Monday, October 31, 2016

Boone County’s new budget

 

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

October 31, 2016

Dear Editor of The Rhubarb,

The Boone County Special Finance, Taxation and Salaries Committee met on October 24, 2016 and brainstormed ways to plug the $1,900,000 deficit in the 2017 budget. Many revenue ideas, proposed cuts and other ideas were noted on a large whiteboard. Any and all ideas were to be included. Nothing was discussed at great length or any decisions made. One idea generated during the first meeting was an across the board 2-3% cut in the budget. That line left me wondering why it did not read 12%, closer to what is needed to balance the budget.

The same committee met on October 27, 2016. This three and half hour meeting included crossing many of the items off of the white board, moving some to a future ideas board, and several items were notated that more information was needed. Just before adjourning the meeting, the county administrator was asked to prepare what he did last year, a proposal of sorts. He asked what they wanted in the proposal and was told the public safety sales tax revenue.

It became quite clear that these two budget meetings were nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Using the estimated $1,400,000 of public safety sales tax revenue just happened to leave a deficit that can be eliminated with an across the board cut of ……2-3%. Wow, what are the odds?

It is no surprise that these same people voted to eliminate the end date of 2018 from this tax as they spend every dime in revenue. Now is time to reduce our expenses!

The next Boone County Special Finance, Taxation and Salaries Committee meeting is November 2, 2016 6:30pm 1212 Logan Ave. in the county board room.

http://www.boonecountyil.org/…/special-finance-committee-me…

William Randall
Candidate for County Board Dist.
1

Photos provided by William Randall III.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Diane Hendricks, the richest woman in Wisconsin, has pumped nearly $5.5 million into a conservative super PAC

 

 

Wisconsin’s richest woman uses super PAC to denounce Clinton, Feingold

Michael Beckel

October 28, 2016

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Diane Hendricks, the richest woman in Wisconsin, has pumped nearly $5.5 million into a conservative super PAC that’s spending millions of dollars on attack ads in her home state.

The Reform America Fund has raised almost $5.9 million since it was launched in July 2015, meaning Hendricks accounts for 93 percent of its war chest.

Since mid-September, the super PAC has spent $3.4 million on ads critical of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and another $2.2 million lambasting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold, who’s in the midst of a rematch with incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

According to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, the Reform America Fund has aired about 2,400 anti-Clinton ads in Wisconsin — accounting for roughly 55 percent of all presidential-focused ads in the state since the primaries ended.

No other group has been as big a player on the TV airwaves in Wisconsin in the presidential race.

This story is part of Source Check. Click here to read more stories in this series.

Don't miss another Politics investigation: Sign up for the Center for Public Integrity's Watchdog email.

The ads’ messages

On its website, the Reform America Fund says Clinton — a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady — “simply can’t be trusted.”

It’s a message the super PAC has hit repeatedly in its TV and digital ads at a time when Clinton has been battling criticisms of potential pay-to-play politicking, foreign influence peddling and mishandling of classified emails.

“C is for Clinton, whose campaign is sliding,” a narrator states in one of the group’s ads. “And C’s for the classified emails she’s hiding.”

The theme of a second ad was “C is for cover-up.” While a third anti-Clinton spot accused Clinton of selling access to foreign governments as secretary of state.

A second website operated by the Refund American Fund allows people to share various “C is for Clinton” memes online.

Who’s behind it?

Hendricks, co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply, the largest wholesale distributor of roofing in the United States, is well known in GOP circles.

Before supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this year, she backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s failed presidential campaign.

Hendricks donated $5 million to a super PAC that supported Walker — about one-fifth of the group’s overall receipts.

In May, Hendricks was named a vice chairwoman of the Trump Victory committee. Since then, she’s donated $212,700 to the joint fundraising group that benefits Trump’s campaign as well as the Republican National Committee and several state parties.

Among her other notable political contribution this election: Hendricks has donated $4 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund, the super PAC backed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. And she gave $400,000 to the committee that hosted the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

Money in

As a super PAC, the Reform America Fund may collect unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and labor unions — so long as it doesn’t coordinate its spending with candidates’ own campaigns.

In addition to Hendricks, who also serves on Trump’s economic policy council, several other Midwestern business executives rank among Reform America Fund’s top donors.

Among them: FABCO Equipment CEO Jere Fabick, who's given $150,000; TAMKO Building Products CEO David Humphreys, who's given $100,000; and Uline CEO Richard Uihlein, who's given $100,000.

Don't miss another Politics investigation: Sign up for the Center for Public Integrity's Watchdog email.

Money out

In addition to the $5.6 million that the Reform America Fund has already spent directly attacking Clinton and Feingold, the super PAC has also transferred about $740,000 to a related super PAC called the Reform Wisconsin Fund. That money has been spent on additional anti-Feingold ads in Wisconsin’s Senate race.

Why it matters

Wisconsin’s Senate seat is hotly contested, with Johnson in danger of losing to Feingold, who has maintained a modest lead in recent polls.

The winner of this seat could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate come January.

Wisconsin is also a state Trump has hoped to wrest away from Clinton, who’s currently leading in the polls there.

Moreover, super PACs like the Reform America Fund make it easy for wealthy individuals with political passions to become more involved.

Hendricks, herself, has expressed a desire for Wisconsin to turn into a “completely red” state.

Such motivated megadonors often make it onto politician’s radars.

Earlier this month, at a campaign event in Wisconsin, Trump himself praised Hendricks, who was in attendance, as “amazing” and called her one of the state’s “great successful people.”

Above is from:  https://www.yahoo.com/news/wisconsin-richest-woman-uses-super-192357574.html

What the Illinois comptroller race is really about

 

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Crain's illustration

Crain's illustration

Both are self-made women. Both say that in this time of fiscal trouble, Illinois needs an independent watchdog as its chief financial officer. And both claim to be that person.

Yet for most voters, the contest for Illinois comptroller between appointed GOP incumbent Leslie Munger and the Democratic challenger, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, isn't so much about them as it is about two men: Bruce Rauner and Mike Madigan.

Call it the battle of the surrogates. Though there are plenty of good issues to debate in the contest for comptroller, the election fundamentally is a test of strength between the strongwilled GOP governor and the equally stubborn Democratic speaker of the Illinois House.

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger - AP

Photo by AP Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger

Munger, 60, who got the job when then-Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka died shortly after winning re-election in 2014, hails from Joliet. A University of Illinois graduate, she ran the domestic hair-care business at Helene Curtis under CEO Ron Gidwitz, who also was the state's top GOP fundraiser. She ran, unsuccessfully, for state representative in the northern suburbs in 2014.

"I feel we've been fighting for Illinois' financial future," she says. "I've been working very hard to bring fiscal responsibility."

