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UW Student: My Friend Was Raped, Gun-Control Laws Left Her Defenseless

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 13:25

*Graphic Content Warning

MacIver News Service | Oct. 17, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] Just when you thought the extreme left couldn't get any more surreal, well, enter Cocks Not Glocks.

As MacIver News Service reported last week, the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter of the anti-gun student group demonstrated against the Second Amendment - and the "rape culture" - by waving around plastic penis sex toys.

The thin line of phallus wielders protested national conservative commentator Katie Pavlich's address, "Trigger Warning: Second Amendment Rights and Self Defense."

They shrank, however, when confronted with some inconvenient truths.

Michelle Walker, a UW Madison sophomore and member of Young Americans for Freedom, the student organization that sponsored Pavlich's speech, stood up Tuesday to the protesters' cry to keep guns off campus.

"So you want to be raped?" Walker asks the 20 or so demonstrators. Watch the video of the exchange here

A young woman, seemingly stunned by the question, screams, "No one said that!"

"Nobody said that. Stop insulting survivors," yells another demonstrator, wielding a dildo while holding a "Disarm hate" sign.

"You guys are insulting survivors by not allowing them to defend themselves," Walker shoots back.

"I have a friend who was raped on campus," Walker continues. "She wasn't allowed to have her concealed carry (gun) with her. She was raped because of that. If she would have had her concealed carry I guarantee she wouldn't have been raped."

There is a stunned pause by the anti-gun crowd, as if they're not sure how to process the information they've just received.

Suddenly, the lead sex toy wielder snaps out of her protest paralysis, turns to her fellow demonstrators and conjures up a familiar left-wing chant: "Show me what democracy looks like!"

"This is what democracy looks like!" the small crowd chants back.

Walker, exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke, futilely tries to reengage. The sex toy army only shakes their plastic penises in the air and chants, "Cocks not Glocks," like some perverse Tiananmen Square scene.

"I decided to ask them why they were against having guns on campus for the sake of having self-defense for women, because these are the people that also claim they want to end the rape culture and educate men on how to not rape women and things like that," Walker told MacIver News Service last week on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA. "So I figured it would be a valid question for them. And they didn't really have an answer for me. All they did was ask me why I wanted to shoot people and kill people instantly."

"They basically asked me why I wanted to defend myself against a rapist with a gun," she added.

In Wisconsin, law-abiding citizens may carry a concealed weapon, with a permit. A bill pending in the Legislature would end the permit requirement, adding Wisconsin to the 12 states that have constitutional carry laws.

Public schools still could prohibit carrying concealed weapons in buildings, but only under the state's trespassing laws.

Only Utah has a statute specifically declaring that public colleges and university do not have authority to ban lawful concealed weapons on their property, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Walker said she knows students who have been caught defenseless in assault situations because of the prohibition on guns on college campuses. She recounted the story of her friend who was raped on another college campus.

"She had her concealed carry permit given to her by her state. She's not from Wisconsin," Walker said. "Since her campus banned guns, she was not allowed to have it at the time she was attacked and therefore she was attacked and faced all of the negative consequences in dealing with that, including dropping out of school and what not."

Kat Kerwin, UW student and organizer of the "Cocks Not Glocks" event, told the Capital Times that such rhetoric is "divisive" and that Pavlich's speech was designed to "divide campus." Kerwin describes herself on Twitter as an "alternative right troller" and "gun violence prevention advocate."

Gun control supporters insist concealed carry on campus - permit or otherwise - would lead to more gun violence.

The assertion isn't borne out by experience.

More than a year ago, Texas adopted campus carry on its public universities. Authorities say the law has had little impact on day-to-day college life.

"We have had no incidents since the law passed or since the law went into effect of criminal acts by license-to-carry holders," Ed Reynolds, chief of the University of North Texas Police Department, told the Denton Record-Chronicle last month.

In fact, the Texas Democratic Party apologized earlier this month for trying to link the fatal shooting of a Texas Tech police officer to the state's campus carry law.

"Hollis Daniels III, the 19-year-old freshman arrested in the shooting, could legally possess a pistol under Texas gun laws. But under campus carry, he would still be prohibited from carrying a concealed handgun into campus buildings or Texas Tech dorm rooms" because he isn't over the age of 21, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Walker said she and her conservative friends will continue to push for campus carry. The outspoken sophomore says she refuses to be silenced by the left.

"I don't want to let the university win in silencing me or progressive students at all," she said. "I try to go out of my way to make sure they don't silence me."

Did Politics Play Role In Dismissal Drive Against Conservative Professor?

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | October 16, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] University of Wisconsin-Platteville Professor Sabina Burton has long alleged she has been harassed, threatened, and retaliated against by UW-P administrators for "standing up for what is right."

And now Burton, the whistleblower facing dismissal after a contentious legal battle with the university's chancellor and others, suspects politics is behind the effort to push her out.

Threatening Letter?

Documents obtained by MacIver News Service show Elizabeth Throop, then-UW-Platteville Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education, contacted law enforcement after learning that Burton, a conservative, reached out to Gov. Scott Walker for help in her struggles against what the Criminal Justice associate professor describes as a "very corrupt, liberal administration."

In a Sept. 4, 2015 email to the university's police chief and HR director, Throop wrote that Burton's letter to the Republican governor "seems like a real escalation of things." The administrator claimed she had concerns for her personal safety "despite the lack of actual physical threat." She said she consulted with UW-P Chancellor Dennis Shields and other administrators, and that she was "not interested in filing a complaint at this juncture."

UW-P Officer Reginald Ihm in an incident report noted that he was "not given much information from the letter other than that in Throop's opinion it was upsetting."

Upsetting? Perhaps. Threatening? No.

Burton used some choice words in her plea to Walker, but the only threat contained in the letter was the professor's rhetorical pledge to "put Wisconsin and Platteville on the national and international map and expose the corruption going on here."

Walker's staff forwarded Burton's complaint onto University of Wisconsin System officials. It's not clear what happened after that.

In the letter, Burton reminds Walker of their meeting at a Des Moines, Iowa Lincoln Day Dinner in March 2015, when the governor was preparing to run for president. Burton was introduced to Walker by a friend and official in the Republican National Committee so that the professor could "share some of the troubles I am facing at UW-Platteville."

"A very corrupt, liberal administration is mercilessly harassing employees and students who are standing up for what is right," Burton wrote to the governor.

Burton alleges administrators took away a grant she had landed for the university, kept her off committee seats, and effectively stalled her professional career at the university after she spoke out about the handling of a female student's sexual harassment complaint.

She claims top UW-Platteville administrators with a liberal bent disregarded a faculty search committee's recommendation for the vacant Liberal Arts and Education dean post. Burton was a member of that search and screen committee. The top candidate was a conservative, Burton wrote in her letter to Walker. Instead, Chancellor Dennis Shields pressured the committee to hire a "very outspoken liberal and strong critic of (Walker) from Iowa: Dr. Elizabeth Throop," Burton claimed.

"Throop has since fired numerous tenured and nontenured faculty and managed to be named in three federal lawsuits and at least one other ERD/EEOC (Equal Right Division/Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) complaint for severe employment violations," she wrote. Burton is a plaintiff in at least one of the noted lawsuits and has filed a couple of EEOC complaints.

In an interview with MacIver News, Burton said Throop articulated her political position in phone and on-campus interviews with the faculty committee.

"She stated something to the effect that she felt sorry for academia in Wisconsin under Walker. She was quick to let the search committee know that she opposed Act 10 and was 'on our side.' That Walker was a real threat to academic freedom," Burton said, referring to the Republican governor's reforms of the state's public sector collective bargaining law that unions and Democrats abhor. "She seemed to believe that portraying herself as a strong liberal would help her get the job. On at least two occasions she said that she was a Democrat."

Feel The Bern

Throop, who has since moved on to another academic leadership position in Maryland, is a backer of liberal causes and candidates. In August 2015, just days before she contacted UW-Platteville police about Burton's letter to Walker, Throop donated $250 to Act Blue, a Democratic Party political action committee, according to Federal Election Committee records. On the same day, Throop cut a $250 check to the Bernie Sanders presidential election campaign.

Staci Strobl, the chairwoman of the university's troubled Criminal Justice Department, also felt the Bern, donating several times to the Sanders campaign in 2016. Strobl resigned from the leadership position in October 2016, days after Burton went public with her story. She has since returned as interim chair.

Burton says Strobl had a very prominently displayed Bernie Sanders bumper sticker in her office, in violation of university policy.

The faculty committee, empaneled to preside over Burton's appeal, first met in May - without Burton in attendance. Stomach ulcers, brought on by stress, forced Burton into the emergency room just hours before the tenure revocation hearing began. Burton has dealt with debilitating health concerns for the past few years, directly related to professional stress, according to medical records.

Strobl told the appeals panel she was afraid of Burton and her husband, Roger, a Marine veteran. She said he possessed the tendencies of an "active shooter."

"I was scared. I know a lot about, unfortunately, active shooters. I know a lot about workplace violence. It's something I studied in graduate school. It's something I keep abreast of as part of my intellectual interest." she said, when asked by the university's attorney whether there was anything else Strobl "would like to tell the committee."

"And I saw somebody - and a husband of somebody, to be completely frank, Roger Burton, who fits the profile of somebody who eventually snaps in a really violent way in the workplace, and for me it had to do with the escalation and the verbal animosity and the absolute steadfast commitment to a vague notion of justice and 'everybody is against me,' Strobl added.

Earlier in the testimony, Strobl said he agreed to come back as interim chairwoman of the Criminal Justice Department in the spring semester this year, "if Dr. Burton was not in the daily life of the department..."

She would soon get her wish.

"In Strobl's educated opinion, service in the USMC and being a conservative makes you a mass murder risk. This is one of the most outrageous and unprofessional things I have ever heard and this woman heads the Criminal Justice Department," Sabina Burton said in an email.

The university brought in two armed officers to search bags and possessions of those attending the two appeals hearings.

UW-Platteville spokeswoman Rose Smyrski declined to comment on the security measures, the hearing, or other personnel matters.

"As you are well aware, we do not comment on a pending employee matter," Smyrski wrote in an email response to MacIver's questions.

