Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has been having a tough time with his constituents. Back in April the home town folks were expressing their displeasure with his plan to cut Medicare.
During the August recess, he dodged constituents by only speaking in venues where people had to pay to get in. From Mother Jones:
Over the past week, hundreds of people, a mix of constituents and other angry Wisconsinites, have marched outside Ryan’s Kenosha and Racine offices, angry over what they see as Ryan’s inaccessibility and refusal to face his constituents in a free, public, in-person town hall. For four days, they also held sit-ins inside Ryan’s Kenosha office—until police kicked them out. The only in-person event on Ryan’s recess calendar is an appearance at a Rotary hall outside his district with a $15 entrance fee; by contrast, Ryan held more than a dozen town halls in 2009. “This is a jobs crisis in his congressional district, an emergency,” says Scott Page, 37, an unemployed Kenosha resident. “Yet he’s not even listening to his own constituents.”
Ryans’s constituents are increasingly annoyed at being deliberately ignored by their Congressman. From the Group Wisconsin Jobs Now:
Unemployed constituents, spurned by Paul Ryan on multiple occasions, were galvanized into action the Tuesday following Labor Day. After being unable to convince their representative to schedule a FREE public meeting following a week long sit-in, the members of his district converged on a one time only pay-per-view event far away from the majority of his constituents.
It doesn’t cast Ryan in a very good light. As the police force an elderly man to the ground to put handcuffs on him, Ryan “jokes” that he hopes the man has taken his blood pressure medication. That’s ugly. It’s a perfect illustration of the kind of “concern” Ryan has for the working people in his district, and around the country.
Wisconsin Jobs Now! is a coalition of community groups, neighborhood associations, faith based organizations and organized labor, all working together to bring good jobs to the state. Bravo to them for not letting Paul Ryan hide behind pay-per-view events, and for showing all of us what kind of a Congressman (and person) Paul Ryan is.
We’ll all be entering voting booths on November 6, 2012 – and we won’t forget.
Back in June, I wrote about New Hampshire Governor Lynch vetoing a Voter ID bill.
Yesterday the New Hampshire State Senate voted on whether to override or sustain the governor’s veto. From the Union Leader:
The Senate sided with Gov. John Lynch Wednesday in supporting his veto of a bill that would have required voters to show a photo ID before voting.
The Senate voted 17-7 to sustain Lynch in his stance against Senate Bill 129. Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, were among those voting to sustain the veto.
Both Bragdon and Bradley voted for the bill, the first time around. Since then, they’ve undoubtedly been getting an earful from town clerks, who are opposed to the measure.
Town clerks said the provisional ballots would force extra work on their offices, with longer hours, additional staff, late counting and less ballot secrecy for voters.
The issue of how this was all going to be paid for was another complication, though one not mentioned by the Union Leader. So, for now, the state legislature must still find a way to solve the non-existent problem of voter fraud.
An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it.
The memo, recently obtained by The Capital Times, was written by Steve Krieser and sent to all state Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles employees on July 1, the same day employees were to begin issuing photo IDs in accordance with a controversial new voter photo ID law adopted earlier in the year.
“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Krieser writes to employees.
This sure doesn’t sound like a state that is concerned about preventing voter fraud. It sounds more like the actions of a state determined to prevent voting:
In the meantime, Krieser says the Department of Transportation is planning to place signs at each of the DMV service offices that say people need to check the box on the form in order to receive an ID for free. He says the signs are “in the design phase” and could not give a date when they would be placed in DMV offices.
Voters will go to the polls today in Wisconsin’s 22nd and 12th Senate District to show their approval of Bob Wirch standing up for their rights, and to show their disapproval for a pair of candidates that could supply a late night comedian with jokes for a year. Meanwhile, two pro-worker legislators prepare to take office after last week’s victories, and all eyes are on a guy named Schultz (not Ed).
