Monday, July 31, 2006

Investigation now isn't even a review

The "review" of a meeting between then-DOA Secretary Marc Marotta and a donor to Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign -- announced by AG Peg Lautenschlager's spokesman last week -- is not what he said it was. Not at all.

Mike Bauer, who runs the AG's legal services division with one hand and her campaign with the other, said the AG and the US Attorney were working together on a review, which could lead to a full-scale investigation.

Now Bauer says the AG has turned it over to the State Ethics Board. And no mention of any involvement -- past, present or future -- by the US Attorney.

A review by the Ethics Board is a far cry from a federal investigation, as Bauer well knows.

Funny he didn't offer that until pressed today about a possible conflict of interest for his boss, since Lautenschlager took $5,000 from the Doyle donor's wife and Bauer introduced him to the State Investment Board.

If there were any doubt about the political games being played in the AG's office, this should be the final piece of evidence.

Apparently, Bauer neglected to mention that the Ethics Board is also investigating Lautenschlager.

Green's budget 'plan' is no plan at all

The devil is in the details, they always say.

But Rep. Mark Green's state budget "plan" is an exception to the rule.

In Green's case, the devil is in the lack of details.

A month ago, when the Journal Sentinel asked Green what he was going to do about the state budget, it became clear from his answers that he didn't have a clue. Even Steve Walters, who hangs on every word from the GOP and its candidates, couldn't make him look good.

Now, Green's done it again, announcing what he boldly called a "plan" to fix the state's budget problems.

Green's "plan" essentially says, "Let's just quit spending money. Oh, and to make sure we don't, let's pass a law making it illegal."

Great idea. That's how I propose we handle our family finances: "Let's quit spending so much money."

When my wife points out that gasoline, electricity, our health insurance, and most everything else we buy is going up, I will not bend.

And when she asks me what we're going to spend less on to make up for it, I'll tell her not to worry. We'll just make a rule that says we can't spend any more.

Now there's a plan if I ever heard one.

Green actually says he will not increase state spending by even a nickel, as I read it. And he already said today he won't cut the state payroll or contract out any work.

He also won't answer the question Scott Walker asked about whether he will continue to keep the state's commitment to pay two-thirds of public school costs -- or whether local property taxpayers are going to be stuck with higher bills.

Given all that, I was stunned to read a JS online headline that declared, Green details budget plans and actually said:
After releasing his plan in April, Green was criticized for not providing enough details on how he would handle the state's budget issues. Democrats were also critical of Green's tenure in Congress, in which the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said Green had a fiscally irresponsible record of voting for spending increases.

Today, he provided some more details, saying he would look for ways to reduce spending by better use of contracting dollars.

"There's lots of examples of contracting out where we can save the state tens and tens of millions of dollars, and that's where we'd start," Green said.
Today, he provided more details??? That he would make better use of contracting dollars? That's going to get the state out of its $1.5- to $2-billion hole and pay for the services it is committed to deliver.

I. Don't. Think. So.

I suppose it would be negative to point out that one reason Gov. Jim Doyle hasn't gotten us all the way out of the $3.2-billion deficit hole he inherited is that Republicans -- including Mark Green, who was right there voting for big fat budgets in the Assembly -- dug the hole so deep it took more than one term to do it.

Wisconsin's news media need to press Green -- and Doyle -- the way they did in 2002 for specific plans and ways to reduce the deficit, including some specific cuts.

Apparently, someone besides the Journal Sentinel is going to have to pick up the torch. The state's biggest newspaper thinks Green announced "details" today.

UPDATE: Carrie Lynch on budgeting in 40 words or less.

Seth Zlotocha says Green's so-called plan is still very much a secret.

UPDATE 3: Dave Diamond calls it more hilarity from the Green Team and wonders whether the Greenies are familiar with the concept of irony.

UPDATE 4: Gretchen Schuldt: Nobody likes taxes, but Green has a responsibility to tell us how he would balance the budget, not just that he would. It's called being responsible.

UPDATE 5: One Blog on Budget plans, talking points, and contradicting one's self.

ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM: Dicta says his/her daughter had a better financial plan for her lemonade stand than Green has on the budget.

THAT PESKY CARRIE LYNCH asks: When is a plan not a plan?

Shakin' and bakin' at the fair

Grumps at The Happy Circumstance:

Kissin' And Shakin' At The Waukesha County Fair
I don't know if Wendy was joking or not but this gave me a Windex moment.

Sure enough, Congressman Mark Green had arrived and was kissing hands and shaking babies

8th CD among 'bellwether' races

The Washington Post, in ongoing coverage of the mid-term Congressional election, has identified eight issues it believes will shape the outcome, and 33 bellwether races to watch.

Wisconsin's 8th District, being vacated by Rep. Mark Green, is one of the 33, and one of four where pocketbook issues might be the deciding factor. Get the Post's view of the race here.

Thinking outside the box to reduce taxes

A Brew City Brawler exclusive:
WEST BEND -- Decrying increases in property tax levies exceeding 2% across Wisconsin, State Sen. Glenn Grothman called upon the people of Wisconsin to take upon themselves the responsibility for tasks usually delegated to government.

Such as building roads.

Quote, unquote

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."
--Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos, to the Washington Post.

Hat tip: The Side Street.

UPDATE: One Wisconsin Now on staying the wrong course.

Political Capital , or Madison on $88 a day

A new Wisconsin blog, Political Capital, makes its debut, with a long list of insider State Capitol gossip and observations. The question is whether the first post exhausts the material, or whether the anonymous writer can sustain it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Republicans back Clarke, naturally

You probably won't be shocked to hear this, but Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is raising a lot of money from Republicans.

Spivak and Bice report:
Republicans cutting checks for Clarke include GOP state Party Chairman Richard Graber; Jim Klauser, long the top political confidant to ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson; car dealer and one-time U.S. Senate candidate Russ Darrow; and Margaret Farrow, who was named lieutenant governor by then-Gov. Scott McCallum, the Republican who, coincidentally, appointed Clarke as sheriff.
That should not be surprising, because Clarke basically is a Republican who is still in the closet, running as a Democrat because switching parties would be fatal.

What the Spice Boys forgot to report is that the Milwaukee County Democratic Party has endorsed Clarke's opponent, Vince Bobot. It's unprecedented for the party to endorse in a primary, but it's unusual for a Republican to be running as a Democrat, too.

GOP Chair Rick Graber continues the myth that a Republican could be elected to a partisan office in Milwaukee County, pointing to County Exec Scott Walker. Walker, however, was elected in a non-partisan spring election, without having Republican next to his name. Clarke wouldn't have that luxury if he switched, and no one can remember the last time a Repub won a partisan race in the county.

Clarke was afraid to test Graber's theory -- and he should be.

If you want to read the whole sordid David Clarke story, here's the link to an earlier post, "Tale of two David Clarkes -- 'Independent Dem' is lying Republican." If that's too subtle for you, just skip it.

-- Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News, via Cagle.

Aircraft maker strafed Manitowoc

with pie in the sky production plan

A month ago, I suggested there was something fishy in Manitowoc, where an aircraft manufacturer dangled a potential new production facility, with lots of jobs, and then quickly snatched it away. It was cited by Republicans as more evidence of Wisconsin's bad business climate.

File this Manitowoc Herald-Times Reporter story under Suspicions Confirmed. The whole deal reeks from top to bottom. The company was trying to play communities off against one another when, in fact, it probably has no plans or money to pull off any development of the scope it was talking about.

What Manitowoc's economic development head, Ken Stubbe, discovered, he said in an e-mail to local officials was:
During our due diligence we heard from their home community that the company is at least $20-30 million and years away from getting their new model plane FAA certified for manufacture, they currently have less than 20 employees, they have no experience in large scale manufacturing and distribution and they have no investors to make all of this happen.
That's the report on the company that was talking about providing 300 new jobs to Manitowoc. Here's the newspaper story:
EDC official criticizes plane maker

Stubbe says LoPresti Aviation started an artificial bidding war among potential plant sites

MANITOWOC --LoPresti Aviation engaged in an artificial bidding war among prospective host cities for an airplane manufacturing facility, a leading economic development official in Manitowoc County said Friday.

Manitowoc County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Ken Stubbe said officials of LoPresti, based in Vero Beach, Fla, have been unfair in dealing with local officials.

LoPresti said it has numerous suitors throughout the country seeking to build its "Fury," a single-engine sport plane.

Stubbe said Friday he was unable to confirm claims by R.J. Siegel, LoPresti's Milwaukee-based vice president of operations, that other cities have offered multi-million-dollar economic development packages.

