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Mall Vacancies At Highest In 11 Years; Strip Malls Vacancy Rate Highest Since 1990

Tyler Durden's picture




 

When buying story stocks, one can believe the hype behind the story, or actually look at the facts. And when it comes to malls, and commercial real estate in general, the double dip, despite that whole consumer is recovering myth, is here. The WSJ report that "mall vacancies hit their highest level in at least 11 years in the first quarter, new figures from real-estate research company Reis Inc. showed. In the top 80 U.S. markets, the average vacancy rate was 9.1%, up from 8.7%." But wait: wasn't the resurging US consumer supposed to be able to carry the overbloated US retail front? That's part of the "story" - as for the "fact" Howard Davidowitz summarized it best: "We've got 21 square feet of selling space for every man, woman and child in this country." Perhaps it is time for the Fed to (again) start buying up empty retail boxes: because even the Fed knows what happens to equilibrium price when every bank is trying hard to reignite the CMBS market.

From the WSJ:

Mall vacancies hit their highest level in at least 11 years in the first quarter, new figures from real-estate research company Reis Inc. showed. In the top 80 U.S. markets, the average vacancy rate was 9.1%, up from 8.7%.

The outlook is especially bad for strip malls and other neighborhood shopping centers. Their vacancy rate is expected to top 11.1% later this year, up from 10.9%, Reis predicts. That would be the highest level since 1990.

In 2005, the mall-vacancy rate hit a low of 5.1%. For strip centers the boom-time low vacancy rate was 6.7% that same year.

Yet nothing seems able to derail the two year long REIT fest. Not even lack of cash flows from insolvent tennants:

Not all retail properties have suffered as much, especially on the high end. Large, publicly traded mall owners like Simon Property Group Inc. and Taubman Centers Inc., which tend to own top-tier properties, have trimmed their vacancy rates to 7% or lower and lifted their lease rates in the past year, buoying their stock.

But a broader glut has struck some of the exurbs that saw heavy housing development during the boom, where malls and strip centers built for growth that never came. More than one billion square feet of retail space was added in the 54 largest U.S. markets since the start of 2000, according to CoStar Group's Property & Portfolio Research Inc. of Boston.

The next shoe to drop in the retail story is the tsunami of retailer bankruptcies, which has already claimed many:

In part, the decline reflects a continued drag on spending from the recession. But many retailers that had been stalwart mall- and strip-center tenants, like Borders Group Inc. and Blockbuster Inc., have floundered. Even successful chains have closed and shrank hundreds of stores as they retrenched.

Vacancies and falling rents have especially hurt strip centers. Some regional grocers have been clobbered by the downturn and new competition from big box stores like Wal-Mart, hurting strip centers anchored by their stores.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., the onetime retail goliath that had shrunk into a northeastern supermarket chain operating grocery stores such as A&P and Pathmark, sought bankruptcy protection in December and said last month it was closing 32 stores.

Some landlords have hedged against the impact of online shopping by adding more tenants like restaurants, entertainment venues, fashion stores and other wares not often bought online. Longtime strip center tenants like dentists and tax preparers are even more coveted now.

Yet for those who recall the summer of 2008, it was precisely the restauranteurs that were the next to go, when oil passed $120.

With a slew of retailers preparing to file for bankruptcy in the next 3-6 months absent a massive drop in commodity prices, the mall situation is about to get far worse. In the meantime, while the "story"  (no matter how flawed - after all Ackman wrote a 100+ page presentation to make it very credible) fizzles, keep buying the GGP hype. And the "FD" in general.

 

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Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:10 | 1150467 Ahmeexnal
Ahmeexnal's picture

And educational institutions are next to break.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:19 | 1150736 carbonmutant
carbonmutant's picture

Not before they price themselves out of the market.

Everybody is raising prices to make up the difference...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:54 | 1151127 MachoMan
MachoMan's picture

The local university with ~25k students is expected to get an influx of 5k chinese students within the next two years.  Priced out to americans maybe...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 16:00 | 1151139 sethstorm
sethstorm's picture

Not if subsidies are taken into account.

