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Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, he was the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Milwaukee County. A graduate of UWM in 1971, he moved to Madison, where he was Executive Personnel Officer and Technology Manager for the State Department of Employment Relations. He is a former Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County, Director at the Human Resources Management Association of S.E. Wisconsin (now SHRM), and Technology Commission Chair for the City of Franklin. Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1965-1971).

Ron Johnson & The Clown Show that Was the Senate Iran Hearing

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 24 July 2015
in Wisconsin

ron-johnson-speaksWisconsin's senior Senator Ron Johnson lectures a top-of-his-field nuclear physicist on the nonsense science fiction EMP "threat" at the Foreign Relations Committee. His antics should be of interest to those of us who are really tired of the backwater image he continues to paint on our state.


WASHINGTON - According to a blog by Max Fisher in VOX, our Senator Ron Johnson really distinguished himself with his "scientific" knowledge at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Top administration officials were at Congress Thursday for a hearing before the Committee on the Iran nuclear deal, a subject that has always brought out the crazy in American politicians. No one expected this hearing to be anything other than a circus. The deal is politically contentious, and Republicans are trying to out-hawk one another for the coming presidential primaries.

At one point, a tweet from New York Times economics policy reporter Jonathan Weisman captured the scene nicely, "Now Sen. Ron Johnson is lecturing MIT physicist Ernest Moniz on electro-magnetic pulse weapons".

As we all know here in Wisconsin, Johnson is our current senior senator and a Republican. Ernest Moniz is the secretary of energy and one of the lead US negotiators on the Iran deal. Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons are a nonsense science fiction "threat" and a longtime point of obsession among certain conservatives, such as Newt Gingrich and Ron Johnson.

According to Fisher, "Johnson's line of questioning, to a top-of-his-field nuclear physicist, is a little like asking Neil Armstrong if he thinks the moon landing might have been faked".

Moniz, as is the obligation of administration officials at congressional hearings, did his best to entertain the senator's message. According to a tweet by Laura Rozen, a Washington reporter, "Energy Secretary Moniz told Sen. Johnson he was not familiar with the EMP commission's findings. Johnson said he'd forward him some stuff".

According to Fisher, there were other clown show moments. GOP Sen. Jim Risch said anyone who supports the nuclear deal "really joins the ranks of the most naive people on the face of the earth." Risch added that Moniz and Secretary of State John Kerry had been "bamboozled" by Iran, but did not clarify whether they had also been run amok, led astray, or hoodwinked.

But Ron Johnson's antics should be of greatest interest to those of us in Wisconsin who are really tired of the backwater image he continues to paint on our state for the rest of the nation.

Fisher concludes "Sometimes congressional hearings can be productive. But almost always they will include a not-insignificant amount of circus time, particularly if it's on a politically loaded issue or if it's getting lots of TV coverage. This hearing is so far no exception."

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends Investigation into Walker's Corrupt Campaign Financing

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 16 July 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerProsecutors were looking into whether Walker broke state law in his 2012 recall battle by urging major donors to circumnavigate crucial donation limits by giving to outside political action groups. Decision suspect as four majority justices also received $10 million in campaign money from those same groups.


MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on Thursday to end a John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker’s coordination of dark money during his 2012 recall campaign.

Wisconsin prosecutors were looking into whether Walker broke state law in his 2012 recall battle by urging major donors to support his campaign by giving to outside groups to circumnavigate crucial donation limits he faced.

But Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruled the investigation was “overly broad” and infringed on First Amendment rights of free speech. The court’s justices, who are elected every 10 years in statewide elections and are themselves dependent upon campaign donations from the same groups, split over the effect of a pair of recent federal rulings which opened the floodgates for money in federal campaigns.

Several watchdog groups, including many who have hounded Walker throughout his tenure, pointed out that the four justices who ruled in favor of Walker and the outside groups supporting him also received $10 million in campaign money themselves from those same groups.

matt-rothschild“It is not only regrettable; it is downright dangerous,” said Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The decision itself is corrupt, Rothschild added, since it was contaminated by outside spending on behalf of the conservative justices by the very groups that were being investigated.

scotrossScot Ross, executive director of the liberal One Wisconsin Now, said that the conflict of interest among the justices was part of a system “run amok”.

