Dylan Brogan, Madison’s most intrepid reporter, happened to catch right wing talk show host Vicki McKenna’s afternoon program while flipping through the dials last Friday.
On this day, McKenna was talking about the turmoil in Ferguson Missouri over a police officer shooting an unarmed teen that was, according to the police officer, attacking the police officer. McKenna repeatedly suggested that the police officer was in the right, simply defending himself, and the protests were completely unwarranted.
In a previous reporting endeavor, Brogan had obtained a police report that indicated that McKenna was charged during a 1997 U2 concert for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for altercations with police officers, security guards and fellow concert goers. With this in mind, he was amazed by McKenna’s bravado in defending the police officer’s use of deadly force with an allegedly combative perpetrator.
A little background: Brogan is a progressive-leaning reporter that previously worked as a reporter at WEKZ during the Wisconsin protests. He also was progressive radio host John “Sly” Sylvester’s producer for several years. During the 2011 protests, McKenna was Walker’s biggest cheerleader and even went as far as to say that Madison fire fighters and police officers were “heroes no more” because of their pro-union actions during the protests.
So, Brogran called into the show, posing as “George,” and brought up the 1997 altercation and asked if lethal force would have been a reasonable response when she “hit that cop”:
A clearly angered McKenna responded: "I didn’t hit a cop! …that never happened… I didn’t hit anybody." McKenna then went on to shout that nothing in the police report says anything about her hitting a police officer and that all the claims over the years that she had hit a police officer were “slander,” “defamation” and a “lie” and that she got the disorderly conduct charge simply because she was “mouthing-off” to police officers.
On the next call, McKenna compares the distortion of the “actual events” in Ferguson to the left’s distortion of her 1997 disorderly conduct arrest, saying, "that idiot that just called and propagated a lie that’s been spread for 18 years— this is what the Left does."
So what does that police report say happened at that 1997 U2 concert? The report says that McKenna was removed from the concert when she “scratched” and “fought with” a Per Mar security officer that was trying to separate her from another concert-goer, with whom she was involved in a separate altercation.
Because of her physical altercation with the security officers, a “thrashing” McKenna was turned over to UW campus police and the UW campus police said she “struggled with us the same as she had with Per Mar” when they tried to move her another area of the concert. In response, the UW campus police had to put restraints on her hands.
Later, the report says the officers tried to eject McKenna from the concert, but she refused to leave and "brought her arm up, struck out with her hand out toward chief Clemens’ head. At the end of her reach, she made a forward swipe with her hand." Clemens told the officer writing the report that she "made contact with his ear when she swung at him."
For this behavior, McKenna was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
LIKE/SHARE: From WI Radio Network — “Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, said the latest round of court records “show massive sums of money were solicited and received on Gov. Walker’s behalf from millionaires, billionaires and special interests across the country, including from groups that subsequently received significant changes in state law to benefit them.” MORE: http://ift.tt/1zvtSmR http://ift.tt/1wulhVh
The 5-2 ruling upholds the signature policy achievement of Walker in its entirety and is a major victory for the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, who is seeking re-election this year.
The ruling also marks the end of the three-year legal fight over the union rights law, which prohibits public worker unions for collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeals court twice upheld the law as constitutional.
"No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
The high court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers. They had argued that the law, which came to be known as Act 10, violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.
Walker’s spokeswoman said the governor would be issuing a statement later Thursday morning.
Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011, a move that was met with fierce resistance from teachers, other public workers and their supporters who flooded the Capitol for weeks in an effort to block the bill’s passage. Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage.
The law bars automatic withdrawals from members’ paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want their unions to go on representing them. It also requires public employees to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs, moves that Walker said helped local governments and schools save enough money to deal with other cuts done to balance a state budget shortfall.
Walker’s opponent for re-election, Democrat Mary Burke, supports the higher pension and health insurance contributions. But while she supports restoring collective bargaining, Burke has not promised to work for the repeal of Act 10 if elected.
Walker was forced to stand for recall in 2012, a move largely motivated out of anger over the union law. He won, becoming the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.
The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but it’s withstood them all.
The state Supreme Court decided to take the case it ruled on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portions of the law were unconstitutional.
Gableman, who wrote the opinion, is part of the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the court’s two most liberal members, dissented. They argued the law unconstitutionally infringes on protected rights.
Scott Walker’s cronies have ruined Wisconsin once again. It’s time to get rid of him at the ballot box in November!
h/t: Scott Bauer at TPM
WASHINGTON — An investigation targeting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for alleged illegal coordination with independent conservative groups during his 2012 recall election has been thrown into limbo by a lawsuit that could turn into the next big challenge to campaign finance limits.
The case has the potential to blow a hole in anti-coordination rules in Wisconsin and beyond — a hole that would effectively wipe away campaign contribution limits by allowing candidates to control the unlimited and secret contributions raised by not-really-independent groups.
For the last few years, Wisconsin prosecutors have been looking into allegations that Walker and his aides illegally coordinated with a dozen groups, ranging from the Wisconsin Club for Growth to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, to support both the governor’s recall campaign and those of Republican state senators. After its offices were raided and documents seized by prosecutors, the Wisconsin Club for Growth sued, arguing that the investigation itself was a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
Moreover, the group contended it had not violated the state’s anti-coordination law because the ads it ran in coordination with the Walker camp constituted issue advocacy, which the group claims is not covered by the anti-coordination rules. While the ads named specific candidates for office, the group said, they did not rise to the level of electoral activity because they didn’t urge viewers to “vote for” or “vote against” anyone.
In January, a state judge agreed with the Wisconsin Club for Growth that Wisconsin law did not cover coordination between candidates and groups engaging in issue advocacy, even if the attack ads in question simply sidestepped the rules by avoiding the explicit “vote for/against” language.
In May, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa concurred with the state judge in a far more sweeping ruling. Analogizing the investigation to “attempts to purify the public square” that lead to “the Guillotine and the Gulag,” Randa suspended the probe and ordered that all evidence be returned immediately. He held that prosecutors’ interpretation of the state law as it might apply to Walker and the groups would violate their First Amendment rights — by taking campaign restrictions beyond the constitutional limit — and thus so did the investigation. The judge repeatedly referenced the restricted definition of political “corruption” laid out by the Supreme Court in its recent Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.
"The plaintiffs have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and that circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted," Randa wrote. "Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech, an activity that is ‘ingrained in our culture.’"
The case has moved to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which has already stayed Randa’s ruling, thereby allowing the investigation to continue. The prosecutors argue that the state’s anti-coordination law is meant to cover coordination of issue advocacy.
"If Randa’s ruling stands on appeal, then the rules against coordination between a candidate and outside groups would go out the window in Wisconsin," University of California-Irvine electoral law professor Rick Hasenwrote in Slate.
A recent report from professors Daniel Tojaki and Renata E.B. Strause of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law warned that campaigns and independent groups are already doing everything in their power to coordinate without technically breaking these rules. Campaign staff complain, however, that they can’t control the messages of the groups helping them.
"A frequent refrain from campaign staff was that even independent spending by ‘friendly’ sources was less useful than it could have been," the report states.
If it stands, Randa’s ruling would open the door to this kind of greater control in Wisconsin. If the case finds its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the five justices opposed to campaign finance limits could extend this loophole across the country.
