[updated] Free speech, the spin machine and the MacIver Institute: an open letter to the Cap Times

21 March 2012
Sometimes thinking and tanking go hand in hand. Image.
Dear Capital Times editors,

I am curious as to why the Dustin Beilke piece on the MacIver institute ("Beware of the MacIver spin machine") lived such a short life on your page

I have been following this little drama with interest over the past couple days, as the post came and went, and was relieved to see this morning that it had made it past the blog round and into your forum.  This relief was immediately troubled, however, by how quickly it was removed, and I would like to suggest that this removal lends unwarranted credibility to the contention that there was anything wrong with the opinion Mr. Beilke put forth in his post.

I read the piece and found it said nothing that had not been said (and published) many times of the well-catalogued and undeniable bias of the alleged "think tank," and was only defamatory in that the facts of this case point to the obvious conclusion Beilke puts forth: the MacIver Institute is a very thinly veiled propaganda arm of the Republican Party, masquerading as a "news" outlet.  If the facts of this case are inherently defamatory, that does not mean they are untrue; Mr. Beilke is merely the messenger.

I hope that you have not bowed to the specious and unsubstantiated claims of "libel" that James Widgerson so vaingloriously delivered yesterday.  I would hope, rather, that you examine the piece of its own merits and err on the side of recognizing freedom of expression and freedom of press.  If the MacIver Institute is free to spin every story into Governor Walker's favor, Mr. Beilke should be equally free to point out the obvious fact that they are doing so.

Thank you, and I look forward to sharing this story with all my friends when it reappears (hopefully soon) on your site.

Heather DuBois Bourenane

UPDATE ( 21 March 2012): The Dustin Beilke is now published here on Citizen Action of Wisconsin for those who would like to see what all the hullabaloo is about.

Update #2 (22 March 2012): Response from the Cap Times

The Cap Times was quick to respond, and I have to admit, they have a compelling reason for pulling the piece in light of the reasons explained by editor Chris Murphy. Frankly, I find the errors minor and more a question of While I still hope they follow up on this story (which has become even more of a sensation following today's publication of 9 facts and a note of opinion by Blogging Blue), I can see now why they withdrew the original post. I was concerned that pulling the piece gives unnecessary (and inaccurate) leverage to the MacIver Institute, but wonder now if perhaps pulling the story isn't actually the best and only way to deal with it, as opposed to giving MacIver an open platform for providing their counter-argument and watching the fireworks explode.
Several of us heard from both Brian Fraley and James Wigderson about factual problems with the piece. In particular, they said that it has been some time since Fraley lobbied for the insurance industry and that Wigderson denied being part of an ongoing Republican GOTV operation aimed at suppressing Democratic votes. Dustin apparently agreed that these were problematic because he removed both statements from a revised version of his piece.
It's true that neither of these assertions was central to Dustin's real thesis -- that the MacIver Institute is operated by people with long and deep ties to the Republican Party and so it should therefore not be treated as an objective source of news -- but it's my experience that the main point gets lost when there are problems with the facts. If Dustin had been working for us or if we had commissioned the piece from him, we might have had him correct it and then explain to readers what was going on, but the fact was that the piece had already appeared elsewhere and the discussion about its aftermath was going on elsewhere, too. Rather than devote a lot of staff time to a piece that wasn't ours and that was already proving to be problematic, we decided to just take it down.
I don't think doing so implies that we are any less skeptical of the institute than we have been in the past. In recent weeks, we have taken sharp editorial stances toward them ourselves (http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/editorial/john-maciver-would-not-approve-of-the-distortions-being-made/article_ffed9605-5e89-5055-afba-075116a09a11.html) and allowed others to question their operation as well (http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/bill-lueders-ad-campaign-comes-close-to-the-line/article_1f10c87c-2cdb-11e1-adfc-0019bb2963f4.html). We won't have any hesitation about doing so in the future either, but we'd like the ensuing conversation to be about the merit of the arguments and not whether the underlying facts are correct. 
Chris Murphy, Managing Editor, The Capital Times.

