When the law doesn’t apply

I don’t even know what to say about this — it goes so far beyond IOKIYAR* that nothing even remotely polite comes to mind. But here’s the tale:

You all know about how TeaPublican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin lied through his shiny white teeth about how his budget bill, which included draconian cuts to labor rights, had to be passed in order to save the state from a budget deficit that he and his TeaPublican cohorts in the state legislature created by cutting taxes to big businesses and the rich.

We know this was a flat out lie, because when push came to shove, Walker refused to negotiate — even after the unions agreed to all his proposals save the elimination of collective bargaining for all but wages, which, of course, has nothing to do with the budget. And finally, the governor and the other SOBs in the state legislature then stripped the bill of everything to do with the finances — except the parts that had to do with public workers — so it could pass without a quorum since the Democrats in the legislature refused to go along with the plan to ramrod the bill through.

The result, of course, was a budget bill that didn’t address the budget, drastically reduced the effectiveness of collective bargaining and set up the system so that Walker could sell the state’s nukes to the Koch brothers.


But then a county judge put a restraining order on the secretary of state, barring him from publishing the bill — a requirement under Wisconsin law in order for a bill to become law.

So what did state Republicans do? They published it anyway, using the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish it to the legislature’s website on Friday. Stephen Miller, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau, said he didn’t think that would make the bill become law.

“I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state,” he said. “I don’t think this act makes it become effective. My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the (official state) newspaper for it to become effective.”

But the state Senate’s majority leader disagreed.

“It’s published,” Scott Fitzgerald said. “It’s law. That’s what I contend.”

And Walker’s administration secretary, Mike Huebsch, gave out the governor’s response.

“Today the administration was notified that the LRB published the budget-repair bill as required by law,” he said. “The administration will carry out the law as required.

That’s right. Because the law does not apply to Republicans, especially when voters have given them a “mandate,” by electing them even with the slimmest of margins, to do whatever the hell they want to do.

Miller, head of a non-partisan office, agreed to publish the bill under his understanding that it would not violate the intentions of the court order, which very clearly said the judge was “restrain(ing) and enjoin(ing) the further implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10” and blocking the secretary of state’s publication of the bill because that was “the next step in implementation of that law.”

Clearly, Miller did not realize the intentions of state Republicans.

The complaint that sparked the judge’s order alleges that Republicans violated the state’s open meetings act to pass the stripped-down bill. Republicans, who of course can do no wrong and even if they do it doesn’t matter, say they didn’t. I’m sure they will find some tiny legal loophole that they will use to justify their actions, just like they did on the publication issue.

Wisconsin’s rule book give publication rights to both the secretary of state and to the Legislative Reference Bureau — but the part about when a bill goes into effect refers only to the secretary of state’s publication in the official newspaper.

Ah, but means nothing to Republicans. Although I haven’t heard the phrase used, I’m sure they’re claiming “activist judge” status for the jurist who dared to try to stop them, and that, of course, means they don’t have to abide by the ruling. And just in case, they’ll split hairs — the restraining order doesn’t apply to the Legislative Research Bureau.

And besides, the Republican attorney general says that action by the secretary of state isn’t required for a bill to become law. So there. And waterboarding isn’t torture either.

Republicans aren’t just gaming the show about the law either. In Wisconsin, they also want to make sure that nobody ever knows that their party in that state was at one time almost, well, progressive. That ended in the 1950s when Sen. Joe McCarthy nearly destroyed it.

A history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, William Cronon, wrote a fascinating piece in the New York Times about Wisconsin’s political history. Here’s what PZ Myers of Pharyngula had to say about it:

It’s a great essay, even-handed and informed, and reminded me that yes, once upon a time, Republicans weren’t the party of insane corporate tools who got their instructions direct from god, and that there are common principles of good government that liberals and conservatives could agree on.

Unfortunately, the Republicans don’t agree with Myers’ assessment. They’ve launched a witchhunt against Cronon, trying  in Myers’ words, “to find any damning connection that will allow them to claim that Cronon is an apparatchik and propagandist, rather than an independent historian with a serious scholarly focus.”

Interestingly, using Joe McCarthy’s tactics. I’d think that would raise more than a few red flags, not to mention hairs on the backs of many heads, but Republicans of late have been embracing their inner McCarthyism, quite openly at times.

But as Myers points out, Cronon’s “greatest crime may have been exposing to the light of day a quiet organization, ALEC, that has been drafting the most conservative legislation for our government in collaboration with the wealthiest corporations in the country.”

Oh dear. Republicans tied to wealthy corporations? Say it ain’t so. But what am I thinking. Corporations are people, too, in this cowardly new world where secrecy and bullying are the order of the day.

Wisconsin, oh Wisconsin, that you should be the first to endure this travesty is repugnant beyond repugnant. But while we’re watching Wisconsin, the same thing is happening in every state in the union, on one level or another. It is a full out assault, carried out by operatives who pretend to be interested good governance.

But they left behind that noble sentiment long ago. Money, the collection and hoarding of, is the only real item on the agenda. And to make sure they enact that agenda, the modern Republican party has no qualms about granting itself immunity to the law.

*It’s OK If You Are Republican