Stubbe said there was concern from the beginning that LoPresti might have been trying to create an artificial bidding environment among communities seeking the plane manufacturing plant and its 300 associated jobs.

"The normal entrepreneur is exuberant and tends to exaggerate. That wouldn't surprise me and you kind of ignore it, but when it goes over the pale, you have to consider that a red flag," Stubbe said.

He said calls were made to five cities mentioned by Siegel as having offered substantial economic package offers for the plant.

"None of the community leaders confirmed anything near the $16 million to $18 million mentioned by Siegel. The highest confirmed was about $600,000," Stubbe wrote in an e-mail distributed Thursday to the EDC board, and other civic and business members.

Stubbe said LoPresti might have a community partner, but added, "I just never saw any evidence of it."

On Tuesday, Stubbe and Siegel made conflicting statements on the status of Manitowoc's bid for the plant.

Stubbe announced LoPresti had turned down Manitowoc's incentive package.

In response, Siegel told the Herald Times Reporter: "We never said, 'Nope, sorry, goodbye.'"

The HTR has obtained a copy of a July 14 e-mail from Siegel to Crawford that, despite nuanced wording open to some interpretation, indicates LoPresti had rejected the Manitowoc incentive package.

"While it does not seem economically feasible based on your available resources to provide that (manufacturing) opportunity, that does not in any way detract from our positive appraisal of the community," Siegel wrote after reviewing the EDC's proposal, which included local and state financial incentives.

On Tuesday, Siegel said he had sent Manitowoc officials copies of specific bids from other community suitors, to help Manitowoc learn how it could be more competitive in luring the plant.

In his e-mail, labeled "LoPresti inaccuracies," Stubbe wrote, "Neither I nor anyone else on the local team that I know of has copies of detailed proposals from other communities. When Siegel was in town on June 26, he said he would send these proposals but he never did."

No business plan

"Our due diligence showed inconsistencies in what was being said (by LoPresti Aviation). Probably, the company very likely didn't have the economic wherewithal to make the project happen," Stubbe said.

"LoPresti didn't seem willing or able to provide a detailed business plan to us, and that's what we should have before we put together a proposal," he said.

After Todd Lohenry, LoPresti's Algoma-based business operations manager, publicly encouraged Manitowoc's bid for the plant, Stubbe said he felt "pressure" to respond with an offer.

In his e-mail Stubbe said, "Despite never having seen a business plan or financial information, the Manitowoc team offered incentives in our proposal equal to other recent large-scale local projects."

Much of the aircraft industry's infrastructure and workforce skills are clustered in Kansas, Texas, Florida, California and Seattle, which "makes it exceedingly difficult to start a new plant in Wisconsin; especially, a completely new company," Stubbe wrote.

Asked whether he felt LoPresti executives had dealt with Manitowoc officials in a fair and honest manner, Stubbe said, "No," but chose not to elaborate.

Nevertheless, "I wish them well," Stubbe said.

LoPresti officials did not return several phone calls placed Friday.
It's pretty charitable of Stubbe to say that about a company that has just done its best to play his community for a fool.

You can bet LoPresti won't be returning those phone calls anytime soon, either.

Wisconsin voters love negative campaigns

An Associated Press story by Todd Richmond bemoans the fact that Wisconsin campaigns are already getting negative. It's the usual story, with quotes from the usual suspects, including some political "scientists" and goo-goos. Such as:
[Communications professor]Meyer, however, said voters might be so disgusted they already may be tuning out and will avoid the polls altogether. The voters who do show up will have little idea what the candidates want to do if they win.

"It's that classic case of the appearance of impropriety," he said. "It lays the bedrock foundation for skepticism if not downright cynicism on the part of a lot of voters."

That's exactly what the campaigns want, said Jay Heck, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin.

"They want to drive down turnout and disillusion supporters of the other side. The way you do that is to paint your opponent as a slimeball," Heck said.
Every two years, we hear the lament that negative campaigns will drive voters away from the polls, that they will all be so grossed out they will stay home on election day.

Common Cause and Jay Heck keep doing their part, trying to make every candidate who accepts any contributions look like a crook.

Does anybody remember the presidential election of 2004? It got pretty nasty, as I recall. Something about Swift Boats and Jane Fonda and I forget what-all. It was described as the most negative ever. (Every campaign is described as the worst ever, just like morale in the police department is always at an all-time low. ) Here's a 2002 Badger Herald story that fits the mold:
{Political science professor} Walsh pointed out that negative campaigning may have adverse effects on voters.

“There’s a lot of speculation that negative campaigning increases voter apathy,” Walsh said. “The general argument of political campaigning affecting voter turnout has a lot of merit to it.”

Walsh said negative campaigning often greatly affects younger voters.

“Any time in the late teens and early 20s are a formative time in a person’s political development and adaptations,” Walsh said.
So what happened in 2004? Record turnout. People in Wisconsin must love negative campaigns, because they voted in record numbers. Young people, too. Wisconsin's young voter turnout of 63% was second in the nation. Overall, it was third in the nation, at 75%.

Typical turnout in a non-presidential year in Wisconsin -- the mid-term Congressional elections, which also is when we elect a governor and fill other state offices -- is more like 40%, and will likely be in that range again.

Maybe, if the campaign gets negative enough, we can boost it to 45%. Worth a try.

Weekly lefty roundup

Michael Mathias of Pundit Nation offers a review of the week on the left hemisphere of the Cheddarsphere, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Feingold challenges 'squishy middle'

At a time when high-profile Democratic Party warhorses such as Hillary Clinton are hewing aggressively to the middle, Wisconsin senator and possible presidential aspirant Russell Feingold is warning the party might be in need of more organ transplants than the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion combined. “Democrats need to stand up and say what we believe and show some guts,” said Feingold, 53, during a hurried phone interview ... “We need to stop listening so much to the paid consultants and start listening to the people.” Feingold warned that fellow Democrats risk failure by trying to play it safe. “I think it’s clear we can’t expect to win by default,” he said. “We’ve tried that approach and, as a result, we lost in 2000, 2002, and 2004.”
That's the intro to Nick Welsh's column in the Santa Barbara Independent. Feingold is there this weekend.

'What more could be fairer?'

Nickels for workers, millions for millionaires

Points to ponder:

1. How cynical can you get?

2. How dumb does Mark Green think the voters are?

Green is talking up an early-morning vote he cast today to raise the federal minimum wage -- something he voted against three times earlier this month.

What changed his mind?

This bill doesn't just raise the minimum wage for people at the bottom of the ladder. It also has a nice little bonus for the richest people in the country -- it slashes the estate tax.

As Wisconsin State Journal columnist Roundy Coughlin used to say, "What more could be fairer?"

People at the bottom get a raise of $2.10 an hour over the next three years, and Paris Hilton gets tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks when Daddy dies.

One House member summed it up pretty well, the NY Times reports:
"In all my years here, this is the height of hypocrisy," said Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who said Republicans were moved to consider a raise in the minimum wage only out of fear of losing House seats in November. "If you really cared, you would have acted long ago. This is not an election-year conversion; it is an election-year trick."
It's the kind of trick Mark Green tries to pull all of the time. He's had election-year conversions on all sorts of issues, including gasoline price gouging and gas tax indexing. He's the kind of politician that has some votes on a lot of issues in both pockets. He's for it here, but against it there. The whole idea is to muddy it up enough so he can tell voters whatever he thinks they want to hear on any given day, while hiding his real record and core beliefs.

It's not going to work this year.

For the first time in his life, Mark Green is in a campaign where he is being held accountable for his actions and his votes. The old election year switcheroo isn't going to be easy to get away with.

He's already finding that out on the stem cell issue, where he brazenly claims to be a big supporter of stem cell research while voting against the kind of research that holds the real promise.

Green may point out that he voted once before, in 2000, for a $1 minimum wage increase. That's true. But, like this time, he voted for it because it was part of a package that included $46-billion in tax cuts, mostly to benefit the richest of the rich.

Whenever he has had a chance to vote to raise the minimum wage, no strings attached, he has voted no.

Gretchen Schuldt says it best: Shame on Mark Green.

UPDATE: Even under current law, 99.7% of Wisconsinites pay no estate tax. Green's vote is to benefit the top 3/10 of one per cent.

Friday, July 28, 2006

-- Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle, via WashPost.

Twinkle vs. Sir Charles

Charles Barkley's switch to the Democratic party, and the noises he's making about running for governor of Alabama, were somewhat worth noting. "I was a Republican until they lost their minds," Sir Charles said.