“If this exact scenario were occurring in another country, Scott Walker would be calling for boots on the ground to save democracy,” Ross said in a statement.

But the Governor seemed to know the fix was in from the beginning. “We said all along that the courts would ultimately rule on the side of the original circuit court judge,” Walker said Thursday, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “As folks in Wisconsin will tell you, I’ve gone through these battles so many times I don’t get up or too down, I’m pretty even keeled on all this.”

“The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has further embarrassed itself with this ruling,” Rothschild said. “And it is draining the public’s confidence in the integrity of our courts.”

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Republicans "Double Down" on their Assault on Open Government

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 10 July 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-sworeinNew attacks on Wisconsin’s non-partisan government accountability organization are not intended to improve our state, they are only intended to improve Republicans’ political fortunes and shield Gov. Walker’s administration from scrutiny as he runs for president.


MADISON – After a failed attempt last week to gut Wisconsin’s open records law, legislative Republicans have now issued new calls to dismantle Wisconsin’s non-partisan government accountability organization, setting their sights on the watchdog agency in an effort to prevent investigations into potential ethics and criminal violations.

The move comes just a week after Republicans tried to dismantle the state’s open records laws and a day after Assembly Republicans refused to pledge not to degrade Wisconsin’s open records law in the future. Earlier this week Republicans voted down a Democratic budget amendment that would have taken major steps to ensure accountability and transparency at Governor Scott Walker’s scandal ridden Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

The timing of the Republicans’ attack on open government comes as Gov. Scott Walker is reportedly planning to formally announce he is running for president on Monday.

In recent years, open records requests have helped shed light on everything from potential corruption at Governor Walker’s jobs agency to criminal activity that led to the convictions of six of the governor’s former aides as county executive, as well as the revelation that major mining company donors essentially re-wrote large sections of Wisconsin’s environmental laws.

jennifer-shillingSpeaking in response to these latest attacks, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said:

“Republicans were unsuccessful in their sneak attack on Wisconsin’s open records laws, so naturally their next target is the government watchdog agency that enforces these laws. Other than the possibility that the State Capitol has been overrun by vampires, I don’t know why there is this sudden rush to do business in the dark without any public oversight or transparency."

peter_barcaConcerned Assembly leaders were also critical of the Republican effort to turn Wisconsin's nonpartisan government watchdog into a partisan lapdog.

“The Republicans are doubling down on their assault on clean, open and transparent government," Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said today.

“This brazen attack on government oversight is especially troubling since it comes at a time when citizens and journalists are uncovering potential corruption at Gov. Walker’s economic development agency," Barca said.

“Like so much of their agenda, these proposals are not intended to improve our state – they are only intended to improve Republicans’ political fortunes and shield Gov. Walker’s administration from scrutiny as he runs for president,” he concluded.

###

Assembly reporter Laura Smith contributed to this article.

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Wisconsin Senate Passes Republican Backwards Budget

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 08 July 2015
in Wisconsin

wisconsinRepublicans betray Wisconsinites by passing a $73 billion 2015-17 State Budget that fails to invest in our traditional, shared values. The only winners are the special interests.


MADISON - The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate passed the $73 billion 2015-17 State Budget bill just before midnight Tuesday, sending it to the Assembly after voting to repeal a prevailing wage law for local government projects.

The fight over the prevailing wage law, which sets a minimum salary for construction workers on public projects, had helped delay the budget for more than five weeks as Republicans tried to broker an agreement that could win passage in both houses.

The Senate also unanimously voted to repeal a gutting of the state open records law, changes added in a surprise 999 amendment by the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee last week. In the face of a swift and fierce bipartisan backlash over the move that would have exempted nearly all records created by state and local government officials, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders backed off and the Senate voted 33-0 to remove the changes.

Removing those provisions was the only Democratic victory Tuesday.

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate and rejected all other Democratic proposals, including reversing a $250 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin and increasing funding for public K-12 schools, during more than eight hours of debate.

The Assembly, where Republicans have a 63-36 majority, was scheduled to vote on the budget Wednesday night, a move that would send it to Gov. Scott Walker before he is to launch his presidential campaign Monday.

Assembly Democratic legislators met the media today to discuss the day’s Assembly calendar, most notably the state budget bill. It is unlikely they will have any more success than their Senate counterparts.

kathleen-vinehoutAccording to State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), “Budgets are all about choices. Unfortunately, the budget passed by the Senate majority party represents political choices, not the choices of Wisconsin families.”

