Joe Wineke, Candidate for State Democratic Party Chairman Calling

By Robert Miranda, Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

May 14, 2015

The one time AT&T lobbyist and supporter for deregulation laws that would help corporate giant AT&T and other telephone companies raise rates without receiving approval to raise their rates, among other things, is seeking to become Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW)—again.

Former State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke is asking for voters to consider his candidacy despite the fact that he was asked to resign back in 2007 when Wood County Democrats passed a resolution demanding he do so because he was a paid lobbyist for AT&T while serving as Chairman.

Party leaders at the time stated Wineke either had to serve as DPW chairman or be a AT&T lobbyist, “but he couldn’t do both.”

Wineke received a letter from the LaCross Democratic Party expressing their displeasure with Wineke for his decision to lobby for AT&T. At the time, the controversial bill being moved in the State Assembly would have made it easier for AT&T to gain access into Wisconsin’s cable TV market.

Wineke was not being paid by DPW at the time so he felt that his lobbying gig for AT&T would not be a conflict of interest. Turns out that Democratic Party leaders thought otherwise.

What was Wineke lobbying for you ask?

Well, at the time, he was pushing for AT&T and other telephone companies to no longer have to receive approval from the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to change their rates and they would not have to report profit and expense information to the PSC.

Not a bad deal for a huge corporation, huh?

Ultimately, Wineke decided to stop lobbying for AT&T in 2007. He did so because some state Democrats called on Wineke to stop or resign his party position.

Wineke to this day insist he did nothing wrong and only decided to stop lobbying for AT&T because he felt the issue was dividing the party.

Then comes Assembly Bill 696 and Senate Bill 469 in 2010. The bills were designed to give AT&T another chance live in easy street.

The bills were sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Plale and Democratic Representative Josh Zepnick, both of Milwaukee. Representative Josh Zepnick is currently running for the 8th Aldermanic District in Milwaukee.

As reported by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign in 2010, Plale “received more campaign contributions from AT&T and the cable industry than any other legislative Democrat… Zepnick received $1,400 from cable providers and AT&T during the period”.

Backers of the deregulation effort at the time included a host of cable industry companies with telecom giant AT&T leading the way.

Opponents to the AT&T led effort included smaller telecommunications companies, municipal electric utilities, the AFL-CIO, Citizens Utility Board and the Communications Workers of America.

Interesting to note that Thad Nation was also part of the AT&T team at this time. Thad Nation, founder and senior partner of Nation Consulting, was the executive director of AT&T-backed Wired Wisconsin.

Wired Wisconsin, which was actually an extension of corporate lobbying firm Nation Consulting, (sound familiar?) stated,”If it doesnt get done, thats going to be a huge missed opportunity for Wisconsin, to the Associated Press.

Nation argued that the bills “would have traded regulatory authority away in return for more investment in the state by communications providers.”

Since then, Nation is reported to have taken Wired Wisconsin to Broadband for America, a network dedicated to bashing Net Neutrality and FCC broadband oversight.

“AsStop the Cap!” reports that “Broadband for America is the largest telecom Astroturf effort ever, with dozens of members that are funded by Verizon or AT&T or equipment manufacturers whose businesses depend on contracts with large telecom companies”.

Continuing along this line of work in this industry, Nation’s right wing cloak and dagger insurgencyis also identified as the executive director of “TV4US Wisconsin,” which operates out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

TV4USsays it advocates”on behalf of American customers who deserve new choices, better service and lower costs in their television service.” However,the public interest groupCommon Causesays thatTV4US is “the very definition ofAstroturf: an industry-backed campaign that gives the appearance of widespread grassroots support,” but in reality is a corporate shill.

It is said that the individuals in question are still portrayed as being in good standing in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has been on the decline for some years now. Is it a coincidence that during these recent years of decline those good democrats have been in the middle of corporate controversy that has helped to move Wisconsin towards the red?

Clearly it is time to make room for new faces who are free from the taint of big money being deposited into their bank accounts by corporations and organizations democrats are supposed to be up against, not overtly or covertlyworking for.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on May 15, 2015

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