Good news for people who like bad news about Walker!
(No, this is not about Modest Mouse.)
Earlier this morning, a major campaign donor to Gov. Walker was charged with not one but two felony counts for violating campaign finance laws. See, I just thought that little Scottie as a kid never got that train set he wanted for Christmas, and ever since he’s harbored a grudge against locomotives; and that’s why he turned down nearly a billion dollars in stimulus money for light rail between Madison and Milwaukee. Turns out, he just has a motive that’s loco. The president and CEO of Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co., William Gardner, last year shook his employees down to donate directly to then candidate Walker’s campaign, a sum resulting in $43,800 — eerily enough, only $800 more than what the Koch Bros’ donated to Walker. The thing is, in Wisconsin it’s illegal to direct company cash to campaign coffers. (At least until conservatives figure a way around this one, too, by way of the newly popular filthy lucre = free speech equation.)
Again, this all happened nearly a year ago, in May of 2010. It’s only today that Gardner was officially charged.
It’s important to point out that Walker returned this money last year. Whether Gardner will be asked to testify against Walker remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely. But who knows…? Also, it’s possible that Walker is perfectly innocent in this. (I know — yeah right.) It’s interesting that this is coming from a guy who runs trains though. Would Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co. have been left out, had the light rail train been given the green light, and was that part of their contribution to Walker initially? Who knows. Maybe it’s neither here nor there, but the coincidence stops you in the tracks…
This is what democracy looks like… Seriously?!?
If you’re like me (and my deepest sympathy if you are), you’ve been wondering one of two things:
#1 Why the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is holding only four public hearings around the state, i.e., outside of the state Capitol in Madison (where the first time they did this officially, it lasted some seventeen hours til 3 in the morning), in Arcadia, Minong, Stevens Point, and West Ellis (here‘s a primitive map); and
#2 Why, with the exception of the state fairgrounds in West Ellis — just outside of Milwaukee — the locations for these hearings are in “population-challenged” places.
Wisconsin’s a big state and hardly lacking in sizable cities. So, why not Lacrosse instead of Arcadia, or Superior instead of Minong, or Wausau instead of Stevens Point? Or most obvious of all, Milwaukee instead of just outside of Milwaukee? (This last one especially has caught some flak.) And why only four locales? Why not one for the Fox cities and one for Green Bay, one for Eau Claire, or Janesville, or Kenosha? I’m all for bringing democracy to the people in Podunkia; it’s populism at its core. (Seriously, Arcadia and Minong?!? How many people even know where those tiny towns are in the first place?) But these ain’t ye olde town hall meetings in whistle-stop Vermont. This is active skirting and lip (-stick on a pig) service, where the two chairs on the JFC — Senator Alberta Darling and Assemblyman Robin Vos, Republicans both and both representing/residing in southeastern Wisconsin — are going on some kind of PR tour to give the appearance of doing the right thing, when in fact it’s pure pretense at best and perfunctory at worst.
Worse even still, the session scheduled for Arcadia was canceled last week; thus there will be none for western Wisconsin. (For what it’s worth, the event is being moved to Neenah, which will be more pragmatic in terms of population area, but why are the two mutually exclusive?) State Senator Kathleen Vinehout-D, decrying this discrepant slight, has instead scheduled “unofficial” hearings in Lacrosse and Eau Claire. See her website for more info.
And let’s add a third thing to wonder with this:
#3 Why not hold these spectacle “hearings” NOT when people are at work, but rather hold them during the evening, or better yet, on the weekend?
As I write this the hearing in West Ellis is happening…though not for much longer. As of noon, co-chair Vos decided to cut off anyone “new” who wants to register to speak. This is not so strangely reminiscent of nearly two months to the day, when Vos and Darling decided unilatelly to cut off further debate, period, at 3:00 am — with no intention whatsoever of taking a much needed break and merely resuming the following morning.
Democracy, it looks like, has a curfew.