Following Randa, the Supreme Court could find it unconstitutional to apply anti-coordination rules to issue advocacy in state and federal campaigns. This would essentially “eviscerate campaign contribution limits” across the country, Hasen told HuffPost.
There are national groups ready and willing to take advantage of another Supreme Court strike against campaign finance law.
In the 2014 midterm elections, groups controlled by the Kochs, including Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, have already spent tens of millions of dollars on ads attacking Democratic candidates in Senate battleground states. These ads are generally designed to meet the standards for issue advocacy.
In a world where the circumvention of coordination rules “should not and cannot be condemned or restricted,” as Randa wrote, the Koch-linked groups could coordinate messaging in these issue advocacy spots and plan advertising buys with the campaigns they support. In effect, federal candidates and their campaigns would be able to direct the operations of groups that can accept checks for $10 million or $20 million from secret donors.
That’s likely to sound a lot more tempting than running their election efforts through their own campaigns. After all, those campaigns are hampered: They have to abide by laws that limit them to a measly $5,200 per individual donor and require the public disclosure of the names of their donors.
A Wisconsin insurance executive and Republican donor was charged with voting illegally more than a dozen times in four elections.
The Journal-Sentinel reported that 50-year-old Robert Monroe was caught as a result of an investigation into a possible illegal voting by his son in Waukesha County. But after his son denied requesting an absentee ballot from his father’s address in Shorewood, suspicion turned to Monroe.
A complaint claimed that Monroe voted five times in Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) recalled election. He also was accused of voting illegally in a 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election, a 2012 primary, and the 2012 presidential election.
Although the complaint did not state who Monroe voted for, WISN determined that he had donated money to Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling.
Prosecutors used Monroe’s cell phone records to prove that he traveled all the way to Indiana to cast a second vote in the 2012 presidential election. Prosecutors also tested some of the ballots for genetic material, and only found DNA belonging to Monroe.
In May of 2012, prosecutors said that Monroe begged his ex-wife, sons and brother to register to vote in a text message.
“You must go to city hall and register to vote,” the message said. “Every vote will be needed!… Please please please.”
According to the complaint, Monroe worked as an executive in the health care industry. His LinkedIn page indicated that he was an insurance executive, who said he loved “the thrill of the hunt, leading teams and developing new business.”
For his part, Monroe insisted to investigators that he did not remember voting in the elections because he takes drugs for Attention Deficit and Obsessive Compulsive disorders.
Monroe faces 13 felony election fraud charges in all, including voting more than once, voting as a disqualified person, registering in more than one place, and providing false information to election officials. He could spend up to 18 months in prison, and pay a $10,000 fine for each charge.
His next court date was set for July 17.
Watch the video below from WISN, broadcast June 23, 2014.
Fair, impartial, hard-hitting journalists like David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network know how to ask the tough questions…and by that we mean feed politicians the answers.
When Brody — who we have recently seen lavishing praise on GOP politicians including Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Rand Paul — sat down with Sen. Ron Johnson at this weekend’s Road to Majority conference, he effectively gave the Wisconsin Republican talking points to respond to the controversy surrounding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s alleged illegal campaign coordination during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
“Do you feel like this is somewhat of a witch hunt?” Brody asked Johnson. “It seems to be interesting that this is a very complicated issue and I’m wondering, because you’re from Wisconsin, I thought I’d get your take on this.”
The senator — surprise! — responded that the embattled governor is indeed a victim of a “scurrilous,” “unconstitutional,” “political witch hunt” by prosecutors who are “abridging the right of free speech.”
“It absolutely is a witch hunt,” Johnson said. “They’ve dumped these documents — now I know it’s under court order — but you know they are calling it a potential criminal scheme. What it really is, it’s an unconstitutional scheme on the part of the prosecutors. I think the prosecutors are probably facing greater legal liability than anything.”
“We have basically criminalized political activity, we began to criminalize the exercising of free speech rights,” he added.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
#WIGov: Scott Walker says probe into his campaign finances is "resolved." | Rated: Pants On Fire False
A secret criminal investigation made national news with the disclosure that prosecutors had alleged Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and others.
But the next day, the Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said the John Doe probe had been resolved and that two judges had said it was “over.”
Here is part of the June 20, 2014 interview of Walker by Steve Doocy, host of the network TV talk show “Fox & Friends”:
Doocy: ”So, over the last couple of years, there’s been some legal action out in Wisconsin. And some of the documents were unsealed yesterday. We’ve got to point out, you were never charged with anything. But at one point, they allege that you had a central role in a criminal fund-raising scheme. OK, tell us what you did.”
Walker: ”Well, don’t just take my word for it. Look at the facts. The facts are pretty clear.
"You’ve had not one but two judges — a state judge and a federal judge; a state judge (who is) a well-respected court of appeals judge, and a federal judge more recently — have both looked at this argument. And in the past, not just recently — remember this is not new news, it’s just newly released yesterday because documents were opened — but no charges, case over.
"Both judges said they didn’t buy the argument. They didn’t think that anything was done that was illegal, and so they’ve gone forward and not only said, we don’t buy it, they actually shut the case down, both at the state and at the federal level.
"So, many in the national media and even some here in Wisconsin are looking at this (case) backwards. This is a case that’s been resolved, that not one but two judges have said is over. And we’re just learning about it because it became open in a document yesterday. But there is no argument there."
Is that it?
Is Walker right that the Doe case has been “resolved” and two judges have said it is “over”?
Experts say no. After all, one of the key court rulings that has stalled the investigation is a “preliminary injunction.” And that is on appeal.
What’s the case about?
Under Wisconsin law, a John Doe is “intended as an independent, investigatory tool to ascertain whether a crime has been committed and, if so, by whom.”
Unlike standard criminal investigations, law enforcement officials in a John Doe have special powers, including the power to compel the testimony of reluctant witnesses under oath and to issue subpoenas requiring witnesses to turn over documents.
Another key difference is that the judge overseeing a Doe can — and typically does — order that the proceedings be done in secret, unlike the vast majority of court proceedings.
Walker has been connected to two John Doe investigations.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, conducted a wide-ranging probe of aides and associates to Walker going back to Walker’s time as Milwaukee County executive. That investigation, sometimes known as John Doe I, led to six convictions, ranging from misconduct in office for campaigning on county time to stealing from a veterans fund.Walker was not charged, and that investigation was shut down in March 2013.
Before closing that probe, however, Chisholm launched a separate investigation in the summer of 2012 based on information learned in the first one. To get what has been termed John Doe II off the ground, Chisholm worked with district attorneys from four counties — members of both parties — and the state Government Accountability Board, which administers the state’s elections and ethics laws. Francis Schmitz, a former assistant U.S. attorney and self-described Republican, was named special prosecutor in the case.
Alleigh Marre, spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign, cited two court documents to back Walker’s claim. It’s not clear what she was referring to in the first document, a December 2013 court filing by Schmitz, and she didn’t respond to our request to elaborate.
The second document was a court order that John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson issued on Jan. 10, 2014. It quashed subpoenas that had been issued to Walker’s campaign and several conservative groups. And it ordered the return of any property seized with those subpoenas or with search warrants served on two officials of the groups.
But the order did not resolve the case.
Indeed, in his order, Peterson made reference to the possibility of his ruling be appealed. And the order has been challenged and is awaiting a ruling from the state Court of Appeals.
Other legal action
Another key ruling was made in federal court, by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa.
