Ethics

Officials Seek More Than Spin From Walker About "Troublemakers" Statements

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's confession that he talked with political allies about potentially hiring "troublemakers" to disrupt the peaceful protests in Madison have drawn more questions from lawyers, police, Wisconsin state legislators and the mayor of Madison -- and a lot of spin by Walker. Through a spokesman, Walker has said that throughout the prank call he accepted with a fake "David Koch" that he "maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse." He continues to insist that the budget repair bill is about the budget, and that people other than him suggested using troublemakers to disrupt the crowd. Walker also maintains that he says the same thing in private as he does in public. But despite these responses, questions continue. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz sent a letter to Walker asking him who made the suggestion to disrupt the protests, what was the nature of the suggestion, and asking what was Walker's immediate response to the proposal. The mayor also asked Walker why he rejected the "troublemakers" proposal due to political considerations rather than on legal and moral grounds. Walker has so far failed to publicly answer the growing number of questions about his statements, and public interest groups have been forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the details of Walker's conversations about stirring up violence.

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Handful of Protesters Ejected from Walker’s Budget Address

At least three of the handful of protesters allowed to watch Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget address from the State Capitol's Assembly Gallery Tuesday evening were ejected from the Gallery, escorted out by State Patrols.

"I was one of the 20 people invited in from the general public," said David Wasserman, a Madison Metropolitan School District teacher at Sennett Middle School.

He didn't get to stay for long.

"We looked at the list of things we weren't supposed to do –- we knew we weren't supposed to clap, we knew we weren't supposed to have our cell phones on," Wasserman said of the rules posted in the Assembly Chamber, noting that all the Republicans in the Assembly Chamber were clapping and cheering for Walker's address.

CMD Submits Open Records Requests to Governor's Office

Before news broke of the prank call from a David Koch impersonator to Governor Walker's office, CMD had submitted the below open records request to the Wisconsin Department of Administration for all phone calls to-and-from the governor's office since January 1. CMD confirmed receipt of the request via telephone on February 18 and expects a reply promptly. We have also submitted open records requests directly to the governor's office for copies of all email and visitor log records.

Don't Buy Insurance Industry's "Objective Analysis"

Connecticut residents who believe their state should be the first in the nation to set up a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers should brace themselves for what will be a beautifully packaged, seemingly well-researched study from the insurance industry to convince them otherwise.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a big Washington-based lobbying group, last week told Connecticut lawmakers (pdf) that -- surprise, surprise -- they would be making a very big mistake if they approved funding to get the public option, called SustiNet, up and running. AHIP said it had hired "a well-known consulting firm" to produce a study that would support the conclusions the industry had already reached about SustiNet. AHIP even had the audacity to claim that said study would be an "objective analysis."

AT&T Sued for Fraudulent Data Usage Billing

IPhone moneyA class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T alleges the company routinely overstates web-server data traffic on its monthly bills by 7 to 14 percent, most notably for IPhone users. Plaintiffs allege that AT&T "bills for phantom data traffic when there is no actual data use initiated by the customer." Independent consultants report that they bought a new IPhone and disabled every possible source of data connectivity they could possibly find on it, yet within ten days their account had logged 2,292 KB of data usage on the phone. The suit says, "This is like the rigged gas pump charging you when you never even pulled your car into the station." Plaintiffs allege breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent and unfair business practices. AT&T intends to defend itself vigorously against the suit, and that "Transparent and accurate billing is a top priority" for the company. 

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Bush White House Broke the Law

A new report issued by the Office of Special Counsel says George W. Bush's Office of Political Affairs routinely violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits using federal dollars to pay for political activities and bars federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Senior staff members of Bush's Office of Political Affairs, run by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, routinely violated the law by organizing political briefings for Republican employees at federal agencies where they sought the employees' help to get Republicans elected to Congress. The report (pdf) says "These briefings created an environment aimed at assisting Republican candidates, constituting political activity within the meaning of the Hatch Act." The briefings discussed the importance of the 'GOP ground game,' the 'Republican Offensive' and the 'Republican Defense.' " The report also found that the Bush White House improperly used federal funds to pay for travel for political purposes, classifying it instead as official government business.

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Political Rhetoric, Before and After Arizona

Jesse Kelly with gunJesse Kelly, a former Marine, Iraq war veteran and Gabrielle Giffords' Republican opponent in last November's election, ran a campaign that used gun imagery as its main eye-catching visual. Several of Kelly's campaign ads show him brandishing an M-16 automatic rifle with the slogan, "Send a Warrior to Congress." A print ad for one of his fundraising events reads, "Sat., 6/12/10, 10:00 AM - Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." Kelly's spokesman, John Ellinwood, naivley claims he doesn't see any connection between promoting fundraisers featuring weapons and the public shootings in Tucson.

New Memo Shows Fox News' Unacceptable Level of Bias

Fox News Channel's Bill SammonMedia Matters uncovered another internal email sent out by Fox News' Washington, D.C. Managing Editor Bill Sammon which ordered Fox Network journalists to slant coverage of the climate change issue by "refrain[ing] from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." The memo is inflammatory because the increase in global annual average temperatures over the last 50 years is a well-established fact.

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Judge Who Ruled Health Reform Law Unconstitutional May Have Conflict of Interest

District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, who issued the ruling that the new health reform law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, has at least a $15,000 ownership interest in the Republican consulting firm ''Campaign Solutions, Inc." Since 2003, Judge Hudson has pocketed dividends between $32,000 and $108,000 from that interest. Campaign Solutions played a big part in the 2009 elections in helping Republican legislators like John Boehner, John McCain and Michele Bachmann devise public messages to help turn public opinion against health care reform. All three legislators made dismantling health reform a part of their campaign platforms. In another potential conflict of interest, Virginia Attorney General Tom Cuccinelli, who challenged the new health reform law and on whose case Hudson ruled, paid Campaign Solutions $9,000 in the last election, so Judge Hudson decided a case in which one of the litigants was a client of a company he owns.

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