions with splitting hairs, which is a far cry from the hardcore image that he has tried to portray in the last several weeks. For example, he says that when he took the money that he was not yet a judge, yet he doesn't mention that only months after those contributions he was not only a judge but was a judge presiding over his donors cases. He also suddenly tries to make an exception based on the size of the donations, another big departure from the hardnosed approach that he has tried to use for weeks. Besides, you cannot realistically compare the contribution size in a local race to that of a statewide one. The best you can do is look at the percentages. The percentage of the contributions that Koschnick has been yelling about for weeks is only about 3 percent of his opponent's total. The percentage of contributions that he took from attorney's that ended up arguing before him was at the very least 4 to 5 times that!

Although it is good to see someone in the traditional media finally call Koschnick on his hypocrisy, there are even more questions that should be asked about this issue. Someone should more closely explore the cases that he had involving one lawyer in particular. In 1999 he accepted contributions from attorney Ronald W. Ziwisky and later presided over cases where this attorney was also listed as a plaintiff. Admittedly these cases came later in his time as a judge, but one must ask if the defendants in those cases still deserved to know about Koschnick's relationship with the plaintiff. Perhaps some crack reporter should go pull those court files and look for any rulings by Koschnick for the plaintiff and for any sign that he notified the defendants. I wonder how they would feel if they now found out about it?

The bottom line is that Randy Koschnick opportunistically used such an impossible standard for his opponent, while knowing that he himself couldn't keep it. Apparently he was hoping that the media would never call him on his inconsistency. Now that they are starting to ask questions, it seems like we are witnessing an interesting case of Koschnick vs. Koschnick.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The MacIver Budget Plan for Wisconsin

My crack team of researchers/readers found the MacIver Institute’s first web ad yesterday. Now they have found the MacIver budget plan for Wisconsin. Once again they deliver it via web ad. Note the directorial genius of having their entire plan appear right away in the ad, in the form of a street sign.

This probably brought the house down at the right wing frenzy today.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Maciver Institute Launches its First Web Ad!

I’ve been commenting that the phantom staff at this latest right wing organization has been doing little more than tweeting in its first few official days. A reader found what they think might be Maciver’s very first web ad! Maybe they are going to release it at the right wing frenzy tomorrow.

Maciver Fighting for the Extreme!

Shady Organization’s Shady Start Requires Real Reporting

On Saturday a full array of right wing madness will be on display in downtown Milwaukee at the “Defending the American Dream” summit. According to the listed agenda the opening session will not only include all sorts of right wing politicians but will also include the 2nd official announcement of the Maciver Institute. Perhaps they will be hiring folks to fill their apparently vacant staff spots. One thing that we do know is that they will be releasing a poll.

In their first official introduction via sudden press release on Wednesday, they state that they will be releasing “results of a statewide poll on Governor Doyle’s proposed state budget, the economy and Wisconsin politics” on Saturday. But before the media just swallows up the talking points and simply reprints poll results, I certainly hope that they do their due diligence. The bottom line is that this already appears to be a shady organization that is off to a shady start. Many questions need to be asked and answered before the media just jumps on the bandwagon.

First, who is the executive director for this new organization? It has been reported that Scott Jensen was involved with starting this organization and Bruce Murphy has reported seeing documents that show a possible $120,000 salary for him. So if these documents do show that, then why is he not listed in their official launch press release or on their website? By the way, wasn’t Jensen ordered to repay the taxpayers of Wisconsin some $190,000 for legal costs associated with his first criminal felony trial? If he is involved in this group how can they have any credibility on issues of taxes, spending and personal responsibility?

Another important question that some in the media should be asking is of themselves, particularly the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal. Bruce Murphy has also reported that several reporters from both papers were recruited to take a research director job at Maciver. Is this true and is this why none of them have reported a single thing about the start of this organization? If this is true, how is it not a conflict to now carry their poll and their activities without having some sort of conflict?

It is pretty clear that the major thing that Maciver has done at this point, apparently without a staff, is produce a poll. Again, before simply reporting the results of this poll, the media has a responsibility to ask some questions and point out some facts. Based on Maciver’s own description of the poll, it is pretty clear that it will serve as little more than an attack on Governor Doyle. Should this be a surprise when the President of this shady organization is Fred Luber, former Finance Co-Chair of Scott Walkers failed 2006 run for governor and major GOP bagman? If there is going to be any reporting at all on this poll, shouldn’t this be very clearly stated?

One of the other major set of questions that the media must ask about this organization is who are their funders? We know from Mark Block’s Twitter account that there is supposed to be some “very important” meeting on Saturday involving the Bradley Foundation’s Michael Grebe and former Governor Thompson disciple James Klauser. What are their roles in this? Is the Bradley Foundation funding this new right wing operation? Did they pay for this poll? Does the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the other papers just print the results of any group’s poll in the paper without knowing such things?

How can the media treat this organization or their poll as legitimate without first asking all of these very important questions? So far this has proven to be a shady organization that is off to a very shady start and if the media doesn’t ask the important questions before reporting its talking points, then the are abdicating their most basic responsibilities and they are just as shady as all the rest.