So thanks to the Cap Times editors for allaying my fears and for being a steady voice of reason as we've all struggled to come to terms with the assaults on democracy and free speech in Wisconsin. I will never forget this piece in particular, from September 2011: "The Epic Arrogance of Scott Walker." This was the piece that inspired me to write an open letter to Brian Williams, which led to going on the Ed Show (and calling Scott Walker a tooljob on national tv), getting a death threat, speaking at the November rally, and generally coming to terms with the fact that if I don't do everything I can, I'll never shake the feeling that I haven't done anything at all. So thanks, Cap Times, and even if you don't publish the revised piece, I look forward to your continued exposure of MacIver's curious disregard for objectivity.

How Walker's "hectic schedule" prevents him from governing

15 March 2012

Dear Scott Walker,

Even on the most beautiful day of the year (my daughter played beach outside - eating ice cream in her shorts and t-shirt), you have managed to remind me, yet again, that there is no low so low you won't go there.

I learned a few new things about you today.  I learned that you, in the delusion of all delusions, actually really do believe that you are some kind of businessgod.  I mean, we all know that you are famous for your "CEO of Wisconsin" posturing, and your claims to having run this state as if it were your own company.  But we also all know that you have never actually worked in the private sector, and have zero actual experience running anything other than a campaign.  For someone who hates government, you sure can't get enough of it.

That's why it was so absurd when I heard this clip from a radio interview:
Really?  Charlie Sykes makes the alpha male in you come out so strong that you lie about what your wife would like and make a bogus claim about "going back" to something you never had?  You are just too much.

But as if that delusion isn't bad enough, what really bugs me here is that you don't think the $144,423 we pay you each year is "real money."  And that you freely admit that "this job" is not "that important" to you because it's not making you quite as rich as you (and, allegedly, your wife) would like to be.

How far out of touch with reality can you get?  Do you have any idea how many employed, responsible, hard-working people in Wisconsin would be thrilled to make half of your salary?  Do you have any idea how painful it is for us to hear you disrespect your own office by implying it's just a stepping-stone on your corporate career path?

Maybe you think that if you keep selling yourself as Mr. Business Guv your big-money sponsors will be on-hand when you leave office to offer you some cushy job.  And maybe they will (assuming you leave because you got voted out, instead of Blagojevitched out to the private sector that is our privatized prison system).  But I have news for you: in the real business world, you don't get to spend your time jetting around not working and still collect your salary.  You don't get to avoid your bosses and your underlings both and still get credit for their work.  You don't get to pretend that you're saving the company money when everyone can see you're pulling it into a black hole of debt and dishonor.

Because this wasn't the only thing I learned about you today.  I also learned something I've been dying to learn all year: what you've really been up to.  Because even for someone who follows your goings on very closely, this is almost impossible to find out. Even though your deputy communication director just responded to it by publishing the most audacious piece of propaganda ever to come our of your office ("Walker administration committed to openness"), yesterday the Wisconsin Legislature was "awarded" the biggest possible badge of shame for lack of transparency in government: the Black Hole Award for withholding information from the public, appropriately granted during "Sunshine Week."  Your entire administration has been shrouded in secrecy, half-truths and outright lies. And unlike most public officials, you guard your public schedule like the crown jewels; no one ever really knows where you're going to be or where you might have just been. We just know you're mainly out of state fundraising from Thursday to Monday.  But Tuesdays and Wednesdays might find you in Wisconsin.  Just depends.  Turns out the only way to get your office to reveal your whereabouts is to file an Open Records request for that public information, and One Wisconsin Now did just that.  The results are staggering, even to someone like me who knew you're hardly ever "working" like we pay you $144,423 a year to do.  Here's what they found:
On our dime, on our clock, you have spent nearly every possible moment on "personal time."   Pretty cushy benefits for a state worker.

This hits home in a painful way for a few reasons:

First, because as a taxpayer it makes me absolutely furious that we are paying you so handsomely to both not do your job AND to joke about how paltry you find the pay.

