The Scott Walker Story: Intimidated, again!

Earlier this year, the Republican dominated Wisconsin legislature did Gov. Scott Walker’s bidding and elided The Wisconsin Idea from the University of Wisconsin system’s mission statement. The Wisconsin Idea had been part of the statutes for well over a century and promised this:

Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

You can see why this scared the Walker Administration: education, search for truth, public service. Not welcome in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin! The Walker Way overrides the Wisconsin Way and the Wisconsin Idea.

The outcry was fierce and Walker had to back down … the change was withdrawn (and blamed on a staffer, which is also the Walker Way).

Lesson learned, right? No. It. Was. Not.

On Thursday night, right before the long holiday weekend, Walker’s GOP legislature snuck a provision into the omnibus Budget Bill they were “crafting”, a provision that would essentially repeal the state’s Open Record Law. When this change was exposed by the Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee and questioned by the press, the Republican leaders refused to identify who had asked for the change. But you don’t have to dig deep to realize that the Open Records laws were behind the surprising interest of the normally docile press in Wisconsin, in investigating irregularities in WEDC, an agency set up by Walker to pick winners and losers in the economy with a special focus in including Walker campaign donors in the winners circle.

The outcry was even more fierce this time and came from some surprising places: the teaparty Attorney General and the right-wing talk show radio hosts in Milwaukee who created Scott Walker as an empty vessel to fill with their ideology. There had been signs that the right-wing talkers were realizing they had used Abby Normal’s brain when they built their Frankenstein and this time they Tweeted their dismay and spoke out in editorials, one on the front page of the normally pro-Walker Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This is what intimidation looks like:

In a sudden reversal amid a stinging backlash, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said they agreed Saturday to completely remove a part of the proposed state budget that would severely roll back open records laws.

Walker announced the decision in a joint statement Saturday with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and the co-chairs of the joint budget committee. They said that they’re committed to open and accountable government.

“After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state’s open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety,” the statement said. “… The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.”[…] [Walker had previously] told reporters before an Independence Day parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa on Saturday morning that he planned to discuss the matter with legislative leaders after the weekend, the Journal Sentinel reported.

“My hope is, that after talking with them on Monday, we get to the point where it’s either out completely or there’s significant changes to it,” he said.

The joint statement, issued at mid-afternoon on Saturday, made it clear that they didn’t wait.

Here is a snippet from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial that may have alerted Walker to the seriousness of his overreach:

Secrecy may be good for powerful legislators such as Nygren or for his co-chair, state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). And secrecy may be just fine for legislators who don’t want the public to know what they are doing or with whom they are working.

But secrecy is a plague on citizens. These proposals would set back by decades the cause of open government in Wisconsin. Any representative who votes to approve a budget containing such broad limits on the public’s right to know is not fit to hold office. […]

Public servants do the public’s business. This is not some private company run by private managers. This is your government.

These records belong to the public. They belong to you.

And these are your public servants. You can act to restrain them.

Please, call and write the legislative leaders who want to decrease your power by increasing their own. Tell them to stop trying to hide their secret deals and special favors from you.

An editorial by the conservative Lakeland Times also cut them no slack: Our View: The Wisconsin Republican Party: Corruption, cronyism, and sleaze

It is nothing less than the attempted murder of honest government, and the perpetrators of it deserve the political equivalent of the death sentence: recall. To that end, the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), need to come clean and tell the world who authored this attack on democratic principles.

If they won’t, they need to be recalled.

As our readers are aware, we are not in favor of recall elections except in the most extreme and egregious instances, where potentially criminal or unethical behavior is involved. And that’s what we have in this instance, an extreme and egregious attempt to provide cover for those who would work against the public interest, either illegally or unethically.[…]

At the end of the day, the Republican Party of Wisconsin looks corrupt. That’s the perception and maybe it’s the reality. Coupled with crony sleaze over at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, well, there’s something smelling awfully rotten down in Madison.

We remind readers that there are Republicans who are conservatives, and Republicans who are not, and it’s the latter group that tends to run the Legislature as a private club.

What’s going on inside the club they don’t want us to know, but it doesn’t pass the smell test. After all, why try to hide the workings of government from its taxpayer owners unless the workers are up to no good?

Imagine trying to own and run a business in which you could fire no workers nor participate in the development of business strategies. Imagine not being able to hold your employees accountable or even have the right to be informed about how they were running your business.

In such a scenario, could you really be called the owner? Or would you be nothing more than a gullible investor who is being taken for a ride? Such is the situation taxpayers find themselves in. We don’t even know who wrote the budget language, and JFC leadership isn’t telling us. […]

… we have a message for the Republicans: You’ve lost serious trust and credibility. It will be a long road back, and it will have to be earned.

Here in Wisconsin, you can gut all the laws you want, but the people will still be watching … and voting.

Telling your legislators to stop hiding the truth … and voting. Now that’s the Wisconsin Way.

  13 comments for “The Scott Walker Story: Intimidated, again!

