Thursday, September 23, 2010

Regulators Who Don't Regulate Anything

This Ken Kratz incident, the horny Calumet County D-A who thinks it’s OK to engage in sexting and soliciting a sexual relationship with women who are the victims of domestic abuse, just stinks to high heaven. What’s worse is, the “regulators” who are supposed to “regulate” out-of-control lawyers looked the other way; the Attorney General looked the other way; and our state’s highest court delegated dealing with rogue attorneys to a toothless and useless new committee some time ago.

Every practicing lawyer in the state pays a dues assessment every year to fund the “Office of Lawyer Regulation”, an outfit so useless and low-profile that even our governor – who is himself a former Wisconsin Attorney General - in a national TV interview with that Snuffaluffagus fellow on ABC the other day called it the “Office of Lawyer Responsibility.” Ooops.

Seems to me this OLR outfit isn’t doing much regulating, if they say it’s in poor taste to sex-text a victim of domestic abuse, but certainly nothing for anybody to get their pants in a bunch about. On top of that, our present A-G, John Byron Van Hollen, knew about this rotten Kratz stuff for nearly a year and did nothing about it, until the Associated Press uncovered the scandal a few days ago. And every day seems to bring a shocking new revelation in the Kratz mess.

From the top to the bottom, it just seems like nobody’s regulating anything any more. You’ve got the auditors who looked the other way while Ken Lay and his pals sank Enron; you’ve got the FDA regulators who allowed huge egg farms in Iowa to operate on the very margins of recklessness and sell tainted eggs; the people who supposedly regulate the auto industry are a bunch of former auto industry execs; the Federal regulators who are supposed to keep an eye on the big drillers like BP are a bunch of sops who accept expensive presents and perks from the oil barons; and the granddaddies of them all, the supposed regulators of the banking and financial industry, have shown themselves to be just about the most stupid and incompetent bastards on earth.

You wonder why people don’t trust the government? You need look no farther than little ol’ Calumet County, Wisconsin.


  1. This authoritarian aggression does not happen in a vacuum. These are cowards whose typical victims are women, children, and others unable to defend themselves. These attackers feel morally superior to the people they assault, operating in a bullying, arrogant, mutually congratulatory cult. This group will do everything to avoid responsibility. Ken Kratz may be exposed, but this type of aggression is the work of more than one monster. WE need a through investigation.

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  3. Some of the dysfunction driving these outrages may be institutional. That is to say, built into the system.

    If you, as a crooked corporado, get to choose the auditor, it is far more likely the findings will be benign than if the auditor chooses you.

    Giving the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service arm direct authority over the offshore energy compliance and enforcement division was a dead short in the circuit of prudent practice - deliberately introduced by the White House, not so many years ago, at the behest of the Big Oil lobby. The change was mendaciously sold to the public as "efficiency."

    The role of MMS is to maximize profits from natural resources controlled by the federal government. The enforcement folks are there to apply the brakes. It would be tough to perform that function if your boss disapproved.

    So what looks, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon debacle, like incompetence was, on closer scrutiny, the natural result of a calculated conflict of interest that resulted in a working system being subverted and deliberately broken.

    I have no idea what your Mr. Van Hollen may have known about the reprehensible behavior of Mr. Kratz, but after reporting on this sort of thing for the better part of a lifetime I do know it is easy, and from the inside view, safer, for regulators (who, as our blogger notes, can be bulldogs with rubber teeth) and law-enforcers to overlook anything that can conceivably be regarded as a rumor.

    Incontrovertible proof is another matter, but it would have to land in their lap before any action is taken.

    Imagine if a cloud of smelly smoke was not enough to bring the fire department. The regulators' dismaying practice of turning a blind eye is analogous to the disinterested firefighters. Worse, it seems they'll do it almost every time.

    A while back, out here on the eastern edge of the known world, I encountered the case of a prominent eye surgeon who was hailed before one of those regulation boards our blogger describes. He was being asked for his response to long-simmering stories of shady business practices.

    The doctor, in high dudgeon, showed up for the meeting (not even a hearing, really) with a battery of lawyers and warned in no uncertain terms of the legal firestorm they would ignite if the meeting went forward. That was the end of that.

    The same medico is now in a federal prison for looting Medicare - no thanks to the "regulators" he intimidated.

  4. It's always been this way, Tim. The Supreme Court created the OLR a few years back because the old Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility was rife with double-dealing and conflicts of interest, too.

    This whole new office was supposed to fix all the problems, but now it looks like we're right back where we started. It's pretty damn hard to have members of the same industry police themselves because the bias is always to cover the profession's ass. It doesn't matter what profession it is -- doctors, lawyers, contractors, whatever. And there's always a technical reason for dismissing the public's complaint.

    I don't agree with everything Jim Doyle does or says, but I bet as a former DA this one just sickens him.

  5. Esenberg, who earns respect, demurs a twidge from condemnation of OLR.

    There's something missing from this story and we may never find out what it is.

    BTW, Van Hollen has ZERO authority to add or remove from a DA. It's clear that VanH despises Kratz' Kraven-ness, but VanH must operate under the rules as given.

  6. It isn't hard to become jaded after hearing of yet another scandal that could have been avoided if some regulatory body had been doing its job. I would venture to guess that there is no governmental regulatory body that "does its job" even half-assed.

    Does this mean that there shouldn't be any regulators? No; but it does mean that Juvenal's admonition, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, is still pertinent. We have to pay attention to what the regulators do or don't do. We're the ones who should be watching.

    The Town Crank

  7. These poor women; they are poor. They have nowhere to turn to except to the local government. I feel confident saying that
    these women care more about their children than they care about themselves. That is just the way women are. Women don't care about wealth or wealth accumulation. Women don't care about a lot of things that men care about. That makes them a superior race. Women know that life is about living a good life, at least that is what I learned from a woman.

    Women really know what is important in this life, I learn from them. Can you imagine, a situation where a woman has no choice but to relinquish herself to a man because he can control the well-being of her children? I'm talking about a woman who might only feel love for the first time in her life--the love from her children.

    I do not envy anyone who would manipulate women in this manner. It is hard to think of the choice some of these women made. If these allegations are true, will the accused live to face aother day. If the allegations are true, will the culprit end his life rather that face his accusers. There should be a suicide watch put on the accused just in case, don't you think.

    Those women took care of their children. I envy the love they feel right now.

  8. Now comes word that Kenneth Kratz, the predatory prosecutor, will spare Wisconsin the spectacle of having to remove him from office.

    There's no reason to believe he would not still be in office, acting out his sexual fantasies and power trips from behind his authority, had not the Associated Press ripped that curtain away and made the story public.

    It's a sorry situation when those who represent the public and swear to defend the laws and welfare of the state cannot be counted upon to keep their word.

    All of those public servants who knew of Mr. Kratz's malfeasance (and if news reporters did, then some public officials surely did) are unworthy heirs to Wisconsin's traditional reputation as a place of forthrightness and fair dealing.

    As the effectiveness of the greatly diminished news media of old continues to fade, The Town Crank's observation, doleful as it may be, is increasingly true: We must watch the watchers ourselves.