Mendoza, 44, was a soccer star at Bolingbrook High School and Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State), where she earned a degree in business administration. Her political activity goes back almost that far: Elected a state representative from a Back of the Yards district at age 28, she served into her sixth term before becoming Chicago city clerk.

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza - AP

Photo by AP Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza

"This race is about getting people to elect an independent truth teller," she says. "The question is, who will focus on the fiscal health of the state?"

While both meet the qualifications for being the state's chief bill payer, whether either qualifies as independent is debatable. In fact, each has plenty of ammunition against the other, and both are firing away.

Mendoza points out that Munger not only was appointed by Rauner but has allowed her campaign fund to "launder" big contributions from top Rauner allies, transferring $3 million to the Illinois Republican Party within days of receiving $5 million from Ken Griffin and Richard Uihlein. The move was intended to help Rauner circumvent campaign donation caps, since the money was parceled out by the state party to other candidates, Mendoza suggests.

Munger replies that she just was following rules written by Democratic lawmakers in an effort to create "a level playing field" with Madigan's candidates.

Mendoza, in turn, was a loyal Madigan partisan in the House, accepted a salary for being a state lawmaker and a city planning official simultaneously, and gained when the speaker helped ease another Democrat out of the comptroller's race, Sen. Dan Biss. ("I made a judgment she has a level of support," Biss says. "There's no question [Madigan] was a crucial supporter of hers.")

Mendoza replies that she was careful not to accept a city salary for days in which she was in Springfield on state business. Records she supplied indicate she gave back roughly a third of her city pay in most years but still earned $114,000 combined in 2008. Mendoza also says she originally won office by twice having to overcome Madigan-backed candidates.

In fairness, both have shown streaks of independence. Munger, for instance, bucked Rauner on withholding union dues. Mendoza was an early advocate of impeaching then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Still, I suspect most voters, after seeing the smear ads on TV, have figured out that more is at stake on Nov. 8 than electing the better finance manager.

Whoever wins likely has a bright future—comptroller is one of the better steppingstones to higher office in Illinois. But first, she has to win. For those who can't wait for Rauner's presumed re-election race in 2018, consider this contest a foretaste.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20161029/ISSUE05/310299991/munger-mendoza-race-for-illinois-comptroller-is-all-about-rauner

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Resolution opposing the Great Lakes Basin railroad moves to county board

 

By Sabrina Bennett

Posted: Wed 9:06 PM, Oct 26, 2016

ROCKFORD,Ill. (WIFR) -- Folks living inside the Winnebago County lines are feeling some relief tonight as the Winnebago County zoning committee unanimously approves a resolution opposing the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

Several of the zoning committee members at tonight's meeting said this is the most calls, texts, and snail mail in opposition they've received on any issue they've ever come across.

"It's important for us to listen to our constituents and they want to her from us, that's why we get elected. When something happens you turn to your leaders, most people do and say what are you going to do about this. Can you help me," said Winnebago County board member Jim Webster.

The matter will now go to county board and will need to get approval there tomorrow night. Winnebago county residents are the latest to oppose the 261 mile railroad that hopes to relieve congestion and allow railroads to better handle traffic from Chicago.

There is expected to be crowd participation at tomorrow nights county board meeting. The is one of six proposed routes submitted by developers to the surface transportation board which they are currently reviewing.

Mike Blasack an attorney for the Great Lakes Basin Railroad says the route still needs to go through an environmental study.

Both candidates running for Winnebago County board chairman Frank Haney and John Nelson oppose the project.

Above is from:  http://www.wifr.com/content/news/Resolution-Opposing-the-Great-Lakes-Basin-railroad-is-moving-to-398798941.html

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RRTimes: GLB Railroad promises false hopes and raises fears

 

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GLB Railroad promises false hopes and raises fears

October 25, 2016October 25, 2016 Staff 0 Comment

By Paul Gorski
Contributor

The Great Lakes Basin Railroad (GLBRR) is a rail line proposed by a private group that promises to relieve regional freight train congestion. This would be done by developing a new multi-state private rail line that bypasses Chicago and cuts across hundreds of acres of Illinois farmland, including some in western Winnebago County. Suffice to say, many of the landowners and villages in the path of the proposed rail line have serious doubts and concerns about sacrificing their property for a private, toll-based railroad. For good reason.

To those business professionals reading this, imagine someone asking you to partner with them: “I’d like to build this new product. I don’t have any experience building this product, I don’t have any customers signed up for the product, and my potential customers are already committed to using my competitor’s product.” You would say, “Sure, what do you need from me?” No, probably not. Nevertheless, that is what local leaders including Larry Morrissey, Scott Christiansen and Michael Dunn, Jr. agreed to in July of 2015. More on that later.

The sponsor of the GLBRR does not have much if any previous experience in rail transportation. Two of the six major railroads that might use the service have said they will not use it. The remaining four rail carriers have not supported the project. In addition, there is also at least one big project, the CREATE Program which is working to relieve rail congestion in northern Illinois. CREATE has the support and participation of the six major rail carriers in question.

Despite this, the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) stated its support for the GLBRR in its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan dated July 30, 2015. Among those leaders were: Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and RMAP Executive Director Michael Dunn Jr. The RMAP plan has big ideas for the sketchy GLBRR, hoping for rail connections to the Rockford airport.

The GLBRR project has been in the news recently because many local residents oppose the project because of its potential negative impact on the county. Fueling the fire, County Board Chairman candidates John Nelson and Frank Haney have come out on different sides of the debate. Nelson sides with the residents; Haney with the project. Well, sort of, depending on the day.

Haney has twisted and turned on his position regarding the GLBRR. First, he is for it, then he will wait until the environmental review, then he will take in under consideration, and now, apparently he might be against it. I cannot see how he can be against it. The GLBRR project has the support of his mentors: Larry Morrissey, Scott Christiansen and Michael Dunn Jr.

Haney is friends with, served on a college board with, and received campaign help from Dunn Jr. Dunn Jr. is also the son of Mike Dunn Sr., who heads the Rockford airport, which again, figures prominently in RMAP’s plan for the GLBRR. Funny how things like that turnout in this county.

Haney has some of the same big contributors as Christiansen, and has many of the same friends, advisors and campaign contributors as Morrissey. When push comes to shove on a final county board action on the GLBRR, who do you think Haney will side with: residents of Winnebago County; or his friends, family and the big money that put him in office? Follow the money.

Nelson has been consistent, siding with the concerned residents. Most of these residents are raising land use and environmental concerns. I say focus on the basic premise of the plan and the people offering up the plan. Who will use the rail line? Why would the rail carriers support this project and the multi-billion dollar CREATE Program?

I cannot help but feel this project raises the same false hopes the failed proposed ethanol plant did, which was to some people simply a scam, a scam that blinded many with the false promise of jobs and economic development.

The proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad raises legitimate fears and concerns. I encourage residents to continue asking their questions and demand more hearings on the project. Share this message with family, friends and neighbors. The local insiders supporting this plan will not stop or relent. You should not either.

Paul Gorski is a resident of Cherry Valley Township, Winnebago County and serves as a Cherry Valley Township Trustee. This article was written with Rock River Times publisher Frank Schier in mind.

Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2016/10/25/glb-railroad-promises-false-hopes-and-raises-fears/

NYT: Fearing Trump, Bar Association Stifles Report Calling Him a ‘Libel Bully’

 

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By ADAM LIPTAKOCT. 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee, said he was baffled by the bar association’s interference in the committee’s journal.

“It is more than a little ironic,” he said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”

In internal communications, the bar association’s leadership, including its general counsel’s office and public relations staff, did not appear to dispute the report’s conclusions.

 

But James Dimos, the association’s deputy executive director, objected to the term “libel bully” and other sharp language in the report, saying in an Oct. 19 email that the changes were needed to address “the legitimately held views of A.B.A. staff who are charged with managing the reputational and financial risk to the association.”

“While we do not believe that such a lawsuit has merit, it is certainly reasonable to attempt to reduce such a likelihood by removing inflammatory language that is unnecessary to further the article’s thesis,” Mr. Dimos wrote. “Honestly, it is the same advice members of the forum would provide to their own clients.”

Mr. Trump has made frequent threats in recent weeks to file more lawsuits, including ones against The New York Times for publishing parts of his tax returns and accounts of women accusing him of sexual misconduct. On Saturday, he threatened to sue the women themselves.

Members of the committee expressed dismay with the bar association’s actions.

“It’s colossally inappropriate for the A.B.A. to sponsor a group of lawyers to study free speech issues and at the same time censor their free speech,” said Charles D. Tobin, another former chairman of the committee.

Mr. Dimos did not respond to a request for comment. Carol Stevens, an A.B.A. spokeswoman and a former managing editor of USA Today, said the association had only minor and routine objections to the article’s tone.

“We thought it was an insightful article, and we asked them to consider minor edits,” she said.

George Freeman, a third former chairman of the forum, disputed that characterization.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say ‘minor edits,’ ” he said. “Among the edits they wanted to make were the title and the lede,” he said, using newspaper jargon for the article’s opening passage.

The article was titled “Donald J. Trump Is a Libel Bully but Also a Libel Loser.” The bar association’s proposed title was “Presidential Election Demonstrates Need for Anti-Slapp Laws.” The acronym stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. In states with such laws, defendants can sometimes seek early dismissal of libel and similar suits and recover their legal fees.

Mr. Freeman, a former lawyer at The New York Times Company, is executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, a trade association of law firms and media companies. On Friday, the center posted the report on its site [see note below to read the entire 12 page document]

Ms. Stevens, the bar association spokeswoman, emphatically denied that the fear of a libel suit had played any role in the association’s objections. Ms. Stevens declined to comment when she was read passages from Mr. Dimos’s email. “I’m not a lawyer,” she said, “and that wasn’t my fear.”

Presented with the email, which indicated that she had received it at the time, she pointed to a passage in it that raised another criticism of the study. “Mr. Dimos’s primary concern was the use of partisan language,” Ms. Stevens said. “By policy, the A.B.A. is strictly nonpartisan.”

The study was prepared by Susan E. Seager, a former journalist, a Yale Law School graduate and a longtime First Amendment lawyer. She found seven free speech-related lawsuits filed by Mr. Trump and his companies. They included ones against an architecture critic and his newspaper; a book author and his publisher; a political commentator; a former student at Trump University; two labor unions; a network executive; and a beauty contest contestant.

“It’s based on court records, all of it,” Ms. Seager said in an interview. The report includes 81 footnotes.

The report concluded that Mr. Trump had lost four suits, withdrawn two and obtained one default judgment in a private arbitration when a former Miss Pennsylvania failed to appear to contest the matter.

“Donald J. Trump is a libel bully,” the report concluded. “Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary.”

The bar association sought to eliminate that conclusion, which Ms. Seager said was the point of her report.

“I wanted to alert media lawyers that a lot of these threats are very hollow,” she said.

Ms. Seager said the bar association’s action showed that Mr. Trump’s threats work. “The A.B.A. took out every word that was slightly critical of Donald Trump,” she said. “It proved my point.”

Mr. Tobin said the media law committee, the Forum on Communications Law, had been prepared to publish the report without changes.

“Everyone who looked at it on the forum side felt her conclusions were well founded, were backed up by her scholarship and that the A.B.A. should not be censoring a First Amendment lawyer’s point of view about a current presidential candidate’s litigation tactics,” he said.

Mr. Freeman said the bar association’s actions were also at odds with its larger role. “As the guardian of the values of our legal system,” he said, “the A.B.A. should not stop the publication of an article that criticizes people for bringing lawsuits not to win them but to economically squeeze their opponents.”

Mr. Bodney said the country’s finest media lawyers had been ready to defend the bar association without charge had Mr. Trump chosen to sue.

“If push came to shove, as I recently told an A.B.A. representative, one could surely imagine top-notch libel lawyers standing in line to defend this article against a defamation lawsuit on a pro bono basis,” he said. “Evidently, that wasn’t assurance enough.”

Above is from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/us/politics/donald-trump-lawsuits-american-bar-association.html?_r=0

 

Ms. Seager’s 12 page research paper is available at: http://www.medialaw.org/images/stories/MediaLawLetter/2016/October/Trump_Libel.pdf

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why no one knows about the largest prison strike in U.S. history

The Week

 

Why no one knows about the largest prison strike in U.S. history

Jeff Spross10 hrs ago

 

 

Prisoners have been fighting for these rights for decades.© Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Newscom Prisoners have been fighting for these rights for decades.

Something remarkable has gone down in prisons across the country over the last few weeks.

On Sept. 9, the two-year-old Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) announced a nationally coordinated work stoppage and protest across American prisons. Organizers say there have been strikes at 29 prisons in 12 states — Virginia, Ohio, California, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Michigan, and more. "There are probably 20,000 prisoners on strike right now, at least, which is the biggest prison strike in history, but the information is really sketchy and spotty," the IWOC's Ben Turk toldThe Intercept last month.

This new round of protests was meant to commemorate the 1971 takeover of Attica prison, which was brutally put down by the New York state government and its troopers. Just as the uprising of Attica's prisoners was in protest of abuse, racism, and abysmal prison conditions, the new wave of prison strikes has its own grievances: Mass incarceration, three-strikes laws, abusive and dismal conditions — but above all, prison labor.