 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 21:24 | 1152339 MachoMan
MachoMan's picture

yeah, we have a lottery...  I'm pretty sure if you're incredibly downsy and slept through highschool or were truant is about the only ways you don't get a chunk.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:11 | 1150469 firstdivision
firstdivision's picture

So we should expect REIT's to surge by 50% on this news.  QE3 is the Fed buying up all empty retail space and fill it with loller-dollars.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:14 | 1150483 Vandelay
Vandelay's picture

Yes, we are already planning MARP, Mall Asset Recovery Plan, funded by the taxpayer for the Banksters.

 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:20 | 1150514 camaro68ss
camaro68ss's picture

This news should be a 2% DOW booster

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:27 | 1150527 Temporalist
Temporalist's picture

That is a silly plan...they will instead give people iPads and Zynga dollars (zcoins) so they can buy Facebook apps and plant virtual farms that they can pretend to eat with.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:42 | 1150588 Milton Waddams
Milton Waddams's picture

MARP II to consist of employing people to walk around malls carrying shopping bags to create the impression that consumption is occurring.  "Innovative" program to be accompanied by a Fed research paper on methods to influence herd-like behavior and its positive shock to consumer demand.

MARP III to consist of parking unsold GM cars in mall parking lots to create the illusion of mall traffic.  Facility to be accompanied by a Fed research paper touching on innovations in analysts reasearch methods; specifically the use of near real time satellite feeds to gauge mall traffic and why falsifying said traffic provides a benefit to demand for common stocks and therefore the wealth effect.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:47 | 1150602 silvertrain
silvertrain's picture

That would have an effect if not for people not having money/job/ or even credit..The only ones that are buying anything are the squatters that are not paying there morgage..

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:49 | 1150607 DonnieD
DonnieD's picture

The USDA will buy all of the vacant storefronts and put in SNAP retail outlets to handout food stamps. The economic impact will be immeasurable. It will add at least 1% to GDP.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:11 | 1150701 Don Birnam
Don Birnam's picture

+1

Indeed, move the entire SNAP kit and kaboodle under the Fed umbrella. Voila ! Another "off-budget" item thus producing prodigious cost savings, about which the Congressional and White House budgeteers can boast.

http://www.oregonfarmersmarkets.org/EBT/images/decal.jpg  

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:59 | 1150663 Ruffcut
Ruffcut's picture

Who do ya know can start up some retail biz in a strip mall. The only thing with growth potential is payday advance outlets.

Or, the new franchise of Ruffcut's Pawn and Porn Shop.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:17 | 1150496 chet
chet's picture

The REITS have been divorced from fundamentals for a long time.  I think they have so much money, and their shareholders don't understand real estate valuation, so they can just keep buying up properties.

 

Howard Davidowitz is hilarious.  He's great on TV or radio.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:10 | 1150470 tj3
tj3's picture

apartment rents UP...commercial (non-high end) down?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:32 | 1150536 Temporalist
Temporalist's picture
After Months of Growth, Signs of Weakness in the Manhattan Real Estate Market

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/realestate/01realestate.html

 

"After more than a year of slow but steady growth, the Manhattan real estate market saw declines in price and sales volume in the first three months of 2011, raising the question of whether the city may finally be following the rest of the nation into a double dip in housing prices."

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:11 | 1150478 the not so migh...
the not so mighty maximiza's picture

rally time on this news

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:14 | 1150492 mt paul
mt paul's picture

mmmmm.. strip malls 

and

consumer lap dances...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:15 | 1150494 JimBobOMG
JimBobOMG's picture

We are getting more tolerant to the drug. Lets see if we can get through the withdrawals.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:16 | 1150502 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

The end of mall culture couldn't come soon enough.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:51 | 1150627 glenlloyd
glenlloyd's picture

ditto on that!

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:22 | 1150513 Dick Darlington
Dick Darlington's picture

This is a clear sign of the self-sustaining GLOBAL recovery. Just like the high priest of the Euro-Ponzi, mr Rehn, told us today, again, that the European "recovery" is self-sustaining. Well duh, all the signs of that are there for everyone to see: countries going bankrupt.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:06 | 1150677 Ruffcut
Ruffcut's picture

The recovery is non existent.

