Elections are covered more or less like horse races. Who has the most money and who’s ahead in the polls is what passes for news. We’re told who is likely to win, but aren’t given much we can use to make up our own minds about those who are running.
Once the votes are counted and those elected are sworn in, their actions are reported in pretty much the same fashion. We’re told which officials are most likely to get their way and which party stands the best chance of gaining the upper hand when all is said and done. Not much attention is given to how these actions will affect people’s lives and whether their solutions to our problems will actually work.
In Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal, a front-page story about Governor Tony Evers’ proposed state budget told readers that the Republican-controlled state legislature “wholesale rejected his proposal.” (Neither house has voted on it.)
The article went on to quote former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen saying, “The governor is trying to make happy all the Democratic constituency groups that helped him win this election narrowly. Unfortunately, that means he’s built a budget that’s a fantasy.”
The story neglects to mention that a clear majority of people in Wisconsin — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike — favor much of what Jensen dismisses as fantasy. What the two reporters who wrote the story fail to grasp is that Evers isn’t the one being “wholesale rejected” by Republican lawmakers. They are saying a big FU to the people of our state, most of whom support Evers’ budget priorities. Most want Medicaid expanded and want the state to withdraw from the lawsuit aiming to repeal the federal health care law. Most want more public school funding and support increasing the minimum wage. Most want a nonpartisan approach to drawing the state’s electoral maps. Most want marijuana use legalized.
The story also doesn’t tell — as Paul Harvey used to say — the rest of the story about the reporters’ trusted source Scott Jensen. About how he was charged in 2002 with three felonies and a misdemeanor for criminal misconduct in office. How he was convicted on all charges in 2006 and sentenced to 15 months in prison. How he filed multiple appeals and delayed proceedings against him for years, finally convincing a state appeals court to grant him a new trial on a technicality and move the second trial to his home turf, Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold full of his supporters. How an old friend and political ally, then-Waukesha County District Attorney and eventual state Attorney General Brad Schimel, offered him a plea deal in 2010 dismissing the felonies and letting Jensen plead no contest to an ethics code violation and pay a fine. How he went on to cash in on his connections with and service to billionaire school privatization advocates like the Walton and DeVos families to land a $200,000-a-year lobbying gig.
The online political news service WisPolitics.com now features Jensen and fellow disgraced politician Chuck Chvala — both barred from ever holding office in Wisconsin again — in an ongoing video series called “The Insiders” showcasing their views on Wisconsin politics and government. Chvala’s career was ended when he was charged with 19 felonies for misconduct in office and making and extorting illegal campaign contributions. He pleaded guilty to two felonies and served a nine-month jail sentence.
The State Capitol has become a house of ill repute and the legislature a parliament of whores. We are in the midst of total political system failure, with the will of the people utterly disregarded, and journalists reporting for the Wisconsin State Journal and those who run WisPolitics.com feed us the insights of career crooks. Regular working people are being royally screwed over, their wishes ignored by elected officials too busy fellating wealthy donors, and what’s left of the Capitol press corps — our eyes and ears in the halls of power — does its best Sergeant Schultz impersonation.
Good journalism is never neutral. Good journalists come down squarely on the side of truth and justice. They comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Bad ones are accomplices.