Note that at the moment the GAB web site for the recall petitions appears to be buried under traffic and is fairly unresponsive - the main GAB web site has also been slow for the last hour or two, but has remained up.
The GAB announced today that they will be putting all of the Scott Walker recall petitions on-line tonight, despite the objections from the ACLU and others about privacy issues. In a statement on the GAB web site -
Recall Petition Update 4Posted in Date: January 31, 2012
Madison, WI – The Government Accountability Board today announced plans for public release of copies of recall petitions for Governor Walker.
“In the interest of full transparency, the Board has always planned to release copies of recall petitions to anyone who requested them, and to post them online,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel. “However, we recently heard from a number of people who are concerned about their personal safety if their names and addresses are made public. As a result, our staff had to do a thorough analysis under Wisconsin’s Public Records Law. These are serious issues which must be given thorough consideration and addressed in light of the Statutes and the responsibilities of the Board.”
Kennedy said the staff has concluded, and Judge David Deininger, the Board chairperson, has concurred, that the petitions will be released under Wisconsin law, as well as a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Reed, involving the release of referendum petitions in Washington State. That position is also supported by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Unlike an elector’s vote, which is private and confidential, the signing of recall petition is a public process.
In addition to providing copies to requestors, the G.A.B. will continue its past practice, and put all 153,335 pages of PDF copies of the petitions online later today, Kennedy said. The PDF copies are not computer-searchable.
Kennedy said the agency conducted a balancing test, as required by the Public Records Law, and determined:
Weighing all of these concerns and public interests, we have concluded that the balancing test of the Public Records Law favors disclosure of the entire recall petition without redaction of information on a recall petition, even when individual signers have expressed a concern arising from prior abuse or violence committed against them by a person who is now subject to a restraining order. During recall elections in 2011, the Board posted the entire petitions in PDF format on its website, and has followed the same practice with the recall petitions currently pending against four State Senators.
Few processes in the electoral system or elsewhere are more public than the signing of recall petitions against state elected officials. Petition signers chose to participate in the public process of initiating a recall election of the Governor as well as other officeholders, and any concerns regarding their personal safety and privacy may not have been considered when signing a petition. In addition, officeholders and the public have a right to view the petitions, not only for the legal process of filing challenges to signatures, but to help ensure the transparency and accountability of the petition review process, and of Wisconsin’s electoral system.
A copy of the Board staff’s analysis is attached.
“The electoral process is the means our society has chosen to select leaders, establish public policy and hold public officials accountable without resort to intimidation or violence,” Kennedy said. “While individuals with an interest in vetting these petitions have every right to do so, we expect that they will continue to do so in a respectful, lawful manner. All Wisconsin residents ought to agree that we can ensure the rights of individuals to participate in the political process without endangering their safety or giving up their right to personal security.”
For more information, contact:
Reid Magney, public information officer, 608-267-7887
AttachmentSize NR GAB Recall Petition Update 4 01-31-12.pdf 23.97 KB Corr to Atty Reiderer re recall petition request 1.31.12.pdf 194.33 KB
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.' -- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
Good day, class. Today we're discussing the Republican penchant for rearranging the English language to suit its rhetorical needs. Lately that practice has been getting out of hand, what with "death panels" and "food stamp presidents" and worse. But the eye-opening Republicanese of the moment is the intentional misuse of the word "disenfranchisement."
This is as when bloggers and numerous letter writers to newspapers -- echoing blast-fax GOP talking points and wingnut talk radio -- claim their vote is being taken away illegally because of the recall process. For instance, Mr. Chris Bryan of Wauwatosa recently wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and complained: "I helped vote Walker into office, and now my vote is being canceled and made meaningless outside of the normal election process."
Welcome to the old normal, Mr. Bryan. Because, while rarely used, recalls aren't some brand new tactic that is beyond the pale. Nor are recall elections voter disenfranchisement (or, if you prefer a simpler variation of the word, disfranchisement). And neither are they, as many of the letter writers claim, anti-democratic. Recalls are in fact so democratic that they're enshrined in the Wisconsin constitution -- and have long been permitted by 18 other states, as well.
And no, even though some of our fellow citizens on the right remain convinced to the contrary, recalls aren't intended just to remove officeholders accused or convicted of crimes and other misdeeds. There's a legal system available to look after that, and there is also a separate impeachment provision in the Wisconsin constitution that doesn't even require the consent of voters at large (talk about your disenfranchisement!). Recalls, in fact, can be attempted for any unspecified reason that motivates a sufficient group of voters. And Republicans who have tried recalls of their own used to claim to know that.
What actually constitutes disenfranchisement? Well, it may occur explicitly through law, as when states decided to create poll taxes, or voter ID laws that suppress voting rights, or as when they decide that anyone convicted of a felony can't vote, even if that citizen completed his or her sentence or probation. Or, a voter can be disenfranchised implicitly by intimidation or misdirection, as has happened in recent years with misleading and threatening robocalls, scary guys or cops standing outside polling places, and the like.
On the other hand, recalls don't disenfranchise voters; after all, your vote always counts if it is legally cast. And guess what, in a successful recall election, you'll get another bonus vote!
But here's the thing, class: No vote lasts forever, nor is there any guarantee a person you help vote into office will remain there for his or her full term. That's could happen due to any number of circumstances. For instance, there was a long time in Wisconsin when governors were only elected to two-year terms. Did that mean that voters of that era were disenfranchised because later votes for governor counted for four years? Nope. If a lawmaker resigns before his term ends or dies in office, does that mean your vote is disenfranchised? Nope.
