Ever since he was first elected to the State Assembly in 1998, Representative Mark Pocan has had a soft spot in his heart for the Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance. In May of 1999, Pocan charged the WTA with being a shill for Republican interests, earning him a nice little article in the Wisconsin State Journal, which printed his charges verbatim.
A full decade later, Pocan is still at it, despite not having contradicted a single statement made by the Taxpayers Alliance over that period. Recently, the WTA’s President, Todd Berry, earned the scorn of Democrats in state government by pointing out that a large chunk of the state’s then-$5.7 billion deficit was actually comprised of agency requests that had not yet been granted. Fast forward to last week’s budget announcement, when Governor Doyle’s very own budget summary (p. 9) admitted that Doyle “cut” the deficit by $1.8 billion merely by rejecting new departmental spending requests. (The line to apologize to Berry forms on the left.)
Having apparently already solved the state’s budget deficit, Pocan yesterday sent out a glib press release instructing the media to refrain from calling the Taxpayers Alliance “nonpartisan.” Recognizing that the media likely wouldn’t appreciate being lectured on how to label certain groups, Pocan made his request vapid and lighthearted, at one point joking about his likeness to Brad Pitt. Conveniently, Pocan seems to forget about the “nonpartisan” label given to lefty front groups like the League of Women Voters, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, etc.
This release apparently infuriated Representative Steve Nass, who fired off an angry press release accusing Pocan of being anti-American, or something. Then Rep. Leah Vukmir issued a release that invoked Orwell’s “1984” to defend Berry. (I have to sheepishly admit that someone had to explain the press release to me for me to understand it.)
Responding to Pocan serves two ends, neither of them desirable. It makes it appear as though legislators have nothing better to do. Also, since it will likely be exclusively Republicans running to Berry’s aid, it almost appears to strengthen his previously nonexistent point.
Todd Berry is a big boy. I think he does an excellent job of defending himself, as he has had to do for years. The work he does in explaining the budget to regular dopes like me is invaluable. Responding to Pocan is merely taking his bait, in his attempt to get the GOP to talk about anything other than the disastrous budget his caucus is about to ram through.