MacIver News Service

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — It’s not always what the mainstream media reports that raises red flags of bias. It’s what they don’t report. 

Such was the case, again, in 2018. There were many sins of omission committed by the Fourth Estate’s usual suspects. Sometimes they left important pieces out of the story. Sometimes they bypassed the story altogether. 

There are more, many more, but MacIver News Service has narrowed down the Top 10 most underreported stories by the mainstream media in 2018. And here they are.

#10 – John Doe raids forgotten 

An important anniversary came and went in October without so much as a back-page note from most members of the mainstream media. That’s probably because they don’t want to be reminded that the John Doe investigation, one of the darkest chapters in Wisconsin history, was replete with prosecutorial and bureaucratic abuses. 

They forgot that five years ago, on Oct. 3, 2013, armed officers stormed the homes of conservative citizens before the break of day to conduct unconstitutional raids. Among the victims, Republican strategist Deb Jordahl. Her children awoke to armed deputies standing over their beds. For hours, officers searched their home. The family was forced to watch investigators root through their possessions — all in the name of a bogus, secret investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. What it was, according to stacks of court documents, was a sinister probe into the left’s enemies. Sound familiar? 

#9 – Extraordinary narrative 

This month’s extraordinary legislative session possessed no shortage of coverage. In fact, it may have been over-covered. It’s how the mainstream players told the story, helping the left paint a picture of a Republican “power grab,” that poisoned the well, so to speak. They’re stifling poor Tony before he even takes the oath of office, went the Democratic Party talking points regurgitated by the legacy press.

There’s no doubt that the Republican majority, seeing the writing on the wall, pushed some legislation that will restrain Evers’ executive power, the power that the GOP had no problem allowing Gov. Scott Walker to wield. What was often missing from the overheated narrative, though, was that Democrats attempted to tie the hands of then-Gov.-elect Walker in late 2010 when they hastily tried to cram through expensive union contracts. 

Also missing in the din of discontent is the fact that many of the measures Republicans eventually passed had previously been taken up in one house or the other but failed to make it off the floor. That’s important, because the narrative throughout the session was that Republicans were trying to swiftly push through legislation with little debate.  

But who needs context when you’ve got a good, half-reported narrative. 

#8 – Act 10 savings 

It seems whenever the mainstream media report on Act 10 it’s always about how rough Walker’s cornerstone reform has been on public employees. When it comes to the savings the law has wrought, well, crickets. 

Such was the case in August, when MacIver News Service reported that Act 10 has saved Wisconsin school districts more than $3.2 billion in benefits costs. 

The 2011 law that launched massive union-led protests and a recall campaign against Walker holds public employee pay increases to the rate of inflation and requires them to contribute more — or something — to their taxpayer-funded health insurance and pension plans. 

Districts found savings by opening up bidding to new insurers for the first time in years, while others increased required employee contributions toward insurance plans. Overall, since 2011, districts have largely moved to more taxpayer-friendly health plans – freeing up more money for the classroom.

That’s big news, important news, for the people paying for schools and education in this state. So, of course, the mainstream media mostly ignored it. 

#7 – Direct primary care dies in silence

What if health care were much more transparent, much more affordable, and much more direct? That would be a pretty big deal, right?

Direct primary care is delivering on that promise in half the country. Not in Wisconsin, though. While debate over legislation codifying direct primary care in the Badger State did receive some love from the mainstream press early on, the love was scant and fleeting. 

Direct primary care, a method of delivering health care in which patients pay their primary care doctors directly via a monthly fee, bypasses health insurance and the morass of red tape, inflated costs, and financial uncertainty that plague the traditional system of financing health care. A bill in the last session of the Legislature looked like it was moving until special interests choked it dead. It pretty much died in silence. 

#6 – $907,000 question 

While most news outlets didn’t seem to care that some government retirees are banking hundreds of thousands of dollars in unused sick pay, MacIver News did — and so did some lawmakers. 

Thanks to Wisconsin’s generous sick leave conversion system, some retirees will have mountains of cash they can use to pay for post-retirement health insurance premiums in the Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program.  