Burton said administrators were just using their "usual intimidation practices." She noted the university-contracted private investigator who last year interrogated Burton at her home in response to a complaint that Shields eventually dismissed.

The professor said neither she nor her husband have ever threatened anyone.

"Treating my husband and I like we are potential mass murders, it's ridiculous. Just because I wrote the governor and filed a lawsuit? I feel like sometimes I'm on a different planet," Burton said.

'Harmless Error'

Burton claims the faculty appeals panel was constituted in violation of university appeals procedures and that Shields did not follow University of Wisconsin System law in the appeals process.

Bob Kasieta, Burton's attorney, called for the panel to dissolve because the university did not provide a proper statement of charges.

"The rules require that at the time those charges be delivered to the faculty member who is being subjected to this process, that faculty member must - not might, not maybe at a later date - but must receive the appeal procedure with that submission, and it is uncontroverted in this case that that did not happen," the Madison attorney said, according to the transcript of last month's hearing.

The university's attorney, Jennifer Lattis, countered that Burton did receive the set of copies of the rules, but admitted that the procedure was not "followed to the letter."

"So it was overlooked when we filed the charge, but our position has been that she received all - she received a copy of the rules, there was no violation of her due process..." Lattis said, calling the omission a "harmless error."

Burton said she had to ask several times for a copy of the procedures. She eventually received links to the rules.

The panel seemed to brush off the charges by Burton's attorney, and defended its failure to hold a hearing within 20 days, as the system rules stipulate.

'Broad Arguments'

Burton has filed two federal lawsuits against the university, alleging discrimination and retaliation. Among other charges, the professor alleges the former interim chair of the Criminal Justice Department, Mike Dalecki, pressured her to drop the lawsuit. She was told "she might have been considered for the positions of dean or department chair, but that she could not expect to advance if she continued to engage in litigious behavior."

In short, play ball or sit out.

A federal judge in Madison eventually sided with the university. So did the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. Each court, however, chided Burton's legal counsel at the time for representation failures.

"Burton's problem is that she did not make these broad arguments to the district court," states the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, issued earlier this year.

The professor claims her attorney's shortcomings, too, were a matter of politics.

In March, Burton told Wisconsin Watchdog that her attorney at the time of the district court proceedings, Timothy Hawks, not only failed to adequately represent her, he "sabotaged" her case.

Hawks was recommended to Burton early on as a tough employee-rights attorney. She did not know his political leanings at the time.

Burton claims Hawks, an attorney for some of the biggest public unions in the state, was "especially upset when" Lattis informed him about Burton's letter to Walker.

"That is when he (Hawks) opened up his political affiliation - very strong Democrat, and he very much dislikes Walker," Burton said.

Last year, in a keynote address titled, "On Wisconsin: Life Without Collective Bargaining," Hawks took aim at Walker and Act 10.

"When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared open war against public sector unions, Tim was on the front lines," the Wisconsin Fraternal Order of Police said of Hawks in announcing the speech.

Hawks and his Milwaukee firm have donated generously to Democratic Party causes, particularly to Walker opponents. The attorney has not returned requests for comment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has granted Burton permission to sue the university again in federal court.

Big Questions

During questioning at last month's continued dismissal hearing, the chancellor was combative, clearly aggravated by Kasieta's questions. In the transcript, the attorney asserts that Shields did not establish just cause to move for Burton's dismissal and that he treated the professor differently than other UW-P employees facing disciplinary actions. Shields counters that Burton did not act professionally, in accordance with the university's rules of conduct, and she made university employees uncomfortable.

In his March letter recommending Burton's dismissal, Shields alleged the professor has "engaged in disrespectful, harassing and intimidating behavior toward your colleagues." Two months before, the chancellor, based on complaints from Throop and another administrator, ordered Burton to clean out her office and banned her from campus.

All of this despite the fact that Burton had excellent ratings from her students and an exemplary teaching record. She was given tenure - although after a long delay - based on merit. And she had been widely recognized as a leader in criminal justice education.

At one point in the hearing, Burton's attorney asked the chancellor about the reported dysfunction in the department. The chancellor acknowledged there was dysfunction before Burton arrived, and that others were a source of the troubled department at that time.

"How many of those did you recommend for termination to a panel like this one?" Kasieta asked.

"Well, none. I think that would be the answer," Shields responded.

A concluding appeals hearing is expected to be scheduled for sometime later this month.

Were Shields and his top administrators made uncomfortable because Burton was performing the role of whistleblower, and did they retaliate because of it? Those are the questions at the heart of Burton's new litigation against Shields, Throop and the university. That's why the embattled professor reached out to Wisconsin's governor.

"I know you are running for president of the USA and I hope you will be successful but please don't forget about your WI people," Burton wrote in her letter to Walker. "I just live in the middle of cow-country in Platteville but I do care deeply for the young people of this great state who I have in my classes."

Obamacare Premiums to Explode 36 Percent in 2018 as 75,000 Wisconsinites Lose Coverage

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 14:57

MacIver News Service | October 12, 2017

By Chris Rochester

[Madison, Wis...] Consumers shopping for health insurance on Wisconsin's Obamacare exchange for 2018 can expect an eye-popping 36 percent premium increase, far surpassing last year's 16 percent hike.

Customers in the individual insurance market will be hit with the sticker shock on Nov. 1, when Obamacare's open enrollment period begins, and 75,000 Wisconsinites who had coverage in 2017 will be shopping for new coverage whether they want to or not.

State officials announced the massive increase on Thursday, adding that 75,000 people will lose their coverage at the end of the year, mostly the result of several major insurers exiting Wisconsin's Obamacare market in 2017. That's a considerable chunk of the overall individual market, where about 215,000 Wisconsinites buy their coverage.

"Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare," Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. "While our state remains one of the best in the nation for health insurance coverage and quality, Obamacare is disrupting healthcare markets in our state and across the country."

The finalized 36 percent average premium increase is three times larger than the preliminary 12 percent increase announced by the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) in August. The increase reflects the greater risk that a smaller number of insurers will have to take on by offering plans in a shaky, risk-riddled market, said J.P. Wieske, deputy commissioner of insurance.

The size of the price spike could indicate Wisconsin's individual insurance market is in the "death spiral" that has gripped Obamacare markets across the nation.

"I think we're sitting in a market where there is some concern that we're in a death spiral, and the individual market's experience is deteriorating," Wieske said, adding the individual insurance market in Wisconsin has lost $400 million over the last three years. "That's a very significant amount of money to have lost in just the individual market."

"The fact that nobody wants to compete for this market despite the subsidies that are available to consumers, I think that's sort of troubling," Wieske said.

He contrasted Obamacare's individual market increases with non-Obamacare group insurance plans, which increased just 4.89 percent for 2018 - less than one-seventh the rate of Obamacare plans. "That indicates some concern that the individual market under this regulatory scheme of Obamacare is just not sustainable," Wieske said.

#Obamacare premium increases (36% in 2018) far outpace non-Obamacare small group plans (4.89%), where most Wisconsinites get coverage.

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

A double-digit increase was widely expected after preliminary rate requests released in August topped 12 percent. Insurers have also continued dropping out of Wisconsin's Obamacare market, citing massive losses as a result of more expensive enrollees, fewer younger and healthier enrollees, and more people deciding to pay the penalty rather than buying increasingly expensive insurance plans.

In 2017, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield joined several other major insurers in dropping out of Wisconsin's individual insurance market. They were followed by Molina Healthcare, the largest remaining insurer, which dropped out after proposing a rate hike of more than 40 percent. Health Tradition Health Plan, offered by Mayo Clinic Health System of La Crosse, also fled Obamacare this summer.

Anthem, Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana - four of the five largest health insurers in the country - all left Wisconsin's market in the past two years.

BREAKING: #Obamacare premiums in WI to increase an eye-popping 36 percent in 2018, according to @wisconsinoci. Story to follow. #wiright

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

OCI reviewed the preliminary increase requests over the last several months and approved the final rate changes requested by Wisconsin insurance companies that will continue offering plans on the state's Obamacare exchange. OCI instructed insurers to assume federal Cost Sharing Reduction payments (CSRs), taxpayer money paid to insurance companies, would terminate in 2018. CSRs make up about 15 percent of the total premiums.

Last year, premiums for Obamacare-compliant plans in Wisconsin increased 15.88 percent, the MacIver Institute reported in November. In addition, that analysis found the average statewide deductible for the benchmark bronze plan in 2017 was $12,414.46 for a family and $6,207.23 for an individual.

The price increases are the result of an older and less healthy group of enrollees, factors that have caused many of the nation's largest insurers to stop offering plans on Obamacare exchanges altogether. Rate increases for 2018 will likely make the problem of attracting younger, healthier people to the individual market worse.

On average, 21-year-olds shopping for a Silver Plan, the second-lowest-cost Obamacare plan, will see an average premium increase of 51 percent, according to data provided by the OCI. Individuals that age can expect to see a 105 percent increase in Marinette and Oconto counties and a 77.27 percent increase in Outagamie, Sheboygan, and Winnebago counties.

In a statement, Commissioner of Insurance Ted Nickel said the OCI would explore options at the federal level to mitigate the price spike. "The ACA destabilized the Wisconsin individual health insurance market and federal health care reform efforts continue to face significant challenges...As a result, we are exploring our options available under the ACA Section 1332 Waiver for State Innovation."

Wieske said other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, have used similar waivers to mitigate massive price spikes. Minnesota's attempt to hold premium increases for those not receiving federal subsidies has cost the state $800 million.

"We stand committed to continuing our efforts in ensuring a stable and competitive market and affordable coverage for Wisconsin consumers," Nickel said.

The decline in competitive markets has also played out nationally. While no counties are currently projected to have zero insurers, vast swaths of the country will have just one option on the individual market. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 1,524 counties will have just one insurer offering a plan - nearly 50 percent of all counties.

CMS: half of all U.S. counties are expected to have just one #Obamacare provider in 2018. Yellow=one choice, really no choice at all.

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

Obamacare requires insurance plans to provide a wide range of coverage in order to qualify for subsidies, reducing the variety of plans that insurers can offer and limiting choice for consumers. But on Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order relaxing those mandates.

