Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Wisconsin judge defends free speech rights of conservative groups against Democrat fascists

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Chalk up a big victory for the First Amendment. On Friday a Wisconsin judge struck a major blow for free political speech when he quashed subpoenas to conservative groups and ordered the return of property to the targets of a so-called John Doe campaign-finance probe.

John Doe probes operate much like grand juries, allowing prosecutors to issue subpoenas and conduct searches while gag orders require the targets to keep quiet. We wrote about the kitchen-sink subpoenas and morning raids by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz that targeted dozens of conservative groups that participated in the battle to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker (“Wisconsin Political Speech Raid,” Nov. 16, 2013).

Now we learn that Judge Gregory A. Peterson ruled on Friday that at least some of those subpoenas were improper. They “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” he wrote. His opinion remains under seal but we obtained a copy.

The quashed subpoenas were sent to Friends of Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America, as well as their officers and directors. Judge Peterson’s order doesn’t apply to other subpoena targets, but they can presumably get the same result if they file a motion with the judge and have a similar factual basis.

[...]“There is no evidence of express advocacy” and therefore “the subpoenas fail to show probable cause that a crime was committed,” Judge Peterson wrote. Even “the State is not claiming that any of the independent organizations expressly advocated” for the election of Mr. Walker or his opponent, he added. Instead they did “issue advocacy,” which focuses on specific political issues.

This means that prosecutors essentially invented without evidence the possibility of criminal behavior to justify the subpoenas and their thuggish tactics. At least three targets had their homes raided at dawn, with police turning over belongings, seizing computers and files, and even barring phone calls.

The judge’s order vindicates our suspicion that the John Doe probe is a political operation intended to shut up Mr. Walker’s allies as he seeks re-election this year. No one has taken public credit for appointing the special prosecutor, but we know the probe began in the office of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf.

Charlie Sykes, the famous Wisconsin-based radio talk show host, had more to say about it on Right Wisconsin.

He writes:

The IRS scandal — which is ongoing — is not that Tea Party groups may have engaged in political activities; it is the abuse of government power to target, harass, and intimidate political opponents. It involves singling out conservative Tea Party groups for special scrutiny and harassment if they sought tax exempt status. 

But that pales next to the Doe, which targeted dozens of conservative groups and individuals and subjected them to criminal investigations. Prosecutors cast a breathtakingly wide net –- 29 separate groups, including Wisconsin Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Americans for Prosperity, American Crossroads, and the Republican Governors Association, along with other innocent bystanders.

In the IRS scandal, Tea Party groups were threatened with the denial of tax exempt status and subject to legal and financial inconvenience. In Wisconsin, conservatives were threatened with imprisonment.

[...]The anti-Walker probe included raiding the homes of targeted activists, seizing their private correspondence, phones, and computers – including the computers, phones, and emails of their spouses and other family members. Under the Doe’s draconian gag orders, conservatives subjected to such raids were threatened with imprisonment if they spoke about it. And because the probe was secret, the prosecutors could not be held accountable for their conduct. 

[...]So, what is the motivation/agenda behind the witch-hunt?  The office of Milwaukee Democrat district attorney, John Chisolm, presided over a three-year-old long John Doe aimed at Scott Walker that resulted in charges only against a handful of functionaries. Dozens of members of Chisholm’s office signed Walker recall petitions; the chief investigator had a recall sign in his front yard, and some of Chisolm’s aides reportedly were panting at the prospect of charging Walker himself.  Their disappointment has been palpable.

Sources describe deputies Bruce Landgraf and David Robles as particularly vindictive and aggressive in pursuing the new probe.

I just finished reading Governor Scott Walker’s new book about his effort to limit public sector unions in Wisconsin, and their (failed) effort to recall him. I believe this man has what it takes to be President one day. I believe in experience, and Walker is getting a lot of experience passing bold, innovative reforms as governor of Wisconsin. He could. Go. All. The. Way.

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Republican chairman delays annual meeting to let GOP leaders attend March for Life

From the Washington Times.