By some estimates, the prison labor economy brings in $2 billion annually, and employs 900,000 people or more. The labor is often used by state governments to offset costs in their own budgets, and many companies — including IBM, Boeing, Microsoft, AT&T, and Macy's — either currently make use of prison labor or have in the past. At Perry Correctional Institution in South Carolina, for example, where TheNew Yorkerspoke with a striking inmate, the work can range from furniture manufacturing to kitchen duties, landscaping, and janitorial jobs. Across the nation, inmates make clothes, laundry supplies, name plates, park equipment, and food equipment, renovate buses, repair tires, and more.

Supporters of prison labor argue that these work programs give inmates structure and a sense of meaning and purpose — along with increasing their chances of finding employment when they're released. And indeed, there's some research to back up those claims.

The problem, critics say, is that inmates are required to work. They don't have a choice in the matter, and they're often punished (sometimes with solitary confinement) for refusing to work. Prisoners have essentially no way to argue for better compensation or better working conditions. And while inmates are ostensibly supposed to be paid prevailing wages, reality often falls far short of that. Fees, taxes, and deductions eat into inmates wages: everything from deductions for victims' compensation or restitution funds, child support, co-pays for medical treatment, or even to cover the overhead costs of the very work-release programs that give inmates the jobs in the first place. Actual pay at federal prisons runs from 12 to 40 cents an hour, and at state prison systems, sometimes the inmates are paid nothing.

It would cost prison systems hundreds of millions more each year to pay all their inmates minimum wage. Hence the enormous incentive to get by on paying the inmates a pittance. But it's also the strikers' source of leverage: At this point, the prison systems can't operate without their (nearly free) labor.

Almost two-thirds of the prisoners who work under these conditions are not white, versus just 30 percent of the American population as a whole that's non-white. The IWOC has clearly connected the dots between modern prison labor and America's shameful past use of slavery: "Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished," the union's announcement read. "They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes, and investigating our bodies as though we are animals."

Getting solid information on the scale and nature of the strikes is difficult, since prison officials can maintain pretty tight control over the information that gets out of their facilities. The Department of Corrections, not surprisingly, has denied that any work stoppages are occurring. Inmates themselves, along with their families and the IWOC, had to coordinate their activities via mail, stealth conference calls, lawyers and advocates, social media, online forums, and the occasional smuggled cell phone.

Prison strikes have a mixed record of success, and this round may already be winding down. If they don't break through now, organizers hope to boycott the outside world — namely, the companies that rely on prison labor.

It's sort of the point of the American incarceration system to consign people to oblivion; to remove them from our shared social life as punishment for their crimes. But that's also what makes it so hard to show the outside world — or get it to care — when prisoners are the ones being victimized.

Above is from:  http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/why-no-one-knows-about-the-largest-prison-strike-in-us-history/ar-AAj5csg?li=BB13Rnn&ocid=spartandhp

Joe Sosnowski faces challenger Angelique Bodine for 69th state House seat

 

By Chuck Sweeny
Staff writer

ROCKFORD — The 69th District state House race features a three-term incumbent Republican fighting to retain his seat against a Democratic political newcomer. The district takes in part of Rockford's east side, Boone County and part of Ogle County.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, is a native of Hanover Park and a graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. He was a DeKalb alderman from 1999 to 2003. In 2005, he was elected First Ward alderman in Rockford and re-elected in 2009. Sosnowski was elected to the state House in 2010. He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014.

Sosnowski, 39, works for Rockford Christian Schools, where he is director of advancement.

Angelique Bodine, 44, is a native of Great Bend, Kansas, who lives in Poplar Grove. She is employed by First Student, a privately owned school bus service, where she is a member of the Emergency Response Team. She is a graduate of Rock Valley College and the University of Illinois Chicago.

Joe Sosnowski

Age: 39
Political affiliation: Republican
Residence: Rockford

Occupation: Director of advancement at Rockford Christian Schools

 

 

Angelique Bodine

Age: 44

Political affiliation: Democrat

Residence: Poplar Grove

Occupation: Emergency Response Team member for First Student, a privately owned school bus service.

 

Bodine backs a number of reforms, including the Illinois Anti-Corruption Act, which would prevent former legislators from being lobbyists for five years, provide for publicly funded campaigns and limit the influence of special interests.

She supports term limits and supports the ongoing effort to reform the way state legislative districts are drawn, a job now done by state Democratic Party leader and House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Bodine said "it takes courage" to go against leadership, but said she's up to the task.

Bodine also supports a graduated income tax, because "with the flat tax of 3.75 percent, that has a greater impact on people at the lower end of the spectrum. Those who can pay more have an obligation to pay."

Bodine said she would work to create jobs and improve funding for education, "bring rail service to Rockford, and open the door to new industrial and agricultural opportunities in our area."

Sosnowski supports Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to reduce spending and reform workers' compensation laws, bring down Illinois' property taxes, which are the highest in the U.S., and pass a balanced budget. These things, Sosnowski said, will make Illinois friendlier to job-creating businesses.

"We also need to give institutions, like universities, freedom to operate without state mandates, and give municipalities flexibility in how they employ people," he said.

On the state income tax, Sosnowski said, "I'm open to looking at the rate, but remember, we raised nearly $30 billion in revenue when the rate was raised (temporarily) to five percent, but we didn't fix or reform anything. We've got to fix our pensions, get spending in line, otherwise you're just throwing more money at the problem."

Sosnowski said that Madigan is so entrenched that "we probably won't be able to show him the door, but hopefully we will have more Republican legislators so we can reach compromise. That's all we need to reform spending and the way we operate." Democrats currently have super-majorities in both the House and Senate, rendering Republicans powerless.

Sosnowski's campaign took in $28,005 from July 1 through Sept. 30, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Most of that money came from business political action committees or individual businessmen. His campaign spent $25,045 in the same period. Bodine's campaign spent $5,658 during that period.

Her campaign raised $10,843 from July 1 through Sept. 30, with most itemized contributions coming from union PACs. Since Sept. 30, she has received $1,000 from the Ogle County Democratic Central Committee and office space in Belvidere worth $2,350 from Poon & Le LLC.

Chuck Sweeny: 815-987-1366; csweeny@rrstar.com;@chucksweeny

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/news/20161023/joe-sosnowski-faces-challenger-angelique-bodine-for-69th-state-house-seat

Rauner spends Huge on 2016 election

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The latest influx comes after Rauner’s campaign fund about a week earlier sent $3 million to Durkin, to be funneled to individual Republican House campaigns.

Durkin’s campaign fund also benefited from a $3 million donation Friday from billionaire hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin, a Rauner ally.

All told, Rauner, his family and his campaign fund have doled out $45.8 million in political contributions this year. Of the $29 million the Illinois Republican Party has raised this year, nearly $21 million has come from Rauner and $4 million this month through Durkin’s campaign fund.

It's the latest spate of spending for Rauner, who became wealthy as an equity investor. In his 2014 win over then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, Rauner spent more than $65 million, including $27.6 million in personal funds.

