Sunday, April 08, 2007

Journal Sentinel: No Tears for Georgia Thompson

The right-wing-nuts on the radio are getting sooo predictable.

The talking-points from the GOP after Biskupic’s in absentia spanking in the 7th Circuit were the standard tiresome spin. Ignoring the tragedy visited on Georgia Thompson by the political prosecutor, all the usual suspects took the opportunity to make excuses for Biskupic and to try to smear Jim Doyle. Thompson’s un-conviction proved almost as useful to the GOP surrogates as the conviction itself, giving the led-by-the-nose squawkers another opportunity to pretend that no evidence of Doyle wrongdoing is somehow evidence of Doyle wrongdoing.

The Republican talking-points were so unoriginal, you could have written them yourself – not that our radio talkers would ever try such a thing themselves:
  1. Biskupic is just an "aggressive" prosecutor and did nothing wrong by sending an innocent civil servant to prison. It was not his fault that she refused to "flip" on Doyle. Insert snide suggestions about how she will be rewarded for her loyalty here.
  2. Biskupic, other prosecutors (including Peg Lautenschlager, suddenly a paragon of good judgement), a grand jury, the trial jury and the trial judge all decided Thompson committed a crime. The 7th Circuit panel disagreed and that controls, but, you know, all those good, honest people thought something was wrong, so, you know, something was wrong.
  3. Doyle, who distanced himself from Thompson before and after the conviction (useful phrase: "threw her under the bus"), now embraces her. His refusal to take questions from Channel 27 (Madison), which bragged about the fact that Thompson was in prison to promote its exaggerated (read: pro-GOP) coverage of the case, is a sign of his desperation to avoid asking hard questions.
  4. Mention the Troha indictment early and often, keeping the heat on "Diamond Jim" and his "most corrupt administration in Wisconsin history". Lather, rinse, repeat. Keep the "where there’s smoke, there’s fire" story arc going, even if smoke is as phony and thin as the evidence against Thompson.

Again, tiresome. Excuses for Biskupic, smears for Doyle. Oh, and by the way, did you see Nancy Pelosi in that head scarf? The wing-nuts are so insightful, aren’t they? It’s too bad there aren’t more panels we can put them on to further legitimize these intellectual heavyweights.

As much as we expect this sort of predictable poison from the wing-nuts, it is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that takes the cake for the most outrageous reaction to the Thompson acquittal. In an editorial two days after the reversal, the J-S did not even mention Biskupic or even give a polite nod to acknowledge the ruined life of the poor Ms. Thompson. Nope, the problem, according to the Lords of State Street, is campaign financing in general and, somehow, Doyle in particular.

Apparently, the J-Sers took offense at Doyle’s badly-needed rip at the sensationalist media coverage of the case. "OK, Governor," they offer. "Tired of folks, the media included, noting that people who contribute often benefit?" Insert convenient reference to Troha indictment here. "If you are weary of this, help take away any possibility that such conclusions can be drawn. Push for campaign finance reform that includes sufficient public financing. Without this, there will be more such allegations in many politicians' futures."

Of all the important lessons about political prosecutors and ruined lives in this case, the J-S instead uses it to try to chide Doyle into supporting full public campaign financing. For one thing, they are suggesting a solution that will never happen. A state budget burdened with many more serious needs of its citizens will be hard pressed to find funds for political consultants and advertisers. And, with courts giving free reign to "independent" political expenditures as "free speech", public financing runs the risk of driving most political ad spending underground. If you don’t believe it, say hello to Justice Ziegler, brought to you by WMC and various other non-contributor-disclosing entities.

