July 22, 2014

Walker talks John Doe on FOX

Walker talks to reporters (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Walker talks to reporters (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The governor continues to defend himself, and this morning (Friday) he does it on the national stage.

Governor Scott Walker appears on ‘Fox and Friends’ to discuss the release of hundreds of documents in the John Doe investigation, in which prosecutors claim Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” connected with his 2012 recall election and those of GOP state senators. Walker says the probe is over, and he reiterates, “It’s not new news … just newly-released documents,” and he blames the liberals for trying to “stir things up.”

Walker says, “If you’re just reading this for the first time, you might think there’s something there without knowing that the courts already looked at this — a state judge took care of this some time ago and a federal judge more recently heard the same information. In both cases they said there’s just not an argument there. So, what you see is the left and others out there trying to stir things up.”

State reserve judge Gregory Peterson squashed subpoenas late last year against potential targets, saying he found no probable cause of wrongdoing. Last month, Federal Judge Rudolph Randa at least temporarily halted the probe. No charges have been filed.

On the conservative cable TV program, Walker says this is a prime example of what happens when you take on the “big government special interests,” referring to his Act 10 law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining by most public unions. He also blames the media for being “willing accomplices.”

He says, “So many in the national media and even some here in Wisconsin are looking at this state backward. This is a case that’s been resolved, that not one but two judges have said it’s over,” he says, “there’s no arguement there.”

AUDIO: Walker blames special interests and the media. (:20)

According to court records released Thursday, prosecutors say Walker and two Republican operatives broke election laws by coordinating campaigns and fundraising, using candidates and a dozen outside conservative groups.

The governor tells the talk show host, “Don’t just take my word for it,” saying, “the facts are pretty clear.”

Walker is asking for help from his supporters to counter what he calls yet another attack on him as he runs for reelection in the fall. “Because we’re gonna have to counter this sort of attack all over again.”

The governor is also taking to social media, tweeting to his followers that the prosecutors’ arguments are “categorically false.”

Walker has a national profile as a possible White House candidate in 2016.

Even if the investigation is permanently stopped, Jay Heck of the government watchdog group Common Cause Wisconsin says the governor has some explaining to do.

Prosecutor argued Walker part of ‘criminal scheme’


Gov. Scott Walker

A special prosecutor running a John Doe investigation surrounding Wisconsin’s recall elections argued Governor Scott Walker was taking part in a “criminal scheme” designed to get around Wisconsin election laws.

The documents were released Thursday as part of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the probe, which is investigating whether third party groups and Republican candidates illegally coordinated their efforts during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Several of the conservative groups targeted by the investigation filed a lawsuit that contends prosecutors were violating their First Amendment rights. A federal judge halted the probe earlier this year and prosecutors are currently appealing that decision.

Documents tied to the case were unsealed by a federal appeals court. They include a filing written by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, which details an email sent by Walker to Republican strategist Karl Rove. In it, Walker writes about the importance of R.J. Johnson in running efforts to coordinate groups. “Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state.”

Prosecutors claimed that the Wisconsin Club for Growth acted as a hub between the campaign and third party groups. They allege that, as early as March of 2011, there were “open and express discussions of the need to coordinate the activities of entities,” such as Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Friends of Scott Walker, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

No charges have been filed as a result of the John Doe investigation, which remains on hold because of an ongoing federal challenge. A federal judge earlier this year ruled that the coordination identified by prosecutors did not break the law, in an opinion similar to one issued by a state judge previously. Prosecutors have appealed those decisions.

Walker’s campaign released a statement late Thursday afternoon, which says “The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat District Attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false.  In fact two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken. This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law.  It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

FDA backs off on cheese boards

PHOTO: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

PHOTO: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

Wisconsin cheese makers appear to have backed down some regulators in Washington. It’s been an interesting week for John Umhoefer, Executive Director with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “At the beginning of the week we were pretty sure FDA wanted to stop the use of wood for curing cheese, and now . . . we find that they have reversed themselves, and clarified that was never their intent,” Umhoefer said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration had issued a statement that the use of wooden aging boards is unsanitary, a stance which Umhoefer said strikes at the heart of the artisan cheese industry. “For many types of cheese, especially when you want to have a nice rinded cheese, wood is the best surface to rest that cheese on for the many months or years that you have the cheese in play. It wicks away moisture from the cheese and delivers it back when needed. It really breathes along with the cheese.”

After an outcry from cheese making states like Wisconsin and Vermont, FDA backtracked on its initial statement that the wood boards cannot be adequately sterilized.

