Email this article to a friend

Working In These Times

Wednesday, Feb 8, 2012, 3:30 pm

Top 1% Shower Walker With Cash, but Recall and ‘Walkergate’ Loom

BY Roger Bybee

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker (R) at the Governors Summit for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in June 2011.   (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE—If one more dime gets added to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s already-overflowing campaign war chest, it may cause the Governor's Mansion in Madison to collapse under its weight.

Walker has been running around the nation to gather cash from corporate and right-wing sources, raising an astonishing $12.2 million in his effort to fend off a statewide recall election demanded by 1.1 million residents.

But Walker not only faces voters furious over his role in revoking public employee union rights. Later this week, the governor will be meeting with Milwaukee County District Attorney to answer questions about his role as Milwaukee county executive from 2002 to 2010. It's part of a John Doe probe that has already produced the arrest of four former Walker staffers, including longtime close associate Tim Russell. Walker has hired two lawyers in preparation.

Progressives are piecing together evidence about Walker's operation as Milwaukee county executive and wondering if the current investigation will explode into a major "Walkergate" scandal. 

The charges against former Walker staffers range from performing illegal work on county time to the embezzlement of $25,000 by Russell, whom Walker chose to administer a fund for wounded Iraq veterans that had been run successfully by the American Legion. Russell was chosen despite his 1993 firing by the state for gross misuse of public funds. 

“Russell held eight different jobs during Walker's eight years as county executive, including executive assistant, several economic development positions, deputy chief of staff and housing director, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Along with the embezzlement of funds for wounded vets, Russell has been named as the person who put together a top-secret e-mail system for top Walker aides, thereby violating the Open Records law.

With several former Walker aides taking immunity in exchange for their testimony, “other shoes may drop in the John Doe investigation,” with additional angles outlined by The Progressive 's Matt Rothschild and Daily Kos.

Tuesday morning, readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel were greeted with the headline, "Lawmakers made to vow secrecy over redistricting." As previously reported, "The Republicans appear to have shaped the new districts in order to create 59 Republican-leaning Assembly districts compared to just 40 for the Democrats, despite the Democrats averaging 53.4% in the last five presidential races."

The Journal Sentinel stated,

Legislative leaders secretly developed new election maps last year to strengthen their majority, Republican lawmakers were told to ignore public comments and instead focus on what was said in private strategy sessions, according to a GOP memo that became public Monday.

Other newly released documents also show almost all Republican lawmakers signed legal agreements promising not to discuss the new maps while they were being developed.

GOP lawmakers fought releasing these new documents and testifying about the maps in a pending court case but relented after a panel of three federal judges based in Milwaukee last month found they had filed frivolous motions in trying to shield the information from the public

But none of this matters much to the bankers and oilmen and others in the top 1%. In Texas, he collected $250,000 from Bob Perry, who funded the scurrilous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign of lies against John Kerry in 2004. Three wealthy Missouri conservatives wrote out checks to Walker for the same amount.

In Arizona, in between fundraising events, Walker urged the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Goldwater Institute to avoid  “bogus” compromises with unions, lending momentum to the current drive to weaken public unions in that state.

Walker, aided by a loophole in state law and the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, is raising unprecedented levels of funding, mostly from out of state, as  azcentral.com disclosed:

Wisconsin's polarizing governor is fighting attempts to recall him with money from out-of-state donors, who helped him bring in more than $12 million since last year.

An Associated Press analysis of campaign finance reports Republican Gov. Scott Walker filed Monday showed 61 percent of the $4.1 million he raised during the five-week reporting period came from out of state.

Walker's latest efforts take advantage of a state law that allows targets of a recall to ignore the usual $10,000 per-donor cap and raise unlimited amounts until an election is set. Walker has been traversing the country raising money ‘and speaking at gatherings of conservatives from Texas to New York and Tennessee.

On Monday, Walker was back in Wisconsin to address his fans at a Wisconsin Bankers Association luncheon. The Bankers Association PAC recently contributed over $14,000 to his re-election committee after giving Walker  2010 campaign over $41,000, said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

At a demonstration held outside the luncheon, Citizen Action held up a gold-plated toilet “to represent Walker’s relationship with the Wall Street and the top 1%,” Kraig said.

“Bankers played a huge role in crashing the economy in the first place, and now they’re trying to keep him in power,” he observed. “He’s not only raised $12 million, but he has spent almost $10 million already. And this guy is just getting started.

 “We know that he is a celebrity on the Far Right, and what he did is playing to a right-wing movement to eliminate the power of working people,” stated Kraig. “They probably thought [Walker’s Wisconsin law eliminating public-employee rights] would spark more governors beyond Indiana and Ohio." Indiana passed a “right to work” law last week,  and voters in Ohio repealed Gov. John Kasich’s law against public employee unions by an overwhelming 61-39 percent margin November 8.

Walker’s reliance on out-of-state money is hypocritical, given his earlier claims to a blogger last Feb. 22 impersonating billionaire supporter David Koch that "there’s a much smaller group of protesters, almost all of whom are in from other states today.” Walker’s claim was countered  rather contemptuously by the Madison police official who had been closely observing the protesters and noted the prevalence of Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer emblems on their clothing. (And the “much smaller group” somehow grew into a force of 100,000 the following Saturday.)

Now Walker is asserting that he needs to raise money from out of state on his often-secret fundraising trips in order to counter the coming wave of money from national “union bosses.” Citizen Action’s Kraig said that the myth of massive union spending is a perpetual right-wing line. In 2008 federal elections, for example, corporate groups out-spent labor by a 15-1 margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“Labor is entirely out-gunned and the corporations are really unloading on working people,” said Kraig.”The right wing dominates the media with paid ads and talk-radio shows. The notion of all-powerrful 'Big Labor' is simply Orwellian propaganda.”

But the long-running labor rebellion and recall campaign have shown the power of different brand of politics, one that relies on grassroots efforts and patient persuasion rather than 30-second TV ads costing millions. Thus, Walker’s deep pockets--already undermined by the state's job losses and the ever-widening John Doe probe--is no guarantee of a victory for him and his corporate sponsors.

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and University of Illinois visiting professor in Labor Education. Roger's work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, The Progressive, Progressive Populist, Huffington Post, The American Prospect, Yes! and Foreign Policy in Focus. More of his work can be found at zcommunications.org/zspace/rogerdbybee.

View Comments