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The Free Market Voice for Wisconsin
Updated: 32 min 52 sec ago

Conservatives Targeted By IRS Win 'Generous' Settlement

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 10:42

MacIver News Service | Oct. 26, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis - The federal government has agreed to pay a "generous financial settlement" to the 400-plus conservative organizations targeted for their political beliefs under the Obama administration's Internal Revenue Service.

An attorney from the firm that represented the plaintiffs in NorCal v. United States tells MacIver News Service the IRS isn't admitting to any wrongdoing, but its settlement "in the seven figures" would suggest otherwise.

"We take the amount of the settlement under the control of the U.S. Department of Justice as vindication of the claims we have been raising since May of 2013," said Edward Greim, attorney for Kansas City, Mo.-based Graves Garrett LLC.

The law firm also represented targets of Wisconsin's infamous John Doe investigation, a Democrat-led secret probe into dozens of conservative groups.

Greim said the IRS drew from the same defense playbook as attorneys for the prosectors of the unconstitutional John Doe. IRS attorneys attempted delay after delay, objection after objection in the four-year slog of litigation, trying to use the very taxpayer protection statutes the plaintiffs were suing under to suppress documents.

"It was not unlike the (Wisconsin) Government Accountability Board, which refused to produce details of its involvement in the John Doe," Greim said.

The now-defunct GAB was a partner in the campaign finance investigation that featured pre-dawn, armed raids on the homes of conservative targets. Kevin Kennedy, the GAB's former long-time director, once discussed the secret case with federal bureaucrat Lois Lerner, the focal point of the IRS targeting scandal, according to documents obtained by this reporter.

John Doe investigators asked the IRS to look into one of the primary targets of the probe, according to a 2015 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. The piece also pointed out the personal friendship between the two government regulators.

"It is telling that there's mutual admiration between Kennedy and Lerner," Greim said.

Lerner led the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt groups. A 2013 inspector general's report found the IRS had singled out conservative and tea party organizations for intense scrutiny, oftentimes simply based on their conservative-sounding or tea party names. The IRS delayed for months, even years, the applications, and some groups were improperly questioned about their donors and their religious affiliations and practices.

Marve Munyon and southern Wisconsin's Rock River Patriots went through a trying application process with the IRS. Eventually, the small educational organization was forced to give up.

"We finally got out from underneath that mess," Munyon told the Daily Signal in December 2014.

Five groups filed in the IRS case, the first claim against the agency for its targeting of conservative groups, and the only nationwide class action. The plaintiffs included, NorCal Tea Party Patriots, South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, Americans Against Oppressive Laws, San Angelo Tea Party, and the Texas Patriots Tea Party.

Graves Garrett in a press release said the groups sacrificed hundreds of hours of time. The lawsuit was sustained by funding from Citizens for Self-Governance, a nonprofit devoted to liberty issues. Eric O'Keefe, a target of the John Doe investigation, is chairman of the board for Citizens for Self-Governance. CSG also was targeted by the IRS during the discovery process, but refused to back down.

"It is a great day for the First Amendment and the promise of fair and impartial government," Graves Garrett said in the statement. "But this day was too long in coming."

Through the lengthy legal battle, the federal courts grew increasingly fatigued by the IRS' tactics.

Earlier this year, the plaintiffs took the first and only disposition of Lerner. That document remains under seal in a matter still being litigated outside of the proposed settlement.

"The generosity of its proposed settlement belies recent, uninformed claims that IRS officials merely mismanaged the files of conservative groups, or subjected liberal groups to similar treatment," Graves Garrett said in the statement. "To the contrary, Plaintiffs developed evidence showing that IRS managers knew that groups' views, not their activities, were being used to target them for heightened scrutiny. Even after they gained this knowledge, officials like Lois Lerner failed to release the targeted groups, ordering up more scrutiny and delay even while betraying worry that the 'Tea Party matter' was "very dangerous.' This was far more than the "lack of adequate management" the IRS or TIGTA is publicly willing to acknowledge.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his statement on the settlement quoted Chief Justice John Marshall, who concluded that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy. Sessions said "without question" the First Amendment protects against treating groups differently "based solely on their viewpoint or ideology."

"There is no excuse for this conduct," he wrote of the IRS. "Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today's settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated."

