WISTAX guess lands front page real estate, shows bias

Conservative go-to-guy Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) landed front page real estate in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today without digging up any facts in his perpetual Wisconsin mudslinging. His attacks were seconded as usual by WMC as well as John Gard.The article, ‘€œBusiness leaders decry tax increases in state budget,’€ is all about how the top 1% of income earners are complaining because they saw a tax increase for the first time since the original Godfather movie was released, and how corporations are complaining now because Wisconsin decided that it was BS for them to use loopholes to avoid paying their share of taxes.

So I guess in a story that focused so little on the budget’€™s protection of middle-class priorities, like public education and health care, it made sense for the reporter to lead off with the head of WISTAX’€”a principal voice for the pro-corporate, anti-middle class tax policies pushed by conservatives’€”throwing mud on the state for increasing taxes on the top 1% and holding corporations accountable.

The first error, as always, is that the reporter doesn’€™t correctly label WISTAX as either conservative or pro-corporate or anything else synonymous with those two terms. I think readers who haven’€™t taken a look at our analysis of WISTAX deserve to know that whenever they see ‘€œTodd Berry’€ or ‘€œWisconsin Taxpayers Alliance’€ in a news article (or opinion piece) they are about to get or have just read a statement dramatically skewed toward the perception that the top 1% are better off paying less of their fair share or that Wisconsin corporations are right to avoid paying taxes by setting up a post office box in another state.

The reporter even writes that he turned to Democratic leaders for a response to Berry’€™s claims. If a reporter interviews Berry, and then says to him/herself, ‘€œHmm, maybe I should get the OTHER SIDE of the story’€ and then looks to liberals or Democrats for that OTHER SIDE of the story, doesn’€™t that tell you that maybe Todd Berry and WISTAX aren’€™t as objective or non-ideological as the media continues to let them claim.

Instead, the reporter gives a little space to the executive assistant in the Department of Commerce to refute Berry’€™s  accusations’€”pointing out the tax incentives for businesses included in the budget’€”but immediately returns to an army of pro-corporate, GOP interests.

John Gard, who recently acquired a pro-business lobbying firm (the reporter calls it a ‘€œsmall-business’€ lobbying firm’€”give me GD break) was the first to line up behind Berry. It should be noted that Gard and his wife Cate Zeuske (who bought  the firm with Gard) have been suckling the public teat with taxpayer dollars for years’€”Gard as a GOP Assemblyperson and Zeuske as Tommy Thompson’€™s Secretary of Revenue.

WMC is next in line behind Berry and Gard to not talk about protecting Wisconsin’€™s priorities.  WISTAX and WMC actually have quite a long line of shared board of directors, including John Torinus who gets a regular column in the Journal Sentinel’€™s Business section. So I guess it makes sense for Wisconsin’€™s biggest business lobby to follow the pro-corporate WISTAX in protecting CEOs and corporations who would rather not pay their fair share.

Also interviewed for the article was ‘€œsmall business owner’€ Michael L. Hansen. He actually owns three businesses and a quick look at his campaign donations shows an overwhelming amount of money going to almost entirely Republican candidates. Unfortunately, but true to form, the reporter doesn’€™t include any interviews from middle-class families whose taxes were NOT raised in this tough economy and who can still continue to give their children a quality public education. Nor was an interview included from a representative of VitalMedix Inc., the company that moved here from Minnesota because the budget provided a favorable investment environment.

The other error in putting Berry’€™s statements on the front page of the paper is that in this case, he doesn’€™t even come to the table with evidence to support the claim he makes. Berry always has a ‘€œWisconsin is Bad for the Top 1% and Corporations’€ story to tell, but in this case he doesn’€™t have a single piece of hard evidence to support the accusation that Wisconsin is getting worse among all other states and that this budget is to blame. The reporter mentions that Berry’€™s claim is a ‘€œguess’€ based on a ‘€œreading,’€ but not until after the jump.

Here’€™s a fact more worthy of inclusion in a front page story: 48 states are facing shortfalls in their budgets this year. And if a reporter wanted to add that One Wisconsin Now stands by the assertion that this FACT is a result of eight years of Bushonomics and eight-straight GOP federal budgets, that’€™d be just fine. And if that reporter even wanted to tag us with ‘€œliberal,’€ well that’€™d be OK too. All we’€™d ask is that the same level detail be provided when quoting the very-much conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance’€”especially when citing their guesstimates.

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Cody currently oversees online communications, web development, and graphic design at One Wisconsin Now & the Institute, having served previously as Deputy Research Director.