Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Wisconsin Supremes reinstate Walker’s union-busting law

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Norm Coleman cleared; outdoor issues in limbo; disclosure rules on corporate cash debated; Block Party boycott heats up; and buyers snap up foreclosures.
Read Tuesday Afternoon Edition


And now it’s back in. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s move to strip certain state employees of virtually all of their collective bargaining rights. Patrick Marley and Don Walker of the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal report: “The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices — Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks — concurred in part and dissented in part. The opinion voided all orders in the case from the lower court. It came just before 5 p.m., sparing Republicans who control the Legislature from taking up the contentious issue of collective bargaining again. … The legal fight over Walker’s plan will continue on other fronts. Two other lawsuits are already pending, and ‘numerous’ others are expected, according to Madison attorney Lester Pines, who represented Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) in the case the Supreme Court decided Tuesday. The other cases challenge the law on other grounds, rather than on open meetings violations. The justices issued their order just one week after hearing oral arguments that lasted more than 5 hours, making them the longest in memory if not state history, attorneys said.”

The lawyer hired by former Sen. Norm Coleman to investigate the question of whether a supporter funneled money to Coleman by paying his wife … has decided there is nothing to see here, folks. Brandt Williams’ MPR story says: “[Former FBI director Louis] Freeh, who is a private lawyer, was retained by [Nasser] Kazeminy to conduct one of the investigations. Freeh says he conducted a thorough probe into the relationship between Kazeminy and Coleman. ‘And we concluded after that investigation, that the allegations — particularly the allegation of the $100,000 payment — was baseless and false,’ he said. Freeh says the Justice Department also investigated, and declined to file any criminal charges.”

Over at the conservative Weekly Standard, no time was wasted in asserting the Kazeminy business was what put Al Franken in his current job. John MacCormack writes: “It’s possible that the allegations against Coleman handed victory to Al Franken, who ended up winning the seat by a razor-thin margin of a few hundred votes during a contentious recount process. On October 28, 2008, just before the election, Paul McKim, a former business partner of Kazeminy, filed a lawsuit in Texas court against Kazeminy and then went to the press with the allegations.”

Our Doug Grow adds: “So Coleman and Kazeminy were innocent of criminal conduct? Yes, says Freeh, who was hired by Kazeminy to conduct what he called a thorough investigation. Freeh was quick to add that another firm, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, reached the same conclusion. And he also said that a U.S. Department of Justice and FBI probe also ended months ago with no criminal charges. That the Department of Justice never announced that its investigation was over is not surprising, Freeh said. The department seldom announces when it’s beginning or ending an investigation. … But clean slates? There’s much that doesn’t pass the good-judgment test. Kazeminy did give Coleman and his family more than $100,000 in gifts over the years, dating back to when Coleman was mayor of St. Paul (1993-2001). Included in the gifts were Neiman Marcus suits the businessman gave to his friend. ‘There was no quid pro quo in the gifts,’ said Freeh.” So keep it moving, people.

Strib outdoors guy Dennis Anderson files his thoughts on the shutdown’s impact on state parks: “Republicans in particular are already skating on thin ice with many conservationists and parks and trails advocates. The past session, fruitless generally as it was, saw considerable meddling in the affairs of fish and game management by committee chairs who in some cases didn’t even take testimony on controversial policy and finance issues. Not least was the fiasco that awarded 150 million gallons a year of Poplar River water to Lutsen Mountain management on the North Shore, a transaction that could occur at the expense of steelhead and brook trout. It won’t be forgotten as well that a year’s worth of public input and policy development intended to slow or thwart the spread of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota is to a large degree put on hold until the budget issue is resolved. Additionally, the veto by Dayton of the game and fish bill sent a few good policy moves either into a waste basket or, more optimistically, into a holding pattern, perhaps to be resurrected in a special session.”

With ballot measures like the gay marriage referendum likely to draw in corporate money, Sasha Aslanian of MPR reports on the delay in voting on full-disclosure rules. “The state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has delayed a vote on whether corporations that contribute to ballot measure campaigns have to disclose large individual donors. … In a special hearing Tuesday, the board heard testimony from Minnesotans for Marriage, a group that supports the constitutional amendment. Under the proposed rule change, if Minnesotans for Marriage got a contribution of more than $5,000 from the Minnesota Family Council, the Minnesota Family Council would have to reveal the names of donors who gave $1,000 or more as part of that contribution. Such disclosure could lead to reprisals like the threats and vandalism that happened in California in 2008 over Proposition 8 — also a ban on same-sex marriage, said Tom Prichard, executive director of the Minnesota Family Council.”

The Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey says: “The Minnesota Family Council and Minnesota for Marriage argued that the opinion should stand. To argue their case, the groups brought in a lawyer from Indiana law firm Bopp, Coleson, & Bostrom. The firm was part of the Citizens United case, has done work for national anti–abortion rights groups as well as Focus on the Family, and its representative on Tuesday, Josiah Neeley, is a former clerk for Roger Vinson, District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, the judge who ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Neeley argued that because corporations are considered legal persons, they are exempt from disclosing donations to a ballot campaign, unlike associations, which do have to disclose. ‘Corporations are separate legal entities, they are legal persons,’ argued Neeley. ‘A corporation does not fall into the definition of association.’ ” Oh dear, we really should have those nice Exxon/Mobils over for dinner some time. They are such interesting legal persons.

The Basilica Block Party is under the gun what with the Catholic Church’s role in pushing the gay marriage referendum. Marianne Combs at MPR writes: “When Minneapolis photographer Jason Wermager sent out a Facebook ‘invite’ to 200 or so of his friends to ‘Say NO to the Basilica Block Party’ his goal was simply to raise awareness. On the event description he writes:

This was created to take a stand and let organizations, businesses and other groups know that it is NOT OK to support those that do not support equality and want to change the MN State Constitution to ban gay marriage. To make a real change, we need to start taking action now. Do not wait until you vote in 2012. The Minnesota Catholic Church has made it their number 1 priority to define marriage in the State Constitution between one man and one woman, in tern, banning gay marriage. The Catholic Church has already spent millions of dollars in the production of Anti-Gay DVDs and lobbying the State Legislature to add this hateful amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. Please do not attend the Basilica Block Party this year. Please do not contribute money to a Catholic Church fundraiser while they are spending millions of dollars to write discrimination into the MN constitution. I also encourage you to contact the bands and stage sponsors. This is the time to get peoples attention, sponsors and businesses attention. Cities 97 is the main co-sponsor of the event, contact them as well.

So far, he has 3,500 people agreeing to boycott.

Why are people snapping up foreclosures here faster than almost anywhere else in the country? Strib real estate watcher Jim Buchta writes: “Clear Capital’s director of research and analytics, Alex Villacorta, offers an interesting theory. He says that the region’s high saturation rate has more to do with buyer appetite than it does the overall health of the market. Specifically, investors and first-time buyers see a tremendous opportunity to buy in the Twin Cities because prices are low, economic fundamentals are improving and demand for rentals has strengthened at a time when supplies are particularly tight. The vacancy rate in the Twin Cities metro area fell by half to a little more than 3 percent in the Twin Cities metro during the first quarter, according to Marquette Advisors. And the homeownership rate is expected to continue falling. So because those investors and first-time buyers tend to target low-priced distressed sales, they’re increasing the overall share of bank-owned sales well beyond demand by move-up buyers who tend to focus on traditional listings.” … Which is almost exactly what I was thinking.