Does Wisconsin Have the Best Possible Chief of the State Patrol?

by Harry on February 20, 2011

Gail Collins (via Bill Gardner):

In Wisconsin, the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, wants to strip state employees of their collective-bargaining rights because: “We’re broke. We’ve been broke in this state for years.” Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators went into hiding to deprive the Republican majority of the quorum they need to pass Walker’s agenda. The Senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald — who happens to be the brother of the Assembly speaker, Jeff Fitzgerald — believes the governor is absolutely right about the need for draconian measures to cut spending in this crisis. So he’s been sending state troopers out to look for the missing Democrats. The troopers are under the direction of the new chief of the state patrol, Stephen Fitzgerald. He is the 68-year-old father of Jeff and Scott and was appointed to the $105,678 post this month by Governor Walker. Perhaps the speaker’s/majority leader’s father was a super choice, and the fact that he was suddenly at liberty after having recently lost an election for county sheriff was simply a coincidence that allowed the governor to recruit the best possible person for the job. You’d still think that if things are so dire in Wisconsin, the Fitzgerald clan would want to set a better austerity example.

I think Collins is barking up the wrong tree here. Fitzgerald is a common name in Wisconsin, and I’m sure it never occurred to Walker that he was related to his sons. Accusing Walker of this sort of corrupt practice just seems ad hominem.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }


CP 02.20.11 at 3:17 pm

Harry, what of this?

“The demonstrations have been more organized than organic, with some of the Democratic Party’s top strategists in Madison and Washington helping to assemble giant crowds. Labor unions, along with the Democratic National Committee and the White House, see this moment as an opportunity to begin rallying troops for the next election.”

It comes from another NYT article:


Adam 02.20.11 at 5:44 pm

Do you really think the governor wouldn’t know he was hiring the father of the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker? Or is this that “sarcasm” I keep hearing about?


Matt M 02.20.11 at 6:04 pm

CP — there’s evidence that, at the very least, there is strong local organization. See the Isthmus for local media coverage on the Information Station inside the Capitol Building. Also, the Isthmus has provided live updates throughout the week, reporting on the progress of events, which is also good for those of us at a distance from WI.


Pam 02.20.11 at 7:12 pm

What us locals know that the national press doesn’t understand is that the core of the crowds are Madison-area folks. This is a very liberal government-employee town who were not at all difficult to mobilize once the public schools were closed. “Everybody” in town has been down to the capitol. The ground zero organizing work has been done by the teaching assistant’s union, an AFT local. The teacher’s union is also very strongly organized. A bunch of us got robo-calls from somebody (maybe Obama’s group?) that came in during the day while we were already off at the protest.


nick s 02.20.11 at 7:15 pm

CP – ‘organisations are organised’? Isn’t that an illustration of why Walker wants to bust the unions?

(I know it’s the NYT’s language, but their reporting is ‘more organized than organic’ too.)


CP 02.20.11 at 7:35 pm

I was hoping Harry or someone else local would give us the lowdown — what the NYT is saying seems jarring after his earlier postings this week — but it’s always interesting to weight the relationship between spontaneity and organization.

Walker, by the by, seems to be blaming outside agitators — claiming the giant crowds are made up of people from outside Wisconsin. But that seems hooey.


Steve LaBonne 02.20.11 at 7:38 pm

Actually the NYT’s reporting on anything having to do with public employees (or WMD in Iraq, or so many other things) is entirely organic, since it’s a steaming pile of maure.


CP 02.20.11 at 7:48 pm

Not if Steven Greenhouse’s byeline is on it.


Steve LaBonne 02.20.11 at 7:52 pm

Yes, there are honorable exceptions. But these days, all too few.


Harry 02.20.11 at 8:01 pm

The NYT piece, interestingly, doesn’t give any evidence. It is nonsense, as far as I can tell. This was started by the TAA and MTI, with everyone else coming on afterwards. My Dem party contacts in the Assembly are as startled as anyone. Sure, on Thursday, realizing what was going on, Trumka decided to come in, and the reverend as wandering around for a bit, but that’s what happens when you get movement. You might want to check out the puff-piece on Walker in the domestic section of today’s print edition. Are the reporters in Madison?


parsimon 02.20.11 at 8:42 pm

Sadly, the emerging MSM angle on this seems to be, yes, that it’s orchestrated by national groups with a party agenda. It was a little frightening, to be honest, to listen to the talking heads on Sunday television today asking each other whether Obama’s OFA was organizing protests, opining that if Obama can’t win Wisconsin in 2012, he can’t win re-election, and musing that it really has very little to do with the actual merits of public employee unions, and more to do with swaying elections, buying votes.