But what really sparked my interest was the comment from the Alabama GOP chair -- Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. Imagine being named Twinkle and trying to have people take you seriously. It gives the name Muffy some gravitas.

Community, not Doyle, derailed project

It's getting so you can't tell the witch hunts reviews without a scorecard.

Mike Bauer, who doubles as AG Peg Lautenschlager's top lawyer and chief campaign strategist, says the Justice Dept. is looking under every bed for anything that might damage Gov. Jim Doyle, who Lautenschlager blames for getting Kathleen Falk into the AG's race against her.

AP reported:

Bauer said the prosecutors are reviewing for possible investigation a complaint from a developer called Prism over how Doyle's administration handled the bidding process for the $68.7 million UW-Milwaukee project. Prism lost out on a bid to turn a university building into student housing and retail space. The contract ultimately went to a firm whose employees had donated $51,000 to the governor's campaign since December 2003.
If there was ever any doubt that the Lautenschlager-Bauer team are more interested in covering their own asses and hurting Doyle than finding the facts, this case should settle it.

This was a Republican project, started under Scott McCallum, and the decision to rebid was made by the State Building Commission, not the Doyle administration, as Republican members of that commission have already reminded the news media.

It is a case where input from the community brought about change in the project. That's a good thing, not a crime.

This may be more than you want to know, but Michael Horne of Milwaukee World traces the history of the project:

"Legislator may profit from UWM project." That was the headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ... in the December 23rd, 2003 edition. The legislator, Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon), was a limited partner and consultant to Prism Development Co., the firm chosen to redevelop the Kenilworth Building for UWM. Gielow became involved in the project while he was serving on the board of the UWM Foundation, (he was once president) yet before he ran for the assembly.

Prism was awarded the contract, but the award was later rescinded once the Doyle administration took office, in part due to publicity regarding Gielow's involvement with the project...

Prism has since sued former Doyle Secretary of Administration Marc Marotta, saying he was inappropriately involved with the selection process that ultimately led to the choice of Weas Development for the 500,000 sq. ft. project, which is nearing completion on E. Kenilworth Pl., between N. Farwell and N. Prospect avenues. Weas was chosen in a second round, after the initial proposals were rejected...

One person key to the events is Jim Plaisted, the executive director of the East Side Business Improvement District #20.

His recollections are deposition-worthy, and show a much different picture of the negotiations for the project than appear in the newspaper. The BID was created in 1998; Plaisted has been involved in the project from the beginning. As early in 1999, the master plan for the neighborhood identified the Kenilworth Building (formerly a Ford Motor Company plant) as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the area.

Plaisted served on a committee in 2000 to discuss the redevelopment of the property. In line with his responsibilities to the neighborhood, Plaisted sought community input and involvement in the project.

In 2002, when the project was finally ready for bids,"I contacted UWM and asked them for a chance to review the RFP (request for proposal) before it went out, and was rebuffed," Plaisted said. Nonetheless, the project went out for bid and Prism, the firm with connections to now-Rep. Gielow, was selected.

"The RFP was poorly drafted, bureaucratic in nature and offered no review role for the neighborhoods involved or the City of Milwaukee for that matter. ... Several responders mentioned how poorly the RFP was constructed, and only two offered serious proposals: Prism Development and Cullen/Scion," Plaisted says.

Plaisted says he offered to alert the bidders to his concerns during the review process, but was told by UWM officials that there "was no room for negotiating the details of their proposal before the State awarded the development contract to Prism."

[In fact, it has since been documented that Prism officials indeed were able to make their own revisions to the proposal during the State review. This is significant, since changes during State review was a significant factor in the controversy involving the State travel contract awarded to Adelman Travel.]

Plaisted says there were problems with both proposals, since each included student housing levels of over 400 units, an amount that would be unacceptable to the neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Plaisted, with his BID, the Water Tower Landmark Trust and city officials, then contacted the state legislators for the area, Rep. Jon Richards and Sen. Jeff Plale, and expressed their concerns that the development was "dead in the water if it comes before the community as proposed, and that the process was flawed from the beginning by not taking into account neighborhood and City perspectives." Not to mention the Gielow/Prism connection.

Plaisted then attended a meeting in Richards' office with Marotta, UWM officials, Plale, and Alderman Michael S. D'Amato.

The state officials and UWM then agreed to advise the State Building Commission to reissue the RFP, thus angering the Prism officials, who had assumed the contract would be theirs. "I'm assuming the community concerns were the straw that broke the camel's back," Plaisted says.

The project was rebid in 2003, this time with community input, and the result is the Weas project, which seems destined to receive many awards when it opens later this year. Weas, Plaisted says, was open to working with the neighborhood groups. The process, he says, "was conducted in an above-board manner with community stakeholders at the table."

As far as Marotta's involvement, which is the subject of Prism's politically-motivated suit, Plaisted says, "I don't recall one instance [during the process] where anyone in the room mentioned talking to Secretary Marotta or having to consult with him. The only time I ever talked to him was in the meeting in Rep. Richard's office."
Your witness, Mr. Bauer.

Your tax dollars promote abortion falsehoods

Are federally-funded Wisconsin pregnancy resource centers providing false or misleading information on abortion to young women who come to them for help?

One Wisconsin Now thinks that might be the case, based on a study released by Rep. Henry Waxman, of the House Committee on Government Reform, which found:
...federally funded pregnancy resource centers often mislead pregnant teens about the medical risks of abortion, telling investigators who posed as pregnant 17-year-olds that abortion leads to breast cancer, infertility, and mental illness.
A startling 87% of the centers contacted gave incorrect or outright false information.

Cory Liebmann explains the likely Wisconsin connection:
Although the names and locations of the centers were not listed, the report does list two national umbrella organizations with which the centers were affiliated. Those national network organizations are named in the report as Heartbeat International and Care Net. According to the report, Heartbeat International describes itself as the “first pro-life network of pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest in the world, supporting, strengthening and starting nearly 1,000 pregnancy centers to provide alternatives to abortion.”

A quick search done on the Heartbeat International website reveals that the organization appears to have at least 11 pregnancy centers in Wisconsin that are affiliated with them. These centers are located in Milwaukee, Racine, Oshkosh, Beloit and others. Then taking a look at the Wisconsin Right to Life website, we find that all of these Wisconsin based Heartbeat International affiliates are recommended as resources for women that need help.
Your tax dollars at work.

Green's non-Wisconsin donors

These days, you have to savor even small, partial victories.

I've complained more than once about the stories on out-of-state contributions to the candidates for gov, most recently when the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign did its tally 10 days ago.

Today's Journal Sentinel story, while still highlighting Doyle's non-Wisconsin donors, at least acknowledged what I've been saying:
Green, meanwhile, received 96% of his money from Wisconsin residents. Virginia residents led his out-of-state donors, donating $18,862 of the $115,217 non-Wisconsin total...

The analysis did not take into account some $1.3 million that Green, a four-term member of the U.S. House, shifted from his congressional account to the governor's race. About $500,000 of that came from out-of-state givers. If that money is taken into account, 15% of Green's total funds came from out-of-state donors, vs. Doyle's 22%.
That's progress, of sorts. They still didn't get it right, however. About $500,000 came from out of state political action committees.

Now, if someone would look at the other $800,000 in individual contributions Green transferred in, I think they'd find a lot of that is from Washington lobbyists, power brokers and influence peddlers, too. It wouldn't surprise me if it turned out that 22% of Green's money was from out of state. But I don't want to know badly enough to get and go through the reports. Mike McCabe and the Democracy Campaign seem to have the time and staff for data entry and number crunching. How about it, Mikey?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

'Investigation' or 'review?'

Must have been my imagination. Apparently AG Peg Lautenschlager is not "investigating" a meeting between former Administration Secretary Marc Marotta and a donor to Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign.

Her office is simply "reviewing" the matter, the Capital Times reported today, helping Lautenschlager aide Mike Bauer take the edge off what he said yesterday. The story says:
[Bauer] said earlier this week that the state Justice Department was "reviewing" the meeting between Marotta and Schiffrin. There has been no decision whether to mount a full-blown investigation...
So, what did Bauer say originally? WisPolitics reported:
Bauer said DOJ investigators are working with the Milwaukee U.S. Attorney's office on the Marotta and UW-Milwaukee dorm matters...

"We are actively pursuing and participating in this in a fair and nonpolitical fashion, and we don't intend to make it a political issue," said Bauer.
"Investigators" are "working with" the US attorney's office, and DOJ is "actively pursuing" it.

