How Much Longer?

Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times, has written an insightful piece on Scott Walker’s years as Wisconsin Governor. Here it is in full, with a link to the original.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the nonprofit that keeps an eye on who’s contributing to our elected politicians and why, has compiled a list of what it calls the worst 100 bills that Gov. Scott Walker has signed during his first five years in office and what they’ve meant to the state’s common good.

Those top 100 assaults on Wisconsin’s democracy drew tons of money from more than a dozen special interests that benefited from the bills. They include business, manufacturing, construction, real estate, energy, transportation, agriculture and banking interests. Together those interests directly contributed $14.4 million to legislators, $12.2 million of which went to the majority Republicans, and $32.2 million to Walker. The contributions were made between January of 2011, when Walker and the GOP took control of state government, through December of 2015.

Those donations don’t include millions more in indirect contributions to the same lawmakers. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and the so-called American Federation for Children secretly contributed tens of millions more to grease the skids for their legislation.

There are no similar sources of funds, of course, for the average Joe or Jill Citizen.

Consequently, legislators passed, and Walker signed, bills to restrict the legal options available to victims of asbestos-related injuries, change the definition of lead paint to allow more lead content, limit the options for women to sue to enforce equal pay rules, limit the ability of communities to require rental unit inspections, and otherwise tilt rental regulations in favor of the landlords.

All were bills, of course, favoring special interests over the common people. And that’s just for starters.

Out-of-state pipeline companies were given new powers to condemn private property for their pipelines and other projects. Nursing home operators were made exempt from state penalties if they were already found in violation of federal laws. Compensatory and punitive damages for racial, sexual and other acts of employment discrimination were eliminated.

All that on top of the more publicly debated attacks on public school funding in favor of expanding vouchers for students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, the $250 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System while simultaneously authorizing $250 million in state bonding to build a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, and, of course, the passage of so-called “right to work” legislation to make it tougher for labor unions to represent working people.

Thanks to their hold on the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, and having secured a conservative majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republicans have been relentless in changing the historic character of Wisconsin government.

And just in case their hold isn’t secure enough, legislators and the governor succeeded in changing campaign finance laws so that special interest donors can double their contributions and can keep secret who they work for.

The question remains: How long will Wisconsin citizens put up with this?

Plain Talk: Scott Walker’s worst 100: Let us count the damage” The Cap Times, May 8, 2016.

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