Trump's action, which comes a month after the collapse of congressional Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, is intended to allow insurers to offer lower-cost plans, a key to increasing competition and choice in the individual market and attracting younger and healthier people into the marketplace.

MacIver News Service will continue to analyze premium, deductible and other pricing information as it becomes available and publish our findings as soon as possible.

Venezuelan Student and Liberty Activist Slams UW Award for Socialist Cheerleader

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:50

MacIver News Service | Oct. 12, 2017

[Madison, Wis...] A Venezuelan student activist who has seen his home country ripped apart at the hands of socialist dictators slammed UW-Madison's decision to honor a prominent apologist for leftist tyrants.

Jorge Jraisatti, speaking at a Students For Liberty conference over the weekend, minced no words when asked about UW-Madison's Havens Center bestowing on Tariq Ali its Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship.

Ali "has blood on his hands," said Jraisatti. Ali, a leftist writer, has been a longtime supporter of the socialist regimes whose reins have led to waves of misery in Venezuela, including mass shortages of food and medicine, political persecution, economic ruin, starvation, and murder.

Protesters Wave Sex Toys In Response To Tale of Campus Rape

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 10:13

MacIver News Service | Oct. 11, 2017

[Madison, Wis...] In response to the tale of a campus rape that could've been stopped by a gun, protesters wielding penis-shaped sex toys shouted down one pro-Second Amendment student at Tuesday's speech by Townhall editor Katie Pavlich on the UW-Madison campus.
The student told protesters that she has a friend who was raped, a crime that would have been prevented if her friend was able to carry her concealed weapon. After a brief silence, protesters responded by waving dildos in the air and shouting "this is what Democracy looks like" and "Cocks not Glocks."

Inside, Pavlich told a polite, standing-room-only audience that allowing concealed carry on campus would allow young women to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

A group calling itself "Cocks Not Glocks" arranged the protest, the "Bonerfide Penis Arts Festival," in response to Pavlich's pro-Second Amendment message.

Venezuelan Student and Liberty Activist Slams UW Award for Socialist Cheerleader

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 00:42

MacIver News Service | Oct. 11, 2017

[Madison, Wis...] A Venezuelan student activist who has seen his home country ripped apart at the hands of socialist dictators slammed UW-Madison's decision to honor a prominent apologist for leftist tyrants.

Jorge Jraisatti, speaking at a Students For Liberty conference over the weekend, minced no words when asked about UW-Madison's Havens Center bestowing on Tariq Ali its Lifetime Achievement in Critical Scholarship award.

Ali "has blood on his hands," said Jraisatti. Ali, a leftist writer, has been a longtime supporter of the socialist regimes whose reins have led to waves of misery in Venezuela, including mass shortages of food and medicine, political persecution, economic ruin, starvation, and murder.

MacIver Institute Applauds President Trump's EPA for Scrapping Costly Power Plan

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:37

October 10, 2017

[Madison, Wis...] President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it will scrap the Obama-era slate of job-killing regulations called the "Clean Power Plan," which is welcome news for hard-working families in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.

In response to the Trump administration's action, MacIver Institute President Brett Healy issued the following statement:

"President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have done a great service for Wisconsinites by scrapping the so-called 'Clean Power Plan.' This bureaucratic boondoggle was a blatant overreach by out-of-control bureaucrats that would have cost our state dearly in job losses, higher electricity rates, and lost economic potential."

"Unelected, faceless bureaucrats in the Obama administration tried to foist these costly regulations on the American people. The Trump administration's decision to throw them on the scrap heap of bad policies reverses one of the most draconian power grabs in the history of big government."

"The Trump administration's decision will help the millions of hard-working Americans who feel ignored by Washington politicians and bureaucrats. Scrapping the Costly Power Plan will preserve thousands of jobs in Wisconsin, prevent a spike in electricity rates for hard working Wisconsin families, and keep more income in peoples' pockets. I applaud the President for following through on his promise.

A joint study by the MacIver Institute and The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in 2015 found that the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan would cost Wisconsin $920 million in 2030 and reduce disposable income in the state by nearly $2 billion.

The study also found that the CPP would have cost Wisconsin 21,000 jobs and increased the average household electric bill by $225 per year and the average commercial business electric bill by $1,530 per year. The average Wisconsin factory would be hit with an extra $105,094 per year in higher energy costs if the CPP had been implemented.

Cuban Native and UW System Regent, Knows The Price Of Free Speech

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 9, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] - Jose´Delgado can still hear the gunshots echoing off the walls in Havana's La Cabana´, the Fortress of St. Charles.

Delgado, an adolescent at the time in his native Cuba, knew what those sounds meant. More enemies of Fidel Castro and his communist government - opponents of oppression - were dead.

"Talk about a chilling memory," Delgado told MacIver News Service in an interview this week. "I was 14, but I was fully aware of the danger my father was in. He would not go along with communism so he was a target."

"I knew a lot of people getting executed."

So it should come as no surprise that Delgado, that intelligent and outspoken boy of post-Revolution Cuba, the boy who boarded a plane for the United States in 1961 not knowing if he would ever see his parents again, would grow up to be a champion for free speech.

On Friday, Delgado once more stood up for the First Amendment of his adopted country. He was one of 17 members of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to vote for a measure giving campuses across the state the power to expel students who repeatedly disrupt speakers or attempt to stifle speech.

The vote was near-unanimous. Only Tony Evers, superintendent of the state Department of Public Instruction voted against the rule, asserting it would chill expression.

While Delgado said he respects Evers, the chilling has come from students and faculty members who have demanded "safe spaces" from speech they find offensive. These self-appointed arbiters of what is acceptable expression and what isn't have become increasingly disorderly and violent in pushing their crusade.

The free speech policy comes nearly a year after a crowd of left-wing, "social justice" warriors attempted to shut down a speech by national conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. Student protesters, decrying Shapiro's very presence as racist, stormed the stage and began chanting, "Safety! Safety! Safety," "Shame, Shame, Shame," and other such slogans the "safe space" crowd fancies.

Similar demonstrations, some violent and destructive, have occurred at campuses around the nation.

"In comes kind of a wave of screaming and threats of violence when people are talking for speech, and that brings back memories that I cannot accept," said Delgado.

The businessman who oversaw the first multi-state transmission-only utility in the U.S. and first-term regent says he wants the students at Wisconsin's universities to know exactly what's at stake. He points to his childhood to drive home his message.

'More Repressive'

Delgado, an opinionated 70-year-old who says he feels no obligation to act his age, was 11 in 1959 when Castro and his band of revolutionaries overthrew Cuba's military dictator Fulgencio Batista. Delgado's uncle, who fought in Castro's army, died attacking the family's hometown. His father was a banker, but the family was "very revolutionary."

And then the revolution for freedom turned into a bloody regime of oppression. Delgado described Castro's campaign to bring communism to the Western Hemisphere a "steady betrayal of the hopes and expectations" of many Cubans.

"The government got more and more repressive," he recalled. "The part that was most obvious to me was the part that had to do with expression of ideas."

He remembers watching on TV mobs descending on the homes of respected and prominent Cubans, citizens who may have disagreed with the Castro government. The crowds would demand blood. And they would get it.

The Delgado family, at first, had impeccable revolutionary credentials, the regent recalled. But "slowly but surely...the latitude for debate was getting narrower and narrower." Castro's regime, in the name of communism, began grabbing up businesses. First foreign-owned entities, then larger Cuba-based corporations, and finally small firms.

Delgado's father eventually left the bank, after it was confiscated by the communists. A kind of civil war developed in the family. His uncle Carlos, a "big shot" in the Castro government, told Delgado's father to stifle his criticism of the regime. "My father would scream, 'So what did we fight for?'" Delgado said. "I was about 12 during those debates, but I remember my father with tremendous anger talking to my uncle."

The schools got more repressive. It was clear that opposition to the government was not welcome and, in many cases, deadly.

One day the outspoken young Delgado went too far. At his grandparents home, he and his communist uncle got into a heated argument. Delgado told his uncle how "stupid" communism was. "And he looked at me and then he said, 'Listen, I'm going to ask you to shut up because we are executing people younger than you for saying less. And if you get in trouble, I will not be able to help you.'"

"I found his words very persuasive because I realized, communist or not, he was trying to save my butt," Delgado recalled.

"I cannot tell you the bitterness I gained at that point that my own uncle had to admit that you can get shot at any age for saying the wrong thing," he added. "This was, in fact, the 'gain' that we had from the revolution. From there it got worse."

No More Crying

In November 1961, Delgado's parents put their four oldest children on a plane bound for Miami, an escape route provided by the Catholic Welfare Bureau and the U.S. State Department. Operation Pedro Pan, from 1960 to 1962, airlifted more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the U.S. to flee the clutches of communist indoctrination. The Delgado children relocated to foster homes in Chicago, praying they would see their mother and father again.

That decision was not up for democratic debate in the Delgado house.

"In my home there were two votes, and they were usually perfectly united," Delgado said. "I was not asked if I wanted to go; I was told, 'You're leaving.'"

Many of his friends who arrived in the United States at the same time would never see their parents again.

It was becoming very dangerous to resist the Castro government. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion only escalated the repression and the violence against opponents of the communist regime.

The day before the children left Havana, Delgado's older brother, a serious 16-year-old who seemed "10 years older than his age," advised Jose´to leave his tears in Cuba.

"I began to cry, and he said, 'Well, you better cry all you want because after tomorrow there is no more crying," he recalled. "The next time I cried was his funeral, about 16 years later."

Lessons From Castro

Delgado's parents were finally able to flee Cuba, six months after they sent their children to Chicago. They escaped thanks to Delgado's Uncle Carlos, who used his sway in the Castro government to get them out. Delgado said being reunited with the trailing members of his family was "like every Christmas Day for the rest of your life in one."

"Because of Fidel Castro, I learned what it is to live without any money. I tell people I was never poor, because when my family came, I never felt poor," he said. They lost everything when they fled Cuba, but they had each other and that was everything. "We were alive man, and we were together."

He learned another lesson from Castro: the price of liberty, and the value of free speech.

