Monday, September 26, 2022

How WisGOPs get the "independent" Audit Bureau to launder their garbage

6 weeks before the Governor’s election, and members of the gerrymandered Wisconsin GOP Legislature have found a reason to take a break from their 10-month paid vacation.

Two Republican leaders of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee are calling on the State Patrol to provide answers about the security costs for Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), co-chairman of the audit committee, and Rep. John Macco (R-Ledgeview), committee vice chair, wrote State Patrol Superintendent Tim Carnahan on Sept. 15 requesting security costs for state's top two officials from July 1, 2021, to Aug. 31.

The GOP pair also asked for documentation on how the State Patrol determines the level of security that is needed and the roles Evers and Barnes' staff play in this process. In addition, Cowles and Macco asked how state security officials handle private and political events.

The Dignitary Protection Unit, which is part of the State Patrol, provides security to the governor, his family and staff. It also provides security to other elected officials, including the lieutenant governor and those visiting Wisconsin on official business.
Funny how the WisGOPs didn’t choose to (ab)use the power to ask for this information before now, but that’s how these lowlifes roll.

Henry Redman of the Wisconsin Examiner gave a good illustration earlier this month how the Legislative Audit Bureau is being guided into doing the GOP’s dirty work, And then WisGOPs slant the findings of those audits to make the Evers Administration look bad.

A central part of Redman’s article goes into a recent audit of the state’s broadband grants that made it appear the Public Service Commission wasn’t giving adequate oversight to the tens of millions of dollars handed out to Wisconsin communities. But PSC Commissioner Rebecca Valcq says the GOP cherry-picked the audit, and misrepresented what was the PSC actually did.
“I think when you are living in a situation, like we’re living in here in Wisconsin, and you have a Legislature that has been reluctant to work with a governor of the opposite party, you have an opportunity to use what has historically been an apolitical and nonpartisan body to go out and generate reports that you can then pick passages out of and use them as political fodder,” Valcq tells the Wisconsin Examiner. “So I don’t think it’s the bureau itself; I do think that the bureau is neutral, and I think that they’re state employees like the rest of us. But I think when you have divided government, I think that the ability to point to a nonpartisan body of government and take sentences that fit your narrative — I think that we will continue to see more of that.:….

Valcq says that the report’s section headlines paint a negative picture of the PSC as an agency that didn’t care how federal and state money meant for broadband expansion was spent once sent out the door — a contention she says couldn’t be further from the truth. Valcq adds that she doesn’t believe the LAB’s staff or the bureau itself are acting politically, but that it’s being used for partisan means.

“They had a story written in their head that they wanted to tell, and in my mind, it does a disservice because it completely ignores all of the robust controls that we have in place and it makes it sound like we’re just out there willy nilly handing out bags of of money, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says. “And it came as a shock to the broadband office itself. You know, these are people who literally comb through reimbursement requests and they fight providers to the penny because they take their job of being stewards of federal dollars and state dollars really, really seriously.”

In recent years, the federal government has sent billions of dollars to Wisconsin to be used for, among other things, broadband expansion as part of packages in two COVID-19 relief bills and an infrastructure bill. Several times over the last legislative session, Republicans have attempted to wrest control of that money from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s executive agencies. Valcq says she believes Republicans commissioned the audit to find an excuse for another attempt to take over control of those dollars.
Redman notes Valcq’s criticism echoes what was said after GOPs told the LAB to look into policies and procedures related to the 2020 election. That LAB report was used as fodder for more GOP Big Lie BS, and members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission said that the report was misleading, and set up to give GOPs what they wanted.
In a normal LAB report, the agency being audited gets a chance to see a draft version of the report, make corrections and offer a response that is included in the public version. This opportunity was not given to the WEC because auditors decided it couldn’t maintain the draft’s confidentiality. This lack of a review process, according to Wolfe and the commissioners, led to errors in the final report that have now gone more than a month without being corrected as Republican legislators have used its findings to hammer the commission and call for Wolfe’s resignation.

In the meeting, commissioners largely echoed Wolfe’s previous statements — but with more force than the nonpartisan administrator was able to add publicly. Some of the strongest rebukes of the LAB report came from Dean Knudson, a former Republican legislator who was appointed to the commission by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester)…..

“This one was the most egregious example of sloppy work, inaccuracy and unprofessionalism on the part of the Audit Bureau,” Knudson said about the report’s errors pertaining to how the WEC receives data from a multi-state group called ERIC, which allows for state election administrators to track when its voters move to or die in another state.

“It’s really uncharacteristic for them, but I think they fell into the trap of succumbing to political pressure that they would not allow a review. And a simple review, like they always do, helps prevent this kind of inaccuracy seeping into the final report,” Knudson continued. “What you’ve got here, if I were to use an analogy, it’s about like somebody came from France who was a soccer fan and wanted to see their first football game. They got to go to the Packers. And by halftime, they had decided that they knew better than Aaron Rodgers did about how to drop back and throw a pass.”
I have no problem with oversight and identifying areas where processes could be improved or funds could be better accounted for. But Republicans are VERY picky over which areas get such scrutiny, and it is telling as to which areas they don’t choose to look into.

For example, we know that Assembly Republicans have blown well over $1 million in taxpayer dollars in their absurd Big Lie investigation, and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to pathetic hack former Supreme Court “Justice” Michael Gableman to run that investigation. After Gableman endorsed the challenger to Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos in the August primary, Vos got rid of Gableman and said the investigation was over.

But Dems on the Assembly Elections Committee and the Audit Committee want the LAB to look into what the money was spent on and accounted for, and GOPs in the Legislature aren’t allowing LAB to do so.
[In August], a group of Democrats sent a letter to the committee's co-chair State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) and asked him to support an audit.

Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for an audit of Gableman's probe in February and again in March.

“Using taxpayer dollars for political gain is really concerning,” State Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said. “Now, Speaker Vos finds himself on the receiving end of that political fodder with Gableman speaking ill about him, and I am hopeful that wakes the Speaker up to understanding that this was not the right thing to do from the beginning and it's past time to pull the plug.”

Agard, who signed the letter, said she wants Cowles to at least let members of the committee debate whether to request an audit.

“We could just look at Gableman and what went well and what didn't go well with the work he was doing, or we could expand it or shrink it, and certainly I believe that Chair Cowles has the ability to do that, to convene us and allow us to simply have that conversation,” Agard explained. “My hope is that the committee would agree and that we would move forward with an audit request to the audit bureau, but that's not even a given.”
Don’t bet on that one, Sen. Agard. After all, Robbin’ Vos is saying that it’s too close to an election to be looking into things like the Big Lie, because it might help Democrats slant the election.

Always projection with Republicans. Every single time.

I used to think LAB co-chair Cowles was one of the few GOPs left with an ounce of integrity, but he's more than happy to rig audits and waste taxpayer dollars on meaningless stuff instead of looking into real wastes of taxpayer dollars. I should have followed my own rule – ALL GOPS ARE BAD. ALL MUST GO DOWN AND GO DOWN HARD.

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