Government and Political News: The stimulus package a hot topic in the GOP senate primaryWisconsin News
-- The Obama economic stimulus package has become red meat in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Wisconsin.
The Obama economic stimulus package has become red meat in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Wisconsin. Eric Hovde has criticized fellow G-O-P candidates Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann for taking stimulus tax dollars. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Hovde owns part of a computer services company in Virginia that got over two-million-dollars in stimulus funds a couple years ago. Hovde is a board member for E-Plus, and he’s called himself the firm’s second-largest shareholder. But his campaign said he only has less than a 15-percent share, and it’s nowhere near a controlling interest. Spokesmen for Thompson and Neumann both slammed Hovde yesterday. But the hedge fund manager says those two shouldn’t talk – because Neumann owns solar-energy companies that got 660-thousand federal stimulus dollars. And Thompson used to run Logistics Health of La Crosse, which got over a half-million in stimulus grants. Thompson’s camp said he left the firm before the funding was approved. And Thompson himself has said Wisconsin businesses should have the same chance as other states to take advantage of what Washington wants to offer them. Meanwhile, Neumann’s campaign said it didn’t make sense for Hovde to criticize Neumann’s solar energy funding. That’s because Hovde’s company said in 2008 that the federal government should help grow renewable energy.
It appears that Wisconsin voters will only get one chance to see the four Republican U-S Senate candidates debate each other on T-V. Tommy Thompson, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann, and Jeff Fitzgerald all plan to appear together on August 10th, the Friday night before their primary. Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the debate statewide, and Wisconsin Public Radio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and WTMJ TV in Milwaukee are also sponsoring it. WISN T-V in Milwaukee also was planning to put together a Senate debate. But it fell through last night, after Hovde could not agree on an acceptable date. Meanwhile, a radio debate with all four G-O-P Senate hopefuls will take place next Monday morning from 9-to-11 on WTAQ Radio in Green Bay. It will be streamed live on W-T-A-Q’s Web site.
The head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation said he would be happy to meet with lawmakers to discuss his agency’s operations and efforts to create jobs. But Paul Jadin said Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee are apparently trying to discredit his agency. On Monday, the Democrats told Jadin in a letter that they have “serious concerns” about how the public-private economic group is operating – and they want him to appear at a public hearing before the finance committee. Jadin said he was disappointed with the tone and the characterizations in the letter. Among other things it mentioned state tax breaks that were offered and later rescinded for the Stevens Point firm of Skyward. Reports said the company tentatively accepted 12-million dollars in job creation tax credits, providing that it won a state contract on a new computer system for Wisconsin public schools to get information on students statewide. The economic development group had said a final offer was never made. Jadin said Democrats inaccurately portrayed the Skyward developments and other issues they raised in their call for a hearing.
Wisconsin Senate Democrats lost one of their most experienced members yesterday, when Tim Cullen of Janesville quit the party’s caucus. The last straw was a dispute over committee assignments. Cullen, a moderate, said he was thinking about leaving the Democratic Party. He said he would not join the Republicans, but he might become an independent. Cullen said Majority Leader Mark Miller was apparently trying to punish him for his moderate stances and his failed effort to compromise on collective bargaining last year. Cullen also believes he’s being targeted for joining forces with a fellow moderate, Republican Dale Schultz. When Democrats took control of the Senate last week, Cullen was the only caucus member not to get a committee chairmanship. He was later offered the head post in a new small business-and-tourism committee. But Cullen said he would rather deal with health care-and-prison concerns. Miller quoted Cullen as saying he would rather not chair a committee than lead the new small business panel – which Miller said would be an important vehicle for boosting the economy. The 68-year-old Cullen was in the Legislature in the mid-1970’s-and-‘80’s and later served as one of Tommy Thompson’s Cabinet members. He returned to the Senate in 2010, saying he wanted to seek compromise in an intense partisan atmosphere. Even if Cullen leaves the Democrats, the party would still have a one-vote majority after Pewaukee Republican Rich Zipperer leaves next month to become Governor Scott Walker’s deputy chief-of-staff.
About 110-thousand people and businesses that sold property in Wisconsin last year had their tax I-D’s and Social Security numbers posted on a state Web site for three months. But Stephanie Marquis of the Revenue Department said the risk of identity theft is “relatively small.” That’s because the numbers were imbedded in a report used mainly by real estate agents, property appraisers, and home price negotiators – and it was only downloaded 138 times during the period in question. State Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler said internal procedures to prevent such breaches were not followed. And he asked his department’s lawyers to find out why. The report had been online since April, and it was removed Monday. Marquis said the real estate professionals who accessed the file probably didn’t know the personal information was there – and to get to it, they had to click on an imbedded file. Marquis said no systems were hacked, and no other Revenue Department tax files were affected. She said those affected would soon get letters that offer free credit monitoring for a year. This is not the first time the state Revenue Department has inadvertently put out personal data. Social Security numbers were placed on the mailing labels of 171-thousand tax forms in 2006. Over a year, five-thousand tax forms had Social Security numbers in the address panes. Officials said neither incident resulted in any cases of identity theft. And they’ve made a number of security improvements since then.