To the critics of the Board of Regents' policy, Delgado says the speech rules are compatible with the system's liberal tenure policy. It's designed to protect a diversity of thought and dialogue to advance the University of Wisconsin System mission.

"Now this is to be expanded to the ability to talk in public," Delgado said. "When you look at some the stuff going some very important universities, you shake your head and say, 'No, this is indoctrination, this is not education.' And you say, 'Not in Wisconsin, not while I'm here.'"

"I've got a total of seven years (on the board), and I've gone through about 3 1/2 (years). If someone wants to do this without a fight from me, they can do it after I'm gone...I cannot make you listen, but I can certainly prevent others from preventing you from listening. You have the right to listen."

Trump EPA Scuttles Costly Obama-era "Clean Power Plan"

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 15:53

Embattled big government overreach finally meets its demise

MacIver News Service | October 9, 2017

By Chris Rochester

[Madison, Wis...] The Trump administration on Tuesday will officially put an end to a draconian slate of Obama-era environmental regulations known as the "Clean Power Plan."

The EPA's decision comes as little surprise after President Trump in March issued an executive order instructing the agency to begin a review of the controversial, economically devastating rules. Repealing the CPP was a cornerstone of Trump's campaign platform.

"That rule really was about picking winners and losers," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Fox News on Monday. "The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong."

The Clean Power Plan, a series of devastating regulations developed by Obama's EPA, would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired electricity power plants, cutting the allowable amount of emissions by more than half. Despite the high economic cost, the CPP would only change global temperature by under two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to researchers at the CATO Institute.

Volumes of research clearly show the economic damage the rules would have inflicted across the nation. The CPP would have hit Wisconsin particularly hard, since its electricity supply is more reliant on coal power than most states.

A joint study by the MacIver Institute and The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in 2015 found that the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan would cost Wisconsin $920 million in 2030, and reduce disposable income in the state by nearly $2 billion.

The study also found that the CPP would have cost Wisconsin 21,000 jobs and increased the average household electric bill by $225 per year and the average commercial business electric bill by $1,530 per year. The average Wisconsin factory would be hit with an extra $105,094 per year in higher energy costs if the CPP were implemented.

Recognizing the regulations' devastating costs, Wisconsin joined 26 other states in suing the Obama EPA over the rules, a lawsuit that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court halting the rules' implementation in early 2016 for further review. Delaying regulations and overturning a lower court is a rare move for the high court, indicating the justices saw compelling evidence that the burdensome rules presented the risk of immediate harm to the economy.

The MacIver Institute joined Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel, and Speaker Paul Ryan in celebrating the court's decision. "The Supreme Court recognizes the significant damage this rule will have on our economy and our way of life," said Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.

In their lawsuit, Wisconsin and other states argued that the Clean Power Plan, which relied on the authority given to the EPA under the Clean Air Act, was an unlawful power grab by federal bureaucrats that exceeded the law's authority.

By scrapping the Clean Power Plan, the Trump EPA also repudiates the federal overreach and recognizes, like the Supreme Court, the imminent harm the new regulations posed to the nation's economy.

After he signs an order on Tuesday formally rolling back the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt intends to begin work on a new rule that falls within the bounds of the Clean Air Act.

Two UW Professors Stand Up For Young Conservatives

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:09

MacIver News Service | Oct. 6, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] Two University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members have stepped up to assist a young conservative organization deliver right-of-center thought to students and the general public.

John Sharpless, a professor in the Department of History, and Richard Avramenko, an associate professor of political science, have agreed to meet the university's demand that the UW chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) secure sponsorship from a faculty department member to bring conservative journalist Katie Pavlich to a wider audience.

As MacIver News reported Thursday, YAF members were notified by the UW Police Department that faculty sponsorship was required if the organization wanted to open up the event to the general public. The news arrived just five days before Pavlich was scheduled to speak on campus.

"I am ridiculously grateful at this moment. Now we can have people from the public come to our event," Abby Streu, chairwoman of the Madison YAF, told MacIver News Friday morning.

"I'm glad people like them exist," the 19-year-old sophomore added.

MacIver News could not immediately reach the professors for comment.

Avramenko and Sharpless are co-directors of the university's Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy. "Our main objective is to probe the nature and prospects of liberal democracy and its core principles, practices, and institutions," the organization's website states. "We promote the investigation of arguments for and against liberal principles and institutions, as well as the study of texts written by exponents and critics of the liberal tradition."

In order to do all that, it would seem the organization recognizes the critical role free and open speech plays in the furtherance of a strong democratic republic. That's a notion that has been lost on many modern-day liberals, who have abandoned such principles in the name of "safe spaces" and shaming, even criminalizing speech they don't agree with.

UW spokesman John Lucas told MacIver News Thursday evening that the university is expecting YAF's event with Pavlich to go on as scheduled. But he pointed to the requirement.

"Registered Student Organizations at UW-Madison have the ability to reserve space and hold events that are open to the university community of students, faculty and staff," he wrote in an email.

"For events to be opened to the general public, they require sponsorship by a department. This long-standing policy is shared with organizations every year," Lucas continued, including a link to the policy in his email.

"Should the organizers of this event wish to open it to the public, they may still seek an additional sponsor ahead of the event." 

But that's easier said than done for a conservative organization on a very liberal campus.

Upon learning of the professors' apparent willingness to sponsor the conservative group, Pavlich tweeted, "Great news! Hopefully they already have tenure..."

Great news! Hopefully they already have tenure

— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 6, 2017

The comment would not be lost on conservative professors who have feared reprisal for expressing their political beliefs at left-wing universities. Professors like Marquette University's John McAdams, who remains in professional limbo because he wrote a blog outing a student teacher who refused to allow a conservative student to express his views on same-sex marriage.

And Young Americans for Freedom didn't seem to need a sponsor for previous events, including last November's speech by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. That event turned chaotic when a group of left-wing protesters tried to shut Shapiro down. Some of the demonstrators called Shapiro a Nazi, a peculiar epithet aimed at a Jewish man. Protesters stormed the stage decrying the talk as nothing more than hate speech.

It's all curious timing as the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents takes up free speech reforms on Wisconsin's public university campuses. A proposal being considered calls for the expulsion of students who disrupt "the expressive rights of others." The students who disrupted the Shapiro event would fall into that category. The proposal sets up a kind of three-strikes-your-out discipline structure.

Republicans in the Legislature passed a similar speech protection bill. The Senate has yet to take up the measure.

The Regents on Friday nearly unanimously approved new policies to protect the right of speakers to be heard on campus. The lone "No" vote was cast by Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers.

Streu said she will work to end the university's policy of faculty department sponsorship for student events.

"I don't think it's a good policy. It doesn't just affect my group or conservatives. It affects all students on campus who may not be able to get faculty to back them up," the journalism major said. "Having faculty supervisors sponsor us while we're adults planning events, it's kind of a drag, and it's not necessary."

Streu said taxpayers, too, should have every right to attend events at the universities they help fund - with or without faculty sponsorship.

Madison Social Security Office Manager Forced Out After Federal Corruption Probe

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 6, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] The manager at the center of a federal corruption investigation into a Madison Social Security Administration office has been forced out, congressional sources tell MacIver News Service.

Laura Hodorowicz, former Hearing Office director at SSA's Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, has been dismissed and Hodorowicz's lieutenant, Wayne Gentz, has been reassigned to another geographic location but remains with the federal agency, a source inside the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmed.

A federal prosecutor in Madison earlier this year told investigators that he would not file charges in the case, despite findings of fraud.

The committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) opened an inquiry following whistleblower reports of misconduct and retaliation at the Milwaukee and Madison ODAR offices.

Hodorowicz was accused of leading a "culture of corruption and cover-up." Whistleblowers alleged the problems went "all the way to the top," according to a Wisconsin Watchdog investigative series.

A lengthy SSA Office of the Inspector General investigation into the Madison office found managers committed time and attendance abuses, engaged in questionable hiring practices, and failed to provide proper oversight. While the investigation did not determine whistleblowers had been retaliated against, the report noted that managers held whistleblowers to significantly stricter standards than other staff.

Deborah Holland, a former supervisor, was removed from the Madison ODAR facility and placed on administrative leave after bringing allegations of waste, fraud and abuse to federal officials.

Holland remains employed with the agency, and her case was resolved to the whistleblower's satisfaction, according to Senate committee sources.

Reached for comment Thursday, Holland said that, "all issues have been resolved." She said she could not discuss the matter further.

After being escorted out of the ODAR building by an armed guard last year, Holland told Wisconsin Watchdog that she and other staff members had been repeatedly retaliated against by ODAR management. She said Hodorowicz led a corrupt system of bribery, based on punishment and rewards. Holland claimed Hodorowicz's openly hostile henchman, Gentz, served as her enforcer. Chief administrative law judges and others, Holland said, long accepted misconduct because they benefitted from widespread nepotism in the office. And whistleblowers said Chicago-based Regional Attorney Deborah Giesen, who was sworn to protect employees from intimidation and harassment, covered for her long-time friend Hodorowicz, sources asserted.

A lengthy SSA Office of the Inspector General investigation into the Madison office found managers committed time and attendance abuses, engaged in questionable hiring practices, and failed to provide proper oversight. Hodorowicz in August 2016 was removed from the Madison office and taken off her management duties.

The federal investigation found:

"Time and attendance abuses by the HOD (Hearing Office Director) and the GS (Group Supervisor Gentz) violated both law and regulations and set a tone for the office that misconduct by certain employees will be tolerated and, in some instances, encouraged."

"Hiring decisions in the Madison (Hearing Office) were largely unchecked by ODAR management, leaving (Hodorowicz) free to populate the office with friends and family members of current employees, increasing perceptions of favoritism and diminishing employee morale and focus on the agency's public service mission. Hiring practices in the Madison HO, which often included the manipulation of vacancy announcements to achieve a desired end, attempted to dissuade applicants from pursuing certain positions, which ran afoul of protections intended for all candidates for federal positions."

"Most of the issues with the Madison HO (Hearing Office) identified through this investigation were attributable to poor management, inconsistent application of agency policies and lack of critical management oversight."

