The Corporate Fascism of Wisconsin Part 1: The Republicans

October 14, 2019 by Barbara With

Corporate Fascism: When corporations collude with politicians to write and pass laws to benefit the corporations at the expense of the people, land, water, natural resources, communities, civil and human rights, and democratic process.

In January 2011, Wisconsin experienced a hostile corporate takeover of the government. Funded by the Koch Brothers and other titans of industry, Scott Walker became governor at the same time the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly were both taken over by Republicans. With Scott Fitzgerald in charge of the Senate, Jeff Fitzgerald in charge of the Assembly, and Stephen Fitzgerald commanding the State Patrol, the State of Wisconsin was now corporately controlled and aptly nicknamed “Fitzwalkerstan.”

February 27, 2011 Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo: Rebecca Kemble

When Walker introduced the budget bill that year, the Democratic senators realized that something was horribly wrong. In the past, budget bills were written by the majority party and introduced in January. After gathering public input from citizens around the state, both parties would return to Madison to hammer out the details that included their constituents’ voices. They did so because they knew if they didn’t, they could get voted out. A final budget bill would normally be passed within six to nine months of its introduction.

In January 2011, Wisconsin Democrats were told in no uncertain terms by Walker that the budget would be passed within two weeks of its introduction, because they could. His bill would later be revealed as the product of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a closed-door organization of corporations and legislators. Together they create “model bills” that the ALEC legislators bring home and introduce into their statehouses. ALEC bills, crafted by the corporations themselves, strip citizens of their rights while benefitting the needs of the corporation.

Walker’s budget bill was shocking in the range of government that would now be controlled by the one-party majority and their billionaire donors. Public education, nature resources, women’s and workers’ rights, the poor, the LGBT community, reproductive freedom, first amendment rights, voting systems, elections, Native communities, consumers, health care, clean and open government, democracy itself—nothing for the public good was spared from decimation by the corporate fascists. This was truly a hostile takeover.

February 16, 2011 Fire Fighters Union at the Wisconsin Sate Capitol. Photo: Rebecca Kemble

Public protests began on February 14 when the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants Association delivered hundreds of cards to the Governor to protest the budget’s negative impacts on working conditions at the university. The next day tens of thousands more protesters showed up to stand with them. On February 16, it was estimated that over 30,000 people arrived in Madison to stand up for their rights. By February 20, the Wisconsin State Capitol had been completely occupied by concerned citizens, becoming a fully functioning community including an information center, a sleeping area, a medic station, and food stations with food supplied by local businesses.

February 26, 2011, Wisconsin State Capitol. 10,776 messages to Governor Scott Walker left on the walls. Photo: Rebecca Kemble

Wisconsin Democratic senators, unable to know how to inform their constituents of the takeover or what else to do, left the State on February 17 to deny a quorum that was needed to pass the bill. After the Dems fled to Illinois, protests continued, drawing thousands of people to the Capitol.

Frustrated with their inability to push their fascist legislation through, Republicans then removed the fiscal elements from their bill and, on March 9, in violation of open meeting laws, conducted their coup, “passing” Act 10 despite objections from the Democrats that they were violating the law. The event was televised:


On March 11, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Republicans for violating open meeting laws. Also on that day, Wisconsin Democrats returned from Illinois and were met by tens of thousands of people at the Capitol.

On March 15, UW-Madison professor Bill Cronon published a blog informing the public of about ALEC. He was promptly censured, investigated and harassed by the Republicans.

On March 18, Judge Maryann Sumi put a stay on publishing the bill. Despite the stay, on March 26, the Legislative Reference Bureau, bypassing the Secretary of State’s office, published the bill anyway. Walker later relented but not before claiming that publishing the law on the LRB website was enough to make it law.

The April 5th Supreme Court election that year was between Republican operative incumbent David Prosser and attorney Joanne Kloppenburg. Republicans needed Prosser on the bench to overturn a possible guilty ruling and keep the takeover moving forward. On election night, Kloppenburg was declared the winner.

Duct taped ballot bags from the Village of Menomonee Falls are presented to the election judge at 2011 Supreme Court recount.

However, two days later Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nicolas claimed to find 14,000 votes that had not been counted and proclaimed Prosser the winner. A recount resulted, which revealed gaping security breaches to Wisconsin voting systems: duct-taped ballot bags, hand-altered seal numbers, ballot bags closed loosely enough for a hand to fit, and a touch-screen poll tape from Pewaukee dated March 30, 2011, 1:40 AM, signed by all the election officials, for an April 5th election.

Evidence presented to the recount committee did nothing to stop the Government Accountability Board (GAB) from declaring Prosser the winner. (Whistleblowers who attended the GAB Board meeting that following July were told that the GAB Board never received any of the evidence that was delivered to the recount committee before they made their decision.)

On May 26, Judge Sumi ruled that the Republicans had indeed violated open meeting laws. The case immediately got kicked up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where, acting with unusual speed, they overturned Sumi’s decision and declared Act 10 was law.