Tammy Baldwin's 'Fixer' In Middle Of Russia Dossier Scandal

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 20:27

MacIver News Service | Oct. 25, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis - The D.C. lawyer who helped U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's Tomah VA troubles disappear is now caught up in the Russia dossier scandal.

Marc Elias, known in the Swamp one of the left's major "political fixers," retained Washington-based Fusion GPS on behalf of Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee to conduct research that resulted in the "now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump's connections to Russia" and alleged coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Elias is an attorney for the Clinton campaign.

"....Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community," reported the Post, citing anonymous sources. "Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC," the Post reported.

"The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion's GPS's research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day," sources told the newspaper.

The contents of the dossier have been widely discredited, but that hasn't stopped the left from pushing its Trump-Russia collusion-corruption narrative.

Elias played the fixer role for Baldwin and her PR mess in the wake the scandal-plagued Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center story in early 2015.

Baldwin's campaign spent nearly $140,000 on legal advice from Elias and his firm between 2011 and 2016, according to federal documents obtained by this reporter in March. Nearly $90,000 of that was paid out in 2015, at the height of Baldwin's Tomah troubles.

Baldwin's campaign cut a check for $41,704 to Elias and his firm on March 27, 2015, and made another payment of $38,558 in May of that year, according to campaign expenditures.

An investigative report in January 2015 found Baldwin and her office failed to do anything with an inspector general's report detailing the overprescribing of painkillers and other abuses at the medical center. She sat on the report for months and only called for a federal investigation into the VA facility after the investigative piece hit. And Baldwin failed to take seriously whistleblower allegations about the medical facility known as "Candy Land" because of the patient drugging policies that subsequent investigations confirmed.

The junior U.S. senator, facing re-election next year, canned top aide Marquette Baylor, who led Baldwin's Milwaukee constituent services office.

Baylor fought back, filing a complaint in April 2015 with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. She claimed Baldwin orchestrated a cover-up. Baldwin attempted to buy Baylor's silence with a severance package and accompanying confidentiality agreement, Baylor claimed. The fired aide wouldn't take the "hush money."

The Ethics committee eventually dismissed the complaints.

Baldwin has yet to disclose how much money she offered Baylor in the severance package, despite concerns about how the payout would be funded.

"After the pubic outcry, Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me," Baylor stated in her complaint. "(Baldwin) instructed her Chief of Staff, Bill Murat, to fly to Milwaukee, fire me, and offer me a severance package that required me to stay quiet. Murat then moved into damage control, meeting with individuals in Wisconsin and telling them that the inaction was my fault."

And then "the fixer" came in.

He hit Baylor with everything he had in public statements.

"Marquette Baylor was terminated because her long-term performance on a range of issues did not meet with the senator's expectations for effective constituent service," Elias told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February 2015. "As deputy state director for constituent services her handling of the problems at the Tomah VA was only one of those issues."

And now Elias is at the center of the Russian dossier scandal. The fixer's credibility is being called into question once again.

Two New York Times reporters on Wednesday called out Elias for what appears to be his false denials of the Democrats' involvement.

"When I tried to report this story, Clinton campaign lawyer @marceelias (Marc Elias) pushed back vigorously, saying 'You (or your sources) are wrong," Times reporter Kenneth Vogel tweeted.

Here's the question: If Elias lied about the dossier scandal, did he lie about Baylor, and Baldwin's involvement in Tomah?

Free-Market Physicians Look To Save America's Broken Health Care System - Directly

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 09:59

MacIver News Service | Oct. 25, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] Dr. Kevin Tadych believes he is standing on a tectonic shift in health care, one that truly could bend the health care cost curve.

The health care revolution is primed, Tadych asserts, and it will be led by the free market.

"These are exciting times. I'm excited to be a part of this," the Minocqua orthopedic surgeon told MacIver News Service in an interview this week.

Tadych's Northern Wisconsin Bone & Joint Center is a purveyor of direct care or direct pay medicine. He's cutting out the middlemen, the insurance company, the bureaucrat, the paper-pusher, and dealing directly with patients - at a significant savings for his customers.

Under the direct care model, doctors eschew insurance contracts and deal directly with their patients. Many charge a monthly membership for routine visits and drugs. They list their prices for procedures up front, prices that are often significantly lower than the standard insurance-driven model.