  1. JanF
    July 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I think that when Gov. Scott “Mr. 6%” Walker announces his presidential bid in 8 days he will find that the GOP 2016 Presidential Nomination clown car has sped past him, leaving him stranded by the side of the road. We (WI!) are stuck with Walker until at least 2018 but we will have a front row seat to enjoy watching his national political ambitions exposed for what they are: fiction.

  2. July 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Fascinating post, JanF! Things have really deteriorated if even the right-wing press is calling Walker to account. Thanks for the diary. Wisconsin government and the carryings-on within in it are much more interesting than they should be. Government should be beneficial, cost-effective, safe, and boring. With this crew it’s jaw-droppingly corrupt.

    • JanF
      July 5, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      I was watching the story develop on Twitter and it went from “they’re doing what?” to “stop this NOW” in record time.

      Even the lazy press realized how bad this was.

      Walker will be the big loser because this is his legislature; his governing of Wisconsin (and his budget) are what he will be graded on and so far he is getting an F from the people of Wisconsin. I am not sure how he puts lipstick on this pig.

  3. JanF
    July 6, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Scott Walker’s talking pointers are saying “that he appeals to a broad range of voters”.

    More than most of the GOP hopefuls, Walker has shown in polls the potential to appeal across different factions of the party, from evangelicals to the Tea Party to the Republican establishment. [Republican strategist Ed] Goeas said that was another reason Walker has more opportunity than some others in the race to grow his support.

    “What you never want to do in a presidential race is be in a corner and you have (just one) group of voters and you can only expand one way. Two things happen: one is as you move in a direction to appeal to another spectrum of voters, your base vote can look at that as, you’re leaving them behind,” said Goeas. “The other is you are in corner, so it’s easier (for your opponents) to keep you in that corner.”

    Actually this is called “lying” which is what Walker does best. He will say anything to get elected and then renege when he takes office. He runs on “abortion is between a woman and her doctor” and then signs off on one of the most onerous abortion bans in the country (no exceptions after 20 weeks). He runs on “we don’t want to go after private-sector unions” and then signs “right to work” legislation as one of his first acts of his second term. In the 2016 primary campaign, it will be more difficult to get away with that because the number of people watching has grown exponentially and the number of people who want him to fail has grown as well.

    By the way, the biggest lie is this:

    “… he won (in Wisconsin). And he won three times … in an admittedly polarized state, but a blue state,” said Goeas, who also cited Walker’s victories as county executive in Democratic Milwaukee County.

    He was elected county executive in the most racist county in the state by appealing to the racists and getting propped up by right-wing talk radio. He won the governor’s race in 2010 because he managed to stay one step ahead of the criminal activities exposed in his county executive reign, aided and abetted by the captive press in Milwaukee. He won the recall in 2012 by gaming the election finance laws and counting on the goodwill of Wisconsin voters who don’t expect their government officials to out-and-out lie to them. He won in 2014 by lying to union members and independent voters. So there is not a single “victory” that is not tainted or uniquely Wisconsin. National elections are a whole ‘nother thing as he will soon find out.

  4. princesspat
    July 6, 2015 at 10:59 am

    He has certainly abused the good will of the voters in Wisconsin. In many ways his time as Governor is similar to the Bush Presidency. Lots of damage done while voters come to realize their beliefs have been betrayed. I’m sorry he has two more years in office.

    • JanF
      July 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I had hoped that we could have beaten him last year … not only for us but to save the country from his brand of divisive politics. Unfortunately, Wisconsinites like to believe that their politicians won’t out and out lie to them. They are finally waking up to the fact that Walker’s brand of Wisconsin Republicanism is not like the Republicans who used to regularly run the state as governors and as legislative leaders. I hope that they have woken up enough to see that giving Walker a Republican legislature to rubber stamp his slash and burn agenda is a huge mistake. We can fix that part in 2016. The rest will have to wait until 2018.

  5. Ed Tracey
    July 6, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Is he term-limited in 2018, or can he seek re-election once again?

    • JanF
      July 6, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Sadly, no term limits here. While I feel bad for my New Jersey friends having Chris Christie as governor, he is a short timer (plus they have a Democratic state legislature). Our only hope is that Walker gets indicted but he is pretty careful about keeping his fingerprints cleaned off the crime scene.

      The other possibility is that the people of Wisconsin finally get fed up with him but I would have thought that would have happened in 2014.

  6. JanF
    July 7, 2015 at 6:33 am

    Walker is also intimidating, apparently, at least to those who don’t realize his wonderful reception in Iowa in January was from his FIRSTiness not because there is anything presidential about him:

    “Last Wednesday, Stephen Moore, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who is an outspoken supporter of an immigration overhaul, described a recent telephone call with Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in which he said Mr. Walker had assured him he had not completely renounced his earlier support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

    “On Sunday, after three days of pressure from Mr. Walker’s aides, Mr. Moore said that he had ‘misspoken’ when recounting his call with Mr. Walker — and that the call had never actually taken place.”

