Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jeff Stone & Interesting Associates, LLP

Republican Representative Jeff Stone certainly has developed quite a list of campaign "volunteers" and an interesting variety of other "associates".

The Jensen Crew: I've mentioned this before but under the direction of former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, various operatives from the Assembly Republican Caucus were sent to help Jeff Stone both in his failed 1996 campaign and in his successful 1998 campaign. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel mentioned some of these unnamed operatives at the time and they also mentioned how nasty and personal that race had become. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/27/06, 2/28/06, 3/23/98]

Group Shut Down by the DA: In 2006 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the group, Franklin Citizens for Responsible Leadership was "using what turned out to be false or exaggerated claims" against it's opponents in the form of printed hand-outs. A Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney also accused them of violating state campaign finance laws. Allegedly the group spent more than the $421 that it reported. In fact it spent more than $1,600 on printing services with Jeff Stone alone. According to a Franklin Today report, one of the candidates that this group supported was Alan Hammelman, the now ex-husband of Jeff Stone's campaign manger Vi Hammelman. As part of an agreement with the state Franklin Citizens for Responsible Leadership agreed to disband.

Tim Russell: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he was busy digging through the divorce file of Stone's current opponent. Stone's campaign suggested that they tried to hire him but that he was only a "volunteer". Before this report the last we heard of Russell was in a story about a widening investigation possibly involving the Walker campaign, Walker county staffers, and a Walker campaign donor.

Lamonte Harris: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday that the Stone campaign purchased his services. The report also reminds us that Harris has been involved with several elected officials that have had various run-ins with the law. The story also reports that Harris himself has quite a record and that he suggested that the Stone campaign should probably "Google" him...but they didn't bother.

Recall Momentum

ht: The Plum Line

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ALEC Emails Are Revealing

UW-Madison history professor William Cronon has been targeted by the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW). Apparently they didn't like him exposing the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)on Wisconsin's Republican legislators. Cronon's writing and the resulting RPW attack has sparked a national discussion regarding the influence of the special interest funded ALEC. The Capital Times' "Vital Signs" column today gives us yet another view of ALEC's influence on the extreme health care legislation quickly being churned out in Madison in the last few months.

Since the RPW is so interested in professor Cronon's emails, I thought that it might be a good time to take a look at a selection of ALEC emails to one of their Wisconsin members. They give us a behind-the-scenes look at ALEC's process, influence and the eventual policy that they produce. These emails were obtained from State Senator Leah Vukmir (while she was still a state representative) through an open records request that was made last year:

  • Early in 2009 Milwaukee Magazine named Leah Vukmir one of the worst legislators in Madison. They largely based this designation on observations made by several fellow Republicans. In July of the same year ALEC conveniently bestowed upon Vukmir their so-called "Legislator of the Year" award. Here is an email exchange related to that award. In it we discover that Vukmir sent the ALEC PR person a list of media to contact about the award. She emphasizes that a press release be sent to her local media. Only a few hours later Vukmir gets a big "congratulations!" from an associate editorial page editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • Yet another series of 2009 emails to Leah Vukmir was regarding an ALEC task force meant to fight meaningful health care reform in Congress. Those emails encourage members to sign on to a form letter to Speaker Pelosi. They also tout their PR campaign against HCR, and promote an ALEC drafted state constitutional amendment against HCR. Easily the most revealing email is the one from the ALEC donor relations person. It is about "prospect outreach" and it asks the task force members to call two of the big biz interests that are fully listed in the email.

  • To get an even better behind-the-scenes view into the inner-workings of ALEC, there are these emails from an executive in a multinational biopharmaceutical company. It shows us how a bill becomes a law ALEC-style. The executive's title is "Director, State Government Relations". In his email he thanks Vukmir for her help with draft model resolution that he has submitted to ALEC. It involves stem cell science and "cord blood/placenta blood banking and research." He suggests that it provides some cover to legislators that oppose embryonic stem cell research. He also makes it clear that it is an area that his company is "actively engaged in".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Prosser Name Calling Making Headlines

At last night's supreme court debate David Prosser started calling people names again. This time he accused his opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg of being an "ideologue". Kloppenburg has made no statement that I have seen during this entire campaign that would even come close to fitting Prosser's over-the-top description. In fact it seems that Prosser is basing his name calling on little more than the fact that she interned for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson some 25 years ago (remember the names that he called her). Even though his angry accusations have so little basis, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel included it in their (online story) headline.