Excerpt:

In an unprecedented show of opposition to abortion, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is delaying the start of the party’s annual winter meeting so he and other committee members can join the March for Life on the Mall, The Washington Times has learned.

Mr. Priebus, a plain-spoken Greek Orthodox lawyer from Wisconsin, will join members of his party’s national committee and thousands of other abortion opponents in the annual right-to-life march scheduled for Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that declared abortion a constitutional right.

“I saw that there was a real interest among a significant portion of our members to attend and support the Rally for Life,” Mr. Priebus said in an email to The Times. “This is a core principle of our party. It was natural for me to support our members and our principles.”

Mr. Priebus, in his second term as elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, chose to delay the start of the four-day winter meeting of the GOP governing body, also scheduled in Washington, to allow himself and RNC members to attend the march. The delay is unprecedented for a major U.S. political party, several state Republican Party chairmen and other RNC members said in telephone interviews.

Mr. Priebus also decided that the RNC will charter a bus to and from the march for those among the RNC’s 168 members who wish to attend, he said.

The Republican Party is the pro-life party, and it doesn’t see to be a side issue for them. They seem to really be into it, and I know that at the state level, a lot of Republican-dominated legislatures have passed laws to restrict abortion and cut off taxpayer-funding of abortion. Although the Republicans are taking this stand on principle, I think that it will work out well for them at the polls in the November mid-term elections.

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George Will: Governor Scott Walker is a good pick for Republicans in 2016

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

I like Scott Walker because he is a man who defeats Democrats and gets things done, and I like Senator Ted Cruz because he is a brilliant debater. Both are tough conservatives. But if I had to pick one of them right now for 2016, I’d pick Scott Walker. And I’m not alone.

Here’s an editorial from the St. Louis Dispatch that Dennis Prager discussed on Monday, authored by moderate conservative George Will.

Excerpt:

In 2011, tens of thousands of government employees and others, enraged by Gov. Scott Walker’s determination to break the ruinously expensive and paralyzing grip that government workers’ unions had on Wisconsin, took over the Capitol building in Madison. With chanting, screaming and singing supplemented by bullhorns, bagpipes and drum circles, their cacophony shook the building that the squalor of their occupation made malodorous. They spat on Republican legislators and urinated on Walker’s office door. They shouted, “This is what democracy looks like!”

When they and Democratic legislators failed to prevent passage of Act 10, they tried to defeat — with a scurrilous smear campaign that backfired — an elected state Supreme Court justice. They hoped that changing the court’s composition would get Walker’s reforms overturned. When this failed, they tried to capture the state Senate by recalling six Republican senators. When this failed, they tried to recall Walker. On the night that failed — he won with a larger margin than he had received when elected 19 months earlier — he resisted the temptation to proclaim, “This is what democracy looks like!”

[...]Walker has long experience in the furnace of resistance to the looting of public funds by the public’s employees. He was elected chief executive of heavily Democratic Milwaukee County after his predecessor collaborated with other officials in rewriting pension rules in a way that, if he had been re-elected instead of resigning, would have given him a lump-sum payment of $2.3 million and $136,000 a year for life.

To fight the recall — during which opponents disrupted Walker’s appearance at a Special Olympics event, and squeezed Super Glue into the locks of a school he was to visit — Walker raised more than $30 million, assembling a nationwide network of conservative donors that could come in handy if he is re-elected next year. Having become the first U.S. governor to survive a recall election, he is today serene as America’s first governor to be, in effect, elected twice to a first term.

The radically leftist New Republic has this to say about Governor Walker.

Excerpt:

Right now, the Republican Party is an increasingly factional place, divided between north and south, establishment and grassroots, Tea Party Conservatives and practical Conservatives, religious right and business, libertarians and populists.

[...]There’s another potentially unifying mainline conservative, though, and he lurks in Madison. Scott Walker, the battle-hardened governor of Wisconsin, is the candidate that the factional candidates should fear. Not only does he seem poised to run—he released a book last week—but he possesses the tools and positions necessary to unite the traditional Republican coalition and marginalize its discontents.

