December 29, 2020
It has been, shall we say, an exceptional and trying year. Such times require exceptional leadership and should be bring out the best in our leaders. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Governor Evers has not lived up to the moment when we needed him the most.
Governor Tony Evers and his administration have shown us time and time again that they are not up to the task. From misleading the public about coronavirus, to adding fuel to the flammable riots and looting, to illegally-recorded meetings with Legislative Leadership, Evers has pandered to the extreme factions of his base, dithered and repeatedly changed his position instead of being a leader for all of Wisconsin.
Here’s our list of the top 10 times that Governor Evers and his administration have flubbed, flip-flopped, or straight up fibbed to the Wisconsin public in 2020.
10. Evers stoked violence after the Jacob Blake shooting
We all witnessed the damage done by rioters and looters in the name of George Floyd over the summer. The final estimated cost of the damage in Minneapolis alone was $500 million. Most people wouldn’t welcome that kind of damage, but Governor Evers isn’t like most people.
After Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha police on August 23, riots were quickly scheduled to “f*** s*** up” in downtown Kenosha at 10:30 that night. At 10:35 pm, Evers tweeted, “While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country. We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country.”
No appeal for peace, calm or a plea to give the justice system time to work towards an answer. Whether intentional or not, the signal Gov. Evers sent and his timing could not have been more destructive.
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) August 24, 2020
Kenosha erupted in flames for several days. The local sheriff asked Evers to send National Guard troops to quell the violence early on August 24. Evers gave them 125. Then local officials asked him for a total of 750 on August 25. Evers gave them 250 total. President Trump offered another 500 to make up the difference, but Evers refused. After two people were fatally shot in the riots, officials asked again for more troops, this time for 1,500. Evers finally took the offer for federal help.
Local law enforcement in Wisconsin have told the White House they need at least 750 National Guard tonight. Governor Evers is only sending 250. Today, Mark Meadows called the Governor and offered 500 additional guard to meet the police needs.
Governor Evers declined. https://t.co/ceqpDj3W2n
— Ben Williamson (@_WilliamsonBen) August 26, 2020
Evers willingly allowed a Wisconsin city to burn so he could pander to and defend the lawless, angry mob. Big, smoldering mistake, Gov.
9. DHS used bad model after bad model to put people in terror
On March 24, Wisconsinites quaked as the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm rolled out models that predicted the new coronavirus would infect 22,000 Wisconsinites and kill 440-1,500 by April 8. From day one, though, that prediction seemed pretty far-fetched.
MacIver tracked how many deaths and infections were reported each day, and when the 8th arrived, Wisconsin reached 2,576 positive cases and 99 deaths, nowhere near 22,000 COVID-19 cases or 440-1,500 deaths predicted.
Instead of admitting the models were far off from reality, Palm doubled-down and defended her the prediction.
“The projection was that, of those estimated 22,000 infections, that 440-1,500 would ultimately result in a death, and so those are not, again, deaths by April 8, but as a result of the total number of infections by that date,” Palm said on April 2. But the panic was already stoked by the time she tried to backtrack.
Nice try Palm. Go ahead, watch the video of her original press conference for yourself and decide for yourself if Palm was talking about the impact of COVID-19 in two weeks or much later in 2020.
You would assume the Evers Administration would reassess their models then, but DHS provided another model in April when they made arguments to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the Safer at Home case. The model predicted that up to 8,900 people would be dead from COVID-19 by the end of 2020, absent of more lockdowns. That model was even more wildly off-base. It claimed that virus lockdowns by the government in June would retroactively change Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll for May 1st.
At no point were DHS’ COVID-19 predictions ever on the mark, yet they preached them to Wisconsin as if they were gospel and patted themselves on the back when their phony predictions didn’t come true. Whether these were intentional lies or just rotten data, these predictions had a huge impact on Wisconsin’s perception of how dangerous the virus is.
8. DWD drops the ball on unemployment while Evers covers
In the first week following Governor Evers’ first shelter-in-place order, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) received 1.5 million calls from Wisconsinites. People were laid off because of the government-mandated shutdown, and DWD had shuttered their computer labs, where people would normally apply for unemployment benefits. Calling DWD was the only option for all of those in need of assistance. This started a whole stream of screw-ups by the Evers Administration and DWD.