IF all of doomers died, the outlook of doom would be the only thing that is self-sustaining.

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 12:56 | 1153355 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

a bit off topic, but Dick Darlington, have you ever been to a bar in Australia named "Susan's"?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:24 | 1150521 Seasmoke
Seasmoke's picture

families should start renting this space.......put a dividing wall in, sell some shit in front and live in the back

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:30 | 1150532 hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture

In the back, behind the dividing wall, is where the real money is made.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:39 | 1150561 AN0NYM0US
AN0NYM0US's picture

I think that would be the norm for industrious immigrants; have you ever purchased a gallon of milk from that little store at the corner? 

Annyong hashimnikka

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 16:04 | 1151168 MachoMan
MachoMan's picture

This is exactly what is going to happen with CRE...  it's going to be converted to either mixed or residential use.  All of the "business" that used to be conducted by the properties will have left us for the forseeable future.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:29 | 1150530 Seasmoke
Seasmoke's picture

Other than the Apple Store , i never see anyone in any of the other stores in the Mall near me , let alone spending any money.....must say it looks like a cool place to hang out all day and kill a day cheaply

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:34 | 1150542 flattrader
flattrader's picture

What do you sell?  When you have customers...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:33 | 1150545 Temporalist
Temporalist's picture

And the funny thing about the Apple store is that most people waiting in line are there for repairs not to buy something.  I think it strange that most people hate waiting in lines but Apple fans love it for some reason.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:31 | 1150533 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

Is it a tsunami of retail bunrupcies or rare but notable exceptions?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:34 | 1150539 A Man without Q...
A Man without Qualities's picture

it depends what you're smoking...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:35 | 1150546 John Self
John Self's picture

I was just noticing the severity of this issue.  I live in the DC area, which has (until the gvt. shutdown) fared quite well during the recession, relatively speaking.  But I recently drove through Tysons Corner, which is among the more upscale shopping areas and is near several very affluent suburbs.  It's a bit shocking if you look closely.  Two empty big boxes where Circuit City used to be.  One entire building vacated by Borders and Filene's Basement.  A building that has housed 3 separate furniture retailers in the past year, and another one that has housed 2 other furniture stores in the past 2 years across the street.  A closed Bed Bath and Beyond, a closed Tower Records.  A few of the medium-rise office buildings appear to have no tenants.  And that's not even getting into the 2 malls, which are full of boarded-up spaces.

Notably, though, there is still al ot of activity in the area (for now, anyway).  That's because several government contractors have office buildings and construction is underway on extending the Metro through the area.  Without the government, it would be approaching a ghost town.  If this is what it's like in an upscale district of a city that has weathered the downturn well, I can only imagine what strip malls in Arizona and Nevada look like.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:43 | 1150590 earnulf
earnulf's picture

Recently complete a swing through the SW (Albequerque, Flagstaff, Phoenix) and despite fairly steady traffic throughout, the malls we passed did not seem to be all that busy.    I just chalked it up to lower population density, but now on second thought one has to wonder if the downturn is not impacting these areas as well.    College towns like Flagstaff may be able to better weather the changes, but some of the smaller cities without may be hurting significantly.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:38 | 1150812 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

If you want to see brand new ghostmalls and industrial complexes and office buildings (NEW), you don't have to go to China.

Go to Glendale, Casa Grande, Marana or Queen Creek.

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 13:01 | 1153371 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Or try the Inland Empire of Southern California. Ontario airport practically has tumbleweed blowing on the tarmacs, most of the gates are shuttered. There are literally blocks of brand new (never occupied) retail and light industrial, strip malls and business parks that have no occupants and big "for lease" signs near the street. Blocks of them.

There 's a homeless camp about 4 blocks from the airport.

Thank God for the economic recovery, I don't know what things would be like if we were still in a recession(sarcasm).