Direct care is empowering consumers and the free market to drive down the cost of health care and, as has been abundantly documented, improve outcomes. It offers the return of the true doctor-patient relationship because it shifts control from far away bureaucrats to health care consumers.

Price transparency up front. No negotiating. No haggling. No copays or deductibles or piles of insurance paperwork and administrative red tape. Just a flat fee for the medical service provided.

Need carpal tunnel surgery? The bill in Tadych's office is $1,900 - everything included. In the market for total knee replacement? $15,000, or about half the going rate at traditional providers bound by standard insurance agreements.

"A guy called up all the way from Virginia. He found me online," Tadych explained. "He said, 'Is it true you do carpal tunnel procedures for $1,900.' I said, 'Yes it is.' He said, 'I'm getting a ticket and flying out to see you.' The closest price he could get in his area for the same surgery was $13,000."

Tadych didn't invent direct care, but he and physicians like him - sick of the high cost of health care driven by falling reimbursement rates, cost shifting, and crippling federal regulations - are bringing medical care back to the basics.

State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo likes what he sees in the direct pay health care model that he says is "very slowly sweeping the country." The West Allis Republican, who chairs the Assembly's Health Committee, said he's been looking at how to foster a direct primary care system, not bound by health insurance, in Wisconsin.

Legislation could be coming soon.

"It would empower individuals and employers to be able to go directly to a provider and bypass health insurance companies," he told MacIver News Service last week during an interview on the Jay Weber Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN.

"By doing so we're able to see very cost-effective and efficient prices being passed on to consumers," Sanfelippo added. "It's that kind of free-market thinking that, when you take all the constrictions that the federal government has on our health care right now, you take those off and you allow ideas like this to foster and take root."

The lawmaker said he, his staff and some of his colleagues have spent the past couple of years examining ways to attack the escalating costs of health care in the Obamacare era. Sanfelippo said direct primary care could go a long way in controlling Wisconsin's rising Medicaid costs. Doctors are getting about 62 cents on the dollar in Medicaid reimbursements, pushing physicians out and driving up costs for the insured.

Twenty-three states have some form of direct primary care law in place, and Sanfelippo said the savings from the "no insurance" billing and payments arrangements are 20 percent or more. Direct care could amount to significant savings to taxpayers, he said. Total Medical Assistance payments in Wisconsin have soared from $4.7 billion in 2004 to nearly $9.2 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Sanfelippo pointed to Solstice Health, a direct primary care clinic in his district providing unlimited health care services for as little as $39 per month. The model is built on pricing transparency, and the monthly memberships come without per-visit fees, and with unlimited wholesale labs, wholesale imaging, and wholesale medications.

"It's Your Money. Its Your Healthcare. Take It Back," declares Solstice on its website.

Mequon-based Smart Choice MRI has been leading the direct care revolution for years. The growing magnetic resonance imaging chain charges a maximum $600 fee - about $2,000 lower than the average MRI.

Direct care providers such as Smart Choice presage a "fundamental shift toward more transparent, market-driven pricing" and changes in hospital capital allocation, health care industry consultant David Johnson told Crain's Chicago Business earlier this year. "What's happening in the private market will ultimately reshape health care more than government reimbursements."

Tadych, fed up with the insurance chase, was inspired by Keith Smith and Steven Lantier, the physicians behind the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. The "free market-loving, price-displaying" cash-based medical provider lists the prices of all of its medical procedures on its website, like a restaurant menu but with body parts. The Surgery Center, launched in 1997, doesn't take insurance and charges significantly lower rates than its competitors in the standard health care system.

Tadych helped launch a chapter of the Free Market Medical Association, an organization of medical professionals with a "mutual desire to change the face of healthcare."

The northern Wisconsin surgeon, part owner of the Northwoods Surgery Center, has been employing the direct care model for nearly two years.

"I said it was time to get serious, so I dropped most of my insurance contracts and we've been growing ever since," he said, adding that his practice will no longer accept Medicare after the first of the year.

Tadych acknowledges leaving the insurance fold has cost him. He said his revenues were initially cut in half, but he's "not begging for bread." He has seen his business climb as medical consumers do what consumers in general do: price shop. What they're learning, to the dismay of the traditional health care players, is that lower price does not have to mean sacrificed quality, Tadych said.

