Saturday, February 1, 2014

The latest look at the WisGOP insider club

While our paid-off media in Wisconsin was concentrating yesterday on Gov. Walker's $5.1 million haul in fundraising for 2013 (with major dollar signs from political ads in their eyes, no doubt), the real lead in the story is where some of that money went.
Gov. Scott Walker raised more than $5 million in the last half of 2013 — nearly triple what his Democratic opponent raised — and directed more than $86,000 of that to defense attorneys, according to a Friday filing with state election officials.

The disclosure of the payment to the Mequon-based Biskupic & Jacobs law firm came a day after information spilled out in court records about a secret John Doe investigation into campaign fundraising and spending surrounding Wisconsin's recent recall elections.

The payments — labeled as "legal fees — compliance/administrative" — were paid to a firm headed by former U.S. Attorneys Steven Biskupic and Michelle Jacobs. The firm received payments monthly from July to November, with the largest one — nearly $74,000 — coming in November.

Asked about the payments, Walker campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said the campaign "relies on Biskupic & Jacobs for a variety of legal services." The two attorneys did not immediately return calls late Friday.
The name Steven Biskupic should set off alarms. Those of you outside of Wisconsin may remember him being named on Karl Rove's hit list in 2006, as Rove tried to force U.S. Attorney's into politically-motivated prosecutions.
The Justice Department demanded that one U.S. attorney, Todd P. Graves of Kansas City, resign in January 2006, several months after he refused to sign off on a Justice lawsuit involving the state's voter rolls, Graves said last week. U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic of Milwaukee also was targeted last fall after complaints from Rove that he was not doing enough about voter fraud. But he was spared because Justice officials feared that removing him might cause political problems on Capitol Hill, according to interviews of Justice aides conducted by congressional staff members. ...

Last October [2006], just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove's office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales's office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee. A Justice aide told congressional investigators that he quickly put the package aside, concerned that taking action would violate strict rules against investigations shortly before elections, according to statements disclosed this week.
There was another reason Biskupic got off the hook- he followed the GOP party line and performed a frivolous prosecution to help the Wisconsin GOP in 2006.

Those of you in Wisconsin may recall the Georgia Thompson case. Thompson was a worker at the state's Department of Administration, and awarded a state travel contract to Adelman Travel Group out of Milwaukee. Biskupic claimed that Thompson rigged the bidding process, and indicted her with charges and timing that were both dubious.
While Ms. Thompson did her job conscientiously, that is less clear of Mr. Biskupic. The decision to award the contract — the supposed crime — occurred in Madison, in the jurisdiction of Wisconsin’s other United States attorney. But for reasons that are hard to understand, the Milwaukee-based Mr. Biskupic swept in and took the case.

While he was investigating, in the fall of 2005, Mr. Biskupic informed the media. Justice Department guidelines say federal prosecutors can publicly discuss investigations before an indictment only under extraordinary circumstances. This case hardly met that test.

The prosecution proceeded on a schedule that worked out perfectly for the Republican candidate for governor. Mr. Biskupic announced Ms. Thompson’s indictment in January 2006. She went to trial that summer, and was sentenced in late September, weeks before the election. Mr. Biskupic insisted in July, as he vowed to continue the investigation, that “the review is not going to be tied to the political calendar.”
Except that the case was a key part of the Wisconsin GOP's campaign against Governor Jim Doyle in the Fall of 2006. Combine that with the threats that Biskupic was under from Rove and then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and it's not hard to think that Biskupic may not exactly have been playing it down the middle.

This became especially evident when Thompson was freed from prison in April 2007 after an Appeals Court saw the case as the BS railroad job that it was.
"I have to say it strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin," federal Appeals Judge Diane Wood told prosecutors. "I'm not sure what your actual theory in this case is."

The court heard arguments in the case Thursday morning and then ordered a trial judge to free Thompson from a federal prison in Illinois, which she entered in November.
Oh, I have a theory, Judge Wood. Steven Biskupic is a GOP hack, and cares more about helping the party vs. making sure that justice is being carried out. After leaving the U.S. Attorney's office after Barack Obama's election, he's now doing "private practice", which lets him receive wingnut welfare...such as $86,000 in campaign funds for trying to keep Scott Walker out of prison and keep WisGOP in power in Wisconsin.

It's reminiscent of for Wisconsin DOJ Attorney Ray Taffora, who quit his job immediately after Walker's election, and has made big bucks being a legal point man for the administration in several of its sleaziest endeavors, including Act 10 and the in-secret, GOP gerrymandering of the state.

This type of revolving-door cronyism spreads well beyond the legal profession with WisGOP. Remember the welder that was presented at the state of the state and then embarrassingly was found to be a felon and a former sex offender? You should also recall why that guy was sent up (and set up) as a human prop- because the Walker Admin called up the Ariens folks asking if they could find someone that was a recent hire that they could use as an example of Walker's policies "taking Wisconsin in the right direction."

This leads to the obvious question- Why did the Walker folks choose to call Ariens in the first place? This announcement from Friday may tell you why.
The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Board of Directors today elected Dan Ariens, President and CEO of Ariens Company of Brillion, to serve as chairman of the 3,500-member state chamber of commerce.

Ariens pledged to focus on workforce development and continuing to improve our state’s business climate. He stressed that WMC will continue to advocate pro-growth policies and educate the public about issues important to businesses....

Ariens, who serves as the vice chairman of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said that our state’s business climate is improving but WMC will work with elected officials and other stakeholders to improve our business climate even more.

“I know that Governor Walker and pro-growth lawmakers are committed to improving our business climate and WMC will play a leading role in developing and advocating polices that create jobs,” Ariens said. "WMC members can provide the day-to-day economic reality of what’s happening in the towns and cities and workplace across Wisconsin, one job at a time."
And gee, which organization did a dishonest $1 million ad campaign last year titled "Thanks, Governor Walker!" Yep, WMC. Imagine that! It's almost like the "independent" WMC is just another arm of the Wisconsin Republican Party, with policies that really aren't for Mom and Pop businesses that care about the future of their communities, but instead are for the large, "profit at any cost" corporations that companies like Ariens and Briggs and Stratton have mutated into over the last couple of decades.

It is equally unsurprising is the fact that the Ariens family has given over $30,000 to Republicans in the last 15 years, including multiple family members giving sizable donations to the campaigns of Scott Walker and Attorney General JB Van Hollen. It's not a coincidence that the Walker folks had Ariens' office line on speed dial when they decided to pull their fail of a PR stunt, because they knew some payback was in order from passing corporate giveaways in the tax code (with more included in Walker's latest tax cut plan).

This type of insider club backscratching has become par for the course in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, with cronyism and one-sided policy that makes Jim Doyle's often-sketchy administration look like Robert La Follette's. Once the national media chews up and spits out Chris Christie (which seems to be a date coming sooner than later), they may want to cast their eyes west of I-95, and take a look at the revolving door going on in Wisconsin- and they won't have to look far.

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