Sex scandal adds steam to powerful WI recall locomotive...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/4/2011, 11:24am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

While it should hardly be necessary, given the extent to which the GOP's billionaire-funded direct assault on workers' rights has exposed the Orwellian deceptions of the so-called 'Tea Party' movement, there are times when the adage, "sex sells," seems unavoidable, especially when it involves exposing the vast gap between the right-wing's professed "family values" and "fiscal responsibility" and a reality that includes infidelity and an eager willingness to squander public funds on friends and the billionaire sociopaths who fund their campaigns.

No doubt, Chris Bowers, the Campaign Director of the Daily Kos, understood this when he sent out a fund-raising email which, as reported by Rich Mitchell of the Conservative Daily News, reads, in pertinent part:

Last year, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Randy Hopper left his wife to live with a young Republican political operative. Last month, as Governor Scott Walker unveiled legislation calling for deep cuts in state workers' salaries and collective bargaining rights, Hopper's mistress was hired by the state on the advice of Scott Walker's cabinet as a "communications liaison." Further, her salary is 35% higher than her predecessor's.

Randy Hopper is one of the most vulnerable Republicans facing recall. He is a freshman, and only won his seat by 163 votes. A poll conducted by Daily Kos and PPP shows Hopper losing to a generic Democrat 49%-44%.

Mitchell denounced the salacious allegations as a "smear", though he offered no evidence in support of that claim to counter what appears to be an accurate account of Hopper's infidelities and the questionable hiring of his girlfriend, the GOP operative Valerie Cass, by the new administration of Gov. Scott Walker.

While there is always a legitimate question as to whether marital infidelity should disqualify an individual from holding public office, here the issue arises in the context of allegations of nepotism and hypocrisy, not to mention the issue of whether the Fond du Lac Republican could lawfully cast a vote opposing his own recall, now that, as his estranged wife admits, he no longer resides in his own district. He lives with Cass elsewhere.

This new sex scandal adds to a powerful, substantive recall message which has gained a great deal of momentum over the last several weeks...

Contempt for democracy and the rule of law

Despite the disdain that WI GOP, Inc. seems to be displaying towards both democracy and the rule of law, only eight Republican Senators are currently eligible to be targeted for a recall election.

No doubt, if they could, every Democrat and union supporter who shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" in the wake of the Wisconsin legislature's late-night "surprise vote" several weeks ago would target every Republican member of the Assembly who voted to strip public employees of their fundamental right to collective bargaining for an immediate recall.

The late-night legislative maneuver was so swift that 28 members of the Assembly were deprived of an opportunity to even cast a vote on the controversial, union-busting measure after weeks of protest were brought to bear at the state capitol.

Faced with a lack of quorum in the other chamber, WI Republican Senators then pulled a "surprise" of their own, scheduling a committee meeting to amend the so-called "Budget Repair Bill" on less than two hours notice, as opposed to the 24 hours required by the state's open meeting law. The state Senate then passed the union-busting measure as a stand alone bill which did not require a two-thirds majority quorum, as it was no longer tied to a budget issue.

This second legislative maneuver led Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to seek a permanent injunction on the grounds that the WI Senate had violated the state's open meetings law.

While Dane County Judge Maryann Sunni has yet to rule on the permanent injunction, she has twice found it necessary to issue temporary restraining orders blocking implementation of the union-busting bill --- the second order issuing after Republicans displayed their contempt not only for the right of their Democratic legislative opposition to be heard but also for the rule of law.

Despite Judge Sumi's admonition that she would sanction further violations of her order, Steven Means, an executive assistant to WI Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen told reporters outside the courtroom that Gov. Walker's union-busting measure was "absolutely" still in effect --- a remark that prompted Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) to express "shock" that "the attorney general believes you should not follow a court order anymore," according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

No doubt, if they could, those same citizens would also seek the immediate recall of WI Governor Scott Walker (R). During his deceptive, billionaire-funded campaign, Walker never divulged his secret plan to combine corporate tax breaks and a fire sale of the state's utilities with union-busting.

But, alas, such a course is not available under Wisconsin law. The recall remedy may only be applied to those who have held office for at least one year. That shields Walker and the entire Assembly, leaving only eight Republicans in the WI Senate who are subject to recall this year --- Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olson and Robert Cowles.

