Wisconsin

Secret $700,000 Donation Has Scott Walker Scrambling to Address ‘Appearance of Corruption’

WI Gov. Scott Walker | (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

WI Gov. Scott Walker | (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

 

The Nation

When Gogebic Taconite LLC began moving in November 2010—the same month Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin—to develop an open-pit iron mine in one of the most environmentally sensitive regions of northern Wisconsin, the Florida-based mining firm got a lot of pushback. Residents of the region objected, along with Native American tribes. So, too, did citizens from across Wisconsin, a state that has long treasured the wild beauty of the Penokee Range. Environmental and conservation groups voiced their concerns, as did local and state officials from across the political spectrum.

The outcry heightened as Gogebic Taconite and its allies promoted a radical rewrite of existing mining regulations in order to promote a project that could grow to be four miles long, more than a mile wide and 1,000 feet deep. Democratic and Republican legislators began to ask tough questions. Yet Governor Scott Walker remained “eager to advance a mining bill,” according to Wisconsin media that reported extensively on the governor’s determination to overrule objections to the grand schemes of an out-of-state corporation that newly released documents show secretly steered $700,000 to “independent” efforts to provide political cover for the embattled governor.

The documents, released as part of legal wrangling over a “John Doe” investigation into alleged fund-raising abuses during the recall elections of 2011 and 2012, have revealed both big contributions and the big concerns of a key investigator about “an appearance of corruption.”

Walker, of course, denies any wrongdoing, as does Gogebic and the group that managed the money.

Yet there is no question that the governor provided substantial support for the mining company. During a long, high-profile battle, he dismissed and denied a broad array of objections to Gogebic’s plans.

The Nature Conservancy argued that the proposed changes to Wisconsin mining regulations would “pose serious risks to the rivers, lakes, wetlands, groundwater and other natural resources.”

The Sierra Club announced that “the largest ever mine proposed in Wisconsin presents unacceptable risks to Lake Superior and the sensitive and exceptional Bad River Watershed which includes…the largest freshwater estuary on Lake Superior.”

“It’s devastating,” said Annie Maday, a member of the tribal council of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which argued that the mine could destroy wild rice beds and pollute waters on its nearby reservation. “They’re going to destroy my home.”

When the state Senate took up the bill, it was opposed by Bob Jauch, the Poplar Democrat who represents northwest Wisconsin. “Our job is not to be Santa Claus to the mining company and Scrooge to the taxpayers,” Jauch said. “This is a bill that offers a sweetheart deal for the mining company and shortchanges the taxpayer.”

State Senator Dale Schultz, a Republican who broke with his party to oppose the mining legislation at several key points, said, “My conscience simply won’t allow me to surrender the existing environmental protections without a full and open debate.”

When the controversial rule changes were approved by the legislature in 2013, Walkerannounced that he was “thrilled” to sign the bill.

What went unmentioned at the time was the extent to which Gogebic Taconite was “thrilled” with Walker.

The documents that were briefly unsealed last week by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit—which is weighing whether to permit the continuation of the “John Doe” probe into alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and so-called “independent” groups that supported the governor—shined light on the shadowy political networks that developed to aid Walker. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the “hundreds of pages of documents that… showed Walker’s team sought to solicit funds for the Wisconsin Club for Growth from an array of nationally known donors to fend off his 2012 recall. Real estate developer Donald Trump, industrialist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson were all targets.”

The documents reinforce the image of the governor, who is seeking re-election this fall and preparing a 2016 Republican presidential run, as a master political operative who worked every angle to secure record amounts of money for his own campaign and for “independent” groups that were supportive of it. In one of the unsealed documents, a fund-raising aide consulting with Walker before he met with wealthy donors advised: “Let them know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

The documents reveal details of a number of huge and previously unreported donations. Yet the one that raised the most eyebrows had to do with the mine project.

As the recall fights heated up, Gogebic Taconite moved $700,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which in turn steered resources to other groups that cheered on Walker and his Republican allies.

