February 26, 2003
Goose and gander
Chief Justice Edward Ryan of our Supreme Court warned in June of 1873 that, "The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching not for economic conquests only, but for political power." If Ryan arrived back here today he would gladly rejoin the other world.
FightingBob.com reported two days ago that corporations such as Mathy Construction, Miller Brewing, WE, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, and Zigman Joseph gave huge amounts of money to the Democratic National Committee in the last week of October. This is money that flowed back to the Wisconsin Democratic Party to help in the final days of the election.
The daily newspapers ignore our story while continuing to make a big deal out of the contributions given by the tribes in the same way, at the same time.
The message from the news monopolies: Money from the tribes is bad but money from right-wingers to the Democratic Party is good? C'mon. Where is Chief Justice Ryan when we need him?
Bring on the massage parlors
Who would have dreamed that Wisconsin, land of Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire and Bob La Follette would become Las Vegas East? Eat your heart out Atlantic City 'cause Wisconsin is about to become the new American gambling hot spot. Think about it. Thousands of New Yorkers flocking to Bayfield for gambling and snowmobiling, topped off with a shot and a beer. How will we spend the budget surplus?
Imagine a bus tour of gambling sites. First stop Milwaukee, to the expanded digs for a Vegas show; on to Beloit to help open the new casino in what used to be City Hall; to Madison where the Legislature moved to smaller quarters to convert the Capitol into the state's largest casino. Patrons of the arts enjoying the Overture Center can use the slots at intermission or walk through heated tunnels to the Capitol Casino. Then on to Lambeau field to roll dice with Packers in the new domed stadium hosting the world's largest floating craps game.
Wisconsin's motto will change from "You are among friends," to "You are about to win a fortune."
My prediction: the Legislature in 2005, noting that gambling has fallen off as the recession has lingered, is debating the legalization of massage parlors. "What's wrong with a little rub if it closes the budget gap" intones the state's spokesman. "Besides" he adds, "when our tourists lean over the roulette table all night, they need some TLC."
February 23, 2003
Let the blogging begin
We are launching our Web magazine and this Web log with great enthusiasm. “Is this a private fight or can anyone join in?” is our motto because we will jump into lots of fights even when not invited. We chose Bob La Follette as the guiding spirit because the contributing editors are comfortable with the title "progressive," and La Follette is history's greatest embodiment of the term. (Read some Fighting Bob background written by John Nichols.) We are not part of any political party and I suspect we will be equally tough on Democrats and Republicans. Our goal is not to be critical for the sake of criticism. We want to bring change to our state and we believe we must demand the return of small “d” democracy at all levels of government. We focus on Wisconsin but we have lots of friends and subscribers in Minnesota, so you will have material from them as well.
No matter where you are, the irrefutable fact is that money, and the ability to raise it, has neutered our political parties. Parties no longer select, fund, or staff campaigns. Parties become little more than conduits for large sums of money. Wealthy people, or those who can attract wealth, decide to run, hire a staff, avoid debate, and develop their own platform without a glance in the rear view mirror.
Speaking of money and politics....The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the story that the Ho-Chunk, Potawatomi and Oneida tribes sent a total of $700,000 to the Democratic National Committee a week before the gubernatorial election and even gave $50,000 to cover the inaugural festivities. The story coincides with the announcement that Governor Doyle has privately negotiated gaming pacts with the tribes. What the Journal Sentinel does not say is that there were others who jumped in during the last week of the campaign with huge contributions to the DNC. Charles Mathy, president of Mathy Construction, gave $200,000 at the end of October. Mathy builds lots of roads in Wisconsin. (The La Crosse Tribune has been writing about his plans to build an asphalt plant despite local protest.)
Utilities with projects pending before the PSC also gave to the DNC in the final push. Wisconsin Energy (WE) gave $15,000; Wisconsin Public Service, the folks who dreamed up the 14-story extension cord from Manitoba to Chicago--through our forests and farm land--gave $15,000 on Election Day. I wonder how many PSCW officers are Democrats. And the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who support the extension cord, gave a last-minute $10,000. Zigman Joseph Stephenson, the public relations folks who once hired Scott Jensen, gave $15,000 on October 31, and lobbyist Bill Broydrick gave $10,000.
Total it all up and the DNC got $1,060,000 from Wisconsin contributors and quickly sent $1 million to the Wisconsin Democratic Party to use in the final stages of the November election. I guess the $60,000 was a tip for services rendered.
So, where does Fighting Bob.com fit in? We will ask why the Wisconsin Democratic Party agreed to this arrangement, who made the calls, and why the Party didn’t send out a news release announcing its incredibly successful campaign to raise more than a million dollars in a week. Hell, I ran for governor and raised a million four years ago—but it took 13 months.
Budget has odd feel
Looking at the proposed budget, the first submitted by a Democratic governor in 16 years, one has to ask, “Why cut the university system when Corrections will get a billion dollars?” (See Walter Dickey’s FightingBob.com story.) “Why cut the university and raise tuition on students whose families are already struggling in this awful economy? What was UW System President Katherine Lyall thinking when she suggested privatizing the UW? Is she bored?"
Welcome to Fighting Bob.com. Let us know about fights you would like to join and please give us your reaction to our first issue.
Quote of the week: Tom Krajewski representing Potowatomi: “The goddamn news media in this state has refused to understand the impact of these (gaming) compacts on our economy.” Had he stopped at “the goddamn media,” we might have agreed.