According to the Daily Kos, all eight districts represented by those Republicans went to Obama in 2008. While the Daily Kos notes that all eight GOP Senators are targeted, all that is required for Democrats to wrest control of the WI state Senate is the successful recall of three Republican Senators.

Los Angeles Times reported today that the WI GOP, Inc. has countered with a recall effort against eight Senate Democrats whom they claim "abdicated" their responsibility by fleeing to Illinois to prevent a quorum. The Republicans have also "filed a public information request to obtain emails from a University of Wisconsin professor who has written critically about the conduct of Gov. Scott Walker."

BoldProgressives.org reports that local activists have already gathered the necessary signatures to recall Kapanke through an election. Yet, it is the Randy (bed) Hopper who appears to be the most vulnerable, in no small measure because a sex scandal has now been piled atop his role in this assault on the right of collective bargaining.

Hell hath no fury?

The issue arose when Hopper's estranged wife, Alysia, informed a group of protesters who arrived at her Fond du Lac residence that Hopper no longer lived there; that he was living in Madison with his 25-year-old mistress, Valerie Cass, who had been a lobbyist for Persuasion Partners, Inc.

On its website, Persuasion Partners, Inc. describes itself as a "contact mail firm and general consulting company specializing in creative, high-impact voter contact mail that makes voters sit up and take notice." Its site, which boasts about turning blue states into red states, scrubbed its Cass bio in the wake of the controversy.

The UK's Daily Mail reported that Alycia "said she supported [the] recall as did the family maid who also signed the [recall] petition."

Questions of nepotism and residence

The website Blogging Blue reported that, "despite recommendations from high level officials," Gov. Walker's administration "passed over" a number of job applicants. The Walker administration selected Hopper's now 26-year old mistress to fill the position of a "communications specialist" at a pay rate that was 35% higher than the worker she replaced, even though Valerie Cass had not been "formally...recorded as a job applicant."

The Daily Mail reports Sen. Hopper initially refused to tell WKO27 News whether he had recommended Cass for the position, stating that he wanted to keep his "involvement...a private matter." Hopper later called a WKO27 News reporter to deny that he had any involvement in her hiring.

Whether or not Hopper was personally involved, the context of the hiring fails to pass the smell test. First we have the Walker-led WI GOP, Inc. pressing for massive corporate tax breaks which created the "excuse" to assault collective bargaining as a supposed budget-related austerity measure, and now, when the state is allegedly broke, they hire this young lobbyist, sans application, at a 35% increase in her predecessor's salary?

Hopper claimed that, upon leaving his wife, he rented an apartment in Fond du Lac. He denied living "anywhere other than in the district [he] serve[s]," the Daily Mail reported.

The question as to whether Hopper actually resides in Fond du Lac may prove of interest come November. Hopper's absence may disqualify him from voting against his own recall.

As Brad Friedman's recent article reveals, if that is the case, it is possible Hopper will simply choose to add his name to the growing list of Republican ideologues who, after joining the chorus of bogus "voter fraud" claims as part of their scurrilous attacks on ACORN and support for Photo ID restriction laws designed to suppress Democratic-leaning votes, illegally cast ballots in precincts where they do not maintain a lawful residence. Because, after all, IOKIYAR.

Effective Recall campaign underway

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America (DFA), are in the midst of supporting the recall campaign in WI. They have assembled a brief but remarkably effective ad (see video below) and have sought modest contributions ($3) to fund it on their websites.

While monetarily, these could not begin to match the piles of cash accessible to corporate America's wholly-owned subsidiary, GOP, Inc., courtesy of Citizens' United, TPM reports that "PCCC and DFA say they can mobilize 40,000 local activists to kickstart a recall effort."

So framed, the WI recall portends to be a contest between democracy and plutocracy; one which can truly address whether we should place people before profits.

UPDATE: According to Adam Rodenwald of The Northwestern, local Democrats believe they have garnered "enough signatures to force" Hopper's recall election. However, Fund du Lac Democratic Party Chairman, Rich Mantz cautioned that they are "double-checking" to insure that the signatures are valid before filing the recall petition.

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Proposed WI recall ad follows...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).