Walker has the irreproachable conservative credentials necessary to appease the Tea Party, and he speaks the language of the religious right. But he has the tone, temperament, and record of a capable and responsible establishment figure. That, combined with Walker’s record as a reformist union-buster, will appeal to the party’s donor base and appease the influential business wing. Walker’s experience as an effective but conservative blue state governor makes him a credible presidential candidate, not just a vessel for the conservative message. Equally important, his history of having faced down organized labor and beaten back a liberal recall effort is much more consistent with the sentiment of the modern Republican Party than Jeb Bush’s compassionate conservatism. Altogether, Walker has the assets to build the broad establishment support necessary for the fundraising, media attention, and organization to win the nomination. He could be a voter or a donor’s first choice, not just a compromise candidate.

The other mainline conservatives possess some of Walker’s characteristics, but not all. He’s more compelling and presidential, with more gravitas than Rubio or Jindal.

[...]But even though Walker’s political skills remain an open question, there are reasons why he might be a stronger candidate on paper. For one, he’s a more experienced politician—and the fact is that political skills and instincts are learned and honed under tough circumstances. By the time Walker’s wins reelection—which I expect—he will have won three competitive statewide contests in a tilt-blue state, under three different circumstances. He will have done so while campaigning and governing as a conservative. There are very few politicians who can claim as much.

We need to have someone who is a non-Romney – someone who likes to fight with the Democrats, and is able to beat them.

I found this article that lists six of his accomplishments.

Here’s are a couple:

#2 He passed a killer budget. Over the summer, he signed into law a state budget thatslashed taxes as well as unnecessary spending, including a $650 million income tax cut (part of nearly $1 billion in total tax cuts), Medicaid reform (see #4), the introduction of work requirements for people on food stamps, a freeze in university tuition and limits on residential property tax increases.

#3 He stands up to corruption. One of Walker’s first actions as governor was to create the Commission on Government Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, which was projected to save taxpayers $300 million. He also passed a law that prevents unions from using members’ dues to fund political campaigns.

I have placed his new book about his victories in Democrat-dominated Wisconsin on my wishlist. If you like politics, might be a good one for you as well.

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Republican senator Mike Lee introduces bill to cut taxes on parents

National Review reports on a new tax cut plan from Republican senator Mike Lee.

Excerpt:

Today at AEI, Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced an idea that’s been missing in Congress for a long time: A conservative tax-reform plan that aims to improve opportunity and reduce the bias against families inherent in the U.S. tax code.

It would significantly simplify how individual income taxes work, and result in a large tax cut on families with children, especially married ones: The system would be reduced to just two brackets — 15 percent on all income below $87,850 (at which the rate currently jumps from 25 percent to 28 percent) and 35 percent on all income above that. Most interestingly, though, it would provide much more compensation in the tax code for raising children: “The centerpiece” of the plan, as Lee put it, is a $2,500 tax credit per child under the age of 16, which would reduce what parents owe in income taxes dollar-for-dollar, and if that’s reduced to zero, what they owe in payroll taxes, too. (The tax code currently provides a combination of a tax deduction for children, which only reduces the amount of one’s income that’s subject to the income tax and isn’t, for most couples, nearly as valuable per dollar, and a smaller tax credit.)

That represents a significant tax cut on a lot of middle-income earners, but a number of tax expenditures (deductions and credits) would be eliminated, and some would be smartly restricted — the mortgage-interest deduction, for instance, would be capped at $300,000 in principal, as Lee says, “focusing the deduction on the families and communities who need it the most.” He highlights a “new charitable deduction that would be available to all taxpayers,” which would be available to people who don’t currently itemize their deductions (lower-income Americans, for one). The “marriage penalty” would be eliminated, because the bracket sizes would now just be doubled for married couples (preserving a “marriage bonus” for many couples).