This morning's Journal Sentinel said:
The disclosures came a day after Bauer revealed that Lautenschlager, in conjunction with U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, had expanded an investigation into the awarding of a travel contract to include Schiffrin's meeting with Marotta. Bauer also said investigators are looking into the awarding of a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee project in which a losing bidder has alleged Marotta improperly intervened in the vendor selection process for the Kenilworth building.
"Expanded an investigation" and "investigators are looking." Sounds a little like an investigation, ain'a?

The day before, the JS reported:
Madison - State and federal prosecutors are probing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration over a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee building project and a meeting Doyle's campaign fund-raiser arranged for Doyle's top deputy in his state office.

Michael Bauer, the administrator of legal services at the state Department of Justice, said Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic and their aides are involved in the reviews, which grew out of an ongoing investigation into the awarding of a travel contract to a Doyle donor.

Bauer cautioned that the review of the role played by former state Administration Secretary Marc Marotta in the UWM building and an unrelated meeting with Philadelphia-area attorney Richard Schiffrin were in the early stages.
"Probing." Unless you're a doctor, that usually means investigating.

The Associated Press:
WAUKESHA, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle brushed off word that state and federal investigators are considering launching two more probes of his administration Wednesday, dismissing the news as typical political fodder during a heated campaign season.

Department of Justice spokesman Mike Bauer said prosecutors are reviewing how a firm that donated to Doyle won a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee building contract and whether a campaign fundraiser for Doyle arranged a meeting between a lawyer seeking state business and Doyle's top state aide in his office.

"It's a political year. You're going to see all of these things," the governor said...
Around the state, headlines used words like "probe" and "prosecutors" a lot.

So you can see why casual readers -- like me, for example -- thought Bauer had announced an investigation. That, and the fact that he was responding to a Republican candidate's call for an investigation.

Aren't you glad to know it's just a review? And that it is fair and non-political, of course. Being non-political would have been treating it like any other preliminary review, if that's what it is, and handling it quietly. It is almost certain to produce nothing except the headlines and impressions it has left with readers. That, of course, is the whole purpose.

Stem cells, Galileo and sunsets

One of the reasons the issue of stem cell research resonates with so many people of all political persuasions and in all walks of life is that we all know someone -- a friend, relative, co-worker, fellow church member -- who could potentially benefit from the research.

Here is one story, from Michael Rosen, economics professor and union activist:

Many of you know my ex-wife Helen Robertson. Helen suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease. She is now wheelchair bound.

These diseases have robbed her of the things that give life meaning. In May, she was simply too ill to attend our youngest daughter's college graduation just as she was too ill to attend senior night when our oldest daughter was honored by Ohio State University. Helen will never be able to walk her children down the aisle on their wedding day or take her grandchildren to the park. Illness forced her to retire prematurely from MATC and abandon her passion for writing and teaching. Her loss was also our students' and community's loss.

Helen's life has been destroyed by this disease. In one of her more despondent moments, she recently asked: "Why did this happen to me?" and said:" Sometimes, I think I would be better off dead."

Embryonic stem cell research, scientists believe, may provide a cure for illnesses like MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Juvenile Diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

It might be too late for this research to help Helen. Her diseases may have progressed too far too fast. But it is nothing less than immoral to oppose or limit this important research that provides so much hope to so many who have suffered so much.

The opposition to embryonic stem cell research has historic parallels. Galileo Galilei, the great Italian scientist, was called to Rome in 1633, and tried for the crime of heresy for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun. The aged Galileo, in his 70's, was taken down into the dungeons of the church and shown the instruments of torture that would used on him if he did not recant. Fearing torture, and that he might share the fate of Giordano Bruno, whom the church burned at the stake a generation earlier for the same crime, Galileo recanted. He was confined to his home under house arrest, neither allowed to leave or to receive visitors, for the last seven years of his life.

The persecution of Galileo, however, did not end with the end of his life. His heirs were refused permission to bury the great scientist in his family tomb at Santa Croce.

It wasn't until 1832 that Galileo's work was removed from the list of banned books that Catholics were forbidden to read. 200 years after the trial... and well after Sir Isaac Newton established the truth of the theory!

In 1992, Pope John Paul II formally apologized for the persecution of Galileo.

Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research are no more right or moral than those who attempted to silence Galileo centuries ago. They are extremists pure and simple. Their twenty first century inquisition against researching potential cures for debilitating diseases must be stopped.

Governor Doyle has consistently supported stem cell research (see his latest ad) and the University of Wisconsin has been a leader in the field. Nancy Reagan, whose husband, President Reagan, suffered from Alzheimer's, is a strong, proponent of embryonic stem cell research.

When you vote in November, please remember that Governor Doyle has consistently supported stem cell research and think about what has happened to Helen. If that doesn't convince you, think about an old Italian scientist named Galileo and watch the sun set. Then do the right thing.

Quote, unquote

"It’s interesting that politicians now have to resort to publicly lying about something they claim is a moral issue. They must have gone to a different Sunday School than we did."
-- Joel McNally, in a Shepherd Express column about Mark Green and stem cell research.

Stem cell issue makes it to page one

It's always risky to suggest cause and effect with the news media, but it's hard not to wonder whether Bruce Murphy's column suggesting that the Journal Sentinel's news operation, leaning heavily toward Mark Green in the governor's race, would under-cover the stem cell issue, where Green is clearly on the wrong side, had anything to do with the lengthy front page treatment the issue got today.

Maybe the newspaper doesn't only respond to Republican talk radio.

Or maybe the Doyle campaign has successfully focused so much attention on stem cells -- a wedge issue likely to pull some independents and moderate Republicans away from Green -- that the paper couldn't ignore it.

In any case, it's going to be a major issue, much to Green's dismay. The JS has even started to tell people which side he's on. That in itself is a breakthrough.

In a related matter, Brew City Brawler reminds us of the Journal Sentinel's long infatuation with Mark Green.

UPDATE: After reading the JS editorial on stem cells today, an e-mailer asks: "Will stem cells cure schizophrenia?"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who's gonna investigate this?

WisPolitics reports:
A Philadelphia lawyer met with the State of Wisconsin Investment Board last year on the same day his wife gave $5,000 to AG Peg Lautenschlager’s campaign, according to campaign finance reports and records maintained by the board. Attorney Richard Schiffrin got the meeting after calling a Lautenschlager aide in the Department of Justice and receiving a referral to the board.
If J.B. Van Hollen calls for an investigation, will DOJ's Michael Bauer announce one's already underway, as he did yesterday with questions about Jim Doyle?

Probably not, since the WisPol story continues:
Lautenschlager aide Mike Bauer received the inquiry from Schiffrin and made the referral. He said he had no idea about a contribution.

"If anybody asks me about SWIB business, what else am I supposed to do but refer them to SWIB, or any other state agency they may ask about?" he asked.

Bauer said he received a phone call from Schiffrin on March 10. The firm wanted to be considered by SWIB if it sought outside counsel in litigation. SWIB selects a pool of attorneys it is willing to work with and then submits the list to DOJ for final approval, Bauer said.

Schiffrin met with SWIB April 5, the same day Schiffrin's wife, Barbara, made the donation to Lautenschlager’s campaign.
Strong Capital Times editorial to follow?
UPDATE: Despite that information coming to light on Wednesday, this morning's Wisconsin State Journal headline is:
Official: Doyle donors weren't favored

The former chief legal counsel for the state pension fund said Wednesday he was never pressured to consider hiring a law firm whose founding partner had given to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign.

Records obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal also reveal that it was an aide to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, not former Administration Secretary Marc Marotta, who referred the Pennsylvania firm to the state Investment Board...

Weeks before those donations were made, Mike Bauer, administrator of legal services for the state Department of Justice, suggested the name of Schiffrin's firm, Schiffrin & Barroway, to Keith Johnson, then-chief legal counsel to the Investment Board. The firm was looking for work representing the board in shareholder lawsuits.

"I was wondering if it was all right if I passed your number on to schedule something" with Schiffrin, Bauer told Johnson, according to a transcript of a March 10, 2005, voice mail message Johnson saved and which the board released Wednesday in response to an open records request.

Johnson e-mailed the message to an assistant, noting dryly: "Another political run at getting hired by SWIB."
Why are these "Doyle donors" in the headline, when the story acknowledges that Lautenschlager's office made the referral -- and her campaign collected $5,000 on the day Schiffrin met with SWIB?