Only 225,864 out of the 41.1 million calls made to the unemployment call center were answered between March 15 and the end of June. DWD hired more people to man the call center, but not nearly enough people for the volume of calls they were receiving. It took DWD two months, TWO MONTHS, just to extend the hours of the call center from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm. Even after that modest change, Wisconsinites were still frustrated when the called the help line.
By May, DWD was backlogged by 675,563 unemployment payments. Even with almost 440,000 people out of work, DWD was only sending out about 230,000 unemployment checks each week. As of November, over 94,000 Wisconsinites were still waiting on their benefits from DWD.
Instead of taking responsibility and admitting their mistakes, DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman shirked responsibility and blamed old IT systems. Meanwhile, the Evers Team covered for DWD’s horrible work.
Governor Evers said to the media that “the vast vast majority of the people” were receiving their UI benefits, so “we are batting well.” When the media questioned if DWD was doing enough at the call centers, Evers covered, saying DWD was taking “significant steps to meet the needs of Wisconsinites,” like extending their hours by 1.5 hours per day and hiring an insufficient number of new call center-managers. None of his cover was good enough to hide the suffering of those who still waited without their due benefits.
Despite Governor Evers repeated attempts to blame Legislative Republicans for his grave mistakes, the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau determined, as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, that “DWD was responsible for 11 of the 13 weeks it took, on average, for the department to resolve initial unemployment claims filed in the early weeks of the pandemic. The most common reasons for delays involved instances when DWD had not resolved issues despite having all the necessary information to do so, according to the audit.”
Governor Evers finally fired Secretary Frostman in September. When asked why Evers didn’t do it sooner, he said, “I was very hopeful that they would be able to reduce the waiting period,” for clearing unemployment claims. That “hopeful” sentiment didn’t help the unemployed get their checks when they needed them, and it certainly did nothing for the credibility of such an ineffectively-run department.
7. Rules for thy protesters but not for my protesters
It’s no secret that Team Evers was supportive of the BLM protests that happened over the summer in Wisconsin. On June 4, while people rioted across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, Evers said he wanted local leaders across the state to respond “quickly and forcefully, not against protesters, but actually accomplishing some things to alleviate the systemic nature of this curse [of racism] on our nation and our state.”
In the same press conference, DHS’ Secretary-Designee Palm said “We cannot ignore the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and the outpouring of grief and understandable anger that followed.” The virus was a mere afterthought. “Please, if you plan to protest, do it as safely as you can, wear a mask, stand 6 feet apart, and wash your hands whenever you can,” Palm said.
As videos of the protesting and violence were posted online, it was clear that people were not following Palm’s guidance. Videos and photos circulated of large protests, shoulder-to-shoulder across the state, many not wearing masks as they marched or torched cities. The Evers Administration supported their free expression and only gave soft guidance to stay safe from COVID-19.
But when President Trump came to town and amassed crowds of rally attendees, Evers wanted them gone.
“The President could do two things. One is maybe not come,” Evers said in September. “The second thing that could be done is for him to insist that if people are there, they wear a mask. He can make that happen. He could wear one, too,” in order to avoid making his rallies into “a super-spreader event.”
In October, when President Trump was scheduled to hold rallies in Waukesha and Green Bay, Evers said Trump’s rallies were a bad thing because “those events have people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, talking to each other, yelling, screaming, dancing, without masks, and so that’s just not where I believe we need to be as far as sending a message.”
Um… wasn’t that exactly what BLM protesters were doing all summer, too? “Yelling, screaming, dancing, without masks”? Why was it a bad thing when Trump supporters did it, but a celebration when BLM agitators did the same thing? It’s because Evers flips his standards based on who he is targeting with his decrees. “It’ll be a disappointment because [Trump is] not following science, but not a surprise,” Evers said in October. With how selectively Evers wants COVID-19 rules applied, seems someone else isn’t following the science either.