Wasting Time or Helping People?

This weekend the right wing will be having their self admiration society meeting. Living in the City of Milwaukee, I’m a little concerned about all of the toxins that will be emitted into the air as they whip themselves into a right wing frenzy all day. Many of the people that will be cheerleading at the event are public or would-be public officials. While these people will be wasting time swapping tinfoil hats and neglecting real solutions, some officials will actually be doing their jobs this weekend.

One example of that is State Senator Jim Sullivan. While the right wing constellation of madness will be on full display, Senator Sullivan will be meeting with everyday people, struggling with an economy that was brought about by too many years of right wing rule. On Saturday at 11am he will be meeting with folks at the West Allis City Hall. The event is billed as an informational session for dislocated workers.

The event is actually hosted by the Department of Workforce Development. Their representatives along with the Milwaukee HIRE Center will be available to give information and answer questions. Regarding this event Senator Sullivan has said, “We want to make sure that anyone who has been affected knows they are not alone, and that the state has resources that can help them push past a pink slip and remain strong in today’s job market.”

While all-too-many public officials will be wasting time this Saturday, Senator Sullivan, the Department of Workforce Development and representatives of the Milwaukee HIRE Center will be busy helping real people.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Think Tank or Tweet Tank?

The right wing organization Maciver Institute launched via press release on Wednesday. They made the announcement while apparently having no Executive Director or paid staff. Their web site actually has less on it today than it did the day before they made it official. By far the most “active” part of the site is the display of their Twitter account. Reading their tweets, I found myself wondering exactly who is tweeting for them since they apparently don’t’ have a staff? Is the board rotating that responsibility because we already know that Mark Block likes to tweet. We know that Scott Jensen was rumored to be starting this organization, so is Scooter in some undisclosed location tweeting for them? The bottom line is that their site has not so much “think” and just a little too much “tweet.”

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ruffled Feathers and a Missing Staff

At 9:32 a.m. I posted a blog asking questions about the new right wing organization that Scott Jensen was reportedly trying to start. Because of Bruce Murphy’s reporting, I knew that this organization was named The Maciver Institute. Yesterday I learned that they also had a live website. When I went to that site I found the list of board members and the contact information. I also discovered a restricted Twitter account for the new org. This morning as I was preparing my blog I noticed that the site was suddenly down, so I just linked to a couple cached pages and posted the blog. At some point this afternoon, and I’m sure it was a complete and total coincidence, The Maciver Institute sent out a press release, officially launching their org.

Perhaps it was just an over site, but even though they listed board members, they didn’t mention an executive director or any paid staff. What kind of organization launches without any of those things or naming them if they do exist? That phantom ED and staff still doesn’t show up on their “About Us” page.

The invisible staff at Maciver also removed the restriction from their Twitter account. Apparently my blog post this morning must have ruffled a few feathers over there because 2 of their 5 Tweets so far are directed at it. My favorite is the most recent one which states:

“Accusing us of imposing a "rigid ideology" upon others after having said
nothing specific is the epitome of crying wolf. That's extreme.”

To borrow a famous quote, “I must've hit it real close to the mark to get her all riled up like this…”

Not that their comment needs any real response, but let’s just say that I have seen “the body of work” that many of the people that appear to be affiliated with this organization have produced and I feel pretty safe with my previously posted descriptions. I just hope that the media looks at The Maciver Institute for what it really is, and I also hope that they eventually help find the misplaced ED and staff.

Sandra Day O'Conner Not Fond of "Activist Judge" Label

In fact she is so concerned about such a flawed approach that she has established an online effort to educate the next generation. The site that she has started is Our Courts.org. She appeared on The Daily Show last night. I think that many on the right, that are constantly employing these kinds of absurd attacks, should be the first to take some of the courses that she offers or at least watch her comments.

Introducing the Scott Jensen Chain Gang

Bruce Murphy at Milwaukee Magazine has been the only person reporting on Scott Jensen’s attempt to start yet another right wing organization in Wisconsin. Apparently preparing for a second criminal trial is not fully occupying his time. According to Murphy’s most recent report, Jensen would be paid $120,000 to lead the organization and someone else would be brought on to head the research for $72k. Apparently they have tried to recruit both Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal reporters for the research job. Maybe that is why neither paper has saw fit to even mention the org at all. This would be just the latest addition in a long line of extreme right wing groups trying to impose their rigid ideology onto the rest of Wisconsin. It is reportedly named the Maciver Institute.

In December the domain maciverinstitute.com was privately registered with no one willing to lay public claim to the new org. They also have set up a super duper secret Twitter account that you can’t follow without special permission. When I visited their actual website last night, it was still largely lacking substance. Right now I am having problems accessing it but here is a cached version. The site did give some important information however. It gave a glimpse of some of the people involved with this operation - a motley crew indeed. First you have Scott Jensen who still is awaiting his second criminal felony trial. Then you have Michael Dean, from the wild-eyed First Freedoms Foundation, listed as a contact person. Listed as treasurer for the org is Mark Block, the guy that got the stiffest penalty for political campaign violations ever handed down in the state. This new right wing org is also listed on a national directory and it lists Block as also being a contact for the organization.