In February 2014, the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth and one of its directors, Eric O’Keefe sued in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee in an attempt to stop the Doe investigation, saying it violated their rights to free speech, free association and equal protection under the law.
Three months later, Randa issued a preliminary injunction halting the probe while he considered the lawsuit. He said it appeared prosecutors were violating the First Amendment rights of Club for Growth and O’Keefe. And he ordered prosecutors to return any material they had gathered in the investigation and destroy whatever copies of it they had made.
But as the term “preliminary injunction” would indicate, that did not mean the case had been resolved or was over.
Indeed, Randa’s ruling has been appealed and the parties are awaiting a decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Experts weigh in
We consulted five attorneys who have represented multiple clients in criminal John Doe investigations — Madison defense attorneys Marcus Berghahn and Stephen Morgan (Morgan is a former state and federal prosecutor); Milwaukee defense attorneys Jeremy Levinson, who also handles campaign finance cases for Democrats, and Raymond Dall’Osto; and Marquette University Law School professor and former state prosecutor Daniel Blinka.
Bottom line: The John Doe investigation case has been stopped for the time being, but it has not been resolved. The rulings by judges Peterson and Randa are not final and are being appealed. The appellate rulings could also be appealed.
And if the Chicago appeals panel overrules Randa, the investigation can resume.
"Once the Court of Appeals decides the merits of the case and if no party appeals the Court of Appeals’ decision, then it may be possible to say that the cases are over — unless the case is returned to the trial court or John Doe Judge for further litigation," said Berghahn.
Said Blinka: “The governor’s remark overlooks the role of the appellate courts. The final resolution is up to the appellate courts, and only when the appellate process has run its course will we have a final resolution.”
It’s notable that at times during his governorship, Walker has been in the position of supporting appeals when a lower-court ruling has gone against him.
In 2012, when judges struck down parts of Walker’s Act 10 — the law ending most collective bargaining for most public employees — the state appealed, and higher courts so far have upheld the law.
And on same-sex marriage, which Walker opposes, he didn’t concede that a ban on gay marriages was dead when a federal judge found Wisconsin’s ban unconstitutional. Indeed, he’s backing the state’s appeal of the judge’s ruling.
Similarly, the status of the Doe case is being hammered out in the appeals process.
Walker said the secret John Doe criminal investigation of his campaign has been “resolved” and two judges have said it is “over.”
His characterization is misleading at best. The investigation has been stopped, for now, under one judge’s ruling.
But the second ruling, while a serious blow, did not end the probe, and in any event prosecutors have appealed the two rulings Walker mentioned.
We rate Walker’s statement False.
h/t: PolitiFact Wisconsin
And he wants to be president!
He’s getting coal from Santa this Christmas.
Newly unsealed legal documents filed by the State of Wisconsin last December allege that key aides to Republican Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated campaign money and programs between several different groups. We took the information in the filing and diagrammed the alleged relationship.
At the center of all of the allegations are two aides to Walker: R. J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl. “For all practical purposes,” the document states, the organization Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) “‘was’ R. J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl.” It was formed as a 501(c)(4) non-profit, as was a sister organization, Citizens for Strong America. Johnson and Jordahl created CFSA; Johnson’s wife was its treasurer.
Johnson and Jordahl also worked as consultants for “Friends of Scott Walker”, the campaign committee defending Walker against a 2012 effort to recall him. Wisconsin state law (and most election law) prohibits agents of a campaign from coordinating with outside groups. This is usually an effort to maintain campaign finance laws: If a campaign could send staff to go tell outside groups, who don’t have any limits on the size of contributions they can accept, then campaign limits wouldn’t serve any purpose.
State prosecutors allege that this is essentially what Johnson and Jordahl did. Fundraisers raised money for both WiCFG and the Walker campaign. WiCFG provided 99.99 percent of CFSA’s funding. CFSA gave money to groups doing work on absentee ballots. WiCFG also gave money to a trade group that ran ads on behalf of Walker (and against opponents).
Johnson was also allegedly involved in either trying to get other organizations involved in the campaign work or directly consulting with other groups on other campaigns, like the Republican Senate Leadership Committee (indicated by the dashed circle at the top of the chart). The documents note that the national Club for Growth organization “raised concerns about coordination or interaction between WiCFG and FOSW as early as 2009.”
Last month, the judge that unsealed the new documents ruled that the probe into the Walker coordination claims should be halted. That decision is being appealed.
Hopefully he gets his ass voted out of office in November. Vote for Mary Burke (D)!!!
h/t: :Philip Bump at WaPo’s The Fix
In early August of 2011, a few days after Congress passed a deal to end the debt-ceiling showdown that brought the nation to the brink of credit default, a conservative talk-radio host in the Milwaukee suburbs went on an extended riff about Gwen Moore, the first African American elected to the House from Wisconsin.
Moore had missed the debt-ceiling vote, and her office explained that she had been unable to make her way through the massive crowd that gathered to celebrate Gabrielle Giffords’s triumphant return to the floor. This account provided an opening for radio host Mark Belling.
“She’s been in the Congress now for about ten years. During that time, she … has managed to be known for absolutely nothing,” Belling said. “Gwen Moore simply occupies a seat. A very large seat. … The woman is so fat and out of shape, she literally can’t get to the floor to vote anymore. … It’s time to vote and here’s Gwen: ‘I’m out of breath! Blew-ee, blew-ee!’ ” (Here Belling affected the exertions of an overweight black woman.) Or, he continued, perhaps there was another possibility: “What do you think the chances are she was sitting on the toilet? … Maybe Gwen was sitting there on the crapper and this was one that was not working out too well for her or something. ‘Blew-ee!’ ‘Congresswoman, you’ve got to vote.’ ‘I am sittin’ on de toilet!’ ” Belling concluded: “Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, got there, and voted. … Gwen Moore can’t waddle her way across the street.”
For Belling, this kind of performance was hardly out of character. Back in 2004, he’d been briefly suspended for referring to “wetback” voters in Milwaukee’s Hispanic neighborhood. It was, perhaps, a sign of his audience’s uniform outlook that the diatribe against Moore went unnoticed by anyone who might have objected to it, including Moore herself.
In any case, the riff did not keep the state’s governor, Scott Walker, from appearing on the show a few days later. Belling’s treatment of Walker was notably more deferential. “Have you,” he asked, “sat back and thought about what has been accomplished by yourself and the Republican legislature? Has it really sunk in that you’ve transformed a fiscally reckless state into perhaps the most fiscally sound state in the nation? Has it sunk in, I guess is what I’m saying, do you realize what’s been accomplished?” Walker replied that no, his achievement had not sunk in, because he had been “so busy doing it.”
That accomplishment—effectively eliminating collective bargaining for most public employees in the state, facing down the angry protests that followed, surviving a rancorous recall election—has vaulted Walker into the top tier of Republican presidential contenders for 2016. He is the closest person the party has to an early favorite, and not simply because of Chris Christie’s nosedive from grace or because Jeb Bush is still waffling about his intentions. Walker has implemented an impeccably conservative agenda in a state that has gone Democratic in seven straight presidential elections. Unlike Mitt Romney, or, for that matter, John McCain, he is beloved by the conservative base, but he has the mien of a mainstream candidate, not a favorite of the fringe. His boosters, who include numerous greenroom conservatives in Washington and major donors around the country, such as the Koch brothers, see him as the rare Republican who could muster broad national support without yielding a millimeter on doctrine.
