September 20, 2010

Beware the Scott Walker Brady Street moles

Rich is the name, retail sales is the game

Here's an amusing tale from Daniel Bice in the Journal-Sentinel revealing the deceitful shenanigans of one of Scott Walker's political aides who hangs around at bars in downtown Milwaukee, eavesdrops on total strangers' telephone calls, and then strikes up fraudulent conversations of his own, which he surreptitiously records with an i-Thingie.

During which Scott Walker's aide, the notorious Michael Brickman, lies about his name ("Rich"), lies about his occupation ("retail"), and lies that he knows next to nothing of the political campaign with which he's intimately involved (throughout — behold the transcript).

The honest party to the surreptitiously recorded conversation is John-david Morgan, a union activist. Morgan runs an anti-Walker website called Scott Walker Truth Squad dot org. Which is shocking, because everybody loves Scott Walker, especially county employees.

Apart from the Scott Walker aide's underhanded tactics, there's little to Bice's story except for an implied whiff of illegality, which the report concocts by relating Morgan's account of chatting with Phil Walzak at Milwaukee Laborfest. Morgan describes Walzak as "the guy that runs Barrett's campaign." Barrett is Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee and the Democratic nominee for Wisconsin governor.

Third-party efforts — depending on the nature of the third-party and depending further on the nature of that third-party's efforts — on behalf of a political campaign may be treated as contributions to the campaign, if those efforts are coordinated with the campaign.

But Walzak doesn't run Tom Barrett's campaign; he's one of Barrett's own spokespersons and moreover, flatly denies Mr. Morgan's grandiose perorations. Yet the implied bar-time suggestion was apparently compelling enough for Bice that the reporter contacted two "election law experts," one of whom is quoted as warning,
"If SEIU or any other union spent money based on discussions they had with the Barrett campaign — whatever campaign — yeah, you've got a coordinated expenditure issue," said [George] Dunst, who is now retired from State government.
"The union may, in short, be handcuffed," notes Mr. Bice gravely.

By the same reasoning if SEIU shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, then yeah, you've got a homicide issue. In any event, it would appear the coordination isn't going so well when the putative coordinator doesn't even know who's who with the Barrett campaign.

And while surreptitious bar-time recordings aren't per se unlawful here, I understand they're a bugger to get admitted as evidence in civil cases and this one contains about eleventeen layers of hearsay.

The other election expert cited is Marquette University professor of law Rick Esenberg, who the Journal-Sentinel frequently presents as a disinterested academic. Not exactly. In fact when the O'Donnell parking garage fatality occurred in June, Prof. Esenberg hurried to his computer to announce that any observer that so much as linked to a website whose proprietor simply wondered aloud how the tragedy might affect the ongoing political campaign for governor was a "ghoul." So much for the election law expert's academic disinterest.

In summary, be careful who you're talking to out there, and be vigilant of who's eavesdropping on your private conversations. It could very well be a Scott Walker communications aide (named "Rich" who works in "retail") with a vibrating electronic device in his pants.


Anonymous said...

Oh for crying out loud.
"And while surreptitious bar-time recordings aren't per se unlawful here, I understand they're a bugger to get admitted as evidence in civil cases and this one contains about eleventeen layers of hearsay." So? The relevance of the rules of evidence to this situation is what, exactly? Nobody is denying that the conversation took place or what it entailed. A great deal in politics turns on appearances. You can take your pick (as you do) about who comes off looking worse in this scenario, but the fact that this would be inadmissible in court is just not relevant to the discussion. (disclosure -- fan of Daniel Bice)

Grant said...

Brickman said he lied about his identity to avoid creating a scene

This guy's a Russian nesting doll of bullshit.

Rick Esenberg said...

I believe that Dan referred to me as a "conservative blogger" and I told him that I support Walker (which he suspected to be so).

When it comes to my job (and talking to journalists is part of my job), I call it as straight as I can. I told Dan that SEIU can kick Walker's ass until the cows come home, but, if the SEIU coordinates said ass kicking with the Barrett campaign, they've got potential problems. That an SEIU guy says he is discussing an attack campaign with the campaign -that he says, in effect, that this what he is going to do and this what we are going to do - suggests that there may be coordination. This is why, as Morgan said, the Barrett campaign was "nervous" about talking to him. Those are conversations that you typically don't have and, if you do, you don't tell strangers about them.

You don't disagree with that and, if you do, you don't understand the law or the ways in which you wind up getting cross wise with regulators.

illusory tenant said...

You don't disagree with that ...

This is true.

illusory tenant said...

Anon, I heard Scott Walker was a vociferous opponent of frivolous lawsuits so, just doing some advance brainstorming. But seriously, if Bice is going to bring out the election law experts to generalize about the contours of a hypothetical case, why shouldn't someone consider its potential specifics? And I'm a fan of Bice also.

Daniel Bice said...

Good to see I have fans here.

Just so you know, the first person I called on this matter was Mike Wittenwyler, who works both sides of the aisle (former Feingold campaign manager who has represented WMC). He had a conflict, so he recommended Esenberg and Dunst. The two offered very similar opinions about the SEIU situation. I tried to make that clear while pointing out Esenberg's ideological bent.

Perhaps next time I'll try to make sure I include the thoughts of a politically liberal blogger.

illusory tenant said...

All in good fun. Got to dog the dogger.