Hodorowicz's "protection" allegedly extended to former Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss. Documents show Pleuss in his case files described Madison office claimants as "attractive," innocent-looking, and "buxom." He wrote that one woman appearing before him "looks like a man."

"Obese, young, white (female) skimpy black top," Pleuss described another claimant.

He described another woman as "very black, African looking," adding parenthetically, "(actually gorilla-like appearance.)"

In another document, Pleuss wrote that he would "pay" a female claimant "when hell freezes over."

Social Security benefits attorneys called for a federal review of Pleuss' decisions. He retired at the end of 2016, but it appears he continues to receive his taxpayer-funded federal pension and suite of benefits - with an estimated value of nearly $1 million.

Machele Keller, another whistleblower in the Madison office, has said the harassment and intimidation by management and staff members had gotten so severe that it adversely affected her health.

Reached for comment Thursday, Keller said she could not comment on the Social Security Administration case. She did thank Johnson, the Senate committee he chairs and the committee staff that assisted the whistleblowers.

"I can't thank you enough. How can you thank someone for basically saving your life? That's exactly what they did," Keller said. "That was a rough two years. If it wasn't for their office, I don't know where I'd be right now. I might be one little person in the big state of Wisconsin, but they made me feel like I was important."

Ron Klym, the long-time Milwaukee ODAR employee who first brought to light allegations of misconduct and due process abuses at the agency, was fired a few months after going public.

Johnson has asked the Government Accountability Office to review Klym's allegations that Social Security claimants waited years, some dying, before their cases were resolved by the troubled Milwaukee ODAR operation. That investigation has now turned national in scope, according to a staff member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"That review has since been broadened, at the request of the House Ways and Means Committee," the source told MacIver News.

The committee's inquiry, launched in June 2016, remains open but not as active as it once was, sources say.

An SSA spokesman repeatedly has declined to comment.

Young Conservatives Say UW Stifling Right Speech - Again

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 22:24

MacIver News Service | Oct. 5, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] A conservative student group says the First Amendment is up on trial again at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The UW chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) on Thursday said university police notified the organization that it would have to find a faculty department sponsor before Tuesday or YAF's campus lecture featuring conservative journalist Katie Pavlich would be limited to UW students only.

"This is ridiculous. We are a publicly funded university. The public should be able to attend," Abby Streu, chairwoman of the Madison YAF, told MacIver News.

Pavlich took to Twitter Thursday night to blast what YAF members called a "last-minute" maneuver by a the liberal university to again stifle conservative speech.

"Totally bogus," the Townhall editor and Fox News contributor tweeted at the university. "Public institution, public event. Also, we like how you're enforcing this five days before the event and up against a weekend."

Totally bogus. Public institution, public event. Also, we like how you're enforcing this five days before the event and up against a weekend

— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 6, 2017

"If members of the public (who fund University!) show up will they be arrested?" Pavlich wrote in another tweet. "Who will bar the door for entry?"

The UW police apparently.

UW spokesman John Lucas said the university is expecting YAF's event with Pavlich to go on as scheduled.

"Registered Student Organizations at UW-Madison have the ability to reserve space and hold events that are open to the university community of students, faculty and staff," he wrote in an email to MacIver News Service.

"For events to be opened to the general public, they require sponsorship by a department. This long-standing policy is shared with organizations every year," Lucas continued, including a link to the policy in his email.

"Should the organizers of this event wish to open it to the public, they may still seek an additional sponsor ahead of the event." 

But that's easier said than done for a conservative organization on a very liberal campus.

"It won't be easy," Streu said. "There definitely are other groups on campus they would get a resounding yes" from a department. Not YAF, she said.

And Young Americans for Freedom didn't seem to need a sponsor for previous events, including last November's speech by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. That event turned chaotic when a group of left-wing protesters tried to shut Shapiro down. Some of the demonstrators called Shapiro a Nazi, a peculiar epithet aimed toward a Jew. Protesters stormed the stage descrying the talk as nothing more than hate speech.

Conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna was also threatened by hostile protesters.

"The black supremacists mob shout me down - all 5'3" & 48 years old of me - and UW cops try to move ME away because I am a THREAT," McKenna wrote on Twitter.

The black supremacists mob shout me down--all 5'3" &48 years old of me--and UW cops try to move ME away because I am the THREAT Film at 11!

— Vicki McKenna (@VickiMcKenna) November 17, 2016

As Wisconsin Watchdog reported, campus police "watched but did nothing to stop the interruptions. At one point, they looked on as the protesters stormed the stage and continued their chants. Shapiro was told by police they were instructed not to stop the demonstrators, who made their intentions to disrupt clear on Facebook days before the speech."

Meanwhile, left-wing student gun control advocates in a group that bills itself as "Cocks Not Glocks" has scheduled "The Bonerfide Penis Arts Fest" ostensibly to counter and demonstrate against the speech by Pavlich, a vocal proponent of the Second Amendment. Pavlich's speech is titled, "Trigger Warning: Second Amendment Rights and Self Defense."

"Katie Pavlich thinks that you can murder campus sexual assault away. Young Americans for Freedom thinks that her presence on campus is necessary to defend free speech. Therefore, Cocks Not Glocks: UW Madison will be gathering during Pavlich's speech to create and present dick art that has ZERO literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value. You know, for free speech," the group's Facebook page proclaims.

Streu said she's hopeful UW police will step in if protesters become disorderly and disrupt Pavlich's speech.

"What I told the UW police department is, people are allowed to protest. I respect their right to do that, but they are not respecting our group's right to be heard. It's a two-way street," she said.

SCOTUS Hears Wisconsin Redistricting Case

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 3, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] Wisconsin's electoral maps were put to the test Tuesday morning during a tense session of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

At stake is the survival of the redistricting plan put in place by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 and, ultimately, whether Wisconsin provides the proper test to determine whether such district boundaries are too political.

Perhaps Amy Howe, reporter for SCOTUSblog best summed up the significance of the day.

"Today may have been only the second day of the Supreme Court's new term, but it may also prove to be the biggest," she wrote. Although, a decision may not arrive until June, less than five months before the next major election.

Gill v. Whitford is the court's first significant test in years on partisan gerrymandering, or the idea of crafting district lines for the benefit of one party, and whether courts should police such practices.

Following the intensive hour of questioning, Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin sounded confident in the state's case.

"When you have the law on your side, that's a good place to be going into the argument," he told MacIver News Service Tuesday afternoon.

Defenders of Wisconsin's redistricting plan also have history on their side - and, perhaps, standing.

Tseytlin reminded the justices that the high court has never tossed out a map on the basis of partisan gerrymandering.

In 2004, the court narrowly determined it shouldn't referee a Pennsylvania redistricting case, very similar to Wisconsin's. But Justice Anthony Kennedy said at some point in the future a case so clearly partisan could rise to a judicable level - that is, meriting court review.

Liberals believe in their hearts the Wisconsin redistricting plan is that case.

They won last year when a lower court panel of judges, in a 2-1 ruling, determined Wisconsin's district maps ran afoul of the Constitution by putting Democrats at a distinct disadvantage. Liberals complain that the redrawn maps give Dems little chance of ever winning back the Legislature, which they lost in the Republican revolution of 2010.

Their argument does not take into account that the GOP won a significant victory at that time fueled by voter discontent with the left and without the district maps in question. Nor do they mention voters fatigued by the friction and disorder of Democrat-led recall elections in 2011 and 2012, and that the state has trended red, most convincingly in the last presidential contest. In November, Wisconsin voters elected a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1984, an outcome not impacted by the electoral maps.

William Whitford, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor emeritus and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, argues the state Assembly "bears no resemblance to its evenly split electorate." He claims Republicans "wield legislative power unearned by their actual appeal to Wisconsin voters. This pro-Republican skew is no accident."

Tseytlin counters that Whitford resides in a region of the state that is loathe to vote Republican, in a county teeming with Democrats. And that point, the solicitor general said, speaks to the question of standing in the case - whether Whitford is the correct person to bring a lawsuit. Standing was of keen interest to the justices.

"Look at the lead plaintiff. Professor Whitford lives in Madison, Wisconsin. (State Rep.) Chris Taylor (D-Madison) is his representative. Under any plan, he is going to have a liberal representative," Tseytlin said.

"He has no standing. We are clearly correct on that."

Kennedy, as he so often has been, is viewed as the swing vote in the Wisconsin case. The justice who brought American jurisprudence the "evolving standards of decency" concept, has asserted that there is not a constitutional guarantee of proportional representation. But Kennedy is seeking a standard that would help define constitutional and unconstitutional gerrymandering. His focus Tuesday was on the First Amendment, and whether Wisconsin's redistricting plan ran counter to the principles of association.

Opponents of Wisconsin's electoral maps point to the so-called "efficiency gap," steeped in the notion that one party's voters are wasting more of their votes than others because they continue to lose in partisan gerrymandered districts.

Chief Justice John Roberts would have none of it. He called the efficiency gap idea "sociological gobbledygook." Justice Samuel Alito Jr. agreed, blasting the battle between social scientists that such a standard would create.

New Justice Neil Gorsuch added a little spice to his apparent rejection of the left's arguments and its proposition that many tests or standards could be applied in determining partisan gerrymandering.

Tseytlin, who was grilled by Kennedy and other members of the court, said opponents of the redistricting plan have laid out shifting arguments in the case in the face of failed positions.

"What the court has struggled with in this area is a limited standard," the solicitor general said. "The plaintiffs didn't even attempt to find a limited standard."

The Ice Cream Kids V. City Hall

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 05:10

MacIver News Service | October 4, 2017

By: Bill Osmulski

[Wausau, Wisc...] The Ruffi brothers took a foray into small business entrepreneurship this past summer by opening an ice cream stand. They hit a major roadblock when they wanted to start selling on public property. Selling ice cream might seem like kid stuff, but local regulations sucked out the fun for these boys. MNS' Bill Osmulski has more.

Kevin Kennedy Caught On Tape: Former Speech Cop Shares John Doe Secrets

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 3, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] In late July, MacIver News Service broke the story that former Wisconsin speech cop Kevin Kennedy appears to have broken the law in publicly sharing court-sealed information from the infamous John Doe investigation.

The story was based on the accounts of sources who attended Kennedy's presentation at last year's Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) annual meeting in New Orleans.

