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Mar
2015
27

John Doe Documents Reveal $1.8M in Tax Credits Awarded to Prime Scott Walker Dark Money Donor

Dark Money brings a tear to Scott Walker's eye...

Dark Money brings a tear to Scott Walker’s eye…



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A recent article from Yahoo! Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff reveals that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker accepted nearly $1.5 million in dark money from one of the state’s richest men during the lead up to his 2012 recall election. In turn, his company has been granted favors that include $1.8 million in tax credits. 

The information comes from sources familiar with documents in the second John Doe investigation against Walker, which is being spearheaded by district attorney John Chisolm.  These sources suggest that John Menard Jr. gave $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a 501C4 group which can spend unlimited amounts on campaigns without revealing its donors.  

For Menard, the favor returning was not limited to the tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), whose board of directors Walker sits on.  In the two years after the recall election, the state fell in line with an agenda that supported Menard’s business and financial interests, according to Isikoff:

…in his five years in office, Walker’s appointees have sharply scaled back enforcement actions by the state Department of Natural Resources — a top Menard priority. The agency had repeatedly clashed with Menard and his company under previous governors over citations for violating state environmental laws and had levied a $1.7 million fine against Menard personally, as well as his company, for illegally dumping hazardous wastes.

As Bill Allison, senior fellow at Washington-based nonprofit the Sunlight Foundation, explains:

This, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with the dark-money world we live in.  Here’s somebody who obviously has issues before the state, and he’s able to make a backdoor contribution that nobody ever sees. My sense is [political] insiders know about these contributions. It’s only the public that has no idea.”

Representatives of the Walker administration told Yahoo! they were unable to speak about the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its donors due to a legal case regarding the organization’s fundraising that will be argued before the state Supreme Court next month.  However, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the governor was “not involved” with the decision made by the WEDC.  

Much like the first John Doe investigation, which focused on illegal fundraising by Walker’s campaign team while he was running for governor and still serving as a county executive, John Doe round two delves into the secrecy surrounding Walker’s fundraising.  Isikoff lays out the jist of how his administration attempted to shield their actions:

Some court records that have been made public about the new fundraising probe, known as “John Doe 2,” show that, when he first faced a potential recall election in 2011, Walker had personally solicited donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth in order “to ensure correct messaging” in ads that were supporting his policies, according to an email sent by one of his fundraisers. His aides referred to the group as “your 501 c 4,” a reference to the provision of the tax code under which non disclosing advocacy groups are organized.

Key to the effort, the email indicated, was secrecy. “Stress that donations to WiCFG [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits,” reads one June 20, 2011, email from a Walker aide to the governor prior to one of his out-of-state fundraising trips. “Let them know you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

The long-form read from Isikoff is an excellent example of the importance of investigative journalism in the modern news cycle.  With Governor Walker enjoying his status as a rising star in the national GOP and likely running for president in 2016, exposing more than his self-selected résumé bullet points is vital.

Poll after poll shows American voters are fed up with the effect that Citizens United has had on the political process.  A study from last November showed that 61 percent of those polled oppose it.  Scott Walker is a poster child for the negative influence dark money can have in politics. If Americans truly want a change, Walker, who will be in political debt to his donors if elected president just as he is as governor, is not their man.

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