Sunday, June 22, 2014

Walkergate: Two Good Reads

In the onslaught of Scott Walker's damage control propaganda, which has been forwarded unquestioningly by the corporate media, it is easy to lose the ramifications of the revelations and ramifications of the latest document release of the Walkergte saga.  Fortunately, there are plenty of progressive writers that are also keeping track of these issues.  Two of these have written very good posts which the gentle reader should take a few minutes to read.

The first one of these is heralded by the return of Mike Plaisted, who has returned from a long hiatus from writing, and comes out with a very well written post shining the light on how deeply Walker is in trouble:
In fact, if Walker ever exits the cocoon of Fox News and talk radio where he has lived since Thursday and talks to a legitimate news reporter again, someone should ask him about the details of what exactly he was doing back then that he is now so proud of, now that the case is "over", as Walker falsely declared to his friendly interviewers in his desperate last couple of days..  "Was your campaign coordinating with the outside groups, governor?  When did it start?", etc.  I'll bet he doesn't answer the question -- he'd be crazy to do so.

The reason is because Walker and his lawyers know very well that the case is far from "over".   The lawyers for the dark money operators managed to convince one friendly federal judge and one state judge of their novel theory that the part of the state statutes prohibiting coordination between campaigns and outside groups, as written and as always interpreted, was unconstitutional.   But it is by no means guaranteed that the conclusion that dark money groups and campaigns can coordinate with dark money all they want as long as the dark money ads don't say "vote for Walker" will stand in the Courts of Appeals or even the post-Citizens United Supreme Court.

It is not Federalist Society activist Judge Rudy Randa who is going to have the last word on this -- it will be Justice Anthony Kennedy. As an excellent New York Times editorial noted this morning: "Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy promised in 2010 that there was nothing to fear from independent spending groups that raised unlimited dollars. Because they could not coordinate with political candidates, he wrote in the Citizens United decision, they 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'" Having written that, how could Kennedy now follow the right-wing of the Court off the cliff by saying that anything goes for anyone with a checkbook and a candidate in their pocket? Hopefully, the bright line of campaign coordination with dark money is one the Fifth Justice will not cross.
The other post I would point out to the gentle reader is from Jake at his Funhouse. Jake brings up a number of good points, but the second one is the one that really caught my eye:
2. A claim by the Walker folks and other right-wing oligarchs is that the governor's campaign collaborating with "issue advocacy" ("tax cuts are good") is OK vs "express advocacy" (i.e. "vote for/against Walker"). The prosecutors say the problem with that thinking is that this defense was thrown out 15 years ago in case involving a fake front group set up by Mark Block, aka "the Smoking Man" for Herman Cain, (called the Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation) could not coordinate with Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign blog has a good rundown of how that played out.
It has been settled law in Wisconsin that this prohibition on coordination between candidates and interest groups applies to organizations doing election-related "issue advocacy." Application of the coordination ban to so-called "issue ad" groups was challenged in the late 1990s in the case involving a group that was found to be coordinating with Justice Jon Wilcox’s 1997 campaign for reelection to the state Supreme Court.

State election authorities heavily fined both Wilcox’s campaign as well as political operative Mark Block, who ran the issue ad-sponsoring Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation. At the time, the fines were the largest in state history for campaign finance violations. Block also was banned from involvement in Wisconsin elections for three years. The state's enforcement actions were contested in court, and ultimately were upheld in a 1999 ruling.
After Block's three-year ban ended, he signed on as the director of the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity chapter in Wisconsin (I'm sure that's just coincidence). And there as Mike McCabe mentions in the article, the endgame for the Koch crowd is to eradicate any laws relating to coordination and the subsequent disclosure of donors' names.

There's a second question that should be answered here. Given that the recall election loophole enabled candidates to raise unlimited funds, why did R.J. Johnson and others launder money like this? The only answer I can come up with is to hide the names of the donors to Walker and the GOP Senators, and to allow those people to write off taxes as a "donation" to these alleged social welfare groups. Which would be right down the Kochs' alley.
Given that the special interests' arguments aren't going to hold up in a court of law, it's not a big surprise that Walker and his propagandists are presenting with a rather desperate appearance in their flailing around.


  1. Thanks.

    I would add that a lot of folks in the Tea Party are none too pleased to learn that Walker was emailing Karl Rove. Add to that, a lot of these groups got 100% of their funds from the oligarchs. That's the textbook definition of astroturf. Ms. Burke's silence on those two issues hurts the Democratic party and hurts the 99%.

  2. Non-profit special interest group 'donations' are tax deductible? Outstanding!! I can now donate to Walker and write it off on my income taxes so my $10,000 donation will save me $3,000 in income taxes. Umm, can I still get a signed picture with the guv and my family? Hope so.

  3. Ms. Burke is smart. This is an issue between Walker and the criminal justice system and our election laws, between Walker's dishonesty and the people of Wisconsin. It's not a mere campaign issue. When your opponent is hanging himself, don't get in the way. AnonyBob

  4. I know Walker and company are trying to convince us that the 3rd party coordination was just expressed advocacy and they were not trying to influence votes, therefore what they did should be legal.

    However, the money that was contributed to Wisconsin Club for Growth, that was transferred to Strong America, that was transferred to other 3rd party groups was used for an absentee ballot program. If Scott Walker and his campaign knew this is what was going on, I would think that's where there is a clear violation of the law. Any thoughts on this?