Wisconsin Republicans, from Scott Walker on down, have repeatedly justified their move to strip collective bargaining rights for state employees by claiming that the state is broke. However, this has not stopped them from giving a state job and a 36% raise to the 26-year-old girlfriend of Wisconsin state Senator Randy Hopper.
A state worker with ties to Sen. Randy Hopper is being paid $11,000 more annually than her predecessor in a position at the department of regulation and licensing.
State officials said the woman, 26, was hired to a limited term, communications specialist position last month, with a salary equivalent to $42,328 annually.
State officials Friday said the woman’s predecessor left the position in January, with a salary equivalent to $31,200 annually. No explanation was given for the new hire’s higher pay.
The woman in question is Valerie Cass, who Randy Hopper's estranged wife recently identified as Hopper's new girlfriend (PDF):
It is correct that my husband, Randy Hopper, started an affair in January 2010 with a then 25 year old Republican aide named Valerie Cass. The affair has caused great emotional pain for my children and me.
Cass is a Republican political operative who worked on the campaign of Reince Priebus to become chair of the Republican National Committee. She has also worked for the Republican Party of Wisconsin and a Wisconsin-based GOP campaign consulting firm. Scott Walker's chief of staff recommended for the state job, and a member of his cabinet conducted her job interview:
Cass previously had worked in the state Senate and for the GOP campaign consulting firm Persuasion Partners in Madison. She also was paid for campaign work for the state Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner before that.
"Ms. Cass' name was among many forwarded to DRL by the Governor's Transition Team as potential candidates for positions with the department," said David Carlson, the agency's spokesman.
But who exactly recommended her for the post?
Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the governor, confirmed that it was Keith Gilkes, Walker's chief of staff. She was then interviewed by the Department of Regulations and Licensing's executive assistant and deputy and hired by Secretary Dave Ross, a Walker cabinet member.
On February 7, on the advice of Scott Walker's cabinet, Cass was hired and given a 36% raise compared to her predecessor. Four days later, Scott Walker unveiled the budget repair bill calling for deep cuts in the salaries, benefits and collective bargaining rights of state employees. Walker justified the bill by claiming the state was broke:
"I don't have anything to negotiate," Walker said. "We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years. People have ignored that for years, and it's about time somebody stood up and told the truth. The truth is: We don't have money to offer. We don't have finances to offer. This is what we have to offer."
Also on offer: state jobs with 36% raises for well-connected political allies.
This is a disgusting example of cronyism and hypocrisy. It lays bare the agenda of the new Republican administration in Wisconsin of using state funds to reward political allies and then making political opponents foot the bill.