Remember how much attention was paid in the Georgia Thompson trial to a claim that she had said a contract award "would not fly politically"

The SWIB's Johnson clearly thought the contact from Schiffrin via Bauer was a "political run," as he said in his e-mail.

The fact that Schiffrin's firm wasn't hired is beside the point.

When does the investigation begin?
Journal Sentinel coverage is more direct:
Funding web gets more tangled
Attorney general has ties to Doyle funder

Madison - Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager has ties to a Philadelphia-area lawyer her office is investigating over a meeting last year with Gov. Jim Doyle's top aide.

The state Department of Justice disclosed this week that it is reviewing an April 6, 2005, meeting set up by Doyle's campaign fund-raiser in a state office between attorney Richard Schiffrin of Schiffrin & Barroway and then-Administration Secretary Marc Marotta, who is now the Democratic governor's campaign chairman.

That same day, Schiffrin gave Doyle $10,000, the maximum allowed under state law.

Lautenschlager herself met with Schiffrin a day earlier over lunch, at which he delivered a $5,000 donation from his wife, Barbara. Also attending the meeting was Schiffrin & Barroway attorney Nick Pullen, who had previously talked to Lautenschlager about working on her campaign.
Can't wait for the Cap Times.

PS: Not a word from Fighting Ed Garvey, who rails every day on his blog about money and politics. Of course, he and the Cap Times are Lautenschlager's biggest boosters.

Still waist deep in the Big Muddle

It appears there will be no pre-election troop drawdown from Iraq after all. The WashPost reports:

President Bush said yesterday that he will send more U.S. forces and equipment to Baghdad as part of a fresh strategy to put down rising sectarian violence, abandoning a six-week-old operation that failed to pacify the strife-torn Iraqi capital and opening what aides called an unexpected new phase of the war.

Playing host to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House for the first time, Bush sounded unusually dour and acknowledged that the situation in Iraq in many ways has worsened lately. But he vowed to adjust tactics to deal with evolving threats and to keep U.S. forces in Iraq as long as necessary to fortify Maliki's government until it can defend itself.

The additional U.S. forces for Baghdad, which could total in the thousands, would come from elsewhere in Iraq, but the deteriorating security situation seemed to all but doom the prospect for significant troop withdrawals before the November congressional elections. The Pentagon had drawn up scenarios that envisioned pulling out as many as 30,000 troops this year, but military officials said yesterday that those now appear implausible and that U.S. forces will probably remain at the current level of 127,000 for several months at least.

A big blind spot on Lautenschlager ethics

Madison's Capital Times editorially chides Gov. Jim Doyle because his campaign accepted a $250 contribution from someone employed by Adelman Travel. Apparently that firm is permanently tainted by innuendo and its employees are to be banned forever from participating in the political process as donors. Doyle's campaign is "tone deaf" to accept that donation, the editorial says. Mark Green comes in for some criticism for his fund-raising, too.

But there's nary a word about the paper's favorite candidate, Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager, who appears totally deaf about fundraising propriety. The Cap Times, however, is legally blind when it comes to Peg Lautenschlager, who the paper props up at every opportunity, even as she politicizes the office by announcing "investigations" that may never bear fruit but cover her political ass.

Let's start with the money.

Consider, for example, the $15,000 Lautenschlager has taken from Chicagoan William Wirtz, a liquor distributor, and his wife, Alice. Wirtz also owns the Chicago Blackhawks, but it seems unlikely that the Wirtzs gave to Peg because she is a hockey fan.

Wirtz asked Lautenschlager in 2004 to file a friend of the court brief in a national lawsuit seeking to bar interstate mail-order wine sales. After Wisconsin joined the suit, Wirtz gave Lautenschlager $5,000. Now, in her latest finance report, Wirtz and his wife each gave another $5,000. (The Supreme Court went the other way and allowed the interstate sales.)

Can you imagine the page one stories, editorials, and investigations that would ensue if Doyle's office, instead of Lautenschlager's, had done that?

In her January report, Lautenschlager reported receiving $25,000 from executives of a company charged with consumer fraud, International Profit Associates Inc.-Integrated Business Analysis Inc. of Buffalo Grove, Ill. In February 2005, the firm reached a settlement with Lautenschlager's Department of Justice over complaints from customers.

A few months later, Lautenschlager's campaign received donations of $5,000 each from John Burgess, founder and managing director, and Gregg Steinberg, president of the firm. Burgess' wife later gave $10,000 and Steinberg gave another $5,000.

When it became public, Lautenschlager returned the money, but insisted she was unaware of the lawsuit or the donations. That strained credibility, since that $25,000 made the IPA folks her biggest donors. (Doyle also returned $10,000 from the firm, although he had no connection or influence on the legal case.)

The Cap Times acknowledged the Wirtz money in a story after Kathleen Falk's campaign raised the issue.

But there's been no editorial moralizing about it. No mention in the Journal Sentinel, either, although that paper is on a crusade, apparently, to put the spotlight on Doyle's donors every day -- and no one else's.

Then there's the little matter of the Realtors, who gave Lautenschlager $27,000 in political action committee money. Two possible reasons the Realtors, who are part of the Republican Big Three (WMC and the builders being the others) would give to Peg: (1) They think, correctly, that Falk will be tougher on enforcing environmental laws when development is taking place, or (2) They think, again correctly, that Lautenschlager will be easier for a Republican to beat in November. Since what they really want is a Republican in the AG's office, this is an investment that makes sense.

The Realtors also want a Republican in the governor's office, of course, and Lautenschlager, stung by Doyle's support of Falk, seems willing to help on that front, too.

How else to explain her decision, after getting a little heat from Republican AG wannabe JB Van Hollen, to make this announcement, as reported by the JS:

Madison - State and federal prosecutors are probing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration over a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee building project and a meeting Doyle's campaign fund-raiser arranged for Doyle's top deputy in his state office.

Michael Bauer, the administrator of legal services at the state Department of Justice, said Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic and their aides are involved in the reviews, which grew out of an ongoing investigation into the awarding of a travel contract to a Doyle donor.

Bauer cautioned that the review of the role played by former state Administration Secretary Marc Marotta in the UWM building and an unrelated meeting with Philadelphia-area attorney Richard Schiffrin were in the early stages.
It has been a long-standing policy, with good reason, for the state Dept. of Justice and its head, the attorney general, not to comment on whether investigations are or are not underway. During the 12 years Doyle headed the department, that was standard procedure.

Some of the reasons? Many investigations lead nowhere, or at least don't result in any charges or findings of wrongdoing. But they can take a long time, and it is unfair to have that cloud hanging over someone who may well be cleared in the end.

That, of course, is exactly what Lautenschlager did to Doyle yesterday. And it wasn't an accident. It was done deliberately, to get herself off the hook, with reckless disregard for the consequences.

One consequence for her could be that Democrats wake up and dump her in the primary. One can only hope.

UPDATE: Flushed with success, Van Hollen today calls for the AG to investigate contributions from Kenosha casino backers. Will Lautenschlager oblige again?

-- Mark Streeter, Savannah Morning News, via Cagle.

A campaign that spends no money?

The Madison mayor's race isn't until next April, but the fundraising race is already underway, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

The Xoff Files' Madison bureau files this story:
Ray Allen - Republican candidate for mayor of Madison - has now been in the race for 2 whole months. In that time, he has managed to hold his total spending to $750 -- a single payment to someone for consulting services. Nothing for postage, printing, or mailings, although he's had one fundraising event already. It's a miracle ... Allen has discovered the secret to running campaigns without spending money.

This is a probably a good thing for Ray, since he only managed to raise $20k since announcing, and loaned himself another $38k. You'd think he'd be able to do better raising money from those Madison Republican die-hards, who want to save the city from its current "anti-business" mayor.

But seriously -- how can you run a campaign for two whole months without spending a dime on anything except a single payment to a single consultant? There are only two answers: Either (1) he's not reporting expenses he should be reporting or (2) he's not actually doing any campaigning. Neither is a very good answer.

Allen's donor list shows his deep GOP ties -- usually not a plus in Planet Madison, as Mark Green likes to call it.
If Allen has really perfected the technique of running a campaign without spending any money, he should forget running for office and become a campaign consultant. Candidates would beat a path to his door.

AG candidate Paul Bucher, who went backwards in the last six months, raising $136,000 while spending $180,000, should be the first in line.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Walker admits failure to report donations

We told you this morning that something appeared to be missing in Scott Walker's campaign finance report.