    The flip flops are not going unnoticed. This Twitterer is sharing a blockquote from the NY Times piece on Walkering It Back:

    Remarkable that the guy who’s meant to be the principled conservative crusader keeps finding himself in such messes.

    The Wall Street Journal is mentioned again because they have a dossier on Walker and will be using it to promote their candidate, Jeb(!) Bush.

    I know why he keeps finding himself in these messes … call on me, call on me!!

    Scott Walker has no principles and is focused on one thing: getting elected. He will lie and cheat and deny and obfuscate. His political career depends on his staying one step ahead of the damage he has done, in each of his elected offices, coming home to roost and the flames of destruction in Wisconsin are getting uncomfortably close to his heels. He needs to move to the next level or go up in flames. Why is immigration such a big deal? Because this is happening in Iowa:

    Among Republicans, 46 percent say illegal immigrants should be required to leave, with 34 percent saying illegal immigrants should stay and be offered a path to citizenship and 17 percent say that they should stay, but with no path to citizenship.

    Those people are all going to the caucuses and Walker knows it. That is why Trump is doing well nationally and why, even though Iowans profess to dislike him, they support him. The Land of Steve King hates the browns and they will vote for whoever promises to deport all 11 million of those here without papers.

  7. JanF
    July 7, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Ha! Walker is trying to throw the state legislature under the bus related to the Open Records debacle and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will have none of it:

    “Asked whether Walker’s office was involved in the changes, Fitzgerald said, “Sure. Yeah.”

    When asked on Saturday if he knew the measure was included in Motion #999 before it passed, Walker avoided giving a yes or no answer while acknowledging that he was aware of the tide of public opinion opposed to it.
    BREAKING: Scott Fitzgerald says that Scott Walker’s Office was involved with Open Records change request

    • JanF
      July 7, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Charlie Pierce

      “… even Republicans in the state legislature gagged on it, and down it went.

      Two points:
      1) This is yet another indication that the Wisconsin political elite is getting fed up with the state’s absentee governor and his giddy sense of self-importance. And,
      2) There is nothing about Scott Walker’s political career that can stand the light of day.”

  8. JanF
    July 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

    The Columbia Journalism Review was impressed by the pushback the Walker proposal got:

    Wisconsin lawmakers tried to sneak one by the state’s journalists over the holiday weekend—and found that the watchdog wasn’t asleep. […]

    And in its 11th-hour timing, the move was reminiscent of another move that would have disproportionately affected journalists: During the 2013 budget negotiations, lawmakers voted to expel the nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) from its offices at the University of Wisconsin.

    In that case, WCIJ fought back and won. This case, too, looks to have a happy ending for open-government advocates: In the face of a widespread and bipartisan backlash, the lawmakers reversed course in less than 48 hours.

    The response was fueled by aggressive media coverage over the holiday weekend. Media outlets in every corner of the state jumped on the story, giving it front-page play. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even published its scathing editorial on the front page. […]

    The news coverage was echoed in active social media discussion, especially on the #opengov and#wibudget hashtags. And spokespeople for conservative, liberal, and nonpartisan organizations released statements, did interviews, and mobilized their memberships.

    Small “d” democracy in action … preserving our right to know what our government is doing.

    The turnaround can be credited, at least in part, to the political diversity of those who spoke against the measure. In an uncommonly polarized state, it might have been easy to dismiss opponents as being reflexively opposed to Walker, a high-profile Republican and a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination, were it not for conservatives joining the outcry. “It does illustrate that people across a wide variety of occupations and political ideologies … actually do have a common stake in helping to preserve the free flow of information on the workings of government,” [Andy Hall, executive director of the WCIJ] said.

    The legislature is planning on taking up a “review” of the open records law at a later time. I hope our watchdogs continue to pay attention … and set up another great howl if necessary.

  9. JanF
    July 10, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    The budget has been passed and it is blueprint for the destruction Scott Walker has planned for the rest of the country should they buy his snake oil.

    Charlie Pierce:

    As a parting gift to Wisconsin, [Walker] and his pet legislature have produced a state budget so crammed full of goodies for the people who have sublet Walker for his entire career, and so crammed full of poison for all of his perceived political enemies, which pretty much is everybody else, that all copies of it should be roped off and trucked immediately to the nearest bio-containment facility.

    [One such gift is a pipeline called Line 61, to be built by Enbridge, the company that gave us the Kalamazoo oil “spill]. Unfortunately for Enbridge, the proposed route of Line 61 takes it right through Dane County, which is where Madison is located and there are in Madison a lot of people who take the environment seriously and notice things like this. Hey, said the Dane County Board of Supervisors, what say you buy more insurance so that if you turn our waterways into a chemistry set, you can foot the bill for cleaning it up? This seems fairly reasonable. But that is not the way the extraction industries work. They want what they want and they want it all now.

    So, over that same busy holiday weekend, they got a provision placed in the budget that specifically forbade Wisconsin’s cities, towns, and counties from demanding additional insurance coverage of the kind Dane County demanded from Enbridge.”

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