Tag: taxpayer money

How Wisconsin GOP state legislators encouraged Mylan to increase EpiPen prices for the entire country

Thanks to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), a group that maintains a database of political contributions to state candidates in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we now know that a political action committee (PAC) for Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that, among other things, makes the EpiPen that is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has publicly lobbied Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass legislation designed to financially benefit the company. According to records from WDC, a total of ten members of the Wisconsin Legislature received campaign contributions from Mypac WI, the Wisconsin state-level PAC for Mylan’s political operations, seven of whom are still in the Legislature, and one of whom is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission:

Legislator Name Date Contribution Received House of Legis. At Time of Donation Amount
Last First Year Month Day
Edming James 2016 July 1 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Craig David 2016 June 27 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
LeMahieu Devin 2015 November 17 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Vukmir Leah 2015 August 22 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Nygren John 2014 February 10 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
August Tyler 2014 January 18 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Kramer Bill 2014 January 13 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Severson Erik 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Steineke Jim 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Strachota Pat 2014 January 2 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Name in italics indicates that individual is no longer a state legislator as of the writing of this blog post, but was a state legislator at the time donation was received; of the three who are no longer state legislators, Pat Strachota is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Table was created using the HTML table generator available here.

Mylan has also spent a total of $66,500 since 2013 lobbying Wisconsin legislators on issues “…affecting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of prescription drugs and medical devices”, as well as on issues “relating to generic pharmaceuticals”. According to Wisconsin lobbying records, Mylan spent $42,000 and a total of 151 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2013-2014 state legislative session, and Mylan spent $24,500 and a total of 103 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2015-2016 state legislative session. In both legislative sessions, Mylan’s sole authorized lobbyist was listed as Robert Welch.

Two pieces of legislation, both of which are now Wisconsin state law, were heavily supported by, and were designed to financially benefit, Mylan: 2013 Wisconsin Act 239, and 2015 Wisconsin Act 35. 2013 Wisconsin Act 239 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” in Wisconsin public, private, and tribal schools. 2015 Wisconsin Act 35 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” “by certain authorized entities”, which include recreational camps, educational camps, colleges, universities, day care facilities, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas. Neither of the two laws require Mylan to justify price increases to government officials in Wisconsin, even though the laws authorize state and local government entities in Wisconsin to purchase and maintain EpiPens at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers. While the two pieces of legislation serve a public purpose, given that timely dispensation of epinephrine can save the life of a person having a severe allergic reaction, given that Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the marketplace for epinephrine auto-injectors, and that EpiPen prices have risen dramatically as recently as earlier this month, it’s clear to me that Mylan’s political lobbying efforts in Wisconsin are designed to financially benefit the company, as well as financially benefit the political campaigns of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.

I do not have any food allergies that require the use of epinephrine, but many Americans in all 50 states do. I find it disgusting that A) Mylan is drastically raising the price of a very important drug/device without any real justification and B) that, because of Mylan’s actions, taxpayers are being forced to spend more money than necessary on their medicine, which many people need. Furthermore, by not including any kind of accountability measure on Mylan that would have required Mylan to legally justify any kind of price increase to Wisconsin officials, Wisconsin Republicans have effectively encouraged Mylan to raise the price of EpiPens for the entire country.

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Wisconsin GOP congressional candidate Frank Lasee once posted a Hitler quote on a taxpayer-funded website

Back in 2001, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught then-Wisconsin State Rep. (now-Wisconsin State Sen.) Frank Lasee having an Adolf Hitler quote on his state government website:

A lawmaker who posted a quote by Adolf Hitler on his taxpayer-funded Web site apologized Tuesday for doing so and ordered the quote removed.

Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) attributed the posting to an error by his staff.

Journal Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice reported Tuesday that along with quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. and others was this one from Hitler: “What luck for rulers that men do not think.”

Frank Lasee posted a Adolf Hitler quote, in which Hitler effectively called ordinary people stupid, on a website funded by Wisconsin taxpayers. That is flatly unacceptable, and whoever Democrats nominate in the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin should use this against Lasee should Lasee be the Republican nominee.

It’s time to abolish charter schools in America

Charter schools are schools that are run with varying levels of autonomy from laws, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted a charter by either a government entity of some kind (in the U.S., this is either a state-level education authority, a public higher education institution, or a local school district) or a private entity granted charter authorization power by a state or local government entity. In recent decades, charter schools have opened en masse in many U.S. states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a Wisconsin-based progressive watchdog group, recently conducted research of both a federal program designed to provide funding to charter schools, and they released their report on their findings last month. For supporters of public education and American taxpayers, the findings are not good at all.