If Prosser wants to look 25 years back to decide who is and who isn't an "ideologue" then perhaps he better look at his own record. Because 25 years ago Prosser was a partisan Republican state legislator. He wasn't just a Republican legislator but one of the leaders of the partisan bunch. Now I don't know what creative definition of "ideologue" Prosser was using last night but the normal definition seems to fit his activities 25 years ago quite perfectly.

Actually, when it comes to David Prosser being an ideoloque we don't have to go back very far at all. Here are just some of the recent examples:

  • David Prosser's campaign is the one that said very early that he would serve as a "complement" to the rabidly right wing governor and state legislature.

  • David Prosser is the candidate that followed up that stunning pledge by going to every partisan Republican event that he could find.

  • It was David Prosser's campaign that said this current race was about right wing ideology "...and nothing more".

  • It was David Prosser that took part in a tea party radio interview telling them that people could "read between the lines" about how he would rule on any abortion related cases.

In addition to having TEMPERament issues, it seems that David Prosser also suffers from a serious case of pot-kettle syndrome.

ht: Picture from One Wisconsin Now

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stone Campaign's History of "Volunteers"

The last time that we read about Tim Russell in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it was about a possible John Doe investigation that may involve former Walker staffers, a donor and the Walker campaign. Today another MJS report updated us on the most recent activities of this Walker operative. It appears that Russell is now trying to help Jeff Stone's campaign for Milwaukee County executive. What kind of help is he offering? Well, recently he went to the county court house and pulled the divorce file of Stone's opponent, Chris Abele. The Stone campaign described this Walker operative as merely a campaign "volunteer". I don't know about you but when I hear the word "volunteer" i think of phone banking and maybe lit dropping. The one thing that I don't think about is a campaign "volunteer" pouring over the divorce records of the opponent. I wonder if there are more Stone "volunteers" doing things like this?

We shouldn't be too surprised that the Stone campaign would play dumb about the role of this long time Walker operative. Past Stone campaigns have played the same kinds of games when they have received this kind of "volunteer" help.

During the original trial of former Republican Speaker Scott Jensen, several documents mentioning Jeff Stone were admitted into evidence. In one media report at that time, Stone admitted that former caucus workers may have helped him with his 1998 campaign while on state time but that he wasn't aware of it. Maybe he wasn't sure because he assumed that they were all just simple campaign "volunteers". [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/27/06]

Media reports during that 1998 campaign did note that unidentified GOP operatives were working to help Stone in that race. In fact the media also detailed just how personal and nasty that campaign was becoming. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/23/98]

Even the 1998 campaign wasn't the first time that Jeff Stone received help from this specific brand of "volunteer". When the former director of the Assembly Republican Caucus, testified during the original Scott Jensen trial, he revealed that he did on-the-job campaigning in 1996 for Jeff Stone's failed run for the state Assembly. He said that he was ordered by GOP bosses to stop helping a La Crosse campaign so that he could go manage the Stone campaign "as soon as possible". [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/28/06]

The Stone campaign can play dumb about the recent activities of Tim Russell but they are just going through the same motions as they have in the past. When faced with a competitive campaign and a formidable opponent, Jeff Stone has consistently relied on and benefited directly from this same brand of GOP operative. Unfortunately the tone of the campaign usually suffered because of it. So if the past is any indication we can fully expect Stone's special "volunteers" to increasingly help steer this race into that same nasty direction.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stone Has Been Following Walker for a Long Time

Jeff Stone's reaction to a new Chris Abele ad tying him to Scott Walker is probably the most absurd thing that I have heard in a while. Jeff Stone tied himself to Scott Walker long before that ad was ever conceived. It was Jeff Stone that announced his run for Milwaukee County Executive by saying that he would follow in Scott Walker's failed footsteps. It was Jeff Stone that stood over Walker's shoulder when he announced his war on working Wisconsinites. It was Jeff Stone that tweeted his undying support for Walker's attack on 50 years of collective bargaining rights. It was Jeff Stone that repeatedly voted to remove those rights from Wisconsin workers.