This is your Wisconsin Roundup:
• Vote for Bob! It’s election day again in Wisconsin, as voters in the Northwoods 12th District and the Kenosha-area 22nd District cast their ballots in the final round of recalls. Democrat Bob Wirch is defending their seats against Republican challengers Jonathan Steitz. His colleague Jim Holperin is running against Tea Party activist Kim Simac. Steitz is a corporate lawyer from Chicago who may have a noncompliant sexual offender living on his property, while Simac compared public schools to Nazi Germany and, when asked, cannot think of a piece of legislation in Madison that she would support – or oppose. In fact, Simac has made so many verbal gaffes and outrageous statements, there’s a blog singularly devoted to her quotations.
But even with the outrageous track records of Steitz and Simac, these races are still close. We’ll be watching the results and covering them live on Twitter.
• Jen and Jess are on the case. Working families in Wisconsin got two steps closer to taking back the State Senate last week, as Jennifer Schilling and Jessica King succeeded in their recalls against Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper respectively. Schilling is an Assembly member who has been involved in her community since she was a student at UW-LaCrosse. King overcame a hardscrabble upbringing to become a professor, city council member, and finally Deputy Mayor of Oshkosh. Congrats to Jen and Jess on their victories – we’re looking forward to seeing them get to work for Wisconsin’s working people.
• Dale – Rescue Ranger for Wisconsin? Now that the margin in the State Senate 17 Republicans and 16 Democrats, anyone can be the “deciding vote” one way or another. That’s why a lot more attention is being paid to Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from the 17th District. Schultz was the sole GOP senator to vote against Governor Walker’s union-busting bill, and has been fairly critical of Walker since February.
Assuming Holperin and Wirch win tonight, Sen. Schultz will be the “swing vote” in Madison. One blogger said of the election results “Congratulations, Wisconsin Governor Dale Schultz,” while another called him the “new de facto Majority leader.” In any event, it’s a big deal that Schultz voted against his own party’s attacks on workers, because if his displeasure with Walker’s anti-working families agenda continues, it might be enough for him to form a new coalition with Democrats, or switch parties.
Just another example of how Walker and his allies’ extremism is forcing out moderates and independents that might otherwise support them.
The last few months in Wisconsin has been a flurry of activity, a massive building of momentum toward taking the first steps in the fight back against Governor Walker’s attack on working families. Wisconsinites have been fighting for their families and their rights for six months now and the recall elections of five state senators are the first step in getting our state back to moving “Forward.”
The “shared sacrifice” motto is not sitting well with many Wisconsinites as there seems to be very little sharing going on. Governor Walker’s budget plan called for the almost complete elimination of collective bargaining rights for roughly 175,000 workers, even after those workers agreed to increased contributions to health care and retirement plans. The budget also called for $800 million in cuts to public education and more than $450 million in cuts to health care in the state. While working families take the brunt of balancing the budget corporations are receiving hundreds of millions in tax breaks, even though two-thirds already pay no taxes in our state.
Working America members from all across the state and from all walks of life have said that eliminating collective bargaining is not just an issue for public workers, it’s an issue for all citizens as unions have made this country what it is. They also know that taking away such basic rights-or as one Milwaukee area member, Frank, called them “part of the antidote, the only thing keeping corporations in check and on their toes”-is an invitation for even less corporate accountability. Bill, a member from Fond du Lac, pointed out the irony in how hard corporations work to keep unions out “they can’t pay much, but they sure will spend exorbitantly on making sure a union doesn’t find its way in”. Workers, both public and private, know that these attacks on working families need to be stopped and that the only way to do that was to stand up and fight back.
Eliminating collective bargaining, a blatant attack on working families, may have begun this fight in Wisconsin but that is no longer what is propelling this movement. Many Wisconsin residents feel like they were ignored and the long term effects were not considered when this budget was pushed through. Working America members around the state are concerned not only for themselves but overwhelmingly for those who rely on state programs and the future of the children in the state. John, a new Working America member from Menomonee Falls, described that sentiment as one of the reasons he lives in Wisconsin “up here we are just people who care about each other and care what happens to our neighbors.” Laura, an Oshkosh area member and mother, commented that “education is one of the most important things we can do for our kids, if we don’t invest in educating all of Wisconsin’s kids, I don’t know how we can expect them or our state to be successful.”
