State Political and Government News: Gander Mountain boots NRA meetings from storesWisconsin News
-- The National Rifle Association had to scramble to find new locations for two meetings this week about supporting Governor Scott Walker in his June fifth recall election.
The National Rifle Association had to scramble to find new locations for two meetings this week about supporting Governor Scott Walker in his June fifth recall election.
That’s after the Gander Mountain outdoor gear chain canceled meetings it was planning to host for the NRA in Rothschild and Eau Claire. On Facebook, Gander Mountain said it has been a long-time partner with the NRA – but its customers have diverse and varied interests. So the chain created a new policy that prohibits hosting events for political causes and candidates. The NRA did find two other locations for the Walker support meetings. They were held Tuesday at a gun shop in Merrill, and Wednesday at an Eau Claire hotel. The Republican Walker told WAOW-TV in Wausau he had not heard about the matter – but he said he appreciates the support from hunters. Democrats spoke up for Gander Mountain, saying they had the right to make a business decision. Marathon County Democratic Party chair Jeff Johnson said people from both parties hunt and shop at Gander Mountain. He said it’s clear the chain was listening to its customers and quote, “That’s what good businesses do.”
An MIT business professor says Wisconsin voters have a right to be confused by the conflicting job data in advance of the governor’s recall election. But Thomas Kochen says all the numbers won’t mean a thing – because voters on June fifth will judge the employment situation by what they see in their own communities. Kochen is a Manitowoc area native who co-directs the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research. He tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that when he returns to Two Rivers and Manitowoc quote, “They are depressed – That’s the reality people are experiencing, and that’s what’s going to influence their judgment.” Kochen said also it’s well known that the federal government’s monthly job surveys for each state are not reliable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has admitted that Wisconsin’s initial monthly job totals can be off by as many as 93-hundred in either direction. Yesterday, officials announced April’s preliminary data, showing that Wisconsin lost 62-hundred private sector jobs last month. Republican Governor Scott Walker said the loss was expected, judging by a weak national report two weeks earlier. The governor this week cited a more extensive survey, showing that Wisconsin has gained 24-thousand public-and-private jobs in 2011. But Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, points other figures showing that the state lost almost 34,000 jobs over the past year.
National Democrats came out swinging yesterday, amid concerns that they’re not doing enough to help Tom Barrett try-to-win his June fifth recall election for governor. As Republican Scott Walker pulls ahead in the polls, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote this week about a lack of commitment by national Democrats. And former long-time House Democrat Dave Obey of Wausau expressed the same concerns to the Madison Capital Times. Yesterday, Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee said any suggestion of a lack of national party commitment to Barrett is quote, “off the mark.” The DNC has spent a reported $800,000 on the Walker recall effort. That’s normally a lot, but it pales to the $25-million Walker has raised. The Republican Walker has a 5-to-6 point edge in the polls. Obey says the race has always been winnable for Barrett – but with only 18 days left, the former House Appropriations chair says national Democrats need to get going and show their support. The Capital Times says there’s been some talk that President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden would show up in Wisconsin to campaign for Barrett. Obey says a lot of people who love to see former President Bill Clinton appear in Milwaukee on Barrett’s behalf. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently campaigned for Walker in Wisconsin. And the governor got lots of support during the recent presidential primary campaign, when apparent GOP nominee Mitt Romney spoke up for Walker a number of times while campaigning in the Badger State.
Governor Scott Walker says he has no interest in a higher national office. The Republican told the AP yesterday that there’s no job he wants more than to continue being Wisconsin’s governor after the June fifth recall election. Also, Walker is still not saying who he voted for in last month’s presidential primary. The governor said Republicans are united in helping him survive the recall – and he doesn’t want to create any dissension in the ranks by saying who he chose as the GOP’s White House nominee. But Walker said quote, “Most people wouldn’t be shocked by who I voted for.”
