State Government and Political News: Dems using the criminal cases against two former Walker aides to raise recall moneyWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin Democrats are using the criminal cases against two former Scott Walker aides to raise money to try and recall the Republican governor.
MADISON - Wisconsin Democrats are using the criminal cases against two former Scott Walker aides to raise money to try and recall the Republican governor.
State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate put out an e-mail yesterday urging supporters to donate 10-dollars to quote, "expose Scott Walker's latest scandal involving more than 60-thousand-dollars that was stolen from military veterans and their families." Tate said he'd like the donations by Tuesday, the next deadline for filing campaign finance reports. Two of Walker's former Milwaukee County aides, Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh, were charged last week with embezzling money from an annual appreciation event for veterans at the county zoo. Walker said it was his office that initially took the matter to prosecutors -- and he hoped it wouldn't affect the current effort to recall him from the governor's office. Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski defends his party's effort to take advantage of the case, even though it doesn't touch Walker directly. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quote, "We've seen a disturbing pattern of Walker playing fast-and-loose with rules meant to protect taxpayers from political corruption." And that's why he believes the fund-raising effort is appropriate. State GOP director Stephan Thompson would not comment on it.
An overflow crowd of 600 attended a public hearing in Hurley yesterday on a bill that could pave the way for a new iron ore mine in the region. Many who showed up were Indians from the Bad River and Red Cliff tribes, who oppose the bill to speed up the state's process for considering new mining permits. They told the state Assembly Jobs Committee that mining would irreparably harm their pristine lands. Red Cliff member Patricia Aiken-Buffalo held up a glass of dark water, and feared that her two-and-a-half-year-old cousin would have to drink it when she's seven. Lac du Flambeau tribal president Tom Maulson said the bill has quote, "page after page of deregulation, giving a boom-and-bust industry free rein to rape the environment that we all depend on." The DNR would have to act on mining permits within 360 days after applications are filed. Water and other environmental standards would be loosened, and opponents could no longer challenge the DNR's decisions in contested-case hearings. Half of the state's taxes on iron ore sales would go to Madison instead of the local region -- something many of the bill's supporters balked at. Wayne Nasi of Hurley said the tax money would be quote, "a lifeblood for communities." The mine would create over 700 permanent jobs. State Treasurer Kurt Schuller told lawmakers that the bill "holds the cure" for northern Wisconsin's economic troubles. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) says he hopes to schedule a vote on the package for a week from today.
The Sheboygan County clerk said Wisconsin's redistricting maps had placed many of her voters on the coast of Africa. Julie Glancey says she's re-assigning people back to their proper districts -- and she must tinker with the basic system to achieve it. Clerks throughout Wisconsin say thousands of voters were placed in incorrect voting districts. And they're scrambling to fix that by the February 21st local government primaries. If it's not fixed, voters might end up at incorrect polling places. Or they won't see their names at their proper voting locations, and they'll have to work with officials to set things straight. Officials say the errors are due to a number of things -- including slight inaccuracies in Census data, and a new method for locating voters within a state database. Normally, communities finish their 10-year redistricting process before the state adjusts legislative and congressional districts along the same lines. But this time, the state went first, since Republicans wanted to get the job done before last summer's Senate recall elections. A group of Democrats are trying to get the federal court to strike down the new maps. Andrew Wellhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), denies that the GOP's mapping process led to the current voter assignment problems.
A Wisconsin Senate committee will consider a bill today to reduce disclosure requirements for those who donate to politicians. Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend wants to drop the requirement that those who give $100 or more in a one-year period must disclose the employers for whom they work. The law is designed to prevent businesses from secretly giving money to politicians through their workers. But Grothman said it also allowed businesses to be boycotted this past year because their employees supported Governor Scott Walker and other Republicans. He said omitting the employers from the disclosure forms would quote, "restore civility and help our business climate." But Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the measure would put a dagger into Wisconsin's financial disclosure laws. Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller said it would be hard for Republicans to push the bill through with only a one-vote GOP majority. He said people want more transparency from state government, and not less.