Governor Walker's Adversaries Emboldened by Wisconsin FBI Probe

An FBI investigation of two of Governor Scott Walker's top aides may prompt Wisconsin Democrats to launch a recall campaign

by Daniel Riemer

On Wednesday morning, 14 September, FBI agents descended on the Madison home of one of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker's closest aides, Cynthia Archer. The federal agents seized Archer's computer files and other documents. A wider investigation involving another Walker aide may be in the works. The FBI raid has breathed new life into the hopes of Democratic organisers in Wisconsin as they decide whether to launch a recall campaign against Walker himself.Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: two former aides are being investigated by the FBI. (Photograph: Andy Manis/AP)

This spring Walker and a Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law curbing the power of public employee unions. That law prompted recall elections this summer of six Republican senators, two of whom were replaced by Democrats. Walker was the obvious next target, but Democrats have been wavering. The recent investigation may increase their resolve to proceed with a gubernatorial recall.

Archer, a long-time Walker loyalist and staffer, served for three years as director of administrative services for Walker while he was Milwaukee County executive, including during his campaign for governor. She helped craft the county budgets that defined Walker as an anti-union, anti-tax conservative. Archer then took a high-paying position in Walker's administration when he became governor in January 2011. Last week's FBI raid appears focused on whether she and another top Walker aide used public time for political purposes. If Walker is significantly connected to any such transgressions, it will add impetus to a possible recall election next year.

Presently, a recall of the governor looks improbable. To force an election, volunteers would need to collect over 250,000 signatures. That this summer's recalls failed to change the balance of the Wisconsin state senate will, however, discourage many Democratic volunteers. Even if they get Walker's name on the ballot, the Democrats do not have an obvious challenger. A recent poll showed (pdf) that former US Senator Russ Feingold would beat Walker in a recall election, but the popular Democrat says he won't run for office in 2012.

Yet Walker's political infallibility may be diminishing. Last May, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Darlene Wink, a Walker staffer, had used public time to post partisan opinions on the paper's online comment walls. Walker had been Milwaukee's County executive at the time and was then running for governor. Wink resigned when confronted with the charges. This incident did not affect the outcome of the governor's race; it did prompt a local investigation, which is now apparently also a federal investigation, into misuse of public time for political purposes.

The current investigation so far seems to be focusing on two high-level figures very close to the governor. Investigators are using "John Doe" proceedings to compel testimony from witnesses and keep them from discussing the case in public. So we know very little. What we do know is that in addition to Archer, the second high-level Walker loyalist in the spotlight is Tom Nardelli, Walker's former chief of staff at Milwaukee County. Like Archer, Nardelli got a plum position in state government when Walker became governor. And like Archer, Nardelli abruptly quit his job at the state this summer as the investigation heated up.

Walker has successfully advanced his own political career by presenting himself – a self-proclaimed "preacher's kid" – as an ethical and honest politician. He rose to power in 2002 in a Milwaukee County special election to fill the seat of an incompetent Milwaukee County executive whose corrupt aides triggered a pension scandal that taxpayers are still paying for. A Republican in Wisconsin's most populous and Democratic county, Walker used this office to position himself to run for governor. If Walker's image as a straight arrow is tarnished, he will be much more vulnerable to a recall.

Due to the secret nature of the current Wisconsin investigation, we may not know for weeks whether prosecutors will bring charges, precisely what violations of the law are being investigated, and who will be in the frame. And even well-documented charges of political misconduct do not always yield convictions. So, opponents of Walker should be careful not to accuse his aides – much less Walker – of wrongdoing until all the evidence is made public.

But if Walker is tainted by this investigation in any significant way, then re-energised Democrats will almost certainly organise a recall. And that would have a fighting chance of success.

Daniel Riemer

Daniel Riemer is an experienced campaign manager, and presently studying law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specialising in public policy


Wisconsin Recall Drive Surpasses 300,000 Signatures

by John Nichols

The petition drive to recall and remove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has surpassed all expectations in its first two weeks, collecting more than 300,000 signatures.

The truly remarkably thing about the total so far is not, however, that it is so large.

What is truly remarkable is where the signatures are coming from: rural and small-town Wisconsin communities are contributing disproportionally high numbers of signatures to the total.