Governor Walker may have wanted to make Wisconsin a model for the country by eliminating workers’ rights, but he failed to realize how important our rights are to us. Now, Wisconsin’s workers are making the state a model for how hard we will fight to keep the rights that we have had for half of a century and have made our state as great as it is.
Congratulations to the thousands of volunteers, organizers, but above all the voters of Wisconsin that kicked off the historic recall election season with a string of six primary victories! And we know our fight against Governor Walker’s radical, anti-worker agenda has only just begun.
This week, the voters voted for the real deal, Walker got shouted down, robo-callers got caught red-handed…and we have our next election is four days. This is your Wisconsin roundup.
• Six for six. On Tuesday, July 12, recall season started off with a bang. Higher than expected turnout raised the profile of the primary elections, which were between the six “real” Democratic recall challengers and the six fake “Democratic” primary opponents who were recruited by Republicans to delay the general elections.
Keep in mind when you read about these primaries: everything Walker and his allies have done, from union-busting to education cuts, have used the excuse “our state is broke.” But these fake primaries that Walker’s party imposed on Wisconsin cost the taxpayers nearly $500,000, all to give Republicans a political advantage. From the taxpayer’s perspective, it’s basically setting fire to a pile of money. Not exactly “fiscally responsible.”
• Next Tuesday we do it all again. On July 19, incumbent Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) is facing Republican David VanderLeest in the first general election of the recall season. GOP Rep. John Nygren was going to face Hansen, but he missed out on the opportunity by two signatures.
So now it’s VanderLeest, who has an interesting position on tax policy: he says he won’t vote to raise taxes if elected, but he himself owes $25,000 in property taxes. I’m not sure the voters of the 30th Senate District will appreciate this contradiction.
Despite cutting funding to technical colleges by 30% and stripping college faculty of their collective bargaining rights, Scott Walker tried to speak at a celebration commemorating 100 years of technical education in Wisconsin. Here’s how he was received.
If that reception doesn’t give you a hint that you should end your war on working families, I don’t know what will.
We’ve finally arrived folks. The first round of recall elections in the most important political battle of this new decade is today, Tuesday, July 12. And there are a few signs that things are looking up for the good guys.
Unfortunately, Scott Walker is making it hard to be optimistic and easy to be nauseous – but hey, it wouldn’t be a day in Wisconsin without that!
This is your Wisconsin Roundup:
• GOP challenger fails to make ballot. Scott Walker’s allies were elated when they recruited Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) to run in the recall election against Senator David Hansen (D-Green Bay). Only one problem: due to lack of enthusiasm, poor planning, bad paperwork, or a combination of all of the above, Rep. Nygren didn’t get enough valid signatures to make the ballot, according to a decision by the GAB.
In one of the more surprising twists in the exceedingly twisty Wisconsin saga, Nygren failed to make the ballot by two valid signatures (he needed 400, he got 398). That’s an hour of work at most, or a couple of door knocks. But that ship has sailed, and the math of the recall is substantially changed.
Nygren initially submitted an appeal to the GAB, but has since dropped it. Now Hansen will face a substantially weaker candidate on July 19.
• Grassroots donors make it rain. While the Nygren incident was a hit to Walker and his anti-worker allies, this next bit of news must have them really scared. Even though the Wisconsin GOP has the backing of the Koch Brothers, the Club for Growth, and a host of shadowy corporate donors, the grassroots efforts of We Are Wisconsin and the Democratic candidates have proved once again that a large number of small donations – fueled by the Internet – can pack a powerful punch.
Low-dollar donations from ordinary Wisconsin citizens fed up with the extreme, divisive agenda of Scott Walker and his sock puppet senators in Madison have fueled nearly $1.6 million in contributions for Democratic challengers in the latest fundraising period for the recall elections this summer.
