Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Walker and Hiller Context

Today Dan Bice is reporting on a new element of the widening John Doe investigation that has already ensnared close Scott Walker aides, friends and other associates.  The big revelation in this new story is that prosecutors might be focusing on a personal email between Scott Walker and  long time confidant John Hiller.  This element of the investigation appears to be exploring possible bid-rigging within Walker's Milwaukee County administration.

So far Scott Walker has tried but failed to distance himself from his other associates that have been formally charged.  He will have even more difficulty distancing himself from John Hiller given their long history and the activities alleged in today's story.

Here is some additional context and history between Walker and Hiller that may be relevant as we continue to watch this specific part of the John Doe investigation unfold.

John Hiller served as Scott Walker's campaign treasurer from the early 1990's until just last year.  During that time Walker's campaigns have been the subject of a number of scandals including some of the following:

  • In 2005 Scott Walker's campaign received what was the second largest ethics fine in state history. The fine was based on the fact that they paid for 40,000 robo calls but failed to include the mandatory disclosure saying that the Walker campaign was responsible for them. [MJS, 8/4/05]
  • Walker's campaign finance reports have been absolutely filled with mistakes and questionable omissions of key information.  These and other various issues followed Walker's campaign from his entire time in Milwaukee County to his first failed run for governor and even in his successful campaign in 2010. [Milwaukee County Election Commission records; Capital Times, 5/14/02; WDC, 12/1/05; AP, 8/11/09; OWN,10/25/10]
  • When Scott Walker first ran for County Executive, there were reports that his campaign was aggressively shaking down lobbyists to contribute. The suggestion was that if he didn’t win, he would still be a state representative and could influence legislation that was important to said lobbyists. [MJS, 3/10/02]
Walker has certainly appointed John Hiller to positions of influence and power.

Based on the new report Hiller has not been very shy about capitalizing on his very close connection with Scott Walker.  Hiller operates a consulting firm and has sold himself as having "...over 20 years of business and political experience to assist you in navigating the maze of local government..."

Both before and after Hiller's role as Walker's campaign treasurer, he has taken a number of meetings  with key Walker cabinet members.

Some of those calendar items include the following examples:
  • Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin met with John Hiller on April 8, 2011 
  •  Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith met with John Hiller and Maximus representatives on June 10, 2011
The bottom line is that Walker and Hiller have been practically tied at the hip for a very long time.  It seems that this arrangement has been mutually beneficial for most of this time.  The question now is whether the dynamics of that long relationship could now become more of a millstone for both of them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Dennis Smith Calendar a Policy Preview?

A few days ago I wrote about Scott Walker's disingenuous ad on health care. Essentially he ignored his proposed cuts and took credit for things that he certainly doesn't deserve.  I concluded that blog saying "Although he is trying to sugarcoat his radical agenda on health care now, he will certainly revisit it if he is not removed from office on June 5th".  A primary reason that I fully expect this is because his Health Services Secretary is right wing ideologue Dennis Smith.

Prior to joining the Walker cabinet, Dennis Smith was a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, an extreme right-wing policy organization. While there he repeatedly attacked Medicaid and other medical assistance programs.  For example, he advocated that states drop Medicaid. Smith also worked in the Department of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush. In that capacity Smith threatened to kill Wisconsin’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program.

Recently I examined a full year-plus of Smith's official calendar and it seemed to verify his extreme nature on health policy agenda.  For example I found him attending numerous right wing conventions and events:

  • June 16, 2011 - June 17, 2011: San Diego meeting at Hotel del Coronado with policy sessions including "Privatization and Public/Private Partnership" and "a conversation with D. Rumsfeld"
  • October 11, 2011: Phone meeting with the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee regarding health care exchanges.
  • October 24, 2011 - October 25, 2011: Conference in Washington D.C. including sessions like "Medicaid Waivers, Innovative Reforms and Pilot Programs" and "What Medicaid Reform Should Look Like".  One note in his calendar shows that the hotel was reserved by a Monica Block of the RGA.
  • November 2, 2011: Another D.C. based  conference including sessions such as "Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Foundation's Plan to Fix the Debt, Reduce Spending and Restore" and one that Smith may have presented entitled "State-Driven Medicaid Reforms." 