At the federal level, there is a little-known federal government program that provides taxpayer-funded grants to charter schools, called the Charter Schools Program State Educational Agencies (CSP SEA). Out of a total of over $3.7 billion in federal funds given out to charter schools since 1995, over $3 billion of that has been given out via the CSP SEA program. Federal charter school grant programs operate with very little accountability or transparency. In fact, the federal government has passed off the primary responsibility of accountability for federal charter school grants to the states, which, in turn, have passed off responsibility for the federal grants to charter school authorizers, some of which are public entities and some of which are private entities. Additionally, there wasn’t anything resembling a public list of charter schools that received CSP SEA funds until CMD repeatedly asked for the federal government to give them a list of such charter schools.

In addition, CMD researched charter school practices in eleven states (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia. Here’s how federal funding in those jurisdictions was wasted:

  • In California, home to one-fifth of the nation’s charter school students, a total of 13 charter schools closed after receiving a total of over $4.7 million in federal grants.
  • In Indiana, two charter schools that received a total of over $1.4 million in federal grants were closed due to poor student performance, one charter school received a $702,000 federal grant before becoming a private religious school, one charter school that never opened was awarded a $193,000 federal grant, and one charter school that has yet to open was awarded $193,000 federal grant.
  • In Michigan, which provided CMD with the least amount of information regarding charter school funds, nearly $1.75 million in federal grants was paid out to 21 “ghost schools”, or charter schools that never opened.
  • In Ohio, a total of over $4.6 million in federal grants was awarded to a total of 19 charter schools that either closed or never opened.
  • In New York, a nearly $200,000 net discrepancy in 2011-2012 and an over $300,000 net discrepancy in 2012-2013 existed between New York state records on federal charter school grants and federal records on federal charter school grants awarded to New York charter schools.
  • In Texas, a $600,000 federal grant was awarded to a charter school created by the founder of a religious education association.
  • In Utah, the state hasn’t accepted any federal grants for expanding or replicating charter schools, although the state has spent millions in state taxpayer money on charter schools.
  • In Arizona, the federal government has granted roughly $69 million in federal funds for charter schools since 2009, and, from mid-2010 to mid-2014, more than 100 Arizona charter schools closed their doors.
  • In Colorado, the federal government has awarded up to $81 million in federal grants for charter schools. More than a dozen charter schools have closed in Colorado.
  • In Florida, the federal government awarded the state up to $104 million in federal charter school grants to the state in 2011. Since Florida authorized charter schools over a decade ago, more than 120 charter schools have closed down.
  • In Wisconsin, a total of over $2.5 million in federal grants were awarded to a total of 10 charter schools that closed.
  • In the District of Columbia, where charter schools operate a short distance away from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, the federal district’s charter school authorizer has landed a total of over $37 million in federal charter school grants since 2010, despite the fact that, up until 2013, the federal district saw 30 charter schools close their doors.

That’s just the waste of federal taxpayer dollars on charter schools. There are many more problems with charter schools and agencies responsible for authorizing and regulating them. While problems with charter schools and their regulation vary from state to state, they include the following:

  • lack of government oversight and transparency
  • financial mismanagement
  • charter school supporters getting into positions of government power over charter schools
  • refusing to respond to open records requests in a timely manner
  • poor academic results and learning conditions
  • low enrollment numbers
  • at least in California, unsafe charter school buildings
  • misreporting charter school data, such as enrollment figures, to governmental authorities
  • charter schools violating laws, rules, regulations, and their charters
  • at least in Indiana, racial segregation
  • in Michigan, criminal activity, including felony fraud and tax evasion, by charter school operators
  • religious schools operating as charter schools and receiving taxpayer funding for charter schools
  • for-profit companies running charter schools
  • charter schools that closed or never opened receiving taxpayer funding
  • in Ohio, scrubbing performance data of online charter schools
  • charter school operators having undue political influence over regulators
  • in Colorado, sexual misconduct
  • in Colorado, at least one charter school operator not following multiple federal and state employment laws
  • state legislators and executives advocating for charter schools and implementing pro-charter school legislation
  • lack of efforts by regulators and authorizers to ensure that charter schools are non-religious in nature
  • taxpayer money that should go to traditional public schools going to charter schools instead

While CMD has recommended much stronger accountability measures for charter schools, I think that the problems that are inherent with charter schools are too serious to justify their continuation, and I support completely abolishing charter schools and giving the taxpayer money that would otherwise go to charter schools to traditional public schools instead.

