Govs. Walker and Christie to appear at business owned by Tim Russell theft victim

Tomorrow Republican Gov. Scott Walker (pictured, left), who never met an out of state supporter he didn’t welcome with open arms, will appear at the Oak Creek headquarters of landscaping company KEI with New Jersey Gov. (and Grade-A blowhard) Chris Christie.

The joint appearance at KEI by Govs. Walker and Christie is notable because the Executive VP of KEI is Chris Kujawa, who was according to criminal complaints, the victim of theft committed by longtime Walker aide Tim Russell, who is now facing multiple felony criminal charges. In fact, there’s a note on KEI letterhead in the criminal complaint against Russell (located on page 26).

After realizing Tim Russell had stolen campaign funds from him, Tim Kujawa threatened to go to then-County Executive Scott Walker, at which point Tim Russell allegedly ended up stealing from a veterans charity in order to reimburse Kujawa.

Considering Gov. Walker is rumored to be up to his eyeballs in the ongoing Milwaukee County John Doe investigation that has resulted in bunches of felony criminal charges against aides working in his County Executive office, the choice to spend some time politicking with Chris Christie at a business owned by an individual victimized by Tim Russell certainly seems curious.

Heck, while he’s there maybe Gov. Walker will hit up Chris Kujawa for a donation to his criminal defense fund.

Nickolaus Watch: Help us keep Kathy Nickolaus in check on election night (contest included!)

It appears that Kathy Nickolaus may be running the show in Waukesha County in the upcoming recall election. But there’s no need to panic or storm the Waukesha County Courthouse on election night, because Waukesha County citizens have formulated a two-part comprehensive plan to help keep Nickolaus in check on May 8. Join us!

Here’s the plan:

Part One: Members of the Wisconsin Voter Protection team will be stationed throughout the county on election night. They’ll report the results from each polling place to a central base. If you’d like to volunteer to be part of the May 8 Wisconsin Voter Protection team, please click here. (You do not need to reside in Waukesha County to participate.)

Part Two: Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District Chair Jeff Christensen will be stationed at the Waukesha County Courthouse on election night, May 8. Jeff will live-tweet the events on twitter (which can also be viewed on Facebook) so you can follow along, re-tweet his updates, and assist if/when needed. He’s also available on twitter @demjeff.

Contest: In order to execute part two of our plan, we’ll need to create an appropriate (no foul language, etc) Nickolaus Watch twitter hashtag. Send hashtag ideas to, and we just may choose yours.

Thanks in advance for participating in our plan, contest, and most importantly, our democracy.

Governor Walker Unveils Economic Plan for Milwaukee

During a visit to a business in Milwaukee, Governor Walker unveiled a plan to revitalize a strategic portion of Milwaukee’s inner city. The main focus of the program will be the defunct 30th street industrial corridor. Ironically that has been home to the Spanish train builder, Talgo, which the governor essentially put out of business in Milwaukee recently.

But the plan, apparently developed by Wyman Winston, executive director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), will be funded to the tune of $100 million dollars through the sale of tax exempt bonds to private investors.

The program is incredibly ambitious, aimed to revitalize the area through housing development, industrial development, small business/entrepreneurial support, workforce skills inventory, work skills training and transportation infrastructure improvements. I am not sure $100 million is enough even if the expected private sector companies come on board. A year in the making, this was supposedly developed over the past year by a number of state agencies including WHEDA and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). Mr. Winston and WHEDA will be taking the lead on the program and promises to see it through.

Now, Mayor Barrett’s response was just a wee bit skeptical. And rightfully so. This type of initiative is incredibly un-Scott Walker like…and the mayor suggests the timing is motivated by the approach of the recall election. I have my own cynical tendencies and can understand the mayor’s reticence when hearing the plan.

But I am not willing to look this gift horse in the mouth. Milwaukee needs help. It can use state help. So even if Governor Walker is proposing this for the wrong reasons, I welcome the fact that he is doing the right thing. I just hope he stay’s out of the way and let’s Mr. Winston (WHEDA) and Reggie Newson (DWD) see this thing to fruition.

Of course the Mayor’s skepticism is partially related to being in full recall campaign mode and rightly so. But he has a far far better reason to be skeptical…and actually an extremely good reason to be VERY ANGRY!

A snippet from the article:

The plan is meant to coordinate the resources of multiple state agencies with the city and other economic development entities.

Coordinate with the city? If that is the case, why was the first time that Mayor Barrett heard about this program today? Why was it announced at a solitary state press conference without any of the elected officials or administrators from the City of Milwaukee?

Or is this simply another prime example of Governor Walker’s inability to work and play well with other? His continued inability to negotiate? His continued unwillingness to be a real leader instead of a plutocrat?

