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News Stories for May 6, 2011
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
An observer for Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg objected Thursday to the security of bags holding Supreme Court ballots from the City of Brookfield because of a gap opening on the ballot bags.
They've raised similar objections four or five times in Waukesha County since the start of the recount, said retired Circuit Court Judge Robert Mawdsley, who's overseeing the county recount. In an interview, he agreed with objector Bill Hotz's observation that the bag opening from Brookfield was the largest seen so far.
Hotz said poorly sealed bags or torn bags appear to be a common problem, but they were evident on five of six Brookfield bags that were counted first thing Thursday. He objected to the counting of those ballots where bags appeared to be open.
Brandon O'Bryon, representing Justice David Prosser, objected to the objection, saying Brookfield voters would be disenfranchised if their votes weren't counted.
As has been the practice from the start, Mawdsley makes a record of the concerns and each objection should a challenge end up in court."There are several bags that appear to be improperly sealed," Mawdsley said for the record. Read the source story here.
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO announced Wednesday that it would withdraw more than $105,000 from M&I Bank as part of its "Move Your Money" campaign.
The bank used $1.7 billion in TARP money. "Instead of repaying their debt to taxpayers M&I executives spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on political contributions to Gov. Scott Walker and politicians who are now attacking the middle class," the union said in a statement. Read the source story here.
A formal challenge to be filed later today against Republican recall petitions asks the Government Accountability Board to disqualify thousands of invalid signatures, and reject recall elections against three Democratic state senators, because widespread and systemic election fraud has tainted the entire GOP operation.
"The overwhelming evidence clearly shows a pervasive pattern of election fraud committed by the shady out-of-state organization hired by Republicans to collect recall petitions," said Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller. "Thousands of Wisconsin citizens fell victim to lies and misinformation spread by the circulators, and the papers submitted by this operation contain a river of omissions and wrong information.
[...] Some of the cases and examples of election fraud outlined in the formal recall challenge of GOP petitions to be filed this afternoon include:
- Affidavit of a World War II veteran from Green Bay who was misled into signing a recall petition. Upon learning he had been duped, veteran called the sheriff to get his name removed. When confronted, the circulator claims he will remove the name, but a later review of the petitions reveals the veteran's name was never crossed off.
- Many affidavits attesting that Circulator Sherri Ferrell - who gathered nearly 3,000 signatures in two districts -- gathered signatures on Indian reservations claiming petitions were to support "schools," "Democrats," and "tribal rights."
- Affidavit of voter in Senate District 22 attesting that circulator John Prijic claimed the petitions were for work to be done on a local park.
- Affidavit of voter in Senate District 30 attesting that circulator Annette Lord claimed the petitions were to recall Republican Senator Cowles.
- Affidavit of voter in Senate District 30 attesting that circulator Richard Madrill claimed the petitions were to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
AFL-CIO Now Blog
Paying back his corporate donors and allies and sticking it to working families once again, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a bill that overturns Milwaukee’s paid sick leave law.
The law was passed with a 70 percent vote in 2008 and Milwaukee corporate interests soon filed suit against it, but in late March, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the law. Today, Walker went to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), the business group that tried to block the law, and signed the bill that preempts all Wisconsin communities from approving ordinances requiring paid sick days.
The bill was passed at the urging of the MMAC by the Republican-controlled legislature and specifically designed to block the Milwaukee law. Dana Schultz, lead organizer for 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, says Walker’s action is “an assault on democracy, local control, and working families.” Read the source story here.
One of the dominating justifications that the right uses for its economic policies is that lowering taxes and regulations on society’s wealthiest members and big businesses will cause an explosion of wealth that will eventually “trickle down” to the vast majority of Americans. Yet while a record number of Americans are receiving some form of government assistance as unemployment remains high and the economy is in shambles, one group is doing very well: corporate America. The 2011 Fortune 500 list was unveiled today, surveying the growth and profits of the nation’s largest 500 corporations. It found that the profits of these companies “soared 81″ percent over the past year, causing the editors of Fortune to say that “we’ve rarely seen such a stark gulf between the fortunes of the 500 and those of ordinary Americans”:
All told, the Fortune 500 generated nearly $10.8 trillion in total revenues last year, up 10.5%. Total profits soared 81%. But guess who didn’t benefit much from this giant wave of cash? Millions of U.S. workers stuck mired in a stagnant job market. [...] Nevertheless, we’ve rarely seen such a stark gulf between the fortunes of the 500 and those of ordinary Americans.At the same time, corporate tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is lower than it has been in years, meaning that not only is the wealth not trickling down, but that these big firms are also becoming less and less likely to pay their fair share. Read the source story here.