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the University of Illinois’s war on academic freedom

It’s been recently announced that the University of Illinois (U of I) reached a legal settlement with Stephen Saliata, who had a job offer revoked by the U of I because he tweeted his personal opinion about far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch opponent of peace in the Middle East.

Last year, Saliata was offered a tenured professorship at the U of I. After the U of I received backlash from students, alumni, and donors who are to the Netanyahu regime in Israel than they are to America, the U of I pulled their offer of a tenured professorship from Saliata. Saliata rightfully sued the U of I for infringing on his First Amendment right to free speech and infringing upon academic freedom, and the lawsuit has now been settled, but not before the U of I is legally bound to pay out a total of $875,000, $600,000 of which will go to Saliata himself, and $275,000 of which will go to Saliata’s attorneys.

In short, Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the U of I’s war on academic freedom and caving to pro-Israel interests. Had the U of I actually hired Steven Saliata, it would have cost Illinois taxpayers less than what it cost to settle the lawsuit over not hiring him for political reasons.

Criminal proceedings into loan given out by Wisconsin corporate welfare agency underway

Once again, a major political scandal is brewing in Wisconsin. This time, it involves loans given out to a company called Green Box NA by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin:

An indebted De Pere business owner will provide as detailed a list of assets and debtors to his former company’s court-appointed receiver within 10 days.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Montreal-based Cliffton Equities Inc. and De Pere-area physician Dr. Marco Araujo sued Green Box NA and its president, Ronald Van Den Heuvel, on May 20 seeking repayment of more than $5.7 million in loans. They claim Green Box is near insolvency, worry it cannot cure its many defaults and suspect the company offered the same collateral to multiple financiers.

“Van Den Heuvel’s casual commingling of assets and collateral among his many entities gives rise to a real concern that he will dispose of plaintiff’s collateral improperly or that collateral may not exist,” the plaintiffs’ initial complaint states.

On Monday, Van Den Heuvel’s attorney John Petitjean told Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh that Van Den Heuvel cannot provide many documents court-appointed receiver Michael Polsky has requested because Brown County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed a search warrant at Green Box’s De Pere offices and removed five truckloads of documents and computer equipment from Green Box’s offices in the last month.

(emphasis mine)

Green Box NA received nearly $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded awards from the WEDC, including a $1.1 million loan and a $95,500 job training grant. Green Box NA has not made any payments on its loan since 2013, and the WEDC officially declared Green Box NA to be in default earlier this year. Green Box NA claims to be a sustainable energy company, but, in reality, it’s actually a waste gasification scheme.

Let’s not forget that:

  • Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker chaired the WEDC’s board at the time Green Box received the awards (Walker is no longer the WEDC board chairman)
  • Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature created the WEDC in 2011
  • Green Box NA received a $1.1 million loan mere months after the WEDC was created by Wisconsin Republicans in 2011
  • Van Den Heuvel refused to disclose previous lawsuits while filing the loan application
  • The WEDC failed to identify the lawsuits in a background check

Ron Van Den Heuvel, Green Box NA, and multiple other Van Den Heuvel companies have faced multiple civil lawsuits over, among other things, failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and failure to pay both public and private creditors. Now, there’s apparently criminal proceedings into the Van Den Heuvel/Green Box NA ripoff of Wisconsin taxpayers. This could have all been prevented if it weren’t for the WEDC giving out corporate welfare to businesses, and doing a downright horrible job at it.

Oneida Eye has very detailed blog posts about Ron Van Den Heuvel’s long track record of financial troubles, legal troubles, and ripping off taxpayers here and here. They’ve been publishing great blog posts on the Green Box NA scandal for quite some time.

Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things

After the Wisconsin State Senate voted overwhelmingly to give a quarter of a billion dollars in corporate welfare to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can build the new arena that the NBA is forcing them to do, I’ve come to the conclusion that Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things.