With Madigan now Rauner's target, Durkin’s campaign fund has collected nearly $18 million this year, $12 million from Rauner and $5 million from Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citade

Griffin on Friday also wrote an additional $2 million check to Republican Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, who is seeking election to the office against Democratic Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza.

Like the battle for legislative seats, the statewide contest between Munger and Mendoza for the comptroller’s office is similarly viewed as a proxy war for Rauner and Madigan. Munger was appointed to serve as comptroller by Rauner following the death of Judy Baar Topinka.

Munger has raised $8.6 million for the special election, mainly from five sources: $5 million from Griffin; $2 million from conservative GOP donor Richard Uihlein; $1 million from Rauner’s campaign; $260,000 from a loan from Munger’s husband, John; and $120,500 from the state Republican Party.

All other sources to her campaign added up to $267,997, records showed.

Mendoza, a former state lawmaker, has raised just more than $2 million for her campaign. The state Democratic Party, which Madigan chairs, provided $150,000; a number of labor unions have contributed as well.

All told, Griffin has made more than $11.1 million in donations this year — $5 million apiece to Durkin and Munger, and $1 million to the Liberty Principles political action committee that is allied with Rauner in several GOP legislative campaigns.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rauner-pours-in-nearly-46-million-in-bid-to-cut-madigan-s-power-20161022-story.html

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What has expanded video gambling done to Illinois?

 

The Rock River Times

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News State News

What has expanded video gambling done to Illinois?

October 20, 2016October 20, 2016 Editorial Staff 0 Comment

By Phil Ciciora
U of I News Bureau Business and Law Editor

John W. Kindt, an emeritus professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois, is a leading national gambling critic who has testified before Congress and the Illinois state Legislature about the societal, business and economic impacts of decriminalizing gambling. Kindt is the senior editor of the book “The Gambling Threat to Economies and Financial Systems: Internet Gambling.” He spoke with News Bureau business and law editor Phil Ciciora about the expansion of video gambling in Illinois, which has mushroomed to over 24,000 machines operating in more than 5,600 establishments throughout the state.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, video gambling has generated more than $811 million in state and local tax revenue since the first machines were legalized for widespread use four years ago. In a state starved for new tax revenue, what’s so bad about video gambling? And what’s not to like about additional tax revenue?

The state of Illinois has more electronic gambling devices than Nevada. Think about that for a second. But the worst part is that Illinois has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, tax rates on video gambling machines. Under the 2009 Video Gaming Act, the machines’ owners and operators take 70 percent of the revenues, while the state treasury receives only 25 percent and local governments only 5 percent.

So state coffers may have been fattened by $811 million during that four-year period, but the owners and operators walked away with $2 billion to $2.4 billion, which the state treasury could have and should have received.

To extrapolate to another level, those numbers only represent a fraction of the total number of dollars wagered on video gambling machines in Illinois. According to video gaming revenue reports from the Illinois Gaming Board, since September 2012, gamblers have wagered almost $34 billion on video gambling machines. That is truly a staggering sum. For context, Illinois’ general funds revenue in fiscal year 2015 totaled $36.6 billion.

Basic economic principles dictate that gambling cannibalizes the consumer economy, reduces overall tax revenues and, most importantly, destroys the economic multiplier effect. The nearly $34 billion that was wagered over those four years could have been much more profitably spent in the consumer economy – on houses, automobiles, appliances, food and clothing. From the average consumer’s point of view, gambling is akin to burning money in a fireplace.

The state of Illinois needs to become more business friendly, expand its consumer base and grow its economy. Which is why, via new taxes on gambling, it should immediately reclaim the billions of dollars owed to the state by gambling interests. The state’s future policy should be to tax gambling, not people.

I think we should follow the Canadian model, in which the government keeps virtually all of the income and only pays management fees to the casino companies. Otherwise, the state Legislature is just giving away billions of dollars to casino companies.

What role have the original casino licenses played in this situation?

The original 1990 legislation authorizing 10 casinos in Illinois granted casino licenses worth $5 billion at the time ($11 billion in current dollars) to political insiders for only $25,000 per license, including one insider who subsequently went to prison for corruption.

Years later, despite multiple warnings about these giveaways of casino licenses to insiders, two gambling expansion bills vetoed by then-Gov. Patrick Quinn raised these license fees to only $100,000 each – when their Wall Street values were and are hundreds of millions of dollars. In subsequent gaming expansion bills in 2013 and 2014, the Illinois Legislature again pegged the value of those casino gambling licenses at only $100,000 per license.

In 2003, financial expert Jeffrey Hooke of the Maryland Tax Foundation briefed the Illinois Legislature on the value of Illinois casino licenses. He cited numerous examples, including a 2002 offer of $615 million by MGM-Mirage Corp. for the Rosemont license; an offer of $750 million by the Illinois Argosy group for a suburban Cincinnati riverboat license; and a $660 million offer for a Detroit casino license.

The bottom line: Whether we like gambling or not, the state of Illinois is seriously undervaluing its casino licenses. It’s tantamount to a $7 billion to $14 billion giveaway to casino companies and gambling interests. In addition, the low tax rates on Illinois casinos since 1990 have resulted in more giveaways of $25 billion to $100 billion, all of which should have gone to the Illinois treasury.

Would a casino change the fortunes of the cash-strapped city of Chicago?

Absolutely not. The effect of bringing a casino to downtown Chicago would be second only to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 in terms of damaging the city. Illinois lawmakers envision a Chicago casino as a revenue jackpot, but it ignores the other reality: It could just as easily be a huge bust for the city and taxpayers.

Academic studies in the early 1990s concluded that a proposed $2 billion Chicago casino by three gambling companies would be a lose-lose for taxpayers. These rebuffed gambling interests took their sour grapes to Detroit, where they promised to save Detroit’s finances. Instead, in 2013, Detroit became the first major U.S. city to declare bankruptcy.

Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2016/10/20/what-has-expanded-video-gambling-done-to-illinois/

Chuck Sweeny: Great Lakes Basin railroad is good for region

 

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Chuck Sweeny: Great Lakes Basin railroad is good for region

 

Chuck Sweeny is senior editor for the Rockford Register Star and rrstar.com. RRSTAR.COM FILE PHOTO

Wednesday
Posted Oct 19, 2016 at 5:18 PM Updated Oct 20, 2016 at 12:36 AM
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Although opponents are lining up by the hundreds to object the railroad plan, our local civic, economic development and government leaders must speak up - in favor - of the endeavor because their silence, so far, is deafening.

By Chuck Sweeny
Staff writer

“This isn’t a railroad. It’s a tollway that (Great Lakes) wants to rent to train operators."

That's what an opponent of the Great Lakes Basin railroad said at a forum Tuesday at Winnebago High School, where hundreds of residents came to register their opposition to the proposed 261-mile rail bypass rail bypass around Chicagoland.

