Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate – Is There No End to the Corruption?

By YeOldeScribe ~ June 2nd, 2011 @ 5:38 am

We at Political Progressives are not envious at all of anyone currently working in the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s office. Besides when LeBron James visits Cleveland, we don’t think there’s a person or group out there that works harder and is hated by so many. The GAB just finished up tallying up the votes for the State Supreme Court race, three special Assembly elections, tallying up the votes for the State Supreme Court recount, and is trying to figure out how to implement a new voter ID law on top of verifying signatures on recall petitions while gearing up for potential recalls for nine senators and (hopefully) one governor.

It’s been a slow process, but the GAB has finished looking over the recall petitions for the senators and have made their first ruling: the recall elections for the six Republican Senators can go on as planned; enough valid signatures were gathered by the Democrats attempting to remove the Republican Senators in question, and the ethics violation claims in those elections have been dismissed.

But what of the three Democrats who were in line for recall elections after Republicans turned in their petitions and signatures? The GAB ruled late last week that those elections would have to be put on hold for the time being. Originally, it was thought that the GAB was understaffed and overwhelmed by the workload in front of them, but this statement proves that something else is going on. According to the GAB:

“Petition challenges filed by the incumbents in Senate Districts 8, 12, 22 and 30 (Darling, Holperin, Wirch and Hansen) have raised numerous factual and legal issues which need to be investigated and analyzed by agency staff prior to consideration by the Government Accountability Board members.”

Well, isn’t that interesting! Of the six recalls filed by the Democrats, not one was revoked, nor were problems found with any of them – all those petitions were approved unanimously. And isn’t it strange that all three – 100% – of the Republican recall drives were found to have “numerous factual and legal issues”?

Upon the release of this information, Republicans immediately cried foul, calling the decision partisan politics and Dan Hunt, one of the Republicans trying to usurp a Senate Democrat, called for the head of the board to resign immediately.  We see only five slight problems with those claims.

First, as we already pointed out, the GAB worked as hard as it could to get the job done. Originally, the recall elections were scheduled to be held as early as mid-June – two weeks from Thursday. But a judge granted an extension to the GAB due to their massive and unprecedented workload, and set a new deadline. That new deadline is still rapidly approaching, though. In fact, it’s just two days away (this Friday). If the recall elections can’t be verified in time, the elections in question won’t be able to be held the same week as the already verified ones. Unless a judge steps in, the Republicans involved in recalls would have their elections on the 12th of July, while the Democrats would have their elections (if needed) on the 19th. The point here is that the GAB worked their butts off to make as much progress as they did, and giver the circumstances (more on that later), they did a damn fine job.

Second, the GAB didn’t decide arbitrarily that the recalls targeting Democrats wouldn’t be done on time. It’s not like the GAB put the Democratic recalls on the back burner and took a three-day weekend for Memorial Day. While you were flipping brats and drowning your sorrows in beer this weekend, the members of the GAB were flipping through 30,748 pages of petitions and drowning in over 200,000 signatures. In doing so, they uncovered “numerous factual and legal issues” with the petitions targeting the Democrats, and decided that they weren’t going to rush to make a decision. From the GAB again:

“Because of the strong likelihood that any finding of sufficiency or insufficiency by the Board will be appealed to a circuit court, it is imperative that the issues raised by these challenges are fully examined, and that a complete record is created for a court to consider.”

Translation:

“We know what we’re about to do is going to piss off half the state and it’s going to be challenged in court no matter what because that’s what people with money yearning for power do these days. So we’re going to take our time and do the best damn job possible, so there is no doubt that we did things correctly and there is no doubt we made even the tiniest of mistakes.”

Third, the GAB is not a political entity, and the Republicans know it. In fact, it was just four short years ago that every single GOP legislator in both the Assembly and Senate voted in favor of creating the GAB to replace the State Elections Board, which was political and partisan. The State Elections Board was appointed by political parties and politicians, whereas the GAB is made up of retired judges. The GAB itself has claimed multiple times that its decisions are not politically based nor are they partisan to any side, but if you don’t believe them, maybe you’ll believe two high-ranking professors at UW-Madison who have worked with both the State Elections Board and the GAB. From the Journal-Sentinel:

“Two University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professors who have worked with the accountability board in the past defended it from charges of bias.

Barry Burden, who specializes in elections in his research, said the nonpartisan board is preferable to the setup in other states, where the elected secretary of state has control over elections. That led to questions about the process during presidential elections in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, he noted.

Burden’s colleague David Canon agreed.

“I’ve never seen any hint of partisan bias,” Canon said. “They absolutely try to oversee Wisconsin election laws fairly.”