This interpretation of Walker’s appeal could hardly be more flawed. He has succeeded in the sort of environment least conducive to producing a candidate capable of winning a national majority. Over the past few decades, Walker’s home turf of metropolitan Milwaukee has developed into the most bitterly divided political ground in the country—“the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation,” as a recent series by Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it. Thanks to a quirk of twentieth-century history, the region encompasses a heavily Democratic and African American urban center, and suburbs that are far more uniformly white and Republican than those in any other Northern city, with a moat of resentment running between the two zones. As a result, the area has given rise to some of the most worrisome trends in American political life in supercharged form: profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, a parallel-universe news media. These trends predate Walker, but they have enabled his ascent, and his tenure in government has only served to intensify them. Anyone who believes that he is the Republican to save his party—let alone win a presidential election—needs to understand the toxic and ruptured landscape he will leave behind.Scott Walker’s parents are friendly and unfailingly earnest, and to hear them tell it, their son was called to leadership by God. His father, Llewellyn, was a Baptist minister, and before Scott could even read, he was summoned to the front of church to offer prayers. At age seven, in tiny Plainfield, Iowa, where Reverend Walker served on the town council, Scott founded the “Jesus USA Club” and would hop up on an improvised soapbox to raise money for a state flag outside the village hall. Not long after that, his family moved to Delavan, a small manufacturing town in southern Wisconsin. Walker went door to door to campaign for a classmate’s father who was running for local office. Walker’s parents told me that his teacher asked him why he was doing that. “Because he’s a good man,” he informed her.
Walker was the prototypical preacher’s kid, acutely aware of the need to present a genial face to the world. “When you’re a ‘P.K.,’ you live in a fishbowl and are trained to be careful so that you don’t do anything that embarrasses your parents,” says his mother, Patricia. He absorbed many of his father’s sermons—these tended to be more homespun than fiery—and would later fill in for Llewellyn occasionally when he was sick. “Sometimes, in high school,” Patricia recalls, “he’d stay awake thinking of all the things in the world he could do something about.”
Walker had an easy smile and impressive 1980s mullet, and he played on the football team, but his friends would apologize if they swore in his presence, and he wasn’t much for chasing girls. “He was a very nice-looking young man, always very neat in appearance,” says Neill Flood, the town’s fire chief, whose daughter was a year ahead of Walker in school. “He was the kind of guy who liked everyone, and everyone liked him. There was never any physical attraction for Scott, girls being all over him.” On Scott’s prom night, his mother recalls, he, his date, and some friends stayed up very late talking politics.
Those politics were staunchly conservative. Delavan was in solidly Republican territory, and by the time Walker arrived at Marquette, the Jesuit university in Milwaukee, he was describing himself as a missionary for the conservative cause. “He would literally say, … ‘God has told me I’m chosen to cut taxes and stop killing babies,’ even in casual conversation,” recalls Glen Barry, a classmate who went on to become a well-known environmentalist. On occasion, Walker would compare himself to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., noting that they were both the sons of Baptist ministers. In the 1990 Marquette yearbook, he said, “I really think there’s a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head.”
Campus politics offered few opportunities for Walker to exercise his higher calling, but he did his best to raise the stakes. In freshman year, he was put in charge of an investigation into a lavish homecoming-weekend dinner at the Pfister Hotel that had been charged to student government accounts. The student-body president and vice president resigned, and the participants repaid the tab. Barry was one of the other student leaders at the dinner, and Walker told him that he would need to question him as part of his inquiry. What followed, Barry says, “was the weirdest thing I have ever been through.” Walker announced that he was recommending impeachment of Barry and several others, which led to a full trial before the student senate, with, as Barry recalls, Walker “standing there in his ill-fitting suit coat like a grand inquisitor, asking: ‘Did you know where these flowers for your corsage came from?’ ” The defendants were acquitted, and the prosecutor earned the nickname of “Neidermeyer,” after the authoritarian frat-house enforcer in Animal House.
In his sophomore year, Walker ran for student-body president against a liberal Chicagoan named John Quigley. Quigley argued that the university should divest funds from apartheid South Africa; Walker backed up the administration, criticized student protests, and, in a move unusual for a campus election, emphasized his opposition to abortion. The race was rife with accusations of campaign rules violations, says the fact-checking organization Politifact. When The Marquette Tribune endorsed Quigley, stacks of papers mysteriously vanished from the racks around campus, prompting an investigation by campus police and a harsh Election Day editorial in the Tribune headlined: “WALKER UNFIT.”
Walker lost and retreated from his high-profile campus role. He took a part-time job at IBM and started showing up for classes in a three-piece suit, “like Alex [P.] Keaton,” as one professor recalled to the Tribune in 2002. He mellowed out a bit toward his former foes—Barry recalls standing on a rocking chair in a campus lounge arm in arm with Walker, sharing a pitcher of beer, to the amusement of onlookers. Then, in the spring semester of 1990, right as Walker’s class was on the verge of graduating, he abruptly dropped out of school.
Walker had been an indifferent student at best, but it was nevertheless a strange move. Years later, rumors would circulate that Marquette had asked him to leave. But college officials say he departed in “good standing.” His parents told me that he had cited financial guilt—his younger brother had started college and he worried that his family couldn’t afford both tuitions—an explanation they found unpersuasive. Walker declined to comment for this story. But he has said that he had found a job doing marketing for the Red Cross and wanted to pursue the opportunity full time. A more likely explanation, though, is that he had already decided to embark on his political career. Real politics this time, in the city.
Aamong U.S. cities, Milwaukee has long been an outlier. In the late nineteenth century, it was the most foreign city in the country: By 1890, a mere 13 percent of its inhabitants were the children of American-born parents. For most of the period between 1910 and 1960, the city was governed by Socialist Party mayors. And, as the twentieth century wore on, Milwaukee stood apart for another reason: It remained remarkably and stubbornly white. The Great Migration that had brought some six million African Americans from the South between 1910 and 1930 and in a second wave around World War II transformed just about every major city in the North—except Milwaukee. Few migrants made it past the great sponge of Chicago, in part because there wasn’t a plentiful supply of jobs to entice them: Milwaukee’s labor market was then amply filled by European immigrants and workers from the declining timber and mining industries up north. By 1960, blacks made up nearly a quarter of Chicago’s population and nearly 30 percent of Detroit’s and Cleveland’s. In Milwaukee, they accounted for less than 10 percent of residents, the smallest proportion of African Americans in any of the 15 largest cities in the country.
It wasn’t until the ’60s that African Americans started to drift into Milwaukee in large numbers. For the next 20 years, the city offered safer streets and better schools than Chicago, and its industrial base was faring better than in many other urban areas. By 1990, Milwaukee’s black population had shot up to 30 percent. Today, it stands near 40 percent, while Hispanics make up another 17 percent.
This delayed arrival would prove highly consequential. Not long after a substantial African American community took shape, Milwaukee’s industrial base began to collapse and its manufacturing jobs disappeared. This left almost no time for the city to develop a black middle class or a leadership elite. Within short order, Milwaukee had some of the most glaring racial disparities in the country. Today, it has the second-highest black poverty rate in the United States, and the unemployment rate is nearly four times higher for blacks than for whites. The city had never been exactly welcoming to African Americans—its tight-knit enclaves of Germans, Jews, and Poles had fiercely resisted housing and school integration. But the decline of the black ghetto so soon after many of its residents had arrived made it easier for white Milwaukeeans to write off the entire African American community, or to blame it for the city’s troubles. White flight, like the Great Migration, came late to Milwaukee, but it came fast and fueled with resentment. Between 1960 and 2010, the population of the three formerly rural counties around Milwaukee County (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington, or the “WOW” counties, for short) nearly tripled, to 608,000.
