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Newly Released Wisconsin Emails Show GOP Considered Ways To Punish Democrats

By SCOTT BAUER 03/23/11 06:22 PM   AP via: HuffPost

MADISON, Wis. — Everything from taking away computers to denying a year of service in the state retirement system was considered to punish the 14 Wisconsin Democrats who fled to Illinois for three weeks to block passage of a bill taking away union bargaining rights, newly released emails show.

Members of Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s staff bounced ideas off one another and the Legislature’s attorneys for days about how to penalize the Senate Democrats for leaving and pressure them to return, according to records released Wednesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The watchdog group obtained the emails from Fitzgerald’s office under Wisconsin’s open records law.

The emails show Fitzgerald’s staff members were as worried about the public relations campaign as they were actually figuring out a way to get the Democrats to come back.

“I would just be somewhat cautious in whatever we do so that it doesn’t end up creating sympathy for the Dems,” Tad Ottman, a Fitzgerald aide, wrote to his chief of staff John Hogan on Feb. 20. “The more directly we can tie whatever action we take to what they are doing the better it will be.”

Democrats left the state on Feb. 17 to deny quorum in the Senate and block passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill that took away all collective bargaining rights, except over salary, for Wisconsin’s public employees.

Their departure helped fuel protests in opposition to the bill that grew to more than 75,000 people. Senate Republicans finally used a maneuver to pass the bill without the Democrats present on March 9, a move now being challenged in court. Democrats returned after the bill passed.

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Wisconsin GOP Senators Pass Stand-Alone Anti-Union Bill Without Democrats Present

HuffPost- Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel

First Posted: 03/ 9/11 07:45 PM Updated: 03/ 9/11 07:57 PM

WASHINGTON — In a bold gambit to put an end to the weeks-long budget standoff in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) split his controversial budget-repair bill in two on Wednesday, allowing the Senate to pass the most hotly contested provisions while their 14 Democratic colleagues remained out of state.

The parliamentary maneuver, first reported by local press, allowed the anti-collective bargaining measure to pass with just Republican support. Under Wisconsin law a 3/5s quorum is needed for a statute that is fiscal in nature. No such quorum is needed for non-fiscal matters.

It was also a 180-degree reversal by Walker and state Senate Republicans, who have insisted for the past three weeks that the collective bargaining provision was designed to help alleviate the state’s budget problems. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) had previously said he would not attempt to pass any portions of the bill without Democrats present.

Wisconsin Democrats decried the move as an unprecedented and blatant end-run, but it was clear that they were powerless to stop it. Indeed, it took the conference committee only a matter of minutes to pass the severed off measure by a four-to-two vote. Minutes later, the same bill passed through the entire Senate by an 18-1 margin, with Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican moderate who had proposed a compromise measure, lodging the only no vote.

Justin Sargent, a staffer to Senator Chris Larson (D-Wis.) called the maneuver completely unexpected. It showed, he added, that this “obviously wasn’t about any kind of financing, it was an attack on working families.”

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