Monday, August 3, 2015

This weekend in WisGOP corruption pt. 1- WEDC and JD1

Following the fiasco last month where Governor Scott Walker's office and other Wisconsin GOP officials tried to gut the state’s open records law, only to reverse course after major condemnation from the public and the state's media, you'd think these guys would use the uproar to back off for a while and do things above-board to restore the confidence of an angry public. But it wouldn't be the 2010s Wisconsin GOP if they tried to do the ethical thing or care about the public trust, would it? Instead, what WisGOP seems to have learned is that since they can’t pass laws in the Legislature that allows them to work in secret, so now they’re looking at other methods to hide their corruption from the public.

One of those methods mcame to light last Friday, in a bill sponsored by the GOP’s two legislative members of the scandal-wracked Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
The proposal circulated Friday by Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, and Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, would replace the four legislators on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board with private-sector members, two appointed by the governor with Senate approval and one each appointed by the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker.

In a memo to legislators, Gudex and Hutton, who joined the board in January, wrote that the Legislature would still retain its oversight role through legislative committees, three statutorily required reports to the Legislature, multiple statutorily required reports and requests to the budget committee and reviews every other year by the Legislative Audit Bureau….

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, a WEDC board member, slammed the proposal, comparing it to recent attempts to gut the state open records law and dismantle the Government Accountability Board.

“I think the people of Wisconsin want greater oversight at WEDC, not less,” Lassa said in a statement. “Over its brief four-year history, WEDC has been shaken by mismanagement, massive employee turnover, failure to follow the law, the loss of millions in taxpayer dollars in improperly vetted deals, and the withholding of information from its board of directors. Why would anyone think the Legislature should have less oversight at this agency?”
Good question, Sen. Lassa. Andy at the Wisconsin Soapbox also was curious why, and had a little more analysis as to what this proposal would REALLY do.
Tell you what, Why don't we convene a board of people representing local food pantries, United Way's, and actual poor people to serve on a board to allocate dollars for Food Share, Heating Assistance, and BadgerCare? Oh, doesn't sound like a good idea because you're worried that they are going to be unethical because they benefit from the money they would be allocating to themselves?


So, a group that has been accused of massive corruption, lost millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars, and seen turn-over in leadership like a car wash goes through line-workers, has champions in the legislature who want LESS oversight?
Much like we've seen with the harebrained scheme to stack the Legislative Audit Bureau with partisan hacks and the aborted open records scheme, WisGOP's answer to corruption in agencies is not to clean up their act, but REDUCE THE CHANCES THAT THE CORRUPTION WOULD BE REVEALED.

Speaking of secretive sketchiness, another story that dropped over the weekend came from longtime Capitol reporter Dee Hall, who found the following items as related to a lawsuit from Walker aide Cindy Archer in relation to the John Doe case that was recently halted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
On Friday, two of the defendants, chief investigator David Budde and investigator Robert Stelter, filed a response. In it, they reaffirmed that the John Doe investigation began after one of Walker’s top staff reported funds missing from “Operation Freedom,” an annual event held by Walker’s office to thank veterans for their military service.

They said the secret probe was necessary only because Walker’s office “was uncooperative and obstructed the District Attorney’s Office’s efforts to obtain documentation of the County’s receipt and disbursement of donations from Operation Freedom.”

“As a consequence, the District Attorney’s Office was forced to petition a John Doe proceeding in order to have legal mechanisms to obtain relevant documentation from the County Executive’s Office,” they argued….

The filing also includes a tape recording made of Archer’s interactions with officers during the search of her home, which was conducted by the FBI and members of the Milwaukee County and Dane County district attorneys’ offices. The recording was not available online late Friday. In their brief, Budde and Stelter revealed that the Archer investigation involved not only possible bid rigging and suspected illegal campaign activity but also possible violations of the state open records law. The brief said a criminal complaint was drafted naming Archer “and others” with two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and one count of solicitation to commit misconduct in public office, but [Milwaukee Co DA John] Chisholm’s office decided not to file it.
Two reactions from me in relation to this story:

1. This shows again why this case needs to be appealed to SCOTUS, and not just because of questions regarding conflicts of interests from the 4 WMC justices on the Supreme Court, but also to override the WMC 4's ruling to destroy the case's evidence, and allow the people to have all items laid on the table. Let's have the chance to decide for ourselves if the actions of both the Walker machine and the various district attorneys investigating the John Doe case have been legitimate, or if they demand criminal indictments and changes in current law. And let's stop the game-playing that's really devolved into a one-way conversation dominated by right-wing leakers in this case.

2. John Chisholm is a PATHETIC COWARD who apparently didn’t have the sack to lay the hammer down on the big dogs, despite obvious evidence of wrongdoing. Why didn’t he file charges here? So he could avoid blowback from the RW media machine? How’s that strategy working out for ya, Johnny?

It can be exhausting to see this constant amoral mentality from the WisGOPs in charge of this state government, especially since something seems to come up every day that further illustrates just how bad things are. But sitting back, hoping the public will "get it", and not demanding that these people pay tangible consequences for the corruption they have done is not enough. Not with this crew, especially after they have slanted the field so badly with their media propaganda and rigging of elections and the judiciary. Read Dee Hall’s whole report on Archer's John Doe suit, it’s in-depth and and worth your time, and also read the responses of Budde and Stelter, who take apart Archer's "victim" act point-by-point, This should give you a taste of just how much scumminess and corruption has to be residing below the surface, just waiting to have the light shone on it.

In the case of both Scott Walker's campaign machine and the Walker campaign's taxpayer-paid slush fund of WEDC, WisGOPs and their allies are trying to hide the details from the public about the pay-for-play corruption that seems to go from the top to the bottom of their whole organized crime outfit. There is no need to debate or try to "reform" these destructive measures, and instead we must eradicate this era of Fitzwalkerstan as rapidly and as completely as we can.

1 comment:

  1. Jake, there's another layer (of course) to removing legislators from the WEDC board.

    The LAB can't speak publicly about the audit until after there's a Joint Leg. Audit Committee hearing. WIGOP (co-chairs Cowles and Kerkman) dragged their feet as long as they could and only last week scheduled a Hearing for Sept 2. Then within 48 hrs of the hearing being scheduled, Gudex/Hutton roll this out.

    Because LAB is muzzled until a Hearing, they weren't present at either the 6/30 WEDC Audit Committee meeting or the 7/20 WEDC Board meeting. The only people "officially" answering questions about the audit so far have been WEDC staff (mostly Chief Counsel Hannah Renfro). They've downplayed and dismissed just about everything in the audit, straight up lied about some of the recommendations, and called LAB "misleading." And everybody but Barca and Lassa have just gone along for the ride.

    The first WEDC Board meeting at which LAB will be able to talk about the audit and answer questions from board members will be in October. Gudex/Hutton are trying to pass their bill in time for that meeting. They don't want Barca or Lassa there asking tough questions about the audit and getting unflattering answers (on video). This is stage-managing for Walker '16 as much as anything else.

    If you watch WEDC meetings, it's pretty obvious that Barca and Lassa are the only ones actually reading the audits/reports/etc and doing any follow-up. I'll be overly-charitable and presume it's because the captains of industry on the WEDC board have bigger fish to fry in their private-sector lives and just want the meetings to wrap up as quickly as possible; but I'm sure at least some of them are politically motivated. The private sector board members just act like cheerleaders and accept anything WEDC staff says or suggests uncritically. It's telling that when they talk about WEDC's role the analogy they use most often is of a bank, ignoring the critical difference that banks aren't government bodies and aren't handing out tax dollars.