“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” argued Dean Nickel, the former head of the state Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Unit who investigated the fund-raising scheme for the state Government Accountability Board.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Walker has admitted that he helped steer money to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, but when asked whether he knew of the Gogebic money, he answered vaguely, “Not to my knowledge.” Pressed by reporters on whether “the previously undisclosed funds and subsequent legislation were part of some pay-to-play scheme,” the governor replied, “That’s a ridiculous argument.”

The governor has every right to make that claim, as do his most ardent apologists.

But in Wisconsin, a state that historically took great pride in its clean elections and high ethical standards, voters have a right to ask, based on records and revelations, whether it really is all that ridiculous to find in them “an appearance of corruption.”

Wisconsin Recall Election Results: Democrats Keep State Senate Seats

 

It’s great to see that in this recall election, the Dems succeeded!

Huffington Post 

Both of the Democratic Wisconsin state senators up for recall elections have survived.

The Democrats targeted in Tuesday’s election were among the 14 senators who fled the state in February in opposition to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal curbing public employee collective bargaining rights.

Both won in recalls against Republican challengers.

Democrats picked up two seats through the nine recalls but were unable to wrest majority Senate control away from the GOP, which now holds a narrow 17-16 majority. Before the recalls, Republicans had a 19-14 edge in the chamber.

Democratic Sen. Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie defeated Kenosha attorney Jonathan Steitz, and Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover beat tea party Republican Kim Simac of Eagle River.

A third Democrat won a recall election last month. Two Republicans were defeated in six recall elections last week.

Even though they remain in the minority, Democrats were savoring Tuesday’s victories.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said Democrats have “fundamentally changed the face of power in the Wisconsin Legislature” through the recalls. Even though Republicans remain in the majority, Tate said Democrats’ picking up two seats and making gains in Republican districts sets the table for big wins next year.

“It’s really hard to go five for nine and not be pleased of the progress that we made,” he said.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement that he was proud the GOP maintained its majority through the recalls. He said Tuesday’s results were a rejection of the recall process.

Continue reading here…

Related articles

Scott Walker Admits Union-Busting Provision ‘Doesn’t Save Any’ Money For The State Of Wisconsin

Rep. Dennis Kucinich deserves all the praise for this one…

Think Progress

Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Peter Shumlin (D-VT) to testify in a hearing titled “State and Municipal Debt: Tough Choices Ahead.” Much of the hearing was spent probing Wisconsin’s spate of anti-union restrictions it recently passed.

At one point, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) confronted Walker about his crackdown on public employee unions. The congressman referenced a provision Walker signed into law that would require union members to vote every year to continue their membership. Kucinich asked the governor how much money the state would save from the provision. Walker repeatedly dodged the question and eventually admitted that it actually wouldn’t save anything at all.

Kucinich then asked Walker how much money would be saved by barring union dues from being drawn from employee paychecks, another provision of Walker’s legislation. Walker claimed that it would save workers money, but was unable to explain how it would save the state any money. Kucinich then produced a document from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state’s equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office, that concluded that Walker’s measures were “nonfiscal” — meaning they had no impact on the state’s finances. Kucinich asked that the letter be included in the public record, but Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) refused:

Walker’s admission is crucial because he had long claimed that his anti-union “budget repair bill” was designed to save the state money, not bust unions. But his words today echo those of Wisconsin state senate leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), who last month effectively admitted that the union fights are not about budgetary issues, but rather about winning the next election by depleting the ranks of organized labor.

H/t YankeeClipper:

Major CEO Donor To Walker Charged With Two Felony Counts Of Illegal Campaign Contributions

Think Progress

A top donor to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) gubernatorial campaign has been charged with multiple violations of campaign finance law, reports the Associated Press.

Prosecutors today have charged William Gardner, the CEO of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company, with one count of excessive political donations and another related to unlawful political contributions. Prosecutors claim Gardner used his employees and family members to funnel $44,000 to Walker during the GOP primary. He is accused of then illegally reimbursing the donors with company money.

