Remember that time George W. Bush’s White House lost 22 million emails?

For all the caterwauling by conservatives about the deletion of 33,000 emails off the private server of former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, I don’t remember those same conservatives voicing the same level of outrage about the fact that the administration of Republican president George W. Bush “lost” 22 million emails.

For 18 months, Republican strategists, political pundits, reporters and Americans who follow them have been pursuing Hillary Clinton’s personal email habits, and no evidence of a crime has been found. But now they at least have the skills and interest to focus on a much larger and deeper email conspiracy, one involving war, lies, a private server run by the Republican Party and contempt of Congress citations—all of it still unsolved and unpunished.

Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

The Irony Around Judge Recusals

This morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a little side story to the recent court cases around water pollution resulting from factory farming, particularly large dairy farms housing thousands of cows. It seems one of the judges who recently ruled against big farming has in the past, donated to one of the environmental groups involved in the case…an environmental group who won reimbursement of legal fees from the farm in question in the hearing before the judge.

A judge who has directed the Department of Natural Resources to pay nearly $45,000 in legal fees to environmental groups in a case involving the expansion of a large dairy farm declined to remove himself from the case after disclosing he made past donations to one of the groups.

But now several groups from the right who support big business and oppose environmental regulation are complaining that the judge should have recused himself from the case. One has to question the late date of the complaint since the judge made his contributions known nearly ten months ago as part of the hearing:

The dispute over Markson’s contributions began when he notified parties in the case on Dec. 21 that, as he was making year-end charitable contributions, he realized he made annual contributions to Clean Wisconsin “for many years.”

Markson told the parties he would not make contributions in 2015 and while the case was pending. An attorney for the Justice Department who was representing the DNR said his past contributions raised concerns. She asked Markson recuse himself.

Markson declined.

Now here’s the irony (or in this case hypocrisy). Judge Markson apparently donated about $50 per year for a number of years to Clean Wisconsin. So this is several hundreds of dollars. For money he DONATED to a non-profit organization. OMG…it’s a big deal.

Yet when Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices refuse to recuse themselves from major cases that include organizations who provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to their CAMPAIGNS, well of course it’s no big issue.

So let’s see…hundreds of dollar in charitable notations…big todo….hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions…crickets. One might be a bit of gray error…the second one a total red flag.

If you want a more elegant take on this…see Bruce Murphy over at Urban Milwaukee!

Donald Trump’s no good, very bad, awful week

It’s only Monday, but Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has already had a really bad week – and that’s probably a gross understatement.

First came the revelation tax returns Trump filed in 1995showed he declared a $916 million loss, a loss that would potentially allow him to forgo paying income taxes for 20 years.

Donald Trump’s income tax returns from 1995 reportedly show he declared a $916 million loss, according to the New York Times, which said it received three pages from Trump’s filings that year.

The Times posted three pages it said were from Trump’s New York, New Jersey and Connecticut state income tax filings from 1995, all of which declared a loss of $915,729,293. The documents came to the newspaper by mail, with a New York City postmark, the Times reported.

The paper said the legitimacy of the documents was confirmed by Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who handled Trump’s tax affairs until 1996 and who was listed as the preparer on the New Jersey tax form.

A $916 million loss in a single calendar year seems to undermine Trump’s argument that he’s qualified to be president because he’s a “successful” businessman, but that’s not the end of Trump’s bad news this week.

Next comes news New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has hit the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump’s charitable organization, with a cease and desist order due to the fact that the foundation had not filed the appropriate paperwork as a legitimate charitable organization in New York.

Revelations about the Trump Foundation, which has been heavily investigated by The Washington Post, include its use as a piggy bank to pay off debts owed by Trump—“not lawful,” according to Schneiderman—and asking that money owed to Trump be put into the foundation, which constitutes a tax dodge.

Trump also never registered his foundation with New York state. Under state law, if Trump solicited more than $25,000 for it, the foundation was required to register. By not doing do, the foundation has avoided outside audits required under the law. Schneiderman’s office sent a cease and desist letter to the Trump Foundation on Friday, ordering it to stop fundraising, to file the required paperwork within 15 days, and to submit audits for the years it’s been operating. Failing to comply, the letter stated, would be considered “a continuing fraud on the people of the state of New York.”

I know I’m not alone in saying that I can’t wait to see if Donald Trump files the paperwork requested by New York’s Attorney General, and if he does I’ll be very curious to see the financial audits of the Trump Foundation.

Now two stories as bad those are awful enough, but then there’s the story that Donald Trump bought steel and aluminum for two of his most recent building projects from Chinese companies at a time when blue collar workers in the United States could have benefited from Trump buying American steel and aluminum.

Plenty of blue-collar workers believe that, as president, Donald Trump would be ready to fight off U.S. trade adversaries and reinvigorate the country’s manufacturing industries through his commitment to the Rust Belt. What they likely don’t know is that Trump has been stiffing American steel workers on his own construction projects for years, choosing to deprive untold millions of dollars from four key electoral swing states and instead directing it to China—the country whose trade practices have helped decimate the once-powerful industrial center of the United States.

