Sunday, August 24, 2014

A roundup of this week's "Scott Walker says and does the darndest things" moments...

So, some interesting news from Wisconsin, about our illustrious governor, Scott Walker, mostly about his dance with unethical and illegal behaviors.

For starters, we have this:

Newly released court documents include excerpts from emails showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to a key conservative group that would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him. 
The documents released Friday by a federal appeals court also show that prosecutors believe Walker personally solicited donations for conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth to get around campaign finance limits and disclosure requirements as he fended off the recall attempt in 2012. 
Aides told Walker to tell donors that they could make unlimited donations to Wisconsin Club for Growth without having the gifts publicly disclosed. Wisconsin Club for Growth then funneled the money to other conservative groups that advertised on Walker's behalf. 
"As the Governor discussed ... he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging," Walker fundraiser Kate Doner wrote to campaign adviser R.J. Johnson in April 2011, a little more than a year before the recall election. "We had some past problems with multiple groups doing work on 'behalf' of Gov. Walker and it caused some issues ... the Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth."

Now, as we all know, money has no -- zero, zilch, nada -- impact on politics. Thus it's all perfectly legal for groups to accept unlimited cash for political purposes, because no elected official would ever, could ever, possibly be persuaded by the offer of money. Or, put in the form our legislators like to peddle:

While the law fully accepts that politicians will never, ever be persuaded to, or dissuaded from, action by the lure of cash, they still demand that politicians maintain the flimsy pretext of separation between interests and actions. Which is to say, a group can lobby a politician to do x, y and z, while making giant donations, with the express purpose of buying that politician's votes; but they can't acknowledge that they're doing it for that purpose. A politician can consistently be persuaded to see eye-to-eye with those who write him large checks, but he can never draw a line between the check and his persuasion. In American politics, the former is all proper and on the up-and-up, and the latter dirty politics.

According to Walker, he has behaved in a perfectly legal and upright fashion. On the other hand,

Prosecutors contend Walker and the club [Wisconsin Club for Growth] stepped over a line by working together to secretly funnel unlimited sums to groups backing Walker.
As one example, investigators say Walker was set to participate in a December 2011 conference call with James Buchen, a top official with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business group. Wisconsin Club for Growth gave WMC $2.5 million the following year, which WMC used to produce and air commercials promoting Walker and criticizing his recall opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett.

Walker, of course, denies this.
Walker said he helped solicit contributions to Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 primarily to help GOP senators who faced recalls. The court filings suggested, however, that he was involved in raising more than $1 million for Club for Growth in the months before his own recall election.
As to speculation that Walker was in any way influenced to rollback environmental protections in order to facilitate a new Gogebic mine by a $700,000 donation by Gogebic, Walker simply has no idea what anyone is talking about. And, in fact, the whole thing is ridiculous!
Asked whether he was aware that Gogebic Taconite secretly donated $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth — a pro-business advocacy group directed by the governor's campaign adviser — Walker said, "Not to my knowledge." 
When asked if the previously undisclosed funds and subsequent legislation were part of some pay-to-play scheme, Walker said, "That's a ridiculous argument."
Not everyone agrees with Walker. Even some from his own party see this as a potentially damaging revelation:
Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), the only Republican senator who voted against the mining legislation, indicated he was not surprised by the donation. Schultz sought to craft a bipartisan mining bill with Jauch and Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville).  
"The fact that someone gave a donation in and of itself does not indicate solid evidence that there is pay-to- play," Schultz said. "But there just isn't any question that the quality of public policy making in Wisconsin has suffered since big money has come to this state."  
He said it was "particularly disturbing" that the mining company sought to conceal its activities.
"They have obviously tried to channel their money in places where the public won't see it," Schultz said.  
"I just think in this state that is going to get a very negative reaction from the public. And I think it has taken an exceedingly long time for all of this stuff to come out," Schultz continued. "As my dear late mother used to say, 'Eventually the truth will win out.' I guess I'm just saddened. I love this state. I have loved its political traditions, and I just don't think this is us. I really don't."
It's also worth noting that, due to the continued fight to keep these documents hidden from public scrutiny, these were pulled from the court's website shortly after being released.

And, finally, in an unrelated but also curious move, Walker's WEDC -- the purpose of which is to create jobs in the state -- is giving a Wisconsin company a 6 million dollar tax credit to build headquarters in the state -- with the okay to lay off 1,900 employees (half its workforce), and with no new job creation requirements.  Because, you know, it's all about the jobs and workers. Just not the ~2000 who are going to lose theirs, apparently.

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