LANSING – According to the Lansing State Journal on Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder used his pardon powers to erase the drunken driving conviction of a politically connected lawyer who was appointed to a state economic board in 2011.
Snyder followed the recommendation of the Michigan parole board and pardoned Alan Gocha Jr. in December, one of only 11 pardons out of roughly 750 applications since the governor took office.
Gocha applied in April 2012, less than four years after pleading guilty to driving while impaired in Oakland County’s Bloomfield Township. An agent conducted interviews and checked records before the file “was put on the backburner,” said Russ Marlan, a deputy director at the Corrections Department. But the board the next year encouraged Gocha to apply again, he said.
One of Gocha’s references was Bob LaBrant, a Republican strategist who is the Chamber of Commerce’s former lawyer and a Snyder appointee on the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
Gocha gave $26,500 to the chamber’s political action committee from 2011 through 2013. He was general counsel for 5-hour Energy’s parent company, Innovation Ventures, until 2010 when the legal department became a stand-alone firm.
The primary client is Innovation Ventures, based in Farmington Hills. Records show Gocha’s firm also is the agent for ETC Capital, a private equity firm backed by 5-hour Energy’s billionaire founder, Manoj Bhargava.
ETC Capital last August gave $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association, joining conservative billionaires Sheldon Adelson and David Koch on the list of top five donors to the group that worked to elect Snyder and other Republican governors, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity. That same day, the RGA paid $3.2 million to a media company to place ads backing Snyder’s re-election.
Eight weeks after ETC Capital gave $275,000 to the RGA in October 2013, the group gave $276,000 to the Michigan Republican Party.
“I had no idea that (Bhargava) was politically active. I had no idea that Gocha was politically active,” said Marlan.
Gocha was “just another person” and received no special treatment, Marlan said.
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Melissa Baldauff
Friday, 27 March 2015 10:32
MADISON – After four years of doing nothing in Washington, D.C., Ron Johnson finds himself having to talk to voters in Wisconsin as he seeks reelection but he might find it hard to garner support on the campaign trail when he says that college students are too lazy to finish school on time and that student loan debt is easy and fun.
But that’s the bizarre argument Johnson made at a public appearance in Verona over the weekend when asked by a constituent about the problem of college affordability.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Johnson said that college students are taking longer to graduate because they don’t feel any urgency to get to work and start contributing to the economy. “Loans are pretty easy to get and college is a lot of fun,” Johnson also said, while noting that many students can attribute their student loan debt to the fact that federal loans are easy to obtain and because they chose the wrong degrees of study.
Nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents carrying federal student loan debt and that number will only continue to grow, as 67 percent of graduates from four-year colleges in Wisconsin will have student loan debt when they leave school.
But as the cost of college rises -- tuition has doubled in the past 12 years – Wisconsin incomes are not. Under largely Republican leadership, Wisconsin has seen the largest decline in the percentage of families considered "middle class" since 2000. A report released last week by the Pew Charitable Trust shows that Wisconsin's median household income has fallen by 14.7 percent since 2000, the worst drop of any state and more than double the average decline nationally. In 2000, Wisconsin incomes were well above the national average but are now well below, pushing the prospect of helping to send their kids to college out of reach for many working Wisconsin families.
“Only an out of touch millionaire like Ron Johnson, whose career has been bought and paid for by his in-laws, would think college kids are just too lazy to finish school or that middle class families would prefer to be crippled by student loan debt,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Melissa Baldauff said Thursday. “Johnson has no idea what reality is like for middle class families in Wisconsin who, despite working harder than ever, have seen the worst drop in income of any state in the country. You shouldn't have to be a millionaire like Ron Johnson to be able to help your kids go to college. ”
MADISON - Former U.S. Rep. Bob Kastenmeier, an early and staunch opponent of the Vietnam War who served 32 years in Congress, died Friday, March 20th at his home in Arlington, Virginia. The Madison Democrat was 91.
His wife, Dorothy, says his heart had been failing.
Kastenmeier, who represented the Madison area, served in the U.S. House from 1959 to 1991. He was an early critic of the Vietnam War. He brought his House subcommittee to Madison to hold hearings on how the war was affecting his constituents.
In a statement issued last Friday, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said of Kastenmeier:
"Bob Kastenmeier was an unwavering advocate for civil rights, justice, the search for knowledge, and public service -- he was the very embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea. Kastenmeier was a true progressive hero who paved the way for Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mark Pocan, who continue to represent Wisconsin in a way that honors Kastenmeier's legacy."