by Abe Sauer
Scott Walker’s budget address to the Wisconsin legislature on Tuesday was a circus — except inside the assembly chamber, where the governor enjoyed a resoundingly warm reception. This reception was suspiciously affectionate: on Wednesday, we looked at the makeup of the west gallery audience, where attendees — every one of them — stood and cheered most loudly during the address.
What kind of special access was granted to the assembly chamber that day? How did everyone get in? Let’s look at Larry Meade, blogger and also spouse of Ann Althouse, the most influential conservative blogger in the region and a UW-Madison law professor, where she teaches Constitutional Law I and other classes. (Walker’s budget hits close to home for Althouse: it proposes that UW-Madison become a “quasi-public authority” — and there are now 11 lobbyists leading that charge.)
A video was posted on Althouse’s blog: “Meade got into the Capitol for the governor’s speech, and, afterward, shot this video.” It has footage of the address from the east gallery. An earlier post featured photos from Meade in the gallery.
Meade did not have press credentials. When I asked Althouse about how he got in, she told me, “Legislators had tickets to give out, and he was given one. With a ticket, you got in for the speech.”
Which legislator let Meade in? Althouse and Meade live in the University Heights area of Madison, which is represented by Brett Hulsey (D-77). Their Senator, Democrat Fred Risser, is currently in Illinois to prevent a quorum and was not the source of the pass.
In another posting (misquoting her own husband/reporter), Althouse said that “I could have been there too, but I’ve got a class at 4:30, and we need to talk about the Commerce Clause.”
Representative Hulsey’s office confirmed that it did not let Meade in — what’s more, that “no tickets were allotted to Rep. Hulsey.”
Ann Althouse did not respond to further questions about Meade’s presence in the gallery or who let him in.
So: two prominent local cheerleaders of Governor Scott Walker had access to the address, without going through their Representative (who was, interestingly, provided with no tickets, in any event), while thousands of Wisconsin citizens remained locked outside. This is the sort of thing that raises questions about the extent of special access in Madison, in light of Walker’s relationship with Koch Industries and the makeup of the audience in general for the budget address.
And the questions about lack of access to those who oppose Walker became downright goofy last night, when Representative Nick Milroy had a physcial altercation with capitol police while trying to enter his office. A misunderstanding probably, but symbolic all the same. The Capitol is closed until Monday, by a judge’s order. The last protesters left the building at 10 p.m. Don’t believe the widespread reports about “$7.5 million” in damage to the Capitol, either.
Abe Sauer can be reached at abesauer at gmail dot com.