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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Walker's Not Even Close to Being Out of the Woods

Wisconsin recall protest sign
There aren't a lot of things to look forward to in the aftermath of the failed recall of Scott Walker. The state will muddle on with a governor who attacks working families -- and with them, consumer demand -- for political gain. This is at the heart of Walker's awful economic performance since he originally took office; he's much more willing to play to the fantasies of rightwing talk radio than the hard facts of the real world. By raising taxes on the poor and cutting income for state workers, Walker creates an atmosphere where the real job creators -- consumers -- don't have the means to create jobs. Businesses aren't flocking to Wisconsin for the bribes tax breaks, because the breaks aren't enough -- they aren't income. Low taxes don't mean jack when the customers don't have any money.

But to say there aren't a lot of things to look forward to isn't the same as saying there's nothing. For mere entertainment value, the Walker administration is promising. Scott Walker may seem like a slick politician now, but he's set a lot of traps for himself down the road. These come mostly in the form of lies. Stupid lies. Lies that can't possibly remain unchallenged by reality. Time and a lack of foresight conspire to make Walker's first -- and perhaps only -- term a PR disaster. Hopefully, he'll be too busy putting out fires to get anything done.

For example, in order to turn the recall polling around, Walker released some jobs numbers that showed that Wisconsin wasn't the worst in the nation for job creation, but merely one of the worst. The problem was that the numbers were iffy, they weren't a measurement anyone else uses, and therefore couldn't be compared to anyone else's performance. Worse, he claimed the numbers had been verified by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics -- a claim the BLS shot down.

BLS Communications Director Gary Steinberg said that the numbers weren't confirmed, only the statistical method was confirmed -- i.e., the methodology was sound, but the numbers may need some adjustment. He also stopped just short of saying Walker was a liar. "We can’t confirm fourth quarter or later data and would not have confirmed it to the governor’s office either," Steinberg said.


The problem here is that, if the numbers are BS, then it will come out. And the Walker administration is working furiously to make that happen later than sooner. They denied an open records request by The Capital Times for more fresher numbers (and more likely accurate). It was a request Walker's Department of Workforce Development refused. They can't sit on them forever. Sooner or later, the Walker administration is going to have to contradict the Walker administration on jobs figures.

But the big hand grenade without a pin is the John Doe investigation. He's told so many lies about this that he'll be spending as much time putting out PR fires as he will legal fires. Perhaps the biggest lie here is that Walker requested the investigation himself.

This is not so. "Milwaukee County prosecutors opened the secret John Doe criminal investigation more than two years ago after being stonewalled by Gov. Scott Walker's office when he was county executive, according to a newly released record," reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice last week. "The document appears to cast doubt on some of Walker's claims about his role in launching and cooperating with the investigation."

In filings, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf wrote in 2010 that then-Milwaukee County Exec Walker's office was either "unwilling or unable" to provide documents to investigators. "It may be the County Executive's Office is reluctant to provide information to investigators due to a fear of political embarrassment," he wrote. All this information comes from a former top aide of Walker's, by the way.

Also problematic for Walker is his claim that he's not a target of the investigation. This one is just a no-possible-win claim. Walker has set up a legal defense fund and, according to Wisconsin law, you can't do that unless you are the target. So even if we take Walker at his word, we have to conclude that he's currently engaging in an illegal act.

But all indications are that the legal defense fund isn't the illegal part of all this.

The Isthmus:

With the recall election less than two days away, federal prosecutors are closing in on Governor Scott Walker, according to veteran political reporter David Shuster, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and former district attorney Bob Jambois.

In a conference call organized by state Democrats on Saturday evening, June 2, Shuster, Lautenschlager, and Jambois laid out evidence that Walker is a target of a federal investigation.


Based on conversations with a lawyer who has knowledge of the investigation, "We believe that Scott Walker set up a secret computer network in the governor's office and Department of Administration offices, and that the John Doe investigation is seeking evidence of crimes he committed in Madison," Zielinski said.

Now keep in mind that the John Doe probe is a state investigation. A federal investigation would mean that Walker's the target of two probes. And the signs are that these aren't going away any time soon.

As state attorney general, Lautenschlager said that she worked by a "rule of thumb" when investigating wrongdoing by politicians "not to say anything within two months of an election," unless prosecutors could clear the politician in question, to avoid the appearance of a politically motivated prosecution.

I don't remember Walker being cleared of anything before the election, do you?

In fact, this same thinking may also explain President Obama's avoidance of Wisconsin during the recall fight. When I first joined in on the recall effort, I was told that Democrats thought "it would look bad" if Obama got involved -- i.e., like a partisan election-year witchhunt. I'm not sure I agree with that (in fact, I'm pretty sure I don't), but if Obama knows a federal indictment is in the pipe for Walker, then the same reasoning would've kept him away from Wisconsin until after the recall -- or even until the indictment comes down. After all, the Justice Department is part of the executive branch.

For the near future, I don't see Scott Walker getting a lot done. He's going to be too busy trying to spin away all his lies to do any real damage. But it will be fun to watch.


[image credit: Sue Peacock, via Flickr]

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