"I'm not making the money I used to, but I'm still eating well. And it's growing," he said. "I feel good giving someone health care knowing it was in their range."

UW Regent Recalls Life In Communist Cuba Amidst Campus Protests

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 05:00

This month, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted to ensure freedom of speech throughout the system. Students who attempt to disrupt events because they don't like the speakers now face punishments that could include expulsion. For one Regent, Jose Delgado, the decision reflected a lifetime of experience stretching back to revolutionary Cuba in the 1950s, when the communists took over. MNS' Bill Osmulski has more.

Justice Kennedy's Left Turn Could Spell Trouble For Wisconsin's Electoral Maps

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 23, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] If you look at the trend lines, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy continues to swing further left, and that could spell bad news for Wisconsin's Republican-written electoral maps.

But the data don't factor in all the "sociological gobbledygook" tied to the Badger State's redistricting case now before the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists hosted a panel discussion on the legal battle over Wisconsin's political maps, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the gerrymandering case.

William Whitford, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by challengers of the redrawn political boundaries crafted by Republicans in 2011, joined Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, for a kind of point-counterpoint discussion.

The moderator, University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Ryan Owens, broke down the Kennedy curve, or rather, the so-called "swing vote" justice's slide to the left.

"You see Kennedy trending to the left, which, if you are a conservative, doesn't give you much hope," Owens told the sparse but engaged audience of about 20 people.

Kennedy, legal observers agree, stands to be the deciding vote in the controversial case that aims to answer the question of how much is too much political motivation in redistricting.

But Kennedy has drifted further left every year he has been on the court, Owens said, pointing to a chart tracking the justice's positions on key cases over the years. The high court is often described as evenly split between four liberals and four conservatives, plus one - Kennedy. But that's an overly simplistic characterization.

"In basic court terms, he is more liberal than (Justice Ruth) Bader Ginsburg when she first got on the court," Owens said.

Kennedy's position on some of the most contentious issues facing the court - from same-sex marriage to affirmative action - has "evolved." The 81-year-old justice has "embraced a vision of a living Constitution, one that evolves with societal changes," the New York Times wrote in 2015.

But has his opinion on political gerrymandering "evolved" since 2004? In one case, the Pennsylvania-based Vieth v. Jubelirer, Kennedy concurred with the conservative majority ruling that the redistricting case were not justiciable (capable of being tried by a court). At the time, the justice said there could arise such a case before the Supreme Court in the future.

The case was similar to Wisconsin's redistricting challenge.

A divided court "held that the voters bringing the suit had not proved that they would be denied representation, only that they would be represented by Republican officials. Because the plaintiffs (those bringing the suit) were not denied the right to vote, to be placed on the ballot box, to associate as a party, or to express their political opinions, their political discrimination claims failed," according to

Whitford, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor emeritus argues that "any amount of blatant gerrymandering" violates the constitution, and Wisconsin's case is among the more egregious violators.

Wisconsin Department of Justice Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin, a former clerk for Kennedy, argued before the court that the plaintiffs' case does not meet the justiciable standard Kennedy sought 13 years ago and that Whitford doesn't have standing to bring the lawsuit. Whitford, who claims Republicans set up unfair boundaries that disadvantage their opponents, lives in Dane County, where, particularly in capital city Madison, Republicans have very little chance of winning political seats.

But Kennedy's grilling of the state during oral arguments could signal where the justice may come down on the controversy, Owens said, and it doesn't portend well for conservatives.

"The party asked more questions is less likely to win," the professor said, pointing to a summary of data from Supreme Court oral arguments over the past 60 years.

National election law expert Hans von Spakovsky says he hopes the court doesn't recognize political gerrymandering as unconstitutional. It's not the courts' business, said Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member and head of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative.

"Folks may get angry about the way districts are gerrymandered. They may not like the way they are drawn, but when the state Legislature is doing it you've got a way of making the legislators who do that accountable: You can vote them out of office," he said in an interview last week with MacIver News Service on the Vicki McKenna Show.

The liberal challengers to Wisconsin's electoral maps want to wrest control from the elected lawmakers and put it in the hands of the judicial branch, von Spakovsky said.

