Wisconsin's sexy-time senators
Glue a pair of wings to a pig and let 'er fly because I'm about to agree with Scott Walker.
In an interview with WKOW a couple of days ago, the governor said he was likely to veto a provision in the state budget that would severely limit the public's access to legislator's financial records.
If left as-is, the budget would require anyone seeking public official's statements of economic interests to travel all the way to the Government Accountability Board's offices in Madison to view them. Currently you can make the request and have them sent electronically.
"The public deserves to know what we're spending money on," Walker said. "And it deserves to know what elected officials are doing in terms of their finances."
What an entirely reasonable and ethical -- if not terribly controversial -- stance to take. Groups and individuals of all political stripes have expressed skepticism, if not outright disapproval, over the change.
Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has been one of the provisions most vocal backers, claiming that making the records so readily available might give competitors of his gourmet popcorn business an inside track on his customers.
Another member of the committee who voted for the provision is recalled Senator Robert Cowles. You might remember Cowles as the guy who was outed for holding upwards of $50,000 in porn industry stock.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice followed the story back in 2008. Shortly after word got out about the stocks Cowles claimed that he had sold all of them:
Cowles was calling to say his San Diego-based broker had sold all of the senator's shares of Rick's Cabaret International and VCG Holding, two publicly traded companies that run upscale strip clubs around the country.
Rick's Cabaret also holds an annual Gentleman's Club Owners Expo and publishes several magazines, including TEEZE and Exotic Dancer. The Web sites run by the company include names such as "coupletouch," a site for swingers; "naughtybids," an online auction site for pornographic items and services; and "xxxpassword," which gives subscribers entry to unlimited porn sites for $39.95 a month.
No Quarter disclosed Monday that Cowles had invested more than $50,000 in the two firms, according to his latest ethics filing. He has held VCG Holding stock for at least two years.
Cowles was quoted as saying, "I'm not happy with this. This is embarrassing," which might well explain his seeming enthusiasm for the sunlight killing provision.
It's uncertain if Cowles still has any financial interests in these companies (Politiscoop.com writer Paul Tascoupe seems to think there's a possibility Cowles simple folded the stocks into a blind trust, and his calls to the senator's office met with non-answers).
Certainly it would have been far more difficult for such a story to have broken in the first place if this proposed change had been in place in 2008. And if Cowles does still have any less-than savory stock holdings then placing these roadblocks would make it harder for anyone to find out in the future.
Fortunately this may be one of several provisions headed for the cutting room floor as Walker reviews the budget before signing. The cynic in me simply thinks that vetoing such extreme measures doesn't take much in the way of gumption or leadership -- but I'll still be glad to see them go.
Meanwhile, you can still search an index of the statements of economic interests online here.
Fellow recall target Sen. Randy Hopper also appears to be up to more shenanigans. You see, protesters found out from his soon-to-be-ex-wife that he was no longer living at their house and was, allegedly, shacked up with his twenty-something Republican lobbyist mistress (who the Walker Administration helped get a job with the Department of Regulation and Licensing) in Madison -- meaning that he didn't reside in his district.
That's a big no-no in terms of whether he'd be eligible to even run again in his own recall.
The Hopper campaign hasn't been incredibly forthcoming with where he is living now, either, simply giving reporters and interested parties a "he's renting an apartment in his district" answer but never giving an actual address. In fact, the address on his candidacy papers is still the old one where his wife lives.
Recently, however, Blogging Blue received an invitation to a fundraising dinner "at the home of State Sen. Randy Hopper" that lists his address as N6429 Danny Lane, Fond du Lac. That would put him back in his district, but the questions start when you actually look up who owns that property.
According to the Fond du Lac County Land Records System, the property located at N6429 Danny Lane in Fond du Lac is listed as being owned by Victoria A. Sadoff, and no record of any sale of the property is available with Fond du Lac County. The property's deed remains in Victoria Sadoff's name, and according to a clerk any property sale is posted almost immediately, so unless Randy Hopper bought the property at N6429 Danny Lane in the past four days, it certainly would appear he's crashing at someone else's house and calling it home.
Jesse Russell at Dane101 read the Sadoff name and recognized it as that of the wife of former Badger Liquor CEO Ronald Sadoff, since deceased. Fun to note is that the Sadoffs and Badger Liquor have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Hopper, most of it just since March of this year.
This is notable for two reasons:
The first is that Badger Liquor stands to benefit greatly from the proposed (and much-maligned) budget provision affecting craft breweries in Wisconsin -- something Hopper has readily supported. You can read a good analysis of why the amendment would create an unfair playing field of independent brewers looking to distribute without having to go through the big guys in the state here.
Secondly, then, is the question of whether or not Hopper is actually living at the address -- is he paying rent? At least in the process of buying it for fair market value? Anything else would reek of graft.
It's hard to know for sure when no one will confirm where the guy lives.
Never mine the bollocks
Looks like reports of Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) putting the brakes on its plans to dig a big hole up north were well-founded. I wrote about the proposed iron mining project and legislation in my last post.
GTAC had been pushing for a bill that would have severely limited the DNR's role in the permitting process, speeding it up so much that it would have pretty much eliminated public input and oversight.
State Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar), himself a supporter of the project, even warned the company "to shoot for getting a new bill in the fall session, which would give the public a full discussion on this issue."
The company is apparently turning its attention to sites in Minnesota and Michigan in the meantime, but you can bet they'll be back. It's hard to walk away from billions of dollars in ore.
I'm hopeful that this is all for the best, though. Additional time is needed to see that any legislation affecting mining permits and regulations is well-thought out and fair to all parties. That means balancing the economic interests of a particular industry with the economic and environmental interests of the community.
Rushing through such a bill would be foolhardy at best, dangerous at worst.
The bill will likely resurface, in one form or another, after the recalls elections are finished this fall.