The numbers are pretty incredible. Nancy Nusbaum, who is running against Robert Cowles in Senate District 2, raised over $177,000. Average donation? $19.27. In fact, for five out of the six candidates, the average donation size was under $25, highly unusual in this post-Citizens United era of mega-donors and super-expensive elections.
In Wisconsin and all over the country, working families and pro-worker activists of all stripes are starting to recognize the impact that a recall victory this summer would have on the destructive agendas of Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Scott and the gang – and they are even willing to depart with a few hard-earned bucks to make it happen.
And if they needed some extra motivation, Scott Walker and his pal Rush Limbaugh are happy to oblige:
• Walker’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, featuring Rush Limbaugh. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining bill is now in effect, and anti-worker politicians are trying to claim that the new law caused the Appleton School District to go from a $400,000 deficit to a $1.5 million surplus. You don’t have to be an economic expert to know that’s bogus (the change is the result of concessions made by teachers far before Walker’s collective bargaining law went into effect), but it’s still been bandied about as fact by the usual reality-phobic pundits, like Rush Limbaugh.
Walker’s premature declaration of victory — and the right wing echo chamber’s flacking of it — could look awfully silly when the full bill for his policies really comes due. And the notion that this one school district’s fiscal success is in any way a referendum on the most controversial aspect of Walker’s union busting proposal is laughable. This fight has never been about public employees’ unwillingness to make fiscal concessions — and always about stripping them of their rights.
He’s right. It’s never been about jobs for Scott Walker. It’s about ideology, personal prestige, and the bidding of his corporate donors.
And that’s why today, Tuesday, July 12, 2011, Wisconsin will start the process of removing Walker’s rubber stamp senators from office. Stay tuned.
What’s the world coming to? In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, it’s harder to sell craft beer, you don’t get your state Earned Income Tax credit, and you can’t sing a song in the Capitol without getting punched in the face.
Going after beer and music in a state that loves both – stay classy, Scott! This is your Wisconsin roundup:
• Bad budget or worst budget? Walker’s budget proposal passed both houses of the legislature on party lines. It includes: cuts on corporate income taxes, weaker tax reporting standards, cuts to the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a $76 million cut to local governments, force new public safety workers to increase contributions to their health care and pensions, and mess with Wisconsin’s prized craft beer industry (more on that later).
If you’re a Middle Class individual and not a corporation, there’s a lot in this budget that makes it harder to work and live in Wisconsin. Nowhere in this budget is a provision that will directly spur job growth or directly put Wisconsinites back to work.
• Peaceful singer punched in the face. During a regularly scheduled Solidarity song session at the Capitol in Madison, a group of men accompanying former-Senator Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) became violent, and were trying to drape flags over the heads of singers, presumably in order to silence them. One of the singers, Michael J. Dickman of Madison, grabbed a flag, at which point, according to observers, Henry C. Rahr of Green Bay punched him in the face.
Rahr was charged with battery, and both Dickman and another man were charged with disorderly conduct (although I’m not sure how being on the receiving end of a punch is deserving of punishment). While he was not charged, former-Sen. Zien was filmed yelling at protestors and trying to run over their toes with his wheelchair, and songleader Chris Reeder told the Wisconsin State Journal that Mr. Zien was “definitely being very, very aggressive.”
Whatever the specific details of the incident, it is disheartening to see this kind of violence introduced into the already-tense situation in Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in protests in Madison, and there have been very few violent outbursts of this manner. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the beginning of a trend.
• Breweries of the world, unite! Governor Walker’s budget proposal was already controversial for its provisions hurting working families, but then the story broke about a provision that would favor huge beer retailers over Wisconsin’s local breweries. Alex Seitz-Wald writes at ThinkProgress:
The new provision treats craft brewers — the 60 of whom make up just 5 percent of the beer market in Wisconsin — like corporate mega-brewers, forcing them to use a wholesale distributor to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for instance, for a small brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire a middle man to do it instead.
It hits the local brewers hard, but one company will surely benefit: the large international beer behemoth MillerCoors. As Alex points out, MillerCoors gave $22,675 to Walker’s campaign in 2010. Just saying.