6. Evers and his administration successfully covered up their Watergate-style wiretapping of a conversation with Fitzgerald and Vos
What’s worse: that one of Governor Evers’ staff may have illegally recorded a private phone conversation between the Governor and legislative leadership, or that the Evers Administration covered for the staffer?
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article in June that revealed someone had recorded a private conversation between Governor Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). None of the politicians gave consent to the recording or even knew it was happening until the media broke the story.
listen carefully to Nilsestuen's answer – staff from both legislative offices & the governor's office(s) were on the call and "staff consented to it being recorded." Nilsestuen knows that legislative staff would never consent to recording the call & yet tries to imply they might
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) June 12, 2020
The legality of this is clear. It is illegal under Wisconsin law. Whoever recorded the conversation, if it wasn’t somebody participating in the talks, could be charged up to $10,000 and up to six years in prison. If the staffer did get consent to record, the staffer did not receive approval from everyone on the call, namely Legislative Republicans. The incident severely burned negotiation bridges between the Governor and the legislature. Evers response? He refused to give the name of the staffer who recorded the phone call. He refused to say if the staffer would be disciplined at all. His legal council, Ryan Nilsestuen, twisted words to make the incident seem legal in order to sweep it under the rug.
5. Evers thwarted major opportunities to to keep Wisconsin safe from the COVID-19 surge
The Evers Administration really dropped the ball on this one, even though they had every opportunity to fix the situation.
In October, hospitals across Wisconsin were saying they were overwhelmed by the COVID-19 surge that we all knew was coming. Too many patients were coming in, and too many healthcare workers were out sick, leaving hospitals short-staffed. In response, Evers opened the $15 million Alternate Care Facility (ACF) at State Fair Park. The ACF never took care of more than 23 patients at a time while hospitals continued to say they were overwhelmed through November. When asked if they would create another ACF in more northern regions, where the surge was taking the greatest toll on hospitals, Evers said no.
The Evers Administration knew in the spring that there would be a coronavirus surge in the summer or fall. That’s why they set aside $445 million for surge preparedness. According to Congressman Bryan Steil and MacIver’s investigation, though, it appears that Evers sat on the pot of money for months instead of sending it to the healthcare field. He even transferred some of the surge money out of the pot. How exactly are hospitals supposed to fight a virus surge with money they never received?
“Approximately $445 million is being allocated to ensure Wisconsin hospital systems and communities are prepared to handle a surge of COVID19 patients,” Evers said on May 19th.
Today, @GovEvers tried to explain why he cut that fund by $283 million. #WIright pic.twitter.com/x8gMhfUBoq
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 20, 2020
One way they could have used that pot of money was to contract with a staffing agency right when they heard hospitals were overwhelmed in October. The Evers Administration didn’t start contracting new skilled medical workers until December. This is despite Evers and DHS already knowing that staff shortages were an issue before the pandemic even hit. On December 17, Secretary-Designee Palm stated that “We were in a shortage of CNAs before this pandemic.”
Evers missed another slam dunk here in January. Before we ever knew the virus was coming, Evers vetoed a bill that would have reduced the training hours required to register a certified nursing assistant. Wisconsin currently requires more training hours for CNA certification than our neighboring midwest states and the federal government. The bill would have reduced training hours to the same standard that the feds require.
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said in January, “While this bill might not be a silver bullet,” to solving Wisconsin’s skilled nursing shortages, “it will adequately insulate us from the silver tsunami that’s on our shores.” If they knew then what we knew now, maybe Evers wouldn’t have made those blunders that crippled our medical field so badly.
4. DHS reported incomplete data and information to the public
In July, DHS Secretary-Designee Palm said to the press that their daily reports of new coronavirus case counts and tests were incomplete and inaccurate. Municipal public health departments were not reporting all of their negative test results each day because they were catching up on contact tracing people with positive test results. At that time, Dane County was over 10 days behind on reporting negative cases, so their percent of tests returning positive was inaccurate.
Huh? Weren’t we supposed to “follow the science”? Wasn’t that why DHS reported case counts and test results every day? How were we supposed to know what the coronavirus was doing in Wisconsin if DHS’ data was now entirely untrustworthy?