Second, because your abuse of power is an insult to everyone everywhere making an honest living, but most explicitly to your fellow state workers, for whom, in the wake of losing their right to negotiate their own working conditions, this is just a stab in an open wound. I'm thinking of a wonderful teacher at my son's school whose infant son was born prematurely, but had to come back to work while he was still in the hospital so that she could save her maternity leave for when the baby comes home. I'm thinking of a friend of a friend who works at a university and has insurance, but was so worried she couldn't afford her deductible or additional costs that she refused medical treatment after getting into an accident that totaled her car.  I'm thinking of the semester I was working three different state jobs - none of which offered insurance we could afford - and my family still qualified for BadgerCare. None of us could opt out of our work.  None of us could afford to live the way you do. Even when I was on BadgerCare, I was not getting a "handout" the way you are.  I was making much-needed and life-saving use of a program I myself was actively paying into (a system, by the way, that finally received the worst of your decimating blows just today).  But none of us would ever dream or dare of exploiting the system the way you do,  filling your pockets with our money but in exchange for little to no work. How dare you ask state workers to give up their "cushy benefits" and take cuts to their pay while you can't even be bothered to come to work.  What a sick double standard.  What a message you are sending the the workers of this state whom you ask to make "shared sacrifices" at every turn.  What have you given up, Governor Walker, besides your dignity?

Finally, though, this news has just left me reeling, because I read it only hours after receiving an email from your office informing me that because of your "rather hectic schedule" you regretfully cannot accept the invitation our grassroots group sent you to meet with local constituents.  We had invited you, as we are inviting all the other potential candidates, to speak to our group of concerned citizens and other members of our community in an open forum, and we thought this invitation would provide a rare chance for actual dialogue and conversation with your constituents.  Unfortunately, however, you don't have time for dialogue with your constituents, because your "hectic schedule" apparently demands you leave the state at every opportunity to take advantage of fundraising opportunities, spending nearly every moment we are paying you to work to work on raising money.

You cannot find one hour to meet with your constituents. Your scheduler offered very polite and "sincere regrets."  But you don't have an hour to spare. In the entire span of your term, I cannot remember one time when you met with the people in an arena that was not completely staged, scripted, or purely intended to raise funds.  So it shouldn't come as a surprise that you could not spare even one hour for us to answer a few questions about the decisions you've made since you were elected and the way you've governed this state.

According to the public records obtained by One Wisconsin Now, you spent one hour working for us in January.  One hour. At a salary of $144,423, that means we payed you $12,035.25 for one hour of work.  If that's not "real money," I don't know what is.  Maybe you and your wife want a house bigger than our mansion.  Might I suggest you move to one.  The sooner the better if you don't mind.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just be thankful that the GAB has finally confirmed my appointment to meet with you.  So it looks I'll see you on June 5th, then.  At the ballot box, assuming your hectic schedule allows. I'm looking forward to it.

Until then,

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Taxpayer, parent and citizen standing in outrage over your refused to meet with or otherwise acknowledge your constituents.

UPDATE 3/16/2012.  I just learned that while Governor Walker does not have time to meet with the taxpayers of his own state, he found time this week to not only attend a fundraiser at someone's personal residence, but to "drop in" on a town council meeting and actually take the floor to brag about himself and his union-busting "reforms."  But not here in Wisconsin. That was in FLORIDA.  Maybe if our group raised $200,000, we could meet his apparent engagement fee and have a chance to talk to him, too. Too bad the voice of out-of-state money is much more valuable and persuasive than the voices of Wisconsin taxpayers.

Another promise broken: Why Walker isn't fooling this Republican

Life-long Republican Gary Olson has a gift for elucidating the real reasons we should all recall Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald, and guess what? It has nothing to do with union busting or party politics.  It's about how Walker is using duplicitous accounting techniques to suit his political needs - the same thing he criticized former Governor Jim Doyle for doing and said he'd never do.

This open letter to Wisconsin citizens is Gary's second guest post on Monologues of Dissent.  His first, "Why Wisconsin Can't Afford Scott Walker (or Scott Fitzgerald)," explained why Walker and Fitzgerald's tired claim that they don't like "kicking the can down the road" is just a ruse distracting us from the massive debt we're incurring under their fiscally irresponsible policies.

 Another promise broken:  
Why Walker's magic deficit formula & other budget tricks aren't fooling this Republican
When it comes to the current state budget, I am in awe over how much celebratory emphasis the Wisconsin GOP is placing on the term “balanced” as if it has never been accomplished before in our state’s history. In no way am I trying to be flippant or snarky, but our state is legislatively mandated to balance its budget every two years. It is not a choice to balance the state budget, it is mandated - it is the law. So the next time someone tells you that Governor Walker balanced the state budget, ask them which governor has ever failed to do the same.

