THE BLOG

Wisconsin Redux: Clark, We Need You!

06/29/2011 05:35 pm ET | Updated Aug 29, 2011

Fred Clark is a helpful guy. During the floods that ravaged Wisconsin in June of 2008, he went out in his tractor to help his neighbors. As rising waters threatened local businesses, Clark pulled equipment and property to safety, including saving the nearby business that recycled wood from old buildings into new ones.

Clark has a history of community service. He was Senior Forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, to say nothing of his membership in the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Society of American Foresters. His valued service was recognized by both Republicans and Democrats. Republican Governor Tommy Thompson appointed him to the Lower Wisconsin Riverway Board in 1998. In 2004, he was appointed to the Wisconsin Council on Forestry by Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

In 2008, Fred Clark was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly. His committee assignments on Education, State Properties and Resources Committees are crucial in a state which is looking at selling off property and resources and privatizing schools.

So if Clark is so helpful and neighborly, why are he and Republican State Senator Luther Olsen on a collision course? Why is Fred Clark so determined to replace Luther Olsen in the August 9 Recall Election?

It has been difficult for Luther Olsen lately. He expressed grave reservations about his colleague Republican Governor Scott Walker's "Budget Repair Bill," calling it "pretty radical." "It affects a lot of good working people," he said. Further, he expressed serious reservations about voting for Walker's collective bargaining repeal denying workers of their well-established constitutional rights.

Olsen also expressed conflicts about Republicans wanting seniors to give up Wisconsin's Senior Care Program, especially since the program was easier and offered better coverage than the national program.

But he had no such reservations about eliminating many other healthcare provisions such as $500 million in Medicaid support for the neediest families (2011 SB 40), Healthy Youth Act (2006 SB 286 SA 2), Planned Parenthood and Family Planning Coverage (2011 SB 40). At the same time that he was voting to cut back these and other health services, Olsen strongly supported "Conceal Carry" legislation, giving gun owners the right to take their guns into what Health Care Facilities remained. (2011 SB 93).

While he was voting drastic cuts in healthcare, Olsen was much more generous to himself. Olsen is now the subject of an ethics investigation on a complaint by One Wisconsin Now that alleges that he introduced an amendment to a Charter School Bill which would remove prohibitions and regulations on charter schools. This would allow State Senator Olsen and his wife, former Assembly Representative Joan Wade, to directly enrich themselves by setting up such schools. (2011 SB 22)

"Senator Luther Olsen believes he is above the law and that he can use his office to benefit himself and his wife," said Scott Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. "Not only did Senator Olsen know the implications of the vote he was taking, but also he joked about it as if it was a laughing matter."

Senator Olsen's biggest backers -- Koch Industries, Wisconsin Realtors Association, WalMart, tobacco companies and Alliant Energy -- are also betting he will be good for their economic growth. Already he voted to support the $140 million tax break for out-of-state corporations that Governor Walker pushed through in his first month of office. The signing ceremony for the Olsen supported budget slashing, union busting "Budget Repair Bill," which would make up $136 million of this deficit, was originally scheduled to be held at The Badger Sheet Metal Works in Green Bay. The site was the perfect symbol of Olsen and Walker's new Republican regime, as their CEO had been convicted of 8 counts of tax evasion.

Olsen further rewarded his contributors, infuriated his opponents and supported Governor Walker by voting to deregulate telecommunications, defund the popular internet program for schools, further reduce healthcare programs to rural communities, cutback on senior drug prescription programs and acquiesce to Koch Brothers Club for Growth positions by voting to cut environmental regulations, easing restrictions on Koch Industries.

The reactions to these votes was a grassroots uprising. Not only did thousands upon thousands rally to the State Capitol at Madison. But in Olsen's district, over 850 volunteers working in the worst Spring weather in memory, went door to door to collect over 23,000 signatures... far more than needed to recall Luther Olsen.

So on August 9, Fred Clark will face Luther Olsen in what many believe will be the pivotal Recall Election that could give Democrats the majority in the Wisconsin State Senate. Once again, Wisconsin needs Fred Clark and his tractor to help pull them out. Clark... We need you!