Tag: ethics

Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing POSTPONED because Trump’s appointees aren’t being properly vetted

The controversy regarding Republican President-elect Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress attempting to ram through Trump’s appointees without Trump’s appointees being properly vetted by federal ethics officials is not going away. In fact, one of Trump’s appointees, Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary, has had her confirmation hearing postponed until next week because the federal Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has not been able to complete its end of the vetting process:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced late Monday that it had rescheduled the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.

“At the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule, we have agreed to move the nomination hearing of Betsy DeVos to Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a release late Monday.

While Betsy DeVos has made it clear for a long time that she wants to destroy public education in America, what is an even bigger problem than that is the fact that multiple Trump appointees, apparently including DeVos, have not been properly vetted to the legal standard, not a political standard, for vetting a presidential appointment. I’ll even add that, given the seriousness of the fact that OGE has not been able to properly vet Trump’s appointees, the letter from the OGE Director regarding the issue should have been addressed to the entire Senate, not just Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

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Scott Walker completely ignores request from Wisconsin teacher to quit talking about her story

Megan Sampson, an English teacher at Wauwatosa East High School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has repeatedly been used by Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker as the face of his union-busting Act 10 bill. Act 10, among other things, stripped teachers and most Wisconsin public employees of the vast majority of their collective bargaining rights.

However, Walker has been using Sampson’s story, which I’ll explain in detail in the following paragraph and only mention once on this blog, without permission from Sampson. Sampson has repeatedly denied Walker permission to use her story because she doesn’t want to be seen as a political figure, and she’s offended by Walker using her as a posterchild for Walker’s far-right political agenda.

In 2010, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) laid off Sampson, and Sampson was hired by the Wauwatosa school system not long afterwards. Both of those events occurred before Act 10 became law in Wisconsin in 2011. After she was hired to teach in Wauwatosa, MPS offered Sampson to return to MPS as a teacher, but Sampson refused the offer because she was employed to teach in Wauwatosa.

Walker has claimed that Sampson was hired in Wauwatosa after Act 10 became law in Wisconsin. As I stated in the above paragraph, this claim by Walker is false. Additionally, Walker has claimed that Sampson was honored by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with a Outstanding Teacher of the Year award for her work for MPS. In reality, DPI gave four Wisconsin teachers outstanding teacher awards for 2010, but not Sampson, and Sampson received an outstanding first-year teacher award from the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English (WCTE), a non-profit organization whose membership is composed of English teachers in Wisconsin who wish to join the organization.

Since I started blogging a few years ago, there have been instances where people have contacted me and asked me not to use their name, likeness, quotes, stories, etc. in my blog posts, and I have respected their wishes. The fact that Scott Walker has continued to use the story of Megan Sampson in an inaccurate manner and, more importantly, without her permission proves that Walker has zero respect for his fellow Wisconsinites. If Walker can’t respect the people of his own state, he’s not going to respect the American people if he’s elected president.

Does Scott Walker want to put elected officials in charge of administrating elections in Wisconsin?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The blog post includes a word, Nixcarthyism, that has, to my knowledge, never been used before. Nixcarthyism is defined as a corrupt, vindictive style of politics that combines the style of politics of Richard Nixon and the style of politics of Joe McCarthy.


Scott Walker’s Nixcarthyism knows no boundaries. As Governor of Wisconsin, he’s used a recall petition against him as a political enemies list, enacted disastrous political policies designed to make the lives of Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin a living hell, and has gotten away with blatant political corruption.

Now, he’s pushing to eliminate the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), an officially non-partisan agency, compromised of a board of six retired judges, that would be a great model for non-partisan state election administration panels across the country, and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined state government board or agency. The GAB is responsible for state-level regulation of elections, campaign finance, and lobbying in Wisconsin, as well as handling ethics complaints filed against state elected officials in Wisconsin. This is Walker’s way of retaliating against the GAB for authorizing the unsuccessful 2012 recall attempt against him and for referring the John Doe II investigation, which was recently struck down by the majority-female, far-right Wisconsin Supreme Court, to a special prosecutor and five district attorneys.

However, I do have one hint as to to what kind of entity Walker wants to replace the GAB with: Walker has stated that he wants “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin” to replace the GAB.

I’m guessing that “something completely new” is Walker-speak for something significantly different than the GAB or the former Wisconsin State Elections Board that was replaced by the GAB. By “truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin”, I’m guessing that’s Walker-speak for putting elected officials in charge of administrating elections, handing ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and regulating lobbying in Wisconsin, while, at the same time, allowing said elected officials to retain their elected offices and serve on whatever entity replaces the GAB simultaneously. I do not know of any state that has incumbent elected officials serving on or in a state office, board, or agency responsible for administering elections, handling ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and/or regulating lobbying.

If Walker wants to put elected officials in charge of state-level election administration in Wisconsin, that would be comparable to asking Cookie Monster to guard cookies. The vast majority of, if not all, elected officials in Wisconsin benefit in some way from campaign donations and/or outside spending on their behalf. Because of that, a state elections board compromised of elected officials in some form or another would be absolutely rife with conflicts of interest and would likely be very supportive of big money special interests having tons of influence over the political system.

About the only change I’d make to the Wisconsin GAB is to put the responsibility for appointing GAB board members in the hands of the Wisconsin Secretary of State (currently, the Wisconsin Governor makes the appointments to the GAB).

Why I’m calling for both of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators to resign from office immediately

I am officially calling for U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R), both of Wisconsin, to resign from office immediately. In both cases, it involves their role in a scandal involving opiate pain pills being overprescribed at a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, which I will refer to in subsequent paragraphs of this blog post as the Tomah VA.

Marquette Baylor, a former staffer for Baldwin who was fired as part of an apparent political damage control operation by Baldwin and her chief of staff, Bill Murat, recently filed an ethics complaint against Baldwin with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, a six-member committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Baylor is claiming that Baldwin made “false statements and misrepresentations” as part of a political cover-up in a desperate attempt to protect Baldwin’s own political career and Murat’s career. It appears to me that Baylor was fired after the corporate media exposed Baldwin sitting on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA, and that Baylor was fired because Baldwin and Murat were looking for a scapegoat.

While the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin has almost entirely fixated on Baldwin’s role in the Tomah VA scandal in an obvious example of right-wing bias, Wisconsin’s other U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson, has also been implicated in the Tomah VA scandal. About a month and a half ago, Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Johnson’s aides sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA. While Johnson and his staffers have tried to make U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) their scapegoat, Bice’s report made it clear to me that Johnson’s staffers sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA.

Calling for the resignation of elected officials is something I take very seriously. The fact that Senators Baldwin and Johnson failed veterans and sat on information about dangerous practices in the health system that serves those who served our nation in uniform for far too long is more than enough for me to call for them to resign from office immediately and without delay. Senators Baldwin and Johnson are a disgrace to their home state of Wisconsin and to America.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.