It should not be surprising that Jeff Stone is following the extreme agenda of Scott Walker now, because he did that for most of the time that the two were in the state legislature together. Here is a small selection of ways that Jeff Stone has already proven himself a partisan follower of Scott Walker's extreme agenda.

  • Jeff Stone joined Scott Walker in proposing legislation that would do away with a major part of the state's shared revenue program. That plan was panned across the board by Democrats, local officials and even former Tommy Thompson aides. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/8/99, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/26/99]
  • Jeff Stone joined Scott Walker during the 2000 presidential campaign at an event in Waukesha. They were busy touting George W. Bush's Social Security privatization scheme at the event. [Waukesha Freeman, 10/31/00]
  • Stone joined Walker is signing a nasty letter to county officials in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Racine counties. The county officials were upset with cuts to state money for local governments that was contained in the state budget. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/3/99]
  • Stone signed on to a Walker juvenile justice and corrections bill that would have, among other things, allowed the Department of Corrections to transfer juveniles convicted as adults to adult prisons after reaching the age of 15. [AB 729, 1999] He also supported Walker efforts to move more towards private prisons. [AB 176, 3/8/99]
  • Stone has repeatedly signed on to Walker's extreme legislative proposals ranging from things like limiting women's reproductive rights to disenfranchising Voter ID legislation.
  • Stone signed on with Walker's controversial legislation that would have created special contract arbitration procedures for the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Association just after they endorsed Walker's bid for county executive. Some observers commented that "no one who supports a proposal like that is a friend of the taxpayers." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/16/02]

The simple bottom line here is this: If Jeff Stone has a problem with being linked to Scott Walker's extreme agenda, then perhaps Jeff Stone should have a long overdue conversation with himself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Memory Lane: Walker, M&I and the Museum Bailout

Scott Walker's extreme agenda against the middle-class brought a national focus on the special interests that helped fund his deceptive campaign for governor. Many people are paying particular attention to the top executives at M&I Bank that gave Walker tens of thousands of dollars. M&I finds itself at the center of protests, boycotts, and online activism. While they have repeatedly issued the same talking points, activists are refusing to suspend reality to accept their spin.

Most people are citing the big campaign donations by top M&I executives to Walker's most recent campaign, however the relationship goes back further. Given all of this attention, it might be useful to take a quick walk down memory lane.

Although some executives at M&I bank contributed more modestly to Walker earlier, it seems that the big money and fundraisers didn't really kick into full gear until 2005. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's database shows some of the following contributions:
  • At least 6 contributions in all of the years before 2005 (starting with 1993 which is when Walker was first elected to the state legislature)
  • At least 51 contributions during 2005
  • At least 136 contributions from 2006 through Walker's 2010 campaign for governor.

The year 2005 was also when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed a financial crisis at Milwaukee's Public Museum. They found that executives at the museum were withdrawing large amounts from its endowment fund just to keep the operating budget going. At the time that the paper identified the crisis the endowment fund had been nearly depleted. According to MJS reports the endowment money was invested by the M&I Trust Co. and was withdrawn from accounts at the M&I Bank. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reported here that a top executive was on the museum board at the time:

Mark Furlong, president of the M&I Corp., was a member of the Milwaukee Public Museum Board during the time of Gaouette's alleged actions. Furlong has since left the museum board. He did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Even though the museum had been partially privatized in 1992, Milwaukee County still owned the property and the collections that were in it. So the county still helped subsidize it. In 2005 after the crisis was revealed, Milwaukee County further agreed to guarantee $5 million in short-term museum loans. In 2007 then-County Executive Scott Walker approved a $39 million taxpayer funded bailout plan for the museum. At the time Supervisor John Weishan, one of the opponents of the bailout, said that "this is a bailout of a private group. It's not a bailout of our museum." Under the plan M&I and the other bank involved agreed to more manageable terms but Milwaukee County did much of the heavy lifting including locking into some of these long-term obligations:

  • The county was to spend $3.5 million a year for 10 years on operating subsidies, or about $9.6 million more than taxpayers would have paid under the previous lease terms.
  • In addition the county would give the museum another $4 million over five years starting in 2008 to pay for deferred maintenance on the building, or $400,000 more than the county spent on average for the previous five years.