No one, not even the most concerned critic of Governor Walker's assault on collective bargaining rights, expected the recall campaign would move as quickly as it has.

No one expected United Wisconsin's recall drive to gather more than half the required signatures in less than two weeks of petitioning. No one expected whole counties to reach their signature goals in the first week. No one expected conservative communities in Republican regions of the state to take the lead in collecting recall signatures against a Republican governor.

But it is happening.

Wisconsin has one of the highest thresholds in the nation for recalling statewide officials. Citizens must gather signatures equaling 25 percent of the turnout in the previous gubernatorial election. That's a baseline requirement of 540,000 signatures. And they must be collected in just 60 days. (Of course, to avoid challenges, a "cushion" of additional signatures is needed.)

In California -- the last state where a governor was successfully recalled -- citizens only had to gather signatures equaling 12 percent of the turnout in the last election, and they had 160 days to do it.

How could Wisconsin reach a threshold that was twice as high in less than half the time? Not by building a movement rooted only in liberal precincts of the state capitol city of Madison, as the governor and his amen corner keep claiming. And not by relying merely on Democrats.

To be successful, the recall drive against Governor Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch had to attract support from independents and Republicans. And that is precisely what is happening.

As Steve Smith, a boiler operator at Wisconsin's Southern Center for the Developmentally Disabled, explained while he gathered petition signatures on Thanksgiving morning in Burlington, "A lot of the people who are working the hardest on this recall aren't big Democrats. I voted Democrat and Republican. And a lot of the people who are signing the petitions say they voted for Walker. So this goes way beyond Democrats."

Smith's point is a critical one.

Burlington, a Racine County city that voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and John McCain, Barack Obama, has a booming recall movement. Indeed, while Barack Obama received 2,424 votes in Burlington in 2008 (compared with McCain's 2,567), local recall activists had already collected 2,500 signatures from the Burlington area in the first two weeks of the eight-week drive.

Thus, even in Republican-leaning areas, the recall is exceeding goals -- and exceeding the 2008 performance of the most popular Democratic presidential nominee in decades. That earned a front-page headline last week in the Burlington Standard-Press newspaper: "Recall Effort Has a Visible Presence in Conservative Burlington."

In fact, the recall effort has a visible presence in conservative and Republican-leaning areas across Wisconsin.

The first counties to approach their goals for the entire recall drive have been rural ones -- all of which send at least some Republicans to the legislature.

Indeed, a number of counties that backed Walker in 2010 are leading the pack when it comes to producing recall signatures.

In Columbia County, where Walker won 52 percent of the vote last year, more than 10,033 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 45 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

In Pierce County, where Walker got 53 percent of the vote last year, more than 4,700 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 25 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

In Oneida County, where Walker took 55 percent of the vote last year, almost 3,700 voters have signed recall petitions -- well over 20 percent of the total gubernatorial turnout of 2010.

Governor Walker has done great harm to Milwaukee, to Madison, to Racine, Kenosha, Janesville, Beloit and other urban communities. But his combination of job-killing economic schemes and cuts to basic services and public education are doing the most damage far beyond Wisconsin's big cities.

Walker missteps and misdeeds are pushing small cities, villages and rural communities to the brink.

Under his “leadership,” Wisconsin now leads the nation in job losses. And some of the hardest hit counties are far from Wisconsin’s big cities.

The battering the state’s rural and small-town economy has taken under Walker is coupled with divisive policies and extreme cuts.

The governor’s assault on collective-bargaining rights has strained relations at the county, city, village, township and school district levels.

And his determination to cut state funding for public services and public education in order to fund tax cuts for out-of-state corporations has been especially devastating for rural communities, small towns and small cities.

Surveys of school administrators across the state show that the vast majority of the state’s school districts have had to make cuts, and are anticipating even deeper cuts, as a result of the governor’s policies. Communities in every corner of Wisconsin have been forced to open discussions about closing schools. Just last week, an advisory committee that has been meeting regularly since the summer to identify potential budgets cuts for the Sauk Prairie School District (north of Madison) voted to recommend that the school board close an elementary school.

Walker has not just cut aid to schools and communities. He has promoted policies that, while popular with his out-of-state donors, threaten to make it dramatically harder for local officials to do their jobs.