And if the exiles had any lingering doubts about the wisdom of leaving the city, two men were eager to reinforce the necessity of their choice, every morning and every afternoon on the long commute home. Mark Belling, a Wisconsin native, grew up liberal and supported Jimmy Carter. In the 1980s, though, he took a job in the post-industrial city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and underwent a conversion. “The entire city was an experiment in American liberalism and it was an absolute disaster,” he said in 2012. “I realized anti-poverty programs, welfare, aid to cities, allegations that … black underachievement is because of racism, I realized that all of those things were wrong.” Meanwhile, watching Ronald Reagan in office, he was struck by the “undeniable renaissance of America.” “I became far better at arguing my point of view and far more satisfied with my political positions once I became a conservative, because I realized I was correct,” Belling said. “It’s the same thing a lot of people have when they convert to Christianity. They suddenly become very committed and dedicated to it, as opposed to the ambivalence they had about their former atheism.”
In 1989, as the crack-fueled crime wave was nearing its peak in Milwaukee, Belling began hosting a talk show on WISN, an A.M. station. Often, a man named Charlie Sykes would appear as a panelist or substitute host. Sykes, too, had started out on the left. His parents were World Federalists, a movement that called for global government and universal disarmament; his father, an editorial writer at the Milwaukee Sentinel, had managed Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 campaign in Wisconsin. Sykes had adopted his father’s politics; he even ran (unsuccessfully) for the state legislature as a Democrat. He told me that he had grown disillusioned with liberalism while covering City Hall for the Milwaukee Journal in the late ’70s. “I was a reporter covering urban programs that were well- intentioned but utterly dysfunctional,” he says. “I thought: This thing doesn’t work as planned.”
Within a few years, Sykes had gotten his own show, on WTMJ, and for the next 20 years, he and Belling would share the airwaves: Sykes in the late morning, Belling in the late afternoon. Their styles are very different. Sykes is a thrice-married man-about-town with a smooth on-air manner and modish eyeglasses who has built himself into a multimedia brand, with a Sunday TV show on the NBC affiliate, books subsidized by conservative funders (his latest: A Nation of Moochers), and a subscription-based website, “Right Wisconsin” (which sometimes refers to Michelle Obama as “Mooch”). Belling is introverted and brooding—he zips in and out from the station’s suburban studio in his Jaguar, interacting with co-workers no more than necessary. His demeanor on air is more intense, with long foreboding pauses between his acid declamations. In one 2012 riff, he called a young black Milwaukee man who had died in police custody a “piece of garbage” and attacked “the pigs of mothers who are too lazy to put their children in a crib and roll over the top of them while sleeping on a futon on the floor.” Christopher Terry, who worked with Belling at WISN and now teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says that Belling is more of a “true believer,” whereas “if Sykes thought there was money on the other side of the street, he would sell out in a second.”
Over time, the two shows became known by a single name: “SykesBelling.” In the halls of the statehouse, Milwaukee City Hall, and area county governments, elected officials, particularly insufficiently conservative Republicans, lived in dread of denunciations by the hosts and the tsunami of angry calls from listeners that would follow. Sykes is credited with, among other accomplishments, having blocked public funding for needle-exchange programs and having helped drive into bankruptcy an urban mall after harping on security issues there. In April 2013, he played a clip of “It’s Free (Swipe Yo EBT),” a viral video produced by a right-wing activist in which an African American woman raps about liquor stores where one can allegedly use a food-stamp card. Returning to the same theme later in the year, Sykes declared, “The number of Americans who receive means-tested government benefits— welfare—now outnumbers those who are year-round full-time workers.” No other midsize city has this kind of sustained and energized conservative forum for discussion of local politics. The only counterweights on the left are Wisconsin Public Radio, with its implicit but restrained liberalism, a lefty F.M. talk show in Madison with limited reach, and two African American talk-radio stations in Milwaukee, one of which recently went out of business.
In the past dozen years, two moderate state senators in metro Milwaukee have lost their jobs in Republican primaries after falling out of favor with SykesBelling, while a third has moved sharply right to avoid their wrath. “The listenership is just so much higher here,” says Scott Jensen, the former Republican speaker of the state Assembly. “And the ability to get people to march in step when [the shows] are all hammering the same themes is extraordinary.” Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican state senator in southwestern Wisconsin who is retiring this year, is blunter. “Talk radio gets going and some of my colleagues end up wetting themselves,” he says. “It’s appalling.”
IIn 1990, at age 22, Scott Walker launched his first campaign, for the state Assembly seat held by Gwen Moore. It was a Democratic-leaning, majority-white district stretching west from Marquette; Moore recalls hearing that Walker thought he had a shot at winning because he was younger and better-looking than the Republican she had beaten two years earlier. “He had a certain kind of vanity,” she says. Walker ran on an anti-crime platform, pushing what Moore refers to as “dog-whistle literature.” This included one mailing that featured an image of a big gun, “implying that the neighborhood was going to go to hell” if Moore won.
Walker lost, and soon thereafter settled with his wife, Tonette, in more amenable political territory. Three years later, he ran in a crowded GOP primary field for the local state Assembly seat in the historically Republican inner suburb of Wauwatosa. This time, he won. The party, which under the leadership of Governor Tommy Thompson was pushing hard for welfare reform and private-school vouchers in Milwaukee, made Walker its point man on criminal justice. He authored a bill calling for “truth in sentencing” (eliminating time off for good behavior) and championed prison privatization, though he also surprised some Democrats by supporting legislation to improve defendants’ access to DNA evidence. As chairman of the elections and rules committee, he advocated for voter-I.D. laws, long seen as an effort to limit minority access to the polls.
But Walker didn’t really seem all that interested in making an impact in Madison—colleagues from both parties recall him as an amiable backbencher. Instead, he seemed most intent on cultivating a constituency via the airwaves. Jensen, then the speaker, started sending Walker on television and the radio talk shows when he couldn’t make it and quickly realized that his colleague had an unerring ability to stay on message. “He’s the kind of guy you can wake up at three a.m. and ask him a question, and he’ll have a nice sound bite for you,” says Jensen. Charlie Sykes adds, “He is probably as media savvy as any politician we’ve ever dealt with here in Wisconsin.”
Walker’s growing profile served him well as he advanced through the political ranks. In 2002, the Democratic executive of Milwaukee County, which encompasses the 600,000-person city and 355,000 in its inner suburbs, resigned amid a pension scandal. Walker won the special election and proceeded to spend the next eight years tussling with the Democratic-led county board over taxes and spending. He succeeded in making deep cuts to county parks and public transit; once, he sent layoff notices to county workers so they would pressure the council to buckle to his budget demands. So often did he call in to Belling’s show—to chat on air or to spin the host during a commercial break—that he had access to an emergency-only phone line to the studio that was off- limits to station employees, even for calls to family. “It was essentially the ‘zombies are rising’ line,” says Terry, the former WISN employee.