“The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) requirement in effect that addresses this issue. Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves.

In the interest of public health, the FDA’s current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be “adequately cleanable” and properly maintained. Historically, the FDA has expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and has noted these concerns in inspectional findings. FDA is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese.

The FDA will engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving.”

“I am pleased to see the FDA responding quickly to this important matter,” said Ben Brancel, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “DATCP will continue to work with the FDA as it engages the cheese making community on this issue.”

But a spokesman for a Wisconsin member of Congress was more cautious. “The FDA has not given Members of Congress any assurance that the practice of wood-aging will be protected,” said Alex Nguyen, Communications Director for Representative Mark Pocan. The Madison Democrat will offer an amendment to prohibit FDA from moving to prohibit the use of wood aging boards for cheese.

Umhoefer said there is no history of the wood being associated with illness. “There’s been no – zero – outbreaks attributed to wood boards as far as a consumer health issue, ever” he said. “We were quite surprised when this came up as an issue. It seemed to come out of the blue and didn’t have a role in in any food safety issues. And the regulators will confirm that.”


Democrats reaffirm support of gay marriage

City Hall opens on Saturday to accommodate same-sex couples who want to get married before ban is possibly reinstated. (PHOTO: Dylan Brogan)

Dane County Courthouse opens on Saturday to accommodate same-sex couples who want to get married before ban is possibly reinstated. (PHOTO: Dylan Brogan)

Delegates take the vote at their party convention over the weekend at Wisconsin Dells to support gay marriage as part of their platform — the day after a federal judge strikes down Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban.

Mike Tate is chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “No longer is hate and discrimination enshrined in our state Constitution.”

Democrats reacting to the news are jubilant, including the nation’s first openly gay U.S. Senator — Tammy Baldwin. “We didn’t need a federal judge to tell us that love is love, that family is family,” and she says, “Discriminating against anyone’s love, against anyone’s family is just plain wrong.”

State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) is an openly bisexual member of Wisconsin’s legislature. “I’m elated. This is a great moment for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Wisconsinites everywhere.” Zamarripa adds, “I was in the LGBT caucus when the news broke and it couldn’t have  been more poetic.”

AUDIOState Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) reacts to the news. :24

Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban was amended to the state Constitution in 2006. Same-sex couples in Madison and Milwaukee were getting marriage licenses just minutes after US. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared the ban unconstitutional, though, it’s unclear if and when the ban could be reinstated.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is filing emergency motions in federal court to put on hold Crabb’s order.

There have been 146 marriage licenses issued in Milwaukee County to same-sex couples, and 138 marriages in Madison (Dane County) through Saturday.

Madison Bishop Robert Morlino says he’s “deeply saddened” by the judge’s decision. In a statement, he adds, “First, it bears repeating that, we must respect, love, and care for every individual we encounter, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how they define themselves. … Marriage is, and can only ever be, a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman, regardless of the decision of a judge or any vote. … In striking down the constitutional amendment in our state which protects marriage, the court has, once again, shaken one of the most precious and essential building blocks of our civilization.”

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:30

Mary Burke says state headed in wrong direction

Mary Burke speaking at state convention in the Dells.

Mary Burke speaking at state convention in the Dells.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke speaks to the crowd of delegates and other Democrats at the party’s annual convention. “Scott Walker has failed in his obligation to the people of Wisconsin. True leadership brings people together, that’s how we do our best work. And true leadership puts people ahead of politics and special interests.”

Burke expresses concern about the direction Governor Walker is taking Wisconsin, saying another four years under the Republican governor would render the state unrecognizable.

Burke says Walker’s “divisive brand of politics has made national headlines,” but she says, “those politics have hurt middle class families” in Wisconsin.

The former Trek Bicycle executive addresses the crowd after 9:30 Friday night. She talks about her dad as her inspiration. “He passed away six years ago, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the lessons that I’ve learned from him. One was to treat people with respect,” she says, “not just some people, but all people.”

Burke vows to be the kind of governor who tells the truth, puts common sense solutions ahead of politics, brings the people together, and believes their word is their bond.

The latest Marquette Poll shows Burke and Walker tied at 46 percent among registered voters.

Wisconsin GOP Executive Director Joe Fadness said in a statement, “While Republicans are moving Wisconsin forward, Democrats and Mary Burke wasted their Convention on stale rhetoric and desperate and divisive attack lines. When Democrats were in control, Wisconsin was in bad shape with massive tax hikes, billion dollar budget deficits and record job loss — a mess that was fixed by Governor Scott Walker.”

Related: Burke ready for epic fight