Speaking of Mark Block, he posted an interesting entry on his Twitter account on January 30, 2009 at 3:18pm. I’m wondering if that Tweet inadvertently tells us a few more things about this new right wing outfit. It states the following:

“Klauser and Grebe will be calling meeting for Saturday, March 7th. Very important.”

Klauser is of course a long-time disciple of former Governor Tommy Thompson and Grebe is surely the right wing Bradley Foundation sugar daddy Michael Grebe. Michael Grebe and the Bradley Foundation are notoriously partisan and have funded some of the most extreme and narrow right wing outfits in the country. It looks like they may be adding yet another one to their twisted portfolio. With all of this chatter lately and with the constellation of right wing nuttery on March 7th, should we also expect a roll out this weekend?

I can’t help but notice that this new Jensen/Block/Dean/Grebe/Klauser thing appears to be coming just after the latest right wing organization (Wisconsin Institute for Leadership) lost its Executive Director and apparently its level of activity. Could this mean that WIL will be folded into the Jensen operation? How many of the other Wisconsin right wing organizations will be brought in? Whatever the exact arrangement, one thing is pretty clear: the Maciver Institute is bound to be a prison of rigid corporate interests and narrow right wing extremism. In that spirit and with its launch appearing imminent, I hereby dub it, the Scott Jensen Chain Gang!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Milwaukee Shouldn’t Gamble on Gabler

I wasn’t thrilled with my choices in Milwaukee’s race for Branch 15, but at least I now have some very clear guidance. The candidates are Assistant District Attorney Daniel Gabler and Municipal Judge JD Watts. Dan Bice wrote a piece in Monday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that was not exactly flattering for Gabler. The starting point of the column was that he has been critical of current judges for an alleged “lack of work ethic”. The story then gives a few examples of Gabler missing court dates and suggests that charges were dropped as a result. Although that was the main point of the column, that was not the part the bothered me the most.

In the first paragraph Bice quotes Gabler as having attacked his opponents saying that they had “a record of defending criminals.” This attack line set off all sorts of red flags because it is a staple of the right wing win-at-all-costs-and-the-legal-system-be-damned approach to judicial races. I tracked down a Gabler flyer and confirmed that he did indeed use this attack. The flyer went even further saying:

"In fact, Ronald Dague supports a program that protects people who write bad
checks, which in his own words is... '...a way to avoid arrest

"And, JD Watts defended a sex offender who
exposed himself to a child and a felon in possession of a gun."

"We don't need judges who look for loopholes."

Sound familiar? It should because it is the same kind of misleading and sleazy campaigning that Michael Gableman engaged in during his run for state Supreme Court last year. Gabler takes it all the way down to the use of the same old “look for loopholes” line.

Incidentally, the bad check program is an initiative of the District Attorney’s office, not something just dreamed up by Gabler’s one-time primary opponent. And with his attack on Watts, Gabler continues to channel Gableman apparently suggesting that people accused of crimes don’t deserve a lawyer and if you are their attorney, you must love both criminals and crime. I wonder what he thinks about Judge Randy Koschnick’s 14 years as a defense attorney?

A quick look at Daniel Gabler’s past campaign contributions brings us full circle. It shows that he liked the ethically challenged Gableman so much that he gave him $100 last year. I guess it should be no surprise that he is now using the Gableman-style playbook right here in Milwaukee County. We don’t need or deserve a miniature version of Michael Gableman for Branch 15. Milwaukee shouldn’t gamble on Gabler because, if he fancies the likes of Michael Gableman, it is a bet that we will eventually lose.

So what have you been complaining about?

I try to catch Mike Gousha’s Up Front program every Sunday. In my opinion, it is the best Wisconsin-based political program on television. Yesterday Gousha interviewed Randy Koschnick regarding his run for state Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the interview brought out more questions for me than it answered.

Although Koschnick has made 3 percent of his opponent's campaign contributions a major plank of his campaign, he admitted on the show that there was nothing illegal about them. This did not surprise me because even he could not be so absurd as to make such a claim. I did, however, expect him to make some lame ethics argument based on the judicial code. When asked that specific question, to my surprise, Koschnick admitted that this nonissue that he has been hyping for weeks, was not even an ethical violation. So the obvious follow up question is, “So exactly what have you been complaining about for the last several weeks?”

As much as I like Mike Gousha and his program, I was surprised that he didn’t follow up on such an obvious point. I was also disappointed that he, like most others in the traditional media, did not question Koschnick about his own campaign donations. Since I genuinely like Gousha and his program, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was simply an issue of time and the fact that he tries to pack almost too much substance into a mere 30 minutes. If there is a case to be made for a full hour of Up Front, the Koschnick interview on Sunday could serve as Exhibit A.