Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On Walker, election suspensions: Outrage, yes. Surprise, no.

You can be outraged by Walker's refusal to schedule routine elections to fill legislative vacancies, but you cannot be surprised.

Because his full-on contempt for democratic procedure at the cost of governmental integrity for partisan advantage and donor benefit has been obvious for years - - despite his claims to be nothing but "midwestern nice."

*  He turned his County Executive offices and payroll in the Milwaukee County Courthouse into a Republican Party organizing and fund-raising operation.

Six people - - none named Walker but all working for or contributing to him - - were convicted of crimes after things about Walker's office and campaign activities came to light.

*  In his first few days as Governor, Walker unilaterally suspended an ongoing DNR permit review process so a campaign donor could move quickly to fill a wetland near Lambeau Field and bring in a developer to build on it. The Legislature followed up and approved a bill to make the permit review suspension state law.

*  Not long thereafter, Republicans in the Legislature sent staffers into private attorneys' offices near the State Capitol, and, behind closed doors, redrew legislative district boundaries. They used taxpayer dollars in large sums to so grotesquely gerrymander the Legislature against Democratic voters and fair play that the US Supreme Court may soon throw the whole thing out as unconstitutional.

*  Some years later, citizens fed up with wells persistently contaminated by runoff from big dairies in Northeastern Wisconsin while the DNR dragged its feet inspecting the operations per Walker's DNR policies that they exercised their rights under state law, asked for what is called a "contested case hearing" before an administrative law judge, and won a ruling for cleaner water.

The judge said state law gave the DNR the power to control groundwater quality  by limiting the size of dairy herds using its existing permitting powers in the interest of pubic health.

Cathy Stepp, Walker's DNR Secretary put there to implement what he said was "a chamber of commerce mentality," responded by saying she would not abide by it. And GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel backed her up.

Just as he later said in a response to a request by GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that the DNR could approve in perpetuity permits for large groundwater draws like those which serve the kind of dairy herd operations whose runoff moves downstream into waterways and kitchen taps. 

*  Speaking of Vos, he has had the Assembly twice in recent days quietly pass bill amendments to allow a sand mine operator in Monroe County to fill a wetland and destroy a rare stand of oaks and other threatened habitat while one of those contested case hearings was challenging the approval and before the hearing's findings have been released.

The State Senate may add its OK to the special interest measure this week and Walker could sign it to void the contested hearing procedure, as is this administration's wont.

And how will the Walker/Legislative/DNR wrecking crew screw up the contested case hearing which opponents of the Kohler golf course/public land grab/wetland-filling-dune bulldozing/forest clear-cutting scheme have won and which should begin sometime later this year?

And given the special exemption from environmental studies, wetland protections and related permitting altogether which Walker and the Legislature have awarded to Foxconn on a larger scale - - and taking into consideration all the water-carrying Walker and GOP legislators did for the failed open-pit iron mine plan in the Bad River watershed which also involved secret company input into bill drafting and also into Walker's recall campaign financing, too - - who is surprised that other developers expect favors, too?

*  Plus, speaking of hearings, the DNR is planning to shove four very complex air permits into one evening hearing on April 3rd in Racine County where Foxconn wants to build facilities which will release more than 700 tons of pollutants into the air annually.

*  After just a few months ago similarly running five dairy herd operation permits through a one-day DNR hearing procedure where groundwater is already contaminated in Northeastern Wisconsin.

I could on and on here with reminders that the DNR, its oversight board and Walker's Department of Administration have all helped a Walker donor get permits, a sweetheart annexation and even the OK to acquire land inside popular Kohler Andrae State Park to flesh out the construction of a proposed high-end golf course on a large site which is now an undisturbed nature preserve.

Do you, everyday blog reader and state resident have this kind of sway over state programs, agencies and traditions?

Or I could reprise the Walker-and-GOP-Legislature's coordination of restrictive voter ID requirements, then their direction of people to DMV stations for the IDs, then their closing of, or cutting the hours at many of those stations, then their approval of laws reducing early absentee voting days and hours, then their moving fall primary elections into the summer when families and students particularly in Democratic-leaning college towns might be on vacation to further tamp down turnout and threats to GOP hegemony - - you get picture.

And speaking of coordination, remember when the very kind of campaign fund-raising and messaging coordination with so-called 'independent' committees was illegal in Wisconsin, and, noting the trouble those pesky laws caused Walker, the Legislature then passed a new law weakening campaign oversight and making that coordination legal? 

Levers of power manipulated. Problem solved. 

That's the same twist-the-law-to-give-Walker-and-his-party-an-advantage manipulation that the Legislature will approve in the next day or so to allow Walker to delay those special elections which he and his party are afraid an approaching blue wave which already cost the GOP a safe State Senate seat in NW WI this winter will wash away their GOP's majorities this year.

Manipulations which have allowed Walker to chirp his blatantly misleading, false and insulting slogan about having made it easier to vote in Wisconsin, but harder to cheat.

Manipulations Walker is continuing to shove into the debate through attacks on out-of-staters like former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder for litigating over the special election delays while again scooping up tons of out-of-state election cash.

Citizen rights. Voting rights. Environmental protections. Fair process. Dare we add, law and order? 

All are under taxpayer-financed, self-serving attack by Walker and his shameless Legislative allies so used to governing that they care not one whit about whether they are corrupting the land or public processes to remain in office.

Final thought: Looming is a huge national manipulation to embed forever right-wing authority and GOP office-holding by turning the non-partisan census operation into a Republican Party electoral lockdown.

The only way to get the state back on a moral, democratic path is to throw the bums out.

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