"What they want the courts to do is answer an unanswerable question, which is, 'When is too much politics unconstitutional?' That is an absurd question to begin with, which is why this is an absurd case at its very core," he added.

There will always be politics in district line drawing because it is by its very nature a political process.

Justice Samuel Alito has warned the high court against transforming the federal courts into what he called "weapons of political warfare," opening the door for losers in the redistricting process to "get in court what they couldn't get in the political arena," von Spakovsky said.

Chief Justice John Roberts characterized the standards advanced by opponents of Wisconsin's redistricting maps as "sociological gobbledygook."

"..(T)he whole point is you're taking these issues away from democracy and you're throwing them into the courts pursuant to, and it may be simply my educational background, but [what] I can only describe as sociological gobbledygook," Roberts said during oral arguments.

But it more than likely won't be Roberts' vote that counts. All eyes are on the not-so-swing vote, Justice Kennedy.

The court is expected to rule in the case by next summer.

Wisconsin Union Membership Plummets In Wake Of Worker Freedom Laws

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 06:00

Wisconsin Union Membership 2017 Update

MacIver News Service | Oct. 20, 2017

By Jake Lubenow

[Madison, Wis...]

There have been many lessons learned in Wisconsin's collective-bargaining reform era. Perhaps the most important takeaway is what has ever been true: When people are allowed the power to choose, they exercise that power.

The laws that have lifted the yoke of compulsory union membership off the backs of Wisconsin workers have empowered employees in the public and private sectors to walk away from big labor.

And they have done so in droves - even in the metropolitan area of the People's Republic of Madison, where the union membership rate has sunk to 5.4 percent.

Union membership has plummeted in the Badger State in the wake of the Act 10 and the right-to-work reforms led by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Act 10, passed and signed in 2011, broadly limited the power of public sector unions, returning control to the taxpayer. It also gave public sector unions the right to decide whether they wanted to continue to pay the union dues that they had so long been forced to contribute, or whether they wanted to remain in the union at all.

The legislation has saved the state over $5 billion since its implementation. More than $3 billion was saved thanks to modest contributions to benefits from public employees, and the reform saved the struggling Milwaukee Public Schools over $1 billion.

The right-to-work law followed four years later, giving private sector unionized workers the ability to opt-out of union membership. Wisconsin was the 25th state to implement the worker liberty reform, joining a wave of six other states in the past 10 years that have passed similar freedoms.

Wisconsin Union Membership, the Latest Data

Since Act 10 and right to work, there have been some interesting developments across Wisconsin. compiles Census Bureau data and provides a great look at some of the Wisconsin metro areas' union data.

In the metro area of Madison, a hive of organized labor, union membership has decreased significantly since its peak of 21.1 percent of the workforce in 2010. When the law really started to effect change in contracts in 2012, the rate dropped to 10 percent. The state's capital city employs many of the state employees affected by the legislation, - many of whom joined the massive, big labor-led protests against Act 10 at the Capitol in late winter 2011.

Despite liberal Madison's seeming love of unions, only 5.4 percent of Madison area workers were union members in 2016. While there were well over 56,000 members in the Madison metropolitan area in 2010, there were just over 20,000 as of the most recent data.

The Fox Cities area, including Appleton, Oshkosh, and Neenah, also has seen declines, although not as pronounced as Madison. A peak of 16.5 percent in 2010 followed a drop in 2011 to 11.6 percent. Similar results followed the introduction of right-to-work freedoms, with a drop from 11.2 percent to 9.6 percent from 2014 to 2015. Union membership continues to decrease.

The Milwaukee metropolitan area saw a sharp decline in union participation following implementation of the right-to-work law. In 2014, the rate was 10.2 percent before dropping to 7.4 percent in 2015. The rate has since risen to 9.1 percent.

Overall, the state of Wisconsin has seen recent decreases across the board, including declines following both reform measures. The worker exodus from union was more dramatic early on. A 29.1 percent drop in union membership rates in 2015 was succeeded by a modest decline from 8.3 to 8.1 percent in 2016. Close to 355,000 employees were union members in 2010. More than 125,000 Wisconsinites have left their unions since 2010, with only 218,000 members today.