Conservatives have this increasingly odd perception that they are the natural rulers of the American republic, and thus are always entitled to the mantle of power. When they abuse that power, citizens and the legal justice system have every right to consider remedies available under the law. Recall is one of them. Walker should consider himself lucky to face a recall, instead of an impeachment or a criminal indictment. On the other hand, he could just disenfranchise himself by resigning and saving us the trouble of recalling him.
So, moan all you like about the unfairness of it all. We get it: You love Scott Walker and want him to be governor forever. But stop acting like recalls are some gross injustice. I do suppose that if Republicans get really crazed, they might try to get their conservative majority on the state Supreme Court to pull a Bush v. Gore and simply declare recalls unconstitutional, even though they're part of the constitution. But then we'd have to vote out, or recall, or impeach the justices who voted that way.
And, finally, be glad you don't live in a country with a parliamentary form of government, like Britain. There, in addition to scheduled elections, the ruling party can call an unscheduled election whenever it chooses, and sometimes it is forced to choose by a crisis of confidence in leadership. That's what I call real democracy: Highly responsive, with no waiting around while the political paint dries.
Hat tip to Democurmudgeon for the Humpty image
Kristen Dexter had previously defeated Moulton in 2008, and as she tries to gain the Senate seat for her district, she is in more or less a replay of that election. Elections in this neck of the woods are often very close, as people often vote less along party lines, and more along the lines of which candidate they personally like the most. This will be an interesting election to follow. I've attached a hand-held cell phone video of both Kristen Dexter's announcement and Jennifer Schilling's introduction.
Several candidates declared themselves today in the state Senate recall elections. In my area, Kristen Dexter announced her run against Terry Moulton. The announcement took place in Chippewa Falls at the corner where over 5000 recall petitions were signed by people wanting to recall Moulton. About 75-80 people attended today at the announcement.
Kristen Dexter had previously defeated Moulton in 2008, and as she tries to gain the Senate seat for her district, she is in more or less a replay of that election. Elections in this neck of the woods are often very close, as people often vote less along party lines, and more along the lines of which candidate they personally like the most. This will be an interesting election to follow. I've attached a hand-held cell phone video of both Kristen Dexter's announcement and Jennifer Schilling's introduction.
Despite Denial, Records Show Walker was Clearly and Strongly Supporting Brett Davis for Lt. Governor
Scott + Brett = BFF
The picture above was on Scott Walker's facebook page dating all the way back to September 2009. Walker and then State Rep. Brett Davis are pictured yukking it up with Walker saying in the facebook caption:
"I am proud to have the support of Representive Brett Davis."
Scott Walker is, of course, trying to minimize his long-standing close relationship Davis, because his county office was paying several staffers, including recently charged Kelly Rindfleisch, to work on Davis's Lt. Governor campaign on the taxpayer's dime. (And, if that wasn't bad enough, Davis campaign manager and current Walker spokesman, Cullen Werwie, was regularly ordering Rindfleish and other members of Walker's county executive staff to do the illegal campaign work at their government office.)
This past Sunday, on Upfront with Mike Gousha, Walker claimed that he had no idea his entire campaign apperatus was working to get Davis elected as his running mate and said he hadn't even endorsed Davis. There is, however, a mountain of evidence that contradicts that ascertion-- Walker may not have officially endorsed Davis for political reasons, but he was doing everything possible to leave Republican primary voters with the impression that Davis was his man.
Consider this timeline of Walker's close collaboration with Davis:
On December 22, 2009 Walker went to Monroe to a campaign event hosted by Brett Davis. At the time the Monroe Times wrote this about the event:
State Representative Brett Davis, R-Oregon, who is publicly endorsing Walker, hosted the gathering. "We share the same vision to turn Wisconsin around, to increase jobs and promote economic development," Davis said. Davis said the office of lieutenant governor needs to be reformed with its focus on those two aspects of the state's economy, and that Walker wants a strong lieutenant governor with experience. Davis is considering running for the office of lieutenant governor, and said he will announce his decision in mid-January.
January 4, 2010 Brett Davis, says in an interview that the best qualification for Lt. Governor (him) should be:
"Who can be the best partner for Scott Walker?"
On March 15, 2010 Tim Russell and Brian Pierick, (members of Walker's inner-circle) sent out a mailer to GOP delegates prior to Wisconsin GOP convention with a Walker-For-Governor sticker where the return address should be located. Here is what was inside the mailer:
The letter was an invitation an event to discuss the importance of attending the Republican State Convention, the dates and locations of both.
The second paragraph was devoted to the importance of delegates supporting both Walker for Governor and Brett Davis for Lt. Governor. The exclusive event would be attended by Davis and Walker representatives and encouraged everyone to have a face to face discussion with Brett. There was a piece of lit included for both Scott Walker and Brett Davis.
On May 23, 2010 Brett Davis shows a campaign video at the Wisconsin GOP convention featuring footage of Walker and Davis together.
On April 27, 2010 Walker did a campaign event for Davis in Madison, which the campaign cryptically called "Scott Walker and Brett Davis Visit Madison. Here is a picture from the event, which features Walker and Davis signs in the backdrop:
Walker and Davis Campaign Event in April of 2010
On March 30, 2010 Walker sent out a statement praising Brett Davis for his actions to kill the high-speed train deal:
"I applaud Rep. Brett Davis and the members of the State Legislature for standing up for the taxpayers and fighting this wasteful project.”
