Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is no fan of the minimum wage, and on Tuesday, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker made that plenty clear. Asked about Wisconsin's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage and whether he supported it, Walker said, "I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose." Here's the exchange with Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice:
Bice: You were asked [in Monday's debate] if you thought someone could live on the minimum wage in the state, and you said we should be trying to come up with jobs that pay more than that. And then you said, "The way you do that is not by setting an arbitrary amount by the state." That sounds like you're not a particular fan of the minimum wage. What is your position on the minimum wage? Should we have it?
Walker: Well, I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose because we're debating then about what the lowest levels are at. I want people to make, like I said the other night, two or three times that.
The jobs I focus on, the programs we put in place, the training we put in place, is not for people to get minimum wage jobs. It's the training—whether it's in apprenticeships, whether it's our tech colleges, whether's it our [University of Wisconsin] system—it's to try and provide the training, the skills, the talents, the expertise that people need to create careers that pay many, many times over. [emphasis mine]
Walker has repeatedly arguing against raising the minimum wage, saying that doing so would kill jobs. (The Congressional Budget Office has found that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would eliminate 500,000 jobs but also lift 900,000 people out of poverty and boost earnings for 16 million people. Cities with higher minimum wages have also seen strong job growth in recent years.) Walker opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and said in January that "the best thing we can do to help people who are unemployed or under employed is to fix Obamacare."
The most recent Marquette University Law School poll found that 59 percent of Wisconsinites support increasing the minimum wage while 36 percent do not.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been caught again playing fast and loose with the facts on the issue of abortion. Earlier this week, as I reported, Walker's campaign released a new ad about a bill he signed that restricted abortion rights for women in Wisconsin. In the ad, Walker says, "the bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor"—a statement that falsely implies that Walker supports a woman's right to choose an abortion, when in fact he wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.
Now, the Capital Times of Madison, Wis., reports that Walker's campaign website touts an endorsement from a pro-life group that Walker didn't actually receive this year. On his 2014 campaign website, Walker touts an endorsement by the group Pro-Life Wisconsin. Under the "Walker on Values" section, it reads:
In my campaign for governor, I am proud to have been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which recognized my long commitment to right to life issues and noted that my election "would greatly contribute to building a culture of life where the most vulnerable members of the human family are welcomed and protected."
I was also endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which said that a Walker Administration "will have far-reaching, positive effects for Wisconsin citizens who value the dignity of all innocent human life."
Pro-Life Wisconsin evaluates political candidates by their responses to a 10-question survey sent during each election cycle. In order to receive an endorsement, a candidate must answer "yes" to every question—giving them a "100 percent pro-life" rating—and complete an interview with members of the political action committee board.
"Scott Walker did not complete our 2014 candidate survey and therefore is ineligible for an endorsement," wrote Matt Sande, director of the Pro-Life Wisconsin Victory Fund PAC, in an email. "His campaign manager stated in a letter that 'our campaign will not be completing any interest group surveys or interviews.'"
That didn't stop Walker's website from listing Pro-Life Wisconsin as an endorser. Neither the Walker campaign nor Matt Sande, who runs Pro-Life Wisconsin's Victory Fund PAC, responded to requests for comment.
During a recent fundraising swing in New York City, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is locked in a fierce reelection fight against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, squeezed into his schedule a Sunday evening event at the Upper West Side home of a hedge fund manager named John Petry. But Pryor wasn't there to ask for cash for his Senate campaign; instead, he was headlining a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for the political action committee of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a major supporter of charter schools and a foe of the nation's powerful teachers' unions.
It was a strange move by Pryor. That's because the senator enjoys the support of the teachers' unions DFER is battling.
Pryor has attracted both financial and institutional backing from the teachers' unions. His Senate reelection campaign contributors include the National Education Association, which gave $11,000, and the American Federation of Teachers, which chipped in $10,000. In April, his state's largest teachers' union, the Arkansas Education Association, endorsed Pryor on the steps of Little Rock Central High School. Brenda Robinson, the union's president, praised Pryor as "a strong advocate for public education throughout his career."
Democrats for Education Reform launched in the mid-2000s as a force within the Democratic Party pushing for greater use of charter schools, more test-based accountability for teachers, and easier processes for shuttering failing schools. One of DFER's founders was Whitney Tilson, an investor who also helped start Teach for America. DFER hasaligned itself with StudentsFirst, the controversial education reform group launched by former Washington, DC, schools chancellor and union bête noire Michelle Rhee. DFER's deputy director is a former StudentsFirst staffer. DFER's executive director, Joe Williams, is also on the board of the Partnership for Educational Justice, the nonprofit founded by former TV anchor Campbell Brown seeking to gut teacher tenure provisions. In 2013, DFER's Williams wrote, "You don't have to leave the Democratic Party if you believe that teacher union leaders should be part of the solution rather than a cynical driver of the problem."