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:45 | 1151698 leilaniyoza@gma...
leilaniyoza@gmail.com's picture

in Arizona?  i've never seen so much empty space in my 25+ years of living here.  what is really glaring to me is that even Scottsdale wasn't recession proof.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:37 | 1150560 Monday1929
Monday1929's picture

This was unforeseeable.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:39 | 1150563 The Axe
The Axe's picture

They suspended  FASB mark--to - mark rules anyway, so NO one has to take a markdown to net capital ever.....so who cares..

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:37 | 1150566 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

I haven't been to a mall in years. Then again, I only manage to make it into Wally World about once a year (last minute Christmas items, and stuff I couldn't find elsewhere), so I'm kind of ahead of the curve on the whole deconsumption thing.

As for durable consumer goods, we buy almost everything from craigslist, et al.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:40 | 1150579 Good To Great
Good To Great's picture

This is inflationary, right?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:42 | 1150581 drink or die
drink or die's picture

People buy things at malls?  Why would I pay 2-3x the price for something when I can have it delivered to my door without having to deal with hoardes of mouth breathers and their brat kids?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:46 | 1150605 TroyPDX
TroyPDX's picture

Last time I went to a mall I swore it would indeed be my last time... surrounded by shambling, vacant eyed hordes of obese suburbanites clutching their five minutes of happiness in Saks bags. It made me want to off myself.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:50 | 1150617 Bam_Man
Bam_Man's picture

Because you enjoy competing with them for parking spaces while burning $4.00/gallon gas?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:51 | 1150630 spank-of-america
spank-of-america's picture

Not once that online sales tax gets passed.

 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:34 | 1150791 andybev01
andybev01's picture

Those shuffling hoards are where the zombie apocalypse virus is germinating.

Stay far away from them or you will be infected.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:43 | 1150585 bank guy in Brussels
bank guy in Brussels's picture

Quite a few haunting videos of 'dead malls' on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dead+mall&aq=0

Yes, that's North America, shopping malls ... here we have few malls, and are still walking to local markets with a shopping cart on two wheels ... some of the men here use a cart with a wooden platform on the bottom to hold a case of bottled beer.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:37 | 1150806 andybev01
andybev01's picture

It's rather chilling that the first mall video is named for Roanoke...

http://www.nationalcenter.org/ColonyofRoanoke.html

 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:42 | 1150587 RunningMan
RunningMan's picture

Spin and propaganda have actually kept the music going a little longer, which is why this didn't arrive *sooner*. This pain should have come in 2009, but was deferred until now. So instead of being two years closer to meaningful recovery, we get to watch this all implode now. I know there are plenty of folks on this site that see 'recovery' in terms of activity, but it is just not there. I see smart people with advanced degrees in practical fields like enegineering, really struggling. This country has brought itself to the brink, thanks to the destruction of science and manufacturing jobs. There is NO quick fix. Now that people are tightening their belts, and credit is hard to find, the stores must close up shop. Sadly, this isn't the end, this is the beginning of this cycle.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:51 | 1150619 silvertrain
silvertrain's picture

Excellent observation my friend...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:58 | 1150651 glenlloyd
glenlloyd's picture

precisely the point to be made. look at what got spent to defer reality aka 'kick the can' and it's only made the situation that much worse. At some point it can no longer be deferred.

as was said a couple days ago, 'the next crisis is within spitting distance' and I would tend to agree.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:00 | 1150656 Saxxon
Saxxon's picture

I'm not in the least bit sad.  Bring the curtain down.  It's a little like throwing up; you feel much better after you get it all out.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:02 | 1150672 RobotTrader
RobotTrader's picture

Vacancies here in the U.S. are horrific.

Wall St. Gamblers must be betting on a proliferation of shiny new malls and office buildings in the emerging markets.

Especially in:

- Egypt

- Tunesia

- Libya

- Ivory Coast

- Iraq

Yep, its the Wall St. "Hope Machine" spinning up more fables.

Only thing I can think of to explain the REIT outperformance.

 

You think I'm making this up?

