Friday, September 29, 2006


This morning's missive to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Dear Editor:

Let’s ignore, for now, the silly editorial and op-ed propping up Mark Green’s meaningless save-the-dogs legislation and the burying of the story that a Republican appointment to the State Elections Board had to resign because of he was actually hired by Green (any problems here? No?). In today’s Journal Sentinel, the cause of Mark Green is taken up primarily by Spivak & Bice.

Cary Spivak and Dan Bice hold themselves out as acting in some grand muck-raking tradition, supposedly tearing down the powerful or the pretenders to power with pompous hand-wringing about nefarious politicians being, well, nefarious. Every spokesperson is a “flack”; tactics are “trickery”; legitimate goals are colored with dark we-know-what-they’re-up-to insinuations. Supposedly “investigative” news “reporters”, the Journal-Sentinel has given these two broad license to wink, cast aspersions and do the barroom-chuckle at whatever feckless public figure catches their occasionally watchful eye(s).

Spivak & Bice have led the Journal Sentinel’s bizarre war on phone calls by Doyle aides, most particularly former Secretary of Administration Mark Marotta. According the S&B and the J-S, Marotta was supposed to go in his office, close the door and unplug the phone when it was evident that the initial contractor and plans for the UWM Kenilworth Building would have been a disaster. His subsequent efforts to correct the project – which has now resulted in the transition of an embarrassing eyesore into a gem of Milwaukee’s East Side – were seen by your intrepid reporters not as the good and necessary work of an engaged administrator, but as the money-grubbing gifting of the project to Doyle contributors (even if some of those giving contributions were not chosen for the project).

Most disingenuously, on August 19th, the column featured a whiny complaint about Doyle’s administration declining to answer some questions Spivak & Bice had about an otherwise-innocent meeting between Marotta a potential contractor. The editors of the Journal Sentinel allowed S&B to wrongly characterize the refusal as a violation of the state open records law, snarkily accusing Doyle of creating a "I don't wanna release it" exemption. Reading further, however, it’s clear that Spivak & Bice were not asking for documents – they just wanted to ask some questions. As they and you know, the state open records law does not require the production of new documents or answers to questions (just try getting answers from Jim Klauser back in the day). The only element of truth in the article was provided by the responder from the state: “This line of questioning appears to simply be a partisan attack.” Gee, ya think?

Where everything done by Doyle and his aides is sinister and every dollar dirty (see the column that same day, smearing Doyle for accepting money from Native American tribes), everything Green does is understandable, excusable or just plain cute. These hard-charging “reporters” have spent absolutely zero time hitting on Green for his illegal money transfer, contacts with Jack Abramoff or something as outrageous as issuing a campaign proposal written by realtors and home-builders at the same time he accepted $102,000 from those groups. Perhaps S&B missed it, hiding as it was on page B-5, next to the obituaries. (Note to Journal Sentinel: You’ve been trying to catch Doyle in a quid pro quo situation – this is what one looks like, so you’ll know it if you see it.)

In today’s column, Spivak and Bice cheerily tell the story of Mark Green having a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., featuring Haley Barbour and President Bush. Now, any story about a Doyle fundraiser in Washington would be a key opportunity for S&B to bring out the cynical sarcasm about contributors just wanting “good government”, etc. But, in Spivak-and-Bice-land a Green fat-cat fundraiser calls for a different (read: positive) spin. The hook in this item appears to be that poor Mark Green could not shake down as much candidates from other states because of those pesky Wisconsin campaign donation limits (and since when, exactly, did Green care about those?). No information about what group of contributors were the targets of this trip (more realtors and home-builders? No, they got theirs). No sly insinuations about motives or tactics. Just another day in Washington with Mark Green and his natural fat-cat constituency. OK with Spivak and Bice. At least the contributors weren’t Native Americans (or were they?).

Again, I wish the Journal Sentinel would leave the GOP talking-point propagation to its talk-radio division. Maybe that’s where you could put Spivak & Bice. I hear the Jessica McBride slot is open, or at least it should be.

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