Exxon Mobil is by far the most profitable company in the new Fortune 500 list, riding “high oil prices to a staggering $30 billion in income” in 2010. Exxon made over $10 billion more than fellow oil giant Chevron, the third most profitable company (AT&T edged out Chevron for the number two spot). ConocoPhillips’ $11.4 billion in profits put it in the 16th spot, giving the three oil giants a combined $60.9 billion in profits in 2010.
Today, the Republicans in the House of Representatives celebrated this massive redistribution of wealth from American families to oil executives. With the support of 7 oil-patch Democrats, 234 Republicans voted to block a bill to eliminate a $1.8 billion annual subsidy that treats oil drilling as “domestic manufacturing”:
House Republicans rejected an effort by Democrats Thursday to use a procedural maneuver to force a vote on a bill to repeal a key oil industry tax break.Read the source story here.
The chief sponsors of a bill to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and open the coastal waters of Virginia for exploration have received more than $8.8 million combined in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry, a review of campaign finance records shows.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act by a 266 to 149 margin. The measure would force the federal government to conduct three lease auctions in those areas by June 2012. It is considered the first step in a GOP-led process to loosen restrictions on offshore drilling. Authored by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), it faces a much closer vote in the Senate as well as the stated opposition of the Obama administration. Read the source story here.
After the killing of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan, much of the nation’s focus has turned to the men in our military who were responsible for the raid. The combat team that attacked Bin Laden’s compound was composed of an elite unit of Navy SEALS.
As economist Dean Baker points out, ABC News did a feature story about the SEALs to highlight the sacrifices those enlisted in the unit make. ABC compared their base salaries of $54,000 a year to the average annual salary for teachers. Baker notes that perhaps their salaries should be compared to Wall Street CEOs who earn tens of millions of dollars:
In the wake of their successful assault on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, ABC News did a short feature on the Navy Seals. The report tells us that the people who hold this highly demanding and dangerous get paid about $54,000 a year. It then adds that: “The base salary level [of Navy Seals] is comparable to the average annual salary for teachers in the U.S., which was $55,350 for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Digest of Education Statistics.’ That is one possible comparison. There are other possible reference points. For example, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan both pocket around $20 million a year.Baker’s query poses an interesting question. What would the numbers look like if the base salary of a Navy SEAL — who risk their very lives in their day-to-day work — was compared to the compensation of the CEOs of some of America’s wealthiest corporations? Data from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch finds that the average 2010 CEO compensation at an S&P 500 company was $11,358,445. ThinkProgress has demonstrated this gap in compensation visually: Read the source story here.
The Michigan Messenger
Benton Harbor’s emergency manager says he will issue an order rescinding a city commission resolution declaring the emergency financial manager law unconstitutional.
The city commission approved the resolution Monday night. The approval violated an earlier order of Emergency Financial Manager Joseph Harris which usurped the powers of the commission. The order allowed the city commission to vote on starting a meeting, closing a meeting and approving minutes of meeting.
Now Harris tells WSJM that he is going to rescind the resolution, which he says has no legal validity. While Harris says he won’t go so far as to lock the elected body from city hall, he does say he will be sending cease and desist orders to the commission members. Read the source story here.
In These Times
There is no place in the United States that more cruelly illustrates the intensifying conflict between corporate power and democracy than Benton Harbor, Mich., the first city to be placed under what some Michiganders call “financial martial law.”
In March, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder won approval of Public Act 4 (i.e., the Emergency Manager law), which permits him to declare that a city is in fiscal crisis and then to appoint an overseer with unlimited powers including the elimination of existing union contracts. Significantly, chief sponsors of Public Act 4 were State Rep. Al Pscholka, who was a former aide to Whirlpool heir U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, and also "a former vice president for one of the major entities involved in building the luxury golf development," The Rachel Maddow Show reported last week.
One of the first battlegrounds in Benton Harbor is Jean Klock Park: Will the 90-acre park continue to be a public facility on Lake Michigan for poor kids or will it be converted into the massive proposed Harbor Shores golf course, condo and marina development? Read the source story here.
In These Times
Imagine if Republicans in Congress threatened to defund the Supreme Court because they didn’t like one of its decisions. Well, that’s almost what's happening right now, as Republicans in Congress threaten to defund the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a quasi-judicial independent body tasked with prosecuting and enforcing labor law.
[...] The NLRB is now seeking an order that would require Boeing to maintain the second production line in the unionized Puget Sound facility. If a settlement is not reached, the next step in the process will be a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Seattle on June 14.