[...]The plan hasn’t been scored for its revenue effects, but it seems likely, overall, to reduce the receipts of the federal income tax slightly. Over the long term, though, while this isn’t the main intent, a rise in fertility and increased investment in raising children should go a ways to reducing America’s long-term fiscal gap (AEI’s Jim Pethokoukis likes to refer to such an idea as a “human-capital tax cut” — while, again, it’s about fixing a distortion in the tax code and not adding one, at the margins it’s a big tax cut for having children).

So often on this blog, I post articles critical of Democrats, but not much about what Republicans want to do. Here’s an example of what Republicans want to do.

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Governor Bobby Jindal’s fight to give poor, minority children quality education

Here’s an update on the Democrat war on vouchers in Louisiana, posted by governor Bobby Jindal in the left-leaning Washington Post. In it, he explains how is trying to reform education in his home state of Louisiana, and how the federal government is trying to stop him for doing that.

Excerpt:

We all know the harsh cycle of poverty that exists in the United States and that a disproportionate share of those in poverty are minorities. Studies of health-care outcomes, incarceration levels and economic opportunity all show that education is key to improving quality of life.

Millions of single parents in this country work two jobs to make ends meet, hoping that their children won’t have the same struggles. Hope is their only option because they live in neighborhoods with chronically failing public schools and lack the means to move to better school districts or to send their children to private schools.

Obama and Holder think this should continue to be the reality. In Louisiana, we think the opposite is true. We believe every child deserves the opportunity to get a great education.

That’s why we started a school choice program in 2008 in New Orleans and expanded it statewide in 2012. Low-income families with children in schools graded C, D or F by the state are eligible to apply for a scholarship and send their children to schools of their choice.

The program works. From 2011 to 2013, students who had been trapped in failing schools and now attend scholarship schools showed improvement on literacy and math tests. The share of students performing at grade level rose 7 percent, state data show, even though in 2013, 60 percent of students taking the test had been in their new schools for only eight months. More than 90 percent of parents of students participating in the program reported satisfaction with their children’s schools.

This opportunity is perhaps these children’s best chance to escape the cycle of poverty. No one in their right mind could argue that the Justice Department’s efforts to block the scholarship program will help these kids. This can only be an attempt to curry favor with the government unions that provide financial largess and political power.

President Obama should do the right thing and order the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit. Not because I am asking, but because the parents and children in the scholarship program deserve an opportunity. For generations, the government has forced these families to hope for the best from failing schools. Shame on all of us for standing by and watching generations of children stay in failing schools that may have led them to lives of poverty.

We in Louisiana are rejecting the status quo because we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed. A scholarship program is not a silver bullet for student success. Maybe a student will perform well in a traditional public school, or a charter school, or a virtual school, but the point is that parents should be able to decide, not bureaucrats in Baton Rouge or Washington.

If the president and the attorney general believe their path is right, I invite them to come to Louisiana and look these parents and children in the eyes and explain why they believe every child shouldn’t have a fair shake.

If the administration does not drop this lawsuit, we will fight every step of the way until the children prevail. Giving every child — no matter race or income — the opportunity to get a great education is a moral imperative.

You might remember that the Obama administration previously went after the D.C. voucher program, which was also for helping poor, minority students.  Why are the Democrats doing this? The answer is simple. Come election time, the Democrats rely heavily on the fundraising and activism of the teacher unions. The teacher unions have more money if they have more children trapped in their failing public schools. Therefore, Obama has every incentive to make sure that no child is allowed to leave a failing school. He needs the help of the teacher unions at election time more than he needs to help children who cannot even vote. That’s what is really going on here. Bobby Jindal would love to have the support of teacher unions, but given the choice between helping the unions and helping the children, he’s choosing the children.

The main point here is that the politicians who talk the most about spending more money on education may not be thinking about what is best for children at all. They might be thinking about paying their union supporters more, so that they will do more at election time. An alternative to just giving more money to the unions would be Jindal’s plan of giving money directly to parents and letting parents choose. Parents might not be as politically connected as teacher unions, but if your goal is to help children get an education, then maybe unions and elections don’t matter as much.

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