If the Legislature fails to approve a biennium budget on time, it is my understanding that the state automatically defaults to the approvals and provisions set forth in the previous budget until a new one can be signed into law. Minnesota was a perfect example of what happens to states that do not have such a provision in place and the government has to shut down until the new budget is approved.

What I find rather interesting about the 2011-2012 state budget is the manner in which Governor Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald are making numerous public claims that they balanced the budget and created a projected surplus to boot. Yet in January of this year Governor Walker and Senator Fitzgerald discovered that according to federal law, they could not make the cuts that they wanted to make to the states healthcare program for children and low income recipients unless the state had a deficit. Suddenly a rabbit was pulled from the hat and state officials certified to federal government officials that under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the state will have a deficit. 

In other words, Governor Walker used the accounting principle of “Cash Basis” accounting, to show the public that the state budget was balanced. But then in order to get what he needed from the federal government, Governor Walker used GAAP to show a state deficit. Governor Doyle played similar games with the two different accounting principles as well, but as a gubernatorial candidate I thought that Scott Walker criticized Jim Doyle and the Democrats for doing this. I truly thought that Governor Walker was going to bring an end to such tactics of accounting trickery. Clearly I was wrong in that assessment.

I tried not to rip on Governor Doyle just because he was a Democrat, but I certainly cannot accept the same or worse by Governor Walker just because he is a Republican. Nor can I excuse Senator Fitzgerald for supporting such shenanigans. This is truly embarrassing to Wisconsin and to my Republican beliefs. Neither of the two are showing me that they are very believable, and that is a very sad way to feel towards publicly elected officials of their positions.

Gary Olson
Lake Mills

Letter from a Republican: Wisconsin cannot afford Scott Walker (or Scott Fitzgerald)

The following open letter was written by Gary Olson, a Republican who has been corresponding with both Governor Scott Walker and his state senator, Scott Fitzgerald, for the past year.  Gary takes issue with the lack of transparency in the current administration, as well as its false claims of fiscal responsibility. In this letter, he lays out his case and explains how Walker and Fitzgerald are kicking the can down the road by more than doubling our debt-to-revenue ratio, despite their claims otherwise.

Letter from a Republican:
Wisconsin Cannot Afford Scott Walker (or Scott Fitzgerald)
by Gary Olson
Governor Walker openly claims that his administration balanced the state budget that required closing a $3.6 billion deficit. My Senator (Scott Fitzgerald) frequently touts that the GOP led budget created a surplus, while not raising taxes. As a tax payer, much of this sounds rather appealing until I started putting pen to paper on the figures. So much of this just does not seem to add up when you look at the funds that were cut versus the level of spending that was approved in the 2011-2013 state budget. How exactly did we close a $3.6 billion deficit, generate a $306 million surplus, and increase the overall budget spending by $1.1 billion while being completely broke and not raising taxes?

I believe that the 2011-2013 budget pushed a lot of debt into the future by delaying debt service payments until 2013 and well beyond. Debt structuring through the sale of bonds and other means of borrowing into the future are not limited to Scott Walker or the Republicans, it is a practice used by both parties. It was bad enough that Governor Doyle did this as much as he did; now we have a governor who campaigned against doing those things, only to be demonstrating otherwise. On top of that, Governor Walker is talking about covering the $143.2 million deficit (that was supposed to be a $306 million surplus) by borrowing even more money so that we do not have to raise taxes or issue another Emergency Budget Repair Bill for the budget that we are only nine months into. What impact will this move have on our state’s existing long term debt service and our ability to keep up with the payments?

The state standard for debt-to-revenue ratio is no greater than 4%, with a target debt ratio of 3-3.5% of General Program Revenue. When Governor Walker took office, Wisconsin’s debt ratio stood at 2.28%. That is not a plug for the former governor or a jab at the current governor, they are simply the numbers according to the June 14th 2011 LFB memo from the state. Under the 2011-2013 state budget, our debt ratio is expected to grow to almost 5% next year. In 2013-2014, it will grow to over 5%, and it could easily be much higher if we do not see a generous 4% growth in revenue.  Forget about asking how close we are to 4% growth because currently our revenue is actually declining according to recent LFB figures.

