Take Five (Civilitas Successit Barbarum edition)

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ONE: One Live Badger

A review of petitions by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board validated almost 901,000 signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker and over 800,000 to recall Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, far in excess of the 540,208 needed for each.

Republicans had sagely “warned” that the integrity of the petition process would be compromised by fake names, and their “fears” were borne out when fake names were indeed discovered, a whopping four of them (Adolf Hitler, Mick E. Mous, Donald L. Duck and I Love Scott Walker Thanks, if you’re curious). A fifth name, Fungky Van Den Elzen, was initially thought fake, but later confirmed to be happily real.

Recall election season officially began with the GAB’s certification of the results on March 30. Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, who lost to Scott Walker in 2010, announced his candidacy for governor that same day, to nobody’s surprise. Almost immediately after Barrett’s announcement, the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s communications director, Ben Sparks, got busy rewriting history:

Wisconsin rejected Barrett and elected Governor Walker by an overwhelming majority because they wanted to move Wisconsin forward from the 8 years of failed liberal policies that culminated in 150,000 lost jobs and a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

You might remember that Walker’s “overwhelming majority” was 52.25% of the vote, even if Ben Sparks doesn’t. And you might know that the proximate reason for Wisconsin’s fiscal woes (and those of the rest of the country) wasn’t failed liberal policies but failed conservative ones trickling down from DC during the Bush years, even if Ben Sparks doesn’t.

Sparks moved on to a carefully vague denunciation of Barrett’s record in Milwaukee:

We look forward to contrasting Governor Walker’s bold record of moving Wisconsin forward with Barrett’s liberal tax and spend agenda that has only led to a total downward spiral of Milwaukee’s economy.

Despite that whole total downward spiral thing, Milwaukee voters seem to like Tom Barrett’s liberal tax and spend agenda, even if Ben Sparks is paid not to. They enthusiastically elected Barrett to another mayoral term on April 3. Listen up, Ben Sparks! This is an overwhelming majority:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cruised to victory in his re-election bid Tuesday, easily winning another four-year term by turning back challenger Edward McDonald.

Unofficial returns showed the Democratic mayor with about 70 percent of the vote, compared with about 30 percent for McDonald.

Barrett is currently the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, which will be decided in a May 8 primary. He leads his nearest rival, Kathleen Falk, 36% to 29%, but with workers’ rights figuring to be a prominent campaign issue, he isn’t as well positioned as his backers might hope:

Barrett earned the ire of Milwaukee unions last year, when he used Walker’s budget reforms (known as Act 10) to propose a budget that cut city employees’ health and pension benefits rather than making a deal with unions before the law took effect. He also clashed with unions in an attempt to take over the public school system.

Unlike Falk, Barrett has not promised to veto any state budget that didn’t restore collective bargaining rights.

A dispiriting March 25 poll indicated that neither Barrett nor his Democratic rivals would best Walker:

Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk trails by 49%-45%; Milwaukee Mayor and 2010 Democratic nominee Tom Barrett is behind by 47%-45%; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout trails by 49%-41%; and Secretary of State Doug La Follette trails by 49%-42%.

Yet by April 2, another poll hinted that Walker’s malefic, misery-soaked tenure might just be drawing to a close:

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide survey shows that, if the recall election was held today, 52% of Likely Voters would vote to recall Governor Walker and remove him from office. Forty-seven percent (47%) would vote against the recall and let him continue to serve as governor.

Yes, it’s Rasmussen, and yes, the poll has an MOE of plus or minus 4.5%, but the shift it purports to document is hugely encouraging at this stage of the recall. The last official seal of the Wisconsin Territory in 1839 and the first state seal in 1848 both featured the motto “Civilitas successit barbarum,” which translates as “Civilization succeeds barbarism.” Can Democrats restore civilization to Wisconsin after Scott Walker’s barbarism? Yes, they can. Is Tom Barrett the right person to lead that effort? Labor troubles aside, he might be; Wisconsin urgently needs a brave guy who doesn’t like thugs, and whatever his shortcomings, Barrett is that. Of course it would be completely wrong of me to liken the actions of Scott Walker and his legislative cronies to an attack on Wisconsin with a metal pipe, so I won’t resort to that metaphor. It was much more like a baseball bat attack, anyway.

TWO: Give or Take $7.3 Million

Forty days or so after Scott Walker was sworn in last year, mass protests against his policies were underway. For weeks, huge crowds rallied on the grounds and in the rotunda of the Capitol in Madison. It was magnificent.

Walker’s administration was predictably frantic about getting protesters barred from the building. After litigation ensued, a government official – in one of the earliest, best examples of the administration’s helpless affinity for simply making shit up – told the court that the protests had inflicted an estimated $7.5 million of damage on the building and its environs:

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch originally claimed that tape used to hang signs throughout the Capitol building may have damaged marble stones. A memo from DOA’s historic preservation officer Dan Stephans estimated it could cost as much as $500,000 for an estimate of the damage, another $6 million for professional restoration work on the tape-affected marble and $1 million to repair damage to the Capitol grounds.

Stephans acknowledged in the memo that the numbers were an “estimated guess.” An open-records request by the Journal Sentinel revealed the estimate was based on a few of Stephans’ handwritten estimates on a single sheet of notebook paper.

Other than a potential $20,000 for additional landscaping, the final tally for cleanup costs is now in, and it turns out the government’s original estimate was off by a mere $7,302,541.