Instead of public financing, we have transparency, at least in the official campaigns. The legal Adelman contributions to Doyle were fully disclosed; the contract for state travel was public record. Conclusions can be drawn from the circumstances of any state contract. But when the perceptions of these necessary transactions are skewed by political prosecutors and the GOP echo chamber in wing-nut radio, how willing is the Journal Sentinel to be played? They didn’t seem to mind much when pay-for-play was really the rule under Tommy Thompson (the laughable presidential candidate that the J-S takes oh-so seriously). But, without the help of political prosecutors and radio loud-mouths in the ‘90s, I don’t remember the Journal or the Sentinel suggesting that Tommy had to accept public financing to save the image the paper decides to project for him.

Cynicism in public affairs is essential, but there must be distinctions made between that which happens in the normal course of state procurement and that which stinks. The Journal Sentinel continues to be played like a violin by a bunch of pipsqueaks with megaphones, some on their own radio stations. Wing-nut radio continues to be the tail that wags the dog.

And no tears from the Journal Sentinel for the manufactured tragedy that befell Georgia Thompson. Apparently, the destruction of lives and careers in the pursuit of political points is just fine with them.


Xoff said...

Lest we forget, it was the Journal Sentinel's sensational coverage of the Adelman contract, with a series of stories making it seem like there was wrongdoing, that triggered the investigation to begin with.

The very facts that were the basis for front page stories were the things the appeals judges could not understand -- what was wrong with Adelman contributing to Doyle, or Doyle meeting with Adelman, or attending a party, or Thompson working to give a contract to the low bidder, which also happened to be the in-state company. That "evidence" was what was described as "beyond thin."

If the paper pointed a finger at Biskupic, it might also have to look in the mirror. Better to blame the system.

Russ said...

Marvin Bizelle, a juror in Thompson's coviction said"
"As far as I'm concerned - and I'm sure and other juror you talk to will tell you the same thing - she was guilty of manipulating the contract.

It's time for the
op-ed writers to take the jurors seriously rather than treat them like potted plants. Thompson was convicted by a jury not by Biskupic.

The verdit rendered by the jury deserves at least as much weight as the appeals court decision.

Mike Plaisted said...

RE: Russ's comment above:

"The verdit rendered by the jury deserves at least as much weight as the appeals court decision."

Well, no, actually. She can't be equally convicted and not convicted. The jury may have believed that she "manipulated" the contract, but that's not against the law. As a state purchasing agent, it was her job to "manipulate" contracts to benefit the state, such as in this case, where she may have tilted toward a state vendor vs. Omega of Virgina.

It is criminal if she did it for personal gain, but there was no evidence to support that and the jury was not asked that specific question. Even if they were, there was no evidence to support it and that's what appellate courts are for.

The jury, in other words, was misinformed about the law. The jury was just another victim of this political prosecution -- wasting weeks and being misled in a case that never should have been charged, much less gone to trial. It is Biskupic who treated the grand jurors and trial jurors like "potted plants" -- more like saps, really.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Journal Communications, the parent company of the Journal Sentinel, is a prime beneficiary of all the money spent in campaigns. If the JS was serious about this, why are they not taking it to the parent company about the dramatic increase in the cost of commercials? From 2002 to 2006, the cost to run the same ad went up 25%. When over 75% of the cost of a statewide campaign goes to tv commercials, they are the primary cost driver, so where is the outrage? Oh, that's right, the media is blameless in all of this.

Anonymous said...

Making Sense of the Georgia Thompson Ruling

by Shepherd Express Staff
April 12, 2007

"...The real question is why Biskupic hasn’t investigated Troha family contributions of tens of thousands of dollars to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and President Bush. Rep. Ryan received more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from the Troha family. The only difference is that Paul Ryan actually introduced special-interest legislation for Troha, signed by Bush, that substantially increased the value of Troha’s business. Ryan provided a clear quid pro quo and he should be investigated and perhaps indicted.

Ryan, of course, denied he knew this was happening; however, when a congressman introduces special-interest legislation for a major contributor, what is he thinking about? If Biskupic is really trying to ferret out corruption, why isn’t he investigating Ryan, where there is actually a smoking gun of corruption? But, wait a second, isn’t Paul Ryan a Republican?"