I do not believe that Wisconsin has ever seen a debt-to-revenue ratio of 5%, much less higher? Furthermore, I do not feel confident that we will see a 4% growth in revenue anytime soon, but I will be very happy to be wrong about that. As a taxpayer, I am deeply concerned about the amount of debt that we took on and the delayed interest that we will be paying on over the next ten years so that we can say that we have a balanced budget today.

Yes, I am a Republican but that does not mean that I have to buy into everything that my Governor or my Senator are doing, especially when it comes to the handling of my tax dollars. My confidence in the two of them has been shaken and I am deeply worried about our financial future as a state if we continue balancing budgets in this manner.


Gary Olson, Lake Mills 

 Gary Olson on why he is standing up and speaking out against Scott Fitzgerald, after voting for him many times.  Think Fitz will take him up on his challenge to a debate?  I wish he would.

Walker "Responds" to Emails with Attempt to Silence Commie Mommy Blogger

I assumed you don't write these updates.  Now I wonder.
4 March 2012
Dear Scott Walker,
I almost fainted. There, in my inbox is a message from "you" (by which I mean the people who send out emails from your office) with the subject line "Responding to your message." FINALLY! I thought, FINALLY! HE IS RESPONDING TO MY MESSAGE! I was almost a little shaky when I clicked on it. But guess what? That's just the new header for your catastrophic "E-Updates" (you know, the taxpayer funded campaign literature your office sends out now that the recall's in full swing).  This one arrived on 3/2/2012 and instead of actually "responding" to my many messages, it just tried to sell your policies as usual, closing with a signature line in which you misspelled "governor" [actual screenshot above]. The most offensive part is usually the "Just ask the governor" part at the bottom, where you make up a fake question someone allegedly "asked" you or pose a deliberately nuanced question so that you can create a myth of yourself as someone who communicates and cares. And this one was the worst yet, as you used it as an opportunity for pointless demonization of teachers and their unions,  claiming that the unions are sending messages full of lies about the WPS system to their members (I received no such message from any of the unions I belong to), writing
It’s unfortunate that the very unions who are supposed to be looking out for public employees are misleading their membership for the personal gain of a few union bosses.  Ultimately the unions’ political tactic of spreading misinformation does a disservice to all public employees.
I should have known. It was just your misinformation bulletin. But still.  How dare you?
How dare you ignore every communication from me and every other concerned, worried, outraged, terrified, devoted, patriotic, taxpaying citizen who has written to you since you took office? How dare you then have the nerve to pretend that your auto-mailed propaganda is a "response" of any kind to the thousands of serious concerns we have raised with your policies, your strategy, your approach to governance, your cronyism, your nepotistic tendencies, your subservience to out-of-state interests and wealthy benefactors?  How dare you pretend that this constitutes a "response" to our concerns?
You have, from the start, ignored and belittled those hard-working, taxpaying citizens who justifiably oppose you.  You mock us in public and simply disregard us when we reach out to your office.  You dismiss our valid concerns as "misinformation" from union bosses. I have, in the 12+ months I have been writing to you, first privately and then openly (if you're not going to read the letters I send you, someone else might as well see what you're ignoring!), not received a single communication from your office beyond the autoreply that mockingly claims you will "keep [my] specific concerns in mind."  You did not reply even when Brian Williams read aloud to you from one of my letters on a national stage. You did not reply when I asked you to please publicly call off the hounds who were making death threats against recall workers - including me personally.   You did not reply when I encouraged you to revise your fuzzy math (even though you did revise if not improve that math in subsequent communications, maybe due in part to the Isthmus sharing the letter I wrote to you in its Citizen opinion forum).  And now you have the nerve, the absolutely staggering gall, to imply that you are "responding" to your constituents with these insulting "updates."
I don't know how it is that you justify this shameful strategy to yourself, but I do know one thing for sure: you are not only not "responding" to me, you are actively attempting to not  correspond with me at all, and to limit my potential response to you
Because you took me off your mailing list. I received the first update at this address. And after I replied, criticizing the dreadfully manipulative and intentionally deceitful content of that message, you took me off the list, even though I made sure to ask to be kept on. I just stopped getting the updates.  I know this because (1) the E-Updates are posted online anyway where anyone can see them, so I can see there that you are still sending them and (2) this is not the only email address to which I have subscribed to those updates, for the very reason that you might pull some fascist attempt to stifle dissent by restricting access to your precious updates to those who might potentially send you money.  So I don't know what kind of commie mommy blogger  you think I am, but I would like to know why you took me off the list and why it is that you feel you have the right to restrict open record correspondence to citizens with whom you do not expect critical response.
Because you claim that you think it "important" to contact me "directly." This is how you start every update: 
One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government.  I also frequently provide updates on Facebook (Governor Scott Walker) and Twitter (@govwalker). Please feel free to share this update with your family, friends, and others who may be interested in state government operations.   
Well, I am very interested in state government operations, and as one of the taxpayers of Wisconsin who is funding this "E-Update" operation, I demand that you put me back on your mailing list immediately.  I have, as you are apparently aware, been a vocal critic of the propagandist content of these "updates" which I see as very thinly veiled vehicles for mass distribution of taxpayer-funded campaign literature. But that does not mean that I am not entitled, as your constituent and a taxpaying citizen, to receive them.  