Today is the deadline for Wisconsin legislators to announce whether-or-not they’ll seek re-election this fall. As of this morning, 11 lawmakers who don’t plan to run for other offices had filed statements of non-candidacy with the Government Accountability Board. They included Senate Democrat Jim Holperin of Conover and 10 state Assembly members. About a dozen other Assembly members filed candidacy declarations in new districts, where they were moved by Republicans as part of last year’s redistricting process. Candidates have until June first to file nomination papers. The fall partisan primaries are set for August 14th, with the general elections on November 6th
While most political attention is on the Walker recall effort, the presidential race in Wisconsin has quietly tightened up. President Obama had double-digit leads in three major polls as recently as late March. But this week, the Marquette Law School poll showed that Republican Mitt Romney has caught up for the first time. And Romney and Obama were tied at 46-percent among the 600 likely voters surveyed late last week. The Democrat Obama has seen his approval ratings drop this month, amid new concerns about the economy following a weaker jobs report two weeks ago. In the Marquette University poll, the president’s approval rating in the state slipped from 50-percent in late April to 45-percent this week. Public Policy Polling gives Obama 44-percent approval in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, it appears that Wisconsinites are warming up to Romney. The Marquette University poll gave the former Massachusetts governor a 40-percent approval rating this week – the first time he hit that mark in any of the independent polls during the campaign. Also, Romney’s negative ratings have dropped.
The state elections’ panel has dropped an ethics complaint against state Senate Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine, one of the targets in next month’s recall elections. The Center for Media and Democracy asked the Government Accountability Board to sanction Wanggaard and some other lawmakers. They were accused of taking corporate donations to attend conferences put on by the American Legislative Exchange Council – a group that focuses on state issues which involve limited government and free markets. Some state legislative Democrats have accused Majority Republicans of passing model bills which came from the Council’s conventions. But in Wanggaard’s case, the Accountability Board said there was no evidence that he attended the conventions or took the group’s scholarships. Wanggaard received a letter from the state Board this week which cleared him. But another target of the complaints – Joint Finance Chairman Robin Vos from Racine County – has yet to hear a decision in his case.
Governor Scott Walker says he’ll become more of a consensus-builder if he wins the June fifth recall election against him. The Republican governor told the Associated Press today he does not want to go through the acrimony of a year ago – when thousands of opponents protested against his measure that virtually ended most public union bargaining. Walker repeated that he made a mistake by not telling Wisconsinites more about his plans in advance. He said the union law – plus making government workers pay more toward their retirements and health insurance – were necessary to help balance the state budget, and help local governments and schools control their costs without the need to raise taxes. But critics said Walker was out to gut the influence of public unions. The governor again refused to say what he would do with a right-to-work bill if it got to his desk. Walker has said he would not propose ending the practice of making non-union private workers pay dues charged by unions in the same company. But state Assemblyman Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said he would vote for such a bill if somebody else brought up – but he wouldn’t initiate it.
Minority Democrats in the state Assembly will proceed with a public hearing next week on how the DNR handled an Oconomowoc firm fined for spreading excessive waste on farm fields. Assemblyman Brett Hulsey of Madison said the case has a lot of unanswered questions – including possible contamination of nearby water wells, and who should pay to test for pollution and clean it up. Six Democrats on the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee will hold the hearing next Wednesday starting at 2 p.m at the State Capitol. Top DNR executive Scott Gunderson asked local prosecutors to punish Herr Environmental for excessive spreading of human waste on farm fields last year. Gunderson bypassed the normal process of having the Justice Department prosecute – and critics have said Herr could have paid a penalty 10 times as high as the $4,300 it paid under five citations. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said her agency is trying to seek cooperation from businesses rather than be confrontational. Stepp also said Herr would face heavy penalties if they commit another violation. Stepp has been invited to speak at the hearing – which DNR spokesman Bill Cosh recently called a “waste of time.” None of the committee’s nine majority Republicans will be there.
Don’t take your political disputes to the streets. State transportation officials are reminding Wisconsinites that it’s against the law to put political signs on highway rights-of-way. For state-and-federal highways, that includes medians, terraces, and within one foot of a sidewalk opposite the roadway. Violators can have signs removed – including those who put signs in their own yards too close to the sidewalk. Repeat violators can be fined $100. The DOT’s Deb Brucaya says her agency does not want to discourage folks from taking part in elections – but signs within the rights-of-way cause safety problems for motorists, especially at intersections. She says that if you see a highway worker pulling up a campaign sign, they’re just enforcing the law so the roads can be as safe as possible for everyone.