During this period, the WOW counties continued to expand. But unlike suburbs elsewhere, they had not grown more diverse. Today, less than 2 percent of the WOW counties’ population is African American and less than 5 percent is Hispanic. According to studies by the Brookings Institution and Brown University, the Milwaukee metro area is one of the top two most racially segregated regions in the country. The WOW counties were voting Republican at levels unseen in other Northern suburbs; one needed to look as far as the white suburbs around Atlanta and Birmingham for similar numbers. The partisan gulf between Milwaukee and its suburbs in presidential elections has now grown wider than in any of the nation’s 50 largest cities, except for New Orleans, according to the Journal Sentinelseries.
In such an environment, “there’s no persuasion going on at all,” says GOP pollster Gene Ulm, who often works in Wisconsin. In fact, there is not a single competitive state Senate seat left in the entire Milwaukee media market. Both parties focus entirely on turnout, and with impressive results. The WOW counties were in the top eleven nationwide for turnout in 2012, with Ozaukee first at 84 percent. Similarly, among urban counties, Milwaukee County ranks near the top, at 74 percent. (The national average was just over 60 percent.) In midterm elections, Republicans often win because the WOW counties vote no matter what, an achievement that Mark Graul, a Republican consultant, attributes in large part to the motivational power of Milwaukee talk-radio stations. However, in presidential-year elections, when turnout is up everywhere in the state, Democrats win—in fact, they have won every single major statewide race in presidential years since 1984. Even Walker admits that he isn’t working the middle much anymore: “It was always a divided state but it used to be (that) you’d explain it as ‘40/40/20,’ and 20 percent was the persuadable middle,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “That percent has shrunk now to 5, 6 percent maybe … or five or six people.”
It is as if the Milwaukee area were in a kind of time warp. Like the suburbanites of the ’70s and ’80s elsewhere in the United States, the residents of the WOW counties are full of anxiety and contempt for the place they abandoned. “We’re still in the disco era here,” says Democratic political consultant Paul Maslin. This has affected the politics of the state in myriad ways. The nationwide trend of exploring alternatives to prison hasn’t reached Wisconsin—it has the highest rate of black male incarceration of any state in the country. Sykes told me he could track the desertion of the city through the discussions of Milwaukee public schools on his show. “Through the 1990s we were very interested in education reform, and then it was like a button was switched, and those were someone else’s kids,” he said. “That’s when I realized we weren’t a Milwaukee station anymore.”
Predictably, by 2010, the WOW counties were aflame with anti-Obama fervor, and Walker set his sights on the governor’s mansion. This climate should have favored his primary opponent, Mark Neumann, a highly conservative ex- congressman from southern Wisconsin. But so formidable was Walker’s talk-radio base that it altered the course of the race. Day after day, Sykes and Belling lauded Walker and savaged Neumann. Belling called Neumann a “liar” for criticizing Walker’s county budgets and declared, “No one I know thinks [Neumann] has a chance of winning.” The attacks were unfair but damaging, Neumann told me. Walker beat him by 18 points. In some precincts of the WOW counties, he won close to 75 percent of the vote, but lost to Neumann across much of the rest of the state. To Sykes, it was no coincidence that Walker’s support aligned so closely with the listening range of their stations. “If you look at that map, you see talk-radio land,” Sykes says.
Walker won the general election against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with 52 percent of the vote. Some prognosticators expected that Walker might fare better than previous Republicans in Milwaukee County, given that he had spent eight years governing it. In fact, he did no better than the Republican norm, with 37 percent. But in the WOW counties, he exceeded even the GOP’s usual sky-high numbers. In his inaugural address, he took the audience on a long rhetorical tour of the state—“Superior to Kenosha; Sturgeon Bay over to Platteville …” He did not mention Milwaukee.
Barely more than a month after taking office, Walker introduced legislation to eradicate collective bargaining for all public employees except police and firefighters. Fourteen Democratic state senators fled the state to prevent Walker from assembling the quorum necessary for a vote, and tens of thousands of protesters descended on the state capitol for an occupation that lasted three weeks. Nationally, the tumult was described as a kind of alien visitation on Wisconsin’s paradise of Upper Midwestern civility. In fact, the episode had simply brought the polarization between the WOW counties and liberal Milwaukee and Madison out into the open for the first time.
Throughout the protests, Walker remained almost eerily unperturbed—even after he received death threats that resulted in round-the-clock security at his home. “It’s always been difficult for me to understand—if you’re an ideologue, you have passion, and he’s almost the most passionless human I’ve ever encountered,” says Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick, a Democrat. “He never reacts with anything other than a shrug or a smile.” Walker’s only overt enthusiasms appear to be his Harley Davidson motorcycle and Ronald Reagan. He and Tonette married on Reagan’s birthday, and every year they celebrate their wedding anniversary / Reagan’s birthday by serving the Gipper’s favorite dishes, such as macaroni-and-cheese casserole and red, white, and blue jelly beans. Walker’s mother attributes his even keel to his faith. “He prayed and read the Bible every day, and when things got rough, [supporters would] tell him they were praying for him,” she says.
But there was another explanation for Walker’s calm. In the WOW counties, his support was near-absolute; on talk radio, his views were echoed and amplified without question on a daily basis. A network of powerful conservative supporters, from the Koch brothers to Wisconsin’s own Bradley Foundation, had rallied to his side. Ensconced in this bubble of affirmation and adulation, Walker believed that he could crush collective bargaining without provoking a backlash.
On the rare occasions that the bubble was punctured, the results could be humiliating. Eight weeks into Walker’s term, a prankster called himpretending to be David Koch. Walker didn’t realize he was speaking to an impostor and chatted chummily with him for nearly 20 minutes about his strategy for dealing with the protests; he hung up without figuring out the ruse. He was mocked around the country for his gullibility, but what the call really revealed was the insularity of his worldview. Only in an environment where Walker was praised so unrelentingly (around the same time, a TV-station manager who was miking him up whispered that she and her children had got down on their knees to pray for him) could the call have ever seemed plausible. The prankster, Ian Murphy, showered Walker with the same gushing reinforcement he had received from Sykes and Belling for years. “You’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards are you?” he said. “Beautiful, beautiful. Got to crush that union.” Walker responded just as he had on the radio shows, with aw-shucks faux-humility. “We’ve had all the national shows. We were on ‘Hannity’ last night, I did ‘Good Morning America’ and the ‘Today’ show and all that sort of stuff, was on ‘Morning Joe’ this morning. We’ve done ‘Greta,’” he said. Walker’s radar failed to go off even when Murphy urged him to plant provocateurs among the protesters to make it look like they’d turned violent. “We thought about that,” Walker responded, incredibly, before explaining that he had decided against the idea because it might backfire: “My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems.”
Walker’s 2013 memoir of the protests, Unintimidated, offers other moments similarly disconnected from reality. In one scene, Walker describes having been besieged by protesters as he was leaving an appearance at a La Crosse factory in February 2011: “We watched in disbelief as the throng of people rushed toward the second exit to block our path. As we tried to pull out, they surrounded the car and began beating on the windows and rocking the vehicle. … We were dealing with people who were so blinded by their anger that they were not in the least bit afraid to storm and shake a police car.”
In fact, there is scant evidence that any such attack occurred, according to Politifact. Chris Hardie, editor of the La Crosse Tribune, told me that the reporter and photographer covering the event had not seen anything like what Walker recounts: “We tried to backtrack and talk to other people who were there—I even contacted our local TV station, and they still had some video that showed the car leaving the parking lot. They had nothing there that would’ve verified the governor’s story. Even the layout of the grounds of the plant where he stopped didn’t match up with his story in the book. Where they tried to leave one way and it was blocked, none of that seemed to make any sense.”