Dennis Smith certainly had a great deal more meetings and appointments with right wing organizations and interests but one other thing stood out to me the most.  On February 24, 2011 Smith had a phone meeting with the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, Jeff Colyer.  He had another phone meeting with him on November 18, 2011 regarding "MA [medical assistance] Reform".

These calls interest me because Colyer was tasked by extremist Kansas Governor Brownback to head an effort to totally turn their state Medicaid system on its head. In fact some are describing it as the outright privatization of their Medicaid program. Others protested the driving of thousands of developmentally disabled residents into managed care.   

My obvious questions are as follows: Why was Dennis Smith talking to the Kansas Lt. Governor about medical assistance programs? Did he advise them on such a radical plan? Worse yet, is he consulting with them to try the same thing here in Wisconsin?  Can we use Smith's calendar as a policy preview?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Walker: "She did what she was expected to do"

WTDY asked Scott Walker what Kelly Rindfleisch did in his office as Milwaukee County executive.  Part of Walker's response was very interesting and perhaps more telling than he had originally planned.  Walker responded saying "she did what she was expected to do".  A very odd comment given what has transpired since she worked for him in Milwaukee County.

Kelly Rindfleisch's time serving Scott Walker has resulted in a felony case alleging multiple counts of misconduct in public office. The details from the resulting criminal complaint also revealed that she did some of the following 20 feet away from Scott Walker's desk:

  • Authored more than 1,000 campaign-related emails including fundraising on county time.
  • Those contacts included campaign operatives like Keith Gilkes, Stephan Thompson, Jill Bader and others.
  • There were also communications with longtime Walker friend and county/campaign aide Jim Villa, who had an unofficial advisory role with Walker's 2010 campaign.
  • She was involved in the use of a secret network system allegedly used for both campaign and official county business.
  • Minutes after Scott Walker's "we cannot afford another story like this one" email to Tim Russell, Rindfleisch responded to Russell via internet chat saying “I took the wireless down. It’s in my bag for now.” 
  • In online chats Jim Villa told Rindfleisch "YOU are the political operation in that office now" and "Keith [Gilkes]will work better with you than with Tim [Russell]" 
  • While chatting online with George Ermert she admits,"really, half of the stuff I am doing is policy for the campaign." 
So these are things that the criminal complaint alleges that Rindfleisch was doing on county time and 20 feet from Walker's desk. These alleged activities are illegal and have resulted in criminal felony charges against Rindfleisch.  Yet Scott Walker says that "she did what she was expected to do."

For once I just might agree with Scott Walker on something. I also believe that Rindfleisch did EXACTLY what HE expected her to do.  And that is the entire problem.

ht: Jud Lounsbury

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Disingenuous Ads Don't Hide Health Care Agenda

One of the first misleading ads that Scott Walker launched during this recall campaign season, was the one that showcased a phony conversation on health care.  If you are paying attention to Walker's actual positions on the issue, your disingenuous meter may have shattered from shock.  You really have to assume that Walker is overcompensating for his extreme agenda and major shortcomings in the area of health care.

In Walker's patented phony style, he says that his administration spent over $1.2 billion on health care.  However that increased spending happened in spite of him not because of him and for him to try and take credit is completely ridiculous and totally self-serving.  Walker's budget initially proposed $500 million in cuts in health care programs that serve some 1.2 million Wisconsinites (by the way, I find it creepy that he proposed these cuts while at the same time increasing funeral funds for people on Medicaid). Here are a number of additional points that put Walker's statement in its actual context:

Again, the bottom line is that the increase in spending on health care was done in spite of Walker not because of him.  Although he is trying to sugarcoat his radical agenda on health care now, he will certainly revisit it if he is not removed from office on June 5th.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Selective Memory Fuels Rehashed RGA Attacks

Another day and another attack from the special interest-fueled Republican Governor's Association.  In their latest misleading ad they are simply rehashing the same stale talking points.  Their specialty appears to be selective memory and cherry picking data.  Perhaps they should consider some of the following to refresh their recollection on Scott Walker's record on the same issues that they are raising.