Today, MacIver News is releasing the audio of Kennedy's curious defense of the disbanded agency at the center of one of Wisconsin's darkest political chapters.

Kennedy at December's national COGEL conference discussed a news story and accompanying court-sealed documents on the John Doe investigation, something that appears to be a violation of the probe's strict secrecy order.

The long-serving state bureaucrat retired in June 2016, on the verge of being unceremoniously shown the door.

In the audio obtained by MacIver News Service, Kennedy waxes nostalgic for a simpler time, when law enforcement agents could storm into the private homes of citizens before sunrise and grab their possessions in pursuit of campaign finance law violations. He seems to long for the return of years-long spying operations pushed by partisan prosecutors and "ethics" attorneys, collecting mountains of personal information ultimately used as opposition research by their friends on the political left.

In the presentation, Kennedy breaks down the fall of the Government Accountability Board in 2015 and 2016, when the Republican-controlled state Legislature put an end to the ruse that was the "nonpartisan" campaign finance regulator.

"A View to a Kill: A Behind-the Scenes Look at the Demise of the GAB" was Kennedy's chance to tell his sympathetic audience all about the ills of free-market speech and share some details about the long and meandering John Doe probe his agency helped lead.

That last bit of sharing not only showed incredibly poor judgment on the part of Mr. Kennedy, it could land him in serious legal trouble, according to an attorney who represented one of the targets of the Doe.

The audio captures Kennedy discussing the unrelenting work of an agency forced to endure a wave of unprecedented recall elections, including a Democratic Party-led campaign against Gov. Scott Walker in 2011-2012. That's about the time highly partisan Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, rolled over a previous political John Doe probe his agents informally called the Walker investigation into the multi-county "John Doe II" that supposedly focused on illegal campaign coordination.

"The straw that broke the camel's back was when in the midst of this, the Milwaukee County District Attorney invited us to join their John Doe investigation," Kennedy recalls.

Then Kennedy in his PowerPoint presentation clicks on a copy of a Sept. 14, 2016 story from liberal British news publication, the Guardian, that included some 1,500 pages of illegally leaked documents from the court-sealed John Doe case.

"While I can't talk a whole lot about the details there, there are some public documents I want to make sure you see," Kennedy says. He acknowledges that he legally cannot talk about the secret John Doe investigation...and then he proceeds to publicly display court-sealed John Doe documents.

"The Guardian, on Sept. 14, posted a lot of this, and there are some very good documents here if you want to see some of the detail that went on with this ...This is a site, too, where several thousand documents from this case were released from this investigation," he tells the COGEL crowd.

Kennedy then gets quite descriptive, in a kind of non-nonpartisan way.

"What these documents really showed was the governor and public officials groveling to rich and powerful men for political support for their agenda," Kennedy says.

"Just one of the comparisons I would make, it might be unfair to some folks, but in big cities we have poor people, very unfortunate souls that we run across down in the French Quarter, you know, begging for food, sleeping in the street. What these documents show is the same kind of behavior from public officials, begging for money and support, acting the same way. I don't know what that says about our society, that we reduce not only the most vulnerable people to that situation, but that the people who make our decisions are put in that role of becoming supplicating sycophants, really just demeaning themselves (inaudible)," Kennedy asserts.

The Guardian story was picked up nationally by mainstream publications, which used cherry-picked court documents to amp up the "John Doe II" prosecutors' widely rejected investigation.

Multiple judges, including the presiding John Doe judge, ruled that the prosecutors failed to show probable cause that conservative groups and Walker's campaign violated Wisconsin's campaign finance laws. A federal appeals court judge described the tactics used in the John Doe "screamingly unconstitutional."

Today, coincidentally, marks the fourth anniversary of the day John Doe investigators conducted coordinated predawn raids on the homes and offices of several conservatives.

The Guardian story triggered a state Department of Justice criminal investigation to uncover whether those legally bound to protect the John Doe documents from public view broke the law.

Kevin Kennedy, it would seem, is one of the legally bound.

While he is no longer employed by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, the successor of the Government Accountability Board, Kennedy, as executive director and general counsel, was a direct party in the administration of the John Doe investigation. Kennedy and his agents worked hand in hand with investigators and prosecutors of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office. His board authorized the agency's role in the Doe. And the GAB's former contracted John Doe investigator was hand-picked to serve as the probe's special prosecutor.

Wisconsin's John Doe procedure was established before statehood, and has long been used as a secret investigatory process to determine whether a crime may have been committed. The secrecy surrounding the investigations was designed to protect the reputations of those being investigated, should no charges ever come from the probe.

Unlike its legal cousin, the grand jury, the John Doe is presided over by a judge with extraordinary power to compel witnesses to testify, not a jury of peers. It is not an adversarial process. John Doe judges work closely with prosecutors to make sure they have what they need to determine whether to bring charges forward. And, unlike a grand jury, targets in a John Doe procedure can't step out of the closed proceedings and declare their innocence because of the strict secrecy guidelines. Doing so could land them in jail or heavily fined.

That is the threat that dozens of conservatives lived under for years, even as some had their homes raided, their private possessions rooted through, taken and held for years, and their reputations ripped apart in state and national news publications.

But the John Doe law, reformed by the Legislature in 2015 to prohibit secret political probes, also demands secrecy from the officers of the Doe.

While the state Supreme Court in 2015 declared unconstitutional the John Doe investigation into 29 conservative groups and ordered the probe shut down, the legal secrecy order remains in effect for officers of the investigation.

That would include Kennedy, Madison defense attorney Dean Strang previously told MacIver News Service.

"I think that from what I know and the notes that I saw, he probably did violate the John Doe confidentiality requirements. It seems to me that is a real concern, that he was disclosing information that by statute can't be disclosed in that setting or by that person. That's how it struck me," said Strang, who represents one of the unnamed movants in the state lawsuit that brought down the Doe.

John Doe statute states a secrecy order "may only apply to the judge, a district attorney or other prosecuting attorney who participates in a proceeding under this section, law enforcement personnel admitted to a proceeding under this section," etc. The Government Accountability Board and staff were admitted to the John Doe investigation, "a decision made by the (Milwaukee County) district attorney and the John Doe judge..." Kennedy himself wrote in response to a previous open records request by state Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), who was a state representative at the time.

The John Doe law lays out that anyone (prohibited from doing so) who "intentionally discloses the contents of any oral, electronic or wire communication obtained by authority under (the statute), except as therein provided," is guilty of a Class H felony.

Kennedy also was bound by confidentiality language written into the law that created the now-defunct GAB over which he mourns. He and his staff members during the John Doe on many occasions told reporters that they could be in serious trouble if they said anything publicly about a John Doe investigation, or the agency's own probes. The GAB often declined comment on the John Doe investigation, citing the confidentiality clause.

"Were I to respond, I could be charged with a felony and face nine months in jail, a $10,000 fine or both," GAB spokesman Reid Magney told Wisconsin Watchdog during the John Doe legal battles. That provision in the main doesn't go away, even after a court closes out an investigation. That's what plenty of citizens caught up in the investigations over the years have been told.

Kennedy not only points to the Guardian story, he applauds it.

"I think the Guardian does a great job of laying this all out. I would encourage you to get on it (the website) and look at that because it really leads you into many of the documents that were involved," he tells his fellow First Amendment regulators.

Kennedy insists the GAB "left behind a shining example of how things can be done."

Tell that to the people and organizations forced to collectively pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend their reputations and their liberty from abusive government agents. Tell that to the people who for years had their lives electronically surveilled in an unconstitutional and secret investigation, or the right-of-center groups that stopped engaging in conservative activism for fear of being targeted by partisan prosecutors.

But Kennedy has no regrets. He says there's not much he would have done differently in his role as GAB director.

"I think of things on the investigation that I would have done differently, (maybe) developed some more documentation, but it didn't have an impact," he says. Kennedy certainly doesn't regret that the retired judges who presided over the GAB followed the staff's recommendation in authorizing the agency's investigation into Walker's campaign and the conservative organizations. Had the board abdicated its responsibility, Kennedy says, it "truly should have been in the scrapheap of history."

"Probably the thing I would change that was a real problem for me and that led to a lot of the lawsuits was that the Legislature put a veil of secrecy over our actions. All of the complaints that were filed with us were secret. All of the deliberations on the complaints were secret," Kennedy says on the tape. He apparently had no problem sharing those secrets with his allies at the speech regulator conference.

In fact, Kennedy and his agents weren't concerned about transparency during and after the run of the John Doe probe, when they fought at every turn to keep their secrets from public scrutiny. Investigators used private Gmail accounts, and GAB leadership warned of the potential that any communications related to the politically driven probe could be made public.

"(T)eam members should communicate with the understanding that their communications could become public or subject to discovery at some point," stated a document from an August 2013 closed-door GAB meeting.

Communications did indeed become public thanks to a lawsuit filed by some of the people and organizations targeted in the secret investigation.

Attempts to reach Kennedy, including at his Madison home and through several colleagues, have been unsuccessful.

Perhaps Kennedy would explain that he released nothing that wasn't already publicly consumed from the Guardian coverage, and in the wave of publications that reprinted the court documents.

If all of that is true, Strang in an earlier interview said Kennedy still did not display "great judgment."

"This is someone who was formerly the executive director of what was supposed to be an apolitical oversight agency engaging in a very charged political speech that I think would cause fair-minded people to wonder whether he took an apolitical position in the past and whether the same sort of charged viewpoint may persist in the staff who carried over into the successor agency (the Ethics Commission)," the attorney said. "I understand Kevin Kennedy is a private citizen. I'm talking about judgment here and fidelity to a past role."

As they say in politics, the optics aren't real good. The former director of the "nonpartisan" accountability board publicly bashing the people targeted in the John Doe after years of claims he and his agency were not engaged in a partisan witch-hunt. The same "good government" guy the left has long gushed over is praising the reporting and discussing the leaked information from the Guardian, even as the state Department of Justice is collecting evidence and reportedly has conducted interviews with former GAB staff about the same said leaks.

Kennedy's regulator peers at the COGEL conference described him as a "consistently recognized" leader, "an example" to speech cops everywhere. One said Kennedy was put "through the wringer."