Big labor painted the departures as the result of "(r)elentless attacks from right-wing politicians and corporate special interests."

"Today, it's much harder for working people to join together in a union and fight for fair wages and safer workplaces," Rick Badger, executive director of state employee union AFSCME Council 32 told the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this year.

In fact, it's easier for workers once forced into paying union dues to free themselves from the clutches of powerful labor organizations with a liberal political agenda.

Neither reform measure in Wisconsin forced workers out of their unions, but rather provided employees with the opportunity to chose whether their union dues were providing enough benefit to justify participation. It's like any other product or service in consumerism. Customers go - and stay - where they find value.

Public and Private Union Membership

With the two reforms coming four years apart, Wisconsin has had a unique opportunity to see the differences public and private sector union changes have on each sector separately.

The public sector has seen a steep decline from 2011 through last year, with only a short year of relief for unions in 2013 when the rate decrease wasn't as drastic. The rate has continued to fall as more public-sector employees see less value in union membership.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the state's largest teachers union, has seen its membership rolls plummet. WEAC boasted approximately 100,000 members before Act 10. In 2016, the union counted 36,000 members, as reported by the

MacIver Institute. WEAC was a long-time supporter of Wisconsin progressives, holding taxpayers hostage with expensive public-sector employee contracts. It used, and continues to use, its members' money to support Democrats and union-friendly candidates. WEAC was once Wisconsin's mightiest lobbying force, spending $1 million lobbying the state Legislature in the first half of 2009 alone. WEAC's political action committee has spent next to nothing since the recall elections in 2012.

Private sector unions have fared a bit better. Right to work does not place limits on collective bargaining like Act 10 does, nor can it under labor laws. Rather, the law simply prohibits compelling workers to participate.

Private-sector membership dropped significantly after right to work passed but stabilized (even increased slightly) in the year since.

Public-sector unions will have to continue to fight hard to prove their worth to newly empowered members if they do not want to experience the same retention problem the public-sector has.

In 2015, Wisconsin's three AFSCME councils merged. Badger told the State Journal that the union "is getting back to organizing basics" and rebuilding grassroots efforts. What that means in terms of customer value isn't clear.

Wage Premiums

One of unionists' favorite talking points is the wage premium, or the amount a union worker makes over a non-union counterpart. Given the top-ranking states in wage premium are right-to-work states, there is further evidence that liberating workers from compulsory union membership is a benefit for labor.

A 2016 report by the Midwest Policy Institute calculated the states with the highest wage premium. Wisconsin had the 12th highest (10.99 percent). Of the eleven states that ranked higher, eight are right-to-work states as well, including all of the top five.

Union leaders have conveniently ignored the reason right-to-work states rank higher. When union members have the choice to participate or not, employees receiving a lower wage benefit often leave their unions, and those benefitting remain.

Free-market principles dictate that an effective union that provides substantial benefit, or at least perceived value, need not worry about members leaving in a right-to-work state.

The accuracy and relevance of the wage premium statistic, however, have been hotly contested in recent years and it's difficult to measure whether union members see a benefit in wages at all.

Public Sector Employment

In the fight over Act 10, union officials declared that state employees would leave the public sector in record numbers. It turns out that's not true. While there was a substantial decrease in public-sector employees following the economic downturn of 2009, there has been an uptick in state workers since 2012.

The public sector still pays well and the minimal contributions that state employees have to pay into their benefits have not caused a government worker exodus. In fact, the 12 percent minimum health insurance contribution stipulated in Act 10 to help reduce costs, is still far below the Midwest private sector average contribution of 22 percent.

While the number of state employees has not decreased significantly, the number of public-sector union members certainly has. When given a choice, workers are choosing workplace freedom over compulsory union dues.

M.D. Kittle contributed

Clerk Defends Junk "Study" Claiming Voter ID Suppressed Turnout

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 06:00

Politics, not principle, drives Scott McDonell's PR play

Perspective By M.D. Kittle
Investigative Reporter

Liberal Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell is indignant that some responsible members of the media, including the MacIver Institute, dismantled a recent voter ID "study" for what it was: junk science in support of a deeply flawed left-wing narrative.

What's worse, taxpayers had to pick up the $55,000 tab for the politically motivated clerk's vendetta against Wisconsin's voter integrity law.