This wasn’t the first time DHS withheld information from the Wisconsin public about their COVID-19 data. MacIver published a report in September that found DHS had not been reporting an accurate daily rate of positive cases for the entirety of the pandemic. When we pushed for charts that displayed more accurate data, PolitiFact rated our analysis as a “pants-on-fire” lie, and Sect. Palm agreed with them… sorta.
Andrea Palm calls @MacIverWisc study a lie, but can't explain why @DHSWI is now following the study's recommendations. Why is DHS posting data that Palm say is a lie? #WIright pic.twitter.com/IpJYYKWsBc
— MacIver News Service (@NewsMacIver) October 1, 2020
Palm said that our premise was incorrect. That same week, however, DHS began publishing charts that expressed different case positivity rates, exactly as MacIver had recommended they do. Oops. If MacIver was wrong to ask for more complete data, why then did Palm and DHS publish that data? And if MacIver was wrong to say that the all-tests positivity rate is an important metic that the public deserves to know, wouldn’t DHS have a duty to NOT publish the full positivity rate?
Andrea Palm struggles to explain why @DHSWI didn't count thousands of #COVID test results on Sep. 27th to @Emily_WSAW. Read what's going on at: https://t.co/6ph5a5Z6xK #WIright #TCOT #Wisconsin pic.twitter.com/oDP8B6di0S
— MacIver News Service (@NewsMacIver) September 30, 2020
3. Evers promised not to mandate masks, but then he did, without having a clear goal for instituting the mandate
Over the summer, Governor Evers was bombarded by media questions about a statewide mask mandate. “We really don’t know if I have the authority to do that,” Evers said on July 7. Evers and the administration told us for weeks that they were considering the idea, but they thought it would be impossible because the State Supreme Court had “hamstrung” their ability to issue more orders, including a mask mandate.
That lasted until July 31, when Evers issued his first statewide mask mandate under Executive Order 82. This came after weeks of insisting that Evers did not have the power to issue the order and didn’t want the legal fight that would come with it. The mandate is in place to this day, and for no defined reason.
The administration had been preaching to Wisconsinites about the importance of masks since the spring. The perception was that universal mask wearing would limit the spread of the coronavirus.
But on August 19, former Chief Health Officer for the DHS, Stephanie Smiley, told the press that the state and DHS have no measurable goals for the mask mandate. She said DHS was monitoring COVID-19 data trends “to understand whether the mandate is having an impact.” She admitted that DHS didn’t entirely expect the mask mandate to have an impact. They forced you to wear masks as a wishful experiment. Remember DHS’ repeated mantra “My mask protects you, your mask protects me?” That mantra sounds like a manipulative fib now.
2. Evers promised not to lock down the state–then locked down the state
From nearly day one of the virus outbreak in Wisconsin, Governor Evers was tackled with questions about a statewide shelter-in-place order, like the one issued in New York State or in Wuhan, China. Evers said for a while that this kind of order just wasn’t necessary and that Wisconsin was doing well without it.
“We do not have plans to shelter-in-place, we think what we have going right now works and will continue to work,” he said on March 20.
Then Evers rolled out his Safer at Home plan to shelter in place. Three days later.
It seemed that Evers had brazenly lied to the Wisconsin people or had completely changed his position in just a few days’ time. The statewide whiplash was palpable.
1. Evers promised not to postpone the spring election–then demanded to postpone it just days before
The most frustrating, if not the most notable, time that Evers flip-flopped on his own promises this year was when he switched positions on the Spring General Election. For weeks, while lobbyists and organizations demanded that the election be postponed to prevent COVID-19 infections at the polls, our governor was adamant that the spring election needed to continue as planned.
“We can’t afford to have any of those positions vacant for any period of time,” Evers stated on March 20. “If we move the date, that’s exactly what would happen.” He said changing the date wouldn’t avoid the COVID-19 problem either. He was assured.
Suddenly, his position flipped.
On April 3, four days before the election would take place, Evers called for a special session to make the April election all mail-in and to push it out to May 26. The change was unexpected and directly contradicted what the Governor had been arguing for weeks.