Wisconsin Election Integrity

Because of this recount, an investigation was launched by election integrity activists which revealed that Wisconsin election systems are highly susceptible to being hacked. A small private company, Command Central, operating out of a strip mall in central Minnesota, controls a large segment of Wisconsin voting machines.

After the recount, during an inspection of the 2010 ballots for the governor’s race, attorney and recount volunteer Jim Mueller discovered that in Waukesha County, ballots were being picked up by a county crew instead of being delivered to the courthouse by the individual clerks. According to Mueller, ballots collected by the county crew were housed in a fenced-in gated building at the county jail in an isolated area unused except for storage. Any amount of election tampering could happen there and the public would not know.

With election systems rigged, Republicans became more brazen at using of their one-party monopoly. After gerrymandering themselves into more control, they no longer had to answer to the citizens they were elected to represent.

They began passing bill after bill written by ALEC, benefiting their corporate sponsors on all levels, at great expense to the people of Wisconsin. The takeover was in full swing.

Cline Mines Writes the New Mining Bill

In May 2011, a new mining bill was being written by Walker’s office and Cline Mines, owner of Gogebic Taconite, a LLC shell company operating out of Hurley, WI. Cline, a billionaire West Virginia coal miner, had plans to install a 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine in the Penokee watershed on the shores of Lake Superior. The bill stripped protections for citizens and natural resources and handed over control of the watershed to the mining company.

For months, Republicans dodged the question, “Who wrote the mining bill?” After the bill finally passed in 2013, Republican Scott Fitzgerald easily admitted the mining corporation was allowed to craft the bill.


Corporate Fascism in full swing

According to Center for Media and Democracy, Walker signed 21 bills or budget provisions into law with ALEC content in the 2011-2012 season. Since that time, Wisconsin Republicans have gone on to introduce bill after bill written by ALEC or corporations that strip Wisconsin citizens of their rights, ignore the voice of the people, favor the corporations and transfer the state’s resources to them.

Meanwhile, two John Doe investigations took place around Scott Walker. The first resulted in six convictions involving embezzlement, money laundering, child enticement and staffers mixing state business with a campaign effort to get Walker, then Milwaukee County Executive, elected as governor.

The second concerned the channeling of coordinated dark money into influencing the outcome of Wisconsin elections. Once again, Prosser and the right-wing majority of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court came to their rescue and, in 2015, shut down the investigation, many felt as a way to protect themselves from incrimination as well.

According to the New Yorker:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision that shows an important part of how [Walker] and his political allies have gotten things done. They have substituted the misrule of politics for the rule of law.

By 4–2, with the four conservatives in the majority, a liberal and a moderate in dissent, and one justice recused, the court halted the John Doe criminal investigation into whether Walker’s successful campaign to retain his post in a 2012 recall election violated Wisconsin law, by coördinating fund-raising and spending with so-called “independent” dark-money groups, and avoiding disclosure of donors’ names. The court did so by rewriting the state law in question, so that the kind of coördination the campaign was being investigated for is now unrestricted in Wisconsin.

Corporate fascism, working through Wisconsin Republicans has made a mockery of democratic process. This video from 2016 shows how Republicans “speed vote,” because they can:

Wisconsin Corporate Fascists

After eight years, Wisconsin still is locked down by the corporate power that the Republican fascists have in the legislature. Despite years of Walker and the corporate fascists attempts to suppress voters and steal elections, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly beat Scott Walker in November 2018. State Republicans immediately rushed to pass a restrictive lame duck bill that included shifting the power normally assigned to the Attorney General into the legislature. It passed, because they could.

Republicans Rep. Robin Vos rationalized the power grab by saying, “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

However, an open records request from Sheila Plotkin revealed overwhelming opposition to the lame duck legislation. According to The Wisconsin Examiner:

[Plotkin’s] tallies — including the December 3, 2018 public hearing on the legislation — found for the entire legislature, 47,094 contacts from people opposing the lame duck measures and 756 contacts from people supporting them — a margin of 98% opposed to 2% in favor.

Republicans recorded 34,083 contacts in opposition compared with 690 in favor — again a 98%-2% margin.

After the state Supreme Court upheld the laws, Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) declared the ruling by the court’s conservative wing “a win for the people of Wisconsin.”

But Plotkin’s research—which included emails as well as notes on telephone calls to lawmakers’ offices—left her with the opposite view: that tens of thousands of opposition messages had no effect on the votes of the vast majority of Republican legislators who voted for the bills.

With rigged voting systems and corporate sponsors, Wisconsin Republicans no longer need to listen to their constituents. They vote for what their corporate sponsors direct them to do, and then, like the American Fascists described in Henry Wallaces 1944 New York Times editorial “The Danger of Fascism” repeat their propaganda rhetoric:

The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist, the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

Assembly set to take another major Republican power grab

NEXT: The Creeping “Friendly” Fascism of the Wisconsin Democrats

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