- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 3

Legislators right to ask for Eaton explanation

Eaton Corp. says it has done everything it was asked to do, and the state economic development agency seems to agree. But the status of the company’s state tax credits are still worth a discussion as Eaton outsources jobs to Mexico.

Two leading Democrats in the state Legislature - both board members of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. - say the agency should discuss taking back those credits. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) asked outgoing WEDC secretary Reed Hall to bring up the issue at the agency’s Sept. 24 board meeting. We agree: At the least, more explanation is needed.

As the Journal Sentinel’s Rick Romell reported this week, the state gave Eaton up to $1 million in tax credits to assist the move of a division headquarters from Milwaukee to Menomonee Falls in 2012. Eaton was promised the credits over several years if it met certain goals. The company was required to invest $13.5 million in a facility in Menomonee Falls, retain 154 jobs there and create 24 more. Eaton has done all that.

But soon after it moved into its new offices, the company said it would cut 163 jobs at a factory in Pewaukee as it began to shift production of molded rubber products from Pewaukee to Queretaro, Mexico.

Then in April, Eaton announced plans to eliminate 93 jobs at a circuit board plant in Watertown; that work also is reportedly moving to Mexico. And just this week, the company said in a notice to the state that it would shed 83 jobs in Pewaukee - part of 163 layoffs announced two years ago.

“Taxpayers and board members deserve answers about how a taxpayer-supported company can continue to send jobs out of the country without any recovery of public funds,” Barca said in a statement.

A WEDC spokesman, Steven Michels, said Eaton has certified “that the award to the Menomonee Falls facility was not used to outsource jobs.”

But Barca and Lassa are right to demand a more thorough explanation. Barca noted in an interview with Romell that even if the company has kept its word, the goal of economic development incentive programs “is not to have a company create 10 jobs and outsource 2,000.”

An exaggeration by Barca to make a point, but it’s a good point. The WEDC board should demand answers.

___

Leader-Telegram, Sept. 8

Unlimited giving, anonymity a bad mix

What’s worse, political campaigns working directly with special-interest groups, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently authorized, or not knowing who is fueling those groups?

The answer is both.

It’s no secret that many politicians who aren’t multi-millionaires, and even some who are, are bought and paid for by the rich and powerful in this country, thanks in part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

But allowing unlimited campaign “contributions” and anonymity invites corruption in which every issue and policy is openly for sale to the highest successful bidder, meaning those who lay their money down on the winning candidates.

As with most issues, there is another side to this. That is, business owners with strong political leanings who publicly contribute to campaigns or speak out for or against an issue or candidate risk having their livelihoods threatened by organized opposition, specifically boycotts of their businesses. There were examples of this during the heated debate that accompanied the passage of Act 10 in 2011 that stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

Many would argue that paying a personal price is something that has to be weighed when deciding to become politically active. That may be unavoidable, but it’s the argument some use to justify anonymous contributions. In the end, however, openness needs to prevail; otherwise we risk being led by puppet regimes in which the elected leaders are simply well-spoken representatives of nameless special interests.

The best solutions to prevent “buying” candidates and never-ending campaigns are shorter campaigns and public financing of those campaigns, but neither idea ever has garnered much support. The main argument is that the Constitution guarantees the right to express one’s opinions. So if one citizen has millions of dollars and the next citizen is poor - too bad.

The other argument is that no matter how hard we may try, we’ll never keep money out of politics.

But in shutting down the John Doe investigation that had been looking into whether Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign illegally collaborated with third-party groups, we now have rich special-interest groups and individuals able to give unlimited amounts of money anonymously that can be coordinated directly with the campaigns.

The end result will be an inability to cross-check those donations against later legislation that benefits the donors, whether the beneficiaries are unions, businesses, oil companies, a mega-rich casino owner, or whomever.

There is no perfect campaign finance system, but an increasing number of frustrated citizens are realizing that the current arrangement is not what our founders intended, and it’s not leading us to a better place.

___

The Journal Times of Racine, Sept. 9

The undocumented and the Second Amendment

Mariano Meza-Rodriguez was 4 years old when his parents brought him from Mexico to the United States. He grew up in Milwaukee and attended Milwaukee Public Schools, but never became a citizen or obtained papers allowing him to remain in the U.S. legally. In other words, he was an undocumented immigrant.

Meza-Rodriguez, having reached adulthood, was arrested in 2012 after a bar fight in Milwaukee. Police found a .22-caliber bullet in his shorts pocket.

A federal law makes it illegal for an undocumented immigrant to possess firearms or ammunition, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The prohibition also covers people in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas.

Meza-Rodriguez’s lawyer, Joseph Bugni, argued that the weapons charges should be dismissed, that Meza-Rodriguez had a Second Amendment right to possess the bullet, and to bear arms for self-defense. Prosecutors said as an undocumented immigrant, he had no such rights. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa agreed. Meza-Rodriguez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served but also deported to Mexico. Now a felon, he cannot ever be legally admitted to the U.S.

The government argued that Meza-Rodriguez’s “unsavory traits, including his multiple brushes with the law, failure to file tax returns, and lack of a steady job, demonstrate that he has not sufficiently accepted the obligations of living in American society.”

Bugni appealed the sentence, again arguing that Meza-Rodriguez had Second Amendment rights. Remarkably, a federal appeals court agreed. The three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Aug. 20 that people living in the United States illegally have a constitutional right to bear arms, the Associated Press reported.

“We see no principled way to carve out the Second Amendment and say that the unauthorized (or maybe all noncitizens) are excluded,” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote.

Really?

We would have thought it plainly obvious that, to have Second Amendment rights under the Constitution of the United States, you have to be a citizen. That U.S. citizens are the only people to whom Second Amendment rights apply.

We don’t dispute that Meza-Rodriguez had a right to self-defense. That’s a widely recognized human right.

But as an undocumented immigrant, that right to self-defense did not come from the Second Amendment. Or so we would have thought any court in the nation would have ruled.

Odder still, the 7th Circuit also ruled that Meza-Rodriguez was barred from possessing firearms or ammunition under a separate federal law. Bugni said the decision contradicts itself. He’s not wrong about that.

Bugni said he plans to ask all nine active 7th Circuit judges to review the case together, and if Meza-Rodriguez doesn’t prevail at that level, he’ll go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We hope that either the whole of the 7th Circuit, or if necessary the Supreme Court, will recognize that while undocumented immigrants have a right to defend themselves, it’s not a Second Amendment right. To have the right to possess firearms under the Second Amendment, you have to be a law-abiding citizen, emphasis on citizen.

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