On August 26, 2010 Walker sent out a campaign press release announcing that the Wisconsin Grocers Association had endorsed Scott Walker for Governor and Brett Davis for Lieutenant Governor. As is typical, the campaign provided quotes for members of the WGA, including:
“The Walker/Davis team will bring to Wisconsin what has been missing for a long time--a common sense approach to issues and the philosophy to not spend what we don’t have.”
September 15, 2010 Immediately after Brett Davis loses his bid for Lt. Governor, his campaign manager joins the Walker campaign as press secretary-- a position he still holds today.
December 2010 Walker announces that Brett Davis will be part of his cabinet as Medicaid Director.
There is no doubt Walker was backing Davis for Lt. Governor and was doing everything he could-- both legally and illegally to help him get elected. Which is why, of course, Walker is trying to distance himself from his support of Davis. After all, common sense dictates that it is much more plausible his county executive staff was illegally working to help Davis because that's what their boss (Walker) wanted them to do.
Paul Ryan complains, almost on a daily basis, that it is now more than 1,000 days since the U.S. Senate passed a federal budget. He makes it sound like dereliction of duty, and it plays pretty well with Fox News and other media outlets.
He must have been unpleasantly surprised when the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, covering his recent visit to its city, did some homework, and not just stenography, and included a rebuttal to his claim.
More at The Paul Ryan Watch.
Here in Wisconsin and nationally, Republicans have spent the past three years attacking President Obama and Democrats for not returning the country to the high-flying times that preceded the Big Crash of 2007-'08.
Scott Walker, in particular, simultaneously claims he's creating lots of jobs while criticizing the federal government and national economy when people inconveniently point out that Wisconsin badly lags the nation in job growth. As in, there's hardly been any job growth here since Walker crafted his draconian budget removing billions of dollars in aid, salaries and program funds for state, county and local governments. The cuts included drastic reductions in public employee compensation, which in turn has led to massive early retirements statewide, and lay-offs in some local units of government.
And what has all this wrought in just a few months? A national economy that actually has been doing pretty well given all that happened in the Bush era is being dragged down and held back by public-sector cutbacks:
Over the last two years, David Leonhardt notes, "The government shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 percent." That meant that though the private sector grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, the economy as a whole grew only 2.3 percent. Jared Bernstein looks at state and local government spending, which throughout the 1990s contributed to the GDP, and shows that today, massive cuts in local and state governments are creating a drag on the entire economy.
Yet we keep hearing about "out-of-control government spending," often from the same commentators acting mystified about why President Obama can't or won't do more to help the economy and create jobs.
More at Bernstein's economics blog: http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/what-a-drag-part-2/
ADDENDUM: The US Bureau of Labor Statistic just came out with its latest, nationwide employment cost index. Following is how it broke down. All percentages reflect change over the twelve months from December 2010 to December 2011. Note what happened to pubilc employees across the US, on average (remembering that some of them -- especially in Wisconsin -- did a lot worse and that some of them no longer even have jobs):
Private sector all workers total compensation (includes benefits): Up 2.2%
Private sector all workers wages: Up 1.6%
State and local gov't all workers total compensation: Up 1.3%
State and local gov't all workers wages: Up 1.0%
Now, a one percent salary increase happens to be about two percentage points below the US inflation rate for the same period. Meaning, public workers on average lost more buying power than anyone, whether you consider their salary alone or their total compensation.
UPDATE: GAB is posting the petitions online, but the right wingers won't be satisfied. Here's why:
"In addition to providing copies to requestors, the G.A.B. will continue its past practice, and put all 153,335 pages of PDF copies of the petitions online later today, Kennedy said. The PDF copies are not computer-searchable."
Earlier post: So the MacIver Institute, part of the right wing propaganda machine, is going to file an open records request about the recall petitions.
This comment from "Gee" on the Boots and Sabers blog nails it:There’s a difference between public documents and online documents. Posting them online is not required and will not make them public—because they already are public, not only accessible at the GAB office but also at almost a dozen sites around the state, as Walker was given the petitions last week by the GAB. So you can see them at the Walker office near you—and you even can help the volunteers checking them, too.
Democracy isn’t supposed to be easy, something anyone can do in their pajamas in the basement at mom’s computer. A lot of citizens went out into the cold for months to get signatures, so it’s comparatively easy to go to a warm office to see them.
Also: The GAB chairman is a Republican judge, just as last year’s GAB chairman was a Republican judge, still on the board, which has a Republican majority. Why not trust them to do the right thing—following the law, not expanding it? That the GAB exceeded requirements of the law in the past is no reason to push for the board to become activist judges now.
It's bogus, a non-issue.
"In Walker's case, we have learned that the governor has no sense of history, no understanding of economics, and no vision for the state." -- The Capital Times, in an editorial on the State of the State speech, titled, "Walker is lying to himself or to Wisconsin -- or both."
We have had three sessions of The People’s Legislature, and now is time to call for the most important one we have held:
February 1st at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Halls, the People’s Legislature will reconvene. The agenda? Discuss a process for naming a candidate to oppose Scott Walker and to list the key issues that must be addressed.