While that story is unusual enough on its own, what came next was even more surprising. A bipartisan collection of state legislators is lobbying Gov. Walker to veto the provision. That’s right: they’ve been bitterly divided on partisan lines all year, but that goes out the window when Wisconsin craft beer is threatened.
Got a tip about what to include in our next Wisconsin roundup? Leave a comment below, or shoot a tweet over to @WorkingAmerica. Till next time – On Wisconsin!
For this week’s roundup, we welcome you to Walkerville, the capital of Fitzwalkerstan. In this land, the working poor get tax hikes, firefighters caused the deficit, and Republicans run as Democrats to help Republicans win against Democrats. And some politicians even tell the truth!
Are you confused yet? You’re not alone. This if your Wisconsin roundup:
To provide a check against the anti-worker Governor Scott Walker, the Democrats need a net gain of three seats in the State Senate. Depending on how the Wisconsin Republican Party’s “spoiler candidate” strategy pans out, the election will probably be held on August 9.
•Hooverville 2.0. The fastest growing municipality in Wisconsin is Walkerville, the tent city set up in Madison to educate, satirize, and protest around the destructive policies of Governor Scott Walker.
Even in the short yet dynamic history of the Wisconsin protests, we’ve never seen anything quite like this. There have been concerts, film screenings, a boxing match (to represent the “fight for quality healthcare”), a mock town hall featuring Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers, a “die-in” (to represent the death of secondary education in Wisconsin) and a thousands-strong March for a Fair Budget.
•Freudian slip. We’ve talked on this blog about how Wisconsin’s collective bargaining bill is different from Senate Bill 5 in Ohio. Wisconsin’s bill carves out an exemption for public safety workers like police and firefighters, while the Ohio bill does not (read this post to learn why this is deadly for Ohioan workers). This has led some to believe that Scott Walker is not as bad as people say, because at least he allows police officers to bargain for better Kevlar, right?
When state Rep. Chris Kapenga was asked by a constituent why cops and firefighters would be exempted from the collective-bargaining changes, the freshman Republican lawmaker left no doubts what he thinks.
Kapenga pointed a finger directly at the police and firefighter unions.
“We have pushed for police and fire to be included with all other public employees,” said the Delafield Republican.
This created an awkward situation for Mike Crivello, the head of the Milwaukee Police Association. Crivello and his organization came out huge for Kapenga and other Republicans in the election last year. He even starred in an ad for now-Gov. Scott Walker! Kapenga’s statement left Mr. Crivello “flabbergasted.”
Chances are Crivello will join the trend of law enforcement officers deserting the Republican Party over their anti-worker stance (other examples here, here, and here).
Wisconsin Republicans have made their intentions for public safety workers before. Kapenga echoed fellow “K”-named legislator Sen. Dan Kapanke, who said in April that he wanted to take rights from public safety workers, and that he wanted to see if there was “enough will” to include them in Walker’s union-busting bill. Because it takes courage to tell a firefighter he can’t have a new oxygen mask.
Either in July or August, we might be setting off some fireworks in Walkerville to celebrate the end of one-party anti-worker rule in Wisconsin. It’ll take a lot of work, and we’ll be keeping you updated. On Wisconsin, and on Walkerville!
Even with powerful corporate interests on their side, the Republican recall targets in Wisconsin are scared of what the voters will do to them in the elections this summer. Not content to strip voting rights from certain groups that typically vote for Democrats, they are making efforts to delay the recall elections by introducing fake candidates into primaries:
In letters obtained by No Quarter, local Republican Party officials are encouraging their GOP colleagues to collect enough signatures to get a fake Democratic candidate on the ballot in each of two upcoming recall elections.
The spoiler Democrats, who are identified by name in the letters, would run in the Democratic primaries for the seats now held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.
Both of the fake Democrats have a history of giving almost exclusively to major Republicans.
“We need to make sure Democrat challengers face primaries to allow our Republicans time to mount a campaign,” Dan Feyen, chairman of the 6th Congressional District Republican Party, wrote in the letter to “fellow conservatives” on Friday.
