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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Herr Prösser?!!": The Madison Uprising to Shift Gears on April 5th
The madness surrounding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to destroy trade unionism continues apace, but outsiders are likely to be deceived into thinking momentum of the Madison Uprising has been dissipated from its previous well-defined orbit.  They couldn't be more wrong--and the turnout for Wisconsin's April 5th supreme court contest between Prosser (R) and Kloppenburg (D) will prove that.

Current reports from Madison consistently describe a hard core of about one to two dozen protestors haunting the capitol building these days.  Some Right Wing supporters of the union-busting tactics have publicly taken courage from this decrease since March 11th, when Walker signed the contententious bill.  That, however, would be to focus on the hole, rather than the doughnut, so to speak.

While massive 100+ person rallies like those that continued for 3+ weeks in the capitol building are hugely important for gathering momentum and mobilizing latent energies, they really only represent the tip of an ungodly horror being whipped up for Walker and his supporters in places where it will do some real damage--the home districts of Republican legislators.  Here is but a brief sampling of highlights from the blog TMPDC:

·     The wife of Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and their household help have signed petitions demanding Hopper’s recall in a very public way.

·    In a related development certain to have impacts on the electoral viability of all the Republican legislators, even if mainly due to their common enrollment in the “Brotherhood of the Bill”, Hopper’s wife explained that the “family-values” senator has been living in an illicit Madison love nest with the staffer of a corporate lobbying firm since may of last year.  The immediate fallout seems to have been the termination of Hopper’s 25 year-old lover from Persuasion Partners, a corporate lobbying firm.  Hopper himself is 45 years old.  Beyond the high pitch of phoniness and hypocrisy it broadcasts, it does also raise questions about the legality of his tenure and vote, considering Wisconsin’s legislative residency requirements[1].  As of March 17, polls showed hopper trailing a generic Democratic challenger by 49% to 44%.  I shall also be on the lookout for any rumours of prosecution of ethics laws relating to Persuasion Partners’ lobbying efforts.[2]
·    Overall, efforts to recall Republicans from other districts appear to be meeting with similar success.  Dan Kanapke (R- LaCrosse) and Luther Olsen (R- Ripon) were lagging in polls as of March 15th.  Indeed, the fury of Wisconsin voters seems to be spilling beyond the boundaries of the original programme to recall 8 Republican senators;  the current total being targeted is 14.  I myself can say anecdotally that I have been very impressed by Democrats' maintenance of strict adherence to ethical guidelines [3].

·    The "progress" of counter-efforts to recall Democratic senators appears to be a bit spottier, however.  I haven't been able to find much reliable data regarding their progress to date or reliable poll figures which might provide some additional insight.  That may be because recall drives don't require interim status reporting under Wisconsin law.  Or it might be a reflection of the lack of enthusiasm of Walker's anti-democratic top-down approach among rank and file voters.  Come to find out that several of the GOP's recall drives were spear-headed by out-of-state consulting firms, which is a no-no under the law.  There seems to have been some hold up in the campaigns whilst they sought an in-state partner to validate their efforts.

·    Recently released figures suggest that Walker's attempted putsch has actually revitalized unions as a political force, a thing that may not have happened if he'd been content to let sleeping dogs lie.  Apparently Democrats have already raised $250,000 more in the seven weeks from February 1, 2011 through March 21, 2011 than they did during the whole of 2010--which defies convention, given the fact that there (were) no regularly scheduled elections for statewide legislative or executive office for 2011. 
However, there is an even more urgent confrontation on the horizon:  The April 5th state supreme court election;  David Prosser (R-Sheboygan) vs. JoAnne Kloppenburg (D- Madison).  Recent events seem certain to shove this thing up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court (at least), and the position of the Republican candidate seems clear:  fearing that his incumbency will be defeated by the anger whipped up by the bill, Prosser along with the rest of the Republicans currently on the supreme court, is pushing to bring the case to the court's review before any successful Democratic challenger can be sworn in.

By now you've surely heard of Walker's continued efforts to up the ante in the already knuckle-biting game of injunction and counter-publication surrounding legal challenges to the union-busting law and extraordinary procedures by which it passed the legislature.  The final outcome still seems murky at this point, but it amounts to Governor Walker daring Wisconsin's courts to enforce their own injunctions; he's ordered publication of the bill despite a court forbidding such publication.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) may not be a lawyer, or even one of the sharper knives in the drawer, but he has gone on record stating that publication means the bill IS law, without regard to any action of the courts.  Not exactly the "checks-and-balances" sort of approach you'd expect from a constitutional scholar and limited government advocate, but many people don't really think that Big Fitz actually believes everything that he says; the only requirement is that you believe what he says.

With the myriad of issues surrounding this case is complex, including the legality of passing a bill which is ostensibly vital to the success of the budget plan without the necessary quorum required of budget bills, the lack of sufficient notice given for the vote under Wisconsin's open meetings law, and whether the bill might constitute some sort of violation of the unions' political rights given the U.S. Supreme Court's affirmation of the same in the controversial "Citizens United Case"--and now the revelation that some sitting Republicans may have been ineligible for the seats they held and the bill's publication contrary to court rulings.  I highly doubt that any effort to reach a final determination within Wisconsin's supreme court within one week will be successful.

It is, however, further confirmation, as if any were needed, of the Republicans' willingness to abandon all pretence of transparent, orderly proceeding under the state constitution in order to effect their personal power grabs.  Rather casts them in the light of some comically brutal Prussian burgomeister strutting about in a WWI pickelhaube and abusing his subordinates.  It's all like something out of "The Good Soldier

[1] I'm no lawyer, though I have had some rudimentary legal training.  I have to wonder if Hopper truthfully responded to the required pre- and post-election reports per Wisconsin Statutes 11.20(3)(a) with regard to his living arrangements?  I don't think so.  Chapter 17.03 indicates that a legislative seat is vacated by a member's failure to meet residency requirements.  Bad mojo for Hopper.

[2]My first thoughts are regarding the ability of Persuasion Partners to continue its lobbying activities under Wisconsin Statutes Section 13.68(6) given possible implications of Hopper living in an apartment paid for by one of their employees.

[3]  I received an email setting out the set of guidelines for conducting recall efforts aimed against local Democrats.  These guidelines appear to be zealously communicated and enforced by the groups I've had occassion to visit, not only online, but by trained on-site directors through scheduled education sessions. 

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