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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Issue of the Week: New Conservative Front Group Coming Soon!

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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After the blood baths Republicans have endured in recent elections, it’s no surprise that they’d want to regroup, reorganize and come back reinvigorated. But instead of listening to their grassroots supporters and disenchanted ex-Republicans who want to return to the fold, Wisconsin conservatives are about to launch a new front group funded by big money and old ideas.

According to a recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal, the in-the-works Wisconsin Prosperity Network will need $6.4 million a year to build on a few existing right-wing groups and create 14 new ones. “The groups within this infrastructure would be publicly separate and privately coordinated,” its draft outline reads.

The Wisconsin Prosperity Network, as a legal entity, will be organized as a 501c(4), which means that it can get involved in campaigns and elections but doesn’t have to disclose most of its donors. Supporters include the usual suspects, such as the Bradley Foundation’s Michael Grebe, ex- Gov. Tommy Thompson aide Jim Klauser and Milwaukee businessman Fred Luber.

Leaders include two ethically challenged Republicans: former state Assembly Leader Scott Jensen, who was convicted on charges relating to corruption in office and is awaiting a new trial, and Mark Block, who now works for the tea-party-sponsoring Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is funded by Big Oil. Block’s had a brush with the law, too, and paid a $15,000 fine for illegal campaign work for Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox.

Besides these spurious leaders, the umbrella organization would fund Americans for Prosperity, the legal group First Freedoms Foundation (Mark Block just happens to be its secretary/treasurer), the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (even though these think tanks deny that they have a political bias), and the just-launched Scott Jensen-affiliated MacIver Institute. The Wisconsin Prosperity Network plans to create groups focused on minority issues, the environment and social welfare—since apparently conservatives interested in those issues are few and far between. The group hopes to recruit and train future candidates and coordinate contributions. We hope the Government Accountability Board is watching their every move.

It looks like the organization’s power will flow to the “grassroots,” not the other way around, indicating that the Wisconsin Prosperity Network is yet another “AstroTurf” organization masquerading as an authentic response to Republicans’ legislative defeats.


Heroes of the Week: Lakeside School of Massage Therapy

Here’s a win-win situation. The students at the nonprofit Lakeside School of Massage Therapy (1726 N. First St.) are offering one free massage per month to those who have lost their job in 2009. The students get to practice their craft while working on their diplomas and the displaced workers get to ease their stress and increase their well-being the natural way. Workers must provide proof that they are currently unemployed; the offer is good through 2009. For more information, call 372-4345 ext. 15.


Jerk of the Week: Alderman Bob Donovan

Despite the fact that virtually every doctor and public health official is adamant about the serious health risks of smoking and, more importantly, second-hand smoke that affects innocent people, Alderman Bob Donovan continues his little crusade to fight the proposed statewide smoking ban. If Donovan, a smoker, wants to sit at home or in his car and smoke day and night, that is completely his own business, but when that smoke is in a public place where employees such as wait staff must inhale Donovan’s second-hand smoke, it becomes a public health issue.

Donovan is now arguing that a statewide smoking ban is going to put the small restaurants and bars in his district out of business. One could have argued that when an individual community such as Wauwatosa went smoke-free, local Wauwatosa bars and restaurants lost some customers to bars and restaurants in neighboring communities that allowed smoking. That is why a statewide ban is necessary. When Wisconsin becomes smoke-free, smokers will adjust to the law as they did when smoking was prohibited in many office buildings. And local businesses will all have the same smoking restrictions, thereby creating a level playing field. The data from states that have gone smoke-free show no adverse effects on businesses; in many cases, businesses actually increase their revenues. Furthermore, since our neighboring states have statewide smoking bans, even the bars and restaurants in border communities will not be adversely affected.

Sorry Bob, you are wrong again—and that’s how you became the Jerk of the Week.

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