Earlier this month, a tweet from Slate political reporter Dave Weigel saying “Gov. Scott Walker just left ATR/Norquist Xmas Party” was the first news to most Wisconsin residents that their Governor was out of the state and attending a posh Tea Party hang with the Americans for Tax Reform bunch.
Under Wisconsin state law, the Governor can keep both official and personal calendars, as his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle did. But what is of particular note with regard to Walker are his claims that his opponents are using out-of-state money to fund their efforts against him when it turns out that Walker is doing the same thing himself:
Nearly half of the $5.1 million raised by the embattled Republican governor since July 1 came from outside of Wisconsin. In all of 2010, when Walker won a hotly contested election that included a primary, just 8 percent of the more than $8 million he raised came from out of state.
Out-of-state donors accounted for $2.4 million of the amount in Walker’s most recent report, or 47 percent of the total.
In all, Walker has raised $7.6 million in donations since he took office on Jan 3. Of these, $3.2 million, or about 42 percent, came from out of state.
“I’ve never seen any candidate — ever — get close to half their money from out of state,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog. “I used to always be stunned when I saw a candidate for state office with 10 percent coming from out of state.”
Walker seeks to frame the recall against him as “baseless” and being led by “big government union bosses,” yet he is going from one conservative cocktail party to another begging for money to try to keep his job. That’s where the question of his travel comes in. The Tea Party elite are kings of the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach. They are playing the same game they are trying to decry as unfair. HTRNews recently looked into Scott Walker’s double calendar life:
Walker’s administrative office maintains his official calendar, which includes meetings and trips to promote the state. It does not include trips the governor makes to fundraisers, nonofficial parties and other such political events.
The line separating such events, to most people, is nearly invisible. For example, the governor’s trip on Nov. 10 to Phoenix to be the featured guest at the Goldwater Institute was on the official calendar. But Walker’s trip to Orlando, Fla., for the Republican Governor’s Conference at the end of November was not.
Officials with the Wisconsin Democratic Party said they have been forced to use mostly out-of-state websites, news stories and news releases to track the governor’s travel, which has quietly taken him to California, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Walker’s campaign staff said they do not discuss the governor’s campaign schedule. His administrative staff said they are prohibited by law from doing so.
This situation is not unique to Wisconsin as other states have had issues in the past with the transparency, or lack thereof, of Governor travel:
In 2009, Virginia Republicans went after Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine for keeping secret his travel record. Kaine was also serving as head of the Democratic National Committee at the time, a job that took him out of state often.
“In the end, he had to disclose everything,” Larry Sabato, a national political expert and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said. “They always do. The bad publicity is worse than just letting people know where you’re going.”
Groups like the National Governors Association, the Council of State Governments and the National Conference of State Legislatures do not track rules regarding governor’s travel.
But a survey of surrounding states shows a variety of approaches. Iowa’s laws are not much different than Wisconsin’s. But according to the state’s Democratic Party, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad keeps a relatively transparent calendar.
Walker’s funding revelations could add fuel to the fire that is the Wisconsin recall election. Traveling the country picking up support and donations is the job of a man running for President, not a man whose state is suffering from job losses month after month. Further,One Wisconsin Now suggests that Walker’s out-of-state monies are being acquired from a small number of donors and that some are being illegally unreported:
“Scott Walker intends to win this election with huge donations from a nationwide cabal of corporate, anti-middle class extremists,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “No state candidate in the history of Wisconsin has gotten so much money from such a small number of wealthy donors.”
Walker’s report shows he amassed $4.87 million in individual contributions, 49 percent of which, or $2.39 million, came from out of state contributions. One Wisconsin Now analysis of his report shows:
**Massive concentration of high dollar donations: While Walker has more than 46,900 individual contributions, he raised $2,247,688 from those giving mega-donations of $1,000 and above. This top 1.3 percent of individual givers donated 46 percent of Walker’s total itemized individual money. In fact, Walker has used the unlimited campaign finance restrictions on individual donations to amass $1,210,000 from a mere 41 contributors. This means 25 percent of Walker’s individual money came from 0.00087 percent of his donors.
**Massive amounts of out of state money: Walker not only took nearly 50 percent of his individual money from out of state, his top four donors totaling $550,000, came from outside of Wisconsin. Of Walker’s largest 655 contributions of $1,000 and above, 53 percent of the money from these contributions, or $1,196,600 is from outside of Wisconsin.
**Violations of reporting requirements: Walker failed to report employment information for $41,644 in 187 contributions above $100 in violation of campaign finance reporting laws. This does not include the unprecedented $154,781 in “unitemized contributions,” which include no information. Walker was previously the subject of a Government Accountability Board complaint for failing to disclose the employment information for over $500,000 in 1,100 contributions in violation of the law.
This story, not unlike Walker’s TV ad featuring a multi-millionaire touting the Governor’s small business friendliness, shows who his few, true supporters are: wealthy donors and the Tea Party elite.