Because of this deal the museum avoided bankruptcy but some observers also looked at it as a taxpayer funded bailout of the major creditors, which included M&I Bank.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting look at Scott Walker, M&I and the Wisconsin Bankers Association

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

“Go Tell That Long Tongue Liar…”

WI "Budget Repair Bill" Protest (Feb 20-24?) Pt. 3 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Reality Check for Walker Boosters at M&I Bank

Don Walker,reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, highlighted some of the efforts to boycott Scott Walker's business boosters. He also provides reaction from some of the companies that have been targeted. Perhaps the most absurd reaction came from the M&I Bank spokesperson who said the following:

"Individual employees may choose, at their own discretion and based on their political beliefs, to make contributions to political campaigns. Donors are typically required to identify their employer. Each campaign - Scott Walker and Tom Barrett - received voluntary contributions from individual M&I employees."

I suppose it is possible that this spokesperson is fairly new, given that M&I was recently sold to a Canadian bank. But absent that possibility this response is laughable and it is totally divorced from reality. Don't be fooled by the spin, instead look at the facts.

1. Top executives at M&I Bank have long been boosters of Scott Walker's destructive brand of politics. These were not simply bank tellers or other front line workers giving contributions. Instead it was a cadre of big executives and bosses at M&I that helped finance Walker's campaigns.

2. These top executives often gave thousands of dollars at a time. The biggest example is former M&I Chief Executive Dennis Kuester and his wife who gave $20,000 to Walker during the 2010 campaign alone. Before the 2010 campaign the couple gave at least $5,600 to advance Walker's political ambitions. While this is by far the biggest example it is certainly not the only one. Mark Furlong, the executive that took over for Kuester at M&I gave $3,000 to Walker in the run up to the November 2010 election. So is this tradition of giving to Walker something that is passed down from executive to executive?

3. When the top executives of M&I weren't giving to Walker in massive amounts, others at the bank were giving in what appears to have been coordinated bundles. For example a total of 6 people from M&I Bank gave to Walker on March 25, 2009. A total of 15 gave to Walker on December 12, 2008. A total of 14 gave to Walker on August 22, 2007. Were these coordinated fundraisers hosted by M&I people or are we supposed to believe that they all just happened to repeatedly give on the same exact dates?

4. To pretend that there was any parity in M&I giving to Walker as compared to Mayor Tom Barrett is absurd and highly misleading. For example Dennis Kuester gave $400 to Barrett while giving the aforementioned $20,000 to Walker. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's database, Mark Furlong gave $0 to Tom Barrett during the 2010 campaign while giving the aforementioned $3,000 to Walker. In fact if you were to search the database you will find that M&I Bank employees have given approximately 68 times to Mayor Barrett since 2001 (usually in much smaller amounts than they have given to Walker). During that same time they have given approximately 185 times to Scott Walker.

Given these facts and this longtime financing of Scott Walker's extreme brand of politics, it should be no suprise to M&I Bank that they now find themselves on several boycott lists.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Waffling on Votes Already Etched in Stone

Republican Representative Jeff Stone has a long history of anti-Milwaukee County votes. It should be no surprise that he unquestioningly supports Scott Walker's extreme attack on the rights of Wisconsin workers (and all of the other radical policy infused into the "budget repair bill"). In fact if you look at what has become stock footage of Walker introducing his "budget repair bill" the face that you keep seeing over his right shoulder is Jeff Stone. Now that his unquestioning support of such an extreme agenda is becoming a major issue in the race for Milwaukee County Executive, Stone is desperately trying to have it both ways.

No matter how Jeff Stone wants to spin it, the fact remains that he voted for Scott Walker's "budget repair bill" and that rubber stamp action brings with it some dire consequences for both Milwaukee County and the rest of the state. Jeff Stone should have to deal with all of the consequences of his vote last week. That vote supported some of the following:

  • Taking away over 50 years of workers rights in a matter of days.
  • Even though police/fire personnel costs are often the highest expenditure items for municipalities, the Stone-supported legislation takes those local "tools"off the table.
  • Giving the right wing extremist heading the Wisconsin Department of Health Services unprecedented powers to wipe entire groups of people out of Badger Care programs. This could have a disproportionally negative effect in Milwaukee County.
  • Extending Walker's power grab by allowing him to replace important civil service positions with 35 more political appointees/cronies.
  • At a time when transportation dollars are desperately needed, the State of Wisconsin could lose upwards of $45 million in federal transportation funds.

