Assemblyman Zepnick, Author of AT&T Deregulation Bill Has Nation Consulting Partner, Sachin Chheda Backing

By Robert Miranda, Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

And Chris Johnson, Publisher/Editor,KINGFISHmke.com

May 20, 2015 

It was a major political battle in the cable industry that Wisconsin was in the middle of a few years ago. Corporate giant AT&T was flexing its bank account muscle to pass legislation designed to help AT&T operate in Wisconsin with little oversight by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC). Clearly at the time the telecommunications bills being pushed by former Democrat State Senator Jeff Plale and State Representative Josh Zepnick, currently running for Milwaukee alderman, were designed to favor AT&T’s corporate interests over consumer interest in Wisconsin.

That’s right! Two Democrats authored two separate bills that would have given AT&T and other telephone companies the option to no longer be classified as telecommunications utilities. If that happened, the PSC would no longer have the authority to oversee much of AT&T operations.

Of particular interest to the Wisconsin consumer, the bills would have given phone companies free reign to raise their rates anytime they wanted, and they would never have to justify raising their rates to the PSC. Zepnick and Plale bills also would have eliminated the PSC’s authority to deal with phone service complaints on behalf of consumers and businesses.  

Rep. Zepnick introduced Assembly Bill 696 and Sen. Plale introduced Senate Bill 469 back in 2010. Both bills were soley designed to give AT&T carte blanche to do what it wanted in Wisconsin. To read more about the bills click here

AT&T rewarded both lawmakers for their loyal corporate work. For Plale, AT&T provided $4,000, and the cable industry donated $6,446 from 2003 through 2009. Zepnick received $1,400 from cable providers and AT&T during the period, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The legislation these Democrats were pushing died, thanks to an unexpected Democratic Party push-back as reported by Madison Times.

But the real story is what happened after AT&T lost its campaign. 

State Sen. Plale was targeted for removal from his seat because he authored rightwing legislation like the AT&T bill against the voice of opposition by fellow Democrats. State Senator Chris Larson, a county supervisor at the time, was chosen to be Plale’s challenger. 

In Larson’s corner at the time was Sachin Chheda, partner of the now exposed rightwing money changer Thad Nation, who founded Nation Consulting. Thad Nation is connected to Gov. Scott Walker by representing a company that gave $129,000 for a proposed oil pipeline between Superior, WI and Delevan, WI. To read more about it, click here: http://cognidissidence.blogspot.com/2015/05/from-indiana-to-enbridge-nations-journey.html?m=1
It was discovered that Thad Nation, a high level Democratic insider, gave Tea Party and Koch Brothers front groups tens of thousands of dollars through a non-profit group called Coalition for the New Economy. Chheda was also chairman of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party during the time Plale was unseated.

Larson beat Plale and becomes senator. But wait a minute. Why didn’t Sachin Chheda and the Democrats target Assemblyman Zepnick for his AT&T work at the Assembly as well? 

Zepnick wasn’t targeted because Zepnick was supported by Thad Nation, who was also trying to get the AT&T deregulation bill passed as executive director of the AT&T-backed Wired Wisconsin group.

It appears the Nation Consulting partners, Thad Nation and Sachin Chheda, were doing a one-two political maneuver.  

On the Plale front, Chedda Milwaukee County Democratic Party Chair and Nation Consulting partner disagreed with Plale in public for what he was doing with AT&T. But on the Josh Zepnick front, well, Thad Nation and Josh Zepnick were on the same AT& T team trying to get the bill passed through the Assembly.

Thwarted

Zepnick’s legislative effort in the waning days of the state legislative session was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, who slapped AT&T by referring the bill to the Legislature’s budget committee for review. This maneuver by Decker assured the death sentence for Zepnick’s AT&T bill.

Zepnick told Wisconsin newspapers he wasn’t thrilled with what Decker did. 

Thad Nation, executive director of AT&T-backed Wired Wisconsin, mind you, was also working at his Nation Consulting firm during this battle as well. He told the Associated Press, “If it doesn’t get done, that’s going to be a huge missed opportunity for Wisconsin.”

Thad Nation claimed the bill would have traded regulatory authority away in return for more investment in the state by communications providers. 

However, one consumer advocate says Thad Nation had it all wrong.

“It eliminates the regulations the Public Service Commission has used to ensure affordable and reliable landline telephone service for decades,” said Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board. He also told the Associated Press that millions of landlines still exist in Wisconsin. The AT&T bills Plale and Zepnick were pushing would have affected millions of Wisconsin consumers negatively.

Nation Consulting claims, “Getting government officials or bodies to do what you want isn’t easy. Government is inherently a slow, bureaucratic entity. When you want elected or appointed officials to change policy, you need a comprehensive plan – and the resources, relationships and quick-thinking to implement that plan.”

Now we have a glimpse of who Nation Consulting is willing “to change policy” for: Corporations like AT&T.

Thad Nation makes a good sales pitch for hiring Nation Consulting. As demonstrated in this article, working with Zepnick almost worked for his AT&T cause. And now, as Zepnick prepares to challenge Alderman Bob Donovan, it’s likely that the Nation network will be doing what it can to place another supporter of the streetcar in the Milwaukee Common Council. 

With Assemblyman Zepnick being helped to get elected by the Nation network, Alderman Jose G. Perez being the other, the future for Nation Consulting could be very profitable. For the people of Milwaukee, what price will we pay for Nation’s political manipulations?

Update:

Sate Senator exposes Jason Rae and Thad Nation’s mole network. Review from minute mark 13:15 forward. She really goes after Them
http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/26/1373369/-Democratic-Party-of-Wisconsin-Open-forum-for-new-chair-April-9-River-Falls
http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/26/1373369/-Democratic-Party-of-Wisconsin-Open-forum-for-new-chair-April-9-River-Falls

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Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on May 26, 2015

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