What do you do when you're caught red-handed? Fess up, of course. WKOW-TV in Madison reports:
Walker Campaign Admits Mistakes

Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign may be fined after a campaign official admitted there were mistakes in a required campaign finance report.
Campaign official John Hiller's admission that several in-kind contributions to the Walker campaign were not reported as required came one day after 27 News revealed the Walker campaign's failure to disclose information on a Kohl Center fundraiser.

Before he quit the race for governor, Walker, a Republican and Milwaukee County Executive, invited supporters to donate $2,000 to his campaign to snare courtside seats, at the sold out, February Wisconsin-Ohio State basketball game.

At the time, Walker campaign officials refused to reveal who donated the tickets.

A 27 News review of Walker's campaign finance report also listed no ticket donors.

"We will ask them to get us the complete information," State Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy told 27 News.

"Your news story already generated a phone call from the Walker campaign to our office, that indicated to us that when they were wrapping up their campaign, they boxed things up and pointed out, it's harder to track in-kind contributions than other contributions because no money changes hands."

Kennedy said Walker campaign officials plan to file an amendment to their campaign finance report. Hiller told 27 News problems with computer software and a lack of campaign staff accounted for the failure to include required information.

Kennedy said the Walker campaign faces a possible fine of $100 plus a percentage of the worth of the undeclared in-kind contributions.

Kennedy said a Walker campaign official claimed no one donated to get a courtside seat, although a Walker supporter told 27 News just the opposite in February.
Sloppiness or incompetence is always a bad defense from someone who wants the public to elect him to an executive job. But it beats saying, "We were hoping no one would notice."

UPDATE: Failure to follow the rules and report properly is just the same old same old for Scott Walker, Gretchen Schuldt says.

Meet your 2006 Republican ticket

Whatever else you say about Mark Green, he's no fair weather friend. He's a guy who will stand up for you when you're down.

How else to explain Green campaigning with beleaguered Republican US Senate candidate Robert Gerald Lorge, who's been written off by most GOP loyalists since being sued for alleged child molestation? Even Jessica McBride has jumped ship.

Or maybe Green just couldn't figure out how to avoid the encounter at Pulaski Polka Days?

Here they are, ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Dream Team: Mark Andrew Green and Robert Gerald Lorge.

Maybe their campaigns could share the cost of an SUV and they could barnstorm the state together. Or maybe the Democratic Party could pick up the tab.

UPDATE: The new weekly Green Sheet from Green's campaign just arrived, and neither one of these made Photo of the Week.

How many more?

Journal Sentinel:
Guardsman is killed in Iraq
Cedarburg native was there less than a week

A Wisconsin Army National Guardsman from Cedarburg who arrived in Iraq within the last week was killed on his first mission in the country, his family said Monday.

Stephen William Castner, 27, who was with the 121st Field Artillery Regiment, joined the Guard last year after previously serving in the Air Force for four years, his father, Stephen L. Castner, said in a telephone interview late Monday night.

The guardsman's family was informed of his death Monday afternoon when military officials came to the family's home.

Green: 'The dog spent my PAC money'

The State Elections Board has been asked to enforce limits on political action committee contributions, closing an apparent loophole that would let Rep. Mark Green raise and spend double the legal PAC limit in the race for governor.

In a memo to the board, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says:
The limit on PAC donations in state law is there to protect the public. Wisconsin citizens have a compelling interest in preventing special interests from having too much influence over elections and elected officials...We believe you should take immediate steps to ensure that the Green campaign complies with the $485,000 limit on PAC donations. If you are unwilling to do that, you owe the people of Wisconsin an official explanation as to why the limit should not apply in this instance and why Emergency Rule 1.395 will not be enforced.

If the state law limiting PAC donations is not enforced, the Green campaign will be allowed to raise as much as $996,405 – more than twice the legal limit that is supposed to apply to candidates for governor. If the law is not enforced and the state limit on PAC contributions is not respected, not only will the other two candidates for governor be disadvantaged by the resulting double standard on PAC fundraising, but most importantly all citizens of Wisconsin will be harmed as we all will lose yet another piece of what little remains of longstanding protections guarding against special interest ownership of our state government.
Green has all of the extra PAC money because he transferred $1.3-million from his federal, Congressional campaign account to his governor's campaign. That transfer included $511,000 from federal PACs who were trying to buy favor with him in Congress. But those PACs could not have legally given to his governor's race because they are not registered in Wisconsin.

It's money laundering, pure and simple. When the elections board tried to stop it by passing a rule, a committee of the Republican-run legislature stepped in and suspended it. WDC believes that since the legislature has adjourned without acting on the issue that the rule is back in effect.

Here's my favorite part, reported by WisPolitics on Monday:
Green campaign manager Mark Graul said Elections Board policy traditionally has not subjected converted funds to those limits. He also says the money has already been spent.
I thought those words from Graul had a familiar ring to them, and sure enough, last September, when Green was asked to return tainted PAC money from Tom DeLay, Graul said:
"that money has been since spent, so there is no contribution to return."
I called it weasel words at the time, and it turned out the DeLay money hadn't been spent after all. Just last week, Green's campaign finally gave it away to several charities.

The "already spent it" answer was just one of many lines Graul and Green tried out when doing the fast shuffle on the DeLay money. They pretty much said everything except. "The dog ate it." Maybe the dog spent it?

It is no more true now, talking about the questionable money from federal PACs, than it was when Graul said it last year to try to keep DeLay's money. If they still have $511,000 in their account -- and they have several times that -- they haven't spent the money.

It's unfortunate that WDC was not as aggressive in the last governor's race, when Tom Barrett basically did the same thing Green is doing with the PAC transfer. Graul argues that sets a precedent. But even in politics two wrongs still don't make a right.

Mr. Walker, we have a few questions...

Remember the flap when Scott Walker's campaign for governor held a fundraiser that included tickets to a corporate suite for a Badger basketball game?

All sorts of questions were asked -- and only some were answered -- about whether Walker was accepting illegal corporate contributions.

Walker claimed he ended up not using the suite, although it had been donated. There were conflicting stories from Walker's campaign about what actually happened. He later dropped out of the race.

Now, Madison's WKOW-TV News, which covered the story extensively in February, says Walker's campaign has failed to report the ticket donation in its just-filed campaign finance report:
No Record of Walker B-Ball Tickets

Former Gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker's campaign finance report includes no mention of the donation of prime tickets to a sold out, February Badger basketball game which were used as part of a fundraiser for Walker.

Invitations to the Feb. 15 game between Wisconsin and Ohio State at the Kohl Center stated a courtside seat could be had for a minimum campaign donation to Walker of $2000. The fundraising invitation said "second ring seats" were available for a $1000 donation. The invitation stated seven tickets in premium arena locations were available to donors.

In February, Walker campaign manager Bruce Pfaff refused to identify who donated the tickets, but pledged the value of the tickets and their donors would be disclosed in required state reports.

Receipt of in-kind campaign contributions such as tickets to sporting events or access to luxury boxes is required to be disclosed in campaign finance reports.

A 27 News review of Walker's campaign finance report for the period between January 1 and June 30 shows no record of in-kind contributions of tickets to the game...

The Walker campaign official who prepared the report, John Hiller, has not returned a call from 27 News...

In February, chairman of Madison-based, Tim Reiland told 27 News he had donated courtside Kohl Center seats for the fundraiser.

Reiland also told 27 News he separately made a direct contribution to the Walker campaign.

The campaign finance report lists a $2500 contribution from Reiland on March 3. No in-kind contributions of tickets are attributed to Reiland.
There's another unresolved question hanging over from Walker's failed gubernatorial bid -- what to do with contributions of more than $3,000, which is the limit for a candidate for county executive.

Michael Horne reported in March:
"There is internal disagreement on this issue," says George Dunst, the legal counsel for the State of Wisconsin Elections Board.

He says that some of the staff feel Walker could close his campaign books at the end of the 2006 general election and roll over all of Walker's remaining funds "to any future race," whether local or statewide.

However there are those, including Dunst, who believe Walker may not use all of the sums he received in the governor's campaign in a future county executive race, since some of the contributions he received were in amounts larger than the $3,000 threshold for that position. [Individuals may donate up to $10,000 total to any candidate for governor, per election cycle.]

By this analysis, there may be more than $100,000 in Walker's campaign treasury that he would be forbidden to spend on his future campaigns for non-statewide office.
Perhaps, while the board is considering whether Mark Green's transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars in political action committee contributions is legal, the board could look at the huge loophole Walker's campaign may exploit.

