Thursday, August 10, 2006

No good deed goes unpunished

The Journal Sentinel has outdone itself today in fulfilling its mission to assure that all front page news about Gov. Jim Doyle is bad news.

Doyle's order Tuesday to stop enforcing the state minimum markup law on ethanol-based gasoline should have been a positive story if there ever was one.

Bureaucracy runs amok, tries to make service stations charge more. Governor steps in to do the right thing and hold down prices for consumers, who are paying more and more at the pump. He got a pretty neutral to mildly positive story the first day.

But today, the newspaper managed to twist the issue to feature two negative stories on top of page one. One said the move wouldn't affect prices much. The other suggested Doyle had only acted as a political ploy because Rep. Mark Green had issued a press release on the subject.

Here's the "evidence" of Doyle's dastardly political move:
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Doyle said he didn't know if he could tell state regulators to not enforce the minimum markup law on ethanol-based gasoline. The law, written decades ago when all gas was totally derived from oil, requires a 9.18% markup from wholesalers to retailers. His lawyers were studying the issue, the governor said Tuesday morning.

A few hours later, he ordered state regulators not to enforce the minimum markup law on ethanol blends.

Between Doyle's late-morning uncertainty and his mid-afternoon action, his Republican challenger for governor, U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Green Bay, issued a news release that challenged him on the issue.

Were the two - Green's challenge and Doyle's swift response - related?
I have no inside information, and have no contact with the governor's office or campaign these days. But I know Doyle well enough that think I can confidently answer the question: No.

In all likelihood, what transpired between Doyle's first statement and his decision to issue the order was that he got his question answered. Doyle is a lawyer, a cautious man when it comes to the law. My guess is that he either got legal advice that he could issue the order, or, as sometimes happens, he went to the state statutes himself and decided the law did not apply to ethanol products.

It might be helpful to recall that this issue arose when the owner of an ethanol pump in Monroe complained that state price police were trying to make him raise prices.

That story ran on the Associated Press wire, and sparked a lot of comment. I mentioned it here at 10:25 Tuesday morning.

An equally likely scenario is that Doyle read my blog item sometime after 11 a.m. and was moved to act.

Or how about this one: The governor, and his office, read the papers, too. Doyle has been against the minimum markup law since he was Dane County DA in the 1970s. A bill was introduced in the last session of the legislature to repeal minimum markup, and Doyle said he would sign it if it passed. But Mark Green's Republican cronies, who control the legislature, killed the bill.

So when Doyle read or heard about the latest outrageous enforcement of the law, he checked to see whether he could stop it. When he got the green light, he acted.

Apparently, if he had read Green's press release, he should have done nothing, because doing the right thing just resulted in a claim that he was only acting for political gain.

By the way, despite the other story, with all of the people who like the minimum markup law saying it wouldn't affect prices much, the Monroe station owner who started the whole thing said he had reduced prices 20 cents a gallon on unleaded regular gas with 10% ethanol.

No wonder more and more Democrats are referring to the newspaper as the Urinal Slantinel.

UPDATE:
There are two sides to every story, even in the same newspaper.

6 Comments:

At 12:43 PM, Blogger grumps said...

Okay, so Mark Green gets the oil company cash and Doyle gets slammed. Just trying to keep it clear.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Walton said...

I hope Doyle sees the opportunity in this issue and starts spinning the positives of his move. With one move he could champion the rewriting of an antiquated law that assumes only one type of gasoline exists and push for the expansion of a viable alternative fuel that would make a big difference in both local manufacturers as well as consumer prices.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Epilogue said...

Why did he wait until Tuesday to do the research? Instead of phony petitions in the run up to Memorial Day, why didn't he order his staff to find all possible options available to him - the governor of a midwestern state - to ease prices at the pump?

The GOP absolutely failed on this test when they failed to repeal the law, but if Doyle was sincere, he would have sought answers - like those he sought on Tuesday morning - a lot sooner.

Does it not dawn on you that the coverage from the J-S is a function of how transparent Doyle's move was? Perhaps more prompt attention to minimum markup earlier in the Spring would've been received better by the paper.

(Please don't use the blanket excuse here that Doyle couldn't buy good coverage and that no matter when Doyle exercised his authority on this matter the coverage would have been the same. Think outside the box on this one, Xoff.)

Could it be that this issue, like almost every other one he tries to hang his hat on, is given to him by national dems, i.e., stem cells and the dumb gas petition? Funny how our Iowan neighbors are debating stem cells and gas petitions as well, huh?

 
At 3:22 PM, Blogger Xoff said...

I suspect you will find stem cells and gas prices being discussed in a lot of other states, too -- not because of some national Dem template, but because polling indicates those are issues voters care about in those states.

And the GOP is on the wrong side of both.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger proletariat said...

I know few who are losing sleep over stem cells, the gas prices may be another story.

It seems to me the Dems have realized that the cultural wars are advantagous to them. When they do enter the economic sphere it is usually with small meaningless stuff like the gas pricing.

I read the piece on how Doyle's action won't have much impact and thought it was covered fairly.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger SteveS said...

The original post supposed the improbable - that there could be ANYTHING good news about a crook like Doyle.

This man would compromise any and every principle he has ever held if the occassion suited his political aims.

The "DUMP DOYLE" tee-shirts and campaign are spot on.

 

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