Monday afternoon, as Governor Scott Walker was signing into law a bill that turns the legislative and Congressional redistricting process and any appeals to it upside-down, and as Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch was reassuring the public that Wisconsin has enough cash on hand to survive for three months in the event of a federal government default, Capitol Facilities Manager Ron Blair was tackling a more pressing problem: heart-shaped balloons.
Outside the doors of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Leslie Peterson was reaching down into her shopping bag to remove a heart-shaped balloon so that her friend could take a photo of her with it. As soon as she pulled it out, someone came up behind her and repeatedly stabbed the balloon with a blade. “I’m sick of fishing these off the ceiling,” said the man with the round glasses and handlebar moustache as he walked away.
Shaken up by the sneak attack on her property, Leslie asked the man for his name and identification. He did not respond to her so she asked him again, saying that she was going to file an incident report with the Capitol Police. At that point, he allegedly grabbed her and slammed her up against the door of a women’s bathroom. “I saw blood all over him and me. I didn’t know if he still had the knife, or whether or not I had been stabbed,” said Leslie.
The man, who was later identified as Ron Blair, assistant director in the Wisconsin Department of Administration in charge of facilities management at the Capitol, then ran out of the Capitol and into a building across the street. He later told reporters that the blood all over the stairs and floor in front of the Supreme Court was from an earlier fall he had taken on the stairs. However, Leslie reports seeing blood only after he slashed the balloon.
Meanwhile, Leslie’s screams alerted others who were at the daily Solidarity Sing Along in the Rotunda to call for the police. She and those who witnessed the events were taken to the basement of the Capitol to give their statements. Leslie’s friend, Jenna Pope, had taken several photos of the events, and the camera was taken as evidence, as was the blood-splattered shopping bag containing the slashed balloon.
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.
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.
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…
During the intense public battle with public employee unions last month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) received an intriguing email from an admirer claiming to be a deputy prosecutor from Indiana. The email suggested that Walker should fake an attack on himself, in order to create sympathy for his cause and damage the reputation of the unions. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has the email:
The e-mail was signed by “Carlos F. Lam.” WCIJ did some digging and discovered that indeed, there is a Carlos F. Lam who is a GOP public official in Indiana. He is a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Indiana — which is the same area the e-mail was sent from, according to its IP information. Lam also has a history of anti-union comments online: he’s written that Indiana is “an unsustainable public worker gravy train bubble.” In another, he said “unions & companies that feed at the gov’t trough will fight tooth & nail against anything that un-feathers their nests.”
WCIJ contacted Lam and asked him if the Hotmail address on the email belongs to him. Lam confirmed that it does — but categorically denied sending the email. “I am flabbergasted and would never advocate for something like this, and would like everyone to be sure that that’s just not me,” he said, after being read the email. He said he plans to file a police report about the matter this week.
Oddly, the email was sent on the very same day that another Indiana law enforcement official tweeted out violent plans for the protests. Jeffrey Cox, a deputy attorney general for the state, tweeted that police should “use live ammunition” against the protestors. He was fired the next day – but for now, Lam’s boss is backing him. “He didn’t send it,” he told WCIJ.
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…
Their efforts to make Walker and his supports pay a high political price for their victory has led Republicans to activate their own campaign machinery. Few expect the conflict will stay contained in Wisconsin.
“What you’re seeing is a reaction from the national Democratic Party to try and hold the line because they realize that if we’re successful in Wisconsin, there will be a national impact,” said Republican State Leadership Committee president Chris Jankowski, whose group supports GOP candidates in state-level campaigns.
Already, the national parties and their House, Senate and gubernatorial campaign committees have sought to capitalize on the Wisconsin struggle through fundraising appeals, press releases and television and online ads.
Leaders in both camps are describing the next phase of the struggle in Wisconsin in dire terms.
Wisconsin state Senate President Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who shepherded the labor law to passage, touched off a small firestorm when he told Fox News that ending collective bargaining would affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential race. More…
Still having never learned to be calm, retract their claws, and sit around and act rationally in a situation that calls for panic, Wisconsin’s Republicans and their Corporate Puppeteers tonight guaranteed themselves an unprecedented and disastrous recall next January.
More over, they also guaranteed themselves that any cloak of stealth under which they have operated in their attacks on teachers, firefighters, policemen, unions, and the settled law of collective bargaining, has been stripped away. If you pass a supposedly urgent “budget repair” bill with key budget components cut from it, you forfeit the fiction that you are doing anything remedial, anything essential, anything except a naked power grab on behalf of corporations who will get the money stolen from organized labor – civic or private.
And further, when you accomplish all this by parliamentary trick – after your national party has spent two years and more decrying Congressional reconciliation – when you deny the minority the right to participate in the outcome whether by compromise or protest, you cut through the cacophony of political-speak in this country and you transmit your sneering indifference towards democracy to ordinary citizens who do not normally pay attention. More…
“If only there were precedent for the upper chamber monkeying around with the fiscal part of a bill to bypass the need for supermajority,” the Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini noted on Twitter last night.
Mr. Ruffini was referring, of course, to the decision by Wisconsin Republicans to strip collective bargaining provisions from Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal and vote on them separately, overcoming the need for the quorum that Democratic state senators had denied them by leaving the state. He was also referring to the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care bill that Democrats passed by using a budget reconciliation procedure that bypassed the possibility of a filibuster.
Democrats paid a price for passing their health care bill, however, which polls had long shown was unpopular. Some of the 63 seats they lost in the House last November were an all but inevitable result of the poor economy, and reversion to the mean after two strong election cycles. My research, however — as well as that of several political scientists — suggests that the health care bill was also a factor in their defeat; Democrats who voted aye on the health care bill were considerably more likely to lose their seats, controlling for other factors.
The quality of polling on the Wisconsin dispute has not been terrific. But there’s a general consensus — including in some polls sponsored by conservative groups — that the Republican position was unpopular, probably about as unpopular as the Democrats’ position on health care. And the most unpopular part of their position — limiting collective bargaining rights — was the one that Republicans passed last night.
Nor is the bill likely to become any more popular given the circumstances under which it passed. Yes, there’s some hypocrisy in claims by Democrats that the Wisconsin Republicans used trickery to pass the bill — they did, after all, approve it with an elected majority, just as Democrats did on the Affordable Care Act. Nevertheless, polling suggested that Wisconsinites, by a two to one majority, expected a compromise on the bill, which this decidedly was not. More…
A prank call from a man purporting to be petrochemical billionaire David Koch to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) a few weeks ago revealed that Walker had crafted his “budget repair” bill in a bid to crush the labor unions. The revelation was at odds with the GOP’s public argument, that removing collective bargaining rights has something to do with the state’s budget deficit.
In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly moments ago, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), one of Walker’s closest allies in the legislature, confirmed the true political motive of Walker’s anti-union push. Fitzgerald explained that “this battle” is about eliminating unions so that “the money is not there” for the labor movement. Specifically, he said that the destruction of unions will make it “much more difficult” for President Obama to win reelection in Wisconsin:
FITZGERALD: Well if they flip the state senate, which is obviously their goal with eight recalls going on right now, they can take control of the labor unions. If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.
Fitzgerald’s transparent effort to defund his political opponents by stripping the rights of teachers and nurses is facing a backlash. In a few months, the defunders may be deposed. Following a report by ThinkProgress that several pro-Walker state lawmakers are eligible for recall, progressive activists around Wisconsin began filing the paperwork to remove eight GOP state senators from office.