I was totally surprised by this development…and I can’t imagine who convinced the governor that helping Milwaukee will help the state and although he came up short of talking commuter rail, he talked about inter modal transportation and reviving the freight rail corridor in Milwaukee.

But my feeling is, whatever happens on June 5th, who ever the occupant of the governor’s mansion should see this thing through!

Join Russ Feingold and Montana AG Steve Bullock to learn how to fight back against Citizens United

This looks like a great opportunity to learn how we citizens can fight back against Citizens United…

DFA Live with Russ Feingold and Steve Bullock

Join Sen. Russ Feingold and MT Attorney General Steve Bullock on DFA Live to learn how you can get your state Attorney General in the fight to beat back Citizens United. Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday, May 1st
Time: 8:30pm Eastern Time

Be sure to RSVP with your primary phone number so Russ can reach you. We’ll call you Tuesday evening and automatically connect you to the call with Sen. Feingold and Attorney General Bullock.

Wisconsin’s grassroots versus Scott Walker’s greenbacks

News came today that Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign has raised just over $13 million since January of this year as he prepares to try to retain his office in the gubernatorial recall election.

While that number is both staggering and unprecedented, one important point to note is that of the $13.2 million Gov. Walker’s campaign has raised since January of this year, only $4.4 million came from Wisconsin donors. That means other two-thirds of the contributions to Gov. Walker’s campaign came from outside Wisconsin.

Among those donating to Gov. Walker’s campaign:

  • Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson – the big funding source for Newt Gingrich – who gave $250,000 to Gov. Walker’s campaign
  • Richard Devos, the owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team and co-founder of Amway, gave Gov. Walker’s campaign $250,000

In addition to the millions of dollars Gov. Walker’s campaign has raised thanks to its billionaire benefactors, billionaire David Koch personally gave $1 million earlier this year to the Republican Governors Association, which is already running statewide ads supporting Walker and attacking the top two Democratic candidates, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

In stark contrast to Gov. Walker’s “working for billionaires, funded by billionaires” campaign, the campaign of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of the Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Walker, announced it had raised $750,000 in just the first 25 days of Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign, with 87% of the campaign’s contributions coming from right here in Wisconsin.

In honor of Gov. Walker’s prodigious out of state fundraising numbers, I’m going to suggest a new campaign slogan. Instead of Wisconsin: Open for Business,” how about Gov. Scott Walker: “Working for billionaires, funded by billionaires.”

Where in the World is Gov. Walker’s Campaign Headquarters?

In the April 30, 2012 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, No Quarter columnist, Daniel Bice, asked a question that everyone should be able to find the answer to: “So where in the world is the governor’s campaign HQ?”? Well apparently it’s a classified secret and only the official apparatchiks are let in on the secret. Mr. Bice suggests he as taken a page from the Wisconsin 14, the fourteen senators who fled the state to delay passage of the bill destroying public employee collective bargaining rights. But the odor is more along the lines of former Vice President Cheney’s undisclosed location!

It’s a childish game. Particularly as Mr. Bice points out, it is unlikely that the governor would ever set foot in the place…so he’s hardly at risk. But to me, it is indicative of a character flaw and lack of leadership that the governor has exhibited over and over again for the past 15 months and the years as my county executive here in Milwaukee County. The fact is he doesn’t know how to work and play well with others. He can’t negotiate so he does things unilaterally. He can’t be honest in the light of day so does things clandestinely behind closed doors. He is unable to cooperate with anyone but his small clique (more on that in my next blog). At this point I am not even sure if Governor Walker can even be honest with himself.

Well, whatever…here is the crux of this post (please follow the link to Mr. Bice’s post, it is interesting reading): One little sentence…given it’s own little spotlight in the article…a paragraph unto itself…says all one should need to know about how Governor Walker operates and why he is UNFIT to be our governor:

Most of his campaign work takes place outside Wisconsin borders.

This bears repeating in bold:

Most of his campaign work takes place outside Wisconsin borders.

So let’s give Governor Walker the one thing he apparently savors over maybe even power: peace, quiet, solitude, and privacy…RECALL SCOTT WALKER.

So a holiday season in the near future, instead of “Where’s Waldo?”, or “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”, we can all give our grandchildren a board/video game: “Where was former Governor Walker’s campaign HQ?”

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “State Programs: Let’s Improve the Product and Lower the Costs”

The following is Democratic State Sen. (and gubernatorial candidate) Kathleen Vinehout’s weekly column. This week Sen. Vinehout focuses on the need to improve the management of state programs.

State Programs: Let’s Improve the Product and Lower the Costs


Sen. Kathleen Vinehout

“What programs would you cut to balance the state budget?” the reporter asked me. But what if he asked, “What changes in management would you make so dollars can be saved and more people can be served?”