Last week, McDonell fired back at critics. In his rebuttal in the Wisconsin State Journal, the former Democrat Capitol staffer and rising star in progressive politics breathlessly claimed that if "state lawmakers have any decency, the photo ID law should be suspended until it is amended to ensure that all Wisconsin residents have access to the ballot box."

If McDonell had any decency he would have questioned the validity of the study he commissioned before making a media spectacle out of it and himself. But for the partisan clerk, pushing a progressive narrative is all that matters, the facts be damned.

The Dane County Board, well-known for wasting taxpayer money, signed off on McDonell's pet project. The clerk then commissioned University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Ken Mayer to do the heavy lifting. Spoiler alert: Mayer testified on behalf of voter ID opponents in the lawsuit challenging the Voter ID law.

To call the results questionable doesn't quite cover the failings of this study.

Out of 2,400 surveys mailed to people who were registered to vote in the November 2016 election but did not cast a ballot, only 293 were returned - 75 from Dane County respondents, 213 from Milwaukee County, and five whose home counties could not be identified.

Of the paltry number who responded, the percentages work out to only five people claiming they did not have adequate photo ID as their main reason for not voting. Five. Four people said the main reason they didn't vote was that they were told at the polling place their ID was inadequate.

"That's not sufficient for a ballot poll. That's too small a sample to give you any validity," national election law expert Hans von Spakovsky, told MacIver News Service.

Coincidentally, the survey included 13 different reasons why these voters opted not to cast a ballot, including that they were "unhappy with choice of candidates or issues," they were "ill or disabled," they didn't have enough time, or they simply weren't interested.

But McDonell wasn't going to let the facts get in the way of a long-standing liberal narrative.

The clerk quickly fired out a press release boldly declaring that nearly 17,000 people were either deterred or prevented from voting in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. McDonell and the contracted researcher divined all of this from 293 responses. While Mayer told MacIver News the survey strictly examined Milwaukee and Dane Counties, McDonell and liberal Dane County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan in their public rebuttal assert "an estimated 40,000 voters statewide" were victims of voter ID.

Despite that gaping mathematical chasm, much of the mainstream media picked up the ball and ran with it - just as McDonell planned.

"Wisconsin voter ID law deterred nearly 17,000 from voting, UW study says," blared a Journal Sentinel headline. Faithfully liberal, the New York Times published a similar narrative espousing the report's flawed findings.

The Journal Sentinel story went on to quote a press release statement by Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson. "As the clerk who serves the largest population of African-Americans in the state, I was shocked by the numbers and am furious to see that Jim Crow laws are alive and well," Christenson declared in a familiar line of left-wing hyperbole.

McDonell and Corrigan added to the rhetoric in their column.

"But the fact remains that confusion and misinformation surrounding the law are a de facto feature of this insidious law," they wrote. "The photo ID law is a local issue, just as much as it is a state one. We believe government has a moral responsibility to voters to enact laws that don't confuse and hinder electoral participation."

That's a much different picture than the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel painted following November's presidential election in a news story headlined, "Few voting problems reported in Wisconsin."

"State and city of Milwaukee elections officials also reported isolated instances of people being told they could not vote because they lacked valid identification. This is the first presidential election when Wisconsin voters were required to show residential identification."

Wisconsin allows voters without proper ID to cast provisional ballots. They need only return with valid identification and their vote is counted. Elections officials walk those voters through the process of obtaining a free voter ID. And the Legislature's budget committee last year approved $250,000 for a voter ID awareness campaign.

So much for pandemonium at the polls.

But McDonell's intentions are pretty clear, and have been so for a long time.

He ran as a progressive Democrat for the clerk job in an abundantly progressive county, touting voting rights as his principal platform.

McDonell isn't a bureaucrat doing the peoples' work, he's a highly partisan official with an agenda, and now he's using taxpayer dollars to propagate junk science in a quest to gin up opposition to the Voter ID law.

The clerk was also quick to take advantage of the media's coverage of the taxpayer-funded study, promoting the high-profile New York Times' story on his social media channels. The Times' headline screamed, "Wisconsin Strict ID Law Discouraged Voters, Study Finds." Don't be surprised when the left rolls out this headline in next year's campaigns. Scott McDonell certainly won't be.

