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Red vs. blue: The great Midwestern backlash

New GOP governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan are suddenly unpopular. The economy gives, and it takes away

Salon- By Andrew Leonard

Friday, Mar 18, 2011 08:30 ET

In 2008, Barack Obama carried Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, three crucial Midwestern states in which he had campaigned unceasingly. Two years later, the midterm tidal wave handed monolithic control of the state legislature and governor’s mansion in each state over to Republicans. The new governors, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Michigan’s Rick Snyder, immediately and forcefully moved to exploit their power in pursuit of bold Republican agendas.

We’re not just talking good old-fashioned budget-balancing mandated cuts in public services. The grandiose ambitions of Wisconsin’s Walker have been well chronicled. But Michigan’s Rick Snyder has been equally aggressive. Snyder is proposing to cut corporate taxes in Michigan by 60 percent while simultaneously hiking the percentage of state revenues raised from individual income taxes from 31 percent to 41 percent. He just signed a “financial emergency law” giving him the right to appoint emergency managers — with the legal power to arbitrarily cancel union contracts — to replace locally elected government authorities. In Ohio, Kasich plans to gut public education spending, end collective bargaining by public sector workers, sell prisons to the private sector and push through a voucher plan for charter schools.

So now comes the backlash. Polls in each state show support for the trio of Republican governors plummeting. In Wisconsin, Democrats are counting the days until Walker is eligible for a recall, and in the meantime, pushing hard to retake control of the state Senate. On Wednesday, 5,000 protesters marched through the Michigan state Capitol — the largest protest yet in that state — and Gov. Snyder was booed by workers at a Ford Focus plant. Grass-roots resistance to Ohio’s Kasich doesn’t yet appear to have reached quite the same fever pitch, but if he ran for reelection today against his 2010 opponent, he’d get clobbered.

As quickly as the politics of the Midwest reversed themselves, once, they are doing so again, and political observers can be excused for suffering a severe case of whiplash. We’re used to seeing the pendulum swing in the United States, but the action over the last two years — from Obama’s breakthrough to the Tea Party rebellion to Cairo-in-Wisconsin — is more reminiscent of a strobe light’s jitteriness. How to explain it?

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Judge blocks contentious Wisconsin union law

By JASON SMATHERS, Associated Press via: Salon

Friday, Mar 18, 2011 12:20 ET

The move will put an immediate halt on the law that was meant to go into effect on March 25th

A Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the state’s new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect, a measure that drew tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol and sent some Democrats fleeing to Illinois in an tempt to block a vote on it.

The judge’s order is a major setback for Walker and puts the future of the law in question.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order, which was requested by that county’s District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat. Ozanne filed a lawsuit contending that a legislative committee that broke a stalemate that had kept the law in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin’s open meetings law. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure and Gov. Scott Walker signed it last week.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette planned to publish the law on Mach 25, but the judge’s order will prevent that from happening, at least for now.

A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, citing the legal fight. Messages left for comment with Walker’s spokesmen, as well as Democratic legislative leaders, were not immediately returned.

The bill was part of Walker’s solution for plugging a $137 million state budget shortfall. A part of the measure would require state workers to increase their health insurance and pension contributions to save the state $30 million by July 1. Other parts of Walker’s original proposal to address the budget shortfall were removed before the bill passed last week. The Legislature planned to take those up later. Lawmakers are not scheduled to be in session again until April 5.

People opposed to the law converged on the state Capitol over the past month with massive demonstrations that went on for days on end.

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Scott Walker And Wisconsin Republicans Face Legal Battles Over Bill

Politicususa- By Sarah Jones
March 17, 2011

In the aftermath of his Draconian power grab, Governor Scott Walker has been smirking his way though celebratory dinners and being slapped on the back by national Republicans who whisper “Vice Presidential material” to him through the decayed orifices of their corporate mouths. Scott’s pleasure with himself is evident to all who are forced to watch this soulless Koch logo preen his way through a press conference.

But back in his home state, things don’t look very good for Scotty. Numerous lawsuits have been brought against Walker’s anti-union bill, the most important one of which calls for the bill to be voided. After reading numerous complaints, the Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne believes the Republicans violated the open meeting law of Wisconsin. He further requests a stay on publishing the bill until the court can hear these matters. In addition, several other suits have been brought against the Republicans for violating open meeting laws and passing a financial bill without the necessary quorum.

After receiving at least five complaints regarding the Republicans’ alleged violation of the open meeting law, the DA filed a lawsuit. The suit alleges that in the March 9 meeting during which Republicans passed Walker’s anti-union bill, killing collective bargaining, the special legislative committee (consisting of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abbotsford) violated the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law in several ways.

Firstly, the Republicans claimed they were in an emergency meeting and thus exempt from giving notice as required by open meeting law, but the DA found they do not meet the requirements for an emergency meeting. Secondly, Republicans claimed that Senate rules overrode the state law, but the DA determined that because they had both the assembly and the Senate in the meeting, the Senate rules do not apply. Thirdly, the Republicans held the meeting at a time when they restricted access to the Capitol to the public (as well as lawmakers) as well as holding it in a tiny room where there was no room for the public.

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Unequal Protection: Part I: Corporations Take Over

Truthout

Tuesday 15 March 2011

by: Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Kohler Publishers | Serialized Book

Chapter 1: The Deciding Moment?