Deborah Jordahl, one of several conservatives targeted in the John Doe probe, has a different take on the 37-year bureaucrat. In the early morning hours of Oct. 3, 2013, Jordahl and her family were forced to remain seated on their family room couch while law enforcement officials took their electronic devices, paper records, and other personal possessions.

"Kevin Kennedy is a shining example of a thuggish, entitled bureaucrat who believes the laws and rules don't apply to him," Jordahl said in an email. "His tenure at the GAB was marred by the actions of his highly partisan staff, resulting in several lawsuits and a disastrous legislative audit. Now he has the audacity to say he would lift the veil of secrecy from the laws he hid behind, even as he's exposing illegally leaked documents from an Unconstitutional investigation."

Listen to the complete audio of Kennedy's COGEL presentation here:

'Wisconsin's Shame' Remembered: The John Doe Raids Of 2013

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 05:55

MacIver News Service | Oct. 3, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] For many, Oct. 3 is just another day.

But for the Wisconsin conservatives who had their homes and offices raided in a politically motivated investigation and for anyone who values the Constitution, Oct. 3, 2013 is a date which will live in infamy.

In the early morning darkness, law enforcement officers swept into sleeping middle class neighborhoods in several coordinated, multi-county raids. They forced their way in with wide-open warrants and spent the next several hours rooting through the possessions of not only the conservatives they were targeting, but those of their spouses and children. They carried out boxes of files, personal planners, and electronic devices. And they told the residents of the homes they invaded that if these conservatives, even their kids, said anything to anyone about what happened there, they could go to jail.

It was all part of a secret and very political John Doe investigation that has rightly been described as "Wisconsin's shame."

Deborah Jordahl, a conservative strategist who, along with her business partner R.J. Johnson, was targeted in the unconstitutional probe, recalled those frightening, helpless hours.

"At one point early on, I started to get up from the sofa," Jordahl told Wisconsin Watchdog. "I told the deputy who was guarding us that I wanted to call my lawyer. She backed me down on the sofa and told me I could not call anyone."

"I felt completely helpless in my own home," she said.

In a 2015 Wall Street Journal piece, Johnson talked about the helplessness he and his wife felt. Traveling overseas that morning, they would find out later that their 16-year-old son, who was home alone, was awakened by several police officers with guns and a warrant.

"He was told he couldn't move, that he couldn't call a lawyer, that he couldn't call his parents," Johnson said. "He was a minor and he was isolated by law enforcement."

"My first reaction was incomprehension. We were baffled. We had no idea what this was about or that this is what they do over campaign finance issues...It wasn't until much later that we began to understand that it was connected to the first Doe (investigation)," Johnson added, referring to another secret political probe in Milwaukee County.

Johnson, Jordahl, and the other conservatives quickly turned that sense of helplessness into action. They would not be victims of this abusive government investigation. They fought back and they won. But it was a costly victory.

Joined by conservative activist Eric O'Keefe, also targeted in the John Doe, members of the 29 conservative organizations swept up in the political probe sued.

The John Doe judge who took over the investigation agreed with the plaintiffs, that the prosecutors, led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a highly partisan Democrat, did not show probable cause. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-2 ruling declared the investigation unconstitutional and ordered it shut down. The majority opinion asserted that the John Doe special prosecutor perpetrated a "perfect storm of wrongs" against innocent citizens who sought only to use their First Amendment rights.

Throughout the legal process, however, conservatives feared to speak publicly about the John Doe. The controversial procedure came with a strict gag order, silencing targets, witnesses, and prosecutors alike on penalty of jail time and costly fines.

So it was very striking to Jordahl and others to learn that Kevin Kennedy, the former director of Wisconsin's now-defunct Government Accountability Board, spoke openly about the John Doe investigation.

Kennedy and his agency were partners in the probe, ostensibly bound by the same secrecy orders that silenced the people they pursued. At a national conference of speech cops in December, Kennedy discussed a John Doe article by a liberal publication and pointed to the illegally leaked documents contained within it.

The state Department of Justice is investigating that leak.

"While I can't talk a whole lot about the details there, there are some public documents I want to make sure you see," Kennedy tells the crowd in a recording of the event obtained by MacIver News Service. He acknowledges that he legally cannot talk about the secret John Doe investigation...and then he proceeds to publicly display court-sealed John Doe documents.

Jordahl called Kennedy an "entitled bureaucrat who believes the laws and rules don't apply to him."

"His tenure at the GAB was marred by the actions of his highly partisan staff, resulting in several lawsuits and a disastrous legislative audit," she added. "Now he has the audacity to say he would lift the veil of secrecy from the laws he hid behind, even as he's exposing illegally leaked documents from an unconstitutional investigation."

Jordahl and the conservatives targeted in Wisconsin's John Doe investigation have not forgotten.

New Data: More Than 20,700 Wisconsinites Have Gained Employment Through Walker's Welfare Reforms

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:56

Average Wages and Weekly Hours Continue to Grow in Wisconsin's FSET Program

October 2, 2017 | MacIver News Service

[Madison, Wis...] Nearly 21,000 Wisconsinites have gained employment after participating in the FoodShare Employment and Training Program (FSET), according to new data from Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS). The data suggests that the perks of the program - including career training, stable employment, and higher wages - have attracted newcomers to join on their own.

The update comes just over two years after Gov. Scott Walker's administration implemented new welfare reform initiatives. Able-bodied individuals without dependents who are aged 18-49 and who wish to receive FoodShare benefits must now participate in one of Wisconsin's job training programs. Individuals must either work or participate in a program such as FSET for a combined 80 hours per month. Failing to meet the requirements for three months results in participants losing FSET benefits for three years.

In June 2017, the average FSET participant worked 35.1 hours per week and earned $13.10 per hour - nearly double the state's minimum wage, according to the data release. Since 2015, the average hourly statewide wage of an FSET participant has increased by more than $4 per hour.

In a statement, DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer said that "the FSET program gives people the helping hand they need to start building their future, independent of government assistance."

The average hourly wages of participants from April-June 2017 was up to $12.96 per hour while the average hours worked in a week rose to 35 hours. Compared to the same three-month span last year, workers in eight of 11 FSET regions saw wage increases. Compared to April-June 2015, when the program first began, wages have risen in every single region.

Region 4, encompassing Fond du Lac, Winnebago, Green Lake, Waushara, Waupaca, and Calumet counties, experienced the largest increase in average hourly wages. Wages in the region are up to $14.98. In April-June of the previous year, average hourly wages were at $11.57.

Since the implementation of the reforms in April 2015, 59,961 FoodShare recipients have enrolled statewide. The number of adults who must participate in FSET in order to receive benefits has continually decreased, while voluntary participation has increased.

Shortly before releasing data for April through June of this year, DHS also released an extensive report on the FSET program's second year.

Under the recently-passed 2017-19 state budget, the work requirements will be expanded to new populations. Able-bodied individuals with children aged six or older will also be required to participate in FSET or other job training programs in order to continue receiving benefits.

One Year After John Doe Leak, DOJ Probe Continues

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 15:58

MacIver News Service | September 29, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] An anniversary of sorts passed this month with little notice.

Of course, the anniversary involved Wisconsin's politically driven John Doe investigation. One of Wisconsin's darkest chapters of government abuse, the John Doe probe has been mostly forgotten by the general public and many lawmakers and judges. But it's still very fresh in the minds of the people whose lives were turned upside down.

On Sept. 14, 2016, the Guardian published some 1,300 pages of court-sealed John Doe-related documents. The liberal British publication used the cherry-picked, leaked records in a story that arrived a couple of weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court decided it wouldn't weigh in on the Wisconsin matter.

The printed story, picked up by mainstream publications nationally, amped up the "John Doe II" prosecutors' widely rejected investigation into alleged illegal campaign coordination between Walker's campaign and conservative allies. It fed a faulty and debunked narrative of campaign corruption on the right, while generally ignoring the abuses committed by partisan prosecutors and investigators.

It's been nearly 10 months since the state Department of Justice opened an investigation into the illegal leaks.

A source close to the investigation in early August told MacIver News that the DOJ would likely have something to report by the end of the month.

It did not, and still has nothing new to report.

"We are still investigating the John Doe leaks. If/when there is something to report, I will be sure to let you know," DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos wrote in an email earlier this week.

Sources tell MacIver News that private attorney Samuel S. Hall is no longer representing the state Ethics Commission in the leaks case.

Hall did not return a request for comment.

In July, Katie Ignatowski, Walker's chief legal counsel, authorized the contract with Hall, of Milwaukee-based Crivello Carlson, according to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission legal contract obtained by MacIver.

The state paid Hall at a blended rate of $175 an hour.

On June 27, the Ethics Commission requested Ignatowski appoint a special counsel to "assist our agency in the Department of Justice investigation of the release of John Doe documents," a letter accompanying the contract states. "Because the Department of Justice is involved in the investigation, they have declined our request for representation and advised us to contact the Governor's office for assistance in obtaining counsel."

Walker had to remove himself from the matter. The governor's campaign was targeted along with dozens of conservative groups in the partisan campaign finance investigation. The state Government Accountability Board, the Ethics Commission's predecessor, was an integral partner in the probe that the state Supreme Court in 2015 ordered shut down.

"This request is submitted with the recommendation and approval of Ethics Commission Chairperson David Halbrooks and Vice Chairperson Katie McCallum," wrote commission administrator Brian Bell. "No litigation has been initiated at this point in time, but Wisconsin Department of Justice investigators have requested interviews with Ethics Commission staff regarding their involvement in collecting and preserving records related to the John Doe investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Board in coordination with five district attorneys."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court more than two years ago declared unconstitutional the politically charged investigation, launched by highly partisan Democrat Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and carried out by his prosecutors, the GAB and the agency's hand-picked special prosecutor, Francis Schmitz. The 4-2 decision found that Schmitz's position was invalid and that the special prosecutor had perpetrated a "perfect storm of wrongs" against innocent citizens whose First Amendment rights were trampled during the multi-year John Doe investigation.

But multiple court findings that prosecutors did not have probable cause for their free speech investigation meant little to The Guardian and the publications that pushed a "criminal scheme" narrative in painting Walker and right-of-center groups as campaign finance lawbreakers.