Walker’s seeks to undermine the ability of school boards and town boards to address budget challenges in smart and creative ways. By taking away the flexibility that has been essential to budgeting in Wisconsin’s smaller cities, villages and towns, Walker proposes to make hard times worse in communities where there is little margin for error.

Wisconsinites recognize this. So it should come as no surprise that rural regions and small cities and towns, including traditionally Republican communities, are leading the charge to remove the governor and his rubber-stamp lieutenant governor from office.

© 2011 The Nation

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols' other books include: Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

ACLU Sues Scott Walker Over Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law

by Ryan J. Reilly

Wisconsin’s voter ID law imposes the equivalent of a poll tax on individuals with out-of-state drivers licenses and discriminates against the poor, students and the elderly, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.

ACLU lawyers argue in a 54-page lawsuit that the law “imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; violates the Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as an unconstitutional poll tax; and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in arbitrarily refusing to accept certain identification documents.”

The suit argues that the law would force individuals to “choose between surrendering their driving privileges to obtain a free Wisconsin state ID card, paying a fee for a Wisconsin driver’s license, or losing their right to vote.” They argue that the requirement to surrender an out-of-state driver’s license “constitutes a material requirement imposed on an eligible voter who refuses to forfeit his/her right to vote without paying an unconstitutional poll tax.”

Notably, Wisconsin is not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which requires certain states to get changes to their voting laws pre-cleared by the Justice Department.

In making their case, the ACLU gathered 17 voters — from a 84-year-old woman without a certified birth certificate to a 52-year-old homeless Army veteran to a 20-year old without a Social Security card to a 19-year-old college student who doesn’t want to give up his California driver’s license — to demonstrate the effect the law could have.

The suit comes ahead of Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech on protecting access to the polls.

© 2011 TPM Media LLC

ACLU Adds to Charges in Suit Challenging Wisconsin Voter ID Law

March 2, 2012
3:00 PM


Vesna Jaksic, ACLU National, (212) 519-7347, or (212) 549-2666;
Stacy Harbaugh, ACLU of Wisconsin, (608) 469-5540;
Andy Beres, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, (202) 638-2535;
Beth Huffman, Dechert, (215) 994-6761;
ACLU Adds to Charges in Suit Challenging Wisconsin Voter ID Law
Amended Complaint Asserts Law Violates Voting Rights Act Protections for Minority Voters and Bars Veterans from the Polls

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - March 2 - An American Civil Liberties Union suit that challenges Wisconsin’s voter ID law was amended today to include charges that the law illegally blocks minorities and veterans from accessing the ballot box.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Dechert LLP, also seeks an injunction so that many of the named plaintiffs can vote on April 3, when Wisconsin will hold its presidential primary and local elections.

The filing today supplements a federal challenge against one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation and on behalf of a broad spectrum of plaintiffs, including white, black and Latino voters, homeless and low-income citizens, veterans and students.

“We can now demonstrate what we have always suspected—that strict voter ID laws have a more severe negative impact on black and Latino voters,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “The Voting Rights Act was created to combat exactly this type of barrier, and we intend to see it enforced in Wisconsin.”

The original suit, filed in December, said that Wisconsin’s practice of only allowing certain types of photo ID is a severe and unjustifiable burden and imposes a poll tax on voters.

The amended complaint charges the voter ID law:

• Violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans the use of voting practices that have a disparate negative impact on racial and language minorities. Research commissioned by the ACLU indicates the law has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters, who are more likely to lack photo ID accepted for voting in Wisconsin.

• Arbitrarily prevents veterans who only have a Veterans Administration ID card from voting. Wisconsin deems such identification unacceptable.

• Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Wisconsin’s photo ID law results in the arbitrary treatment of voters trying to get a state ID card.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, emphasized the importance of obtaining relief for named plaintiffs. “It is unconscionable that Wisconsin would prevent veterans who possess a valid federal ID from voting,” he said. “This is no way to thank them for their service to our country.”

One of those veterans is Sam Bulmer, 63, who served in the Air Force for 13 years and is currently homeless. Bulmer lacks a driver’s license and cannot obtain a state ID card due to the stringent requirements for a birth certificate in his home state of Kansas.