Newsweek investigation has found that in at least two of Trump’s last three construction projects, Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations based in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In other instances, he abandoned steel altogether, instead choosing the far-less-expensive option of buying concrete from various companies, including some linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families. Trump has never been accused of engaging in any wrongdoing for his business dealings with those companies, but it’s true that the Mafia has long controlled much of the concrete industry in New York.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has maintained that some controversial decisions for his companies amounted to nothing more than taking actions that were good for business, and were therefore reflections of his financial acumen. But, with the exception of one business that collapsed into multiple bankruptcies, Trump does not operate a public company; he has no fiduciary obligation to shareholders to obtain the highest returns he can. His decisions to turn away from American producers were not driven by legal obligations to investors, but simply resulted in higher profits for himself and his family.

The revelation that Donald Trump bought Chinese steel and aluminum for two of his building projects just reinforces the fact that as an job creator for American jobs Donald Trump has been an abject failure, but he sure has created a lot of jobs in China.

And finally, here’s a interesting piece highlighting the fact that Donald Trump’s real estate organization did business with an Iranian bank that allegedly has ties to terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear program.

Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, was already a tenant in 1998 when Trump purchased the General Motors Building in Manhattan, but he kept them on for another five years, until 2003, reported The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

U.S. officials later accused the bank of helping to obtain sensitive materials for Iran’s nuclear program, and American authorities believe Bank Melli was used between 2002 and 2006 to funnel at least $100 million to the Quds Force unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has sponsored terrorist attacks.

The news organization reported that Bank Melli may have paid more than $500,000 in yearly rent for 8,000 square feet in the GM Building, but it’s not clear whether Trump’s organization broke any laws by doing business with the Iranian-controlled bank.

Yeah, it’s been a really bad, bad week for Donald Trump, and here’s to hoping it’s just the start of many bad weeks leading up to November’s election.

The Hypocrisy In Annual Salaries:

Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch defended her company’s pricing of its popular EpiPen during a hearing before a U.S. House Committee today. Beyond the apparent price gouging involved, her annual salary which increased 67 percent to $18.9 million in 2015 was called into question.

Hold that thought!

Meanwhile across the rotunda, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was defending the management of his bank against the charges of fraud for the fake accounts created by his underlings. His annual salary has been ‘stagnant’ at $19.3 million. And the press and social media are crying foul on that amount.

Hold that thought!!

Ok…here it comes:

The Milwaukee Bucks announced that they have signed a new four year contract with star player and fan favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo for $100 million…do the math…$25 million per year. Crickets.

Now I realize that Mr. Stumpf and Ms. Bresch are on the hot seat so their salaries do come into question. But what they make as CEOs isn’t out of line compared to other CEOs of national companies. I am not defending those amounts…I think they are overly generous and untenable…but they are within the realm of compensation for a CEO.

But $25 million for a basketball player (or a baseball player or football player or etc. player) is absolutely ridiculous. And again…all of those complaining about government spending in the millions for the new Bucks arena instead of social services…nada on player salaries.

Inequity? Damn right! On all counts!

Don’t get me started on how little we pay teachers…

A Tale of Two Rons

Ron Johnson has repeatedly criticized Russ Feingold for Feingold’s opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, saying that he doesn’t know how Feingold could have opposed it before he even read it. Holy cow! Rojo sounds just like Ron Kind!

At a February 2016 listening session in Eau Claire, Kind was challenged by a Buchholz for Congress staffer about Kinds support for the TPP, noting that former US Senator Russ Feingold was opposed to the sweeping trade agreement. Here’s what Kind said:

When Ron Kind sounds just like Ron Johnson, and parrots RoJo’s attacks on Russ Feingold, you really have to wonder which side Ron Kind is on?

Democrat Julie Meyer’s top campaign contributor contributed over $30,000 to Republicans in Wisconsin

Julie Meyer, the MPS schoolteacher challenging incumbent State Rep. Christine Sinicki in the Democratic primary in the 20th Assembly district, has tried really really hard to make Rep. Sinicki out to be some anti-public education bogeywoman, despite the fact that Rep. Sinicki has been endorsed by the largest teachers unions in Wisconsin including the MTEA, the very same union to which Julie Meyer is a dues-paying member. Earlier today, Meyer took to her Facebook page (which I’m still banned from) to attack Rep. Sinicki for having received campaign contributions in the past from Howard Fuller and George Mitchell, both of whom have been advocates for education privatization.

However, what Julie Meyer hasn’t told anyone yet is that her single largest campaign donor is Scott Mayer, the Chairman & CEO of the QPS Employment Group. According to campaign finance documents (see below) Mayer contributed $1,000 to Julie Meyer’s campaign, making him the single largest contributor by far, and it’s worth noting that Mayer’s contributions comprise roughly two thirds of all the money raised by Julie Meyer’s campaign.

July 2016 Continuing Report – Julie Meyer

Now here’s where things get really interesting.

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Campaign Finance Database, Scott Mayer has contributed over $30,000 to Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee going back more than 15 years.

So apparently in Julie Meyer’s world Rep. Sinicki having taken campaign contributions in the past from Howard Fuller and George Mitchell is bad, terrible, awful, and a whole lot of other things, but her taking her largest campaign contributions from a die-hard supporter of Republicans in Wisconsin is no big deal.

