Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A double-dose of Journal-Sentinel FAIL

I knew the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had to revert to its right-wing form sooner than later. And they did so with two ridiculous stories in the last 3 days.

The first is from their Politifact article on a new tax break put in by WisGOP legislators and signed by Governor Walker as part of the last state budget. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO sent out an anti-Walker mailer calling out the arrangement, saying that the governor signed off on allowing "a $10,000 tax deduction to millionaires who send their kids to exclusive private schools." So Politi-fact decided to check it out.
Beginning in the 2014 tax year, for tax returns due in April 2015, taxpayers can subtract from their income amounts paid to private schools for tuition and mandatory student fees. The schools can be inside or outside of Wisconsin, although expenses such as room and board can’t be deducted. For each student in kindergarten through eighth grade, the maximum deduction is $4,000; for each student in high school, the maximum is $10,000.

An important point: The deductions are available to any individuals, regardless of income, including millionaires.
Yep, that's what a Department of Revenue FAQ document says on the new tax break. And there is no limit on the income level of the person getting the tax break, so millionaire parents would certainly be able to take advantage of it. Seems like a pretty straightforward call, right? Not in Politi-crap world.
The state AFL-CIO said Walker "has given a $10,000 tax deduction to millionaires who send their kids to exclusive private schools."

There is an element of truth, in that millionaires do benefit from the tax break. But so do taxpayers of other income levels who send their kids to private schools.

We rate the claim Mostly False.

The claim is that millionaires can get this tax deduction of up to $10,000. It's not that they're the only ones or even that they'll be most of the ones using the tax break. THE CLAIM IS THAT MILLIONAIRES CAN USE IT. So why does it matter to Politi-crap that other Wisconsinites can as well? Because Politi-crap's Tom Kertscher was apparently told not to give another "True" rating that made the J-S's favored candidate (Scott Walker) look bad for backing a policy that gives a break to people many Wisconsinites think get enough breaks in life (i.e., millionaire parents that can send kids to a private school with 10,000 tuition). Maybe you can Tweet him at @tkertscher or email him at tkertscher@journalsentinel.com to see what part of his ass he pulled this "Mostly False" from.

The other story comes from one of my "favorites"- Journal-Sentinel columnist Dan Bice. Danny Boy decided to have in his No Quarter column an "investigation" into a right-wing smear against Dem Attorney General candidate Susan Happ, and irresponsibly sensationalized a situation that seems pretty benign. Let's start with the source of this alleged "sketchiness,"
"This case from her time leading the Jefferson County District Attorney's office raises questions about how tough (Happ) and her office are on alleged sex criminals," said Brian Sikma, communications director for Media Trackers, a conservative research outfit that alerted No Quarter to the case.
Brian SiKKKma? The same SiKKKma that ran the libelously false story of GOP operative Kyle Wood right before the 2012 elections. This got Wood sentenced to 30 days in jail in June 2013 after Wood admitted he fabricated texts from the husband of now-Rep. Pocan, and beat himself up. Of course, the Journal-Sentinel and their right-wing radio station on AM 620 ran with SiKKKma's and Wood's lies, and only published the correction a few days after the lie had gotten out.

The fact that Bice is even listening to a lying hack like SiKKKma is a dereliction of duty as a journalist, but then he decides to pump up THIS, which doesn't even seem that weird.
Daniel J. Reynolds, 36, was given a deferred prosecution agreement by Jefferson County prosecutors earlier this year after being charged with felony counts of first-degree and second-degree sexual assaults of a child. Under the deal, Reynolds' offense would be reduced to a disorderly conduct violation if he stays out of trouble for 12 months and completes other requirements.

Records show Happ and her husband sold a piece of property to Reynolds under a $180,000 land contract that was executed in 2009 and paid off three years later.
On its face, that looks iffy. But then Bice buries these facts later in the story.

1. Reynolds was already renting the house from Happ's future husband when Happ married him in 2009, meaning Happ only had an interest in the property BECAUSE WISCONSIN LAW DICTATES THE OTHER PARTNER INHERITS A PART OF IT UPON MARRIAGE.

2. The alleged complaint that led to the original sexual assault charges was only reported to police in 2011, 2 years after they sold the property to Reynolds. The property was paid off in 2012, before the charges were pleaded out.

3. The article mentions that the facts in the case were heavily in dispute, as the alleged victim was the sister of Reynolds' ex-wife, and later wasn't willing to testify to key matters.

4. The lawyer signing off on the plea agreement was an Assistant DA, and not Happ. Yes, the buck stops with Happ as DA in terms of administration, but there is no evidence she was directly involved in plea discussions or any related part of the case.

So why the hell would Bice run this nothingburger of an article based on a lame reach from the liars at Media TraKKKers? And why would the J-S run a NY Post-style headline that says "A-G Candidate Ripped for Favorable Plea Deal in Child Sexual Assault Case," when the only "ripping" going on is coming from paid-off right-wing hacks? The obvious answer is that the J-S bosses want to help GOP candidate Brad Schimel, as Happ was up 10 points in the latest Marquette Law Poll after her impressive primary victory on August 12. Bice is always good for following his bosses' corporate orders and writing about any right-wing opinion that's out there, giving it a veneer of legitimacy that most do not deserve. Oh, he's also good for staying away from issues that might hurt the paper's corporate bosses (the next article Danny does on the corrupt WEDC will be his first).

But hey, if Bice wants to dig into the AG candidates and conflicts of interest, maybe he should look at this case from late 2010, involving former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen. Jensen was convicted on three felony counts of corruption in office by a Dane County jury in 2006, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. But Jensen was able to convince an Appeals Court to give him a new trial based on a technicality, and I'll let WTMJ pick it up from there.
[Jensen] asked that his new trial be moved to Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold packed with his supporters. He argued a state law that allows legislators to face ethics violations in their home counties should apply to him, even though it was passed in 2007, five years after he was first charged.

A Madison judge and a state appeals court refused to move the trial, but the state Supreme Court overruled them this year. That move was key, since it put Jensen in the hands of Republican District Attorney Brad Schimel.

What was scheduled as a routine status conference on Monday became a plea hearing. Jensen pleaded no contest to using his position for financial gain, a civil violation. In return, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel agreed to drop the other felony counts.
3 1/2 years later, Scott Jensen is a major behind-the-scenes player at the Capitol, as the main lobbyist for the voucher backers at the American Federation of Children, and he helps to funnel millions of dollars for Wisconsin GOP candidates that carry out the voucher lobby's wishes. Among those top candidates? Governor Scott Walker, and....GOP Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel. You want a scandal, Daniel Bice? I think I got one for you. But your pro-corporate bosses might not like it.

We gotta keep watching the watchers, or else they'll be allowed to get away with this BS and have it sink in s "fact" with casual bystanders who take this dishonest spin at face value. 3 1/2 years of this is far long enough, we can't take another 4.

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