"Mr. Bulmer's experience is startling, but it’s not unique," said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. "Veterans experience homelessness at an alarming rate, and many will be excluded from the democratic process if this law goes forward. We need to send a clear message to Wisconsin and every other state considering similar legislation: we won't let you silence the voices of homeless veterans."

Also among those suing are two Black Milwaukee residents: Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr., who used to regularly serve as a poll worker, but whose incorrect birth certificate will prevent him from getting a state ID and voting; and Shirley Brown, who was born in Louisiana at home by midwife and as a result, has no record of her birth.

“All citizens should be free to vote,” said Neil Steiner, an attorney with Dechert LLP. “Disenfranchising eligible voters is not a valid rationale for a law.”

The defendants include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, who oversees the Department of Motor Vehicles and members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees election laws.

Attorneys on the case include Sherman, Laughlin McDonald, and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Neil Steiner, Craig Falls, and Diane Princ of Dechert LLP.

To read the complaint in Frank v. Walker, go to:

For more information about voter suppression, go to:

This press release is available at:


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

ACLU Links:

Walker Using Out-of-State Tea Party Group to Suppress Vote

Walker Using Out-of-State Tea Party Group to Indirectly Challenge Recall
by Brendan Fischer

After news outlets reported Monday that Governor Scott Walker would not be challenging recall signatures, the governor quietly submitted a request asking that the state elections board accept challenges from an effort involving a Texas organization with a history of voter suppression.

On Monday morning, Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews announced "we are not filing any specific challenges to any specific signatures today," which led to a flurry of articles repeating the claim. Monday was the deadline for Walker to file challenges to the recall petitions.* "That put us in an impossible timeline," she said.

Walker's filing with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board says his campaign has only been able to evaluate around 350,000 signatures, far short of the 540,000 minimum necessary for a recall.

However, Walker also asked the Board to take into account the findings of the “Verify the Recall” initiative, a joint project between the Houston-based nonprofit "True the Vote" and the Wisconsin Tea Party groups Grandsons of Liberty and We The People of the Republic. However, it now appears that Walker and others are working to distance themselves from "True the Vote" and its parent group, the King Street Patriots.

Out-of-State Groups Review Signatures

Since early February, the groups involved in the "Verify the Recall" effort have been recruiting volunteers from around the country to enter the Wisconsin recall petitions into a massive online database.

The database was reportedly developed by "True the Vote," a project of the Texas Tea Party group King Street Patriots, which has been accused of a variety of voter suppression tactics, and is working with a national right-wing organzation to purge voter rolls in several states.

Last month, the Texas-based King Street Patriots / "True the Vote" and the two Wisconsin Tea Party groups behind the Verify the Recall initiative asked the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for the chance to officially challenge signatures. Their request was turned down, but they nonetheless continued to analyze the recall petitions and released their findings Monday. Walker's campaign is also asking the Board to incorporate Verify the Recall's analysis of the recall petitions. The groups say that if the Board does not consider their analysis they may bring a lawsuit.

Walker Seeks Distance From Texas Group?

Since January, the "Verify the Recall" effort had been described as "a joint endeavor" between "True the Vote" and the Wisconsin Tea Party groups (see also here and here).

However, in his filing with the Government Accountability Board, Walker only refers to the two Wisconsin Tea Party groups when describing the Verify the Recall effort -- the Houston-based "True the Vote" is not mentioned.

Likewise, the Verify the Recall website now says the effort was co-organized by only the Wisconsin Tea Party groups, and "True the Vote" is nothing more than a "contracted partner." As of publication time, "True the Vote's" website still refers to Verify the Recall as a collaboration between itself and the Wisconsin groups.

Why might Walker want to downplay the involvement of the Texas-based True the Vote?

One issue is that Walker has long claimed the recall effort against him was led by "out-of-state special interests" (despite the governor relying on out-of-state donors for most of his fundraising). Relying on out-of-state groups and individuals to do the legwork for his campaign may not play well, especially when upwards of 20,000 in-state-residents braved the cold and snow to gather recall signatures in the first place.

