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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Waukesha Surprise

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Everyone in Wisconsin has good reason to assume the worst about "The Waukesha Surprise"—a Republican operative suddenly announcing two days after a crucial state Supreme Court race that she forgot to include more than 14,000 votes from the city of Brookfield.

Instead of simply accepting Republican Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' questionable claim that magically appearing votes now put Republican David Prosser about 7,000 votes ahead of JoAnne Kloppenburg, law enforcement should be impounding every ballot box and election computer in the county.

That's what Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm says would happen if thousands of unreported votes suddenly appeared in Milwaukee County to give Kloppenburg a 7,000-vote lead in the Supreme Court race.

"There would be state police squads flying in immediately and every computer and ballot box would be confiscated and secured instantly," Chisholm told Dominique Paul Noth, editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press.

Of course, that would raise other suspicions, since the state patrol now is headed by a Republican political appointee, Stephen Fitzgerald, the father of state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, the Republican legislative leaders who appear to have no qualms about violating state laws to enact Gov. Scott Walker's political agenda.

Just as worrisome, the entire apparatus of the state Department of Justice is now controlled by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who has developed a habit of advising Republicans they can do anything they want regardless of state law or court orders.

So all we have seen so far are some clerks from the Government Accountability Board dropping by Waukesha County to double-check Nickolaus' newest math.

Where are all the cops? Who's impounding all the voting machines? Where's "CSI: Waukesha" to run tests on the DNA of Brookfield voters and analyze the fibers of their carpets and their hair follicles?

A more serious criminal investigation into Republican wrongdoing wouldn't be anything new to Nickolaus. The last time she was investigated for Republican crimes she even managed to win immunity from prosecution by cooperating with authorities.

That was back in 2001 when the Dane County district attorney was conducting a criminal investigation of Nickolaus and other members of the Assembly Republican caucus for performing election campaign work on state time.

The boss of the Republican caucus when Nickolaus originally was hired in 1995 was—guess who?—Assembly Speaker David Prosser, before his appointment as an extremely partisan Republican justice on the Supreme Court.

The way someone like Nickolaus wins immunity during a criminal investigation is by giving investigators information on her fellow Republicans.

Despite that, the investigation's biggest Republican target, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, ended up beating the rap, too.

Jensen was convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor in 2006, but later won a new trial from the Supreme Court. Last December, Jensen worked out a plea deal in Waukesha County to plead guilty only to the misdemeanor.

Clearly, those Republicans out in Waukesha County have a serious crime wave going on. And since Scott Walker was inaugurated governor in January, Republican crime appears to have spread to Madison.



Well-Earned Credibility Problem

The current Republican credibility problem is well earned. First, legislative Republicans flaunted the state's open meetings law to pass a law destroying collective bargaining rights for public employees.

When a judge issued a court order preventing implementation of the law, the Walker administration began implementing the law anyway and had to be threatened with contempt of court.

What can Wisconsin voters do when a crucial Supreme Court election could be decided by the incredible discovery of thousands of uncounted votes in the most Republican county in the state?

The Walker administration itself cannot resolve any of the legitimate questions satisfactorily when the people in charge of investigating those questions are Republicans with a pattern of breaking the law for political advantage.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin from Madison has requested a federal investigation into the handling of votes in Waukesha County.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Baldwin wrote: "Following this week's election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, numerous constituents have contacted me expressing serious doubt that this election was a free and fair one. They fear, as I do, that political interests are manipulating the results."

For the outcome of the Supreme Court race to have any credibility at all, federal oversight from this point on is absolutely necessary.

Republicans keep thinking they can push through their agenda and squeak through elections by hook or by crook and cool off the anti-Walker political momentum around the state.

But 19 counties won by Walker last November flipped in the Supreme Court race to vote for Kloppenburg.

The voter anger and recall organizing will only increase if the pro-Walker Prosser manages to win re-election to the Supreme Court as the result of a dubious "Waukesha Surprise."