Posts Tagged ‘WMC’

WI Supreme Court rules in favor of lead paint…

July 14, 2009

I had a hard time deciding how to title the post. Whenever I wrote about the Supreme Court at the Herald I would get flooded with comments about the lead paint controversy. Business interests have been very concerned about this case, a different decision from the court today could have sparked a tsunami of litigation against former manufacturers of lead paint.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that a Milwaukee boy could not sue the former manufacturers of paint that he contracted lead poisoning from.

Essentially the plaintiff’s case was that the lead in the paint was a defect – a flawed design that the company was accused of being liable for. However, the court found that the product the company was selling was lead paint, and that the presence of lead is “characteristic of the product itself.”

The decision was unanimous, so even Paul Soglin will have a tough time portraying this as a WMC-bought decision.

Law And More has a few quotes from a plaintiff’s lawyer who actually agrees with the decision.

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WMC gets competition

July 8, 2009

A new business advocacy group in Wisconsin. Paul Soglin, who has made himself a name as somewhat of an anti-WMC warrior, sees the new group as evidence of WMC’s extremism. It sure seems that way, especially considering the immediate Republican backlash against the group, led of course by Rep. Robin Vos (R-Caledonia), the Assembly Republicans default spinster.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, called the new council a “front group” for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle that seeks to blunt the influence of WMC. He also alleged that corporate donors to the group will get special access to Doyle and other Democrats.

“It’s the Jim Doyle Diners Club,” said Vos. “For a big corporate contribution, you get a seat on the board and dinner with Doyle. If it’s not pay to play, it sure smells that way.”

Does that imply that WMC is exactly that for the Republicans?

Interesting idea Vos. That two of the group’s key players are former heavyweights from Tommy Thompson’s administration, Phil Prange and Jim Klauser, both of whom have donated thousands of dollars to Republicans, is not what makes Vos’ claim unconvincing. Businessmen routinely forgo political philsophy for money. Perhaps they care more about business than politics. It happens often. Look at Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), who started a lobbying firm with Trent Lott (R-MS), the former Republican leader who thought this country would be better off with a white supremacist as president.

Interesting Note: Klauser once donated $250 to Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska, and Prange gave some money to the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee.

However, the group claims to be focusing on legislation and policy, and is pledging to stay out of campaigns. Hence, if this were a front group for Doyle it would only be able to curry favor from him by lobbying on policy, not by campaigning for him or against his opponents.

The Wisconsin Business Council claims to be in the game for “economic development, workforce and education development, infrastructure development and taxes and regulation.”

Hopefully the group is somewhat independent. The absurd expectation that a state be business-friendly without being education-friendly has unfortunately become a tenant of one of our major political parties, and it needs to be challenged. The WMC gets away with saying it supports education on a far too frequent basis.

Free speech and the Supreme Court

June 17, 2009

It looks like there may be a serious push for a serious judiciary in the Badger State. After years of watching our system of checks and balances be corrupted by corporate whores and people who don’t believe in the constitution (Uncle Sam’s version or our own), the Democratic legislature looks poised to change the rules for the better.

The Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform approved a pair of sweeping campaign finance reform bills during an executive session this morning.

The committee approved AB 63, which would increase reporting requirements for groups running so-called “issue ads,” by a 6-1 vote, and forwarded AB 65, which would create public funding for Supreme Court elections, by a 4-3 party line vote.

The campaign finance provision is important. What would be even better would be the abolition of Supreme Court races, however, getting the WMC out of the picture would be a good start nonetheless. In case you don’t remember, Michael Gableman, the newest addition to the court, won election back in 2008 by celebrating his opposition to the right of a defense for the accused, paid for, of course, by WMC.

The third party ads are frankly a very hazy affair. The line between free speech infringement and reasonable campaign finance regulation is somewhat arbitrary. Yes, the vast majority of issue ads aired are put out by groups that are essentially fronts for political parties or candidates. However, once we begin restricting the use of the media by advertisers, why can we not also restrict use of the media by the journalists themselves? If a paper endorses a candidate, is that “campaigning” that’s subject to restriction? Most would say no, because the paper was probably not set up for a specific political purpose – but some are. Take the Washington Times, for instance. Set up by the leader of a religious cult who also happened to be virulently anti-communist, the Times is now a hub for D.C. right wing propaganda.

Most liberals would respond to this dilemma by saying that there are reasonable restrictions on the media, such as the Fairness Doctrine, which used to mandate news providers to give “both sides of the story” of a political issue. Frankly, that policy is absurd. There are never two sides of an issue, there are thousands, and in the world of new media, it is harder than ever to determine what is a news source and what isn’t. I don’t consider Fox News a source of the news, hence, I do not believe it should be required to give a “fair and balanced” view of every topic it covers, from Obama being a closet Muslim to Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.

Ironically, the solution to both issues I believe to be one and the same: more public financing. Just as campaigns should be publicly financed, so should an increasing number of media outlets. The corporate ones should not be abolished, but they should have to compete with good, responsible news services provided by the state to the people. Most other Western countries have such a system and we should too. The fall of the old media during the recession demonstrates just how corporate it has become – and how dependent it is on catering to its benefactors. This can’t be the only way journalism is run – blogs are important, but so is government participation.