The documents leaked to The Guardian were sealed by the courts and strongly suggest that sources within or close to the investigation provided them to the newspaper.

As Wisconsin Watchdog has reported in its investigative series into the unconstitutional probe, experts say there is a small universe of people who had access to the documents, and that universe is almost exclusively populated by prosecutors, investigators and court officials.

"The records include handwritten notes on the motion of an unnamed movant (one of dozens of conservatives targeted in the probe), as well as an unsigned draft of an affidavit from John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz," the publication reported.

Sources with knowledge of the leak have said there is other actionable intelligence - the time zone, date and exact time these documents were scanned. And the information includes the make and model of the copier used to scan them.

More Questions Surface About Shadowy Public Finance Authority

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 08:56

MacIver News Service | September 28, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

Madison, Wis...] In 2016, the University of Kansas bypassed the state Legislature in securing nearly $327 million in bonds for a slate of building projects.

Instead of seeking approval from lawmakers, the university appealed to the Wisconsin-based Public Finance Authority, the shadowy, quasi-public agency described as the "bonding house of last resort."

The PFA came under fire this month, in the closing days of Wisconsin's extended budget-writing process, when lawmakers slipped in a provision that would have expanded the authority's powers. Under the measure, the PFA would have been granted the ability to take private property through eminent domain.

Gov. Scott Walker vetoed the expanded powers provision, at the request of three conservative senators who threatened to vote against the overdue 2017-19 budget unless Walker removed the PFA language.

The Finance Authority was born in 2009 through state legislation. Its purpose: finding investors for tax-exempt and taxable "conduit bonds" for so-called "public benefit projects."

But for a Wisconsin-based financing agency, the PFA has done very little business in the Badger State. Instead, it has built a multi-billion dollar tax-exempt and taxable conduit bonds business by brokering deals like the one at the University of Kansas, or a $30 million bond deal for Planned Parenthood Federation of America's national headquarters in New York City, the latter being one of PFA's first projects.

The University of Kansas's end-around the Legislature and the Kansas Development Finance Authority didn't sit well with lawmakers, who blasted the arrangement as "circumventing legislative oversight and escaping the public view."

While KU officials insist they were only trying to save the state money while completing important projects, lawmakers weren't buying it.

"It seems to me KU is flying the starship Enterprise through our statutes, trying to avoid a transparent process that's accountable to taxpayers and students both," Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina said during a legislative hearing into the financing controversy.

House Republicans were drafting legislation to prohibit such bonding deals in the future.

The PFA's heavy involvement in projects nationwide, and its limited involvement in the state that created it, is a big concern for one Wisconsin lawmaker in particular.

State Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) voted against the Assembly version of the state budget because it included the expanded powers for the PFA. He then called on the Legislature's audit committee to perform an audit of the agency.

Out of the numerous projects for which the Finance Authority has issued bonds, relatively few have been based in Wisconsin and only two have been located within the jurisdictions of the founding Wisconsin local governments, according to the lawmaker.

The bond broker was ostensibly formed by four Wisconsin counties and the City of Lancaster, and originally with unanimous legislative approval. But the antecedent to the PFA was created in California by municipal bond movers and shakers, Stephen Hamill and Gerald Burke. They are the brains behind HB Capital Resources, Ltd., HB Consulting, LLC, and US Communities.

The Los Angeles Times in 2011 wrote that Burke and Hamill "do jobs normally reserved for public employees. They just make a lot more money doing it."

"The former Alameda County public servants have made tens of millions of dollars for their private company by coming up with a novel method of issuing tax-free municipal bonds," the Times reported.

"By law, these bonds must be issued by government agencies to finance projects with a public benefit, such as highways and hospitals. Hamill and Burke have harnessed this process for profit by working with a little-known public agency they helped to create called the California Statewide Communities Development Authority."

According to the Times, a Los Angeles County staff report concluded in 2008 that CSCDA is a "shell entity operated solely by a private contractor."

HB Capital took its show on the road in 2010, launching the Public Finance Authority in Wisconsin, again, with the unanimous assistance of the state Legislature. Wisconsin gave the agency the "unusual power" to issue municipal bonds anywhere in the country.

It does all of this without a single employee in Wisconsin, PFA officials told Allen, the Waukesha lawmaker. Allen said the bond issuer contracts any of its required services. Administrators of the Finance Authority's sponsoring organizations - the Wisconsin Counties Association, and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities - did not respond to MacIver News Service's requests for comment.

Allen said PFA officials provided him a document showing that the founding members and the sponsoring organizations help promote the authority's economic development efforts. For those services, they receive compensation. PFA officials would not disclose how much.

In 2011, government officials in states such as Rhode Island were urging their legislatures to block the PFA from doing deals that are in the purview of state-created development agencies, according to the L.A. Times.

"This isn't what municipal finance is about," Robert Donovan, the head of one of Rhode Island's largest public-bond-issuing authorities, told the publication. "Pay to play is a dirty word. Now we're looking at pay to issue."

Allen says he wants to gather as much information on the PFA as possible to build a case for an audit. He says the most compelling reason for the Legislature to take a closer look at the PFA is because it has not done so since the agency's launch seven years ago.

"When it was suggested that less than 2 percent of their work is being done in Wisconsin, I have to question why the Legislature created it in first place. It wasn't to do work in Kansas or Idaho or Nevada or elsewhere," Allen said.

School Choice Students Outperform Their Peers Again

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 06:00

Students saw small increases in proficiency on the Forward Exam, but decreases on ACT Plus Writing Exam

MacIver News Service | September 28, 2017

By Ola Lisowski

[Madison, Wis...] A new data release from Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction shows that 44.4 percent of 3rd to 8th grade students are proficient in English language arts, and 42.8 percent are proficient in math. The results are slightly better than last year's outcomes, which showed that 42.7 percent of students are proficient in English, while 42.5 fared the same in math.

The results come from the Forward Exam, administered during the 2016-17 school year. This is the second straight year of the Forward Exam which is important because it is the first time in many years we can directly compare test results to the prior year.
Students fared slightly worse than the year prior in both science and social studies. Fewer than 50 percent of students scored proficient in both subjects.

School Choice Students Do Better In Every Category
Students enrolled in Wisconsin's parental choice programs outperformed their public school peers in every category.

When compared to similar MPS students, parental choice students did much better. Students in all three major parental choice programs - statewide, Milwaukee, and Racine - outperformed their peers in every single subject on the Forward exam. On the ACT, choice students fared better than even their full-income peers.

Jim Bender, President of School Choice Wisconsin, celebrated the results.

"All three Parental Choice Programs, comprised predominately of low-income students, outscored their full-income, public school counterparts across the entire state on the ACT for the second year in a row. Combined with the Forward Exam, these results highlight the continued success of the program," Bender said.

In its press release, DPI compared all public school students to choice students - but this is a flawed comparison. Given the income limitations for entrance into the school choice programs, much larger percentages of those students are economically disadvantaged. As a result, it is more accurate to compare choice school students with economically disadvantaged public school students.

State Superintendent Tony Evers focused on the overall positive aspects of the data release.

"We're seeing some positive student gains in the Forward Exam in English language arts," Evers said. "Our educators and students are growing more comfortable with the test and have begun to use the information it provides to drive student improvement."

While the results were in general worrisome, students at a few of the state's most troubled districts showed small but promising growth. At Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), 20.1 percent of students were proficient in English language arts, compared to 19.4 percent the year before. In math, 15.4 percent of students were proficient, up from 14.8 percent.

Those are small improvements, but improvements nonetheless. The math achievement gap among black and white students at MPS shrank slightly, from a 29.3 point gap last year to a 28.9 gap today. Still, just 8.4 percent of black students were proficient in math. The troubled district continues to underserve its students.

Statewide, the achievement gap between white and black students grew in English language arts and stayed stagnant in math. As Wisconsin's minority population grows, achievement gaps between white and historically underserved populations will continue to be a big issue. Students, and schools, have their work cut out for them.

ACT Plus Writing
On the ACT Plus Writing exam, results were more clearly negative. While nearly 2.75 percent more students took the exam, they also fared worse in every subject compared to the prior year. In the 2015-16 school year, students scored an average composite score of 20.1 out of 36 on the ACT Plus Writing. A year later, the average composite score was a 20.0.

The scores are gleaned from students who participated in the Spring statewide ACT administration. This was the second year that the state picked up the tab to allow all high schoolers to take the ACT.

The average English language arts score fell from 18.6 to 18.3, while the average math score fell from 20.1 to 20.0. Students scored the highest average score on science at 20.4, down from 20.5 last year.

The ACT also includes its own benchmarks for proficiency which aim to translate the composite score into levels of readiness for college. Those benchmarks show that 39.3 percent of students scored proficient in English language arts, while 31.5 percent were proficient in science.

Perhaps the single bright spot in the entire ACT release - other than the increase in student participation - was that the percent of students proficient in math grew slightly. While the overall math score had fallen, 35.4 percent of test takers were dubbed proficient, up from 34.8 percent the prior year.

That a mere 0.6 percent increase in proficiency in a single subject was the highlight in this data release shows just how serious the situation is. Students in minority groups, as well as English learners and economically disadvantaged students fared consistently worse on this year's ACT compared to last year. Among black students, the average composite score was just 15.5 of 36, compared to 15.8 last year.

The same day as Wisconsin's data release, another study showed strong results for students who participated in Florida's tax credit scholarship program. Individuals who received that scholarship - known as the country's largest private school choice program - were shown to attend college and attain degrees at higher rates.

The longer that students participated in Florida's school choice program, the better their outcomes were. The scholarship increased college attendance among recipients by an average of 15 percent compared to public school peers. Students who participated in the school choice program for more than four years saw a 43 percent increase of college attendance compared to their peers.

In a statement to MacIver News, Bender said that the findings "mirrored those from Milwaukee."

"Higher graduation rates, college acceptance and college retention rates were all identified for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," Bender said. "Hopefully, education policy will focus on replicating the success in Florida and create more pathways for success."

The data comes just over a month ahead of the release of Wisconsin's new school report cards, which are expected in November.