Friday, April 15, 2011
Governor Patsy Walker: Pro-Choice, so long as you choose to give him your money. (Publicus Proventus)
Governor Scott "Patsy" Walker defended his union-busting bill by saying that it
give[s] those workers the right to choose whether or not they want to be in a union, and the right to choose whether or not they want up to $1,000 out of their paycheck, to come out of their paycheck and instead of going back into their own pockets where they can pay for health care and pension and other contributions, make the same sorts of contributions that middle class taxpayers do all across the state.
(Source.) So can we expect Walker to introduce a bill -- and the Senate to pass in less than two hours -- relieving realtors of the obligation of paying $550 a year to the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA)?
The WRA, as noted in this week's Isthmus, is not a mandatory association for realtors, except that really, it is: the WRA controls the MLS, or "Multiple Listing Service," which the Isthmus describes as "a critical industry tool." So if realtors don't pony up, they can't get access to the one thing they need to do their job. And
The WRA, though, supported Walker, giving him $43,000 or so last year; the Isthmus story notes that the money came not directly from the WRA but from its PAC, and dutifully quotes WRA officials as noting that contributions to the PAC are voluntary. But the Isthmus story didn't note that the WRA was Walker's number one contributor overall going back to 1993, or that the RPAC (as the WRA's PAC is called) is listed on the WRA website, or that the WRA Board of Directors is also the body that decided to endorse Gov. Patsy-- making the RPAC's independence from WRA somewhat questionable.
On the issue of whether the donations are voluntary and what they're used for, RPAC says funds are distributed on a "nonpartisan" basis across the state. I couldn't find much proof of that on the state level, where RPAC gave $43,000 or so to Governor Patsy and endorsed him, but I wasn't able to find any record of contributions to Kloppenburg (the RPAC endorsed Prosser) or Tom Barrett. Nationally, a report from the last election cycle showed the national arm of RPAC supported 20 Republican candidates to 16 Democrats (and Joe Lieberman), suggesting that the organization leans right.
As for the so-called "voluntary dues," I don't know that they seem voluntary to members: when the scheme first started, WRA set it up so that members would be issued a statement that would include a "voluntary" dues payment they had to make towards the RPAC -- which would then be forwarded by WRA to the RPAC. It's not clear how clearly that "voluntary" basis was explained or how many people felt coerced into making the payment, but the system was questionable enough that the RPAC felt it necessary to get preapproval from the Elections Board. I don't know if that still goes on, but I found no record it had been changed.
So can we expect the GOP -- which would like you to die in the street if you disagree with it, and which wants to provide health care to rapists but not crippled children -- to introduce a bill to free realtors from making any contributions to WRA but still giving access to the MLS? Wouldn't such a bill encourage healthy competition, and maybe get some realtors from other states to move here?
I'm not holding my breath.