Over the past quarter of a century or so, Milwaukee has become a cesspool for Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money being wasted on state government policies, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that have little or no actual benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites. First, it was school vouchers, which was first implemented in Wisconsin in 1990, but the Wisconsin school voucher program originally only covered Milwaukee (it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that vouchers were expanded statewide in Wisconsin). Next came the corporate welfare package for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which gave them taxpayer money to build a new baseball park, which became Miller Park after naming rights for the park were sold and opened in 2001. Now, the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks are about to get their own corporate welfare package for their new arena in Milwaukee. In all three of these cases, both Republicans and Democrats supported these policies, which have little or no benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites.

How the Bucks got such broad support for corporate welfare for a new arena in the Wisconsin State Senate looks to be, at first, shocking, since scientific polling has shown nearly 80% of Wisconsinites are opposed to corporate welfare for the Bucks. However, the Bucks had two advantages to overcome public opinion being against them: support from the political elite in Wisconsin and a well-organized campaign by a vocal minority of Wisconsinites to give the Bucks taxpayer money for a new arena. Unlike the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, which have a very large national following, and baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which have a large following in Wisconsin, the Bucks have a relatively small fan base.

However, from an electoral standpoint, the Democrats who support the Bucks corporate welfare deal are in big trouble…if anti-corporate welfare progressives can organize effective political campaigns against those Democratic elected officials who sided with the Bucks owners. There is growing opposition to corporate welfare, both in Wisconsin and nationally, so there’s a golden opportunity for anti-corporate welfare progressives to get organized and replace corporate Democrats with progressive Democrats through the electoral process. In fact, in regards to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, if there’s a contested Democratic primary, the battle lines have pretty much been drawn. For all intents and purposes, a competitive Democratic primary for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 is effectively going to be between a pro-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the Milwaukee-area political elite and an anti-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the activist progressive base of the party, if such candidates run. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should ideally run against Milwaukee, but not in the same way that a Republican would. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should talk about a bipartisan political elite giving Milwaukee taxpayer money for corporate welfare for wealthy sports team owners, religious welfare for private schools, and other policies that are of little or no benefit to the general public. At the same time, the anti-corporate welfare Democrat should advocate for progressive policies that benefit the vast majority of Wisconsinites. This message would resonate heavily in both Dane County, the progressive stronghold of Wisconsin, and the rural western and northern parts of Wisconsin, which are the areas with most of what few persuadable voters there are in a statewide general election in Wisconsin. Also, there would be extremely little political risk in running against Milwaukee for a Democratic statewide candidate. This is because quite a few people in the Milwaukee area are strongly opposed to the kind of policies that the anti-corporate welfare candidate is opposing, and roughly 99% or so of the voters in the Milwaukee area have a group grievance with one of the two major parties and vote for candidates in the other major party all the way down the ballot. This kind of campaign would be even more effective for state legislative races outside of the Milwaukee area, but anti-corporate welfare progressives would have to drop the Milwaukee-bashing for state legislative races in the Milwaukee area.

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Corporate Democrat Chris Abele would represent Scott Walker’s third term in office if he were to run for and be elected Wisconsin Governor

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Executive Chris Abele has been making public appearances outside of Milwaukee County in recent days. Recently, and to my knowledge, he’s appeared on a talk radio program in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s also appeared at a Democratic Party picnic in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Both of these locations are 60-90 miles or so away from Milwaukee, if I’m not mistaken. This seems to be unusual for Abele to make appearances at events outside of Milwaukee County.

While there was some speculation that Abele may run for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin next year, Russ Feingold is already running in that race, and, for someone who is not known as a big-time fundraiser, Feingold has raised a ton of money for his campaign, so I’m guessing that Abele thinks that he doesn’t have a realistic path to victory in that race, although I could be wrong about that. I’m speculating that Abele may want to run for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018, and, outside of a few social issues, Abele would pretty much represent Scott Walker’s third term in the Wisconsin governor’s mansion if he were to run for and be elected governor.

Before being elected the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county, Abele once threw fireworks at a neighbor’s house. Since being elected Milwaukee County Executive, Abele has:

  • Enacted Scott Walker-style austerity measures in Milwaukee County, which have hurt Milwaukee County’s economy
  • Has openly antagonized Democrats, progressives, and labor union members
  • Tried to get the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature to prohibit counties from passing living wage ordinances designed to boost local economies
  • Actively supported corporate welfare for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks
  • Actively opposed efforts to allow Milwaukee County voters to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they want to get rid of Walker/Abele-style big-money politics
  • Allied himself with Deanna Alexander, a far-right Milwaukee County Supervisor who has made overtly racist and sexist remarks about Democrats, women, and ethnic minorities
  • Spent large amounts of Milwaukee County taxpayers’ money on items like a large SUV for himself
  • Has repeatedly had his vetoes of progressive ideals overridden by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, a Milwaukee County employee and progressive patriot, has documented Chris Abele’s horrible track record as Milwaukee County Executive at his blog over the past few years.

Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chris Abele’s right-wing record as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. When I say that Abele wouldn’t be significantly better as Wisconsin Governor than Scott Walker, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. Hopefully, one or more actual progressives, or at least someone who believes that the government should serve the people and not big-money special interests, runs in the Democratic primary for Wisconsin Governor a little more than three years from now.

How taxpayers effectively subsidized the Charleston shooting

You might be shocked to find out about this, but taxpayers effectively subsidized the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which was perpetrated by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof and claimed the lives of nine people, including Reverend and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney (D-Ridgeland).

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a non-profit investigative news organization, detailed how taxpayers effectively subsidized the mass murder at Mother Emanuel in their report:

Alleged Charleston gunman Dylann Roof wrote that he was never the same after discovering a website with “pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders.”

The pages that left Roof in disbelief were the product of a white-nationalist group subsidized by American taxpayers.

The Council of Conservative Citizens Inc. is listed by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit organization that promotes social welfare, also known as a 501(c)(4). Such groups pay no federal taxes, a form of government subsidy.

To summarize all of that, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist organization, incorporated as a nonprofit “social welfare” organization, legally exempted itself from federal taxation, and published racist screeds on its website that prompted Roof to perpetrate a mass murder in a place of worship. In other words, the federal government effectively subsidized the Charleston shooting by exempting the CCC from federal taxes.

The CCC may legally be a “social welfare” organization, but, in reality, they are not a social welfare organization. The CCC is a white supremacist organization that, among other things, publicly supports far-right, anti-immigration politicians and political parties, glorifies black-on-white violent crimes, absurdly blames Chicago’s high murder rate on a misperceived lack of guns in the city, and has posted ads from at least one company selling Confederate flags online to its website. Furthermore, the CCC’s president, Earl P. Holt, has donated to many Republican politicians, including, among many others, Joni Ernst, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Jim Oberweis, Louie Gohmert, Todd Akin, Tom Emmer, Allen West, and Steve King; in fact, in some campaign finance reports, Holt listed himself as a “slumlord”. For the federal government to effectively subsidize such a hateful organization is, in my opinion, absolutely disgusting.

Monticello, Illinois officials caught pumping raw sewage into city streets

There has been at least one documented instance of officials in the city of Monticello, Illinois, which has a population of slightly over 5,000 people and is located in Piatt County in the central part of the state, pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into city streets, where it flows through storm drains and into the Sangamon River. Now, the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is suing the city over it:

The city (of Monticello, Illinois) is accused of pumping raw sewage into its streets. Now the state is taking the city to court. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is suing the city of Monticello. Court documents state the city pumped almost a million gallons of raw sewage into the Sangamon River.

One city council member says it’s been happening for years. Court documents state it all started with a thunderstorm. On July 12, 2014, Monticello got three inches of rain and the city didn’t have a place to put all of the water.

Pictures residents took that day show water being pumped from the sewer into the streets. Normally, rainfall is supposed to flow into the storm drains, which eventually goes into the Sangamon River. The drains can’t handle a lot of rain and it gets diverted into the sewer lines, but when that happens the sewer could overflow.

Guess what Monticello, Illinois is spending its money on instead of investing in a new water treatment plant to replace the nearly 80-year-old water treatment facility…:

“Until now, nobody’s really paid attention,” said Alderman Joe Brown. “We’ve been putting money towards athletic fields instead of our sewer lines. So hopefully they’ll take it serious. Hopefully we’ll re-allocate the money so that we can fix our infrastructure.”

(emphasis mine)

The city of Monticello, Illinois clearly has serious problems with its sewage system, yet the city is spending money on athletic facilities instead of new sewage lines or a new water treatment plant. It’s clear to me that officials in Monticello clearly have the wrong priorities.

Sadly, what is going on in Monticello is only a microcosm of what is going on in the entire country. While stadiums, arenas, and other athletic facilities get millions of dollars in taxpayer money, our nation’s roads, rail lines, water lines, sewage systems, and other forms of infrastructure are falling apart.