Another issue is that "True the Vote" is a 501(c)(3) "charitable" organization prohibited from intervening in political campaigns, and getting officially involved in the Walker campaign might threaten the group's (c)(3) status. In recent months, a number of other 501(c)(3) groups have gotten involved in defending Walker against recall, including the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Illinois-based Heartland Institute. Last week, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint alleging the Americans for Prosperity Foundation violated its charitable status by running ads supporting Walker's reelection. "True the Vote" and its parent group, the King Street Patriots, have previously been accused of violating their nonprofit status and state election laws (and for their defense attorney they hired James Bopp Jr., the anti-campaign finance crusader behind the infamous Citizens United case).

Finally, Walker might want to distance himself from "True the Vote" and King Street Patriots based on their alleged history of voter suppression.

King Street Patriots Accused of Voter Suppression

The King Street Patriots are not only fanatic about “voter fraud” in Wisconsin, but around the country. And they have been involved in a variety of efforts that border on voter suppression.

In the 2010 election, the King Street Patriots’ “True the Vote” program reportedly recruited thousands of volunteers to patrol Harris County, Texas polling places for “fraud and other problems at the polls.” While the volunteers were unable to find any hard evidence of intentional voter fraud, they did draw accusations of voter intimidation from election officials, with volunteers “hovering” behind people as they cast their ballot, "getting into election worker's faces," and blocking or disrupting lines of voters. The incidents, which were described as "systematic and organized," occurred in minority districts and were directed at African-Americans and Latinos.

After those elections, the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the group and its voter intimidation efforts.

Despite this, the King Street Patriots are seeking to expand the same initiatives that led to accusations of voter suppression. The group held a national summit last year featuring Andrew Breitbart to highlight their efforts to prevent "voter fraud," and pledged to recruit 1 million Tea Party poll watchers for the 2012 presidential elections.

The group also elevates individuals who advocate for other limits to the franchise. In November, the King Street Patriots hosted a $100 per plate fundraiser featuring right-wing columnist Michael Vadum. Earlier that year Vadum authored an article titled “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American:”

"Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals,” he wrote. “It is profoundly anti-social and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country."

Vadum also wrote Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, registered low-income voters, among other projects, and closed its doors in 2010. The invite to the event from King Street Patriots says ACORN was a “criminal organization with the goal of the destruction of America and the installation of a totalitarian government.” The invitation also includes a blurb from Vadum’s book:

"America is under siege by radicals who are determined to pulverize the U.S. Constitution, deliberately bankrupt the nation, destroy the electoral system, and drive the economy into the ground. Subversion Inc. isn’t just the story of ACORN. It’s the story of how community organizers just like President (Barack) Obama are undermining America from within.”

The King Street Patriots claim their "True the Vote" initiative is “nonpartisan” and “not a political thing.”

In recent weeks, the King Street Patriots announced their "True the Vote" initiative would be working with Judicial Watch, a conservative legal activist and litigation group, to cleanse the voter registration rolls of individuals they deem ineligible to vote. The groups plan to “pressure states and localities” through lawsuits, if necessary, to "clean up" voter rolls.

Walker Asks for Help in Recall Challenge

In Wisconsin, recall proponents gathered one million signatures to recall Governor Walker in just 60 days, and turned them in on January 17, 2012. The number was almost double the amount required, making the recall effort the largest in United States history. More than 40 percent of the signatures would need to be invalidated to prevent a recall election. An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found that only 15 percent of signatures could not be verified based on other data sources, such as the phone book or voter rolls (which does not necessarily mean the signatures were not legitimate).

State law allows the subject of a recall election 10 days to review the signatures and submit challenges. Walker was granted a 20-day extension, then requested a further 14-day extension that was denied.

"For [Walker] to suggest that he had a harder time, with warm bodies sitting at desks doing the reviewing, than Wisconsinites standing out in the snow for 60 days, is just ridiculous," said Mike Tate, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, on a conference call Monday morning. "He had 3 times as much time as is normally allowed under current law" to review the signatures.

Unable to complete a review on its own, Walker's campaign asked the elections board to incorporate Verify the Recall's analysis of the recall petitions. It appears that state law prohibited the group from directly sharing its findings with Walker's campaign. Today, Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney says they will not consider the Verify the Recall findings. "There is no legal basis for us to accept third party challenges."

The groups involved in Verify the Recall say they are considering a lawsuit against the Board.