This session will not be an endorsement. Rather, it will try to develop a road to a wide-open primary. Let the people decide who should run—we will focus on the issues and the process.
This open meeting will go from Noon to 4:00pm. I plan to chair; Mike McCabe will keynote; other speakers to be announced.
Can you make it? We have to continue the uprising.
Everyone thinking of running or supporting a candidate is welcome.
No speeches on behalf of any candidate: only speaking to the process of how to select the best person. This is a grassroots movement and we are all part of it.
We will ask you to contribute a few bucks as we always do.
Of course, as one Wisconsin congressman noted (hint: he defeated Julie Lassa) it is a hardship to live on a congressional salary. Oh yeah? A salary of $174,000 plus a very generous package of benefits is a hardship? I guess it would be like forcing Mitt to live in one home. But, hey! Cut them some slack. How can a member become a millionaire without cheating? And keep in mind--living on a couple hundred thousand a year ain't no picnic.
Marty Beil was quoted in today's MJS. Beil had AFSCME write a speech for Tommy delivered in Puerto Rico bragging about how well negotiations with public sector unions worked in Wisconsin. So pleased was Beil that his union endorsed Thompson in 1998. Now, as the Walker Blitz wiped out public sector unions and AFSCME is in trouble thanks to Scott, Tommy is cheerleading for Walker! Beil said he cannot understand how Tommy could do such a thing. There is an old saying about dogs and fleas and pols.
Want another Lake Winnebago albeit polluted? As the mining thievs push for a revised mining bill to give them carte blanch to Wisconsin's air and water an argument has broken out.
How big would the new lake, created by the iron ore mine, be? Well, some say it was an exaggeration to say it will be two-thirds the size of Lake Winnebago unless you include depth as well as length and width. In that case, says PolitiFact, it will have the same volume of water as Lake Winnebago. Holy cow. Now you know why the mining companies wrote the bill; now you know why they don't want open debate; now you know why this thing must be stopped. The size of Lake Winnebago my foot!
MARQUETTTE POLL: Once again, MJS quotes the Marquette law school poll without question. Suddenly there is a Marquette law school poll that is funded by____?
GAB delays online Walker recall petition database as threats and Republican rhetoric drive privacy concerns
Score another point for Republican-friendly goons who promise to harrass the million or so Wisconsin citizens who signed recall petitions against Scott Walker -- and score a second point for Republicans and their think tanks who continue to sow chaos in their effort to discredit the recall elections.
Late Monday afternoon the Government Accountability Board unexpectedly issued a statement saying recall petitions for Walker would not be posted online as scheduled. The GAB is “evaluating the privacy concerns of individuals who have contacted us about posting the petitions online.” From WITI-TV News in Milwaukee:
A Wisconsin ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] spokesman told FOX6 last week they’ve also been contacted by people who fear retaliation at work, or are afraid because of previous domestic violence trouble, and these people don’t want the petitions made public online. “There should be some protection for privacy rights when someone has a legitimate fear that their political participation could have severe repercussions,” the ACLU spokesman said.
Because the GAB has already posted online the recall petitions in the effort against the four Republican senators, and has already given the Walker recall petitions to the Walker campaign offices for review, questions are now being raised about where the GAB is drawing the line between transparency and privacy.
The conservative MacIver Institute told the TV station it would file a freedom of information request for copies of the petitions, which is rather bizaare given that the Walker campaign already is busy entering petitioner names into its own searchable computer database. Apparently, the folks at MacIver want us to regard GAB's hesitancy as some kind of conspiratorial government secrecy.
But, in fact, the cat is already out of the bag. The ACLU is right to pass along privacy concerns and the GAB is right to consider them, but the GAB really now has little choice but to let the process go forth as the law requires. Anything else likely would trigger huge Republican outrage, even though Republicans themselves already managed to alter and slow the process in mid-flight by getting a friendly Waukesha County judge to issue an order that did both.
Conservatives who criticize any GAB hesitancy are hypocrites in another way. After all, it was Republican friendlies (mainly, the conservative Media Trackers "watchdog" site) who first tried to suggest that people ought to think twice before signing, since the recall petitions would be available to the public. Thus, went the argument, the recall process would violate the privacy of signers. Media Trackers just failed to add that the privacy threat would come mostly from the direction of the GOP and its partners.
Nor should we forget: It was Republican friendlies who threatened to harrass signees, Walker sympathizers who attempted to steal or de-face petitions, and pro-Walker bloggers who threatened to sign multiple petitions or otherwise try to disrupt the gathering of signatures, even while passing around unsubstantiated rumors of people signing phony names, or signing 80 times. This is the Wingnut Outrage Machine, ramping up to feed its base for yet another rabid, skewed campaign.
So do not be surprised if you soon hear Republican officials arguing in the court of public opinion and probably in actual court that -- because of all of the above -- the entire petition-gathering process is suspect and badly flawed and ought to be quashed. Besides, like, ah, well, you know, this whole recall thing is disenfranchising Scott Walker. And recalls are a violation of the state constitution's language mandating recalls. Or something.
Forgive me when I say that this all reminds me of the old joke about the kid who murdered his parents and then pleaded for the court's mercy because he was an orphan. There's no other way to view it: As they've done in the 2000 Florida elections and elsewhere, Republicans once again are implementing their shock doctrine of fear and confusion in an attempt to change the subject and derail democracy.
