Sunday, July 29, 2012

Walker Gives Head Job to Karl Rove Protégé - Media Misses Story - Again


photo by LadyForward1

If you rely on the mainstream media for news you are forgiven if you missed the promotion of a well-connected political operative into Scott Walker’s inner circle last week.

Unfortunately the highly-trained reporters at the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" and "Wisconsin State Journal," members of the government-approved Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association – WCCA, couldn’t be bothered to write more than one paragraph about this Karl Rove protégé.
In a breathtaking example of brevity in reporting, readers were provided only name, rank, and salary information for this political appointee.
Here is the result of the backbreaking toil of our state’s journalistic elite:
Jocelyn Webster was promoted from Department of Administration spokeswoman to Scott Walker’s Director of Communications at the annual salary of $95,000.
Stunning, isn’t it? 
After recovering from the impact of that in-depth report, one begins to wonder why the crème de la crème of political journalists are unable to venture beyond their taxpayer-provided Capitol press room to conduct the odd interview or two.
Perhaps, unknown to the general public, Scott Walker has placed transit restrictions on the Capitol correspondents, limiting them to press purgatory within the four walls of their Capitol clubhouse.
All too often these journalists don’t attend legislative committee meetings held within a few short strides of their office, instead choosing the news-free confines of the press room. How do we know that they’re missing from these and other meetings?  Because citizen journalists are attending and reporting on these vital government processes.

WCCA reporters daring to venture from their press room. - photo by Thid

Even if the lot of our government reporters is to be confined to their office, couldn't they at least use the Google machine to do a bit of research – and report their findings to us?

Jocelyn Webster: What the Capitol Reporters Missed
Webster’s connection to the major political ills of the last decade far surpasses any Walker administration politico: the insidious alliance of corporate lobbying and government that is the American Legislative Exchange Council - ALEC; the lies, deception and immorality of the Iraq War; and the pervasive corruption of Karl Rove’s Office of Political Affairs in the Bush White House – all before she achieved the age of twenty-eight.
Webster immigrated to America’s Dairyland last December after high-profile campaign PR gigs with Chris Christie, Rudy Guliani, and John McCain/Sarah Palin, followed by a Governmental Affairs position – read lobbyist – at 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters in Dallas. 
The Walker administration provided Webster $10,000 to move to Wisconsin, as apparently there were no Wisconsinites qualified to be spokesperson for his Department of Administration.  
Webster’s debut coincided with the DOA’s introduction of the highly controversial Capitol Access Policies and was extensively reported by citizen journalists here.
Perhaps Webster was hired because of her hyper-partisan background.  After all, the new Capitol Rules included un-democratic language, stating in part: four or more people congregating in or around the Capitol was a protest; protestors could be billed for Capitol Police services; and the State could not be held liable for injury or death to protestors caused by Law Enforcement employees.
At the first public question and answer period for these new rules, held in the Capitol basement, Webster distanced herself from the public while her boss, DOA second-in-command Chris Schoenherr, answered questions from concerned citizens, legislators, and civil-rights advocates.
Even though Webster had no active role in the meeting she quickly made a spectacle of herself.
Jocelyn Webster - by Lisa Wells 
As people asked questions and raised concerns about the new rules and how they might impact Wisconsin’s culture of accessible and open government, the new spokesperson gasped in dismay, demonstrably rolled her eyes, and shook her head in horror. 
One citizen was so offended by Webster’s condescending histrionics, behavior which even Anne Romney would have found offensive, that he demanded to know who this interloper was. Go to 9:14 on the video to see Webster's reaction.
After the citizen scolded Webster for her lack of Midwestern manners, the Capitol beat reporter for the Journal Sentinel, Jason Stein, also the WCCA President, made his way across the crowded room, slid in next to Webster and commiserated with her about her cold Wisconsin welcome.
Had Stein reported on Webster instead of offering his argyle-clad shoulder for her to cry on, he might have provided a valuable service to his newspaper’s readers, and to the public-at-large, offering unique insights into the values Scott Walker deems important in his governance of Wisconsin.
Instead, the WCCA media abdicated their role as leaders of the Fourth Estate, leaving citizen journalists, sans taxpayer-provided press rooms and corporate-backed research teams, to take up the mantle of a a free and independent press. 

At Her Daddy’s Lobbying Knee
While most college students are grateful to scrape together a few bucks to go out for pizza and beer with friends, Jocelyn, on summer break from Delta Gamma sorority, attended lobbying functions at exclusive Seattle waterfront grills with her high-powered lawyer/lobbyist father, Clifford Webster. 
Clifford Webster
In 2004, when many astute political observers had not yet heard of, or comprehended the reach of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Jocelyn was already attending their legislative events and establishing political contacts.
Jocelyn’s name can be found one of her father’s 2004 expense reports, filed five months late with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, as a guest at a “Northwest PhRMA Task Forces” event “during ALEC.”  PhRMA is one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington, representing almost fifty pharmaceutical companies.
And Webster’s firm picked up the dinner tab to the tune of $5,200.  Not exactly Pizza Hut.