Walker Tax Increases:

First it is quite odd that Walker's special interest allies would bring up raising taxes as an attack. Walker promised that he would "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes." But once he got into office he forced through a budget that actually raised taxes by $49.4 million over the two-year period. Apparently Walker's promise was only directed at the wealthy and his large corporate funders but he had no problem raising the taxes of the working poor, seniors and others. Even PolitiFact declared Walker's broad tax increase promise as being broken.

Walker Spending Increases:

The RGA ad complains about spending in the City of Milwaukee but I'm waiting for them to call out Walker for his increased state spending.  Walker delivered devastating cuts to Wisconsin public schools, the UW System, Technical Colleges, transit, local roads, shared revenue for local governments and much more.  Yet somehow, even with all of his draconian cuts, he still managed to INCREASE state spending by $610 million in his budget! If you prefer to use the general fund budget that percentage increase in state spending was even higher. [Milwaukee Magazine, 8/2/11]

Walker's pattern of saying one thing and doing another on spending has been going on for a long time.  As Milwaukee County Executive Walker's own proposed budgets increased spending by 35% [Walker's Proposed Milwaukee County Budgets, 2003 - 2011].

Walker and Unemployment:

Scott Walker has had full control of the state government and he has had over a year to enact almost all of his radical right wing policies.  Wisconsin posted the largest percentage job loss in the nation over the past year. Yet Walker's special interest out-of-state funders are running ads complaining about the lack of jobs and unemployment? Not to mention the fact that many of the years that the RGA cites, Walker was in fact Milwaukee County Executive! Using the same lack of logic and cherry picking many of the same numbers we could just as easily pin Milwaukee's unemployment rate on County Executive Scott Walker, rather than the great Republican Recession.

The fact is that Scott Walker never took even a remote interest in jobs when he was Milwaukee County Executive.  It was only a platform for higher political aspirations.  Examples include some of the following:

With a record like Scott Walker's, I fully understand why the RGA would focus on rehashed attacks and why they would employ cherry picked numbers and a highly selective memory.  Anyone that actually dares to deal with the reality of Walker's horrible record would also be forced to reject him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Channel Your Outrage (Reposted from 11/3/10)

The day after Scott Walker won the 2010 race for governor I wrote a blog posting asking both myself and everyone else to channel our collective outrage into effective action.  Many people did exactly that and now we are presented with a historic second chance to correct that horrible mistake.  Remember the pain and outrage of 2010 (and 2011) and continue to use it.

As we all begin to unify in this effort, it felt right to just repost my original item on this subject.

The Following was Originally posted on 11/3/10 (minor edits have been made)


There are countless things to be outraged about regarding the election results last night. For me they include some of the following:

  •  The promotion of a failed county executive even though he has presided over the financial and literal falling apart of Milwaukee County(no wonder those voters overwhelmingly rejected him yesterday). 
  • Electing a policy lightweight that refused to talk about "details" until after he was elected. In the mean time he provided us with talking points and slogans. He, along with the help of his corporate soul mates,were able to buy a seat on the U.S. Senate. This clown may have bought an election but he will never be able to "replace" Russ Feingold. 
  •  The collective amnesia that we have had as a nation in forgetting which party brought this historic recession on us. The record already reflects that for the last 2 years we have been (too slowly) heading in the right direction. Yet voters chose to elect people that want to implement the very same policies that brought us to economic disaster. 
OK we are all rightfully outraged but now what? I think that the only acceptable solution is to start channeling this outrage into strategic and aggressive action. There are certainly behind-the-scenes and less predictable actions that can take place long before any of this extreme bunch ever takes the oath of office. Then after taking office they will provide us with a plethora of opportunities. If recent history teaches us anything, we already know that this crowd is incapable of effectively governing (at least if they actually keep all of the fanciful campaign season promises that they have made). Scott Walker no longer can pass the buck. He will have a Republican majority in the legislature and no Milwaukee County Board to blame. Republicans both in Wisconsin and nationally are bound to overreach very early and we should be prepared to take advantage of it.

