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Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011

Wisconsin's Quicksand of Corruption

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Even though the first official effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker was filed by a Republican, it does not mean the governor's own party is starting to turn on him. But it should.

Despite what the media keeps claiming, the most gaping divide in politics right now is not between the left and the right. It is between the honest and the dishonest.

The more that honest Republicans allow their party to be dragged down by brazen corruption under Walker and the current state party leadership, the harder it will be to restore integrity to the democratic (small “d”) political process.

Even though the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, organized labor and citizens' groups throughout the state will begin circulating recall petitions against Walker on Nov. 15, no one was surprised a Waukesha County Republican filed papers creating a sham “Recall Walker” drive on the first day it was legally allowed.

The phony campaign, filed by David Brandt of Muskego, who with his wife has contributed money to Walker and the Republicans in the past year, has no interest in recalling Walker.

The purpose of lying publicly on documents officially filed with the state is an incredibly sleazy one. It is to allow Walker to begin accepting unlimited campaign funds from the same wealthy contributors who have backed his governorship and written much of his legislation giving away hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds to—you got it—wealthy campaign contributors.

In an ordinary election, state law prohibits a gubernatorial candidate from accepting more than $10,000 from any individual donor in a four-year election cycle. However, politicians have written special rules for themselves in recalls. They can gorge themselves on all the contributions from the wealthy they can possibly eat.

From the time the first organization files papers to begin a recall until a recall election is ordered and all legal appeals are exhausted, the super-rich can literally back trucks up to the governor's campaign office and unload as many bags of money as it takes to buy whatever political favors they desire.

That is the only reason for Brandt's “Close Friends to Recall Walker,” which apparently involves no friends except for a possibly fictional dead one. In the papers filed, Brandt said he was organizing the recall to “fulfill my friend's last request.”

To collect 540,000 signatures within 60 days to recall Walker, Brandt said he shouldn't be required to file any financial reports because he won't raise even $1,000.

Continuation of Lies

The reason absolutely no one is surprised by the brazen dishonesty of this phony Republican non-recall is that it is a continuation of the public lies by Republicans during last summer's state Senate recalls.

In those elections, Republicans invented phony candidates to hold onto power longer. Republicans publicly lied about their party affiliations to run as Democrats against real Democrats in primaries to delay the final elections that defeated two Republican state senators.

In those recalls, incumbent Republicans took advantage of the same corrupt “no limits on contributions” loophole to rake in most of the $900,000 above normal campaign limits that poured into those elections.

In the Walker recall, the bounty is expected to be in the tens of millions. That's why Republicans couldn't even wait until Nov. 15 to begin stuffing their goody bags.

Anyone who claims politicians in both parties have always been so openly dishonest is distorting history. There was a time when catching a politician in a lie could end his political career.

“I am not a crook,” President Richard Nixon told the nation. But he had to resign the presidency when his own tape recordings showed otherwise.

Walker, an Eagle Scout and preacher's son, has an ability to lie with boyish charm.

Since being elected on a promise to create 250,000 state jobs—a number made up out of thin air—Walker has called two special sessions of the Legislature he said would focus on jobs.

The first session was about jobs, all right, but not about creating them. It killed most collective bargaining rights for public employees, cutting jobs and wages. It also slashed state aid, forcing every school district and local government to eliminate even more jobs.

The second session, just ended, mostly seemed interested in creating more jobs for undertakers.

When they weren't increasing places and ways for people to shoot other people with guns, Republicans were reducing penalties for nursing homes that abuse the elderly and limiting legal liabilities for businesses that harm or swindle the public.

Decent, thoughtful Republicans—and we should assume there still are some—should be embarrassed and concerned that under Walker dishonesty is now openly embraced by their party as the route to mountains of dirty money from millionaires.

Politics can sink only so deeply into the quicksand of corruption before it becomes impossible to climb out.

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