Campaign pledge fulfilled - on the taxpayer's dime, and at the cost of honest public discourse.

Chris Rochester contributed

Liberals Abandon Truly Needy With "BadgerCare For All"

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 09:00

A MacIver Perspective | October 19, 2017

By Bill Osmulski

Last week the country realized Obamacare cannot survive unless the president violates the US Constitution, and the current president is not willing to do that.

Monthly premiums on the Obamacare Exchanges are simply unaffordable, and every year the prices get higher. In Wisconsin, the average premium on the exchange this year is $514. That's a 93% increase from four years ago. Next year it's expected to increase another 36%.

There are also few choices on the exchanges. Every year more insurance providers leave. Across the country, a total of 73 providers out of 298 dropped out of the exchanges last year . About a third of all the counties in the country only have one provider to choose from. The less competition, the higher the prices climb.

In order to get people to use the exchanges, the Affordable Care Act promised to subsidize the premiums. However, the original Obamacare law passed by Democrats in Congress did not actually appropriate any money for those subsidies. According to the Constitution, only Congress can appropriate money, but that didn't stop President Obama from ordering the Treasury to start paying the premiums in 2014. The Court said that was unconstitutional, but it didn't stop Obama from continuing the subsidies. President Trump announced last Thursday he will not continue that unconstitutional practice.

Everyone knows without the subsidies, the Obamacare exchanges are finished. And without the exchanges, Obamacare is finished. Democrats in Wisconsin attacked Trump mercilessly, and then admitted Obamacare was never really going to work in the first place.

"No one ever said the Affordable Care Act was perfect, but it was only a good first step," Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig told the media during a conference call on Friday.

"The critique of the Affordable Care Act has not necessarily been off-base when made by critics leading up to the 2016 election and beyond," Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) stated on that same call.

Despite the admitted failure of Obamacare, liberals in Wisconsin continue to demonstrate their commitment to a universal, government-provided, taxpayer-funded healthcare system. Their latest attempt: "BadgerCare For All."

The plan would supposedly let anyone buy a BadgerCare Plus policy at "full price." Genrich, who wrote the Assembly version of the bill (with Citizen Action's help), says the policies are more affordable than those on the Obamacare exchanges and it won't cost the state a dime. The plan may not be unconstitutional, but it does completely ignore the laws of economics.

Even though Democrats claim consumers would be paying full-price for the cost of their coverage, providers would receive the same miniscule reimbursement rate they get for any Medicaid patient. In Wisconsin, Medicaid only reimburses about half the cost for primary care, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And so, as the number of patients paying with Medicaid increases, the more pressure doctors will face to stop accepting Medicaid patients.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau was just as direct when it warned Genrich about his plan.

"BadgerCare Plus costs are influenced by provider reimbursement rates paid under the program. These reimbursement rates are generally well below rates paid by commercial health care plans, which likely has the effect of restricting the number of medical providers who are willing to participate in the program, as well as the extent of their participation. The expansion of the number of persons who receive coverage under the buy-in proposal could exacerbate provider access problems," the June 2nd memo reads.

Considering that Medicaid currently serves the most vulnerable members of our society, it is curious how quickly the left is willing to expose them to even greater hardship when they are looking to score political points.

Contrary to liberal claims, the LFB memo also suggests that "BadgerCare For All," will lead to greater costs for the state. That's because the only way to prevent a stampede of providers abandoning Medicaid is to increase the reimbursement rate.

"Any such increase would increase the cost associated with providing coverage and also increase the amount of the premiums paid for coverage," the memo states.

There was one last piece of bad news for Genrich and Citizen Action. "A commercial insurer is required, under state insurance regulations, to maintain a reserve fund to ensure that the company has sufficient financial capacity to pay claims in the event that premium revenue is insufficient. While a BadgerCare Plus buy-in program would not be subject to these regulations, establishing a reserve would be prudent policy," the memo concluded. That means even more potential cost to the state.

The liberals pushing "BadgerCare For All," have had that Fiscal Bureau memo for over four months. It doesn't support their agenda, and so they've completely ignored it - just like they're willing to ignore the law, the Constitution, the principles of economics, and the truly needy.

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.