The unions have struck back. The United Federation of Teachers, which represents some 200,000 members affiliated with New York City schools, has blasted DFER as a one-percenter-funded claque of "public school bashers" that hates unions and wants to wipe them off the map. (DFER, whose donors have included a bevy of Wall Street heavyweights, says it doesn't want to eliminate unions.)
This year, DFER's PAC has tended to give money to Democratic lawmakers who largely support expanding the use of charter schools, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). In the past, DFER gave money to then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and other state and federal Democratic candidates for office.
A Pryor spokesman declined to comment on the DFER fundraiser. In a statement to Mother Jones, Arkansas Education Association President Brenda Robinson said her union "supports Sen. Mark Pryor because he is the clear choice in the race for US Senate for voters who believe in public education." AFT President Randi Weingarten said the AFT has "a solid working relationship" with Pryor, adding, "We may not agree on all the issues, but on many key votes...the senator has proven that he works for kids, families, and communities."
Here's the invitation to the Pryor-DFER fundraiser:
In one of the nation's most hotly contested campaigns, incumbent GOP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has recently been slammed by a new ad blitz highlighting his staunch opposition to abortion rights. He and his campaign consultants are obviously worried about this line of attack: On Monday, they issued one of the slyest ads of the campaign season. Titled "Decision," the ad attempts to depict Walker as a reasonable fellow on this issue. It's a brazenly misleading spot—almost a flip-flop—that is designed to create the false impression that Walker respects a woman's right to choose. The ad is camouflage for the fact that Walker has supported outlawing all abortions, even in cases of rape of incest.
In the ad (seen above), Walker, talking straight into the camera, starts off by saying, "I'm pro-life." He then defends the bill he he signed in 2013 that required women seeking abortions to first obtain an ultrasound and that required abortion providers to possess admitting rights at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. This law—which remains tangled in legal challenges—could greatly restrict abortion access in Wisconsin. But in the ad, Walker characterizes the legislation as a measure "to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options." Then comes the whopper: "The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor." With that statement, a viewer could easily conclude that Walker is personally opposed to abortion but supports the right of a woman to decide (in consultation with a doctor) to choose an abortion.
But Walker is as hard-core on abortion as a conservative anti-choice politician can be. In 2010, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that he wants to ban abortion entirely—no exceptions for rape or incest. Here's that exchange:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: You oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
Scott Walker: (Nods)
MJS: Tell me if I got that right.
SW: That's correct.
For some reason, Walker neglects to mention this absolutist stance in his new ad. The ad is a clear sign that Walker and his strategists believe that this position won't help him get reelected and that his best shot at winning depends on the most sophisticated of campaign craftiness.
This March, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker launched what, in the post-Citizens United era, amounts to a de facto presidential exploratory campaign. He jetted to Las Vegas for a private audience with Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and Republican Party kingmaker who is said to have spent nearly $150 million during the 2012 elections and may dump as much as $100 million more into this year's midterms. It was a pinch-me moment for Walker, who in four short years had ascended from county executive to conservative hero. Inspired by his boyhood idol, Ronald Reagan, Walker took on Wisconsin's public-employee unions and refused to buckle in the face of massive protests and a weeks-long occupation of the state Capitol. When the unions subsequently tried to oust him via a recall election, he barnstormed the state, raised a record $37 million, and won with 53 percent of the vote. Soon the preacher's son and college dropout began appearing alongside Chris Christie and Jeb Bush on 2016 short lists.
But these days, Walker's presidential dreams are hanging by a thread as he battles for reelection against a political neophyte whose only previous electoral campaign was a self-financed 2012 run for the local school board. Why is he vulnerable? Walker devoted his first term to ramming through a chunk of the modern conservative agenda: He limited collective-bargaining rights, slashed taxes on the wealthy, enacted new voter ID requirements, boosted funding for vouchers at the expense of public schools, curtailed abortion access, and weakened environmental protections. These policies have sharply polarized Wisconsin—splitting families, church groups, golf foursomes—with only a sliver of the electorate not firmly pro- or anti-Walker.
Mary Burke, Walker's opponent, is running as a McKinsey moderate, the anti-politician with business savvy who will jump-start the state's economy and heal a divided Wisconsin. She believes her pro-business message can win over those key undecided voters. In a nonpresidential year when turnout could decide the election, Burke's strategy is a gamble—and it just might work.