Monday, September 19, 2016

To fix John Doe mess, we need to remove those that helped make it (including Scott Walker)

Lawmakers that made it easier to hide money in politics need to be removed from office

I want to do something that I rarely do in my political writing, on this site and elsewhere. I want to share with you a personal story.

I don’t typically get into personal narratives or share my history on this blog, but in light of the recent John Doe leak from last week, I felt it was important to tell this particular story.

In 2008, freshly graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I was trying to find work that might be pertinent to my degree in political science and journalism. What I didn’t expect was the recession to coincide directly with when I graduated from school. I didn’t find work right away, and what I eventually found was temporary in nature. I took what work I could, and in the meantime I decided to continue pursuing my political aspirations by applying for a summer internship with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

I learned a lot of things in my few months there. I was given some exciting tasks -- and some not-so-happy tasks, including being tasked with calling supporters who I had to tell would NOT be given tickets to see Barack Obama accept the party’s nomination in Denver that year.

But overall it was a pleasant experience and it gave me huge insights into what party operations were all about.

Eventually I found a job listing that intrigued me. It was a temporary assignment working for a third party advocacy group called Advancing Wisconsin. The organization was going door-to-door on behalf of candidates for election in the state Assembly, as well as promoting Barack Obama for president. I gladly accepted the job, which would last me until November of that year.

I knew I had to tell the DPW about this new employment because it was a huge conflict of interest. Third party organizations and political parties are (were?) forbidden from colluding with one another, and I wanted to see if I could continue my internship or if I had to end it at that point.

Upon explaining to my supervisor at the DPW where I was recently hired, I was told to pack up my desk and to leave. There were no hard feelings, of course, but I had to be out of the party’s offices by the end of that afternoon.


Gov. Scott Walker (drawing by Chris Walker)
The point of this tale is to juxtapose how politics in Wisconsin used to work in 2008 and how it has worked since Scott Walker became governor in 2011. Clearly there has been a significant change -- Scott Walker has merged the work of third party organizations and political organizations to collude with one another, allowing big money interests to run wild with campaign expenditures. In return for their donations, bills easing regulations on mining and lessening penalties for lead poisoning have been passed and signed into law. It is transparently pay-to-play, and it has corrupted the integrity of our state.

Whereas I was shown the door by the Democrats due to my employment with an advocacy group, Gov. Walker welcomed coordinated campaign management by RJ Johnson, who consulted with both Walker’s recall campaign and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Walker also openly told donors to give to Club for Growth in hopes of creating a coordinated messaging campaign for himself and for a handful of statewide Senate races.

I grew up in a Wisconsin that wasn’t perfect. There were certainly problems in our state’s government, but they were nothing like what we’ve seen under Walker’s leadership. Our state is fast-becoming a corporatocracy, an oligarchy where the wealthy have more sway on the politicians in the Capitol than do the people. The time to change that is now -- but we cannot begin to do so until those responsible for the mutation of our state’s government are removed from their posts.

Scott Walker needs to go. His Republican allies in the legislature also need to be removed from power. And tougher campaign finance laws need to be passed.

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