ADDENDUM: Several online correspondents on other blogs have discussed this matter and point out that there is a class of confidential registered voters -- individuals who have court orders of protection based on domestic or other abuse. These citizens are on the public poll lists, but their addresses are not to be made available to the public. Presumably, the GAB is now considering the ramifications of posting the petitions in a searchable, worldwide, online database. And perhaps it is considering whether the lists already provided to the Walker campaign may have included proscribed address information.
Said one commentator (highlighting mine): "Confidential voters names (names + voter number only) are listed on a separate page in each registered voter ward listing. The only people who have access to these address are authorized staff of the state GAB. They are the only people who can verify these signatures, not the Democratic Party, nor the Republican Party, nor any volunteer organization. Some how, some folks think [that] to be a victim of a crime, one should lose some or all of their basic civil rights." See Deke Rivers' political blog:
Richard Nixon had his infamous enemies list.
Scott Walker has the petition signatures.
Check it out:
- WHO: Kristen Dexter
- WHAT: Special Announcement regarding State Senate recall elections
- WHEN: Tuesday, January 31st
- TIME: 10am
- LOCATION: Corner of South Bridge St and West River Street, Chippewa Falls
Please contact Ilsa with any questions 715.252.4037 or by e-mail at petersonilsgmail [dot] com.Location South Bridge St. and West River St. Chippewa Falls, WI United States 44° 56' 5.82" N, 91° 23' 26.7108" W See map: Google Maps
Scott Walker,thoughout his political career, has consistently refused to ever take responsibility for anything that's gone wrong. When he was county executive, he blamed it all on the state, and especially the governor. Well, now he's the governor and guess what? Nothing's his fault now, either.
Before he caught himself, Walker told host Mike Gousha on his weekend "UpFront" TV show that Wisconsin is bleeding jobs -- ready for this? -- because of the recall he's facing.
[Walker] said part of the reason the state hasn’t added jobs in recent months is the uncertainty job creators face. Gousha pointed out other states have been adding jobs recently.
“Other states don’t have recalls,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty out there.”
Walker immediately walked back the comment, adding the recalls alone weren't responsible for the state’s sluggish economy. He also insisted he wasn’t saying recalls are a factor in business decisions, but said a survey showed it was a factor.
He said no business leaders have told them they have decided against investing in Wisconsin or creating jobs here because of the recalls. But he said some have indicated they are concerned about the timing of jobs announcements because of the current climate. He added he didn’t want to “overinflate” any role the recalls have played in business decisions, saying it was largely attributed to the state’s manufacturing-heavy economy and a lack of demand in foreign markets because of the economic troubles seen in Europe, particularly Greece.
Still not his fault, you see. If it's not the recallers screwing things up, it's the Greeks.
But if there's any growth in jobs he'll be right there to take the credit, ala Tommy Thompson, who benefitted from the booming economy under Bill Clinton, but acted like he personally had created every new job in the state. Pathetiic. Both of them.
People I meet ask me “Do we have a deficit?” “Did the state really pay off all its debt?”
To understand the numbers, I recently spent time with the Legislature’s financial and auditing experts. I asked them to help explain the financial state of the state.
I learned ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’ are frequently confused.
Debt is money borrowed by the state and repaid over many years – like a home mortgage. A deficit occurs when expected current state revenues aren’t enough to cover expected current expenditures – will your paychecks cover everything you have to pay for this year.
Wisconsin’s debt is $13.5 billion and growing. The budget deficit – by accounting standards – is just under a negative $3 billion.
“I thought the governor balanced the budget,” I can hear you say. Here’s the rest of the story.
Budgets look forward. They compare expected revenue with expected expenditures. To start the process, Governors ask agency directors what money they need to keep their agencies running. New spending is added to current spending. Often requests are ‘pie in the sky’. What agency directors ask for is compared to estimated revenue. If the mismatch is negative there is a “deficit”. This is the origin of the $3.6 billion deficit often cited at the beginning of 2011.
The budget gurus told me governors usually start the budget process with a deficit and then, by law, are required to bring the budget into balance – expected spending during the budget years can’t be more than expected dollars coming in.
There is another type of deficit – an accounting deficit. Unlike the budgetary deficit that just looks at cash in and cash out during the year, the accounting deficit looks at orders made over the year, bills paid, and bills due but postponed. It measures how far into the hole you are, even if your check book still balances. At the end of 2011 auditors reported the accounting deficit was nearly $3 billion - somewhat larger than at the end of last year. The accounting deficit has been growing for many years.
The state debt is not the accumulation of deficits. The debt is the money borrowed to pay for long-term projects. During the 1990s Governor Thompson authorized a large prison building program. This cost a lot of money and increased state debt. In 2003 the state took on new debt to pay off unfunded pension obligations. In just seven years, from the mid-nineties to 2003, the state’s debt doubled.
During the Doyle administration, old university buildings were replaced and money was added to the Stewardship Fund. This added to the state’s debt.
A troubling aspect of state finances is “kicking the can down the road” or debt payments due but not paid. When the state fails to make a payment and adds this payment to future debt it costs taxpayers more.
Financial staff called this practice “scoop and toss” as debt payments that are due are scooped up and tossed into the future.
Many governors have followed this practice and Governor Walker is no exception. In May of 2011 the state did not pay a $190 million debt payment. In addition, under the current budget the state delays another $338 million debt payment. Together the over-half-a-billion in delayed debt payments will cost taxpayers nearly $150 million in additional interest.