This is a more difficult question. Answering requires attention to details, knowledge of how things are not working and motivation to get things right.

Details really do matter. Details like $2 billion, which is the amount in Medicaid costs that auditors couldn’t link to any specific program.

Almost a million people rely on Medicaid for vital health services. At over $7.5 billion it is the costliest and fastest growing program. Yet, it is poorly run. It is easier for those in charge to save money by cutting people off health care than to change management practices.

The full audit of Medicaid shows that we don’t know on which programs money is spent. Private contractors, under broadly written contracts, do much of the program administration. There are more contract employees running Medicaid than state employees. Over $50 million in contract amendments were not competitively bid, were not tracked, and did not specify the sources of money used to pay for the amendments. The accounting, procurement and budgeting offices did not even know about the changes. Loose oversight led to a $2.7 million fine by the federal government.

Medicaid is not the only program that needs fixing. We need a new way of governing, a way that pays attention to detail and cares about performance and results.

We need to change management practices. I’d like to start with the management, budgeting and accounting systems. For too many years the state composted one system on top of another and pieced together systems that don’t provide the information we really need to effectively manage. We need to turn this around and connect dollars with specific results.

Recent press stories of fraud and abuse highlight problems with routine monitoring and recovery of fraudulent payments. Systems should be established to better monitor waste, fraud and abuse and more quickly recover improper payments.

Wisconsin is top heavy on administration. We have a Department of Administration with almost 1,000 employees. Responsibility and authority over spending, contracting, hiring and rulemaking should be returned to individual agencies. Those agencies and directors need to do their jobs and be responsible for results.

Too many are in state government because of their political connections, not their expertise. This must change. Too many contracts are not competitively bid. This also must change. The public should be able to look into the process of letting and paying for state contracts.

Contract deliverables, performance standards, and deadlines for completion should be included in all contracts. What is and is not delivered by contractors should be monitored and enforced.

Before soliciting bids, the cost effectiveness of contracting-out state services must be evaluated. Details of all contracts bid and entered into should be posted on the state website. Results and performance measures should be posted upon completion of contracts.

Wisconsin needs to encourage and reward suggestions from employees about ways to improve outcomes or lower costs. Much of the wisdom to solve complex state problems lies within the expertise of state staff. Let’s begin to solve the problems by rewarding these people for innovative solutions.

We also need to improve the ease of understanding state budgeting. Right now details are hard to track and easily manipulated for political purposes. The state budget does not provide a complete representation of the state’s financial health.

Budget documents and the budget process should be made easier to understand. All funds and expenditures should be included and an accurate picture of state finances should be public.

We must pay attention to critical indicators including financial statements prepared following generally accepted accounting principles. The budget analysis should include both long- and short-term fiscal measures.

Finally, the people need to know they are getting what they pay for. We need an Office of Program Evaluation focused on finding better, more effective ways of getting the job done.

State government can change. But we need leaders willing to make those changes.

“The Republican Party is severely dysfunctional, not severely conservative”

Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has some comments on the recent Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein OpEd which has generated so much discussion in the political blogverse.  He has some interesting observations to add to the original findings.

The key is what all of Mann and Ornstein’s examples are about, which is radicalism and irresponsible behavior, not ideological extremism. The most liberal, or most conservative, Member of Congress can find ways to compromise with the other side; there’s nothing inherent in conservativism, or even in ideological extremism, that precludes compromise, comity, respect for institutional norms, and other things that Gingrich/DeLay Republicans — and that’s what we have today — are lacking.

And that gets back to the question of what is “really” conservative, because the problem is that when your leadership is so radical, and radically dishonest as well … , it’s very difficult for a party to really develop either viable policy or principled policy.

The Republican Party is severely dysfunctional, not severely conservative. And it’s going to take honest, sane, conservatives to restore it to health. How that can happen, alas, I have no idea at all.

In Literature, Would This Qualify as “Foreshadowing?”

Foreshadowing is a technique used by writers to hint at something coming down the plot highway.  One type of foreshadowing is called telegraphing

Spotted by Sean Keane

It was also interesting to note an easily overlooked article in Greek online newspaper Kathimerini saying that the European Commission is pressuring the European Investment Bank to withdraw a clause that it recently inserted into its new loan contracts that were signed with a number of Greek companies. The new clauses allow for the repayment of debt in Greek Drachma instead of Euro, should the Greeks decide to leave the EU at some point in the future. Clearly the EC is displeased at one of the foremost European lending institutions legally embedding the possibility of something happening which the Commissioners all insist is impossible. Commissioner Olli Rehn reportedly called the clauses “unfortunate and incomprehensible2”. A cynic might note that the EIB has taken an appropriately commercial and realistic approach to the loans, free of the politics that surround the EC.

Someone call Western Union