Walker and the GOP-led legislature eventually pushed the anti-union bill through without the Democratic senators present, which prompted an effort to recall Walker and replace him with Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor. The race got very nasty very quickly. Walker ran an ad charging Barrett with covering up violence in Milwaukee featuring an image of a brutalized toddler—a Willie Horton–style spot one rarely sees in other parts of the country anymore. At one point, Walker declared, “We don’t want Wisconsin to become like Milwaukee,” as if the state and its largest city were separate entities. The final vote showed his suburban base had become more hypercharged than ever. Turnout in Ozaukee and Waukesha counties surpassed 70 percent of voting-age adults, astonishing for a June election; he won some WOW communities with more than 80 percent of the vote. “There were lines of demarcation,” says John Gurda, author of The Making of Milwaukee, the definitive popular history of the city. “And then you get a governor’s—well, let’s call it boldness, bravado—taking action that was just jaw-dropping, and people waffling found themselves on one side or the other. Walker all by himself crystallized those longstanding but latent divisions and made them as deep as the Maginot line.”
In his victory speech at the Waukesha Expo Center, Walker pledged to be “committed to working with [Barrett] to help the city of Milwaukee.” But in the two years since the recall, his actions have only deepened the rift between the city and the suburbs. Milwaukee has been badly hurt by the state funding cuts that accompanied the public-employee union emasculation. City leaders are angry that the state is withholding from Milwaukee much of the settlement award for fraudulent mortgage practices in the city. They feel betrayed by a new state law overturning Milwaukee’s city residency requirement for police officers and firefighters. Walker also eliminated Milwaukee’s regional transit authority, undermining efforts to improve the city’s woeful bus access to suburban workplaces. And in refusing to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, he cut thousands of Milwaukee residents from the program’s rolls. City officials are especially livid about Walker’s signing of a strict voter-I.D. law and a law sharply curtailing early voting, when thousands of Milwaukeeans cast their ballots. A judge overturned the voter-I.D. law in April, but the early voting cutbacks stand. Given how crucial turnout has become in the state, the intent was plain.
Walker has dismissed the complaints about his policies, telling the Journal Sentinel this year, “Increasingly, you’ve had Milwaukee leaders wanting to have help from surrounding suburban areas, like light rail, street cars. I think those types of things in particular get people in Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties worked up, because they don’t feel like they directly benefit, but they feel like they’re being asked.”
Walker made these comments in his characteristically bland way, but inside his team, the conversation sometimes took on an uglier edge. In February, a court ordered the release of thousands of e-mails collected in a wide-ranging investigation by state prosecutors that has led to the convictions of six former Walker aides and allies. The team had used a secret router system in the county office to communicate with each other, and the e-mails revealed an obsession with burnishing Walker’s image in the most small-bore ways. Walker himself urged employees to write favorably of him in the Journal Sentinel’s online comments. The e-mails also included several in which Walker, his aides, and Sykes discussed political and p.r. strategy. When I asked Sykes about these messages, he joked that he was surprised that the release hadn’t included even more communications between him and Walker, given how often Walker wrote him, especially now that Walker has gotten into text-messaging, which, Sykes said, “has changed [Walker’s] life.” “He keeps in very close touch with us,” Sykes said. “I don’t make any secret we’re close to Scott. … People say, ‘Oh my God, he communicates with talk radio.’ Well, anyone who knows Scott Walker knows he does that all the time.”
But what was most striking was the casual racism of many of the conversations. One anonymous e-mail, forwarded by Walker’s then–chief of staff, went like this: “THE NIGHTMARE … ‘I can handle being a black, disabled, one armed, drug-addicted Jewish homosexual … but please, oh dear God, don’t make me a Democrat.’ ” Another compares welfare recipients to dogs: They are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] Daddys [sic] are.” This message was forwarded around by Walker’s then–deputy chief of staff, who remarked that it was “hilarious” and “so true.” Last year, Walker also fired two aides after reporters exposed offensive comments they had made on social media. His campaign’s deputy finance director, for instance, sent out tweets that included references to “half-breeds” and one in which she vowed to “choke that illegal mex cleaning in the library.”
I arrived in Milwaukee on the weekend of the Wisconsin Republican Party’s convention. The crowd assembling at the Hilton was mostly male and nearly all white. The only visible diversity was in the age of the participants, with a large contingent of blue-blazered College Republicans milling alongside older men with canes. During a break in the proceedings, Jeff Johns, the genial chairman of the Ozaukee County Republican Party, warned me about Fond du Lac Avenue, which bisects the black swath of northwest Milwaukee. “You don’t want to travel that at night,” he says. “You’re basically traveling the colored section.” He also voiced suspicions about Democratic turnout operations in Milwaukee, with campaigns “picking people up for their votes” and rewarding them with “free meals and benefits.”
The convention promised to be an eventful one. Some delegates were pushing platform language threatening nullification of federal laws, and even secession, to protest President Obama’s agenda; the party establishment was doing its best to prevent Walker’s national image from being tarnished by these efforts. When I attempted to attend a session titled “Media panel”—with Sykes and another conservative radio host—a stern young doorman informed me that “the media panel is closed to media.”
So I waited for Sykes, and when he emerged, I tagged along with his entourage to the grand nineteenth- century community hall where Walker was hosting a party for the delegates. To Sykes’s irritation, the GOP bouncer failed to recognize him and wouldn’t let him in. “To hell with these guys,” Sykes muttered and retired with three associates to the bar area, where I joined them for drinks. Moments later, a young woman materialized to apologize profusely for the mix-up and to assure Sykes that he was welcome upstairs. Playing hard to get, he told her he might make an appearance later.
Over Sykes’s second glass of wine, we got onto “The Wire,” which Sykes loves, a fact that, along with his cerebral manner, was making it hard for me to reconcile him with his abrasive on-air persona. Later, I asked whether his rhetoric was contributing to Milwaukee’s polarization. “I don’t think radio shows change people’s perceptions, because people’s perceptions are based on people’s own experience,” he said. “We hear that, that we’re driving the divisions, but the divisions are very real and are reflected in the discussions we have.”
The next day began with a string of notables, among them Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson, but the convention was clearly all about Walker. One of his two sons, Matt, spoke in his capacity as head of the state’s College Republicans, and throughout the day, Walker’s parents watched attentively from the front row. His mother had brought home-baked cookies to share with convention attendees, as she often used to do for his staff when he was county executive. (She and her husband wore shirts that read “SCOTT WALKER IS OUR SON” throughout the recall campaign.)
Then Walker himself finally appeared. Wisconsin politicos say his public-speaking skills have improved, but he still manages to come off as phlegmatic and self- impressed at the same time, with a boyish smirk that can recall George W. Bush. This speech was a forgettable recapitulation of his first term’s successes, delivered in tones even more nasal than usual, thanks to a head cold. “We believe in less dependence on government and more dependence on hard work and personal pride,” he said. “Wisconsin is not only great, it’s greater than the one we grew up in.” Watching him, it was hard to believe that a politician so seemingly banal had been the catalyst for such turmoil.