Yes, the protester I quoted is correct. Investors think they can make money by building a railroad from southern Wisconsin to northeast Indiana so that trains don't have to navigate through the congested Chicago region, where 1,200 freight, Metra and Amtrak trains travel each day on routes planned in the 19th century.

Freights sometimes take more than a day to get through the city. That time delay is crippling Illinois' ability to compete with other freight routes, including the newly expanded Panama Canal, which can handle the largest container ships afloat, reducing shipping rates.

Great Lakes, helmed by businessman Frank Patton, is betting it can make money by charging a fee to transcontinental railroads to reroute some of their trains on this bypass. In land transportation, time is money.

In the USA., we call what Great Lakes is doing "entrepreneurial capitalism." That is what built this country. The purpose of the railroad, the company says, "is to expedite freight movements across the U.S. and to provide additional capacity for growing railroad traffic throughout the entire Midwest." It's an $8 billion private project that uses no taxpayer dollars.

The protester I quoted is Dustin Kaap, who also said that people should write letters to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board pointing out the railroad's threat to farms, school bus routes and the environment.

I don't agree. Railroads are the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation, and take up far less space than an interstate highway, which features a right-of-way that is more than 100 yards wide.

There's nothing more efficient than steel wheels on steel rails. And I'll put up railroads' safety record against trucks any day of the week. However, people's impressions today are based on what they've seen on the news. So if they've heard about three train wrecks in the past year from coast to coast, they think trains are unsafe.

Let me break it to you: If it's on the news — it isn't normal. There are no breathless TV reporters rushing to break a story saying all 100 trains that came through Rochelle today did not crash into anything.

Nobody who lives along the railroad routes in Rochelle is panicking. Instead, they've taken advantage of their two, transcontinental rail lines by building a city-owned railroad to connect to them. You might call it "a tollway they want to rent to train operators."

Rochelle has convinced Fortune 500 companies that use rail to locate along the city-owned, privately operated railroad that connects two major transcontinental railroads. By charging a fee for switching freight cars between the BNSF and Union Pacific lines, the city earns $1 million a year from the line, while its new industries provide thousands of jobs to people in a six-county area. The city just got a federal grant to lengthen its railroad to expand capacity for more industrial expansion.

The Rockford area could take advantage of that kind of rail access, too, if the Great Lakes plan is approved by the Surface Transportation Board, which has the final say. One of the proposed routes would take the line around the south side of Chicago Rockford International Airport, which opens further prospects for industrial development.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is people who move to the country and expect to control property use for miles around. However, no one seems to protest developers who buy out willing farmers to turn the land into subdivisions and strip malls. To see a prime example of that, just look at the sprawl that has eaten thousands of farm acres that used to separate Roscoe, Rockton and South Beloit.

Yes, I'm for this project. This area needs economic development opportunities if we are to be able to support ourselves in the future. But if economic development groups, local government leaders and business leaders continue to remain silent, the noisy voices of the Citizens Against Virtually Everything will go unchallenged. Folks, your silence speaks volumes about your timidity.

Chuck Sweeny: 815-987-1366; csweeny@rrstar.com; @chucksweeny

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/news/20161019/chuck-sweeny-great-lakes-basin-railroad-is-good-for-region

No public hearing set yet for railroad route

 

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No public hearing set yet for railroad route

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 4:00 pm

By HILLARY GAVAN Senior staff writer beloitdailynews.com | 0 comments

BELOIT — Although opposition to the Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT)’s proposed rail route remains high in Rock and Winnebago counties, it’s unknown if that opposition will be taken into account by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in the form of a public hearing. As of Wednesday morning, no date had been set for a new hearing and public comment period.

According to an email from STB spokesperson Dennis Watson: “The Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) will update the public once a range of reasonable alternatives has been defined and will invite comment from the public on those alternatives prior to issuance of the Final Scope of Study. OEA will then prepare and issue a Final Scope of Study for the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, taking into consideration all comments received.”

However, Wisconsin Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said she’s concerned the opportunity to which the STB is referring will be a brief period for submittal of written comment and not public hearings.

“It is my contention that this new preferred route is so dramatically different from the route that was previously shared with the public, that in the interest of fairness to individuals and landowners who will be directly impacted, the STB must open a new public comment period, including a public hearing in or near the affected communities.”

However, Loudenbeck said she had some good news — the nine pages of written comments she submitted during the initial public comment period in June 2016 outlined potential impacts not just along the proposed route, but within all of eastern Rock and western Walworth counties.

“I think the STB will take those comments into consideration for the new route,” Loudenbeck said.

The letter is available at the following link: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/eupdates/asm31/GLB%20letter.pdf

Loudenbeck also wrote to the Surface Transportation Board requesting it re-open the public comment period on the new route on Sept. 28 along with Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, and Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville.

An anti-rail meeting held at Winnebago, Illinois, High School Tuesday attracted more than 200 people, according to Winnebago County Board member Jim Webster.

Webster said a number of people spoke including those from Boone and Ogle counties about the potential problems of the proposed rail line. Richard Beuth, president of the Winnebago/Boone County Farm Bureau, was in attendance as well as Winnebago County board member Faye Lion and Winnebago County Supervisor of Assessments Tom Walsh.

On Oct. 27, Webster said he pressed for a resolution against the railroad running through Winnebago County at the upcoming Winnebago County Board meeting to be sent to the President, federal legislators and state representatives.

“The STB is made up of three people from Washington, D.C. and are appointed by the President with the consent of the Congress,” Webster said. “Three people make a decision that can affect millions of people.”

The latest plan is for the GLBT rail line to run west of Beloit and not go through Boone County in Illinois as was originally planned. The line is proposed to extend from La Porte, Indiana, through Illinois to Milton, Wisconsin. The privately-funded $8 billion rail line is hoped relieve congestion and to allow railroads to better handle traffic from Chicago. Modern signaling and controls would allow for the movement of up to 110 trains daily, and transit times through the Chicago area would be reduced to under eight hours, as they can currently can take up to 30 hours to complete.

According to information from Great Lakes Basin, the route through Boone County was not "defeated." The railroad voluntarily found a different route to avoid some of the impacts identified by public comments in the scoping meeting and is expected to be more efficient. The amount of traffic going through Winnebago County is expected to be 8-12 trains a day, which averages out to less than one train every two hours, according to the company. Traffic impacts resulting from new crossings of low-traffic roads would be offset by reduced train frequency at roads crossing existing rail lines.

