In February, yours truly sensed a misstatement of reality on the part of Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer in his description of the budget repair law the Wisconsin Legislature was then considering. At the beginning of his report, Bauer wrote that the law would "end a half-century of collectively bargaining," but later wrote that "unions could still represent workers" (That doesn't exactly signal an "end," does it?). In several other subsequent reports (examples here and here), Bauer insisted on incorrectly describing the law as "ending" or "eliminating" collective bargaining. It does neither.
Tonight, in reporting on the progress of the Badger State effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, Bauer slightly rephrased his false claim, glossed over the current controversy over validation of petitioners' names and registration status, again contradicted himself, and made little effort at hiding his overt partisanship (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Wis. group nears mark for forcing recall election
Organizers of an effort to kick Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of office said Thursday they've collected nearly enough signatures to force a recall election, though their financial backing is far behind the Republican governor's fundraising.
The state Democratic Party, unions and disgruntled citizens started organizing amid growing anger over Walker's polarizing measure approved in March that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for public workers. Now, the United Wisconsin coalition reports that it collected 507,533 in 28 days; the group must submit 540,208 signatures by Jan. 17 to force the recall.
"The people of Wisconsin have said enough is enough," Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said.
But the coalition and Democrats have raised roughly $1.4 million since July, compared to the $5.1 million that Walker raised over the same period, according to reports from both sides Thursday.
... Republicans also pushed back with a lawsuit Thursday challenging the state board that oversees elections in Wisconsin, saying it doesn't do enough to make sure the names on recall petitions are valid.
The Government Accountability Board will review the petitions to ensure there are enough signatures to trigger recall contests, but it will only verify that the names are accompanied by a Wisconsin address and dated within the recall period. It's up to the targeted office holder or other challengers to contest the validity of signatures and ferret out any duplicates.
If public-sector unions still have the right to represent workers (and they do), Bauer's statement that the budget repair law "effectively ended collective bargaining rights" remains incorrect.
In the last two excerpted paragraphs, Bauer uses clever language to say that the Board won't do anything at all to verify the names on recall petitions. It will instead wave through every signature submitted containing a name and address. "Mickey Mouse" gets a free pass from the Board, as long as the Mickster lists a Wisconsin address (which also is apparently not going to be validated). This makes the whole process vulnerable to massive fraud. As of now, it will be up to opponents to do what should be the Board's work. Walker's lawyers are attempting to force the Board to do what it should do.
As happened in his initial report back in February, Bauer contradicted himself tonight about the status of collective-barganing rights near the end of his report:
Walker has defended the collective bargaining changes, and other moves such as cutting public education aid, as necessary to bring the state's budget back into balance at a time when it faced a $3.6 billion shortfall.
Oh, so now they're only collective bargaining "changes," meaning that collective bargaining rights really haven't been "effectively ended."
What Bauer is doing, consistent with his February methodology, is ensuring that news readers, listeners, and viewers around the country who are fed the AP’s copy at subscribing outlets tonight and tomorrow will get a false impression that the dispute in Wisconsin is still all about completely ending union representation of all public-sector employees. It ain't so — but almost no one will get to Paragraph 21 to find out. Deceitful mission accomplished, I guess.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.