If Walker is allowed to use the excess money, and local candidate could form a committee for state office -- with much higher contribution limits -- raise a ton of money, and then decide not to run, having fattened his/her campaign account with money that wouldn't be legal otherwise.

If the Elections Board needs a complaint before it will act on the question, someone ought to file it.

UPDATE: Walker admits failure to report donations.

Monday, July 24, 2006

--Matt Davies, Journal News (White Plains NY), via Cagle.

GardPants to the rescue?

Carrie Lynch reports that the backers of the constitutional amendment on gay marriage and civil unions either can't or won't come up with anyone to debate their side of the issue on Wisconsin Public Television.

One theory, she says, is that the gay bashers believe all of the latte-sipping, tree-hugging, granola-eating, limp-wristed, lily-livered liberals who watch public television are all going to vote no anyway, so why waste their time.

I have a nominee. Just the guy to do it. And he could use some TV exposure. The guy who's willing to go to any lengths to make sure no gays get health benefits while he's around. You guessed it: SpongeJohn GardPants. Unless, of course, Mark Green -- another big gay-basher -- wants the slot.

Will the real Mark Green please stand up?

Mark Green -- that's the Congressman, not the candidate for governor, apparently -- writes attaches his name to a column claiming he's working to reduce gasoline prices. Apparently he saw on television that prices were going up.

I wonder if this is the same Mark Green who:

-- Voted to let gasoline taxes go up automatically every year.

He voted three times on the issue of gas tax indexing. 1995 Assembly Bill 150, the state budget, passed on June 22, 1995 with Green voting “aye.” The bill revised the gas tax index formula to allow for an increase of 1.4 cents per gallon over the next two years.

On Sept. 16. 1997, Green voted for passage of 1997 Assembly Bill 100, the state budget bill, which included a one cent per gallon increase in the gas tax in addition to indexing the tax for inflation.

On May 6, 1998, Green voted to table Assembly Amendment 1 to Assembly Substitute 1 to 1997 Assembly Bill 768, the budget adjustment bill. The amendment would have required a gas tax cut and suspended the 1999 gas tax increase due to indexing if federal revenues exceeded estimates by more than $70-million.

-- Gave billions to Big Oil.

Green voted on April 21, 2005 for the Bush energy bill, which gave $2.822-billion in tax breaks to oil refining companies and companies producing coke form of coal. The bill included more than $8-billion in tax breaks, of which $6-billion went to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries. [Critical Mass Energy Project]

-- Voted against cracking down on price-gouging.

Despite voting once this year for a bill with anti-price gouging language, in an election year conversion, Green has consistently voted on the other side in the past.

Green voted against a measure to provide the Federal Trade Commission with new authority to investigate and prosecute those that engage in predatory pricing, from oil companies on down to gas stations, with the emphasis on those who profit the most. [HR 3893, Vote #517, 10/7/2005]
Green opposed a motion to grant new authority to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, enforce and then punish price gouging and market manipulation. Any violation would result in new civil penalties, and would be enforced with up to triple the damages of the profits gained by the violation. [HR 3893, Vote #518, 10/7/2005]

Green voted against a proposal to make it illegal during an energy crisis to sell crude oil, gasoline or petroleum at unconscionable levels.The legislation would also provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with new authority to investigate and prosecute those that engage in this "predatory pricing."[HR 3402, Vote #500, 9/28/2005]

-- Has taken more than $40,000 in gas and oil contributions.

Records from the Wisconsin State Elections Board, Center for Responsive Politics, and Political Money Line show Green has received $42,300 from political action committees and employees of oil and gas companies.

Want to know whether it's the same guy? He'd like to hear from you:
As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. If you have any questions or comments, please give my office a call toll-free at 1-800-773-8579, e-mail me directly at, or check out my Web site at

Taking it to the air

Jim Doyle's campaign says it is launching a new TV commercial on Tuesday, on the stem cell issue. It says Mark Green's too extreme. Watch it here.

Meanwhile, Fair Wisconsin goes up on Tuesday with its second spot, a variation on the theme that the constitional amendment on "gay marriage" will have far-reaching effects on people who are not gay and aren't married. Sneak preview.

Do the math on Park East project

A recent story on two competing proposals for projects in the Park East development zone was puzzling, to say the least. You could tell from the tone of the story, and its placement on page one, that the reporter and newspaper editors found it a little peculiar, too. Here are the basics:
Smaller Park East plan finding favor
County panel sees it as community friendly


One downtown Milwaukee development proposal - call it Plan A - would generate $2 million in annual property tax revenue, create over 500 construction jobs and involve a national firm that has developed luxury hotels in Los Angeles and other major cities.

A competing proposal - Plan B - would provide a much smaller tax benefit, fewer construction jobs and is offered by a local company known mainly for operating gas stations and convenience stores. In fact, a gas station/convenience store/car wash is a key part of its plan.

Members of a County Board committee, reviewing both proposals at a Monday meeting, seemed to lean toward Plan B.

The Committee on Economic and Community Development held off making a recommendation to the full board. The committee might meet next week in a special session to make its recommendation.

But committee members had some tough questions for Ruvin Development Inc., author of Plan A, and some kind words for Rana Enterprises, the firm behind Plan B.

Ruvin wants to buy a county-owned parcel, bordered by N. Old World 3rd St., N. 4th St., W. Juneau Ave. and W. McKinley Ave., and create a $104 million mixed-use development. The Ruvin project would feature a 175-room hotel, 70 condos, 55,000 square feet of offices, 31,000 square feet of retail space and a 330-car parking structure.

Rana wants to build a $34 million development on the same parcel. Rana's plans call for a 202-room hotel, a gas station/convenience store, 14,000 square feet of offices, 9,000 square feet of additional retail space and a 400-car parking structure.

The site is part of 16 acres made available for development when the former Park East Freeway stub was demolished.
Why on earth would county supervisors prefer Plan B?

One of them, Peggy West, called it more "community friendly" -- people can use a gas station, I guess -- and said she couldn't imagine that anyone in Milwaukee could afford to buy Plan A's expensive condos.

But what it's really all about, it appears, is participation in the project by minority contractors. Plan A includes a goal of 27% minority participation, Plan B 35%. Goal is a key word; there is really no legal way to hold a contractor to that number, except for looking over his shoulder every step of the way and complaining loudly when he isn't meeting the goals. It appears, if you read the whole story and read between the lines, that committee members doubt Contractor A's commitment.

I have only one comment: People, do the math.

-- 27% of Plan A's $104-million project is $28-million that would go to minority contractors.

-- 35% of Plan B's $34-million project is $11.9 million for minority firms.

If Contractor A somehow got only halfway to its minority participation goal, it would still be $14-million, more than Plan B.

Not to mention the disparity in job creation and taxes generated by the two projects.

Do the math, people. Do the math. (Is there a song in there somewhere?)

UPDATE: Charlie Sykes notes that we agree on this issue, but jumps to the conclusion I've been listening to his show. I haven't heard it in months -- I am now a 1290 WMCS listener -- and have no idea what he's said about the Park East. But if he agrees with me on this, can opposition to the gay marriage/civil union ban be far behind? ADDENDUM: I think of Sykes more as a blind pig (not squirrel) that finds an acorn once in awhile. But if he considers himself a squirrel, I have no quarrel with that.

UPDATE 2: Rick Esenberg agrees with me, too. Have I lost my political compass?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

95% say stay the course in Iraq: New survey

You read it here first, but with the media's interest in reporting any poll anyone gives them, few or no questions asked, I expect you'll see in the mainstream media soon:

Ninety-five per cent of Wisconsin residents want to stay the course in Iraq, according to a recent poll.

Respondents also give high marks to Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner and State Sen. Tom Reynolds, who have come under some criticism for the courageous positions they have taken. Sensenbrenner was rated "excellent" by 83% and Reynolds by 70%.

The survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Conservative Digest.
Who was surveyed? Funny you should ask.

Digest Editor Bob Dohnal reports:
Surveys were sent out to GOP leaders, members of the Heritage Foundation, subscribers to Human Events and other miscellaneous leaders throughout the state. Returns came from throughout the state about evenly, not just from the Milwaukee area.

The questions were about current events and Conservative leaders. We wanted to find out how the people felt about these issues that are not fairly addressed in the mainstream media.
Dohnal said the Reynolds results were especially good to see:
Spivak and Bice, the left wing loonies from the Milwaukee Journal have strongly made vicious, personal smears against Reynolds and his family, mainly because Dan Bice is strongly opposed to any Christians that are also conservative.
Left wing loonies? Then what am I?