Clifford Webster’s influence, and therefore his daughter’s professional network, extends far beyond his lobbying efforts in the Pacific Northwest.  His law firm, Carney Badley Spellman is a member of the State Capitol Group, a mega-association of independent law firms founded as specialists in business law in all fifty state capitols.
Clifford Webster has served as chairman of this lobbying powerhouse, which boasts 17 former Governors and their law firms among its members, including Delaware’s Pierre DuPont, and Wisconsin’s Tony Earl, of Quarles and Brady.
This national lobbying association claims to be non-partisan. However, a fairly recent quote from Clifford Webster highlights his clients’ partisan legislative concerns when he rails against “the usual Democratic themes - health care, environmental policy, public education, etc."

From Delta Gamma to the White House
Based on Clifford Webster’s extensive political network it is no surprise that his daughter landed a job in the Bush administration upon graduation from college.
Jocelyn Webster’s tainted tenure in Karl Rove’s Office of Political Affairs was thoroughly reported by my fellow citizen journalists within days of her eye rolling performance in the Wisconsin Capitol basement and can be read here
The credentialed Wisconsin Capitol journalists offered no reports about Webster’s appearance in a House Congressional investigation that highlighted her role in the illegal use of Republican National Committee email accounts.
What was the problem with using RNC email accounts for official White House work?
First, emails on RNC accounts could be destroyed with impunity – covering up illegal activity – like Rove’s outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.  Government email is subject to Federal recordkeeping laws and therefore must be archived.  The emails of political organizations are not subject to these same laws and therefore may be destroyed.
Second, the use of the RNC email accounts, with direct evidence from Congressman Harry Waxman’s investigation pointing directly to Jocelyn, were used to plan and organize purely political meetings with civil service employees on government time.

Rove’s OPA repeatedly and willfully violated the 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees or taxpayer dollars to be used for partisan political reasons,  and was investigated and reported on seperately by the Office of Special Counsel.
Sound like the activity of any former Milwaukee County Executive, now Governor?   

The Pentagon Spin Unit – Cheerleaders for Death 
After the debacle in Rove’s office, Webster was fortunate to land at the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs, although one observer did label the group “a dumping ground for administration cronies.”
Webster’s role at the Department of Defense is key to understanding her as a fully realized partisan - a political propagandist who needed no knowledge, experience, or particular expertise - other than the skills necessary to shape a message, and feed that message, regardless of its relationship to the truth, to an incurious and sycophantic press corps – and ultimately to an unsuspecting and largely trusting electorate.
Have you ever wondered how the media, especially right-wing pundits and bloggers, talk and write about the exact same topics at the same time?  Is this a coincidence, like the proverbial one-hundred monkeys left in front of one-hundred typewriters for one-hundred years who eventually manage to pound out “Hamlet”?
In 2007 the Pentagon couldn’t wait one-hundred years for a consistent, positive message about the Iraq War from the media monkeys.  An election hovered around the corner and the growth of social media demanded a rapid, content-laden response from the DoD.
Webster and her fellow war hawks at the aptly named “SurrogatesOperation” fed Iraq War talking points to selected media who could be trusted to ape the administration line.
The “Surrogates” coached active and former military officers prior to their appearances on the talk news circuit, providing insider information to keep them on message about the Bush/Cheney war effort.
A few officers did not appreciate Webster’s coaching, and described her as “very young with no background in national security or foreign affairs.”
Some military experts were “put off to say the least by these neophyte political appointees telling retired and active personnel in uniform what to say and what to think.”
But regardless of Webster’s inexperience, the partisan media monkeys banged out the message.
After a media briefing on Guantanamo in June 2007 with J. Alan Liotta, principle director for the Pentagon’s Office of Detainee Affairs, Deroy Murdock, a nationally syndicated columnist, wrote a passionate column entitled “Expand Gitmo!” 

In his celebratory pro-war piece, Murdock, a media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, described Guantanamo prison as a word-class resort, albeit one that needed to escalate the use of torture.  His excitement was especially palpable on the benefits of waterboarding and blasting rock music at prisoners at deafening volumes.
Not surprisingly, Webster and her fellow neo-con cheerleaders for death and destruction did not lead any pro-Geneva Convention discussions for the media.  
This disdain for the rule of law would become evident in Webster’s first month as spokesperson in the Walker administration.