Channel your outrage now to prepare for effective action later NOW.

Scandal surrounds Scott Walker

Monday, May 07, 2012

Are Privatized Prisons on Walker Agenda?

Phil Scarr at Blogging Blue has been focused recently on what he describes as the U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex.  In a series of blog postings he gave some brief history of the industry and observations on how its growth seems to coincide with bad policy and massively disproportionate incarceration rates.

In laying out his case against privatized prisons Phil also introduced us to the Geo Group Inc. formally known as WCC (Wackenhut Correctional Corporation). It is one of the world's largest private corrections organizations.  He goes on to detail a specific horror story involving one of their facilities and he lists some of the various problems with a profit-driven approach to corrections in general.

The timing of Phil's blog postings on this topic couldn't have been better because I just happened to be examining the official calendar for Gary Hamblin, Scott Walker's Secretary for the Department of Corrections.  One thing that jumped out at me was that he met multiple times with Wackenhut and others.

Here is a sampling of meetings:
  • February 9, 2011: Cindy Archer, Bill McCoshen and Wackenhut.
  • March 15, 2011: Correctional Medical Services
  • March 21, 2011:  A'Viands (food service provider from Minnesota)
  • April 28, 2011: Dennis Schuh/Mueller Communications, Mark Schaefer and 3 staff from G4S Wisconsin 
It seems probable that his February 2011 meeting with "Wackenhut" was probably related to Scott Walker dropping his "bomb" on Wisconsin. Reports at the time seemed to suggest that Walker's administration was concerned about a possible strike or other labor unrest involving corrections workers.  That might also explain the presence of Walker right hand Cynthia Archer. However Hamblin also met in late April with "G4S Wisconsin" (purchased Wackenhut in 2002).  Note: Bill McCoshen served in the Tommy Thompson administration at the Department of Commerce and has been a political adviser to him more recently.  He is also the owner of Capital Consultants Inc. and a registered lobbyist.

You will notice that Hamblin and/or a key staffer also met with other private contractors including A'Viands, which was a Scott Walker favorite company in his efforts to privatize food services in Milwaukee County.

Speaking of Walker favorites in Milwaukee County, he was also fond of trying to eliminate public employee security officers positions and replacing them with Wackenhut.  He did this even though they didn't have the best track record with Milwaukee County.  However Walker illegally laid off the public employee security force at the Milwaukee County Courthouse and replaced them with Wackenhut.  Not all of the private workers that he installed were exactly of the best quality including some of the supervisors.

When you consider Scott Walker's knee jerk urge to privatize in Milwaukee County, his history with Wackenhut, his prison fascinations as a state representative and the curious calendar of his Secretary, you have to wonder what he might have in store for the Department of Corrections.  He is already showing his longtime pattern of dysfunction in that department so what comes next? Do corrections officers across the state have anything to worry about? I don't know the answer but given all of the circumstances I would suggest that they remain vigilant.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tommy and Trouble in the Tea Party II

It looks like DC Super Lobbyist Tommy Thompson is having trouble with the Tea Party again. In fact it seems that the Republican establishment is trying to actually block Tea Party influence at the RPW convention. Apparently "...the Wisconsin GOP is getting ready to disqualify hundreds of tea party activists as delegates to the state convention". Word on the street is that the Republican establishment is worried that Tommy will be embarrassed at the convention.

Jeff Simpson wrote about this here: "The 10 people left in the 'tea party' are going to be mad!" 

Phil at Blogging Blue gave his take here: "Schadenfreude: Tommy Thompson Edition

If this drama sounds familiar it is because Tommy had the same kind of strong Tea Party resistance when he sent up trial balloons for a U.S. Senate run in 2010.  Those trial balloons were quickly and embarrassingly shot down.  Do you remember the leaked email from Tea Party leaders? Remember how outraged they were at the Republican establishment attempts to push Tommy on them?

Just in case you would rather have a visual example, here is a video showing the Tea Party disdain for Tommy Thompson. I hope someone is shooting video at the convention if the Republican establishment really does try to silence and otherwise block the "true believers" that they were so willing to use over the last few years.