Above is from:  http://www.beloitdailynews.com/news/no-public-hearing-set-yet-for-railroad-route/article_e14602e2-9606-11e6-8069-372183dac295.html

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First new US nuclear reactor in 20 years enters operation

 

 

The HillThe Hill

 

First new US nuclear reactor in 20 years enters operation© Provided by The Hill First new US nuclear reactor in 20 years enters operation

The United States's first new nuclear generator in 20 years has entered commercial operation in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Valley Authority's 1,150-megawatt Watts Bar 2 reactor is officially online and producing electricity for to 650,000 homes and businesses, the company announced Wednesday.

Watts Bar 2 is the 100th nuclear reactor to operate in the United States, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the first new reactor to open in 20 years.

The reactor formally connected to the grid in June, but the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said Wednesday that it underwent testing and a slow ratcheting up of power before today.

With Watts Bar 2, the TVA has six nuclear units across its fleet.

"TVA's mission is to make life better in the valley by providing reliable, low-cost energy, protecting our area's natural resources and working to attract business and growth - all priorities simultaneously supported by the completion of Watts Bar Unit 2," TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement.

"Watts Bar Unit 2 is a key part of our commitment to produce cleaner energy without sacrificing the reliability and low cost that draws both industry and residents to our area."

The reactor is decades in the making.

Construction on the reactor began in 1973 but was put on hold in 1985. Officials restarted work on the project in 2007, and it was finally completed last year at a cost of $4.7 billion. It is the first reactor to meet stronger standards approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Four other nuclear reactors are under construction in the United States, and the federal Energy Information Administration expects them to go online within the next four years.

Above is from:  http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/first-new-us-nuclear-reactor-in-20-years-enters-operation/ar-AAj9te1?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartandhp

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lockbox Amendment Not The Right Route For Illinois By: BGA

 

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Think Tank

Taxes & Spending, Transportation

Lockbox Amendment Not The Right Route For Illinois

By: BGA

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On November 8, voters in Illinois will have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposed change to the state constitution. If passed, the “Safe Roads” or “Lockbox” Amendment will put all revenue raised from the state’s motor fuel tax, tollway charges, license and vehicle registration fees into a “lockbox,” also known as a protected fund. This means the revenue can only be spent on the operation and maintenance of public roads, bridges, intercity railways, airports, and many other things that are transportation-related.

While the maintenance of roads and other transportation infrastructure is important, the BGA doesn’t agree that a constitutional amendment is the right route. Amending the Illinois constitution to prioritize transportation funding can set a dangerous precedent that diminishes education, social services, healthcare and other important programs that impact the lives of all Illinois residents.

Below is a list of pro and con arguments the BGA referenced in determining our position.

Pros

  • In an analysis by the Metropolitan Planning Council, transportation investment has fallen by 40 percent and the percentage of roads in good condition has fallen from 90 percent to 79 percent.
  • The MPC also estimates that Illinois would have to appropriate an additional $43 billion in transportation funding over 10 years to erase the maintenance backlog and return the state’s infrastructure to good condition.

Cons

  • During a catastrophe or crisis, excess money in the protected fund wouldn’t be available to serve or assist with basic human needs.
  • The amendment could lead to constitutional mandates that restrict other spending categories to protected funds or “lockboxes.”
  • Legislators should be focusing on passing a clean budget, instead of protecting specific types of funding.
  • The amendment complicates our already struggling budget negotiations and benefits a specific industry.
  • The lockbox could restrict the use of new funds that might not be necessary for decades, including revenues from driverless cars and biking, which could decrease the need for road maintenance.

Who supports the Lockbox Amendment?

Democrats eye their own Koch brothers-style machine

 

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Democrats eye their own Koch brothers-style machine

Teddy Schleifer

By Theodore Schleifer, CNN

Updated 2:40 PM ET, Mon October 17

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN)Tom Steyer envies what Charles Koch built.

There's Koch's tens of millions of dollars, routed through a byzantine maze of outside groups, each with their own ideological tinge. There's his state-of-the-art software that pools the responses collected at thousands of doorsteps each day. And there's his sprawling network of activists, working outside the party system but fiercely committed to the vision pitched by their titan of industry.

    Steyer, a hedge fund manager whose main focus is fighting climate change, has none of that. But quietly, in neighborhoods like Milwaukee's Hispanic south side or in its working-class Polish suburbs, Democrats are replicating the fundamentals of the massive and powerful network assembled by GOP billionaires Charles and David Koch.

    Steyer spent $75 million in 2014 -- more than anyone else in the country -- on television spots. Democrats lost nearly every race. This year, armed with $60 million, Steyer and Democrats are copying the Kochs' strategy -- beginning with saying yes to issue-based canvassing, and no to gauzy ad buys.

    "What they must have observed as well," Steyer said in an interview, is that television "has a very ephemeral impact."

    This activity is critical if the Democrats are going to keep the White House and win back the Senate. Here and in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, Koch groups are working overtime to get Republicans to vote despite the fact Donald Trump is scaring some of those people away -- and opinion polls show their efforts are working.

    Steyer's vehicle: A new super PAC called For Our Future, which is trying to crack a chronic problem for Democrats: how to convince a seemingly endless cadre of niche Democratic interest groups, each with their own field programs, to work together. It's a question of trust as much as it is coordination.

    The Koch brothers and their donors funded a battery of complementary non-profit groups, such as the Libre Initiative for Latinos, Generation Opportunity for millennials and Americans for Prosperity, their flagship program. Similarly, Steyer and the dozen unions who are funding For Our Future issue grants to their own army of distinct organizations: Voces de la Frontera, a Hispanic community group; NextGen Climate, Steyer's environmentalist network; or the AFL-CIO, the massive federation of trade unions who have long been a bedrock of Democratic organizing.

    For Our Future is by no means as politically mature and or tactically proficient as the decades-old Koch network. The scale, though, impresses even Koch officials: For Our Future claims 900 paid canvassers -- just a few hundred less than the entire Koch network -- and knocked on their four millionth door of the cycle this weekend. And the organizing principles are nearly identical.

    Challenges in the Latino community

    Wisconsin, where Trump visits Monday, is a ripe target for these new organizing tactics by Democratic-oriented groups. The Badger State has gone Democratic in presidential races from 1988 on. But it's still at least a second-tier battleground state with electoral map targets by the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns still in flux. And there's a competitive Senate race in Wisconsin, too, as Republican incumbent Ron Johnson aims to stave off a return attempt by former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

    For Our Future was making a particularly aggressive push via canvasses and City Hall press conferences in recent days -- ahead of the opening weekend for early voting here in Milwaukee, when Democrats hoped to rush in low-propensity voters.

    Early voting kicks off in Iowa -- here&#39;s when and where you can vote early

    When and where to vote early

    Some of those targets: Latino voters, who dominate Milwaukee's south side. That's where Andrea Gomez, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Maria Ornelas, a recently laid-off manager at a dog-treat factory, paced for $15-an-hour a modest neighborhood home to the Mexican Independence Day parade and taco trucks parked alongside sedans.