As MacIver News Service first reported in its series, “Bureaucrat Benefits,” the highest sick leave balance in 2017 topped $907,000 for a 69-year-old public employee with 27 years creditable service at a top annual salary of $290,000. That’s equal to more than three years of the retiree’s peak salary. 

Following the investigative report, lawmakers said reforms to a state employee benefits system that includes “golden health care parachutes” for some retirees are long overdue. 

“These stories are certainly getting my attention,” said Sen. David Craig (R-Big Bend). “It’s another situation where state government is on another planet than the private sector. You have spiraling health care costs and you have these government workers immune to a certain extent.” 

#5 – Buffering

When the city of Madison rolled out it’s big-government, broadband-for-all proposal, the legacy media was there. When the city launched an ill-fated pilot broadband project in some of Madison’s poorest neighborhoods, the mainstream media were back again. When the whole thing fell apart on cue, they were nowhere to be found. 

The costly plan to build a government-owned fiber optic broadband network in Madison finally died in late summer. It went out “with a whimper and not with a bang,” according to a city official overseeing the process.

The city’s Digital Technology Committee in September approved a motion to not pursue a Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) network that had been in the works — mostly behind the scenes — for years. MacIver was there all along exposing the astronomical cost of the proposal, while nary a member of the mainstream media was to be found at most of the consequential committee meetings.

#4 –  Broad brush 

In the fever-pitch election year, the mainstream media and the Democratic Party political machine hammered Attorney General Brad Schimel, accusing him of being slow to respond to a pileup of untested sexual assault kits. They painted the Republican AG as a skinflint who put taxpayer savings ahead of swiftly clearing the backlog of some 4,100 untested rape kits. 

They painted with a very broad brush. 

MacIver News Service review of the record found Schimel’s state Department of Justice had worked assiduously for three years solving a problem 30 years in the making. As of September, all of the untested kits had been tested. More so, the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI), is changing attitudes, ideas, an entire culture of how law enforcement officials deal with survivors. In fact, the Republican-led DOJ was lauded by the Obama administration for its victim-centered approach to what is a national decades-old problem – a problem, experts say, that is much more complicated than the media investigative reports and partisan press releases like to admit.

That kind of context meant nothing to liberal Attorney-General-elect Josh Kaul, who defeated Schimel in November, arguably in part on the rape kit narrative the mainstream press created. 

#3 – Double standard 

For the past eight years, mainstream outlets have feverishly reported on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s conservative and pro-business allies. It’s funny how silent they have been so far on the far left, big-government types Democrat Gov.-elect Tony Evers has surrounded himself with. 

As MacIver News Service first reported earlier this month, Evers liked to talk about compromise and bipartisanship following his election win, but his picks for policy advisers suggest he’s playing politics to the far left. The incoming governor has quietly assembled advisory committees packed with some of the most left-leaning people from some of the more left-wing organizations in the state. Nary a conservative to be found, of course, and even truly moderate Republicans are missing from the far left-heavy advisory committees. 

The lineup includes big labor bosses, extreme environmentalists, social justice warriors, and espousers of socialism.

None of that seems to matter to the mainstreamers that have fed the Evers-as-moderating-force narrative.  

#2 -Radical plans exposed

Liberals typically aren’t furtive creatures. They generally tell you they want more tax increases, more government programs, more government. But the mainstream news outlets opted to turn a blind eye to the Legislature’s left wing socialism-lite manifesto last spring. 

Assembly Democrats, led by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) released a roadmap that includes 18 policy changes ranging from gutting the Second Amendment to guaranteeing a “right to a living wage.” 

MacIver News Service exposed the Democrats’ radical plans. Much of the rest of the media yawned or looked away, perhaps because they share the same vision of big government as the liberals do. 

#1 – Good times get no respect, or coverage

With apologies to Frank Sinatra, 2018 was a very good year for Wisconsin’s economy. But the Badger State boom — in an election year — didn’t seem all that compelling to many of the traditional news outlets in the state. 

Wisconsin’s jobless rate fell to as low as 2.8 percent, and has stood at 3 percent or lower for nine straight months. More people are working in the Badger State than anytime in the state’s history. Initial unemployment claims are at 30-year lows. Pretty much crickets from the mainstream media.  

M. D. Kittle M. D. Kittle is an investigative reporter with the MacIver Institute. Reposted here with permission.