Check out this WSJ article about a shiny new mall in Baghdad:

http://blogs.wsj.com/iraq/2008/08/07/developers-dream-about-baghdads-shining-future/

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:36 | 1150807 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

I believe Rackspace actually bought a mall out in San Antonio, and is using it for office space and a datacenter..  Wonder if the food court will become the cafeteria?

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:43 | 1150823 Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Really? when I was in Albany, NY recently, the malls were PACKED but nobody was really shopping. I guess in an era of Netflix, Amazon, and Gilt Groupe, you don't need to buy retail anymore...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:11 | 1150927 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

Taubman & Simon Properties are mailing the keys in on even some 'trophy properties' in LA (not to mention Florida, Atlanta, Chicago, Vegas/Henderson, Atlantic City).

Non-Recourse can be beautiful.

When Alfred Taubman used to scout his properties the old fashioned way, he'd park in the lot for hours and compare those leaving who did have and didn't have shopping bags.

The latest attempt at mall survival is 'entertainment centers,' full of bars, restaurants, theaters and even free outdoor concerts and waterplay parks for the kids. They hope the people will spend a free day their, and then go eat or to the movies.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:50 | 1150852 Gimp
Gimp's picture

This is all BULLISH.. Plunge protection team - swarm, swarm and buy stocks

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 14:57 | 1150884 Lothar the Rott...
Lothar the Rottweiler's picture

There is an entire mall near me that was devastated by the flood last May.  Only store to reopen was Bass Pro Shops, and they're out as soon as their lease is up.  The owner of the mall is just going to write it off as a loss and forget about it.

Good riddance, I say.  Nothing but hoodrats, hooligans, and hoochie-mamas ever shopped there anyhow, except for Christmas when those of us who lived nearby could barely get out of our neighborhood for all the extra people driving in looking for "bargains."

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:12 | 1150941 CrankItTo11
CrankItTo11's picture

I'm at the King of Prussia mall, it's Friday afternoon and ghostly empty. I counted over 50 vacant retial stores. the one hallway is nearly entirely vacant. I counted 12 people in sight. then you reach the end of the hall and there's the Apple store - filled. overflowing with ppl buying iPads. It's a zombie world. Surreal.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:13 | 1150948 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

They're hungry.

iPad for lunch. iPad for dinner. iPod for breakfast.

So says The William Dudley.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 16:02 | 1151153 SmittyinLA
SmittyinLA's picture

My nephew is one of the Apple Zombie masters, he recently shifted from the retail store management to their web division, I said hey its time you open up an IRA, you're 24 and need to diversify, your entire retirement is in apple stock, the fit is going to hit the shan and you need to hedge some oil which is going to 150/barrel, ipod/pad sales will drop, he said naaah, people will use ipads and iphones while waiting in gas & food lines, if everything goes to shit our sales will explode.

He might me right, I bet ipods are a hot commodity in Zimbabwe, I know PS3s do well there.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:26 | 1151625 CrankItTo11
CrankItTo11's picture

haha... unbelievable. 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 19:07 | 1151952 Gold 36000
Gold 36000's picture

I think he is right.  I have the android. 

 Until a year ago I never thought I needed portable internet.  Now I don't see how I ever lived without it.  It has a built in navigator, and I can find any type of restaurant I want quickly.  I have thousands of quality newspapers to choose from.  I could play games when I am bored, or date online (which I do and it is amazing how easy it is to score online.  guys don't be embarrased about online dating.)  I am always chatting with a new chick, or saving time on my reading and office work, and I never get bored at the doctor's office.

Yep mobile is here to stay.  The personal home desktop and landline connection will disappear in the next two years.  The future is mobile

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 21:25 | 1152346 MachoMan
MachoMan's picture

You can't play battlefield 3 on your phone

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 12:25 | 1153292 Temporalist
Temporalist's picture

You are wrong about the desktop and landline.  First off desktops are big, powerful, upgradeable, fixable, etc.  It may happen over a few more years but 2 years not at all.

 

The landline as you call it is indespensible for people that have to have their connection where wireless is unreliable and susceptible to interference.  When I use certain sites, whether investment or gambling, I will not rely on my own home wifi and am hard wired in with the desktop.