Not making current debt payments that are due “kicks the can down the road,” increases interest obligations and leaves less money for schools, health care and roads.
Historically, Wisconsin’s annual debt payments as a percent of tax revenues are below four percent. Financial staff recommend that debt payments should not exceed three and a half percent.
Because of repeated delays in debt payments, including the over-half-a-billion delayed in 2011, the size of this important ratio grows to over five percent at the end of Governor Walker’s first budget. This places Wisconsin well in the danger-zone.
Wisconsin continues to face significant budget challenges. A public discussion about how to move Wisconsin forward must be based on the facts. Facts are stubborn things and demand respect.
"In respect to state government, Wisconsin has collectively bargained with state employees for 25 years. By working together, we've created a positive atmosphere for state employees and enhanced services to our citizens (and) ensuring excellence in delivering services to our citizens.” -- Then-Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1997 speech to Puerto Rico House of Representatives.
The current version of Tommy Thompson, a US Senate candidate, supports Scott Walker's union-busting.
Our third was in the early stages of the uprising over Walker's perfidy. We focused on the gap between those who have too much power and those who should have more power.
So here comes number 4! Some say it will be a smaller crowd because it is on a work day. I say everyday is a work day when taking on the Koch brothers, Walker and Fitzgeralds. We have to complete the circle, and to do that we must join arms and go for it! Will you attend a session on a work day? All I can say is we had that day available and we keep our fingers crossed that you will be there at noon on Wednesday. You stood in rain and snow, knocked on thousands of doors, froze your buns at demonstrations...let's finish the job!
How about the John Doe? Deja vue!
Marquette Poll: As we predicted, the "new" Marquette poll is cited for all sorts of things. Walker is ahead, people support the photo I.D. bill, etc...Rarely if ever do reporters mention that this is not a "new" Marquette poll. It is their first poll ever! And is it Marquette or the Bradley Foundation feeding the beast?
You can bet that the next one will whitewash the Walker administration on the John Doe.
It has the makings of a John LeCarré thriller: A debilitating, potentially deadly, infectious disease carried by an insect the size of a poppy seed is spreading across the land. The medical establishment insists that everything is under control and that all these “sick” people are slackers or need psychiatric help. A few doctors—just a few—believe the people are really sick, and treat them according to guidelines not approved by insurance companies. One such doctor gets people in wheelchairs walking again, gives bedridden folks a new lease on life. Sick people flock to him from all over the land. He has saved many lives, and never harmed a patient. Yet one day his license is summarily suspended. There are not enough other doctors in the land to treat his many patients.
This is a story about that doctor and a state Medical Examining Board that has not always looked kindly on practitioners who treat “outside the box.” The disease is real. It’s called Lyme, and by some expert accounts, it’s an epidemic. The place is Wisconsin. But it could happen almost anywhere.
[Photos: Dr. Robert Waters in his Wisconsin Dells office; Lyme Patient John Blohm; Atty. Arthur Thexton at the November hearing for Dr. Hoffmann.]
Wisconsin Lyme doctor gets reprieve
By Fran Zell and Tom Boswell
John Blohm was a charter airplane pilot until a mysterious disease made it impossible for him to fly. Neurologists did meticulous work-ups and found nothing wrong, despite the fact that Blohm couldn’t hear or see right, suffered from exhaustion, extreme dizziness, bouts of fever and chills, tremors, and what he refers to as “lightning-bolt” zaps of pain.
“I spiraled downhill for years,” says Blohm. “The doctors referred me to psychiatrists and I began to think I was crazy. A Mayo Clinic specialist accused me of malingering and said I should go back to work.”
After seven years, Blohm did some research and realized his symptoms were typical of Lyme disease, a tick-borne bacterial infection endemic to Wisconsin. He remembered that years earlier – just before his symptoms began – he had been bitten by a tick in his suburban Beloit backyard. He had tested negative for Lyme during the course of his illness but now he found a doctor who treated chronic Lyme disease at his small clinic in Waupaca.
“Dr. Hoffmann was a godsend,” he says. “By the time I first saw him, I’d lost the use of one arm and could barely walk. The vertigo was unbearable. I was losing about five pounds a week. He diagnosed me with Lyme based on my symptoms and history and started treating me with antibiotics. He brought me back from the edge.”
In mid-November, Blohm’s treatment ended abruptly. His Lyme doctor — John Gregory Hoffmann — was summoned to Madison by the State’s Medical Examining Board. After a brief hearing, his medical license was suspended, effective immediately.
“The state says this has nothing to do with Lyme disease, but I think it’s a veiled attack,” asserted Blohm, who spearheaded a movement among fellow Lyme sufferers to challenge the Board’s decision. “Dr. Hoffmann does not treat Lyme according to (standard) guidelines, and I think they’re trying to stop him.”
Arthur Thexton, the Division of Enforcement (DOE) prosecuting attorney who filed the complaint requesting summary suspension, would neither confirm nor deny Blohm’s suspicion. “If I want to keep my job, I can’t talk to the press,” he said.
On January 18 Hoffmann, his attorney, and the Medical Board reached an agreement whereby the suspension of Hoffmann’s license would be “stayed” subject to various terms and conditions. Hoffmann must work under supervision of a professional mentor, may not accept new patients, must complete a “robust self-study program,” and pass a Special Purpose Examination (SPEX), a test used by medical boards to re-examine a licensed or previously licensed physician’s basic medical knowledge.