At the end of these messages, it says "You received this e-mail because you contacted Governor Walker’s office directly."  I don't think there's any question as to whether or not I've contacted your office directly. So I should be on that list.  The fact that you (by which I mean your staff) have removed me can only mean that you are actively attempting to stifle potential or future dissent, which is a violation of my rights as an a American and a citizen of this state.

I have been paying very close attention to the anti-environment, anti-Wisconsin, anti-women legislation that you support, which you mischaracterize regularly in your E-Updates.  I have grown increasingly disgusted with your incessant nationwide fundraising tour and your pay-to-play "business approach" to governing, which makes a mockery of representative democracy.  I have also been paying very close attention to the widening gyre that is the John Doe investigation that seems centered on you, and enjoying very much the ever-more apparent reality that the center cannot hold. Things are falling apart in Fitzwalkerstan, and that must be taking its toll on you.

That toll, however, should not come at the cost of limiting freedom of expression and access to public resources and communication. And it most certainly should not require attempts to stifle the dissent of a concerned citizen who has been making active attempts to correspond with you for an entire year. For an entire year, you did not respond, except by attempting to shut me out of your communication list altogether.

I expect to be restored to that list immediately, and I relish the thought that each of the future emails I receive may be your last, as we impatiently await the date of the recall election.  And I ask that you please consider responding to my question in the reader Q&A portion of your next E-Update: How dare you pretend these updates "respond" to the concerns of the citizens of Wisconsin, when all they do is provide an opportunity to favorably revise the damage you have done to this state and advertise yourself as someone who cares about citizen input, which you do not?

Until then,
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin taxpayer, parent and concerned citizen
P.S. I also find it interesting that the first E-Update I received, on Dec. 30, 2011 (you know, they one with the fuzzy math and the request that we send you gift cards in the amount of our alleged "savings" - I wrote to you about that one and also shared it with others who may be interested in state government operations), is not included on your website.  This is telling, because that original email was later revised, slightly, and sent to me at another email address on Jan. 6, 2012.  I wrote to you about the revised version here, and it's that revised version that appears online now.  Just a curious observation that even in your attempt at propagandist transparency, you are not particularly transparent.

In the FAQ portion of his most recent E-Update, the king of disseminating inaccurate information accuses unions of disseminating inaccurate information. Because lazy thugs like me have so many jobs, I belong to 3 state employee unions. None of them sent me the sort of information Walker refers to in his answer.  And even if they did, Walker's claim that they would do so "for the the personal gain of a few union bosses" indicates that he does actually think there is a problem that needs fixing with our model retirement system, and that he does intend to do something about that.
Read more about threats to the pension system here and here.

™ commie mommy blogger and commie mommy blogger logo used with permission and in jest. Said jest is the sole intellectual property of Ryan Wherley. Heather DuBois Bourenane is neither a commie nor a commie mommy nor a commie mommy blogger.