From Waterboarding to “The Idle Rich”
After Obama took the White House the Republican diaspora took Webster in a number of directions before she found her way to Rove’s home state of Texas.

Webster, front-center, with the "Idle Rich"
Webster’s lengthy political résumé appeared to bode well for her role in corporate political affairs at 7-Eleven’s Dallas headquarters.  But Jocelyn’s primary focus in the “Big D” was not necessarily on Slurpee’s, but the oh- so-trendy club scene, partying with her well-heeled peers at “The Idle Rich Pub.”
Why did Jocelyn decide to move to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin?  Was Dallas too boring - or was Scott Walker’s rise to national prominence too enticing for a politically ambitious true believer?     

A Hardy Handful of Activists
By the end of 2011, Webster’s allies at ALEC had decimated one century of open and transparent legislative practices in the state to which she brought her Gucci carpetbags.
No longer did the GOP majority legislate based on Wisconsin’s unique circumstances.  Instead, they yielded the tiresome task of writing laws to the corporate controlled ALEC lobbyists.  The only effort that the business-backed legislators needed to undertake was to switch the proposed bills from ALEC letterhead to Wisconsin stationary before introducing them.
The Center for Media and Democracy exhaustively researched and reported on the pervasive influence of ALEC, including Scott Walker’s union-busting Act 10, “the bomb” that he dropped on an unsuspecting Wisconsin. 
This ALEC legislation, which was never discussed during Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, initiated the pro-democracy Capitol Uprising in February 2011 in Madison in which hundreds of thousands demonstrated in favor of collective bargaining.
By late 2011 a disparate group of about three hundred activists, what the New York Times called “a hardy handful,” remained active in and around the Capitol, advocating daily for the recall of Walker and the restoration of collective bargaining via the songs of the Solidarity Sing Along and other free speech activities – such as holding signs and banners under the soaring dome of the Wisconsin Rotunda.
Solidarity Sing Along - photo Lisa Wells
It was on these activists that Walker dropped a second bomb - a bomb with which he tried to stifle free speech and assembly in the Capitol. 

Cue Jocelyn Webster – Lie #1
Jocelyn steered the assembled WCCA reporters, all of whom had remained mute during the Capitol Rules meeting, away from the frustrated Wisconsinites, into a narrow vending room.
The new DOA spokeswoman told the assembled reporters that “the rules are nothing new,” and the "updated policy is meant to remove confusion and create consistency for law enforcement officers and the public.”
This was the first time, to my knowledge, that Webster briefed the WCCA press - and she used the briefing to tell a blatant lie. She lied that the rules were not new when the ink was barely dry on the copies distributed at the meeting.  The policies that I outlined above couldn't be found anywhere on any State website - because they did not exist. 

Jocelyn Gets Comfortable – Lie #2
During the first rules meeting Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs stated to the activists:
"I don't think that decision needs to be to challenge us (the Administration)… whether or not we're gonna make an arrest.  I told each and every one of you, you don't want it on your record.  If it goes that route you don't want to be involved in that (having an arrest record)."
The assembled citizens understood the message loud and clear.  Show up at the Capitol with four or more people and you could face arrest.  This was no idle threat, as many of those in attendance had already been arrested for free speech activities – such as quietly holding copies of the Constitution in the public Capitol Rotunda.

Tubbs and Schoenherr - photo by Lisa Wells
But after an uproar from citizens and legal scholars the administration was forced to backtrack on these odious rules – allowing Webster her first opportunity to lie to the Wisconsin public. 
"There's a fundamental misunderstanding of this policy if there was a belief arrests were going to stem from this policy." 
There was no misunderstanding.  Wisconsin First Amendment activists had been arrested throughout 2011, and had been threatened with arrest by Capitol Police Chief Tubbs, at a meeting which Jocelyn attended.
And on December 16, 2011, the day the rules were scheduled to go into effect, Webster condescendingly said this about the potential for arrests:
                               "It's kind of funny that anybody even thinks that they would be."
Interesting that Webster, an English major, and political spinmeister of the highest order, would choose to use the word “funny” when describing citizens’ fears over potentially being arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Did Webster think it was “funny” when her Pentagon “Surrogates Group” advocated torture of American detainees at Guantanamo?  Does Webster believe the US signature on the Geneva Convention is “funny”? 

