Unfortunately, as we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it’s disastrous when our leaders assign friends or financial supporters to key positions for which they’re wholly unqualified. Remember Michael D. Brown, who served as under secretary of emergency preparedness and response in George W. Bush’s administration? A Bush crony, he wasn’t even prepared to handle a traffic jam. His faltering response to Katrina amplified its devastation. Bush’s frat-boy shoutout to Brown as alligators swam the streets of New Orleans feasting on the bloated corpses of Katrina’s victims — “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” — ensured Brown a prominent place in crony history.
Forbes Magazine quoted Ayn Rand about cronyism in an article that blasted the more egregious examples in Barack Obama’s administration. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand warns that your society is in trouble “when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors — when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work.”
Gov. Scott Walker must have missed that passage.
Walker claims to be fiercely opposed to government spending. He’s turned down billions of federal dollars and thousands of good jobs to prove it. He’s willing to make his citizens suffer in order to avoid what he calls government dependency and waste.
Apparently, that doesn’t apply to his friends.
In this issue, we publish yet another story about Walker appointing a longtime associate — one who’s hovered close to some of his worst scandals — to head communications for the University of Wisconsin System. Jim Villa’s professional background is in real estate and in handling messy and questionable campaign shenanigans, not in higher education. The position Walker rewarded him with pays $178,000 a year and did not even exist before Villa was hired. It appears to have been created for a loyal staffer who’s kept his mouth shut through all the Walker investigations.
Walker turned down $4 billion for Medicare expansion to wean Wisconsin residents off what he called “generational dependence on government.” Apparently Walker has no such concerns for Villa’s dependency — or that of the many other cronies he’s rewarded.
Walker appointed the 27-year-old son of a lobbyist to head the Commerce Department’s division that oversees environmental and regulatory matters as well as a staff of dozens. The young man had no college degree and little management experience, but he would have been paid $81,500 if Walker had not been shamed into revoking the decision.
Walker appointed unqualified crony Ryan Murray as chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission. That agency has not only failed abysmally at creating jobs, but also has lost millions of taxpayer dollars. Millions literally disappeared while Murray was in charge — more than the budget of some of the programs Walker has cut in the name of thrift. No charges have been filed and the mainstream pro-Walker media has forgotten about it, which is odd considering their editorial boards rail about nothing but deficits and government spending.
Walker’s crony list goes on and on. Last year, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog group, named Walker the sixth worst governor in the nation largely due to the audacious extent of his cronyism.
Getting rid of Walker will not end cronyism, which festers like a cancer in both parties. But it’s a virtual crime that all candidates should be held accountable for at the ballot box.