Wis. blame game begins

Did National Dems leave the state hanging? Plus: Rick Scott's voter purges stall; and Friday's other top stories

Published June 1, 2012 12:11PM (EDT)

- Bill Clinton jumps into Wisconsin recall: The former president is the highest-profile Democrat yet to stump for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), just days before Tuesday’s recall election against governor Scott Walker. The results will no doubt be viewed as an omen of what’s to come in November.

In the final debate last night, the candidates exchanged harsh words over “the state’s jobs situation, Milwaukee’s crime statistics, an ongoing criminal investigation that has led to the arrests of some former Walker aides and associates, and, most of all, over the topic that had brought them here, collective bargaining rights.”

While the conventional wisdom has Walker winning, another internal Barrett poll sent to reporters shows a tight race with Walker at 50 percent and Barrett at 48. The survey, in the field Tuesday and Wednesday, found Barrett leading 56-42 among people who did not vote in 2010.

- Union head thinks calvary never came: Meanwhile, the head of AFSCME, the giant public-sector union, said national Democrats didn’t do enough to help Barrett. “We think that there could have been more responsibility, more work on behalf of the national Democratic Party. I think the Democratic Party in Wisconsin did basically everything that they could and can … I think that did hurt a little bit,” the union’s president, Gerry McEntee said at a book signing, The Hill reports.

McEntee is one of the highest-level officials to make the charge, which has been bubbling in Wisconsin for months. National Democrats are very sensitive to the claim and argue they’ve put more money into the recall than any other gubernatorial contest in recent history.

It’s hard to say if the sniping, just days before what many expect to be a loss for labor and Dems, is merely each side trying to pass the blame and cover their own hides, or if the unions have a point. Either way, it could strain relations between national Democrats and labor, who have been a relatively happy couple for the past year.

- Rick Scott’s war on voters hits a snag:
A federal judge declared a Florida law that restricts voter registration efforts "harsh and impractical" yesterday. The law, part of Governor Rick Scott’s (R) wider crackdown on voting rights, required groups conducting voter registration drives to turn in forms within 48 hours of collecting them, making it impossible for them to use the mail, and imposed steep fines for even accidental violations. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote had pulled out of the state and challenged the law in court.

“Florida’s law and others approved in the past year represent the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. Today’s decision will help turn the tide,” said Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice, which helped litigate the case.

Scott has also been controversially purging the voter rolls in the state, allegedly to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting, but hundreds of eligible voters have been ensnared as well. Scott continued the effort undeterred, even after his former secretary of state resigned, reportedly in protest of the crackdown. The purges have disproportionately affected people of color and Democrats.

- The Justice Department is stepping in: A top lawyer in the civil rights division recently sent Florida state officials a letter warning they are apparently in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The letter also questioned the validity and methodology of the seemingly random purges. “We are particularly concerned about the impact of this election year’s voter removal practice on eligible voters of color protected under the Voting Rights Act, given Florida’s documented history of erroneous, discriminatory purges in the past,” the May 17 letter, first reported today, warned.

- Ex-justice slams justices on Citizens United: Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens blasted his former colleagues this week over their ruling in the now-infamous Citizens United case, saying it gave disproportionate power to deep-pocketed interests. "It will be necessary to explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection for some nonvoters than that of other nonvoters,” he said.  Stevens, speaking at the University of Arkansas, said, "the five conservatives who gave corporations greater power in the name of free speech may now be rethinking, even regretting, their decision, based on related cases since that 2010 decision,” CNN reports.

- Fox & Friends ad-man loses job offer at CNN: The New York Times’s Jeremy Peters reports that the Fox News producer behind a blatantly partisan (and partially phony) four-minute video has “found his career on ice.” “The producer, Chris White, had been offered a job by CNN before the video was broadcast. But on Thursday, a CNN spokeswoman said that the network would not be hiring him.” Meanwhile, his fate at Fox -- which publicly refuted the video in a very rare correction -- “is unclear.”

- Ignore the polls for the next couple of months: University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato points out on his blog that June polls are basically worthless: “Over the past eight elections, Gallup — the most recognizable of polling organizations — has only identified the eventual popular vote winner twice in its early June horse-race polling.” Enjoy your summer and ignore the polls.

- Buddy Roemer calls it quits: Colorful former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, a Republican who fell in love with the Occupy movement, announced yesterday that he was giving up his quixotic presidential bid, citing a lack of ballot access. That leaves pro-pot Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson as the only potentially significant third-party candidate left in the race.

- Another failure for the anti-corruption unit: Federal prosecutors haven’t said if they’ll retry former presidential candidate John Edwards after his case ended in mistrial yesterday, but the conclusion was that it was another high-profile failure for the Justice Department’s public integrity section, “a once-vaunted watchdog that has been trying to rebuild itself after its botched prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens four years ago.”

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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