If you feel you must read more about this survey, and what it means for this fall's elections, have at it. I've heard quite enough. This one may even be more suspect than Strategic Vision's polls, which some people I know believe to be fabricated.

UPDATE: Folkbum Jay Bullock offers a more comprehensive ramble, titled Through the Looking Glass.

Citizens challenge sprawl; JS pumps water sale

Grassroots citizen groups are springing up to question and challlenge urban sprawl developments planned for their communities, Jim Rowen reports in a Journal Sentinel op ed.

Meanwhile, the newspaper continues to beat the drums for selling Lake Michigan water to Waukesha County, with another "news" story on what a financial windfall it would be for Milwaukee ("a liquid gold mine") if it sold water to thirsty suburbs like Waukesha and New Berlin. What was the point of the story? Money talks?

UPDATE: Gretchen Schuldt discovers the Journal Sentinel has a serious factual error in its New Berlin water coverage -- a "fact" the paper has used to argue for the water sale.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wisconsin GOP passes the buck on Kohl race

You'll be happy to hear that Wisconsin Republicans have decided who's to blame for the embarrassing fact that they didn't find even a semi-serious candidate to run against Sen. Herb Kohl this year.

You may be surprised to find out who's responsible. Turns out it's no one in Wisconsin. It's that darned Elizabeth Dole.

A phony argument on stem cell research

This Chicago Tribune article demolishes the argument of Karl Rove -- echoed by Rep. Mark Green and many other opponents of embryonic stem cell research -- claiming that adult stem cell research holds more promise. Where the authors say "Rove," think "Green."

Experts rip Rove stem cell remark
Researchers doubt value of adult cells

By Jeremy Manier and Judith Graham
Tribune staff reporters

When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president's moral qualms with research on human embryos.

In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post's editorial board that researchers have found "far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells."

The administration's assessment of stem cell science has extra meaning in the wake of the Senate's 63-37 vote Tuesday to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The measure, which passed the House last year, will now head to Bush, who has vowed to veto it.

But Rove's negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research--echoed by many opponents of funding for such research--is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story.

The field of stem cell medicine is too young and unproven to make such judgments, experts say. Many of those researchers either specialize in adult stem cells or share Bush's moral reservations about embryonic stem cells.

"[Rove's] statement is just not true," said Dr. Michael Clarke, associate director of the stem cell institute at Stanford University, who in 2003 published the first study showing how adult stem cells replenish themselves.

If opponents of embryonic stem cell research object on moral grounds, "I'm willing to live with that," Clarke said, though he disagrees. But, he said, "I'm not willing to live with statements that are misleading."

Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the stem cell center at the Oregon Health and Science University, is a Catholic who objects to research involving the destruction of embryos and is seeking alternative ways of making stem cells. But Grompe said there is "no factual basis to compare the promise" of adult stem cells and cells taken from embryos.

Grompe said, "I think it's a problem when [opponents of embryonic research] make a scientific argument as opposed to stating the real reason they are opposed--which is [that] it's a moral, ethical problem."

Last week, the journal Science published a letter from three researchers criticizing the claim that adult stem cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. The authors included Dr. Steven Teitelbaum of Washington University in St. Louis, who has used adult stem cells to treat bone diseases in children. The authors wrote that the exaggerated claims for adult stem cells "mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients."

The bill heading for Bush's desk [which he vetoed] would expand federal funding of work on stem cells taken from embryos. Such cells come from extra embryos originally created for in-vitro fertilization. Many experts believe embryonic stem cells could one day help regenerate damaged tissue for patients with conditions such as diabetes, spinal cord injury or Parkinson's disease, though embryonic cells have not yet been tested in humans.

Adult stem cells, which usually come from bone marrow transplants or umbilical cord blood, are widely considered less flexible than embryonic stem cells in forming many types of tissue. Yet adult stem cells already are in common use for certain conditions, such as replenishing immune cells after cancer treatment and treating some bone and blood disorders.

Bush allowed limited funding of embryonic stem cell work in August 2001, but he banned funding of cells taken from embryos after that date. However, private foundations and companies have continued to fund new embryonic research.

Many scientists and lawmakers argue that the federal funding limitation has hindered progress.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius on Tuesday could not provide the name of a stem cell researcher who shares Rove's views on the superior promise of adult stem cells.

One of the only published scientists arguing that adult stem cells are better is David Prentice, a former professor of life sciences at Indiana State University and now a fellow at the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group.

The letter to Science last week was critical of a list Prentice compiled of 72 diseases that have been treated with adult stem cells.

Yet most of the treatments on the list "remain unproven,
" wrote Teitelbaum of Washington University and his co-authors, who claimed that Prentice "misrepresents existing adult stem cell treatments."

Prentice said in an interview that the Science authors "put words in our mouths"--he never claimed that the adult stem cell therapies were proven, only that they had benefited some patients. But he said some of his citations were unwarranted..

"We've cleaned up that list now," he said. Asked how the errors occurred, he said, "I think things just got stuck in."

One of the scientists on Prentice's list is Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a pediatric hematologist at Duke University Medical Center who has used umbilical cord blood to treat Tay-Sachs disease and other rare disorders. Kurtzberg said it's wrong to see stem cell science as a competition with only one winner.

"We don't know enough about the potential of either kind of cell," Kurtzberg said. "I don't think one type is going to be the answer to everything."

Doyle's donor's 'pet cause' -- curing disease

The Republican Party, in its ongoing and increasingly ludicrous efforts to dirty up every single contribution to Jim Doyle's campaign, stepped way over the line on this one, in a press release:
A Hollywood producer gave Doyle $10,000 just weeks after Doyle issued a $250,000 grant in that producer's name for a pet cause. (MJS 2/13/02)
The producer is Wisconsin's Jerry Zucker , (pictured) of "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" fame, among others.

Zucker's "pet cause" is finding a cure for juvenile diabetes. And, to that end, he is a big supporter of stem cell research.

Zucker and his wife, Janet, were key players in a California referendum campaign, a bond issue voters approved that will make $300 million a year available for scientists in California to pursue stem cell research over the next decade. It is known as the Stem Cell Research and Cures Act.

The Zuckers have a personal interest -- a teenage daughter who was diagnosed at age 11 with juvenile diabetes.

This San Diego Union-Tribune article tells the Zuckers' story.

Given all that, and his Wisconsin ties, it is pretty easy to understand why Zucker would be a supporter of Jim Doyle and would donate to his campaign.

Thousands of Wisconsin children suffer from juvenile diabetes and could potentially benefit from embryonic stem cell research.

The Republican Party dismisses the issue as someone's "pet project."

In light of George Bush's veto of expanding stem cell research -- and Mark Green's consistent votes against embryonic stem cell research -- perhaps that cynical dismissal of Zucker's cause reflects the official GOP attitude toward juvenile diabetes. The Republicans certainly act like it.

UPDATE: Speaking of the GOP losing credibility with charges about every dime to Doyle, this AP story suggests reporters think it's wearing a bit thin, too:
By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - These days, even a $250 donation can attract political mudslinging.

The state Republican Party on Friday accused Gov. Jim Doyle of being arrogant for accepting $250 from an employee of a company involved in a contract scandal.

A Doyle spokesman responded by calling the attack pathetic and accusing the Republicans of reaching a new low.

All this with the election still more than three months away.

At issue is whether Doyle should keep donations he's received from employees of the company, Adelman Travel Group.

The company won a $750,000 travel contract in 2005, but last month a state worker was convicted of felony charges after being found guilty of steering the contract toward Adelman. Doyle has canceled the contract but refused to return $20,000 he received from Adelman executives in the months before and after the contract was awarded.

The $250 donation, which equates to 0.015 percent of the nearly $1.62 million Doyle collected in the first six months of this year, came June 28 from Tony Heller, according to the campaign finance report the governor filed with the state this week.

Heller is described in the filing as a national account manager with Adelman.

Doyle's campaign spokesman, Anson Kaye, described him as an average guy who happens to work for Adelman.

"This is a pathetic attack by the Republican Party on an average Wisconsinite,'' Kaye said.

State Republican Party Executive Director Rick Wiley said Doyle's refusal to return any of the money shows he is "completely politically tone deaf.''

Heller did not immediately return a message left at his office Friday.

His donation was the only one in this reporting cycle from anyone who listed their employer as Adelman, and it came just 16 days after state procurement worker Georgia Thompson was convicted of illegally steering business to the company.
UPDATE: Neglected to mention that Charlie Sykes, marching in lockstep, posted the same garbage.