Walker has returned the contributions. Notably, prosecutors charged Gardner because the law prohibits direct donations from corporations to candidate committees. However, the Citizens United decision allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate for office. If Gardner had funneled the company donations through a group like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or another front group, or if his company had taken out ads in support of Walker, his actions would not have attracted legal scrutiny

Wisconsin Debate Shifts To Recall Elections

To paraphrase a famous (often misquoted) saying:  Hell hath no fury like a populous scorned!

Huffington Post

Nearly a month after the Wisconsin standoff over union rights ended, some of the fervor from that debate has shifted to recall efforts targeting lawmakers in both parties – Republicans who voted to cut back collective bargaining and Democrats who fled the state to try to stop them.

Now that the law has passed, organizers are focusing on signature-gathering efforts. But of the 16 state senators who were originally targeted, only six appear likely to face an election threatening removal. And before recall elections can be held, supporters need to find candidates to run against the incumbents.

Still, voter outrage remains high in many places, helping to stir interest in the recalls.

“A lot of legislators are going to be looking over their shoulders a little more in the future,” said Michael Kraft, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. “And if they are in the middle of a recall effort, they might be nervous about that. They might moderate what they say and how they approach the budget.”

Continue reading…

UPDATED: Conservative Waukesha County Clerk “Finds” 7,000 Votes For Prosser

Crooks & Liars

4:30pm Update: In her press conference about a half-hour ago, Kathy Nickolaus claimed she failed to import the results from Brookfield City into her master tally that was reported to the press. The numbers she reported as an ‘update’ which gave Prosser 7,000 more votes were clearly reported in real time on election night.

As expected, Brookfield city voters ran up a good turnout in the state Supreme Court race and gave incumbent Justice David Prosser nearly 11,000 votes.

Unofficial, unaudited results showed 76 percent of city residents who voted picked Prosser, with 24 percent voting for challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.

The numbers were identical to the ones Nickolaus just reported. She claims they weren’t imported into the spreadsheet, but if that were true, the discrepancy should have been 14,715 votes total.

Part of the problem is how she’s using different numbers for the same conclusion. The difference between 14,715 and 3,456 is 7,403. Those would be the “extra”. But in order to believe her, you have to assume the AP just let an entire town and a bunch of precincts stand at ZERO despite having reported in nearly 15,000 votes.

–>End update

Sure, sure it was a computer error. This comes from County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus just a few minutes ago.

David Prosser gained about 7,582 votes in Waukesha County, according to a summary statement from the board of canvassers.

Canvassers around the state were updating their totals Thursday, with Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg each making gains.

Those changes pale in comparison to the change in Waukesha County, where Prosser’s total increased by 11,008 and Kloppenburg’s rose 3,426.

County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is planning a news conference in about 20 minutes to explain the change from initial reports Tuesday night.

Waukesha County’s board of canvassers just met in the county courthouse in Waukesha. It was earlier reported that Prosser picked up 200 votes in New Berlin after a clerical error was discovered, according to Pat Karcher, a member of the board of canvassers in Waukesha County. Karcher spoke during a break in the canvassers meeting. The error occurred in Ward 12, where a vote for Prosser was reported as 37 but the tape revealed 237 votes for Prosser.

It seems that Kathy Nickolaus has a history with regard to questionable election practices:

The issue came to a head when Nickolaus removed the election results collection and tallying system from the county computer network this spring and installed it on standalone personal computers in her office. She has said they are backed up with redundant systems.

Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said Nickolaus has been uncooperative with attempts to have information technologists review the system and confirm the backups.

He said he isn’t interested in placing the system on the county network, but he wants to know whether the system is functional and secure and whether the county will have to replace equipment and programs in the next budget year – in time for the next presidential election.

“It is not a good idea to have one person in charge of everything,” Cummings told the committee. “There should be someone who also reviews things. I’m not saying it should be IT. But there should be more accountability than there is now.”

Nickolaus had asked for a postponement of the discussion because she had scheduled poll worker training before the matter was scheduled for committee action.

In several memos to the committee, she said she didn’t have confidence that security wouldn’t be breached with the county’s information technology department.

She presented information from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that said voting systems should never be connected to a network not under the election official’s control.