There’s a significant rhetorical capture going on here that needs to be countered.


Harry 02.20.11 at 8:53 pm

That’s funny — OFA is wandering around trying to sign people up like anyone else. This isn’t them.
quote from a legislators chief of staff: “When Obama came we had nearly two weeks to organise 30,000 people to get there, and we had a star to attract them. This time we didn’t really do anything and then had to really run with what we’ve got”.
There’s no question there has been real organizing from Thursday on. But OF COURSE there has– it would be idiotic not to try and put everything into building it further once it had go to where it was on Wednesday, and the organising is very diffuse.
The problem is that talking heads (and most journalists) simply cannot understand this sort of thing because they have just never seen it.
And if Obama were behind it all, why wouldn’t he have given us, you know, actual support?


Pam 02.20.11 at 8:55 pm

Since my comment above got stuck in moderation for a while, I’ll add another. This morning at church, the minister (whose wife is a teacher and who spent much of the week at the capitol) asked the little children to raise their hands if they’d been at the capitol this week. About 75% of them had. The adults clapped. A first grader explained that this was a protest about taking away teachers’ rights. We are a liberal church, but this town is full of liberal churches. The ministers here issued a statement (tongue in cheek, i’m sure) offering asylum to the senators on the lam. National media doesn’t understand that this is a purple state, not a red or blue state: strongly organized liberals and strongly organized conservatives battling for the votes of people who are kind of in the middle on a lot of issues.


CP 02.20.11 at 9:05 pm

Harry, you should think about writing an op ed that could go in WP or NYT. Or at least a letter to the editor.


Henry 02.20.11 at 9:18 pm

bq. to listen to the talking heads on Sunday television today

None of whom, as Kevin Drum has pointed out, were union representatives or members (quoting some relevant research that “I too blogged”: a few months ago).


parsimon 02.20.11 at 9:33 pm

The problem is that talking heads (and most journalists) simply cannot understand this sort of thing because they have just never seen it.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that that’s part, if not all, of the problem. They don’t seem to have a narrative frame to fit this sort of thing, and they’re awkwardly squishing it into the ones they do have available.


Bill Gardner 02.20.11 at 9:45 pm

I am so sorry that I let my cynicism get the best of me. And there is no excuse. Ohio is virtually free of corruption. Well, nearly:

[Former] Gov. Bob Taft’s administration was rocked near the end by a scandal known as Coingate. Coin dealer and top Republican fundraiser Tom Noe was awarded contracts to invest $50 million on behalf of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, which he invested in—surprise—rare coins, an investment choice that would have made the state a laughingstock on its own. But it got worse: when it emerged that two coins worth $300,000 were missing, it became clear that Noe was running a money-laundering scheme. Ultimately, only $13 million was recovered, and Noe was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2006; Taft was convicted of misdemeanors.

With that in mind, my question is, is just laughing at these people the most effective thing we can do? From Harry’s previous WI post:

Tea Party people turned up in… well, force would be too strong a word—500 maybe— and looked, to be honest, a bit bewildered. I did wonder for a moment whether WEAC had paid a bunch of out-of-work actors to make the tea party look stupid and lift our spirits, but, no, I think they were genuine and doing it themselves.

And here is Chris Rock:

…you got kids? Kids always act up the most before they go to sleep. And when I see the Tea Party and all this stuff, it actually feels like racism’s almost over. Because this is the last — this is the act up before the sleep. They’re going crazy. They’re insane. You want to get rid of them — and the next thing you know, they’re fucking knocked out. And that’s what’s going on in the country right now.


parsimon 02.20.11 at 9:57 pm

Further to my last comment, and not to step over Bill Gardner’s, but I’ve been putting this together:

The MSM seems to feel the need to present this in terms of influence-peddling, as though any actions on the part of public employees and their supporters are toward the end of maximizing their profits, whether those are measured in financial terms or in terms of votes. There’s not a lot of breath spared for the notion that politicians are looking out for the concerns of their constituents — something that’s looked upon positively in other quarters — much less a consideration of the possibility that people are motivated because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s as though the moral dimension of the matter has dropped out of consideration for MSM coverage. Perhaps this is what happens in any economy that’s embattled, when its people go after one another’s goods.


CP 02.21.11 at 8:08 am

This new NYT story makes clearer the source of the confusion–the Republicans, naturally, combined with phony boasting from Dem operatives.


Steve LaBonne 02.21.11 at 2:39 pm

…combined with phony boasting from Dem operatives.

Sigh, if Democratic Party involvement has any effect it’ll probably be to screw things up.

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