Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Could Chris Abele Buy Another Election?

In 2011, when Scott Walker had the governor's seat bought for him, it opened up a special election in Milwaukee County to replace him as county executive..  There were three primary opponents.  On the left were Chris Abele and Jim Sullivan.  Coming in from right field was Jeff Stone, Walker Clone.

Even after spending truckloads of his own cash, Abele barely eked past Sullivan in the primary.  In the
general election, Abele was able to ably defeat Stone by promising not to be another Walker.  If only we knew then what we know now.

I bring this bit of history up because of an article by Jack Carver, writing for the Cap Times, who pondered if Abele would have had a shot at being the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.  What he found was not promising for the Milwaukee County Emperor:
But to many Democrats, toning down the criticism of Abele would be tantamount to betraying
the party. The contempt many activists hold for Abele oozed in responses to a question I asked about Abele's political future on Facebook.

“Chris Abele might be the biggest phony in the history of Democratic politics,” responded Joe Wineke, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, who is similarly unimpressed with the County Board’s behavior.

Brennan Balestrieri, a Milwaukee progressive activist who managed Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson’s first campaign for office in 2010, not only called Abele’s Democratic credentials a joke, but said Abele is doing everything in his power to prevent other Democrats from making an impact on the state.

“Democrats use the Milwaukee County Board as a farm league to get passionate public servants like Sen. Nikiya Harris and Sen. Chris Larson experience and poised for higher office,” he explained. “Abele answered the prayer of ALEC, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the GOP by removing one of the few, scant pulpits progressives enjoy.” 
By supporting the GOP on the County Board downsizing bill, Abele likely knew he was kissing certain political alliances goodbye. That’s presumably why the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign campaign finance database shows that after giving gobs of money to Democratic candidates over the past decade, Abele finally wrote his first checks to two GOP candidates last year — $500 to state Reps. Joe Sanfelippo of West Allis and Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield.
Carver also cited Louis Weisberg of the Wisconsin Gazette, who wrote an article gushing in favor of Abele, mostly because he had given tens of thousands of dollars to LGBT causes.

There is no denying that Abele has given a lot of money to the LGBT cause and has promoted marriage equality.  Abele's most progressive feat was to open the door for domestic partners of Milwaukee County employees to get health care benefits.

But even his stalwart support for the LGBT community doesn't come without some caveats.  As noted in Carver's article, Abele gave money to Sanfelippo and Kooyenga, two of the most rabid anti-gay politicians in the state legislature. We also must not forget that Abele was one of the cosponsors for a fundraiser for his wholly-owned supervisor, Deanna "Purple Unicorn" Alexander.  Alexander is strongly homophobic and even drove to Racine to show off her bigotry.

Abele supporters have argued that the little bit of money given to the anti-gay law makers is nothing compared to what he has done for the cause, which is true to a point. But one must keep in mind that the money he gave the pro-equality groups is the equivalent of one of us giving away five or ten dollars.  Secondly, these were legislators, who pass the hate-filled laws of the land, that he was giving money too, thereby defeating the purpose of giving money to the LGBT groups.

And it's not just the LGBT community that Abele has betrayed in just the past two years.

He had promised his friendship to the veterans in Milwaukee County.  But he then disregarded their requests when it came to the War Memorial Center.  He also cut off many of the supports, like mental health and substance abuse counseling, on which may vets are reliant.

Abele alienated the African American and Hispanic groups when he took away their voice by gutting the County Board and all but eliminating representative government.

Abele has also angered many women with his misogynistic attack - one in a series of many - against Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic on Pay Equality Day of all days.

Heck, Abele has even stiffed the art crowd, yanking funding from under them without warning or thought.

Workers of both the public and private sectors have tasted bitter betrayal from Abele as well.

In March of 2011, the Labor Press quoted Abele as saying:
"The crisper Chris Abele, who seems to have gained a directness of words from the rigors of campaigning, was on view at the South Shore Forum on Economic Development March 16, when he was asked from the audience to name several ways he differed from Scott Walker.

“First, I believe in collective bargaining for all workers,” Abele said forcefully – and the South Side crowd jumped with thunderous applause, to the chagrin of the waiting Jeff Stone, also at the forum.

Abele explained how he knew “from personal experience as a manager” the truth that cooperation in bargaining was better. He recalled when he was on the Milwaukee Symphony board years ago during a major economic crisis. The organization got through and emerged stronger because many savings along with good ideas came from the musicians – and Abele and the board made sure they were given credit for the solutions. This was across the bargaining table because the musicians are a hard-nosed American Federation of Musicians local.
Eighteen months later after, Abele won reelection, he was singing the praise of Act 10, which ended the collective bargaining he praised while first running for the seat. It should also be noted that one of the reasons Abele and the GMC gave for their power grab is that they felt county workers weren't being punished enough. This is in spite of the fact that county workers have had pay cuts more than twice that state workers were getting.  There are Milwaukee County employees who are already eligible for public assistance, along with their publicly funded paychecks.  How's that for efficiency?

Likewise, Abele has come out against the workers at Palermo's, saying that they should be thankful for their minimum wage jobs, which come complete with major job safety violations.  More recently, he's also come out against low wage workers like hotel maids and in favor of the people that would exploit them to enhance their own riches.

After alienating all these groups, Abele would be hard pressed to win a position of dog catcher in the next election, despite all of his wealth.  In fact, it is his wealth that is the only thing allowing him to stay in office this far.  Between pandering to some groups with is checkbook while attempting to punish others by putting financial pressures on those who would oppose him, Abele has done his own version of "divide and conquer."

There is a saying that when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.

Apparently we can now say that when plutocracy comes to Milwaukee County, it will be wrapped in a rainbow flag and brandishing a platinum card.

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