And yet as pedestrian as the speech was, the crowd clearly loved it. This reminded me of what several state political veterans had told me, that Walker’s ascent had not prepared him well for the national stage. In Wisconsin, he occupies a comfortable cocoon; nationally, he’ll face tougher questions and even tougher opponents. A segment in February with Fox News’s Chris Wallace about the investigation into Walker’s county administration and the e-mail release did not go well. “He hasn’t shown the ability to do that, to step out of Nerf territory,” says Chris Larson, a Democratic state senator from Milwaukee. Terry, the former Belling employee, agrees. “No one’s really pushed his buttons, and trust me, when they get a hold of him and he can’t jump in the safety zone, it’ll go hard on him,” he said. In Wisconsin, “if he says something stupid … he can run to the outlets and they’ll take care of it. He could eat a child on television and [Milwaukee talk radio] would go on about how it benefits children.”
Walker is deflecting any 2016 speculation for now, since he must first win reelection this fall against Mary Burke, a former bicycle-manufacturing executive. But he has been traveling extensively outside of Wisconsin building ties with national Republicans. In a single four-day stretch last year, as the legislature was grappling with the budget, he gave a speech at the Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford, Connecticut, attended a New York GOP fund-raiser at the “21” Club, and gave a keynote speech to the Polk County Republican Party in Iowa. And there is little doubt Walker believes himself ready for the national scene. In 2012, he took the unusual step of sending Mitt Romney a lengthy e-mail telling him what he was doing wrong. (He got no reply.) Compared with Romney, Walker would offer one clear advantage—it would be hard to cast a small-town preacher’s son as a plutocrat. Otherwise, though, it is difficult to envision how Walker would broaden his party’s national appeal beyond the same shrinking pool of voters that Romney drew from.
After the proceedings adjourned for the day, I headed down the stairs of the convention hall, where I encountered a banquet for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators. It was difficult to imagine a sharper contrast with the scene upstairs. One guest, Jimmie Spivey, told me he had recently tried to buy a house in Waukesha County but had been told by the lender that, while he could afford the house, he couldn’t afford the taxes. He was struck when he went to visit black friends in Atlanta or Los Angeles to find them living in the suburbs. Another attendee observed, “You’ve got the city of Milwaukee … and you’ve got the suburbs, and it’s two different worlds,” he said. “I don’t feel a tension, but you feel something. It’s almost like you’re in a bubble if you’re in the city, and you’re in a bubble in the suburbs, and it’s only when the two bubbles collide that something happens.”
On Sunday morning, as the convention concluded with a closed-door prayer breakfast, I headed to my hotel and flipped on the television, just in time for Charlie Sykes’s weekly show. One of Sykes’s panelists raised the issue of “an incident in the fifteenth aldermanic district where supporters of a liberal candidate bought meals for voters.” The fifteenth district is mostly black, the candidate is black, and the former acting mayor who provided the lunches to voters is black. But the panelist didn’t mention any of that. For his audience, who live beyond Fond du Lac Avenue and its check-cashing outlets and shuttered storefronts, over the city line where the humble frame houses and bungalows give way abruptly to McMansion subdivisions with names like Harmony Hills and River Heights, he didn’t need to.
BREAKING: Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on marriage equality has been overturned. #WI4M
Wisconsin will become the 20th state to legalize marriage equality, once the likely stay gets lifted. Three states bordering Wisconsin have legalized such marriages: Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.
And the likes of Scott Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch, Glenn Grothman, Mark Belling, Paul Ryan, VCY America, and Charlie Sykes are not happy about this news at all.
BREAKING NEWS: Wisconsin same-sex marriage ban struck down http://t.co/eU5r8uxDY3— Aaron Camp (@AaronApolloCamp) June 6, 2014
As Digby notes in Salon, Scott Walker is the latest Midwest governor to be anointed a hero by conservatives when he beat the teacher’s union and he’s seen as a formidable presidential candidate for 2016, but that was before the John Doe case came along.
After some early success with the case, Activists like Club For Growth and the WSJ are now freaking out that he may want to settle the case. They can’t have that.
And then they broke into a rousing rendition of “We shall overcome.” The affiliated big money right-wing groups like Club for Growth and American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity were undoubtedly very pleased at that outcome. And they were also undoubtedly very pleased with one Scott Walker who was standing up nicely to the pressure and getting their backs when they had so generously padded his campaign coffers. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And then the bottom fell out
This is terrible news for the people of Wisconsin and also for the rest of us. Wisconsin laws are strict on the question of coordination between outside groups and a candidate’s campaign, with good reason. However, to Judge Randa, there is no possible good reason to suppress “speech.”
A federal judge ordered a halt Tuesday to the John Doe investigation into campaign spending and fundraising by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups, saying the effort appeared to violate one of the group’s free speech rights.
In his 26-page decision, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee told prosecutors to immediately stop the long-running, five-county probe into possible illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and a host of others during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
“The (Wisconsin Club for Growth and its treasurer) have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and that circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted. Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech, an activity that is ‘ingrained in our culture,’” Randa wrote, quoting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Iowa radio host Steve Deace was on Larry Pratt’s Gun Owner’s News Hour last week to promote his new electoral strategy book, “Rules for Patriots.” The two spent quite a bit of time lavishing praise on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his crusade to bust his state’s public-sector unions.
Deace shared his theory that that public-sector unions are one of the “four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement,” along with “the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby” and “government education” (which is “how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them”).
He praised Walker for removing “one of the four pillars,” namely “the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions.” Deace apparently thinks that five anonymous teenagers yelling “hail Satan” at a pro-choice protest in Texas means that all public employees are Satanists.
Deace counseled Republicans against supporting any GOP politician who supports any one of the “four pillars.”
Pratt agreed, adding that the public-sector employees, including teachers’ unions, that protested at the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 were “such ugly, dirty people” that nobody would want teaching their children.
Deace: There are four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement in America: the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby, government education – that’s sort of their youth ministry, that’s how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them. The homosexual lobby and the abortion industry is where they get their mega, mega hundreds of millions to fund their schemes. But the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions. And if you cut them off, that’s like cutting off the recruiting ability of a college football team. That’s the lifeblood of their program is those government-sector employee unions.
And if you do some of the math, I think the average annual union due in Wisconsin is like $1,500 a year for an AFSCME member. And if they truly lost 40,000 members, Larry, 40,000 times 1,500, you can pretty much buy the Wisconsin state government every year for that kind of money. And to have him cut off the head of the snake like that, he removed one of the four pillars. He’s maybe the only elected Republican in my lifetime I can think of who’s actually removed one of their pillars. And now you know why they have done everything they can possibly do to get rid of him.
And I would just say to your audience, if you’re supporting a Republican who doesn’t threaten at least one of those pillars, you’re wasting your time. If you’re supporting a Republican who aids and abets or collaborates with one of those four pillars, I don’t care how good he is on every other issue, he’s actually working for your opponent. Because that’s the infrastructure of the American left, those four facets.
Pratt: When Scott Walker had those union thugs lying all over the lobby of the capitol dome, the capitol building itself, they were such ugly, dirty people. ‘Those were teaching my kids?,’ I think people might have been thinking. They lost so much stature, it was just amazing what was happening.
From the 04.12.2014 edition of Republic Broadcasting Network’s Gun Owner’s News Hour:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
While he thought you weren’t paying attention, Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies made it harder for Wisconsinites to vote in the 2014 election.
Wisconsin is going to lose its place as the state with the second highest voter turnout.