After GAB Review, Elections as Early as May

Walker also requested that the Government Accountability Board conduct its own review of the petitions, in accordance with a Waukesha County court decision that is in legal limbo. Current rules place the burden for challenging signatures on the elected officials targeted for recall, but in January a Republican Waukesha judge told the Board to make a greater effort to screen out duplicate or fake petition signatures. However, that judge refused to allow recall organizers intervene in the case, leading an appeals court to vacate the decision and order a re-hearing. That case has not gone through the second round.

The elections board has said they will try to weed-out duplicate, incomplete, or fraudulent signatures. The agency has until March 19 to conduct its review but may request an extension.

If the Board verifies all signatures on March 19, the election would be set for May 1, six weeks later. If Democrats have not settled on a candidate the primary election would take place on that date, and the general election would be 4 weeks later, on May 29.

If the Walker campaign files any legal challenges -- such as a suit arguing the elections board should accept the Verify the Recall findings -- the recall election could be further delayed.

© 2012 PR Watch

Brendan M. Fischer is a law fellow with the Center for Media and Democracy and a student at the University of Wisconsin Law School in the class of 2011.

Wis. Gov. Walker Recall: It's On

Recall election set for June 5

by Common Dreams staff

Wisconsin's state elections board has officially announced that Gov. Scott Walker will face a recall election this spring.

The Government Accountability Board said this morning that 900,939 valid signatures were collected out of 931,053 petitions to recall Walker, representing a very low failure rate of 3.5%. The total number of signatures was far beyond -- 67% more than -- the number required.

The board also certified the recall elections against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators.

Primary elections, if necessary, would be May 8, followed by a general election on June 5.

If Walker were recalled, he would be the only Wisconsin governor ever to be recalled, and the third governor in the nation to be recalled.

* * *

TPM: Walker Recall Election Officially Begins

The recall election in Wisconsin against Republican Gov. Scott Walker has officially been triggered, after more than a year of protests, legislative recalls, and petition drives that have made this Midwestern swing state a center of national attention.

The state Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan agency composed of retired judges who oversee elections in the state, voted to certify the recall petitions at a special meeting Friday morning. This tees up a late spring election that will be one of the most closely watched campaigns in the country, second only to the presidential race.

This long-expected decision came following official recommendations from GAB staff on Thursday, after completing the petition review that found 900,938 validated signatures against Walker. (At the meeting today, it was announced that one struck signature, Fungky Van Den Elzen, was found overnight to actually be a real woman’s name — boosting the actual number to 900,939, with the board’s staff attorney Michael Haas apologizing to the woman.) This was 67% more than the required threshold of 540,208, or 25 percent of the total number of voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election, which were collected by the state Democrats and supporters in a 60-day period from mid-November to mid-January.

* * *

The Wisconsin State Journal: GAB throws out few petition signatures; recommends Walker recall proceed

GAB staff said in a memo released Thursday that 900,938 valid signatures were collected on petitions seeking to recall Walker, and about 808,990 were gathered on those seeking to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The minimum needed to trigger a recall was 540,208 signatures for each of them.

If the board orders elections on Friday as expected, recall primary elections — if necessary — are expected to be held on May 8, followed by a June 5 general election. At least three Democrats are running for governor, and another three have said they are running for lieutenant governor, making primaries likely. Four Republican senators also face recall. [...]

If Walker loses the election, Walker would be the first Wisconsin governor, and only the third governor in the United States, to be recalled. He would join California Gov. Gray Davis and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier.

Court Strikes Down Key Provisions of Walker's Anti-Union Act 10

by Brendan Fischer

A federal judge has struck down key provisions of Act 10 -- Governor Scott Walker's controversial legislation limiting collective bargaining -- on grounds that the arbitrary, possibly politically-motivated distinction between "public safety" and other public employees violated equal protection and First Amendment rights.

Several public employee unions had challenged the fact that Walker's bill exempted certain law enforcement and firefighter's unions from Act 10's restrictions, including the law's requirement that unions recertify annually with an absolute majority of members and its prohibition on voluntary union dues deductions.

"So long as the State of Wisconsin continues to afford ordinary certification and dues deductions to mandatory public safety unions with sweeping bargaining rights, there is no rational basis to deny those rights to voluntary general unions with severely restricted bargaining rights," wrote U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.

