Friday, January 17, 2014

Wisconsin sold to Business and Wealthy Contributors, who are now writing state Laws. People still allowed to vote in smaller numbers, but for how long?

Ruth Conniff, the editor of The Progressive, wrote this nice summation of Wisconsin's now pay to play political environment, a system Scott Walker brags could be the model for the rest of the country. From the Isthmus Daily Page:
You have to hand it to them -- at least they're consistent. If there's an issue that pits the interests of ordinary Wisconsinites against those of a wealthy elite, you can count on our leaders in the statehouse to defend the rich and corporations against kids, low-wage workers and the uninsured.

1. Take Assembly Bill 540, Rep. Joel Kleefisch's bold initiative to defend the interests of stingy millionaire dads. It just so happens that Michael Eisenga maxed out on campaign contributions to Kleefisch six times. He also gave $7,500 to Kleefisch's wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and $15,000 to Gov. Scott Walker. But this is more than one isolated story. It's actually the new model for how Republicans do business in our state.

2. Take the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which has been handing out money to companies that happen to be big Republican donors, on the theory that these incentives will induce the "job creators" to create some jobs. Instead, the agency lost a lot of the money, gave it to companies for jobs that existed before the program went into effect, and bought Badger tickets and iTunes gift cards for staff. The net effect? Wisconsin lags the region in job creation and had the highest number of unemployment claims in the nation in November. So what does the Legislature do? It releases millions to the WEDC to keep up the good work.

3. The drive to do away with the weekend is another example of our pay-to-play government at work. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's biggest business lobby and a major Republican contributor, is pushing for the law so that employers can "allow" their employees to work seven days a week. Sen. Glenn Grothman makes no bones about the fact that WMC came up with the idea.

4. The privatization of our public schools in Wisconsin follows the same pattern. The powerful school privatization lobby, which now employs three former Assembly speakers who walk the halls of the Capitol and twist arms, ranks with the WMC as a top donor to state Republicans and is pushing for profit-making education companies to get a piece of the state's public-school funds.

An Assembly committee last week took up a bill that would make it easier for independent, profit-making charter schools to proliferate, without oversight by local school boards and communities. These schools take money right off the top of state education funds, draining money from every public school in the state. Rocketship lobbied for the bill and appears to be its primary beneficiary. In an offhand remark during the debate on a companion measure in the Senate, Sen. Luther Olsen commented, "We're just doing this for Rocketship," according to one of his Democratic colleagues on the committee.

What's amazing about all this is how flagrant Republicans are about pushing legislation that narrowly benefits their own benefactors -- at great cost to the taxpayers, public school kids and regular citizens of the state. How long can we sustain this kleptocracy before there's nothing left?

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