Both also said the delay on the petitions against Democrats seemed to be justified by the complexity of their challenges.”

Which brings us to our fourth point – the GAB needs to take more time evaluating the claims of corruption against the Republicans compared to the Democrats because the accusations are totally different. The best the Republicans could do to stop the Democrats from pushing for recall was to argue that their paperwork was filed incorrectly and late. The GAB reviewed that claim and dismissed it quickly. The Democrats, though, made much different – and much more serious – claims of corruption against the Republicans. Again from the Journal-Sentinel:

“The Democrats filed affidavits from people who signed petitions against Democrats saying they were misled into doing so by being told the petitions were in support of tribal rights, in support of doing work at a park and to recall a Republican, rather than a Democrat. The Democrats contend fraud was so rampant that the recalls should be halted, even though they did not challenge enough individual signatures to put the Democrats below the number needed for a recall.”

It’s understandable that the GAB wants to take their time in getting the job done right here. What’s interesting to note is that, like we pointed out earlier, the GAB didn’t just say they needed more time, they said they needed more time because of “numerous factual and legal issues” surrounding the petitions. Meaning the claims that the Democrats were making must have some weight behind them and can’t be totally false. The GAB looked into the situation and found some truth to the claims, and now needs more time to gather further information. The fact that these claims have any truth to them is downright scary. That Republicans would go so far as to flat-out lie and swindle the public they’re trying to represent just to stay in power is outright disgraceful and abhorrent. That is corruption on the highest level, and if any of it turns out to be true, then yes, the recalls against the Democratic Senators should be thrown out immediately and that story should be plastered all over the news – especially right before people go to vote for the recall elections on July 12th, so they know exactly what type of person – and party – they’re voting for.

Finally, we’ve definitely saved the best for last. We’ve said earlier that the GAB is over-worked and under-staffed, and that they’re doing a Herculean job just to accomplish what they have the past few months. But you would think that if they knew they’d have so many projects coming up that they could get some extra help, right? Why didn’t the GAB request additional resources and staff like other governmental agencies to in times of need? Well, as it turns out, the GAB did make such a request. Almost two months ago. From the GAB:

“The Board anticipated difficulty in dealing with this unprecedented workload, and on March 10, 2011, requested a supplemental appropriation of $40,800 from the Joint Committee on Finance under Section 13.10 to acquire the necessary resources to review, analyze and determine the sufficiency of numerous legislative recall petitions.  The Committee has not yet acted on the Board’s request.”

Given the fact that the GAB was verifying what amounted to five different elections at the time (on top of everything else the GAB is expected to do), that request was not unreasonable. So why would the Joint Committee on Finance not simply extend the funds to the GAB and help them clear up this matter? The answer is quite simple, and only requires you to look at who happens to sit on the Joint Finance Committee from the Senate.

Do the names Darling, Olsen, Harsdorf and Hopper ring a bell? They should: those are four of the six Republican Senators currently facing recall. That’s right – of the eight members that serve from the Senate on the Joint Committee on Finance, half of them are facing recall. So when the government body that’s in charge of verifying the recall elections asks for more money from the people who are being recalled, it’s no surprise that they simply haven’t had time to approve the funds yet. The irony is that, because of their blatant corruption and abuse of power, the Republicans have only hurt themselves: had they simply approved the funds, perhaps this issue could have been resolved long ago and all the elections could take place on the same day. Now, because the Senate Republicans decided to be corrupt and abuse their position and the power that comes with it, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. To make matters worse, they’re claiming that it’s the GAB’s fault that things have turned out they way they have. The lying Republicans have no one to blame but themselves, and it’s a good thing they’re being recalled if this is what they think business as usual looks like.

The Senate Republicans are led by a man (Scott Fitzgerald) whose blatant disregard for the law has already caused the Governor’s landmark revocation of collective bargaining rights to be thrown out in court because he willfully violated the state’s constitution in doing so. Both Fitzgerald and his Republican cronies in the Senate have repeatedly lied to the public from the first day they campaigned to the time they voted on the Budget Repair Bill to now, where they lied so that they could attempt to remove Democrats from office illegally and keep their own jobs in the most unethical and illegitimate way possible. They have done everything possible to disgrace not only their position and title, but the people of Wisconsin, this great state itself and democracy as a whole. They are the most vile and repulsive creatures to ever set foot in our distinguished capitol, and the only regret our writer has about this entire process is that he can’t help to vote each and every one of them out of office for the crimes they have committed. The fact that they were elected to one of the highest positions in the state is a joke, but no one is laughing. The only good news is that on July 12th, the joke is finally over for these clowns.

And we’ll be gunning for the ringleader of this circus come November 2nd.

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