The suit was filed by multiple public employee unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the Wisconsin Council of County and Municipal Employees, multiple district councils of the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, CTW, CLC; American Federation for Teachers - Wisconsin; and the Wisconsin State Employees Union. Defendants in the suit included Governor Walker and head of the Department of Administration Michael Huebsch, as well as the heads of the offices tasked with implementing the law.
Unions Treated Differently for Political Reasons

According to the decision, Act 10 created two new categories of employees: “public safety employees” that were exempt from the collective bargaining restrictions and “general employees,” a classification that "does not correspond to any classification of employees in any previous Wisconsin law."

Judge Conley noted that “public safety employees,” as defined by Act 10, "do not include police officers and fire fighters who work for the State, namely the Capitol Police, the UW Campus Police, and Fire / Crash Rescue Specialists" -- state workers who, along with traditional law enforcement and firefighters, are classified as “protective occupation employees” under other Wisconsin statutes.

Judge Conley observed that many of the unions receiving special treatment under the law had endorsed Walker in his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

The judge said the court "could not wholy discount evidence that the line drawing between public safety employees and general employees was influenced (or perhaps even dictated) by whether the unions representing these employees supported Governor Walker’s gubernatorial campaign." Judge Conley noted: "The Act’s treatment of the Capitol Police, who endorsed the Governor’s opponent, in comparison to its treatment of state vehicle inspectors, who endorsed the Governor, best illustrates this suspect line drawing."

Act 10 restricted collective bargaining for all unions other than those representing "public safety employees" in three main ways:

Prohibiting collective bargaining over wages, hours, overtime and conditions of employment, allowing bargaining only on "base wages" (which were capped at inflation), and prohibiting the negotiation of "fair-share agreements" where non-union members contribute to unions for bargaining on their behalf.
Requiring annual recertification for these unions from at least 51 percent of all general employees in the collective bargaining unit (rather than just a majority of those voting) -- this is an "absolute majority" requirement that, if applied to elections of public officials, would never have allowed Walker to take office.
Prohibiting public employers from deducting union dues from employees' payroll checks.

None of these changes to collective bargaining applied to "public safety employees" or their unions.

(These provisions echo "model" bills approved by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), such as the "Public Employer Payroll Deduction Policy Act", which prohibits automatic payroll deductions for union dues, and the "Public Employee Freedom Act" which declares that "an employee should be able to contract on their own terms" and "mandatory collective bargaining laws violate this freedom").

The Walker administration asserted that the differential treatment was justified because of the potential threat to public safety if law enforcement or firefighters were to strike. Judge Conley found that, at least when applied to the requirements of annual recertification with an absolute majority and the prohibition on payroll dues deduction, the possibly politically-motivated distinction did not pass constitutional muster.
Walker Recertification Rules Violate Equal Protection

In a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection challenge not involving distinctions based on suspect classifications like race or gender, the state must only show a "rational basis" for drawing a line -- which is a very low burden.

Judge Conley said that annual recertification by a majority of all eligible employees "would typically pass the admittedly low bar of rational basis review." However, Conley said the Walker administration "failed to present sufficient evidence that exempting public safety employees from the new, expansive restrictions on collective bargaining bears [any] rational relationship to a legitimate government interest in avoiding strikes of those employees."

While there may be a valid reason to retain collective bargaining rights for "public safety employees" for fears of strikes, he noted, the requirement that all other public employees re-certify each year with an absolute majority of union members served no such hypothetical purpose.

Judge Conley noted that participation in a non-public safety union is "wholly voluntary," especially after Act 10 severely restricted collective bargaining so unions cannot "compel any participation of any employee in its union activities, even the payment of a 'fair share' fee.'"

He added, "[t]he only right granted (to a non-public safety) union is to bargain collectively on an adjustment in base pay. Even if this Governor and the Legislature had a reasonable concern that this remaining bargaining right might be abused, the concern is not rationally advanced by an unprecedented burden on a voluntary union’s right to continue to exist from year to year."

"On the contrary," he wrote, "it seems irrational to impose this unique burden on a voluntary union with highly restrictive bargaining rights while maintaining far less burden on public safety unions in which involuntary membership and monetary support continue to be mandated by law."

