The last couple of days for the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin scandal have had some amazing developments, on top of the sordid things we already knew (click here for a rundown of items leading up to this Wednesday).The Republican spin job to try to get out of this includes another GOP rep resigning his seat to cash in (the 3rd in recent weeks), and some extremely lame excuses and attempts to deflect from what looks to be a big deal.
Let's start with yesterday, when an emboldened Democratic contingent put together their own bill for outdoors grants, and asked for all applicants for this grant to be 501-(c)3 non-profits (the non-political type that United Sportsmen couldn't prove it was eligible to be).
GOP Legislators were peeved that they had to deal with this issue- when they drop the always-classy "Democrat proposal" line in the title of their press release, you know they're annoyed. Not surprising that they'd be defensive, but what made this notable is that the first release came from Senate Natural Resources Chair Neal Kedzie, who spit out the following.
However, I certainly hope the authors are sincere in their intent and not simply looking to score political points with some of the inflammatory rhetoric and sniping expressed earlier today. If the authors can truly put their politics aside, as they mentioned at the press conference, then perhaps we can have an honest dialogue in the weeks to come."Honest dialogue," Sen. Kedzie? That's rich, since you were publically claiming your son got beat up by "liberals" 2 weeks before the last November election,without any evidence to back your claim up. And given that your boy later asked for the investigation to be dropped (after the election, of course),it seems to indicate he actually got his drunk ass kicked in a bartime fight that had nothing to do with politics. But you weren't about toning down the rhetoric with "honest dialogue" then, were ya Neal?
But I digress, and back to the Wisconsin Sportsmen scandal. It's quite clear that WisGOP wants this issue to go away, and isn't taking any steps to investigate the grant or what Scott Suder, Gov Walker, or DNR officials knew and when they knew it. However, the near-daily articles in the Journal-Sentinel and other outlets was making that impossible, so today WisGOP tried another strategy. They announced that Suder was conveniently leaving the $94,000 position at the Public Service Commission that he was going to start on Monday, and instead was going to be a lobbyist for Wisconsin's paper industry. And of course, a main player in Wisconsin's paper industry is Koch-owned Georgia Pacific Industries, who have 6 facilities in the state. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.
So what happens to the job Suder would have had at the Public Service Commission. Well, looks like Scott Walker already had someone picked out.
Today, Chairperson Phil Montgomery announced that Representative Jeff Stone has accepted the position of Division Administrator for the Division of Water, Compliance, and Consumer Affairs. This transition will take place once Representative Stone has vacated his position within the Assembly.Of course, among that "Wisconsin First" mentality that Rep. Stone has had is his unflagging backing of voter ID and other forms of election rigging. Stone also was a co-sponsor and strong supporter of the Mining Bill,and he will have some oversight over mining issues and the related water quality regulations that may be part of it.
"Jeff will be a tremendous addition to the Public Service Commission, his service to the state as a legislator whom has served on a number of important committees will be a great asset to Wisconsin's future" said Public Service Commission Chairperson Phil Montgomery. "Jeff is a solid voice of reason in the State Assembly and will bring that 'Wisconsin First' mentality to the Public Service Commission."
The justifications from the Walker Administration on the Suder-for-Stone trade are laughable. Take a look at this from the Madison.com summary of today's events.
“During Scott Suder’s initial discussions with PSC, he mentioned this other opportunity may present itself, and it did,” said Walker spokeswoman Julie Lund. “We wish him well in his new position in the private sector.”
“The fact that the Republicans are engaged in a game of musical chairs indicates they know there are serious problems with the $500,000 grant Republicans directed to political allies under the guise of a hunting education grant and further proves Republicans knew that their budget measure would fleece taxpayers.And I think Rep. Barca is showing where this scandal is heading. Rep. Stone is going to have to be formally confirmed to the PSC job, and I think it might be a good time for Dems to raise the question when his confirmation comes up. A few Open Records requests to see how Walker and the DOA handled the hire seem to be in order, determining whether Suder really did have his eye on being a paper lobbyist, and to see why this job wasn't opened back up to the general public once Suder
“This does not resolve the many questions swirling around the broad, scandalous betrayal of hunters and taxpayers. And this should be a huge red flag to the public and hunters that there is very likely far more fire behind all this smoke.
It makes you wonder going on at this PSC Division that a qualified public servant can't know about and administer over? Neither Suder nor Stone (a printing shop owner) have overwhelming expertise on the subject, so I think we need to find out just what made Jeff Stone such a great fit for this job. The fact that an important gig dealing with water quality and related regulations was kept in the extremely partisan GOP family should make anyone suspicious.
It's also not normal when 5% of the Assembly GOP contingent all pull the plug on their political careers in the middle of a session. Especially when Suder, Stone and Mark Honadel were all major supporters and sponsors of the Mining Bill- a bill that United Sportsmen of Wisconsin actively supported and lobbied for. If Gov Walker's Administration thinks removing Scott Suder and replacing him with Jeff Stone will cause the United Sportsmen issue to go away from people's minds when they go to the polls in 13 months and 1 day, I think they've got another thing coming.
See, the pattern of corruption and cronyism with WisGOP runs deep, with United Sportsmen just being the latest in a long line of transgressions. It's up to us and the Dems to make sure they aren't allowed to get off the hook for cheating the people of Wisconsin by funneling funds and power among their little GOP boys' and girls' club. Between the potential money-laundering and the mining bill connections to the WisGOP reps that are stepping through the revolving door, there is plenty of corruption angles to investigate with the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin issue. Our media needs to take the final step to connect the dots that they've done well to expose in this disgusting case.
We can't trust the GOP-run Legislature to honestly look into these issues, since revelations that may come from it could hurt their chances in next year's elections (and it already looks tough enough in 2014 if you're a GOP). Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is too busy covering up for Leah Vukmir and ALEC, and refused to help the FBI during the John Doe investigation in Milwaukee so he can't be trusted to do the right thing. Therefore, it is time to demand Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne and federal investigators take over to look into this Madison-based sketchiness. And unlike Milwaukee's John Chisholm, I wouldn't expect Ozanne or the feds to chicken out when it comes time to connect the final dots- to the guy in the Governor's Office, and to the corporates pulling his strings.