THE "TELL": On misusing mortgage relief dollars, Walker administration stands silent

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[img_assist|nid=158920|title=Royally screwed|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=145|height=211]In poker it's called a "tell" -- an unconscious sign from your opponent indicating what's really going on in his head. The fellow licks his lips and you may have figured out from keen observation that means, for example, that he's planning to bluff.

Well, here's another "tell" for Gov. Scott Walker and his administration. To begin with, the Walkerites are infamous mouthers. Walker PR people will wade in at the slightest news of interest and turn out long, mostly ideological statements that may be off point but serve to soothe the boss and his enablers while reasserting his wrong-headed ideology. So whenever the Walker administration remains absolutely silent on a relatively big issue, that's one huge "tell." They don't just have nothing to say, they've less than nothing. For (and this is something Mitt Romney has in his presidential campaign been struggling to avoid, lately) if they uttered word one, it would be the wrong word and instantly show them up as the charlatans they are.

Two examples: One, the John Doe probe of the Walker administrations (both his Milwaukee County executive's tenure and now the state executive branch). He's not talking about the Doe, these days, because whenever he talked in the past about how he wasn't a target of the probe or how he was cooperating fully, his misstatements and misdirections always caught up with him.

The latest example of a Walker "tell": The rather important and contentious matter of how this pipsqueak, Eagle Spout, no-nothing dealt with money that the State of Wisconsin received as its share of a national settlement in a lawsuit over private lender foreclosure and mortgage-servicing abuses. The issue resurfaced this week. First the background from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In February, state officials announced that Wisconsin would be receiving $140 million as part of a $25 billion settlement. In April, Walker signed off on a plan in which the state kept $24.3 million of the estimated $30.2 million it received in direct payments to help plug the state's budget gap. Then in June, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said $1.3 million would be used for raises and bonuses for state prosecutors.

The diversion of money came as state Department of Revenue officials estimated that the state was taking in more revenue than expected, translating into a potential $275.1 million surplus.

Summing up: Walker grabbed tens of millions of dollars from the national mortgage settlement in order to balance his own budget and to pay bonuses to state prosector. The Walker administration also decided to bail out the BMO Bradley Center (which it technically owns) with a $5 million "grant" which Walker formerly had opposed. Whee! It's a Walker spending spree! Except to the extent of involving homeowners who were supposed to be the beneficiaries of the cash --homeowners desperate to avoid foreclosure after being screwed by their lenders. They're not important if they reside in Milwaukee, because, hey, Milwaukee is enemy territory and they probably voted for the other guy, who's their mayor. Stick it to 'em!

And so the Walkerites raided the settlement money and spent it as they preferred on things besides mortgage relief. Hey! Wasn't this the governor who ran against the fund-transference practices of past governors Democratic and Republican? Pay no attention! Nothing to see here!

But then, in light of the state surplus, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett demanded that the state turn over more of the mortgage settlement funds to his city, which by far has Wisconsin's greatest collection of under-water mortgages. And that's where the Walker "tell" reappeared. Again, from the Journal Sentinel:

Cullen Werwie, Walker's spokesman, said the governor would have no comment.

And that's because Walker couldn't have a comment that would make any sense fiscally, or sound anything but malignant toward struggling, big-city, middle-class homeowners. So he said nothing.

In Fitzwalkerstan, sadly, that's a sign of progress.

By the way, the state now has a budget surplus for obvious reasons: The national fiscal crisis continues to ease, and the economy is improving -- despite what rhetoric you've heard from the Republicans damning Obama for ruining the country. But also, and this is important, the entirely predictable increase is proof that Walker didn't need to destroy collective bargaining to balance his budget. Of course, he's already admitted that to a US House committee, but who's keeping track? Better if he just keeps his mouth shut, at this point.

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