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EMILY'S POST: Thoughtful commentary on politics, current events and culture in Madison
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Emily's Post: Unions more transparent than corporate front groups, voter intimidation continues
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Divide and conquer Wisconsin

The Men Behind the Curtain are clever, I'll give them that. I won't call them Republicans or any other specific name, though, because there are members of the MBC from all political parties. The only real requirement is a passion for shaping the world to fit your specific desires. And the MBC's campaign to rig the game in their favor is being waged on multiple fronts: Deregulate at all costs, but be sure to distract, too, with accusations and demonizing rhetoric against any organization or person that might be able to shed light on your shenanigans.

That's the way you get things done, and a little assistance from media is crucial. For instance: An article titled "Groups have local names, but national money: Unions funneling millions to 'We Are' campaigns in battleground states" immediately leads readers into the piece with a bias.

Jason Stein, writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, probably didn't come up with the name of the article -- that's rarely the author's job. It's also possible that the severe slant of the piece itself wasn't his doing; editors can do funny things to articles before final publication.

Whatever the case, the end result is a piece that tries desperately to paint spending by national unions at the state level as having dark, nefarious influence on our democracy. But the argument is severely flawed.

Even making the comparison between union money and the cash raised and spent by Super PACs and other interest groups is apples and oranges. National unions get their money from union members, who voluntarily pay dues that go toward funding the larger group that advocates on their behalf. Basically, individual members pay for the service of better representation in their line of work. In return these unions are channeling some of that money into groups fighting to restore their very ability to provide that representation in the first place.

Unions also disclose their big funding sources, very much unlike groups like Club for Growth Wisconsin, whose spokeswoman, Deb Jordahl, is quoted extensively in the MJS article. She criticizes the 'We Are' groups as fronts for union brass, saying "They aren't Wisconsin. They aren't Ohio. They aren't Illinois. They're Washington, D.C. They're national special-interest groups." The depths of hypocrisy in that statement are fathomless.

Yes, thanks to the collapse of campaign finance laws in this country, unions -- just like corporations -- may engage in unlimited spending. Unlike corporations and groups like CFGW, however, unions have to disclose much of their internal operations:

While [unions] aren't required by the FEC or IRS to disclose donors, a separate piece of federal law, the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, requires that unions disclose allsources of income that adds up to more than $5,000, a requirement overseen by the Department of Labor. As a result, unions disclose more than many political groups about their internal operations, and certainly more than than do 501(c)(4) nonprofits…

...like CFGW, for instance. And whereas We Are Wisconsin organized as a traditional PAC and is therefore required to disclose its donors and place limits on the amount of contributions that can come in, CFGW remains in the shade:

According to campaign finance rules, 'issue ad' groups such as Club for Growth Wisconsin do not have to disclose donors and can accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals. In this way, donors from around the country can contribute anonymously to campaign entities that support their interests. The public never has to know their involvement.

Further, the MBC are working to make it even easier for groups like CFGW to operate in total stealth mode. A bill going before the Assembly today (AB196), if passed, would "rescind and limit the Government Accountability Board's authority to make rules regarding limits and reporting of Campaign Contributions by Corporate entities." In other words, more freedom for groups like CFGW to go on pouring millions of dollars of in- and out-of-state money into Wisconsin races. But they'd rather you worried about the unions, who are simply doing the job their members essentially hired them to do, instead of troubling yourself over their own activities.

Club for Growth Wisconsin, after all, has been hot and heavy in our elections.

Even better, AB196, like so many of the bills being rushed through the Legislature these days, was passed out of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) on the usual party line vote and without any public hearing. Can't have any more of that meddlesome public input or protest, after all.

Clever, clever.

At-Will Wisconsin: You can be fired for encouraging people to help other people vote

Excuse me if you've heard this one before (I was busy getting married this past weekend so I'm still getting caught up with the rest of the world), but I wanted to make sure everyone had read about this.

An LTE employee of the Department of Safety and Professional Services, Chris Larsen, was fired late last week for sending out an email to his coworkers urging them to help eligible voters obtain the free voter ID card guaranteed to them by law but being kept on the down-low by DOT and DMV officials.

Larsen was (understandably) angry at a memo sent out by Steve Krieser, executive assistant to the DOT secretary, that told all DOT and DMV staff "not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge -- unless they know to ask for it."

Krieser, it should be noted, previously worked as a Republican chief of staff for former state Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis).

This incident highlights two important changes: The far right agenda to disenfranchise as many liberal-leaning and/or minority voters as possible -- all under the auspices of preventing (non-existent) "voter fraud" -- and the severe partisanship now being injected into formerly neutral state organizations like the DSPS.

The DSPS had been a relatively small, under-the-radar outfit called the Department of Regulation and Licensing -- until the Walker Administration earlier this year dissolved the Department of Commerce and divvied up its duties to a sort of merged grouping of other departments and the brand new, public/privateWisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Since then upper management seems to have been taken over by partisans with little knowledge of how the departments work and little desire to learn. Morale is low, and the firing of Larsen has likely only made matters worse for those simply trying to do the day-to-day work of the department without political interference.

That partisan gamesmanship seems to be de rigueur in the management of basic governmental services is ridiculous. That a state agency, of all places, would fire someone for encouraging the enfranchisement of fellow citizens is beyond disappointing, and completely unacceptable.

Worth watching

What are you doing this Saturday? I mean aside from checking out Fighting Bob Fest.

Take the Square Wisconsin. You know it's been too long since you've visited the Capitol.

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