“People from across the state asked the Legislature to invest in public education, in the U.W. System, in roads and bridges, and in family supporting jobs. They asked legislators to protect the health programs and services for our vulnerable citizens,” said Vinehout.

Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) pinned much of the blame on the Republican's allegiance to Walker's presidential ambitions.

“This budget spent over $10 billion dollars more than the 2009-2011 budget. The problem with this budget was never a lack of cash. From day one, the problem has been that this budget is all about presidential politics and not about the priorities of the people of this state,” Erpenbach said. “The decisions made today will have an effect on Wisconsin and I am afraid it will not be a good one."

chris_larsonSenator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) agreed, saying Senate Republicans forced through a special interest budget that surrenders to the demands of the most extreme Tea Party factions while making it harder for our neighbors in Wisconsin’s middle class.

“Governor Walker has made it clear he places his own ambitions over ensuring financial security and prosperity for his own Wisconsin neighbors," said Larson.

“Tonight, Tea Party legislators again returned to their failed slash and burn policies that are bankrupting opportunity in our state and decimating our middle class," he continued.  "It’s like watching a bad rerun: the glamor is gone, the plot is predictable, the dialog is dated, and you’re just left with bad actors stuck in the past. It’s no wonder they tried to keep the public in the dark with their 999 secrecy motion."

dave-hansen-gbThis is the third budget since 2011. During that time Wisconsin has fallen to 35th for job creation and 50th for new businesses. Wisconsin has seen the biggest decline of its middle class of all 50 states.

By all accounts the GOP agenda of tax breaks for the rich and cuts to the services that help grow and sustain a strong middle class has failed.

The impact of this budget will be felt for years to come in the form of an economy that continues to lag our nation and places more pressure on already struggling families. The only winners are the special interests.

Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) concludes “This budget continues a pattern of giving yet millions more in tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of our public schools and universities as well as our roads and highways."

###

Senate Staffers Linda Kleinschmidt and Jay Wadd contributed to the article.

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Dark of Night Budget Proposal Threatens Wisconsin Retirement System

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 07 July 2015
in Wisconsin

joint-financeDamaging changes proposed to the WRS Board structure under the cover of darkness, with no debate or public input, which could open the door for political manipulation and corruption.


MADISON - The Joint Finance Committee ended its work on the state budget last week by slipping in some policy changes in it's last minute Motion, #999. One of them affects landline phone service, which may hurt many rural residents in northern Wisconsin. Another changes the composition of the Joint Survey Committee On Retirement Systems (JSCRS).

This committee is responsible for reviewing any changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). It has been composed of Senate and Assembly legislators of both parties plus representatives of the public, the Attorney General, The Department of Employee Trust Funds, and the Insurance Commissioners office. Under the proposed changes, the committee would become entirely appointed legislators (five Assembly and five Senate).

As with many of the proposals in this budget, this one is a “solution looking for a problem.” The current committee structure has been working. WRS is rated as one of the best public retirement programs in the nation. Why are changes being proposed?

The JSCRS is a powerful committee that is legally required to review any proposed changes to the WRS so that all the long term "effects" are known. This means "effects" on taxpayers, on retirees, on workers, of government agencies, on retention of high quality workers, etc. Recently, the legislature has been avoiding this law and making changes to the WRS without detailed study.

This proposal opens the door for political manipulation and corruption. The ruling party would have complete control over reviewing and recommending changes to the WRS. It reduces broad public oversight of a $100 billion public trust fund.

Governor Scott Walker and many Republican leaders support the goal of the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Wall Street to privatize public pension funds. Under privatization, Wall Street could make billions in fees and control the investments to divert retiree fund monies into their buddies' businesses. Governments could decrease their share of funding of public pension systems and retirees would get smaller pensions.

Is this an overreaction? Maybe. Will the state legislature vote yes on this budget proposal? We don't know. But has your paper, radio or TV station been covering this attempt to change WRS? Probably not.

It is very "Walker like" for the Governor to make an outrageous proposal like the recent attack on open government, walk it back in the face of outrage, then "end run" other damaging changes to public policy with no debate or public input, while the media is busy congratulating itself on their "victory".

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