There but for the grace of Russ go us...and an open letter from Ryan Wherley

It is no secret that former U.S. Senator and champion of justice Russ Feingold is best qualified and best positioned to undo the harm future former governor Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin.  It's no secret that the people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly want him to run in the recall election. And it's no secret that I personally hold him in an esteem nearly high enough to warrant an intervention.  I will never get over him losing (to Ron Johnson! inconceivable!) in 2010, and not even replying to the most passionate plea I have ever set loose into the world in my open letter begging him, for the sake of all that is FORWARD, to heed our call.  But, alas, he keeps saying no. And then, he said yes to Obama. So I begin, slowly and painfully, to accept that I will have to wait a little longer to vote for Russ again, and I begin, slowly and sweetly, to dream of President Feingold, who may or may not need at that time a speechwriter or something and might remember me fondly and...I digress.

So the elephant is in the room, and it is a donkey:  if not Russ, who?

We've got some great choices.  Former long-time Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Fab 14 Senator Kathleen Vinehout have officially launched campaigns.  Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is supposedly going to do so, soon, as is Secretary of State Doug La Follette.  Who knows who else might join the race?  As we get to know these potential candidates, we're seeing all kinds of arguments for and against and around and between, but my friend and now two-time MoD guest-poster Ryan Wherley has once again put his own thoughts into an open letter that he first published on Daily Kos (where he blogs as WiscoWherls) and kindly allowed us to share here. Ryan likes Assembly Speaker Peter Barca, and for all the right reasons.  He makes a compelling case.  Check it out:

Dear Representative Barca,
Throughout the struggles Wisconsin has faced since last February when Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" on Wisconsin and the first chants of "RE-CALL WAL-KER!!!" echoed throughout the Capitol and thundered around the Square, we knew we had to find the right candidate to take back the Governor's office.  From the very beginning, you were there.  As Assembly Minority Leader in a Republican-dominated state house, you accepted the challenge of representing Wisconsin, your constituents and your fellow Representatives.  You took on this challenge in spite of having to face the untenable reality that much of your caucus' legislation, arguments and suggestions would not be accepted, or even acknowledged.  The extent to which that turned out to be true has been staggering.  But yet, you never backed down.

Those of us who have participated in this great Wisconsin movement that sprang up last winter, have been looking for a candidate that we could rally behind; One who combines the spirit of an activist with a sharp political acumen; One who is willing to fight for not only us, but for ALL Wisconsinites.  I wrote a while back that Wisconsin doesn't merely need a figure head or an opportunist to challenge Scott Walker, Wisconsin needs a fighter.  You have embodied that fighter mentality.  You understand that if we keep putting the ACTUAL TRUTH from the front lines of the Capitol out there, we can win.  I just refuse to believe that nearly 50% of the state's electorate is so extreme as to support Scott Walker again. This is why we must be vigilant in getting the facts out there.

You have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be Walker's adversarial fact and mic check.  You have taken to social media with aplomb, posting hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook status updates, notes and links.  You help keep the public informed and abreast of the latest goings on in Fitzwalkerstan and, refreshingly, even have the courage to ask for our feedback.  What a noble concept that Walker could learn from, if he bothered to care about anyone other than his rubber-stamping cronies and his out-of-state corporate puppet-masters.  You have taken to television, to radio, to Twitter and to Youtube to deliver your frequent addresses.  You have attended small gatherings and forums across the state to converse with the citizens of Wisconsin and have actually listened to what they have to say.  You even went so far as to take your desk outside of the Capitol to meet with your constituents when they were illegally locked outside by the Walker administration!  You have taken part in protests and addressed the masses at countless rallies, firing up the crowds with your energy, ferocity, intellect and FORWARD-thinking message.  A I have told you before, rallies just aren't the same without either yourself, Mahlon Mitchell or John Nichols taking the stage!

Your have shown your mettle by leading the Assembly Democrats with enthusiasm and conviction.  I will never forget when you stepped into the Assembly chambers on February 18th, 2011 and passionately railed on the Republicans for their shameless attempts to ram the Budget Repair Bill through the Assembly minutes before the Democratic Caucus had even been told to arrive at the session.  With your help, the public was able to provide on-going testimony for nearly a week inside of the Capitol, keeping the People's House open and allowing the world to delve further into the extremist nature of the bill.  For many, their support for you stems from how extremely well you represented for the state's Democratic leadership when the heroic WI 14 moved their offices down to Illinois. This leadership and dogged determination was never more evident than when you defiantly stood your ground and called out Sen. Scott Fitzgerald as the Republicans hastily, illegally and infamously called that emergency committee into action to bust Wisconsin's public unions in the dark of night on March 9th, 2011.  I was maybe ten feet outside of the committee room as you stood up on the behalf of the tens of thousands in and around the Capitol that night, and signaled that we would not fall prey to the Republican shenanigans.  The image of you holding up a copy of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law and fighting for our rights as citizens is one of the most iconic of the Uprising.