The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act.

Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy.

There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter….

—William Jennings Bryan, in his address to the
Ohio 1912 Constitutional Convention

Part of the American Revolution was about to be lost a century after it had been fought. At the time probably very few of the people involved realized that what they were about to witness could be a counterrevolution that would change life in the United States and, ultimately, the world over the course of the following century.

In 1886 the Supreme Court met in the U.S. Capitol building, in what is now called the Old Senate Chamber. It was May, and while the northeastern states were slowly recovering from the most devastating ice storm of the century just three months earlier, Washington, D.C., was warm and in bloom.

In the Supreme Court’s chamber, a gilt eagle stretched its 6-foot wingspan over the head of Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite as he glared down at the attorneys for the Southern Pacific Railroad and the county of Santa Clara, California. Waite was about to pronounce judgment in a case that had been argued over a year earlier, at the end of January 1885.

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Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison

JUDITH DAVIDOFF | jdavidoff@madison.com | The Capital Times madison.com

February 23, 2011 3:00 am

The billionaire brothers whose political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker $43,000 and helped fund a multi-million dollar attack ad campaign against his opponent during the 2010 gubernatorial election have quietly opened a lobbying office in Madison just off the Capitol Square.

Charles and David Koch, who co-own Koch Industries Inc. and whose combined worth is estimated at $43 billion, have been recently tied with Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. The two have long backed conservative causes and groups including Americans for Prosperity, which organized the Tea Party rally Saturday in support of Walker’s plan to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and recently launched the Stand with Scott Walker website.

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, acknowledged in a New York Times story Tuesday that he had encouraged Walker even before the election to mount a showdown with labor groups.

Koch Industries, which owns the Georgia-Pacific Corporation and the Koch Pipeline Company, operates gasoline supply terminals and a toilet paper factory in Wisconsin.

Koch Companies Public Sector LLC occupies a seventh-floor suite at 10 E. Doty St. According to an unidentified tenant there, the lobbying group moved in two weeks before Walker was elected governor on November 2. Jeffrey Schoepke, the company’s regional manager, did not return a phone call seeking more information on the firm.

According to the Government Accountability Board’s website, the firm has seven lobbyists who “represent various Koch Industries Inc. companies on public affairs matters, including Flint Hills Resources, LP, an energy purchaser and refiner & transporter of petroleum and Georgia-Pacific, LLC a manufacturer of paper, wood products and building materials.” The group’s lobbying interests are listed as “the environment, energy, taxation, business, policy and other areas affecting Koch Industries, Inc. companies.”

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Think Progress- By George Zornick at 12:55 pm

Shortly before signing the controversial bill that ends collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker appeared on Morning Joe today to lambaste the pernicious influence of “union bosses” and “outside money” on the debate in Wisconsin. Watch it:

It’s reasonable to expect national union leaders to be interested in “the largest assault on collective bargaining in recent memory.” Moreover, it is highly ironic for Walker to complain of supposedly shady outside interests.

Over two weeks after receiving a request from One Wisconsin Now, Walker’s administration has refused to release details of its contacts with lobbyists from Koch Industries, run by billionaire arch-conservatives Charles and David Koch. The group requested “all email and written communications between Koch Industries’ lead Wisconsin lobbyist and the office of Gov. Scott Walker and the Department of Administration,” but has not yet received the information.

Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s election campaign. Americans for Prosperity, a group created and financed by the Koch brothers, has organized rallies in Wisconsin, and “[e]ven before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown.” Apparently Walker isn’t troubled by “outside money” when it comes from rich conservatives with a purely ideological agenda.

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Labor Vows To Step Up Recall Effort Against Wisconsin GOP, Challenge Anti-Union Bill In Court

Addicting Info- Posted in: News

Knowing that their bill would never pass with the 2/3 support it needed, Wisconsin Republicans drafted a second bill, primarily to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights, which only needed a simple majority to be passed. Labor unions vow to fight it, and to recall GOP Senators.

Via The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Dealt a major setback Wednesday night in a high-stakes battle over union rights in Wisconsin, labor leaders nevertheless insisted that they would emerge from the three-week long saga energized and eager to continue fighting.

Hours after Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and his Republican allies in the state Senate took nearly everyone by surprise and pushed through a stand-alone bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights, labor officials pledged to ramp up efforts to recall Republicans and challenge the legislation in court.

Only shortly before the vote took place, local news outlets reported that Republicans were splitting Walker’s budget repair bill into two. While the Senate requires a quorum of 3/5 of its members to vote on fiscal statutes, just a majority is needed for other matters. Therefore, Senate Republicans broke off the most controversial portions — including a proposal to strip away the collective bargaining rights of public employees — into a separate piece of legislation that could be passed without Senate Democrats, who were still out of state.

Labor officials quickly lambasted Republicans, calling what they did the “nuclear option.” Last month, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) had said he would not pass any portions of the budget repair bill without Democrats’ participation.

“Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt in a statement. “Walker and the Republicans acted in violation of state open meetings laws, and tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families.”

Neuenfeldt’s comment that the GOP may have violated state laws hints at a possible court challenge should the legislation be passed by both legislative chambers and signed by the governor. Later in his statement, Neuenfeldt also said that what Republicans did “is beyond reprehensible and possibly criminal.”

A clearer indication came from Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), the union representing public school teachers in the city.

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