“A Democratic primary,” Feyen continued, “will push the general election back by one month, so that Senator Hopper can have more time to organize a campaign against his liberal challenger.”
That’s verbatim what is in the other two-page letter encouraging support for the second fake Democratic candidate, except that note substitutes Olsen’s name for Hopper’s.
Two nearly identical letters on behalf of two different anti-worker recall targets. What’s the explanation?
“It’s something being coordinated by the RPW,” [Feyen] said, referring to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
Officials with the state party could not be reached for comment.
This is significant because in public, Governor Scott Walker and his allies are still trying to make the case that the so-called “budget repair bill” that strips bargaining rights from many Wisconsin workers is actually good for the economy, and that it reflects the wishes of a “silent majority.”
Now it’s increasingly clear that these guys don’t even believe the words coming out of their own mouths.
The façade is coming down. Walker and Co. no longer have the time or energy to pretend that tax hikes on the poor, deregulation of drinking water, voter restrictions, corporate tax breaks, public education cuts, and union-busting measures serve anyone but a small minority of powerful interests. That’s why they’ve stopped playing nice and started playing dirty.
Most of the media is chasing Sarah Palin up and down the East Coast, and a recall-targeted GOP Senator hopes that public employees are “sleeping” during the recall election. Sorry, Mr. Kapanke, and apologies Mrs. Palin – we’re wide awake, and we haven’t forgotten the Battle for the Badger State.
You ready for the roundup? Here we go:
• And then there were six. The Government Accountability Board (GAB) rejected legal challenges to the recall petitions for Sens. Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, and Robert Cowles, meaning that a total of six Republican State Senators will be subject to recall elections. All six voted for Governor Scott Walker’s infamous union-busting bill earlier this year.
While the final dates are uncertain, it’s clear that these three – joining Sens. Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, and Luther Olsen – will face the voters for their attacks on Wisconsin working families.
• What about the Democrats? Glad you asked. Petitions were also submitted to recall three Democratic State Senators, but the GAB says that they “have raised numerous factual and legal issues which need to be investigated and analyzed.”
Greg Sargent analyzes: “Translation: The fraud allegations just may have something to them.”
When the recall efforts started, anti-worker politicians wanted to muddy the waters and show that there was equal anger towards both parties. But if one side had to cheat to get their way, it’s yet another indicator that Middle Class anger is directed solely against the union-busting Walker and his allies.
• We’re not sleeping. Allegations of fraud don’t help your cause. You know what else doesn’t help? Openly admitting that you hope working people don’t vote on Election Day. Senator Dan Kapanke (R-LaCrosse), one of the first politicians to be up for recall, was caught on tape at a meeting of LaCrosse Republicans held at a golf club (more things not helping his cause). Here’s what he said:
“We’ve got tons of government workers in my district – tons. From La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and to Viroqua and to Ontario and to Hillsboro, you can go on and on and on. We have to overcome that. We gotta hope that they, kind of, are sleeping on July 12th – or whenever the (election) date is.”
Keep in mind that Gov. Walker and his allies are still claiming – publicly – that their so-called “budget repair” bill is good for state workers because it avoids layoffs. Now we have Kapanke not only acknowledging that his actions have hurt the people who provide public services, but saying that their lack of attention to his actions will benefit him politically.
If you ever wanted to see an Emperor without his clothes on, it doesn’t get much better than this.
• The assault continues. As fun as it is to see these guys trip over themselves, they are still in power, and their actions are still scary, harmful, and possibly irreparable.
The new budget proposal cuts education by $1.7 billion, cuts unemployment benefits by $56 million a year, cuts BadgerCare by $500 million over two years, and diverts money from local transit and infrastructure repair. In a statement that would make George Orwell proud, Sen. Alberta Darling called it “the best budget I’ve seen since I entered the legislature.”
We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re not asleep. In fact, Mr. Kapanke, we’re losing sleep over what you and Scott Walker are doing to Wisconsin working families. Hopefully, once you’re out of office, we might get the chance to rest easy.