The Court also noted that the burden that Walker's annual recertification process imposes on speech and association rights may also violate the First Amendment.
Discriminatory Dues Deduction Violates First Amendment

With respect to Act 10's prohibition on automatic dues deduction for all unions other than those representing public safety employees, Judge Conley determined that "it is even more irrational to deny a voluntary set off union dues to general union members who affirmatively request it while imposing an involuntary set off of dues by public safety union members who affirmatively oppose it."

Even if there were some sort of basis for allowing dues deduction for "public safety employees" and prohibiting it for all others, Judge Conley wrote, such a distinction violates the First Amendment.

Judge Conley wrote that union members engage in expressive activity protected by the First Amendment by joining a union and pooling their resources, and that political speech funded with those dues is further protected by the First Amendment. It is for this reason that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that non-union members cannot be required to pay towards a union's political activities (although, to prevent freeloading, non-union members could be required to contribute towards the costs of bargaining on their behalf).

Act 10 does not prohibit union members from voluntarily contributing to their union, Judge Conley wrote, "but it does bar the most efficient method by which these unions collect and their members pay dues." Both sides conceded that "general employee unions have lost dues and will continue to lose dues because of this barrier to ease of payment."

While the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws prohibiting the deduction of union dues, it only did so on the condition the ban was applied evenhandedly. The Wisconsin ban in Act 10 applied to only a subset of employees.

"Such speaker discrimination -- independent of content or viewpoint discrimination -- can form the basis of a valid First Amendment challenge," Judge Conley wrote.

The Walker administration tried to counter this argument by alleging that Act 10 has no impact on the quantity or diversity of speech because "general employees" and their unions do not have different viewpoints than "public safety employees" and their unions, apparently referencing the fact that all public sector unions in the state protested Act 10. Judge Conley rejected this argument:

"The fact that none of the public employee unions falling into the general category endorsed Walker in the 2010 election and that all of the unions that endorsed Walker fall within the public safety category certainly suggests that unions representing general employees have different viewpoints than those of the unions representing public safety employees."

The court also wrote that permitting favored "public safety employees" to deduct dues that can then be used for political speech represents “a governmental ‘attempt to give one side of a debatable public question an advantage in expressing its views to the people.’”

As the judge observed:

"Act 10 was enacted in the maelstrom of a political sea change in Wisconsin, the Act itself being the principal lightening rod around which the tumult reached its heights, at least to date. Whether or not the prohibition on automatic dues deductions for most public unions, but not those who supported the new Governor and Legislature, was an intentional act to suppress the speech of those who opposed then, it has that appearance."

Perhaps, the court surmised, "the State of Wisconsin merely chose a dividing line between two classes of unions and applied it evenhandedly, but the court has difficulty with that result where the only apparent reason for discriminating between the entities is their different viewpoints."

"This court cannot uphold the State of Wisconsin’s apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions," Judge Conley stated.
Cindy Archer Implicated

Also discussed in the decision was former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Administration (DOA) Cynthia Archer. She provided an affidavit for the Walker team purporting to describe the distinction between "public safety" and "general" employees. Since providing that affidavit, Archer has become embroiled into the ongoing John Doe investigation into Walker's aides, and she stepped down from her post at DOA just before FBI agents raided her home and seized computers.

According to Judge Conley's decision, the Walker Administration resisted efforts by plaintiffs to depose Archer, and as a solution sought to withdraw her affidavit from consideration. Judge Conley called this request "at best, unorthodox," and noted that under ordinary circumstances he would have ordered the deposition, but granted the withdrawal because plaintiffs did not object.

It is not known how much relevant information was included in that affidavit, and whether its inclusion would have affected the outcome of the case. If the affidavit would have had an impact on the decision, and the Walker Administration sought to withdraw it from consideration rather than have Archer deposed, it could suggest the administration has a lot to hide.
Automatic Dues Deductions Reinstated by May 31

Judge Conley ordered all automatic dues deductions reinstated by May 31, 2012, noting that "[t]his should give sufficient time for the defendants to seek a stay of this injunction from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and for government entities to adopt a workable procedure to return to automatic deductions should the Seventh Circuit deny a stay."

He also immediately blocked Act 10's requirement that unions be re-certified annually with an absolute majority of members.

The Court's order came just hours after the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified recall elections for Walker. That recall effort was prompted by Act 10, the same bill at issue in this case.

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