• activism pays off

Four years ago, I started a petition to “Save the Wisconsin Retirement System.” Your overwhelming response spurred me to join POWRS (Protect Our Wisconsin Retirement Security), a group of activists steadily gaining clout in protecting the WRS. This message is one of two. It details my personal work on the WRS issue. The second will discuss my activities with POWRS. Please share both widely.

I have two points to make in this first email. (1): we must continue to be vigilant. I am convinced there is a deeply ingrained desire in powerful political circles to slowly privatize the WRS. This would be a disaster. (2): little actions accomplish big things. When we ACT TOGETHER, we achieve amazing results. Read on for details.

There are currently 51,618 people who have signed my petition at

I have also compiled a companion email list and developed a “causes” FB Page (POWRS) which has close to a thousand followers. But I believe my biggest accomplishment occurred over the past 4th of July weekend.

I happened upon a news item stating that language had been quietly inserted into the Budget Bill which would revamp the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems. Trusted experts would be replaced by partisan legislators in a ratio that would give absolute control to the prevailing political party. This was seemingly done surreptitiously at a time when Republicans thought people would be too busy to notice.

I immediately posted the information to my then 327 Facebook followers. About half shared. The result was nothing short of incredible.

In three days, over 535,000 people had seen my post. Simultaneously, several retiree organizations got to work. Media outlets hammered both the open records changes and the WRS language.

Citizens contacted their legislators in such large numbers that both items were deleted, the only two removed from the Budget. All because of citizen action, the power of the people. Take a bow if you were part of it.

Incidentally, the legislators who sneaked the WRS stealth language into the budget remain unknown. I have spent countless hours trying to find out who did this and why. I contacted open government organizations and filed numerous open records requests.

All Democrats assured me they didn’t do it and had no idea who did. Republican replies used almost identical language: no denial; just that there is “no record” to share. I contacted the Attorney General’s office; he refused to investigate my complaint.

Recent developments lead me to believe it was done through a highly questionable policy meant to keep citizens in the dark: Republican legislators operating via “transitory” communications. In August, a governor-appointed committee ruled that transitory records are not subject to state laws regarding open records. On December 19, two members of the governor’s staff said they were directed by Scott Walker’s former chief-of-staff to bypass customary methods of communication that are subject to public scrutiny through open records statutes.

I am therefore guessing the WRS language was inserted via oral conversation or text/online messaging. Republicans seem more than determined to protect the identity of those who inserted this change into the budget, a change that would have been anything but transitory. If you know or hear anything pertinent, please contact me.

So stay tuned, share this email, and contact your legislators to remind them they are at-will employees who work for you. Compliment them for protecting the WRS, and demand that ALL work communications are documented and saved. Remind them there is an election coming and you will be watching.

Happy New Year!