“They’re saying I’m not up to standard with modern medical practice, that I practice out of the routine.” Hoffmann commented after his January Board appearance. “It’s not a complaint regarding patient care.”
Thexton reopened an old (1997) case on Hoffmann in 2007, for reasons that are not revealed in the case file. The old case related to a 1992 incident in which Hoffmann had been drinking while on call. The case was fully resolved in 2006.
Marina Andrews, who blogs about Lyme from Luck, Wisconsin, said the new case originated with a former patient who complained that Hoffman would not prescribe pain medication during an office visit. Thexton then asked for patient records, many of them Lyme files. “There was a public outcry at the time and Thexton was temporarily removed from the case,” Andrews said.
In 2008, the Board ruled that Hoffmann’s charts suggested possible “deficiencies in medical knowledge and practice standards” and referred him to the UW Medical Physician Assessment Center. Last August, a report from UW said Hoffmann had “significant deficiencies” based on standardized testing and recommended more testing. Thexton called for suspension, contending there was an immediate need to protect the public from Hoffmann.
Maybe he didn’t study for the test, but he’s a fabulous doctor, said Hoffmann patient Jennifer Christie of De Pere. “I had a severe situation recently. My kidneys were bleeding. I was in the ER three days in a row. Everyone at Bellin (Medical Center in Green Bay) missed it. I made one call to Doc and he immediately knew it was a drug interaction related to a med my primary provider put me on.”
“Dr. Hoffmann saved my life,” said Lyme patient Della Haugen, a former photojournalist for a Madison TV station, and one of two thousand people who wrote letters and signed a petition of support prior to the November hearing. “I saw lots of UW doctors and none of them could help me. I got so sick I had to stop working.”
A Milwaukee area public official who testified at the November hearing said Hoffmann’s Lyme treatment enabled her to leave her wheelchair. She told a reporter that since being bitten by a tick 14 years ago, she endured fainting spells, horrible neck and eye pain and numbness on one side of her body. “Then my legs wouldn’t support me. I was writing my will,” she said of the time before she started seeing Hoffmann.
Dr. Gene Musser, the Board member who made the motion to suspend Hoffmann’s license, said he could not discuss the case other than to note that the Board did not sanction Hoffmann because of his Lyme treatment practices.
But the fact remains that Lyme is a major medical controversy, to the point that Hoffmann was treating a disease — chronic Lyme — that the academic-medical establishment has long insisted does not exist.
“Is this an issue the state has with him because he’s operating outside of medical thought? I think it is,” said Dr. Robert Waters, who operates a medical clinic in the Dells. “They’re holding him responsible for something that happened 20 years ago. This doesn’t have anything to do with the sick people he treats. There’s no evidence he harmed anyone.
“The state has unlimited funds to continue a prosecution,” Waters said. “When a doctor runs out of money, his lawyers ask him to settle and stipulate and admit to certain things (he’s) done ‘wrong.’ The burden of proof is on the doctor, even when there are no complaints from patients.”
Waters said that the state, and Thexton in particular, have a pattern of coming down hard on alternative health care practitioners. He himself was the center of a highly publicized investigation by Thexton that was dismissed as groundless, in 2003, shortly after Thexton was removed from the case. “It went on for six and a half years, cost me $50,000 in legal fees, untold stress, heartache and lost income,” he said.
Thexton and DOE attorney James Polewski investigated so many alternative practitioners at the time that some of those involved, including Watertown nurse Barbara Lemke, considered it a “vendetta.” Lemke was called before the Board for using an allergy elimination treatment called acupressure. She ultimately appealed her case and was exonerated. “But it cost me $26,000 (in attorney fees) to keep my license,” she said.
As a result of the experience, Lemke helped found the Wisconsin Association for Health Freedom. “We're currently trying to get a bill passed that would allow practitioners to use alternative therapies without fear of being prosecuted,” she said.
Waters was investigated for using a toxin-removing therapy called chelation for a controversial purpose — treating cardiovascular disease and circulatory disorders. Thexton publicly called it “quackery,” even though the National Institute for Health was conducting a major study on chelation in which Waters had been asked to participate.
Hoffmann follows treatment protocols for Lyme developed by the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), a small, but vocal medical group based in Washington, D.C. ILADS contends that, if untreated or under-treated, Lyme bacteria remain in the body and the disease goes “chronic,” manifesting in a host of serious symptoms often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, early Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ALS and more.
Most doctors – and health insurers – debunk ILADS. They follow Lyme protocols mandated by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), which holds that Lyme bacteria are eradicated after a short course of antibiotics.
“If symptoms remain after that, they say it’s a somatic syndrome,” said Dr. Burton Waisbren Sr., a founding member of IDSA who disagrees with the group’s position on Lyme. The Milwaukee internist and infectious disease specialist asserts that chronic Lyme does exist, and that patients seriously ill with it have responded to long-term antibiotic therapy at his clinic. In his new book, Treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease (iUniverse, Inc.), Waisbren chronicles 51 recent cases (not all of them successful) that have led him to conclude that chronic Lyme is a national epidemic.
Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that Wisconsin is fast becoming ground zero for Lyme disease. Reported incidences have increased more than five-fold since 2000, making Wisconsin the third hardest-hit state in the country. But there are only a handful of doctors in the Midwest who will treat Lyme outside of IDSA guidelines.
