Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who authored the bill - take two

Two stories covered the top of the fold in today's newspaper, and both revealed something essential about who our state government is really working for. The erosion of our democracy continues. The rise of government of, by, and for corporations, government corrupted by the influence and manipulation of  corporate-sponsored lobbyists, continues.

Who authored the mining bill designed to help one business interest - Gogebic Taconite (GTCA) and the Cline Group of which they are a part? Now we know: it was written by 5 Repubs under the influence, or with the coaching, of the Cline Group, reps of GTAC, and the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
See: Legislators worked with Gogebic Taconite on mining bill

Of course! that's how government business gets conducted these days. And who are the 5 Repubs? Rep. Mark Honadel (R-S. Milw.) whom we already reported received a sizable campaign contribution from GTAC ($2,500, to be exact), John Vos (R-Rochester), Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) who received a total of $1,500 at the beginning of the year, and Mary Williams (R-Medford) who chaired the one and only public hearing on the bill at State Fair Park last week. No wonder she was so annoyed at all the challenges to this industry-written, industry-driven, environmentally destructive piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, our favorite gov Walker received $10,000 from GTAC executives for his 2010 campaign. So who do you think he is beholden to now?

Right next to this lead article on the mining bill was yet another adding to the bad smell of corruption that wafts over Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman's career. See: Gableman voted with law firm after receiving free legal services. This is illegal, friends. Really, how is it possible that this guy sits on our state court? The fact that he is there, allowed to make rulings clearly influenced by politics and political money, is a disgrace.

I won't reiterate what is in this article because you can read it yourself. But this all speaks to the crisis of democracy in our state and nation. We all know that our political system has become corrupted by corporate money, including many of our courts. We can sit here and say that much of the voting public is being terribly manipulated by the corporate-owned media and the influence of hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate lobbying money available for TV ads that tell lies in dramatic and compelling fashion, that feed talking points to pundits and members of legislatures, that hire the lobbyists who, as in the case of the mining bill, write the language for legislation and then pass that on to the legislators to whom they have contributed, bought and sold like the goods and services they manufacture.

But that's not the end of the story. A lot of people don't like having their democracy stolen and their rights trampled on. So I also want to give a shout-out to the Solidarity Singers who responded to our intrepid governor's bid to stifle the right to protest at the Capitol by showing up in even larger numbers yesterday for their noon sing-a-long. This was my fondest hope, that people would respond to the new rules by ignoring them, willing to risk arrest if necessary (as one participant said, "I was hoping to get arrested for singing.").

That's how you 'occupy' democratic spaces when authoritarian government is trying to close them. One sign read: “This is a test of the Emergency Free Speech system.” Indeed. The police didn't even make a move in the direction of arrests. Apparently only a handful of officers even showed up to monitor what was going on. Is that really what the Capitol police want to do, start arresting large numbers of peaceful protestors? I don't think so.

So the struggle is on for the redemption, reclaiming, restoring of democracy. Next year we are going to see more corporate money at work than ever in our history to try to manipulate election results all across the country. Here is this state, outside money is pouring in to the Walker campaign for his likely recall election. The only way to counter that is with citizen participation in a process that can eventually take government back for the people and then make laws to remove corporate money from our politics.

That's the long haul struggle, and the outcome is sadly uncertain. We are either moving into a long and terrible era of plutocratic and repressive government, or into an era of renewed, reinvigorated democracy. A worthy struggle, that.

Photos: Margaret Swedish
[With the holidays, my blogging here is a bit uncertain. Maybe one more this week, and one or two next week if I feel compelled by things like today's headlines.]

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