The above list is just a sampling of what Jeff Stone voted for last week but he also joined the Republican majority to procedurally kill many amendments that were offered. The amendments that he helped to kill included some of the following:

  • Rather than sell valuable state assets on a no-bid basis, at least one amendment sought to require a competitive bidding process.
  • If we are going to sell off state power plants, one amendment sought to put the proceeds into a special account. Those funds would then provide grants to District Attorneys, counties and other municipalities for investigation, enforcement and prosecution in OWI cases.
  • One amendment provided that if portions of health care programs like BadgerCare were eliminated by the Governor that he couldn't obtain state provided health care coverage himself. So at least if the Governor were to take away health care coverage from scores of Milwaukee County residents, he would have to at least share in their pain.

So no matter how much Jeff Stone wants to have it both ways, the fact remains that he voted in lock step with the other Republican rubber stamps in the Legislature. His votes for this flawed bill are permanently etched into the record, as are his procedural efforts to kill meaningful amendments to it.

Jeff Stone's recent actions again prove that he is not a "moderate" and that he is simply a partisan follower of his extreme leaders. If his actual votes on this "budget repair bill" don't tell Milwaukee County voters enough about him, his current waffling on those same votes certainly should.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fox 6 and CRG "Colluding" Against Senate Dems?

On Friday I highlighted the various ways that our 14 Senate Democrats are being harassed for taking their courageous stand to slow down Scott Walker's extreme agenda. One of the elements that I included in that blog posting was that they have received extensive open records requests from the Walker-enablers at Citizens for Republican Responsible Government. They also received very similar open records requests from Bryan Polcyn from Milwaukee's WITI Fox 6 News.

Originally I noticed that both CRG and Fox 6 submitted their extensive and similar requests on the same day but I didn't originally read anything into that fact. But after seeing the report that Fox 6 produced based on their open records requests, I'm having second thoughts.

  • The Fox 6 item prominently features the spokesperson for CRG (remember he is the one that admitted in 2009 that he wanted to see Scott Walker become governor)
  • Not only did they prominently feature CRG but then they gave them air time to broadly speculate about alleged "collusion" without a real basis.
  • Fox 6 admits at the top of the story that their extensive open records requests of Dem Senators didn't reveal any real premeditated plan for the Dems to leave town. However by the end of the story they use CRG's wild speculation to strongly imply otherwise.

So if CRG and Fox 6 are going to join together to question and speculate about Senate Dems, maybe someone should be asking them some serious questions. Last week I emailed Bryan Polcyn asking him if he had any comment about his extensive open records requests to Democratic Senators. I also asked him if he had submitted similar requests to Scott Walker's office or the offices of the Republican leadership in the Legislature. In his report today he seems so concerned about why Democrats tried to slow down the "budget repair bill" process, so was he as interested in how Republicans were plotting on how to speed it up? I don't know because he didn't respond to my questions. So if Fox 6 wants to air reports with partisans broadly speculating about who is "colluding" with whom, I want to know if they are "colluding" with CRG and against the Senate Democrats?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Grothman and his "social misunderstanding"

Glenn Grothman clearly has a problem getting along with other people. Since the unprecedented protests in Madison started he has gone out of his way to insult/incite protesters. Recently Grothman described firefighters, cops, teachers nurses and other protesters as "slobs". That kind of over-the-top-rhetoric is par for the course with this extreme ideologue.

Now desperate right wingers are trying to make Grothman into a victim because he left Scott Walker's palace last night and walked into a crowd of protesters . Apparently they followed him and chanted "shame" at him repeatedly. Oh my, how could he ever survive!

Apparently Grothman was in a Dane County courtroom earlier today insulting Wisconsin working people again but this time it was under oath. It just seems that he is a magnet for drama and that he thrives on it.

The recent Grothman antics remind me of something that I read in an August 2009 West Bend Police report involving him. The police found no wrongdoing and didn't cite Grothman or anyone else involved in the situation. That being said, a few statements in the police report stuck with me.

While investigating the incident the police officer advised "Grothman to be cautious of his style when attempting to acknowledge political rivals." The officer went on to report that the incident appeared to be a "social misunderstanding."

"Social misunderstanding(s)"...from what I can tell Glenn Grothman seems to attract them whether he is at Germanfest in West Bend or at the Capitol in Madison.