 

I'd like to point out not one thing you mentioned, except office work, is a necessity (and the work you are chosing to do to save time not because you have to).

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 13:14 | 1153399 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

I've got a netbook, several ipaqs and a cellphone, but I carry a crossword puzzle book when I go anywhere where I have to wait. The crossword puzzle book doesn't need wifi and the battery's never die.

There is much good to be had by disconnecting from this ether world and spending time in what passes for reality, for instance you can scope out the deterioration of the infrastructure and inhale the tension levels of the populace.

If the government told you that you had to carry a device that would allow them to track what you bought, where you went and who you talked to, you'd howl in holy terror, but if they let you buy such a device and make sure it has social cachet and status, you'll stand in line for days for the honor of spending your hard earned cash to place the leash around your neck.

 

I'm just saying, think about what you are doing and what it enables others to do to you.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:57 | 1151130 SmittyinLA
SmittyinLA's picture

I do commercial insurance, one of my customers has some retail property in downtown Pasadena, one of the most "upscale" areas in CA, a hotdog vendor could easily make 100ka year, old money & new money all congregate there, their stores have been empty, unleased with no offers for over a year, nobody is risking anything, I think the CA political enviroment is just too punitive, the only businesses expanding are state subsidized ones.  

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 23:39 | 1152693 thames222
thames222's picture

So true, everyone in Cali is being so careful with their money.  I'm glad to see that a lot of people aren't out there wasting money in malls and are actually concerned with what's going on.  Maybe there is a future for us after all.

 

www.forecastfortomorrow.com

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:05 | 1151509 CustomersMan
CustomersMan's picture

 

 

   It may be slightly off-topic, but I contend its the small battles that add up to the situation we're in now.

 

   I have a great deal of respect for the "team" at Consortiumnews.com. Here is an article worth reading on the battle in Wisconsin, that points out what we're up against. When I hear protesters say, "there is never a justification for violence" its things like this that make you question that position.

 

**************************************

 

 

Strange Twist in Wisconsin Battle

By Lisa Pease
April 8, 2011

A battle for the heart and soul of American democracy is being waged in this country. But it might not be the battle you’re watching.

Share this article

While most news outlets have focused on a possible federal government shutdown, an even more sinister attack on democracy is being waged in Wisconsin.

The battle may come down to a single and unusual race: the contest between incumbent state Supreme Court Justice, David Prosser, and his challenger, Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg.

While judges are supposed to be nonpartisan, in reality, as we all learned the hard way in the presidential election of 2000, those who sit on the bench wield a great deal of political power.

In Wisconsin, the stakes couldn’t be higher, politically. Wisconsin’s activist Republican Gov. Scott Walker has already pushed through some radical -- and possibly illegal -- legislation that will surely be challenged in the courts in Wisconsin. The State Supreme Court will likely be asked to rule on that legislation and related issues.

And on Thursday, the Democrats candidate of choice for one of those judgeships, Koppenburg, was reported the victor with a slim margin of just over 200 votes. But late in the day, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus reported she had “forgotten” to report results from one city in her heavily Republican County.

And when she did “remember” to report the results, which she had kept at home on her personal computer despite having been told before the election not to do this, not only did the votes from that city put the Republican Prosser over the top, but the margin put the election itself just over the margin for which an automatic recount would kick in.

As the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live would have said, “How convenient.”

Nickolaus said she had entered the data into Microsoft Access but forgotten to hit save. As a longtime Access user myself, I can assure you it’s almost impossible not to save data in Access. As soon as you move from one record to the next (from one city to the next, from one total to the next, from one row to the next if in a spreadsheet view) whatever you typed in the current record is automatically saved.

This isn’t Word or Excel or some other program that won’t save until you tell it to. This is Access, which saves all the time, behind the scenes, as you work. The only thing that wouldn’t be saved if you shut down was the very last record you are on.

In addition, Nickolaus was hardly some computer novice. For seven years, she worked as a data analyst and computer specialist for the Assembly Republican Caucus (ARC), where she managed an effort to build a computer program to track and average the performance of Republicans in elections across the state by ward.