Jocelyn Entrenched – Lie #3
At the same time that Webster attempted to sell the destruction of the First Amendment, her Department of Administration was mandated by state statute to report the fiscal 2011 results of the “Contractual Services Purchasing Report”. 
This report was eagerly anticipated after a year of union busting as it would highlight the state spending that Walker had shifted from public employees to private contractors.
Eight months passed before Webster reported the results.  
Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism said that Webster blamed the University of Wisconsin System, which she claimed, “was late in turning their submission for this report and the DOA did not receive it until May 2012, which delayed the report.”
Lueders followed up with David Giroux, spokesman for the UW System, whose account differs:
“It looks like DOA requested the contractual services data from UW System in early December 2011, and we responded right away.”  Subsequently, “we discovered some formatting errors in our report that were affecting the final results. Those errors were corrected and the reformatted data was submitted to DOA in early March.”
Based on our knowledge of Webster, it’s not surprising, according to Lueders that “Webster did not respond to a request to explain the discrepancies in these accounts.”
The previous year’s report, the last year of the Doyle administration, was released in November 2010 – on time and a full seven months earlier than the comparable report released by Webster.
What were Webster, and her boss, Scott Walker hiding? 
Money.  Lots of money.
$363.8 million dollars was paid to private contractors instead of state agencies – agencies which are staffed with public employees – Walker’s political enemies. This outlay represented a 26 percent increase in spending on outside contractors over the previous year. 

Strike 3 and You’re Out Promoted
One value that Webster and Walker hold in high regard is consistency. They tell their story the way they want to tell it – facts be damned.  If a bit - or a lot of dishonesty is required to tell a tale – so be it.
Just after Walker’s recall victory it was announced that the recently created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - WEDC, Walker’s quasi-governmental agency, designed to shift taxpayer dollars to corporations, had offered tax incentives to Skyward, a Stevens Point educational data development company.
Skyward had been promised an $11.7 million tax break from the Walker administration contingent on winning a state contract.
Interestingly, even though public records show that the multi-million offer was made by the State to Skyward, Jocelyn Webster stated:
"To be clear, Skyward did not receive any firm commitment, monetary awards, or tax incentives from WEDC."
Webster also claimed that a March 2012 letter to Walker informing him of the deal was never received by the Governor.
Webster’s third lie did not lead to her dismissal from the Walker Administration and an ignominious exit from Wisconsin, for in Walker’s world mendacity leads to the brass ring.  
Within weeks of maintaining that Walker never received the communication confirming Skyward’s tax break, Webster was promoted to his very own Director of Communications. 
Now Webster resides in Walker’s inner sanctum, where she will be able to utilize the dark arts of political communication, which she has learned from her variety of experiences - with her ALEC-connected lobbyist father, from her one year and two investigations in Karl Rove’s White House, to her time as a “Surrogate” at the Pentagon where she manipulated the media in support of torture and the Iraq War.
And the journalists who sit on their asses - day in and day out at the Wisconsin State Capitol reported nothing about this political operative’s background.
Why don't reporters pursue stories that touch on the ethics of our political leaders?
Jason Stein, the WCCA President, in an exchange with a colleague of mine about the relationship of the WCCA to those in power, said that the Capitol reporters wished to do nothing that would damage their privileged relationship with the government.
The Capitol reporters have elevated their relationships with public servants above their relationships with their readers, the voters of the state, and the Constitution.
But the ultimate relationship of the press is with money. 
Stein’s employer saw revenues soar during the recall campaign.  Steven Smith, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Journal Communications, the parent of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WTMJ 620AM, and TMJ4, reported increased operating earnings driven in large part by political advertising.
Smith also sits on the executive board of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which gave $437,000 to Walker’s during the recall race, via the Republican Governor’s Association.
With all this money invested in the Walker, and the stream of millions in political advertising revenue, it’s no surprise that Stein’s boss, and his newspaper endorsed Scott Walker.
Did all those millions influence Stein and the Capitol reporters to sit on their hands when they should have been researching and writing about Walker’s latest political appointee - Jocelyn Webster - and made them miss the story – again?

6 comments:

  1. She was most likely promoted to replace Cullen Werwie and to help with the spin when Walkergate busts loose. The ALEC/Koch/Bradley Foundation needed an insider they could trust in there to deal with things when the fecal matter strikes the oscillating machinery.

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  2. This is one of the best pieces of investigative journalism I have seen in this state in a while. Where the hell are the rest of the reporters? Oh wait, in the press room, betting on sports teams and waiting to be told what to say and do next by their corporate sponsors. Thank god for PD and his nose for the truth and hard boiled, ain't afraid to tell it like it is style. We need more of this, and fast...

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  3. I busted her on Huffington Post where she had been posting pro-Walker garbage. Her name was "Josephine." Isn't that clever?

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  4. Is she was posting during work hours she broke the law. That is what started Walkergate.

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  5. If she posted comments on HuffPo during work hours she broke the law. That is how Walkergate started.

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  6. This is a cool idea. I think it is much more frugal to harness solar power. It should be a lot more cost-effective media jobs

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