(Note to Governor Walker: fire Dan Stephans and save the state his $110,888.54 salary, and Wisconsin taxpayers are only on the hook for $86,570.46 in cleanup costs. Hey, always happy to help out a fiscal hawk like your bad self, sir.)

THREE: The Last Days of Pompous

David Badash’s estimable website The New Civil Rights Movement mistakenly “broke” a story from May 2011 when it belatedly picked up a Forbes report on Scott Walker’s failed attempt to deny same-sex couples hospital visitation rights. It’s a story worth reading anyway, and the site quickly published a correction. The error was understandable, really; it’s easy to get confused over the timing of Walker’s various profanations of the public realm. They all share the same gorge-taunting odor, and there are so damned many of them it gets hard to remember their specifics.

And now, with the growing possibility that he might end up unemployed some weeks hence, Walker and his legislative toadies are treating state law the way Keith Moon treated hotel rooms. Democracy Now! provides a succinct and nauseating summary of his recent policy achievements:

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has privately signed a series of controversial bills aimed at curbing access to abortion and sex education. The first bill bans most abortion coverage under policies obtained through a health insurance exchange set to be created under the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law, allowing coverage only for rape, incest or medical necessity. A second bill requires every woman seeking an abortion to meet privately with a doctor and undergo an exam before the procedure so the doctor can ensure she is not being pressured. Doctors who violate the law could be charged with a felony. A third bill requires teachers in schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence and says they no longer need to address contraception. Wisconsin’s current law requires some instruction on birth control options. Walker signed the bills Thursday, but did not announce the move until the next day on Good Friday, when his office released a list of about 50 bills he had recently signed… Among the other bills Walker signed was a repeal of the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which gave women and other marginalized groups more power to fight wage discrimination.

All part of what Ben Sparks would call “Governor Walker’s bold record of moving Wisconsin forward.” Although Sparks never did specify the final destination Walker has in mind, its outlines get clearer all the time.

FOUR: The Hunt for Red November

Paul Ryan, a high-profile embarrassment for Wisconsin, recently endorsed Mitt Romney, a high-profile embarrassment for whatever he’s claiming as his home state this week. To celebrate their unholy bond, they went on a crime spree:

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is alleging that Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan committed election bribery by offering “subs for votes” in Waukesha…

Video… shows Romney and Ryan handing out the sub sandwiches. Additionally, a video edited by the state Democratic Party shows Romney leading a rally and telling supporters to go vote, and “If you want another sandwich, there are more back there.”

State law prohibits offering something valued at more than $1 in exchange for a vote.

The scofflaws handed out this swag at a Cousins Subs location, one of over 60 in and around Milwaukee. I ran across an Urbanspoon diner review which may or may not concern the Cousins in question, but seemed entirely Republican-appropriate regardless:

The sandwiches are great if the bread is right but sometimes it gets too hard and then the sandwich is not great. This location plays a lot of religious bible music – which can make being inside there unbearable.

A complaint by Wisconsin Democrats to the GAB was dismissed, as the board considers the allegation to be a criminal matter subject to prosecution only by the DA’s office. Here’s hoping; after cringing through Romney’s recent misadventures with grits, I think he should be stopped before he does something untoward with an oversized sandwich.

One ironic tangent to this story is at least as tasty as anything Romney and Ryan might have served up that day:

The case draws a parallel to the 2000 Presidential election, when the proverbial shoe was on the other foot. Then, current Gov. and then-state Rep. Scott Walker… asked the Milwaukee County District Attorney to look into criminal charges against Democratic nominee Al Gore.

Walker dubbed this one “smokes for votes.” News cameras captured a Gore campaign volunteer giving cigarettes to absentee voters at a homeless shelter. The difference here is that the Gore campaign denied any involvement with the scheme. That didn’t stop Walker from speaking out.

“Anything that gets something of value, be it a $20 bill on the street out here, or a pack of cigarettes, we think is wrong,” Walker said then. “The trading off of anything, something of worth, in exchange for someone’s vote — not only is it ethically questionable, we believe it’s a violation of the law.”

And he would find Sandwichgate six kinds of wrong too, I’m sure, had the bribery been perpetrated by Democrats.

FIVE: The Lost Art of Governance

Demonstrating a wisdom in striking contrast to her ineptitude at running elections, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus has agreed to sit out the recall. Following the failure of the county’s computer system during the Wisconsin primary:

… County Executive Dan Vrakas demanded that Nickolaus either resign her office, or hand off election duties to staff for the upcoming recall election against Gov. Scott Walker…

That might seem harsh, but this was not the first instance of Nickolaus dropping the ball on game day:

Nickolaus first came to prominence in April 2011, in the hotly contested election for the state Supreme Court, when two days after the election she announced the discovery of un-tabulated votes from the city of Brookfield — giving conservative Justice David Prosser a net gain of over 7,000 votes, and a very narrow victory — saying that her own error had resulted in them not being properly imported and saved into the county’s database.

But don’t cry for Kathy Nickolaus. She’ll still have an opportunity to inflict her unique skills on the public, two customers at a time:

Nickolaus is… handing off the election duties to her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, and will instead handle other areas of her office, such as issuing marriage licenses.

In another glorious moment for the Badger State’s public servants, Glenn Grothman, the state senator who was instrumental in killing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, explained his “thinking” on the topic:

“Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers, but the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person…

You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”

This fits right in to Grothman’s legislative record, which is so astonishingly horrible that a blog is devoted to keeping up with it. Grothman makes $49,943 a year, by the way. Maybe he’s been busy raising his kids. Maybe he has a different sense of urgency. One way or another, there’s no question that he needs to go go go.