One thing we should have learned in the late 1960′s is that protests almost never achieve the goals of the protesters in America. They might work in Tunisia and Egypt, but they don’t work here. It is time for the people of Wisconsin and all the other states that are under threat of union-busting bills to use the power of the law to stop this Republican Party agenda.
That twenty-minute phone conversation that Ian Murphy of Buffalo Beast had with Gov. Scott Walker gave the unions sufficient grounds to pursue three separate legal remedies. The most immediate was Walker’s acceptance of the offer of a free vacation in California if the bill to end collective bargaining in Wisconsin passes. That was a bribe completion of legislative action wanted by the person making the offer. There is no other way to interpret that part of the conversation. If Walker got the bill passed, he would get a paid vacation. Walker accepted the offer. Under both Federal and state law, that’s illegal. If Wisconsin’s Attorney General will not file the charges, the complaint can be bumped up to the Federal Justice Department, with Wisconsin’s AG facing separate charges of collusion for refusing to enforce the laws of his state.
Second was Walker’s co-ordination of his party’s agenda with “David Koch”. Walker told the man he thought was Koch exactly where Koch’s PAC would need to spend money to advance party in the next election. Wisconsin election campaign finance law follows the Federal law on this matter. In Colorado Repubican Federal Campaign Committee et al. v. Federal Election Commission, 518 U.S. 604 (1996) the United States Supreme Court ruled that PACs may make unlimited independent expenditures as long as they do not act in consultation with or co-ordination with a candidate.
Third was portions of the conversation concerning other states’ efforts to pass bills that would cut the rights of unions to collectively bargain or would allow contractors to hire non-union workers, the so-called “right to work” laws. During the conversation with “Koch,” Walker bragged about his position as the spearhead of this movement to cripple unions and named two other governors, Sandoval of Nevada and Kasich of Ohio, with whom he has held conversations on this issue. The unions need to file a formal complaint with the United States Department of Justice demanding an investigation into the possibility that these Republican governors, with either the Koch-funded Tea Party Express or the Kochs themselves, have conspired to pass these laws. On their face, “right to work” laws appear to address a union monopoly in the job market. They remove any requirement that a contractor hire only union workers. However, these laws make it possible to fire people in a way that denies them unemployment insurance benefits and removes the guarantees that unions have historically offered of the skill level of the people being hired. Even if a Federal investigation failed to meet the evidentiary threshold for prosecution, it would expose the network of co-ordination for state governors and the money behind their elections. The Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made it possible to cover up the relationship between corporations and candidates. This investigation would force those relationships into the open. There is already a challenge to Citizens United in the works, based on the conflict of interest presented by Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife’s PAC.
Wisconsin State Senator Tim Carpenter sent a letter to Gov. Walker in the aftermath of the punk phone call. He called for Walker to resign:
“Dear Governor Walker,
I am informed that a tape recording has been released in which you apparently held an extensive discussion with someone you believed to be your campaign supporter, David Koch. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel state that the caller was actually a reporter, pretending to be David Koch, and it has posted a trascript of the recording. It appears that you admit the call occurred, and hove not contested the authenticity of the transcript.
David Koch is the billionaire businessman who reportedly contributed thousands to your campaign and who the media claims is a key source of funding for shadowy political groups that spend thousands of dollars attacking your political adversaries in our state.
At a historic moment in our State’s history, brought on by your refusal to compromise with elected officials regarding the elimination of worker’s rights, you still refuse to talk with Democratic legislators. However, you apparently have no problem taking a phone call from “Mr. Koch” and to: •Discuss your strategy to lay off public workers to seek partisan advantage to pass your agenda;
•Discuss your plan to lure Democratic legislators to the Capitol on the pretext of negotiation, but then state you you would never actually negotiate;
•Discuss your plan to use the pretext of negotiation to get a quorum for legislative fiscal action that Republicans so far have not been able to do;
•Discuss that you considered the ‘planting’ of paid troublemakers into the peaceful protests at our Capitol; and to
•Give your enthusiastic acceptance to an offer from ‘Koch’ to fly you out on a vacation to show you a ‘good time’ once you ‘crush these bastards.’ Your response was ‘That would be outstanding…’ Given that Koch’s businesses could reap vast rewards with the ‘no-bid’ sale of the Wisconsin’s power plants that you propose in your budget repair bill, this response is severely troubling.
Governor Wakler, this tape would make Richard Nixon blush. If the recording and the items discussed by you are indeed your plans, you have no business being in public office in our State, and should resign.
Sincerely, Tim Carpenter”
Walker’s so-called “budget repair bill” is, according to him, essential to being able to implement the budget he will present on March 1, and which the state legislature has three months to pass. It not only calls for overturning the laws allowing public sector unions to engage in collective bargaining, and rewrites the existing union contracts without negotiation, it allows the restructuring of the state’s debt and allows the sale of the state’s power plants without bids from potential buyers. Koch Industries, the company owned by the Koch brothers, is an energy company. Koch’s PAC was the largest contributor to Walker’s campaign. The appearance of pay-off is too troubling for Wisconsin voters to ignore.
Walker has also repeatedly stated that the restructuring of the state’s debt must take place by Friday, Feb. 25. That is a lie. The deadline to authorize the structuring is Tuesday, March 1. The structuring itself must take place by March 15.
Wisconsin law allows the recall of all elective officers after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected. Unfortunately, it would be next January before a recall can be done on Governor Walker. That is too late for this bill. The law lays out, with the deadlines in the law, when the process can begin, when the recall petition circulator must register with the filing officer, when the petitions can be circulated to garner the signatures of 25% of of the number of people who voted in the 2010 election, when the petition must be filed. The recall petition can begin the second week in November, 2011.
We have laws in this country and it time for the unions to stop thinking they can protest their way out of this situation. Protests didn’t end the Vietnam War. They didn’t prevent the invasion of Iraq. They don’t really work. The law does, or it should, but it only works if people use it. The unions need to take this to the appropriate level and use the law to do what is necessary – investigate and prosecute Scott Walker and any other governor who is taking his orders from the Koch brothers or any other contributor. The Tea Party has already taken back this country – right into the early 20th century when business and politicians conspired to cut deals that benefitted the businesses at the expense of the nation. Ironically, the last time an energy company bribed a government official was called the Teapot Dome scandal. Now, that’s called karma.