The Republicans have clearly decided it’s in their interest to stall the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. That will add to the costs for taxpayers. It may also hurt Walker in the long run. Both parties agree that a recall is going to happen. Democrats need to collect 540,000 signatures but are predicting they’ll […]

The Republicans have clearly decided it’s in their interest to stall the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. That will add to the costs for taxpayers. It may also hurt Walker in the long run.

Both parties agree that a recall is going to happen. Democrats need to collect 540,000 signatures but are predicting they’ll hit 720,000. Meanwhile, Republicans went judge shopping to find a sympathetic one and succeeded with Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis, a former GOP state senator. To him they presented their argument that the state Government Accountability Board should be required to screen all of the signatures to find duplicates or fraudulent signatures. Davis ruled in their favor.

His reasons for doing so seem sound on first glance: if there are enough fraudulent signatures, a recall would not be necessary and the will of the people would be thwarted. But the ruling ignores the reality of how elections work: Opponents typically check each other’s signatures and challenge any that might seem fraudulent.  The Republican and Democratic parties typically police each other’s signatures in any contested election. 

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday, the GOP has tons of volunteers “ready to scour the [recall] signatures to make sure they’re up to snuff. More than 5,000 people have volunteered for the verification effort through a website, a Republican Party spokesman said, while hundreds of others have signed up at county GOP headquarters. Verification will begin once the petitions are made available by the state Government Accountability Board.”

In short, Davis has taken an electoral function that has always been handled by volunteers and demanded that state government – and the state’s taxpayers — take over this duty. Rather than privatizing government, as conservatives often support, he is going the opposite route, what you might call public-seizing.

 What the Republicans really sought was not more verification of signatures but a delay in the election. The longer the delay, the more time Walker has to raise unlimited campaign donations, and the more absurd the process becomes, stoking a possible voter backlash. And sure enough, the Government Accountability Board has already announced that the recall election, which was likely to happen in April, now may not take place until the summer, due to the time it will take the board to check all the signatures. 

But an April election, which is when Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary will occur, might have been expected to have a large turnout of GOP voters, which would have helped Walker. True, if Mitt Romney has the nomination wrapped up by then, the election would be less intense. Still, it seems much better for Republicans than a summer election, which is likely to be dominated by hard-core ideologues, the sort who are signing these petitions.

I have thought all along that Walker will survive the recall. But it will be a lot more difficult for him in a summer election.

Wisconsin’s One Percent
The Sunday New York Times offered an in-depth look at America’s wealthiest 1 percent. Nationally, any household earning more than $380,000 fell into this category.

Wisconsin trailed the average a bit, probably because there is less wealth here than on average. Milwaukee’s top 1 percent earned an average of $361,000, compared to $480,000 in Chicago and $428,000 in Minneapolis. Yet Milwaukee surpassed many Midwest cities, ranking slightly above Des Moines and Cleveland (each at $350,000), Indianapolis’ $339,000 and Detroit’s $337,000. 

Madison ranked at the top in Wisconsin, with an average household income of $372,000 in the top 1 percent of households.

The Times also took a look at which occupations were in the 1 percent. The list was dominated by physicians (192,268 in the 1 percent) and CEOs, administrators and managers (353,165). Lawyers also did well, with 145,564. These are the occupations that are driving the wealth gap in America.

For all the attention given to pro athletes, sports figures (10,354 in the nation’s top 1 percent) are a minor factors and Hollywood celebrities (just 6,751) are bit players in this story.

The Buzz
-Some recent data from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance shows the situation Gov. Walker inherited: Wisconsin ranked fourth among all states in per-capita deficit in 2009-2010. But the data also shows Walker’s 2012 budget did little about this: The deficit stayed flat while state spending rose by 4.4 percent in 2012, compared to 2.9 percent nationally.

-More data from the WTA: UW-Madison is by far the most selective university in the state with 93 percent of first-year students having graduated in the top-quarter of their high-school classes. The percentage was more than 50 percent at La Crosse and Eau Claire, while at the bottom (with Stout and Parkside) was UW-Milwaukee, all with less than 30 percent of students from the top quarter of their high school class.

-The criminal charge against Brian Pierick, the gay lover of Walker’s longtime aide Tim Russell, is so tawdry that the Journal Sentinel didn’t post a copy of that complaint online.  Conservative blogger James Wigderson takes issue with the complaint of child enticement, saying it “appears that Pierick had no way of knowing the boy was 17, not 18 or 19 as the boy claimed.” I read it differently, as the boy’s text messages make it clear he was worried about his mother and had to sneak out of his house, among other clues. It’s clear, by the way, that Pierick shared all the details of the back and forth texts with Russell. Here’s the complaint, but a warning, it’s quite graphic. 

-And Pressroom Buzz reports that journalists may now have a legal requirement to report alleged child abuse they may come across. 

-After the greatest regular season in their history, are the Packers just bums? Sports Nut reflects. 

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