    Few voters on a recent afternoon expressed any excitement about Clinton -- and many seemed downright dour about two uninspiring options, even if they had a special resentment for Trump.

    "She's the only one we have left," said Maria Ortega-Villa, as her two toddlers hugged her legs.

    "The best choice we have right now?" Ornelas asked, leaning down to speak with the kids in Spanish.

    "I guess," she replied.

    Neither Gomez nor Ornelas has much experience canvassing -- Gomez found the group circuitously through campus politics. Ornelas merely needed a job. And they rarely pitched Clinton with full fervor, passing up opportunities to sway the undecided and merely asking them to fill out a half-page "pledge cards" in which they commit to vote.

    Donned in Voces de la Frontera t-shirts and toggling quickly between English and Spanish, the canvassers present no connection to the big-money super PAC that funded their efforts.

    A low-tech labor effort

    Not 10 miles away, another Democratic group linked to the exact same super PAC executed a wildly different canvass operation.

    The tech was even more rudimentary for John Jacobs as he drove in a minivan from door to door in a quintessential Polish neighborhood, West Alilis, famous for its Christmas season decorations. He and his team hit doors on Saturday on behalf of the AFL-CIO — and they, too, had only a limited idea about how their work fed into the grand For Our Future plot.

    They did not have even basic tablets like Gomez or Ornelas -- they were using pen and paper to code responses, which some volunteer would painstakingly scan in later that night. They had no fancy literature, just black-and-white one-pagers on computer paper, which Jacobs would scribble on when leaving a "I missed you" note. There language was that of the labor movement when greeting a voter at a door -- frequently someone they knew personally from the union world.

    "We've got to rebuild stuff, you know?" said Brandon Jeske, a Clinton supporter coming to the door as his two kids bathed.

    "Infrastructure," Jacobs, an electrician for 22 years, nodding knowingly. "Being an ironworker, you know that."

    To Jacobs, it is "old-fashioned." To groups like the Kochs, it is antiquated.

    Their Republican role-models

    An hour north along Lake Michigan in the suburb of Sheboygan, Republican activists executed what Democratic activists aspire to.

    Armed with an iPad and a 10-year-old sidekick who rang the doorbells, Americans for Prosperity organizer Kayle Gabrielse bounced quickly from house to house, reading carefully off a script tested by Koch leadership and filing her data instantly back to headquarters. Unlike the Voces canvassers, Gabrielse is a veteran -- she has been doing paid canvass work since 2011.

    That's why while Wisconsin AFP head Eric Bott acknowledges some similarities between their tactics, he isn't worried about For Our Future. His canvassing science, he is certain, is more fine-tuned than the late-to-arrive forces on the left.

    "It's never a turnkey operation," Bott said. "I don't judge them to be a threat."

    One instructive example: deciding which network to use for their iPads' data service. They initially used AT&T, but discovered connection problems years ago -- so they switched to U.S. Cellular in remote western Wisconsin, and to Verizon for more populated areas.

    But even with Bott's more sophisticated operation, the message from the top still matters, and the Republican ticket is likely to lose in Wisconsin on Election Day.

    Trump touches down for a rally here in Wisconsin on Monday, but the is now trending badly away from him. And that was true even before a spate of allegations of sexual assault enveloped Trump's candidacy -- which is expected to tear into Trump's numbers with suburban women in places like Milwaukee's collar counties, even though no voters brought it up over three canvasses last week, and groups on both side of the aisle are steering clear.

    "I'm not sure it rearranges our priorities, but it rearranges our expectations," Steyer said. "Every single piece of evidence is just throwing a little more gasoline on fire... and then it just becomes a bonfire."

    Steyer's vision: Liberals United

    For Our Future is effectively a clearinghouse for its partners, a bank account, a data repository and a conflict mitigation expert all at once. Its goal is to run the closest thing there can be to a coordinated campaign among outside groups, cutting turf so that a unionist doesn't have his door-knocked by a bilingual immigration activist, and so that a Mexican-American family isn't door-knocked by by a pipefitter.

    Or worse: A target Democrat who is greeted at the door by both just days apart, wasting valuable time on someone who has already been canvassed. Democrats here say that was a real problem in previous cycles, even though unions tried to coordinate when preparing for battle against Scott Walker in 2011 and 2012.

    "He lit a fire under the people to say: 'Hey we need these unions. There's a reason they're trying to crush us'," recalled electrical worker Dean Warsh, 46, as he drank Pabst Blue Ribbons and flipped brats for the post-canvassing lunch rush at his hall.

    The problem dates back to Citizens United: Before that 2010 decision, labor unions could only canvass their own members -- and only by their own members -- creating an orderly, even if restrained, volunteer Democratic field operation, where each union knew exactly who one another was targeting.

    But then suddenly, the rules changed. Unions could contact anyone they sought. And each group had an incentive for their own paid canvassing operation -- especially since they could now hire from outside their ranks.

    "If everybody had pursued an independent strategy of funding their own organization in different places, then that would have been chaotic," explained Mike Podhorzer, the longtime political director of the AFL-CIO.

    The unions, without the cash to canvass the much-expanded voter universe, could try to pool their war chests and do as much canvassing as that money would take them. Then Steyer -- and his $20 million -- showed up.

    "It is a deeper engagement, certainly, than a 15- or a 30-second ad," said Steyer, who has not given a single dollar to Priorities USA, Clinton's television-centered super PAC this cycle. Steyer said he still expects to surpass the $75 million he gave in 2014 -- but through field-program spending. "It is building something with a different trajectory. It doesn't end on November 8."

    Tension between the various constituencies persist, with members overheard at a union hall here dissing laborers from other trades. And the conflict between union partners and Steyer's environmentalist faction -- which exploded into a high-profile fight as soon as For Our Future was created -- has not dissipated.

    And if labor could cohesively organize anywhere, it would be here in Wisconsin, where the wounds of the Walker labor battles remain raw (at least one union hall bathroom features a "Scott Walker Urinal Target" sticker). But those screaming matches similarly motivated the Kochs, who are personally close with Walker and placed one of their original AFP chapters in the Badger State in 2005.

    Add in the lack of any substantial presidential advertising -- Trump just began a small television buy last week, the first by either candidate -- and Wisconsin politics this cycle is placing a particular premium on the nuts-and-bolts organizing that both labor and the Kochs are prioritizing nationwide.

    But after this cycle? Despite their similar tactics -- and their promises to hold politicians accountable after Election Day -- the Kochs profess a confidence that their influence in politics will not budge.

    "It'd be smart if they could pull it off," Bott said back at AFP headquarters in Sheboygan. But he's already wondering whether his rivals might pack up shop: "Are they going to be in Wisconsin in January?"

    Above is from:  http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/17/politics/democrats-tom-steyer-koch-brothers/