Most importantly, Peter, you possess great integrity and are worthy of respect from all sides.  That is something our state desperately needs...especially after the onslaught of shady tactics, abominable legislation, corruption and shameless spoils system that the Wisconsin government has endured during the reign of Scott Walker.  I have had the pleasure of getting to know you and I always enjoy our opportunities to converse.  I have been able to voice concerns with you and know that you not only took them to heart, but looked into what could be done.  I can only imagine how many other people have taken comfort in knowing that, in you, they have an elected representative who is willing to interact with them and not just hear, but LISTEN TO their questions and opinions.  One day back in November, I came home from work and discovered that you had sent me a message on Facebook.  Much to my surprise, you informed me that you had told a receptive group of individuals taking part in Occupy Whitewater of my ambitious personal goal of collecting 500 signatures to Recall Walker.  I had merely brought that up to you in passing, not thinking you would actually use my own words to motivate your audience!  I was floored...what a cool thing to do and not something any ordinary politician would go out of their way to do, let alone TELL someone about!

From day one of this fight, you have realized that the truth is our ally.  Your persistence in taking control of the issues and messages by consistently hammering away at Walker's lies, deceit and chicanery, by any means necessary, has been critical to our movement's growth.  In doing so, you have assuredly given up countless hours of sleep and your free time, to repeatedly CRUSH Walker, the Fitzgeralds, Robin Vos, Alberta Darling and company.  But, by so publicly and succinctly calling them out on their lies, you have shown that through the truth, the citizens of Wisconsin DO have an alternative. You have presented a voice of reason for so many of your fellow citizens who want a fair and Progressive Wisconsin back, through your advocacy of wind energy initiatives, support for women's rights and constant push for Wisconsin to return to a state of clean and open governance.  You are a Badger through and through.  The passion and love you show for your state and its citizens, and the pain it causes you to see what has happened to them, comes out in everything you put before the public.

If you run for Governor, I know that we wouldn't just have to get behind you, but could stand BESIDE you, in this fight.  This is apparent for all Wisconsin citizens to see, not just this bleeding-heart Madison liberal.  You have inspired many and I am confident there are thousands of grassroots activists and groups around our great state that are ready to bust their asses to help get you elected.  You are truly our best hope to pull Wisconsin out of the darkness that has befallen it under the Draconian agenda and appalling arrogance of Scott Walker.  When you spoke this past Wednesday at the protest over the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, I assure you that the emphatic chants of "Run, Peter, Run!!" which broke out afterwards were not only spontaneous, but from the heart of this Wisconsin movement.  When you take the stage and speak, the people listen.  After all, you truly are one of us.  For the past thirteen months, you have stood in Solidarity with us.  Now, it's our turn to stand in Solidarity with YOU.  Please, Representative Barca...heed our call.  I am proud to call you my friend, and I would be HONORED to call you my Governor.

Wisconsin could use a little honor again, don't you think?  That's what Ryan Wherley thinks. What about you?

Ryan and his friend Angie Aker with Representative Peter Barca.  If Ryan can make the leap from "Rusty for Governor" to "Petey for Governor," maybe we can, too. 
I haven't decided yet who I like best, next to Russ, and I'll always like Russ best. If he enters this race, I would be thrilled into action like never before.  But I'll tell you this: whomever emerges as the people's candidate (from the primary, if there is one, or from the public vetting we're seeing now) will be the next governor of Wisconsin. And I will do all I can to see to that happen, so help me Russ.  (Ok. I have no willpower at all. Once more, for good measure, just in case: So, help me, Russ!)

In which Representative Barca calls out Republicans for violating the Open Meetings Law.

March 2, 2011: Peter Barca holds office hours on the Capitol Lawn to 
accommodate constituents locked out of the building. Happy anniversary to that!