“I think for anyone in Wisconsin prescribing outside of standard protocols, there is always going to be the chance of an issue coming up,” said Kim Saxe, a naturopathic doctor who provides complementary services to many Lyme patients at her Brookfield wellness center.
Saxe said that insurance companies “are raising red flags” and reporting doctors for their prescribing methods. “It’s been an issue with Lyme doctors in other parts of the country who have lost their licenses,” she said. “It’s how the issue reaches medical boards. It is also why many Lyme doctors are choosing not to bill insurance.
“I know there were other claims made against Dr. Hoffmann,” she said, “but I find it a little challenging to believe (the case) was unrelated to his Lyme prescribing.”
Saxe said she knew little about Lyme until she contracted it herself about four years ago. She said that for two years she saw a lot of doctors and spent $20,000 out of pocket on tests that turned up nothing, despite her abdominal dysfunction and loss of muscle mass.
“No one thought of Lyme. Doctors told me I needed antidepressants and anxiety medication, but I knew something serious was going on.”
Eventually she ran her own Lyme test. “Lyme testing is horrible, she noted. “There are many false negatives.” But Saxe tested positive, then found a Milwaukee internist who treats Lyme outside of IDSA guidelines but does not publicize the fact for fear of losing his license.
“Lyme doctors are doing what they feel and know is right for patients, even though it is not the standard of care,” she said.
Waters went through ILADS training in 2009 and now also treats Lyme. He said he stopped taking Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance years ago because he didn’t want to risk being investigated by the state for doing “what I know is right for patients.” The complaint Thexton prosecuted him for originated with a doctor and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
State Senator Dale Schultz (R) supported Waters at the time and said he still does.
“I have a number of constituents who are his chelation patients and they are passionate about him,” he said. “That led me to be supportive too. Information came to light that the U.S. government was using chelation to take bad things out of the body. It seemed extremely unreasonable to me for the state to pick on someone for doing the same treatment.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield also initiated the complaint that precipitated a nine-year licensing battle that Dr. Eleazer Kadile, a Green Bay chelation practitioner, said cost him $500,000 in legal bills.
“It was purely politics,” alleges Kadile, who was ultimately cleared on charges relating to chelation. Thexton’s key witness in both chelation cases was a Massachusetts doctor with consulting ties to the insurance industry. He was largely discredited on the stand, though he billed the state for nearly $86,000.
Sheldon Wasserman, a Milwaukee physician on the Medical Examining Board, believes that some of the conflict over state regulation of alternative health care practitioners can be mitigated with a re-write of Chapter Med 10 of the Administrative Code, which covers unprofessional conduct of physicians. Wasserman, who served 14 years in the State Assembly (D), assumed the chair position on the Board in January.
“Rewriting of Chapter 10 will be one of my top priorities for the year,” Wasserman said. He feels there is an “emerging position” on the Board to develop rules that would allow physicians freedom to practice as long as there was “truly-given informed consent” on the part of patients. The code revision would “put a lot of burden on physicians” to inform patients that their treatment was not “the standard of care” and “basically create a buyer-beware type of situation.
“I think people have the right to decide what they want, and the right to do what they want with their own bodies, across the board,” commented Wasserman.
Waters addressed the issue of doctor-patient understanding several years ago, following the lead of alternative practitioners in other states. He turned his clinic into a private association, charging a nominal fee to patients who then sign a contract accepting services. It enables him to offer the treatments patients seek without interference from governmental bodies, he explained.
John Blohm, for one, said he knew what he was getting into when he started seeing Hoffmann. “He told me about the risks of long-term antibiotic treatment. But I also know it will kill me if I don’t do it. I made a very informed decision. I chose to follow ILADS guidelines.”
The fallout from Hoffmann’s license suspension has been huge, said Kristin Collins, a Pewaukee nurse whose two small children are Hoffmann’s patients.
“He has about 1,500 patients, said Collins, who volunteered at the Waupaca clinic for four days following the Board’s November decision to suspend Hoffmann’s license. “Dr. Hoffmann has his own unique way of treating. He took Medicare and Medicaid, and most other insurance. He never turned his back on anyone because of money. There aren’t enough other Lyme doctors in the state to take on these patients.
“Some people called the office, sobbing,” she said. “They had seen numerous doctors who ignored them. Doc believed them and helped them.”
The “interim” stipulation agreed to by Hoffmann and the Medical Board on January 18 represents a “pathway” to full re-instatement of the doctor’s license, according to Greg Gasper, spokesperson for Wisconsin’s new Department of Safety and Professional Services.
About a half-dozen of Hoffmann’s patients spoke at the meeting in support of him, despite the fact that his case was not listed on the public agenda.
“They (the Board) got the message,” Hoffmann commented.
# # #
Photos of Atty. Arthur Thexton and Dr. Robert Waters by Tom Boswell. Photo of John Blohm by Laura Blohm.
About the writers: Fran Zell and Tom Boswell are freelance journalists residing in Evansville, Wisconsin. Zell has written extensively about Lyme disease, including stories in the Chicago Tribune and Milwaukee Magazine. She has written cover stories for Isthmus and the Chicago Reader. Tom Boswell is a writer and photographer who has had cover stories in the National Catholic Reporter, Shepherd Express and other publications. His photographs for an Isthmus cover story in December 1996, won a first place award from the Milwaukee Press Club.