Wisconsin Recall Roundup June 5, 2012

Former Walker Aide Goes to Court, His Lawyer Admits to Leaking Info to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Tim RussellAccording to WisPolitics, a lawyer for Governor Scott Walker's former deputy chief of staff, Timothy Russell, "acknowledged today that he released documents that resulted in a news story saying Scott Walker's administration had stonewalled the investigation of money stolen from a fund for veterans."

Governor Walker has been adamant in saying that he has fully cooperated with the secret "John Doe" criminal investigation into his former staff and associates, but a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story published on May 31 cited a court document showing that the John Doe investigation was launched after Walker's Milwaukee County Executive's office was "unable or unwilling" to release requested documents to the Milwaukee District Attorney's office -- a damaging release on the eve of a recall.

The judge met with Russell, prosecutors, and defense lawyer Dennis Krueger in chambers for nearly an hour. When they emerged in open court, the judge explained that he was concerned about the release of the document out of the secret John Doe proceedings, but concluded after talking to prosecutors that there was nothing illegal in the release of the information. Because of the judge's probing, it was revealed that Krueger had gotten the document from prosecutors as part of pre-trial discovery and included it in his motion to dismiss charges against Russell. In chambers, Krueger acknowledged he had released the info with his client's approval.

The revelations are significant for two reasons. Walker's supporters have alleged a bias in the Milwaukee County DA's office by accusing prosecutors of leaking damaging information to the Journal Sentinel's lead reporter on the case, Dan Bice. Bice has repeatedly denied receiving leaks from prosecutorrs. Now it appears Bice has a number of interesting sources. Secondly, the leak suggests that Russell has decided that Scott Walker is no longer his friend.

Russell was in court for a hearing on his motion to suppress evidence in his criminal trial related to the ongoing investigation of Walker's former staff and associates during the time Walker served as Milwaukee County Executive. Russell faces charges that he stole more than $20,000 from a fund for veterans and their families. Apparently, Walker's lawyers believe he may face further charges related to other aspects of the investigation, which involve allegations of child enticement and allegations of a secret email system set up in the County Executive's office which allowed certain employees to work full time on the governor's campaign while being paid by taxpayers.

When is Transparency Too Much Transparency?

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal independent expenditure group that does not disclose its donors, raised some eyebrows by sending out a mailer to people with the names and addresses of their neighbors, and records showing if they voted in November of 2008 and November of 2010. The mailer said, "We're sending this mailing to you and your neighbors to publicize who does and does not vote." It went on to say, "After the June 5th election, public records will tell everyone who voted and who didn't." Many people who received the mailing expressed their discomfort with the tactic, one calling it "creepy." Some were also dismayed to see neighbors who had passed away listed as "not voting." Voting records are available to the public online at the website for the Government Accountability Board, so the information in the mailing would have been available to anyone who looked for it. Despite the unorthodox tactic, data indicates that this type of social pressure tactic is effective. A study by the American Political Science Association found that this technique increases voter turnout by 27 percent -- although not among the deceased.

Reports of Robocalls Telling Voters to Stay Home

MSNBC's Ed Shultz reports that some Wisconsin citizens have received robocalls telling them that if they signed the recall petition, they do not need to vote in the election. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cut a last minute robocall of his own last night, reminding people that their vote will not count unless they actually turn up at the polls June 5.

President Obama, Sarah Palin, Packers Tweet for their Teams

For those Democrats who think President Obama and the democratic establishment have not done enough for Tom Barrett, here is a piece of news. On Monday, Obama tweeted to his massive twitter list: "It's Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. –bo." Similarly, Green Bay Packer players, and National Football League union members, weighed in with their thoughts. Wide receiver Tori Gurley and tight end Jermichael Finley tweeted their solidarity with Wisconsin labor saying, "I'm proud to be a #unionmember. Support Wisconsin workers & Get Out the Vote on Tues. #wiunion RT!" For his part, Walker got some support from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who tweeted to Wisconsin voters to get out to vote, and Walker garnered another effusive editorial in the Wall Street Journal which told readers, "A single election rarely determines a democracy's fate, but some matter more than others. Tuesday's recall election is one that matters..."

UW Tuition Increases Proposed After Steep Cuts to University Funds

University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly has recommended that tuition be hiked by 5.5 percent for in state, for the sixth year in a row. If the UW Board of Regents approves this measure on Thursday, students will see tuition rates at about $10,000 per year. The Regents cannot raise tuition at a higher percentage than this because of a legislative cap in the current state budget. Simultaneously to creating the caps, Governor Walker cut $250 million from the UW System in the 2011-12 budget. This is on top of deep cuts by the previous governor. In April, total student debt in the United States passed a long dreaded milestone, surpassing $1 trillion in debt, more than the nation's credit card debt. This debt will burden the lives of students well into their career and in some cases, into retirement.

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