Rep Brandtjen Plays the Fear and Loathing Card

Representative Janel Brandtjen (R – Menomonee Falls) represents Wisconsin’s 22nd Assembly district which includes portions of Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties…including a portion of the City of Milwaukee. Despite that it seems she only became aware of urban crime earlier this month when a police chase ended in Washington County and resulted in a lock down of the area while police officers searched for the miscreants. So she only became incensed because her constituents were at risk and the sanctity of their Washington county communities were violated.

Brandtjen issued a news release Tuesday complaining about how residents in her district spent last Thursday morning in fear for their lives as police searched for five teens who had carjacked a woman’s Honda Civic at gunpoint in Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon.

Police spotted the teens shortly after midnight on Thursday morning and chased them into Washington County. The teens abandoned the car after it got a flat tire and fled on foot. Officers spent hours searching for them in the dark before finally capturing them without incident, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.

Brandtjen said in her release that homeowners were held hostage in their own homes and “families were forced to unlock their gun cabinets and instruct their loved ones to shoot to kill. The violence and crime that has plagued Milwaukee for decades has now begun to spill over into Milwaukee’s suburbs. I lay the responsibility for this growing and out of control problem at the door of the Mayor’s office.”

No apparent concern for the victim of the initial car jacking but I digress.

What action does she want to take to prevent a reoccurrence? This is totally rich:

A suburban Republican lawmaker ripped into Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday and said she would push for funding cuts to the city unless steps are taken to slash Milwaukee’s crime rate.


Better answer would have been: Mayor Barrett is facing some serious issues in the City of Milwaukee and when I get back to Madison I will introduce legislation that will proved Milwaukee with the resources it needs.

Despite being caught up in the urban macro-environment that is seeing increases in street crime, how did Milwaukee get into the fix?

In response, Barrett’s office issued a chart showing state aid to Milwaukee has dropped over the past decade, even as the police budget has climbed.

And who is one of the representatives in Madison who votes on state aid to Milwaukee? Rep. Brandtjen…who represents portions of Milwaukee.

Beyond the obscene and ridiculous response to crime…Rep. Brandtjen is an elected official who we send to Madison to provide leadership…and solutions to the problems we experience in Wisconsin. This isn’t leadership…just another ideologue throwing a tantrum.

Vote her out!

Republicans Not Serious About Redistricting Reform

A press release reprinted from Urban Milwaukee:

With a three-year-old promise left unkept, Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) made headlines this week by scheduling an informational hearing on the issue of non-partisan redistricting reform. Before rushing to shower praise on Bernier, who has chaired the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections for the last four years, journalists, editorial boards, and Wisconsin taxpayers should keep this in mind: the Republican-led legislature has already made clear the legislative floor period is over for 2016. Republicans have packed up their bags to get back on the campaign trail, so there is no actual chance of redistricting reform moving forward this year. Additionally, Friday’s hearing is not open to members of the public to testify and there is no actual bill before the committee for consideration. While Bernier and Republicans may try to sell this as a legitimate hearing and discussion on the issue of redistricting reform, I’m not buying it and you shouldn’t either.

This move is politics at its worst, as Bernier finds herself on the outs with her district after telling her constituents that meeting with them is “worse than going to the dentist.” This fake hearing should not be construed as a legitimate hearing. By not allowing for public testimony and no actual legislation being considered, this can only be construed as a meeting to give Bernier and Republicans the talking point that she has acted on the issue of redistricting reform.

It’s fitting that Bernier scheduled the hearing on April 1, a day when so many Americans dedicate to playing tricks on their friends, family, and colleagues. With the legislature not actually in session, the people of Wisconsin shouldn’t fall for Bernier’s political trick. Where was this in September and October of last year while Republicans worked at break-neck speed to eviscerate our government watchdog and re-write our state’s campaign finance laws to flood even more dark money into elections? Bernier pushed those proposals through her committee in a matter of days — yet she sat on a redistricting proposal that would bring more accountability to state government until after the legislature concluded their legislative work period.

It’s a simple belief of the majority of Wisconsin voters: politicians shouldn’t choose their constituents by being able to draw their own district maps. Voters should choose their representatives, period. Redistricting authority should be placed with an independent, non-partisan entity so no politician can get their grubby hands on a map to gerrymander to their benefit. Nonpartisan redistricting would lead to a government more reflective of the electorate and would create more competitive legislative races, raising the level of engagement across the Badger State. Most importantly, the people of Wisconsin’s voices would be heard again, regardless of where they live. If Republicans are so confident they are doing the people’s work and are truly beating Democrats on the merits of their ideas, they should move forward with implementing an independent redistricting process. Republicans should get out of the way and let the people’s voices be heard.

Bernier’s move to schedule this hearing without considering an actual bill while the legislature is out of session makes me wonder if she is as crooked as the legislative lines her party’s bosses drew. But the people of Wisconsin aren’t so easily fooled, and they should take the opportunity to call their representatives and ask them to commit to supporting nonpartisan redistricting reform.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, represents the 71st Assembly District.