She also said she’s running the most current election software certified – as required – by the state.

The only old equipment, she wrote, was a computer that collects results from local polling places by modem over the telephone lines.

Waukesha County is one of three or four counties that use that method.

Read more at www.jsonline.com

Walker’s Loss: 19 Counties Flip To Dems In Wis. Supreme Court Election

Huffington Post

A divisive budget battle between labor unions and Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) turned a state Supreme Court race into a nationally watched bellwether on the electorate’s mood heading into a recall campaign and the 2012 elections.

Nearly 1.5 million people turned out to vote, representing 33.5 percent of voting-age adults – 68 percent higher than the 20 percent turnout officials had expected. JoAnne Kloppenburg has already declared victory, with the vote tallies showing her beating incumbent David Prosser by just a couple hundred votes. The race is expected to head to a recount.

Significantly, 19 counties that went for Walker in the 2010 elections this time flipped and went for Kloppenburg, including LaCrosse (59 percent), Sauk (56 percent) and Dunn (56 percent).

There were no party affiliations on the ballot, but Kloppenburg was heavily backed by Democrats and Prosser by Republicans, making it a fierce proxy battle for the two parties.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate was jubilant over the results, saying they represent a “watershed moment for Wisconsin and a Waterloo for Scott Walker.”

“It should give Republicans, who are — for the moment — in the majority, pause about how they proceed in enacting Walker’s terrible budget,” he added.    

 Continue reading below the fold…

Walker Administration Announces Implementation Of Anti-Union Law, Despite Judge’s Order Against Publication

"What court order? We won't honor no stinkin' court order!"

The madness of King Scott Walker of Fitzwalkerstan!

TPMDC

The administration of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) has begun implementing its controversial new law curtailing public employee unions, following a move on Friday declaring it be in effect, and despite a judge’s ruling that enjoined said implementation.

“It is now my legal responsibility to begin enactment of the law,” Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, a former Republican state Assembly Speaker, told reporters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Huebsch said that the state will begin withholding pension and health benefits contributions from government employees’ paychecks, while also no longer automatically deducting union dues. The first paychecks to be affected will be April 21.

A week and a half ago, a judge in Dane County (Madison) blocked the law on procedural grounds, ruling that a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — had violated the state open-meetings law by failing to give proper 24-hours notice. The judge’s order “restrain[ed] and enjoin[ed] the further implementation” of the law, including the prevention of Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D) from publishing the act in the Wisconsin State Journal, which acts as the state’s official newspaper for the purpose of giving the public official notice of new laws — the final step for the law to take effect. That decision is now going through an appeals process, which remains up in the air.    Read more…

 

Wisconsin GOP Senators Head to Washington to Collect Their Payoffs, er, “Campaign Contributions “

No matter how those politicians try to cover it up, most GOP and Blue Dog Dems are corporate shills.  They legislate at the will of their corporate masters…

The Nation

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the consigliere for Governor Scott Walker in the legislative fight to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers and to make it easier for the governor to transfer public property to campaign donors in no-bid deals, will head to the nation’s capital Wednesday to collect tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Washington-based lobbyists for corporate interests.

Fitzgerald will be the “star” of a lavish fundraising event at the offices of the BRG lobbying group. The “B” is BRG stands for Barbour, as in veteran GOP fixer Haley Barbour, who is now the governor of Mississippi and a potential 2012 Republican presidential contender. The firm is one of the most powerful corporate lobbying groups in Washington, and it will be delivering big for Fitzgerald and his fellow senators.

Lobbyists and DC insiders will pay $1,000 apiece to attend the session with Fitzgerald.

“Sponsors” will pay $2,500.

“Hosts” will pay $5,000.

Along with Fitzgerald, who this week made news when he attempted to bar Democratic senators from voting in Assembly committees (only to be forced to back off after the move stirred a public outcry), Republican senators Glenn Grothman and Alberta Darling will attend. Both Grothman and Darling—who chairs the powerful legislative Joint Finance Committee and is thus the point person for Walker’s budget plan—are the targets of recall campaigns.   Continue reading…