Guess who headed the ARC when Nickolaus performed this work? David Prosser, who was a Republican leader in the state legislature before being appointed to the bench in 1998.

In 2001, the Assembly Republican Caucus was charged with using taxpayer-funded resources to conduct campaign activities, a move that is wholly illegal. Nickolaus was granted immunity to testify about these issues.

Prosser himself admitted to leading these activities, but Prosser could not be prosecuted for these criminal activities because the statute of limitations had expired.

Prosser defended his actions by claiming that legislation and politics go hand in hand, and therefore it shouldn’t be illegal to conduct campaign activities with legislative funds.

So we’re being asked to believe that the woman who had recently served as president of the Republican Women of Waukesha County, who had a personal stake in seeing her former boss and a member of her party win, forgot to enter the very data that would have put her candidate over the top in an election where the very future of her party’s role in state government was at stake.

That’s a difficult lump to swallow.

Of course, there is another possibility. What if this hardcore Republican activist, with sophisticated knowledge of computers, who kept the sole election database at home in her personal computer, under her personal control at all times, withheld the results of one city until she knew how many votes were needed to put Prosser over the top?

Is that really a more ridiculous scenario than the one we’re being asked to believe?

Lisa Pease is a writer who has studied the recent history of voting irregularities, especially those involving computers.

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Fri, 04/08/2011 - 19:03 | 1151939 Gold 36000
Gold 36000's picture

fuck off.  I hate dems anyway.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 20:44 | 1152220 Rikky
Rikky's picture

put your tinfoil hat away buddy.  this isn't the first time the official tally was different than the report tally and a mere 0.5% move is a pittance compared to the 5-10% moves one has seen per a few experts on the subject.  the local democratic head of that county also validated the tally.  just because the democrats lost doesn't mean there's a vast conspiracy.  you lost, deal with it.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:16 | 1151580 Jessica6
Jessica6's picture

Canada has seen a few retail chains go bankrupt recently too (as did the Cdn owner of KFC/Taco Bell). Meanwhile all sorts of US retailers are planning aggressive expansion plans here.

And all our media keep going on about how 'hot' Canadian commercial RE is.

This will not end well...

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 19:01 | 1151932 Gold 36000
Gold 36000's picture

I could never understand the mindless shopping frenzy I used to see at the Galleria in Houston.  Can you believe up until recent years that going shopping at the Mall was the main hobby for a lot of people?  A reason to exist?  I may start to enjoy a more puritan world as we return to our traditional American roots at least in the rural areas where material possessions were not the most important things in life.

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 20:23 | 1152166 tomster0126
tomster0126's picture

The mall, the mall, the mall. who wants to pay retail anymore when we can buy anything online?  And firstly when we have no extra cash to spend on luxuries.  Who cares about malls, they're evil to me.  Westfield Shopping town is an abomination to consumers everywhere, please change up the design and aesthetics from mall to mall and make it an experience for us, not just a money vacuum.

 

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Sat, 04/09/2011 - 00:23 | 1152779 Deepskyy
Deepskyy's picture

Tyler, do we have any kind of data that shows online sales figures to overlay with the data from the physical mall outlets?  Is this just an indication of weaker sales overall or is the online retailer also eliminating the shopping mall?

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 13:48 | 1153450 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

all you need is the total figures for credit card debt vs commercial real estate defaults and or vacancies. I'll bet that most retail sales are credit card sales and all online sales are credit card sales.

So credit card sales are going to be a good indicator of consumer spending. Brick and mortar defaults and vacancies are good indicators of local sales volume.

With nearly 20% unemployment (u6) and 44 million people on food stamps it would not take Einstein to pose the inevitable inference that perhaps the economy is going through one of those "rough  patches" or "rough pumpkins" that TBTB like to mention to assuage our fears and anxieties as they try to defer our gaze from the heaps of rotting green shoots that appear to have been dead for quite some time as it is obvious that the only thing green about them is the green paint that is flaking off the dead and crumbling stems.

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