Republicans were quick to denounce the NLRB ruling in very heated language. Senator Jim Demint (R-S.C.) speaking on the floor of the Senate, said “The administration, I believe, is acting like thugs that you might see in a third-world country, trying to bully and intimidate employers.”This week Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) actually put forward legislation to defund the complaint filed against Boeing. How exactly Congress could defund one complaint of the National Labor Relations Board is unclear. But it is clear that the NLRB has always been a fully independent quasi-judicial body; threatening to defund the NLRB over holding a hearing on one case is like Republicans in Congress threatening to defund one Supreme Court hearing. It is a threat meant to intimidate the NLRB, whose budget has been under attack in the past, as I wrote about for Working In These Times earlier this year. Read the source story here.
Republican golden boy Paul Ryan is hardly known for his sympathies to organized labor. With his drastic budget proposal to privatize Medicare and unabashed support for Governor Scott Walker's anti-union bill, the Wisconsin congressman has become the new face of the GOP's right flank.
But a closer look at Ryan's voting record reveals a single eyebrow-raising exception when it comes to labor unions: Ryan has consistently broken with his party to defend a law protecting the wages of unionized construction workers. His stance on the issue has earned him the support of a handful of unions back home, setting them apart from the majority of Wisconsin's labor community, which who has cast Ryan as public enemy No. 1. What explains this break in GOP orthodoxy? Ryan's family owns a construction firm that relies heavily on union labor—and the company could suffer if the law were repealed. Read the source story here.
A group of 19 Republican senators is vowing to defeat two of President Barack Obama’s nominations for the National Labor Relations Board after the panel sued Boeing, accusing the aerospace giant of retaliating against union workers.
In a letter sent to Obama, the senators said they would “vigorously oppose” and use all procedural tools to block the confirmations of the board’s Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon and board member Craig Becker, a former union attorney whom Obama granted a recess appointment last year. Read the source story here.
The Maddow Blog
With Wisconsin state Senate recalls now at six Republicans and three Democrats, the state Democratic Party says it's filing a formal challenge today to the petitions against Democrats. "We believe that when the facts are reviewed, the [Government Accountability Board] will throw out thousands of flawed signatures because they were fraudulent or defective," Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller says in the press release. "The vast depth of this misconduct calls into question the legitimacy of every signature collected by these circulators, and shows that the GOP effort failed to gather the valid signatures needed for recall elections."
In other Wisconsin news, a Democrat in a special election yesterday won a state Assembly seat that had been held by a Republican for 16 years. Some state employees are observing today as State Employee Depreciation Day, after Governor Scott Walker declared yesterday State Employee Appreciation Day. And Governor Walker has done away with paid sick leave for Milwaukee County, which Milwaukee County voters had voted for in a 2008 referendum. The new Republican legislature passed a law that threw that referendum out. Read the source story here.
Assembly Co-chair Robin Vos said the JFC will hold an executive session on the budget next Thursday, but not on Tuesday.
The Assembly will be in session on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The committee will meet at 2 p.m. Monday for an executive session on the voter ID bill.
Rep. Tamara Grigsby and Sen. Lena Taylor, both Milwaukee Dems, were outraged by the announcement. They said they have scheduling conflicts on Mondays that were made clear to the chairs and were told by the chairs to keep Tuesdays and Thursdays open for meetings.
They said they felt the meeting was scheduled Monday to keep them from being able to voice their concerns on the bill. Read the source story here.
Ezra Klein in The Washington Post
It doesn’t matter whether Eric Cantor says he’s bargaining for the Ryan budget or not. The GOP cannot privatize and voucherize Medicare. They can’t even get close. It’s too easy an issue for Democrats, too dangerous an issue with seniors, and too slipshod a policy even for Michelle Bachmann. The attack on Medicaid, however, is another story. That one might actually work. And if it does, it’ll actually be worse.
“In in-the-know political circles,” says Chris Jennings, who ran President Bill Clinton’s health-care reform efforts, “it’s just assumed Medicaid is going to be hit. No one is going to want to touch Medicare. Medicare is where the political juice is. But we’re going to need savings. So that leads to Medicaid.”
There are two reasons Medicaid is more vulnerable than Medicare. The first is who it serves. Medicaid goes to two groups of people: the poor and the disabled. Most of the program’s enrollees are kids from poor families, though most of the program’s money is spent on the small fraction of beneficiaries who are disabled and/or elderly. These groups have one thing in common, however: They’re politically powerless. Read the source story here.